on faith and feminism

Hi, my name is Jessica, and I’m a Jesus Feminist.

I wasn’t always a feminist. I spent my formative years in the bosom of the Episcopal church, where I never experienced any form of sexism. I was an acolyte, I loved God, and nothing in my faith was denied me because of my gender. And here I check my privilege, because I am a white cis-gendered heterosexual. My place in the church has never been questioned because of any of this, but rather, because I am a woman.

In my high school years, I started attending a Baptist church, where I learned to love Scripture and worship with my hands held high. One night, I was lamenting about my complete lack of success with dating, of wooing and wining boys with my womanly wiles. I was informed that my lack of a male counterpart was because I was smart. Boys don’t like smart girls. I was apparently intimidating to them, because I could name all the Chinese dynasties in order, got straight A’s , and nearly wet myself with excitement whenever someone talked about pathology (nothing much has changed). Boy’s don’t like girls who refuse to keep silent. See, that’s what the Bible says. I’m to keep silent and mind my place. Maybe then some boy would want me.

This is where I began to question what my beloved faith had to say about what chromosomes I possessed. I felt shamed by those passages about women keeping silent, submitting to the man above us. I felt like I could never measure up to that “standard”. I tried to fit the ideal woman I created as a read those passages: silent, tiny, fragile. Porcelain girl. Any one who knows me can go ahead and laugh at this, because I have never been any of those things. The God I knew was the God who spoke in the desert to the “other woman”, and gave her a vernacular to experience Her: The God who Sees.

I went to college with a lot of bitterness and fire for the words that were used to oppress me. I marched up to my Bible professor after my first class and threw those words in his face: women are to keep silent; obey; submit. And he told me that he was sorry for how those words had been used against me, to silence me, to make me into something I am not. He told me that “Biblical womanhood” sounded a lot more like 1950’s white suburbia than Deborah the Judge.

And a weight was lifted.

I first started saying I was a feminist because I liked the shock value that word produced when I used it. Then Sarah Bessey told me about being a Jesus Feminist. And I learned about the legacy of saints before me, of women like Perpetua and Felicity who defied social status and died for their love of Christ and neighbor. Then I knew that my faith and feminism were not mutually exclusive; rather, they are mutually inclusive.

My faith in Christ Jesus had freed me to be a feminist. I’m learning and growing, reading and redefining. Learning how to walk in my own skin for the first time, praying for the courage to make my life a place where others are free to do the same.

My name is Jessica, and I’m a Jesus Feminist.

Later Days,

Jess

PS: I’m absolutely indebted to the work of Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans. Without their courageous voices, I would have never found mine.

The Transition Phase

Here’s the thing nobody tells you about post-grad life: it sucks. Maybe someone did try to tell me, but I was too busy dreaming about my perfectly envisioned life as a pediatric nurse to pay them any attention. In summary: I got turned down from my dream job, I’m studying to take the NCLEX, and 90% of the time I feel like running away. Sometimes my inner Pocahontas spirit gets a little to strong – you know, “she goes wherever the wind takes her” and I start researching on what it would look like for me to move to Northern Ireland.

I’m calling this phase of life my “transition phase”. It’s been one of many.  One thing I learned in my Women’s Health rotation is that the “transition” phase of labor is the hardest phase of labor. The woman feels that she can’t go on, the pain is simply too unbearable. But here’s the thing about labor: it is a necessary work. You cannot experience the birth of a new human without immense pain (well, modern medicine has changed that a little, but it’s pretty impossible not to feel the famed “ring of fire”. And now every male reading this blog has thrown up in their mouths a little and sworn to never return to this page. Sorrynotsorry). Likewise, I think the transition phases in life are the hardest. And this phase? Where I’m blogging from my stuffy one bedroom apartment at midnight with no direction? It’s hard. Really hard.

I’ve been feeling adrift and achy and longing for the future that came so close to being mine. I feel stretched a million different ways at once, stretched thin and taunt and pained. I feel restless and fidgety, waiting on God (ot) to show up and say something. I go to Target at 10pm and buy a box of red hair dye, convinced that I’m going to wake up tomorrow looking like Amy Pond, just to feel different, to feel a change. And yet, on these sweltering summer nights of my life, with my faintly ammonia-scented hair sticking to my sweaty neck, I can feel that cool ocean breeze of the Spirit, stirring, moving, breathing. And I’m waiting. A little impatiently. A little restlessly. But I’m waiting. Because I know the pain won’t last, and this labor of the spirit that is hard work, messy work, will bring about something that will make me want to stack some stones in the wilderness and say “God met me there”.

I’ve made some hard choices. I’ve chosen to anchor myself where I am, with the strange people of my Church who have nestled their way into my skeptic soul. I’ve chosen to remain in the stuffy one bedroom. Because here’s the other thing about labor? A change happens in the transition when the woman leans into the pain, lets it engulf her. A determination arises, and soon enough, new life is born. So I’m leaning into my transition phase, sweating and ungracefully complaining the whole way, but I’m anchoring myself here, letting myself be restless a while more.

This morning, I cracked open the spine of Common Prayer after too long a hiatus. And it’s like I’ve been given permission to breathe again, like the rhythm of the liturgy is the oxygen my soul didn’t know it needed. I still feel indescribably restless, but it’s a restless anticipation that I’m learning to be okay with. Actually, Switchfoot’s song “Restless” has made it okay for me (I’ll link it below. Trust me, it’s some kind of beautiful).  I think I’m meeting the Spirit in this new way of wrestling transitions.

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Thanks for putting up with my rambling restlessness. I’m forever grateful for this little space of the internet.

Later Days,

Jess

“A woman’s kind of courage”: Reflections of a Jesus Feminist on Titus 2

I’ve been a part of an amazing online community for about two years now called She Reads Truth (check out their site here: http://shereadstruth.com/). It’s a group of women who read Scripture together, then post an instagram of their study time with the hashtag “shereadstruth”. Every few weeks in our study time, we are asked to create a post based on an assigned portion of Scripture, and link it up with the community. This will be my first one (yippee!), so grab some popcorn and enjoy my tangential attempt at expressing the concept of “spiritual motherhood” in Titus 2:1-5.

“But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.” Titus 2:1-5 NRSV

I thought I was going to absolutely despise studying the book of Titus. I knew it was full of those lovely Greco-Roman Household codes that had been thrown in my face so many times as rationale for why women can’t_________ (you fill in the blank-I feel like Scripture has been used as justification on absolutely everything that women are not permitted to partake in). When I read these passages, I feel as though all the quirks of my personality that do not fit the socially prescribed model for a good Christian woman are being squashed. I feel as though I have to become someone I am not. Thankfully, I’ve read enough Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey to know the inherent danger of using passages like these to define “biblical womanhood”. I’ve quit the Evangelical subculture for long enough so that those June Cleaver ideals of womanhood no longer control me.

Now that I’ve said my peace about that passage, I’m going to move on to what really struck me about it.

I believe one of my all time favorite heroines, Brianne of Tarth, would describe this passage as a “woman’s kind of courage” (which, by the way, George R.R. Martin writes some incredible female characters who have depth and complexity and courage, JUST LIKE REAL WOMEN). The character traits listed, passed down from generation to generation, seek to unite women as followers of Christ through subversive humility. Titus 2:11-13 provide the foundation from which these virtues spring:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The roots from which the fruit of godly living springs from is rooted in the grace of Christ, and the hope we possess as followers of The Way. The adjectives used to describe the lifestyle of piety exist to point us, as women, to a better way of living in this world. We choose to love, to be self-controlled, to be kind, in order to reveal the hope that lies within us. The base of our lives as Women of the Way is founded upon grace- the grace to uphold and empower one another as women, so that we might be a credit to the faith that we profess.

Think of how beautiful it is to have women mutually supporting one another in a society that glorifies pitting women against each other for entertainment! Instead of viewing our sisters as competition, may we unite through the spiritual practice of mothering one another, to upholding each other to the higher standards of living that define people of The Way of Christ.

Thanks for giving me the space to be a Jesus Feminist!

Later Days,

Jess

Here’s Brienne of Tarth being generally awesome. This is some spiritual mothering by the flawless Catelyn Stark right here:

United

This post started out about nursing school, then turned into a sermon. You’ve been warned.

I’m graduating in a few days. Part of me is rejecting this reality, preferring to believe that I will continue in the caffeine-infused, sleep-deprived, laughter-filled days that have filled my four years. And part of me is beyond happy to be past this stage of my life and into the career I have dreamed of for ages. Right now, everything is just a very jumbled bag of emotion. Because as exciting as this time is, it’s also a period of mourning. These past four years have been the hardest four of my life (besides the two years of middle school I thoroughly suffered through). I’ve seen the paradoxes of death and life, questioned the core of what I’ve believed in, and come out stronger on the other side. But the hardest part of it all is knowing the community of beautiful people around me is going to be shattered and scattered very soon. Yes, we will always be friends. Yes, there will be weddings to go to and baby showers to plan. There will be no loss of contact, but mi comadre will no longer be five minutes away. And that’s hard. I was sharing these feelings with my people last night. Funny thing is, we are all experiencing the same joyful grief! So just like our four years of nursing school, we were bound together in laughter and tears with the overwhelming knowledge that we are not alone.

When I feel overwhelmed or scared or fearful, I have a tendency to self-isolate. I don’t answer the phone. I don’t go to church. I mostly sleep a lot. And sometimes this can be very healing, but sometimes my self-imposed lockdown breeds more fear and anxiety. I need my people around me to remind me I am not alone, I’ve never been alone. And as much as my rugged individualist only child self kicks and screams at the idea of social contact when all I want to do is eat my weight in salted caramel and watch another season of Arrested Development, I need my people. Because they remind me to get over my sixteen year old  angsty melodramatics. Life is not about me. I am not the only one consumed by the looming battle that is the NCLEX.

This semester, I took a theology class for fun. The title of the class was “Biblical Theology”, and basically, I can boil the class down to this: “Jeeeeesuusssss” (read that in your highest sing-songy Sunday school voice). Theology is how to speak well about God, and Scripture (the bible) is about Jesus. Simple as that. Scripture is not a formula to solve my life problems. It is not “basic instructions before leaving earth”. It’s a narrative pointing the reader/listener to Christ. It’s striking, isn’t it? The simplicity of it all? That it all boils down to Jesus?

I’m focusing on that. Remember Jesus. Remember I am not-you are not-alone in this strange world. Life is not about me. It’s about Jesus. We, the Church, are privileged with the enormous gift of being the Body of Christ. We are hands and feet, eyes and ears. We are united through the celebration of Eucharist. We are united by the power of the Holy Spirit (CAN I GET A WITNESS?). The Spirit that moves and lives and breathes in me is the same that lives and moves in every follower of Jesus globally. I am united with my sisters through the bond of peace. And in that knowledge I rest. We are never alone.

Later Days,

Jess

Of course I have a video that ties this all in. It’s the song “Timshel” by Mumford and Sons. Enjoy.

 

If

The past few weeks have been incredibly challenging for me. There is just so much going on- school, work, the eminent threat of graduation and the NCLEX- that I’ve been swept up in this anxious maelstrom that’s gotten me absolutely nowhere. I like to play it off all cool, like I’m all about the bare necessities and Hakuna Matata, but really, I’m freaked out. I’ve had to come to terms with some things over the past few weeks: like that I might be okay if I don’t land my dream job as soon as I graduate. This is a big movement towards freedom from my ever-lingering expectations from the girl whose had her wedding all planned out since age six. I’m learning that sitting down and making words out of my storm is cheap therapy. I’m learning that I’m not just quite perfect yet, and will probably never be perfect, but that’s okay too. So this post? It’s not going to be pretty, or perfect- this is the rough draft of everything that I’m experiencing and learning through this Peter Pan phase of my life.

Senior year of nursing school has probably been the most mentally and physically trying for me. The clinical rotations I have had have required me to fully invest myself in my work. And it’s hard. There’s always a thin line in nursing/healthcare related fields: how far and how much can I invest in my life’s work without becoming emotionally numb, or a completely sentimental unstable mess? Here’s the answer: I have no idea. I really don’t. There is an immense responsibility to yourself and others to care for this soul, this person made in the image of God who stands before you. When we separate the human from their identity as created in the image of God, we lose the sacrament of our work. When we seek to divide the sacred and the secular, the picture blurs entirely. This is holy work, do you know that?  To me, God is palpably present in the “broken” things. If you look at the Scripture, you will see Jesus hanging around the marginalized and outcasted, the broken bodies and souls that so very often are on the blurred edges of our vision.

I had the privilege to participate in a conference lately called the If Gathering. (learn more about it here: http://ifgathering.com/) This gathering was composed of an interdenominational group of women (halleluiah, right? When we all stop arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong and look at ourselves, we realize that we are all the same marrow and blood; the Body of Christ) who met to answer this question : If God is real, then what? Reread that question again. How often do I slow down and go back to my basic carbon structure, on which my faith and entire life rests? When I stop debating the finer points of theology and take a breath and remind myself that God is real, he is moving and working in this broken world full of broken bodies when I cannot even glance to see the hope in it. Aslan is on the move.

When I look around and see how God is at work around me, redeeming and restoring creation, my lens is shifted. I move away from the blurring glare of the me-focused life, (I have to pass the NCLEX. How will I get a job) with its social media vortexes creating a lifestyle of dissatisfaction and comparison. And I see the Great Story, the one woven through all nations and languages, the one that sings the world awake every sunrise, and brings cool rest every sunset. And there is hope, and beauty, and the truest reality. That there is something beyond ourselves and the life-webs we have spun. There is incarnate grace all around us, in the lives of the people we interact with. The broken becomes beautiful as we seek to see it restored and redeemed.

I’m still learning from all this. It’s not a perfect narration of what I see and hear and feel right now, but it’s about as close as I can get. So, my fellow travelers, pause for a while. Make yourself some tea (Celestial Seasoning’s “Bengal Spice” is my all-time favorite), breathe deep, and watch the sunrise. God is real. He is moving and working to restore the broken. We are part of this story, no matter the work we do. Embrace that reality, and look at the ones beside you who comprise the Body of Christ, created in the image of God. This story is so much bigger than you. It’s bigger than all of us, really. Because it’s not our story at all.

Your Fellow Traveler,

Jess

Remember

Happy 2014! I graduate university this year. More importantly, SHERLOCK LIVES and the TFIOS movie comes out!!! If you had no idea what that last sentence meant, we probably shouldn’t be friends. Just kidding. I’d still like you as a person, I’d just question your life choices.

So maybe you’ve heard of this One Word movement floating around (if not, check it out here: http://www.incourage.me/2014/01/rewriting-resolutions-choosing-one-word.html) Basically, instead of making a list of things you know you’re not going to do anyways, you choose one word to focus on for the year. Actually, the word kind of chooses you. Last year, my word was “hope”. Focusing on “hope” impacted my life in major ways, some of which I’ve talked about in prior posts (in a nutshell: hope is a Person. Boom.) This post is the story of how my word of the year, “remember”, choose me. It’s a long one. I applaud anyone who actually reads this besides my Mom.

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened, and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.’ And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and all the rest.” Luke 24: 1- 9

In Luke 24:1-9, we hear the account of two women encountering unexpected celestial visitors while visiting Jesus’ tomb. The women had gone to the tomb to finish embalming Jesus’ body, an expected practice in caring for the dead. You could suppose the women were there because they had forgotten the words of Jesus, the promise of his resurrection.Then again,  maybe it wasn’t necessarily because they forgot his words, but because those words seemed a bit ridiculous. I mean, this guy turned water into wine, and went all Jewish mother and fed all the people he was with using a scarce amount of food, but reanimating dead tissue?  And your own dead tissue at that? But then again, Jesus’ body isn’t in the tomb. Then these two men in “dazzling” (goal for 2014: use “dazzling” as an adjective frequently) apparel show up as the women are pondering whether or not this is the Zombie apocalypse, and the dazzling men say “Remember? Remember how he told you this would happen?” And the women remember Jesus’ words. They return to tell the story of what they had seen, and pretty much no one believes them until Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself (Peter is a visual learner). This one particular phrase “And they remembered his words” stood out to me, and that’s kind of what this post is all about.

I first heard the phrase “remember Jesus” during a sermon preached by the pastor of the Swahili congregation at my church. He said the phrase over and over again, and it stuck itself deep into my cerebral cortex. “Remember Jesus”. What does that phrase even mean? Is it some post-evangelical WWJD slogan I can mass- produce in friendship bracelet style to pass out at youth camps? That could potentially be rad, but I want to steer away from making this a trite slogan.

The word “remember” in Greek is “mnaomai”, and in the present tense, it means “to be mindful of”. The women’s act of remembering was an act of being mindful of the words of Jesus. Let that sit a minute. Be mindful of those words. What was the action their mindfulness produced? They went and told the others of what they experienced. Is remembering Jesus a call to evangeliize? Go and tell others? Go and preach on street corners? Yes and no. I think the call to “remember Jesus”,  is a present-tense action which should permeate our very lives, every action we make. It’s being mindful.  Mindfulness allows you to focus, to be fully present in a moment, to “think about your thoughts”, so to say. It lets you slow down, re-focus, center. Remember Jesus.

The most beautiful example of mindfulness I can think of happened when I was in Mexico recently. My family and I are very involved in a ministry that has a Children’s Home and a Babies Home. These homes are for children who are orphans, or are removed from their family situation for any reason. I was sitting on the floor of the Babies Home, playing with one of the girls as another little one sat on my friend’s lap,  facing away from my friend’s face. The little one was becoming increasingly more distressed by all the sights, sounds and noises going on around her. My friend quickly turned her around, and reassured her of her safety. I saw this beautiful moment of connection between my friend and this child, as the child gazed into my friend’s face and was reassured. Remember, little one? Remember how you are safe here with me? When we become forgetful, or preoccupied, or distracted, we forget who we are, and whose we are. Remembrance is a verb, mindfully focusing on one thing. At its core, I think remembering Jesus  is remembering the certainty and reality of Christ. He is not here, he did not die and decay, he is risen. Remember the resurrection?Remember who he is, what he has done, what he will do. Remember his words, his promises. It will effect every action, every breath. Remember Jesus. Turn around, cast your eyes on his face, and remember. Remember Jesus.

And yes, remembering Jesus sometimes means running down a dusty road and telling your friends of the amazing thing you just experienced. And remembering Jesus is washing dishes and folding laundry. And remembering Jesus is holding babies and wiping snotty noses. Because the action of remembering Jesus brings holy into the ordinary. Remember Jesus.

 My prayer for this year is that I would Remember Jesus. That I would not be afraid to let this remembrance alter me, as it should.  Amen.

Later Days,

Jess

Fall 2013

This past semester absolutely flew by. Between working pretty much full time and taking some difficult classes, I barely had the time to slow down and really think about everything that’s happened and that I have experienced. This post is equal parts weird, deep, and goofy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This semester, I was able to start to engage at a deeper level in the life of my church.  I grew up attending an Episcopalian church, so I fell in love at a young age with the mysteries and beauties of liturgy, of Eucharist, of tradition. My church is liturgical, there’s an order and balance to everything. We listen to Scripture read out loud, and say “thanks be to God” even after the difficult passages, the ones which seem to make “God has great plans for you” look a bit trite. No one pretends here. We’re all a bit of a hot mess, a little bit unstable (maybe). But the way people love Jesus here? It’s enough to make a cynic fall in love with the church all over again.

I spent mostly every Tuesday this semester at a mental health hospital, and let me tell you, I love the people I interacted with there. Every time I walked into a unit, I was acutely aware of how much Jesus loves these people, how if Jesus walked the earth today, he’d probably hang out with my friends at the hospital. The best part of the whole place is how no one pretends (like my church); everyone is a bit of a hot mess and a bit unstable (definitely), but there is so much hope for these individuals. It’s beautiful how my friends (in the words of the band Bastille) “wore their flaws upon their sleeves”. Their “flaws” were prominent, and I had the  choice to love them regardless, or to ignore them entirely. I chose to love them, and it breaks you a little, because you see how the broken can be beautiful.

My roommate and I sing “Another One Bites the Dust” anytime someone gets engaged. And seriously guys. There’s been a lot of those this semester. Ring by spring is no joke (side note: to all my people who did not attend a Christian University- “ring by spring” is the idea that a girl should strive to be engaged by the spring of her Senior year). And I am so happy for my friends who’ve made this life commitment! Really, I am. I’ll just be over here, alone on Friday nights, watching 30 Rock and laughing about how I am turning maybe a little into Liz Lemon. Alright, that’s an exaggeration. I’m 21 years old. I’m young. I get it. But “ring by spring” is real. Anyhow, when I was in elementary school, I played this computer game called “The Oregon Trail”. Basically, you were virtually reenacting the journey the pioneers took to the West. Obstacles in the game included snakebites, cholera, and drownings of other members in your party after a failed attempt to ford a river. I was so bad at this game, my Mom made a game out of how quickly I could kill everyone in my wagon. I was pretty good at that game. So I’m applying the Oregon Trail strategy to my whole relationship status. I am emerging from college victorious because I outwitted everyone and managed not to get a ring on my finger (insert female power ballad here). And I am young and I have my life in front of me, yes, I have heard it all before. So to all the people who ask if I’ve met any nice young men lately, the answer is yes. I’ve simply outwitted them all. Also, Carrie Hope Fletcher taught me that boys in books are better (see video below for further explanation). Augustus Waters will always have a bit of my heart.

So that’s kind of a brief snapshot of this semester. It’s a little all over the place, I know. But that’s been my life recently. And I kind of like it that way.

Later Days,

Jess

This is the song, “Flaws”, by Bastille. I think there’s a lot of truth here, if we listen closely.

Speechless

I have discovered that it’s always a million times easier for me to write when I’m supposed to be writing something else, like a ten page paper for nursing, or a two page summery of an impossibly long and dense theology book that gives me aneurysms and ah-hah moments simultaneously. Anyhow.  I read this passage of Scripture with some of my people this week,  and we were all left pretty much without words when we read this together. The only thing it could collectively draw from us was an “amen”. Well, besides my imitation of a Baptist preacher. We all know how I aspire to be Beth Moore . I have a deep and abiding love for Southern lady preachers. I just adore the way they can invoke “amens” and “uh-huhs” from everyone who listens to them. I’m going to attempt to bring a little good old Baptist into this little post, because some passages of Scripture just require more “amens” and halleluiahs than others.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all patience and joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light… He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:11-12,15-20, ESV)

Can I get an amen?  I’m not a Biblical scholar, or an expert in interpretation or ancient languages or exegetical reasoning. I’m not a Southern Lady preacher, try as I might to tease my hair all big and add a few y’all’s in my vocabulary. I’m a twenty-something sitting in a Californian coffee shop with my Bible spread as wide open as the November sky, marveling at how words written thousands of years ago can steal my breath away today. I believe in the importance of reading Scripture  in the context community, because these words were letters written to communities. We see and understand the greater picture in light of each other. But this moment right here? There is some sort of Holy intimacy created when my bibliophile self can sit in silence and be moved by ancient vocabulary. There are theological concepts and deep debates rooted in this text, of which I could spend hours analyzing and working through. But I choose instead to  sit in silence and let these words seep into the deep cracks of my soul, I let the text read me. My original intention with this post was to elaborate on this text, to flesh it out in terms of how I have understood it as it has worked through my life this week. But I sit here, breathless in light of  holy and sacred words, incapable to explain just what they are.

Amen? Amen. Have a beautiful week, my friends. Eat some pie. Because it’s the most important thing besides education. And family.*

Later Days,

Jess

*obscure Gilmore Girls reference. See video for further explanation.

Eucharist

I have a problem with communion bread. Whenever I go up to get my piece (my Church is super cool and we make our own communion bread), I always tear off a tiny little crumb. This makes the whole part of dunking the molecule of carbohydrate the grape juice slightly awkward for all parties involved, because there’s always a question of whether or not I will end up immersing my whole hand in the juice to saturate my tiny crumb, or just lose the bit in the juice all together. After laughing about my unique talent with one of my friends on the way to church last Sunday, she suggested I tear off a larger chunk like normal people do. So I did. I took my big chunk of the bread, and promptly lost half of it in the juice. My knee-jerk vocal response to situations like this is to utter a pseudo curse word, so I of course said “dangnabit” as I lost the bread. It was what my Church family calls a “classic Mid-City” moment: slightly awkward and extremely hilarious.

I grew up attending an Episcopalian church. I remember being completely fascinated by the stained glass windows and candles and the liturgy. I remember my first time taking communion and not liking at all the way it tasted (side note: Episcopalians use real wine for communion. I was incredibly confused by the use of grape juice as “wine” when my family went back to church). I didn’t fully grasp the significance of the words spoken over me: Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, Shed for you, but I knew what I was partaking in was incredibly special. During my Sophomore year of high school, my family started attending a tiny little church in the gym of an elementary school. We sat at round tables and drank lots of coffee.  Although we were a casual gathering, something special happened with communion. The gym became sacred space, with our crackers and grape juice.

The word Eucharist is taken from the Greek word charis, meaning grace (give me a word, any word, and I show you how the root of that word is Greek). The Eucharist is God’s grace. Body of Christ, broken on cross. Blood of Christ, spilled for the sins of many. In a Beth Moore study I did a few summers ago called “Jesus the One and Only” (don’t get me started on my love of Beth Moore. There are few things in life I love more than big-haired Texan lady preachers who write), the most profound part of the study for me was the part about Last Supper.

The four cups of wine served at the Passover meal represented the four expressions, or “I wills” of God’s promised deliverance in Exodus 6:6-7…The third cup was traditionally taken after the supper was eaten…This is the cup of redemption…We know Christ did not literally drink of this cup because he stated in Luke 22:18 that He would not drink of another cup until the coming of the kingdom of God. Instead of drinking the cup, He would do something of sin-shattering significance. He would, in essence, become the cup and pour out His life for the redemption of man…That most holy weekend, the Passover was fulfilled.

That’s the cup we drink when we drink the Blood of Christ. We drink in remembrance of the cup of redemption, of perfect blood shed for the sins of all. Whether we drink real wine, or Sysco brand generic grape juice, the Body remembers the ultimate sacrifice together: Blood of Christ, shed for you. For you.


This is the reality of grace.

Later Days,

Jess

My love for this movie shall endure forever.

Hope

This has been a rough week. I am entitled to at least one existential crisis a semester, and this was the first. Life has just felt heavier than normal lately. And that’s ok. For a very long time, part of my whole Good-Girl mentality meant I couldn’t feel pain or anger or sadness because, you know, Christians are always supposed to be happy and positive.

I write about redeemed endings and Kingdom come, but  hope becomes really hard to find when friends die and young girls pour out their stories of abuse and self destruction and suicide to me. It gets hard when the reality of working in emergency services looks me in the face, and I think “do I really want this?”. Because pain is inevitable, no matter what I do. I can’t escape it. Even if I ran for the hills and built a cabin in the woods where I could lock myself away from the world and the never ending stream of information, of morbidity and mortality. As long as my feet walk this earth, I will experience pain and death. It’s a part of the Kingdom-come, but not here yet reality of our existence.

And I lay on my floor with the pages of my Bible spread open, searching, searching for the Story, the story of redemption and of the God-Man who came to earth to be a part of this broken mess. I am tired of trite answers and a happy-clappy Jesus. Because “God has a wonderful plan for your life” is a wonderfully helpful line to give to a trauma victim with multiple stab wounds.

How do I impart hope? How do I articulate what I believe, what I know to be true about this world in the face of the reality of death?

Here’s what I’ve learned so far. Stop trying to tell people about Jesus. Stop spewing self-help idioms born of mainline evangelical protestantism, because that’s like trying to put a bandaid on an arterial bleed.  Just be Jesus to the people who need him (even if they don’t realize it). Sit with the broken and downtrodden and dying. Embrace it. Because they are made out of the same dust as you. And there’s something beautiful about that.

Later Days,

Jess