#ThirtySix (and Thoughts Mixed Together to Make a Not-So-Yummy Cake)

I’ve been thinking about what to write for my obligatory “I’m a year older everyone! Pay attention to me!” post.
I looked back at my previous birthday posts to see what I wrote. They were all happy. It’s a happy day because I was introduced to this world.

However, at the moment of writing this, I’m having a hard time finding a sense of humor of growing older. I’ve been oscillating between fear and hope; hope and fear.

I’ve had to pause to remind myself that there are so many things to be grateful for.
Yet, there’s a sense of dread of the unknown. Which gives me hope — because apparently, I’m more of an optimist than I thought. But I’m also afraid — which is a place I’m very familiar with.

We have a new president and now, we move forward, accordingly. Ready to fight how we need to fight, but using the “weapons” of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
However, my biggest fear and concern is how the campaign narrative of President-Elect Trump validated; legitimized; empowered closeted racists to come out and stay out .

And now, Christians– mainly those who don’t understand why we are afraid — are talking about forgiveness, respect, and reconciliation. All great and necessary things.
But here’s the thing about reconciliation that people conveniently leave out. Reconciliation cannot happen without justice. Reconciliation is a nice, warm-feeling word that fits into all of our narratives — and a very popular topic within Christian circles. Justice? Well, that’s not as sexy and fun as reconciliation. It’s messy and it’s costly. It’s not as lucrative as the topic of reconciliation. Without justice, there is no reconciliation. 
Talking about reconciliation without justice is like you trying to sell me a car without an engine all the while promising it’ll take me to the places I need to go.

Throughout the campaign, we were mocked, attacked, demeaned, belittled by our now President-Elect. He showed us little to no respect.
That doesn’t mean we can’t forgive him or can’t respect him or can’t pray for him. I can and will.
However it does mean that there can be no reconciliation. How can there be reconciliation when there’s no wrong admitted? Who are we to be reconciled with, then?
Think about a relationship in where you were wronged.
How did reconciliation began? By the other party acknowledging, recognizing the wrong that was done. (Or you admitting your wrong, if you were the transgressor). Then began the path of healing and reconciling.
Forgiveness can happen without reconciliation. You can forgive and move on, knowing that that person may never change and that nursing your grudge is only killing you. You forgive; you set proper boundaries; and you hope for the day where you can be reconciled, but you move on. You understand that there can be no reconciliation because the person who hurt you doesn’t (won’t) admit/understand/know that they hurt you.
But without justice…

I, now, live with my head on a swivel. At least (hopefully) temporarily. I’m legitimately concerned of idiotic racist things that might be hurled our way. It’s happen all the time before — people slanting their eyes; ching-chong-ing me; the ‘go back to your China’ (because all Asians are Chinese, apparently) bit; it’s nothing new, sadly. But it’s going to be more rampant as those folks now feel empowered and legitimized — as stories have flooded in from strangers and friends. Like a bunch of middle schoolers chanting “Build a wall” in the cafeteria to people vandalizing cars and buildings with racial slurs and “Trump 2016” to people saying, “I don’t have to be politically correct anymore” to personal stories of folks I know — things like, “Now Trump’s president, some of you may have to go home” to Asian (American Citizen) friends.

And look. I’m not saying ALL the folks who voted for Trump are racists, misogynists, and bad. If that’s what you read, please GTFO of here because, today, I can’t deal with the universe being centered around you.
I’m not even saying that many folks who voted for Trump are that.
There are far too many people I know and respect and love that voted for Trump to lump them all into one category.
But there are enough people who feel that their inner thoughts have been legitimized as the norm.
There are enough people who may have felt that, yes indeed, Trump was a bit racist but it didn’t really change anything in the big picture.
…enough people that I am sincerely and legitimately worried, scared, and concerned.

But frack it (Battlestar Galactica, anyone?)! That’s just me being lost in my fear and being stuck in my head and wallowing in … whatever it is I may be wallowing in.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
There’s work to do now. Lots of it. We move forward. 
With 80% of White Evangelical Christians voting the way they did, with the logic and rhetoric they used — the Church has a lot of repenting to do.
Then all my clergy colleagues who threatened (or joked) about moving out of the States — we need to repent also for thinking about turning our backs on those who may now be even more vulnerable. They don’t have the privilege or the means to skip out of dodge when crap hits the fan. They(‘ll) need the Church even more.

This has left me with a lot of angst and turmoil within my spirit.
believe in the church. I do. Where I lack in faith is with the institutionalized church.
The higher we climb that institutional ladder of “success”, the more you toe that company line; the more trapped you become by the system; the more you need to uphold it and protect it. The less you become helpful to the people who are marginalized; oppressed; broken — the ones who really need the church. It’s nothing new. From the time of Jesus to today — we’ve been seduced by power more often than not.
believe in my colleagues and friends — in people– who work hard for Christ and put their lives, reputations, and well-being on the line in the name of Christ; for justice.

The institution of the United Methodist Church is filled with great and nice people– I like to think I’m one of them. But we also have a vested interest in keeping that institution going. I find myself trying (wanting, even) to pour new wine into the old wine skin — I assume many of us have felt that tension.

And as much as we may vilify the Pharisees — they were nice, good people. It was good, religious people following conventional wisdom that killed Jesus. Because Jesus wouldn’t buy into conventional wisdom; because Jesus didn’t look like them or act like them. (Yet, let’s not forget, he still communed and ate with them.)
Those who rejected Jesus weren’t evil; weren’t bad; they were doing all the right things — in the eyes of conventional wisdom. Jesus challenged them to do all the right things in the eyes of God’s wisdom. That didn’t end so well for him.

I find myself being comfortable and wanting to talk about Christ the King. And I believe so has the American Church. Power. Status. Money — those are the things that majority of us associate with kings. And I believe that we haven’t separated ideas/images of earthly monarchy to the Kingdom of God. Too many of us often look for a God that came with an iron fist to rule with power and have a hard time accepting the God who came with a towel and basin. It’s easy to desire power. It’s hard to wash the muck off of the feet of the one who will turn you over to your death and the feet of those who will abandon you when things get tough. But it’s the Jesus with the towel and basin that changed the world and continues to transform the world.
But, we tend to want to look for God in stained windows — not in the stains of our society and our hearts.
So, I don’t think we, as a Church, talk about Christ the Prophet at all. The one that turned societal expectations upside down; the one that challenged the status quo; the one that confronted the powerful; the one that stood with the powerless;
Because, man, that kinda shit will get you killed.

And man oh man. Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.
That’s me, alright.

So 36, huh? Feels like 35 — only my time seems more limited — or at least, I’m more aware of my limited time.
I’m a bit miffed that I still have so much more growing up and maturing to do. I remember being 10 and thinking 30 was so old. You’d assume people would have their crap together by then. But, nope. Adulting is hard. Pastoring while trying to adult is at best messy; at worst disastrous.

You live. You learn. You forgive. You seek forgiveness. You embody grace. Extend mercy. Ask for mercy. You fight. You love. Love. Love. And love. And love. And — just in case I haven’t emphasized it enough — you love. 

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the last few weeks reading the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount for my devotionals.
The point of the Beatitudes, Richard Rohr argues, is that “to live a just life in this world is to have identified with the longings and hungers of the poor, the meek, and those who weep.” This sort of goes against the narrative from many Christian circles throughout the election season. We seemed to be more afraid of being powerless than standing with those who are powerless.

The one thing I know amid the angst within me is this:
If I build on fear, I’ll only create a house of fear.
If I build on anger, it’ll only make my family and friends miserable — and I’ll pass that anger on to my son all the while corrupting my very own soul.
Being angry and afraid may only end up being a waste of time because nothing may get accomplished; because nothing is built. It’s a house built on sand.

I can only build on faith, because all other ground is sinking sand.
Again, in the words of Richard Rohr: You cannot build on death, you can only build on life. We must be sustained by a sense of what we are for and not just what we are against.”

I am for you.
I am for us.
I am for love.

Forgive me when I forget what I am for and only remember what I’m against.
Forgive me when I’m too afraid, too apathetic, and/or too lazy to act.
Forgive me when I forget that the biggest and greatest calling in my life is to love.

We will not break. We will endure.

In the words of Kendrick Lamar (or rather, Pharrell):
we gon’ be alright
we gon’ be alright
we gon’ be alright
do you hear me, do you feel me? we gon’ be alright.