Tag Archives: Body of Christ

Lent Day 18: Your Kingdom Come

“Through our lives and by our prayers, may your kingdom come!” —Midday Prayers

I sometimes forget, when I pray the Lord’s prayer, that the way God’s kingdom will come here and now is through those of us who believe in Jesus, who are part of the body of Christ. (If you know me well, you know I don’t discount the inherent goodness of humanity, but this specific Jesus kingdom, I think, is ushered in by those of us who are Christians. Good thoughts and actions come from all kinds of people.) God’s kingdom comes through our lives and through our prayers, and I love this midday reminder.

Too often I sit around, navel gazing, wondering why the world isn’t a better place, and I spend too little time consciously going out and making the world look like God’s kingdom here on earth. It’s easier for me to think about and write about how God’s kingdom works, than to make the necessary strides for it to actually happen here on earth. Sometimes it simply takes too much energy. Sometimes I just get overwhelmed by all that needs to happen to make this earth look like the Kingdom of God. Sometimes I am simply too self-focused to help others. Sometimes I flat out don’t feel God. Sometimes, though, I simply feel like I am stuck in a situation where I can’t really bring the Jesus to party, because I can’t figure out how to get past the injustices, the inequalities around me.

For example, I was having coffee with a friend of mine the other day, and she very seriously said to me, Corby, I don’t think you’ll ever be happy. Everywhere you work, you’ll always see something wrong. Everywhere you look, you see the negatives. True story. I don’t think she meant it as a compliment, but I sort of took it as one anyway. I don’t want to be happy, which I think in the above sentence really means complacent, within an institution that is corrupt. I want to be able to see those points of injustice or arbitrarily laid out hierarchies, and I want to have the wisdom and the grace to change them. And, yes, I will likely not be happy until we bring God’s kingdom, which looks so much different than what we’ve got laid out before us right now. And, no, I probably won’t be happy untilall people have equal rights, equal access, equal respect, or simply put equality. As Jesus said in Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” May your kingdom come.

*

As usual, my day in photos:

A Pretty, Mossy Stump by the White River

A Little Brook at the Mounds

Man Only Chapstick: It sits flat in your pocket, so your bros don't know you like soft lips.

A Circle Window at Gordy's Framing

Replica Canoe, I'm Driving

Obsessed With My Own Shadow

Twentieth Century Flats B & W

Twentieth Century Flats

 

Lent Day 17: Nearing the Death of Little Blue

Today on my way to Anderson to meet my brother, I noticed that the temperature gauge on my dashboard was way up at the red line above the H. This compounds the problem that Little Blue’s engine has had recently. When I idle at a stop light or sign, the engine revs and slows, revs and slows, and I worry that my little car may just decide to stop right then and there, leaving me stranded wherever I am. I’m not afraid to have my car die in the street and have to walk, but for some reason I have become afraid of the idea of being car-less.

I forget that having a car is a privilege for me, not a necessity. I live less than two miles from my place of employment, and there are three different bus routes that go within a quarter of a mile of my house. Not having a car is not a hardship for me, but over the past couple of years, I have become accustomed to being able to go on small trips at my own will. I know I will get used to having no car again, but I also just bought my super cool Indiana Youth Group license plate, so having my car break down is a little heartbreaking.

On my way home from Anderson, I had to pull over at a gas station to let my car cool down before I could continue the trip home. I was sitting there feeling pretty sorry for myself about my car, when I decided to listen to my voice mails. A friend of mine had called to tell me that these reflections were meaningful for her this Lent, and I immediately began to think about how blessed I am, and about how for the first time in a while, I actually feel as if I am allowing God to use all of my gifts and talents. I am teaching English, which I love, and I am spending a considerable amount of time thinking about spirituality and theology, which fills me.

I live under no delusions, though. Just because my spiritual life has taken a drastic turn for the better within the past few weeks, I know that doesn’t mean that everything is coming up roses all the time. I know it doesn’t mean that every time I feel sad or doubtful, God will send an affirmation that I’m doing the right things. And, it doesn’t mean that everything will always work out the right way. But I know it does mean that I have a much better perspective about how to deal with adversity, or at least I am in a better head space. Being in this better place helps me have an assurance that God is with me.

I feel like Asaph in Psalm 73:

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

This Psalm resonates with me in so many ways. I want to be continually in a place where I think the “earth has nothing I desire besides [God].” I want to be confident that “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” This sort of goes along with what I was saying yesterday, but it’s a bit different. This struggle of knowing I should desire God constantly is bound by my ability to do so, because I am human. I am bound by my body, by my place in culture, by the necessity to live in the world. My desire should be for the best for my neighbor and the best for my God. I mean, there’s a reason that Jesus said there are only really two commandments: “To love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” And, of course, these two commandments sum up my every struggle, everything I’ve ever written about here or anywhere else. How can we, bound by our earthly bodies, focus so heavily on entities outside of ourselves? To love God with our whole heart and to still have love left over for our neighbors as much as ourselves? Honestly, it wears me out. Sometimes it wears me out even to think about it, let alone do it. Peace.

*

This is how I woke up today with a cat in my face:

Spazabella: The Disgruntled Cat

After morning prayer, I went downstairs for breakfast:

Bacon, Eggs, Strawberries, and Rooibos Tea with Raw Honey

I spent the rest of the day with my super-amazing little brother:

At BD's Mongolian Grill

We went shopping at Old Navy (again with the unethical practices), and I bought some smaller-size clothes, down two sizes from the last time I bought clothes there. We also went to TJ Maxx and Whole Foods. I can’t help myself. I love Whole Foods.

Lent Day 15: Healing and Learning

During my morning prayers, I am also reading Reluctant Pilgrim. In the chapter I read this morning, Okoro writes about a man she was in love with, and unless her words betray her, I would say still deeply loves, or at the very least remembers fondly. She writes about his addiction in these words: “God’s light shines especially bright through the multiple and endless fragmented slices that exist in broken people. And the more rays of light, the more people are touched. But no one expects such light to come from a broken image. I learned to understand the radical beauty of God through Michael’s shards. I learned to acknowledge the beauty of God through my own brokenness” (77). When I read this beautiful description of brokenness, I realized why I have always loved that churches use stained glass to tell the biblical narrative.

Maybe the early stained glass artists were onto more than simply reappropriating the technique of mosaic with a new technology. The multicolored shards of glass work together to not only reflect and refract light, but they tell one cohesive story of beauty and grace. Each piece of art, carefully rendered with fragmented pieces of glass held together by that thin lead casing, each piece of art tells a beautiful story and needs each small fragment to tell it. I should look toward the stained glass to tell me about more than a biblical narrative; I should ask the stained glass to tell my own narrative, and to remind me that we all work together to form the body Christ, as weird and multicolored as it can be.

A few pages later Okoro writes: “I want to find a church that teaches me something about carrying each other’s burdens, about living into the gift of God’s grace so we are free to be the persons and community God calls us to be. […] Maybe I love the image of U2’s ‘Grace’ because it reminds me that God our mother eternally supports and nourishes us and, most importantly, does not punish us for being the needy creatures God created us to be. […] I don’t imagine that I extended grace to Michael. That would be presumptuous. Rather we both got caught up in the delicate but strong grip of God’s grace, that sense of divine love extending outside of God’s self and demanding humility from whoever falls into its arms” (80). I love this idea that we don’t extend grace to each other, and I never thought about how presumptuous it is to assume that we know anything about grace at all.

The idea that we just get caught up together in God’s grace is a profound one for me. I have always thought about giving grace to people, but not about mutually receiving grace, thought that’s exactly what happens. In fact, once I read this passage, I thought about Jesus saying that it’s better to give than receive. Why? Because when we give, we are simultaneously receiving. We can never only give grace, because what enables us to give grace is God’s giving of grace to us. We are inextricably caught up with others in giving and receiving grace.

In addition, maybe a lesson I am supposed to learn this Lent is one of humility. In the argument with my friend, humility was a learning point. In chapel yesterday, denial is a form of humility. Here, today, I learn that grace requires, no demands, our humility. How beautiful! If simply keep asking, God, what do you want with me? I have no doubt that I will eventually learn what it is God desires. I have no doubt that I am supposed to be a shard in the stained glass body of Christ.

Click the arrow below to listen to Nichole Nordeman’s cover of “Grace” by U2. You’ll also have to click the same arrow on the MySpace Music Player.

Grace (In The Name Of Love Album Version)

Lent Day 11: A Lesson in Love and Humility

Without giving too many details, I will just say I have learned a lesson in humility and love this weekend at AWP. To make a long story short, my insomnia didn’t, in fact, go away. It only got slightly less ferocious, allowing me five hours of of sleep for one night instead of three. When I don’t sleep, I get mean, curt, short-tongued. I have been all of those things this week, which led to quite a large eruption of misunderstandings last night between a friend and myself. The quarrel led to me moving down to the lobby of the hotel for quite some time, so I could recompose myself and not put my fist through the mirror in our room. See I told you I have some anger management issues, and I felt as if I could beat my way with small, tight fists through the thickest, heaviest punching bag on the market. I didn’t.

Instead, for a change, I left the room to recompose myself elsewhere. By this morning, after a conversation with my beautiful and sensible wife, some coffee, a session on queer YA fiction, and some prayer, walking, and meditation, I was able to calmly and rationally initiate a discussion of the events of last night. And, of course, we came out on the other side with love and grace, because I am learning that’s how things work out when you practice humility and love.

Here is the photographic chronology of my day:

Walking North on Michigan Avenue

Walking North on Michigan Avenue

A Coffee Shop I've Always Wanted to Try and Finally Did

A Little Morning Reading and a Mexican Mocha

Buildings Dating from the Mid-1800s

Do You Need Some Art Supplies?

Capitalism Block on State Street

I decided to go to church tonight, but I wasn’t sure where to go, so I literally typed the address of the Palmer House in the first blank of the “Get Directions” feature in Google Maps, followed by the word Methodist in the second blank. I figured I couldn’t lose since I live four hours away, and I’d never see any of the people again. I mean, it’s always a crap shoot when you’re a lady-boy lesbian and looking for a church in a different city. Each time I risk rejection from the body to which I’ve belonged since the age of four when I “gave my life to Jesus,” a form of rejection that breaks my heart again and again.

I walked to Temple Church (a.k.a. First United Methodist of Chicago) with low expectations and hoping that I wasn’t dressed too shabbily. I can never accurately anticipate the dress code at a “First United Methodist,” because they are usually the big, old churches that are trying to stand guard and keep from dying out. But that guard-standing usually comes outfitted in whatever is the latest fashion.  I always assume that the dress code is on the upper end of the spectrum, not jeans and the sweater I was wearing. But, as I mentioned, I’d never see any of these people again, so I pressed on.

Temple Church's History in Stained Glass

Destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire

As I walked past the beautiful arts garden, pictured above, I looked to my right and got a glimpse of the Chicago Picasso. I could feel that this hour of my life was going to be an adventure. Electric Jesus was in the air. I strolled through the revolving door and up to the security guard. Yes, you read correctly, I walked confidently over to the security guard, and said, “Can you please tell me where the church service is meeting tonight?” She pointed me up the stairs and through some double doors.

I was a bit disoriented as I walked through the thick wooden doors, because I was released into a space that looked like a storage closet, only without anything in it, too big to be a closet, too small to be a respectable hallway. The space was a hallway nonetheless, and I began to search for what I was sure would be a large stone chapel or sanctuary. Instead I found the small, intimate chapel pictured here. In fact, I had to ask the lovely man in the picture if I was in the right place.

A Tiny Church Service in a Huge Church's Small Chapel

By the time the service started with a greeting and then a hymn that none of us really knew, I realized I was experiencing the Body of Christ in a very real way. The mix of people was diverse: various ethnicities, social classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities. There were people there with children of varying ages, and older people who were there alone. The bulletin specifically spelled out that we were all welcome.

The service followed the liturgy while still being personal: we confessed as a group and then offered silent meditations of our own. When it came time for the prayer requests, the congregants shared intimately and without reservation, and then we prayed for those concerns. We passed the peace! Finally, we collected tithes and offerings and shared the Eucharist together. We stood together around the communion table and celebrated the Great Thanksgiving as we looked each other in the eyes. I could feel the Holy Spirit hovering there in our midst, like the soft breeze that blows off Lake Michigan in the summertime, and as refreshing.

Jesus’ body was broken, His blood was shed, and we were redeemed yet again. A glorious miracle.

Several times the intimacy and the beauty of it all overwhelmed me to the point of tears. Here, four hours away, is the type of community I long for each Sunday. Here, in a church I assumed would be too uppity for my jeans and sweater, I met my Jesus in the realest way I have experienced in years. Here.

Today was a beautiful mess. Peace.