Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Another Book You Should Read

While I'm talking about children's books, let me mention one more. 

Do you know who Todd Parr is?  If not, find out.  Or read on, because I'm going to tell you...

He is a children's book author and illustrator.  And he does an amazing job of putting big concepts into simple language and fun pictures.  You can find out more about him at

Anyway, he has written another of my favorite books.  It's titled It's Okay to Be Different.  In the book, Todd writes page of page of ways that we might be different (big ears, different sizes, having wheels - as in a wheelchair, eating macaroni and cheese in the bathtub) and each statement starts, "It's okay to..."

In a world where all of us - children and adults alike - are sent many messages each day about the way we are "supposed to be" Todd's words are refreshing and deeply needed.

In fact, today after we were done, one of our teenaged helpers came to me and said how much he appreciated that book.  He's not a kid who is obviously that much different than any of his peers, but those's okay to be different...for some reason mattered to him.

Whoever you are...whatever you are whatever ways you are different...know that it's okay.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What Is God Like?

Today I spent the day with children.  This year instead of doing a week of Vacation Bible School in which we meet every day, we chose to do "Terrific Tuesdays" where we spend one day of each week together.  We've learned skills and practiced our care for others and the world while addressing important needs around us.  Today's emphasis was on literacy. 

During the course of this day we read one of my favorite children's books.  The book by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso is titled In God's Name.  If you haven't read it, I'd suggest you find it.  It's really a lovely book. 

The storyline basically says this...once people who knew each other's names and names for every other living thing were searching for God's name.  So, they started finding names for God, each finding a name they could connect with (the farmer - Source of Life, the tired warrior - Peacemaker, and so on).  However, as they all discovered names they fought over whose name was the best.  Finally, in a moment of clarity they came to realize that it was when they lifted all the names together that they discovered who God was.

By the way: You still need to read the's much more well written than my brief synopsis and the illustrations are lovely. 

Whenever I read this book I am reminded of the fullness of who God is.  We can't help but relate more closely to one name or picture of God.  And it's okay to have our favorite way of understanding God...okay, unless that gets in the way of acknowledging that our favorite way isn't the only way.

I remember as a college student learning about the use of inclusive language for God - in other words, using non-gendered or multi-gendered language (particularly broadening our scope from the limitation of Father and male gendered-only language).  One of the most common defenses I heard in those early days was that there were many people who had been harmed or disappointed by their earthly fathers and that using such language for God was problematic for some of them.  While wanting to sensitive to the realities some people had lived through (although perhaps not as sensitive as I thought I was being), my first reaction to this was that perhaps, rather than taking away certain language, the church needed to be addressing parenting skills, family systems, and helping people find healing.  In other words, I wasn't first convinced about the use of inclusive language. 

And the reality is that I became convinced of the importance of inclusive language for God the day it was put in a different context...the context of fidelity to God. 

The reality is that scripture gives us many images of God - from father to mother, rock to shepherd, creator to spirit.  And what that means is that although we can each have our most comfortable image, our "go-to" name for order to be faithful to God, we must understand that God is always more, always fuller than we can see.

I wonder how this process would have been different for me had I read Sandy Eisenberg Sasso's book at five years old or ten years old. 

I wonder how my children's understanding of God will be different because they will grow up knowing that God is many things, many names, many ways. 

I wonder how many people would be more deeply connected to God if other "good people of faith" weren't so worried about having to prove that their name or understanding of God is the best. 

And I wonder - if we were able to see the fullness of God - how that would also translate into our ability to affirm the many different facets of ourselves and other people we meet.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's Not in the News

               The last couple of weeks have been filled with news around questions of sexuality.  Exodus International made an announcement with Alan Chambers issuing an apology.  The Supreme Court overturned DOMA and with that act opened doors to extend rights to same sex partners.  For those advocating for gay rights, these have been welcome pieces of news.  And I am one of those who has been paying attention to what is going on out there.
               But there is also something going on right here.
               This past Sunday in my little congregation worshipping at the buckle of the Bible belt, I had the joy of sharing our congregation's new welcome statement.  And this is what it says:
We are a church that believes in welcoming all people
into a journey of faith where we share questions, discoveries and conversation.
This means you are welcome regardless of…
your gender
your age
your economic status
           your political association
your sexual orientation
your skin color
your faith background
your health
your ability
your mood
your cultural heritage
your relationship status.
 Whether you think you have all of the answers
or none of the answers…
whether you are certain that God calls us
into a diverse and
inclusive faith community or are still wondering…
if you are willing to come to the table and welcome others as they welcome you,
if you are willing to continue to seek and grow in faith and understanding,
if you are willing to celebrate the common bond we have in Christ
regardless of our differences…
then you are welcome.
The news items are real and they are important.  But what is also important is that there are real people facing and talking about their real questions and discoveries.  What is important is that there are communities that are embracing people, sometimes (as is true for some of our members) even in the midst of their questions and uncertainties...but embracing people and engaging the conversation.  What is important is that in a small congregation, in a primarily conservative Christian town, two women and their daughter walked forward at the invitation on Sunday and joined the church as a family. 
This wasn't in your news, but it's a headline in my life.