Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

A Little Light

In Church, Learning, Prejudice on August 14, 2017 at 6:19 am

A Little Light
What can I say in 300 words about the white supremacists in Charlottesville and everywhere else, including the White House? I despise you more than words can express and I hope you die an agonizing death–soon–and spend eternity writhing in hell. That just about sums it up in only 43 words. Not very Christian, I’m afraid.

I spent Saturday weepy, clicking through channels and scrolling through Facebook to find information about Charlottesville. The news stations focused on Trump’s threats of war against North Korea and Venezuela and ignored the white supremacists threatening us here in America.

Later, after the man in the White House gave his mealy-mouthed response to the violence in Virginia and refused to call out domestic terrorists, I saw a meme that said, “Not many presidents could make threatening nuclear war the second worst thing he did in a week.”

Sunday morning couldn’t come soon enough. Our movie this week was Wonder Woman and I was afraid Pastor Brad would say something about how we had to love even the terrorists. I knew I couldn’t do that.

Instead, he used Diana Prince’s words, “I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat.”

He talked about light defeating darkness and was surprised to get choked up talking about Wonder Woman. I was weepy again through the whole sermon as were several other people. When it gets posted on the website, I’ll let you know. I need to listen to it again.

We closed the service by singing This Little Light of Mine, just like the stalwart clergy in Charlottesville. That will be my lasting impression of Saturday’s events. Not the Nazi slogans or the killer ramming his car into a crowd of protesters. When I think of Charlottesville, I’ll think of the line of clergy of all denominations and races and ages, male and female, locking arms to surround the forces of evil and singing This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine.
I’ll give the last word to Hillary Clinton, “If this is not who we are as Americans, let’s prove it.”

I’m with her.

Not That Kind of Woman

In Church, Learning, women on August 10, 2017 at 6:33 am

Biblical womanhood is not for me.
Let’s just start there. First, women in the bible pretty much have to be married. Been there. Done that. As God is my witness, that won’t happen again.
As an unmarried woman, I would probably have to move in with my brother, who is way too smart to allow that. If necessary, he would take me in, I think, but with some justifiable reluctance. I can be a handful. I’m opinionated, outspoken, and hypercritical, and I really don’t like being around other people very much. Plus, I have a temper and a cat, and he’s allergic to both.
As I write this, I am halfway through A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. Like A. J. Jacobs in The Year of Living Biblically, Evans set out to spend a year living as the Bible instructs women to live. She combed the Bible looking for every passage related to women’s behavior. Not surprisingly, she found some paradoxes and contradictions.
“So what I have found is that any time you think you have found a sort of blueprint or standard for biblical womanhood, a woman in scripture comes along and is praised for breaking it.” Hmmm. I could probably go for that “breaking it” business.
She decided to focus on a different virtue each month—gentleness, domesticity, obedience, valor, beauty, modesty, purity, fertility, submission, justice, silence, and grace. She also developed a “Biblical Woman’s Ten Commandments,” but she lost me on the first one, “thou shalt submit to thy husband’s will in all things.” If you’ve ever wondered why I’m not married, that would pretty much sum it up.
Much of the book referred to the Proverbs 31 woman, a person I had never heard of, but who seems to embody the ideal Biblical woman for many evangelical Christians. Evans quickly discovered that the verses “perpetuating a three-thousand-year-old inferiority complex” among Christian women are used by Jewish husbands to honor their wives. So there are two sides to that story.
Some other things I refuse to do: grow my hair, wear skirts, cover my head, and keep my mouth shut in church (or anywhere else).
I will, however, dress modestly, bake bread, and praise women of valor, especially that last one.
Evans concluded that “the Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood.” As the saying goes, “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” including those in the Bible.
Thank God for that.

Homeward Bound

In Church, Denver, Home on August 9, 2017 at 6:48 am

“Daddy, everyone should have a place to live,” said five-year-old Joey.

When we started talking about homelessness, we quickly realized what a huge and overwhelming topic it is. In the Denver metro area, more than 6,000 people are unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing. Efforts to solve the problem run into ignorance and misconceptions.

A 2015 report from The Denver Foundation, found that 64% of homeless people are families with children, not single men. They are more likely to stay with friends or live in their cars than on the street while working or looking for work and trying to save enough to cover the ever-increasing rent and deposit requirements for housing.

The family living in my church’s studio apartment have a typical story. Both the husband and wife were working and, with their sons, living a good life in New Mexico. Within one month both lost their jobs. It seemed as if we blinked and found ourselves struggling to stay above water,” the wife said.

They came to Denver to find work and spent the last of their savings waiting for the new job to begin. They found help through Family Promise, a nonprofit that helps families with shelter and support services.

The wife’s favorite thing about living in the church apartment is being able to do normal things like clean dishes, cook meals, watch TV, and be together as a family. She also enjoys spending time alone with her husband after they put their sons to sleep.

Soon, they will move into permanent housing and their lives can really get back to normal.

They are among the lucky ones.

As T.S. Eliot said, “Home is where you start from.” Without a home, you’re untethered.

The Denver Foundation survey revealed that homelessness is much more common than many believe. One in ten respondents had once been homeless themselves, and one in five had come close. Many of us are only one crisis away. What would you do? What would you miss?

Our extraordinarily low unemployment rate (2.1%) helps, but housing costs continue to rise. We’re a long way from Joey’s vision that “everyone should have a place to live.”

Meanwhile, we’ll keep working in our own little corners to do what we can to help one or two or ten people and take some comfort in knowing we made a difference to them. We’re trying, Joey.

Make (Me) Believe

In Books, Church, Learning, spirituality on August 8, 2017 at 6:37 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was talking to a couple of the young men in our congregation about our beliefs. Greg said, “I believe Jesus died for our sins.” The other man agreed, and I said, “I don’t believe that.” Frankly, I don’t even know what it means.
Greg looked shocked and said, “You HAVE to believe that.”
I said, “The reason I like this church is that nobody gets to tell me what I have to believe.”
Fourteen or so years later, I’m still here, but Greg left not too long after our conversation. I don’t imagine that had anything to do with his leaving, but I do imagine he found a church where he could tell people what they have to believe.
It all goes back to the Bible. I’ve never been much of a Bible reader. I don’t know if it’s the small print, the tissue thin pages, or the archaic language (and, yes, I know there are versions available that correct all those “defects.”) Shortly after I started going to church I bought The Children’s Illustrated Bible thinking I might actually read that, but no. Somehow I never managed to read more than a few of the stories in that book.
Call me a secular Christian. I accept the Bible as part of my cultural heritage while not considering it factual.
A book I did read was A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Ten years ago when it first came out, I thought it was hilarious, showing how futile and frustrating a quest it was.
I just reread it and still find it very funny. I enjoyed his discovering the near impossibility of not mixing fabrics as well as his difficulty in locating an adulterer to stone. He carried pebbles in his pocket just in case he found one. (He did and the man threw the pebbles at him.) He also had to try many tactics to avoid lusting after women in his heart before finally hitting on one that worked: thinking of them as his mother.
Nevertheless, some of the rules had a positive effect on his life. For example, when he stopped cursing, he became calmer, not so angry. Wearing white made him feel light and happy.
He ended the year still an agnostic, but observing that “the Bible may not have been dictated by God, it may have had a messy and complicated birth, one filled with political agendas and outdated ideas, but that doesn’t mean the Bible can’t be beautiful and sacred.”
That I can believe.

Featured Films

In Church, Learning on August 7, 2017 at 6:08 am


We started our summer movie sermon series about ten years ago. A nice break from our usual service, they teach us that we can learn valuable lessons even from pop culture.
This week’s movie was Moana, and we will also feature Wonder Woman, A Monster Calls, and The Wizard of Oz. In the forty or so movies we’ve seen, I have never once guessed correctly how the pastor will interpret them. Since I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz roughly 45 times, it should be interesting to hear what perspective we get on this much-loved classic.
Moana tells the story of an 8-year-old Polynesian girl destined to become her island village’s chief. She feels a strong pull to the ocean despite her father ordering her to stay away from the sea and stay safe. Her grandmother, who calls herself the village crazy lady, has other ideas. She encourages Moana to fulfill her destiny by setting sail to break an ancient curse and save her island.
On her journey, Moana encounters obstacles and dangers, but wavers in her quest only once.
Our lesson from Pastor Brad was, “When everything falls apart is one of the best times for us to answer the question, “Who am I?” When things fall apart, all the pretense, all the expectations, all the things that aren’t really us, that’s when they fall away.”
We’ve all been tested in crucibles of our own. Philosophers from Nietzsche to Kelly Clarkson have assured us that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
The hard part is understanding that our voyage is never over. We have to, in the words of Nat King Cole, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.
Unlike in the movie, one voyage doesn’t a voyager make.
And each journey reveals more and more clearly who we are.

Open the Doors

In Church, writing on August 3, 2017 at 6:13 am


I’ve never been a student of history. I hear the quotation “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” and I think, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” I tend to agree with Kurt Vonnegut that “we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what.”
So maybe I wasn’t the best person to update our church’s history for our 125th anniversary later this year. On the other hand, I am the oldest member of the trustees, the one who’s been at Highlands the longest, and the only one who ever worked as a writer.
Lucky for me, the history of the first 100 years had already been written in 1992 by the late Ruth Wiberg, author of the still popular Rediscovering Northwest Denver and a lifelong member of our church.
It’s the only church I’ve attended as an adult, and I probably take it for granted because I have nothing to compare it with. Interviewing former pastors and longtime members is teaching me what a special place it is.
They speak fondly of their time here. They describe the congregation as “open,” “caring,” and “kind.” Members who move to another state tell us they hope to find another church just like ours.
My favorite Christian author, John Pavlovitz, once proposed starting the Church of Not Being Horrible, whose sacred calling is “to be decent, to be kind, to be compassionate, to be whatever it is that we believe the world is lacking.”
I think we are that church.
We trustees have charge over the building, making sure it lives on into the future. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the church isn’t the building, it’s the people. Nobody’s perfect here, but we’re all trying to do the best we can, be the best we can, and help one another as best we can.
It’s that kind of place.

Venus Envy

In Church, Prejudice, Resistance on July 31, 2017 at 6:36 am

“I wouldn’t go to a church with a woman pastor,” a relative told me.
“I wouldn’t go to a church that didn’t allow women pastors,” I replied.
One of the reasons I chose my church is because it had a woman pastor.
Years later, when she left, the (female) bishop assigned a 30-year-old male pastor to our church. I had misgivings, first about his youth.
During the interim period between pastors, we had a guest preacher, a man, who told us we should be really happy about the change because “You’re getting what everybody wants—a male pastor.” I was furious and not inclined to like our new young, male pastor.
I’d been fighting this male bias all my life and at 64, I was long past sick of it.
Luckily, when he came, he won me over right away. As my 80-something friend said after his first sermon, “That boy can preach.” Indeed he can. Another friend thinks he’s “a real man of God.”
He showed me that men can support women and women’s issues just as strongly as women can. Other men in our congregation confirmed it. In my church male or female is a nonissue, as is gay or straight, young or old and other dichotomies that will probably occur to me as soon as I post this.
I can’t say the same for the world outside our church doors, although last week was a good one for women, starting with Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski breaking with their party line and voting against the draconian health care non-bill, even though Johnny-come-lately McCain was (typically) given all the credit. Senator Collins was greeted with applause in the Bangor airport when she returned home to Maine, something that has never happened before in her twenty years in the Senate.
It was a beautiful thing to watch.
Then we got to see Democratic Representative Maxine Waters repeatedly “Reclaiming my time” when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to squander her allotted time and avoid answering her pointed questions.
It was a beautiful thing to watch.
Most of the (straight, white) men in charge of almost everything still see women as “less than.” But more and more men accept and treat us as equally worthy, and they’re raising their sons and daughters to do the same.
It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

The Color of His Skin

In Church, Prejudice on July 27, 2017 at 6:02 am

“I don’t know why they assigned a black preacher to a church in a white suburb,” she said. “It’s not like he’ll attract black people when there just aren’t that many around.” I agreed that he would not bring more diversity to a congregation in an area that has less than 1% African Americans, but her comment bugged me. I saw the red flag of racism in it and tucked it away. I had things to do and she was a friend. I didn’t want to deal with it.
Twenty-four hours later, I’m ashamed of myself.
I do not know the man or the church in question, yet I know that people are more—much more—than the color of their skin. I should have said so. The church hierarchy strives to put the right person in the pulpit based on his or her skills, talents, and experiences. The right fit will lead to growth, spiritual growth, of both the church members and the minister.
The reasoning probably has little to do with his race.
Or maybe it does. Getting to know people of different ethnic groups increases understanding and decreases prejudice.
This might not always be a lily-white suburb. People of color may very well move here. It’s been known to happen. If it does, the people of this congregation could lead the way to embracing diversity instead of fighting it. Maybe they’ll understand that diversity leads to stronger, richer life experiences. Maybe they’ll learn to celebrate our differences. That would be a wonderful thing. Maybe they already are that congregation.
This minister, who holds a doctoral degree, posted his personal mission statement: “To Help God create loving, open and affirming, diverse and inclusive communities that bring joy to the hearts of all men, women, and children as they discover and claim their rightful place in the family of God.”
But, hey, let’s focus on the color of his skin.
That’s what’s important, right?
It’s the only thing that counts.

I’m Not There Yet

In Church, Learning on July 24, 2017 at 5:30 am

Forgiveness is not my strong suit. Holding a grudge is more my style, which is definitely not the Christian way to behave. Let me illustrate.
Last year, several people from my high school class (50+ years ago) friended me on Facebook, and I soon discovered many of them were right wing nut jobs. Is that language too prejudicial? Well.
One guy hated President Obama—all the RWNJs did—and the worst thing he could think of to belittle him was to say repeatedly “he pees sitting down.” I responded, “Steve, if you think it’s a horrible insult to call someone a woman, I sure hope you don’t have a wife or daughters.” He sneered and called me a “Liberal!” I said, “Thank you for noticing.”
See how sweet I can be?
One of the women had emailed me a few years back to ask for my email address.
Theirs is the level of intellect I was dealing with.
It only took my pointing out the error of their ways a few times before they unfriended me. Oddly, I didn’t cry.
After the election, the tears came. I was grief stricken and heartbroken as were my friends and family. I know we’re supposed to forgive, but I cannot forgive the people who voted for the monster in the White House. I’m not there yet. As I write that, I think the “yet” is inappropriate because I don’t know that I’ll ever be there. The damage they’re doing to our country will last for decades, probably longer than I will last.
I looked up forgiveness to make sure I understand it correctly and found this little tidbit. “God does not forgive people who are guilty of willful, malicious sin and who refuse to acknowledge their mistakes, change their ways, and apologize to those whom they have hurt. (Proverbs 28:13; Acts 26:20; Hebrews 10:26) Sounds like Trump supporters to me.
Even without forgiving them, I can refuse to be consumed with anger. That’s hard because while I’ve forgotten most of the early atrocities committed by Donald and his cronies, they dream up new outrageous acts every day, several times a day.
I can barely let go of my rage about one thing before the next occurs. Does anyone know a trick for a rolling, relentless forgiveness without ceasing? I could use some help here.
Solace comes in my friends, my books, and my church. Without them, I just don’t know how to get through this.

What He Said

In Church, Learning, spirituality on July 21, 2017 at 7:51 am

Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, wrote many wise things, among them this criticism of Christians. “For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, the demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

Another wise man, Mahatma Gandhi, said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

It occurs to me that we know the Beatitudes only in a very general, fragmented way, so I’m posting them here.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I don’t pretend to understand what all of these mean, and I’ll leave it up to you to look it up if you’re interested. Right now, I’m struck especially by the fifth one, “Blessed are the merciful” and the last one, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” What dismays me the most about the religious right is their almost complete lack of mercy and their mania for persecuting people.