On Offense [Rebecca Hannigan]

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Newton/google/our middle school physics teacher tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

(yes, we’re starting simple here, but stick with me)

When you swing your arm and snap your wrist down to serve a volleyball, your shoulder arches up and your arm follows through. When the player on the other side passes it, if the serve is anything as intense as men’s Olympic teams, the sort of serve and serve-receive you see in the first few seconds of this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbkAF93qW5k), the player ends up on the floor, three feet from where he stood when he made contact with the ball.

To get the ball up, a body has to go down.  

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Not just volleyball, but in every physical activity/ interaction: jump on a trampoline, push your foot on a bike pedal, wrestle a Jenga piece out of the stack and watch the stack wobble.

Physical relationships are apparent and easy to understand. What is not so easily understood, however, is the ways in which this principle applies to social actions/reactions.

Well, maybe it is easy, actually, if we continue considering athletics. When a team is not on offense, it is on defense. In soccer, basketball, volleyball, football, and so on, you and your team are either intentionally moving in the direction of your own goal, or you are intentionally opposed to the team that is working toward its goal. You are not standing aside passively, you are actively opposing.

This active opposition is entirely logical in the framework established by athletics/ competitions, which are structurally designed to do such a thing: to prove your own superiority and ability, talent, athleticism, etc. But why does this same logic manifest itself in social groups playing on the same field, in the same country, with one group pitting itself up against another, with only one able to be happy, satisfied, justified in its actions as it moves toward its own goal, while the other seems to be actively working against it?

This defense-turned-offense is evident in battles of equal rights for different groups: men and women, black and white, rich and poor.

We seem to operate under the idea that everything is a competition, that if the needs of one social group are being met, then other needs are being ignored. This idea inherently assumes a certain amount of scarcity, as if there is not enough fairness to go around. Why does justice seem to be a limited resource that only some enjoy, while others watch enviously?

I know many men who are instinctively opposed to feminists, based on an assumption that feminists want to put women before men, rather than bringing them to the same level.

In the same way, I know many women who assume that men who are not actively campaigning for women’s rights are opposed to women having equal rights, which is an equally erroneous assumption. If/when these men say or do something that seems the slightest bit offensive to women, some feminists are easily inflamed, puffing up and biting back with such sharp teeth that then, the men feel justified to defend themselves, which then becomes offensive to women again, continuing the cycle.

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Most of us are quick to assume an attitude of antagonism, which exacerbates the disagreement, making the original comment (and subsequent comments) more acerbic than it was (they are) most likely intended to be.

The bipartisan framework endemic to our political system feeds into our offense/defense mentality, encoding opposition into our interactions with people whose political priorities differ from our own. Instead of listening to opinions that differ, we are quick to defend ourselves by offending the opposing party.

Staring down at the street from the 7th floor balcony, I heard two guys walking toward each other on the sidewalk, with one chanting “Donald Trump” (preceded by a four-letter word starting with an ‘f’),  which encouraged the other to chant and curse the same thing. Opposition is contagious. It’s easy. It takes little to no effort to react equally and oppositely and angrily.

But what if we do not jump on offense when we see that we are on defense? What if we do not react with anger? Anger is a self-sustaining cycle, one that feeds on itself, like yeast in a sourdough starter that continues to both break down and grow its own bacteria. We are only creating more problems for ourselves and stirring up more dissension when we react by lashing out, because every swing has a follow-through, and every gun shot has a recoil that can potentially harm you just as much as the shot itself.

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What would happen if we responded to different opinions by listening, acknowledging discrepancies, and articulating the ways in which your viewpoint diverges from the other, without immediately pointing a finger or pushing against the other? The offensive mentality is like a gag reflex, but what if we breathe deeply and calm it down?

I want to be clear that I’m not, by any means, suggesting that anyone passively sits by while something harmful/oppressive/unjust happens. Rather, I’m encouraging us to quiet the instant-hate instinct that boils up as soon as disagreements get heated, because raising the temperature of the water also raises the temperature of its container, of the air around, of the room itself.

Feminists cannot effectively advocate for women’s rights when they  jump down men’s throats, and men cannot understand what feminists believe in when they are blinded by the assumption that women are intending to jump down their throats. These misunderstandings are the result of the tug-of-war nature of the argument that is not otherwise an argument. It becomes an argument when we defend ourselves by offending, and when the hate-instinct kicks in.

How can we respond any other way, then?

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We should not necessarily be passive, but perceptive. We should understand the situation, and the fact that what might seem like an attack is the result of endemic antagonism, layers of assumption and hatred built up from assumption and hatred that came before.

A clear example of this comes from a story in Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy (one of the books we read as a foundational text for the beginning of our program). The entire book examines and emphasizes the need for our judicial system to be what it was designed to be, which is just. Justice dissolves when heated by prejudice and biases which feed and are fed by the cycle of hatred and attitude of antagonism that we all-too-easily assume. But Stevenson, a defense attorney for inmates on death row, sets a different example. He writes about a time when he visited a client in prison, an African American male imprisoned in a southern state. Stevenson himself is an African American male, and on this particular visit, he was affronted and abased by the guard who greeted him at the door, greeting by demanding to strip-search Stevenson, talking to him as if he were a piece of trash the blew in from the highway. The way Stevenson describes this interaction is upsetting in a stomach-sick way that makes you want to wrap your hands around the throat of the guard and shake some sense into him. But what’s even more gut-wrenching is the way in which Stevenson responds, which is not by shaking sense into the guard, but by showing kindness and ease. During this initial interaction and the ones that follow, he talks to the guard respectfully and calmly, recognizing and identifying the guard’s proclivity to act on prejudice, based on Stevenson’s observation of the Confederate-flag flying truck in the parking lot, and other indicators of an attitude that comes from the guard’s inherited racist attitudes. Rather than defending himself by offending the guard, as Stevenson very easily could, he reacted in a way which effectively ended the cycle of antagonism. He recognized and respected the guard as a human who deserves just as much recognition and respect as every other human, regardless of the way the guard insulted and offended him. And this intentional attitude of grace and mercy does effectively end the cycle, as evidenced by one of the most surprising and wonderful moments in the book, when the guard approaches Stevenson later, sincerely apologetic and sorrowful about his earlier expressed attitude. The guard saw how Stevenson embodied the ideals that he expressed, by giving fair treatment to every individual, despite the fact that Stevenson himself was not treated fairly, and the guard saw how redemptive and restorative the embodiment of that ideal was, and he wanted to embody it as well.

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Stevenson’s story shows the way to enact effective change: we must recognize and respect every human for his/her ideas and attitudes, even when they offend or oppose our own ideas. If you do not feed hatred with hatred, it will stop growing.

Of course, as with most feel-good, love-your-neighbor sentiments, this is easier said than done (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xykuu_pVZak). However, we should be reminded, now more than ever, that we do not need to react violently or angrily to defend ourselves, or else the offenders will continue to offend. We should save the two clearly opposing sides for sports.  

Turkey, Cats and Dogs – Oh My! : Veronica Farrell

I’m currently sitting at the Denver airport in a Panda Express waiting for lovely Rebecca to arrive from Atlanta so we can go back to our comfy home and get ready to head back to work after a lot of travelling. Looking back on the past several days of vacation I can only think to write of my amazing family and fuzzy wuzzy cats. I will not be going home for the Christmas holiday, so unless plans change I won’t see my entire family again until this program is over! A painful reality made worse by the memory of a squealing phone call and enormous welcoming hug I got from one of my younger sister’s when I let her know she needed to let me into her dorm so I could bring her home.

It was so great to get to share my experiences working at MetroCaring with my family over Thanksgiving dinner. I find I am much more thankful every day for the opportunities life has dealt me and knowing I was giving all of them a good bit more than usual to mull over felt like a necessary extension of the work I am doing here in Colorado – spreading the word and that sort of thing. My reflective and service-oriented time in Colorado has also made me much more appreciative of the brief time I got to spend with my family, even if it involved an upsetting end to the Gilmore Girl regime and a devastating South Carolina loss to Clemson (although all of these disappointments were washed away by Fantastic Beasts and meeting new dogs at the Greensboro Gobbler 5k). My parents are so generous and loving and my siblings, extraordinarily considerate and supportive. Flying back after such a short and sweet visit felt so much harder than my big move.

And last, but most certainly not least, my fluffies Oreo and Luna. Oh how I missed them. The nostalgia and sentimentality seemed to hit them as well. I got a lot more affection from them during this visit than I think I ever did when I went back home during college. Boy I already can’t wait to see them again! At least I stocked up on some new photos and soft cuddles!

Sermon on the Feast of Christ the King Sunday – John Christian Evans

Greetings from Mountain Man. This is the text for the sermon I preached yesterday at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Redeemer in Denver, focusing on the themes of Christ the King Sunday, and its sustaining relevance in meaning for the call of the Church to work to help bring the Kingdom of God into fruition. I hope that this speaks to your heart, and that the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts may be acceptable in the sight of the Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.

Imagine, if you will, that by some happenstance, you are a traveler in the Holy Land around 2,000 years ago. Specifically, that you are traveling to the city of Jerusalem, for it is the week of Passover, and you are perhaps returning to celebrate the memorial of God freeing your ancestors from the chains of slavery and oppression in Egypt. As you enter the city, you see a large crowd gathered all along a narrow, cobblestone street, yelling, and shouting, and chanting over and over again the words “Crucify him!” Then…you see a man, stumbling slowly down the street, barely able to hold up the 2 large pieces of wood bound together in the shape of a cross. His back is scarred and beaten, his face shrouded in blood and tears, his body merely a stone’s throw from being completely, and utterly broken. Upon his head, you see thorns, twisted together in the shape of a crown, and placed upon his head both to cause him physical pain, and humiliation. The latter comes to be when the soldiers notice that the man has fallen to the ground, wiped out both emotionally and physically, and begin beating him again. Pointing to that twisted set of thorns upon his head, the soldiers sadistically laugh as the crowd cheers them on, crying out, “Is this the King of the Jews?!”

I have a sneaking suspicion that if someone witnessed this event, unaware of whom that man with the crown of thorns upon his head truly was and is, there would be some confusion on the part of the witness as to why this man would be called a “king”, even in mockery. The worldly standard of what a king is stands in sharp contrast with the life, death, resurrection, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Kings and other powerful leaders aren’t usually sentenced to death, nor are they seen walking and talking amongst those who are considered low, undesirable, or inferior. Powers and principalities throughout human history, from the Roman Empire to our own nation today, seem to vindicate this notion that it is those who are the most ruthless in their pursuit of power, that it is those who “tell it like it is”, and sadly, that it is those who perpetuate demagoguery, and the all too familiar lie of “making a nation great again”, are those best suited to lead people and nations.

And yet, here we are at the end of the liturgical year, celebrating the last great feast before the start of Advent, known as “Christ the King” Sunday. The flourishing and ornate language that colors the scriptures we heard in the readings and the psalm this morning, that challenges us to “be still and know that the Lord is God”, that announces Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation”, and tells of a thief who believed that the man hanging next to him on a cross would rule over a kingdom that would never end; is seemingly hard to reconcile with the realities of abiding evil, sin, injustice, oppression, and hatred in our world and in our lives. It is all too easy to be broken in mind and spirit by these realities, as we all have experienced at some point in our lives. There have been times in my own darkest moments of doubt, despair, and hopelessness, where the image of Christ as King seemed utterly unlikely, and the fruition of the Kingdom of God seemed nonexistent. How then, can I stand before you this morning and proclaim that Christ is King and Lord of all?

If we look back at the origins of this day in the liturgical life of the Church, it was born, intriguingly enough, after a time of great despair, uncertainty, and utter inhumanity. This was the supposed “war to end all wars”, The First World War, a conflict in which the virulent effects of nationalism, xenophobia, racism, class-ism, and an arms race all came together in one terrible wave of destruction the world had never seen, with ultimately seventeen million people being destroyed in its wake. Seven years later in 1925, Pope Pius XI, felt called to create a  liturgical feast known as Christ the King Sunday, to remind the world in warning of the dangers of nationalism and totalitarianism, and a message of hope that though the governments of humanity may be destroyed or conquered, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the Human race, will always remain Lord over all that is and will be. In his address to the Bishops of the Roman Church, he stated “If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all [people], purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all people, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.” That is quite a lengthy definition of his desire for this new date on the liturgical calendar, but luckily, I believe that perhaps I can translate some of my own recent experiences as a metaphor for his vision.

Over the past few months, I have had the amazing opportunity to be a part of the Colorado Episcopal Service Corps, a group of young adults who have come from all across the United States and many different backgrounds to live together in community, commit ourselves to a year of faith based service through a variety of different organizations, and to engage in spiritual formation and growth. More than anything else, aside perhaps from the amazingly soul-satisfying banana bread that my fellow ESC member Sara makes, what makes our community so rich and dear to my heart are the unique ways that each of us integrates our passions and faith together in our work. We may work for different organizations with different missions, but what unites us all is a common desire to serve and love all of God’s children, and to be a witness of the good news, through the example of Jesus Christ. This example, however, is one that is difficult at times to imitate though, for the path that Jesus made and walked himself was not easy. Each of us has had days where we have been pushed to our limits, shed tears, and have felt as if we had no idea what we were doing. For myself, it has been in these moments especially, that I have come to realize how much I need Christ as a savior, and as King of all in my life.

I say King of all in my life, because the Kingdom of God is not just what will ultimately happen upon Christ’s return to this Earth. My brothers and sisters, the Kingdom of God, and the reality of Christ as King, is something that happens within us, through us, and all around us. It happens within us when we come to glimpse and know in the words of the old hymn “the deep, deep love of Jesus”, a love so vast, unmeasured, so boundless, and free, a love that was made manifest when Christ shed his life and blood for all of humanity on the cross. It happens through us when we act upon what Christ has taught and commanded us, in loving and serving others, proclaiming the message of salvation to a lost and dying world, and in respecting and defending the God given dignity of every human being, especially those who are marginalized and oppressed. And it happens all around us, for the Kingdom of God has been and forever will be greater than any powers or principalities of this Earth. For nations and empires will rise and fall, as they have for thousands of years, but the Kingdom of God will remain always, built on the greatest and most trans-formative power known to the human race: love.

Dear people of God, I firmly believe that now, more than ever, is the time for us as the body of Christ to work harder than ever before to help bring this Kingdom to fruition. Now is the time to boldly proclaim Jesus as our King over our hearts, actions, and of our all. Now is the time to be the new Shepherds that Jeremiah prophesied of, to cry with those who cry, and suffer with those who suffer, and be a voice for those who have none in society. Now is the time for us to remember that no matter what earthly powers rule over us, that our allegiance is to a King, whose reign is the ultimate embodiment of love.

Will you take up this call today? Will you dare to look within, at each other, and all around, to see and know, the living, unshakable kingdom of God, with Christ as King?

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An Ode to Strength — Esther Ou

This post is in honor of all those who show me what strength means; you are my aspiration everyday, and I cannot thank you enough.

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When you think of strength, what do you imagine? What comes to mind?

Is strength loud, or is it quiet and subtle?

What makes something “strong?”

I think we often define strength in terms of power relations, trying to quantify dynamics– strength in numbers, comparative or hierarchical. Much of it appears to be based on a consequential action or outcomes. We’ll hear, “He is stronger than me, because he can lift more at the gym,” “She is in the most powerful position in our company, making all the important decisions,” or “The United States is stronger than most countries due to its international influence, its position on the Security Council, and its economic power.” (Sorry, I was a political science major.)

But strength, as with everything in life, is complicated and multidimensional. Are we talking about physical, emotional, or mental strength? Strength in a group or personal strength? Influence?

I guess what I’m trying to answer is this: what is the truest essence of strength. Or in other words, what does it really mean truly have strength or be strong?

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Before I continue, I want to share what inspired me to write this post. Here’s just a few of the myriad examples of strength in my own life.

1. For my best friend who stayed up with a girl who self-harmed, in order to speak truth of love, support, and encouragement.

2. For the best friend who mustered up with courage to see a counselor when she battled depression and anxiety, instead of living in passivity and “saving face.” She stood against the silence surrounding mental health in the Asian community.

3. For moments in which I surprise myself to speak in another’s defense when a friend was utterly disrespected, insulted, and deeply hurt, rather than hesitate with my tongue held back.

4. For every social worker who refuses to give up in advocating for the disenfranchised, despite every system turned against them.

…and there are so many more reasons.

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This is my conclusion:

The true essence of strength involves two major foundational principles. The first is doing the inherently good, and the second is the way by which that can be done — seeing our full dignity and divine identity in ourselves and others. Our full humanity. Strength can be personal and quiet, where we do things that are difficult, challenging, or push us out of our comfort zone, because they are good and right. Even the smallest decision is transformative. It is self-care and self-respect. What is easy for one can be seemingly impossible for another, and those individual differences should never be overlooked. Similarly, strength can be loud or apparent, refusing to give up. It is having agency to determine one’s life– choice. It is standing in solidarity with another and refusing to be passive or silent, protecting and adhering to what is just and good. In the famous words of Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

True strength is an invitation to be fearless, even for a moment, to abide by inherent goodness. That is where strength and courage intersect.

At the core of it all is love– love for self, love for others.

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Strength is love.
Love is strength.

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Inside the mind of a Introverted Alabamian p.3

Well, well, well,… I am back again. Here to share my story and my BIG main idea. Forewarning, I have good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad: you’re going to have to hear a few more Americorps stories. The good news? I’m finally including my ESC experience, though the next blog will talk about ESC more in depth. Keep this in mind, everything mentioned in this, and previous blogs have a point. I just ask for patience. So.. is it okay for me continue? …. I must admit, I feel that your quiet responses are awkward and for the interest of the blogger community that you share your feedback so that I know if what I’m writing is effective.( I statements.. something I learned this year.) Any who, here we go!

So, I left off with NCCC in Schoharie County. After our time there we returned to Dundalk for a week of Transition. This is a week where we prepare presentations for the staff of what we did and where we prepare for our next project. For the next project Raven 2 was assigned to an outreach center known as Paul’s Place; located in the western neighborhood called Pig Town/Washington Village, depending on who you ask.

Regardless, Paul’s Place prides itself on treating its “guests” with dignity and respect. That’s bit of a paraphrase of there motto. This motto is shown through all the guests who enter. Some of the services provided are a “Education & Job Readiness, Health & Wellness, Children & Youth, Day, and Case Management”.( That is from there website). R2 experienced how each program is implemented. Specifically for me, I was involved with the Children & Youth program.

What that means is that I served as a day camp counselor for 8 weeks. I was responsible for overseeing 9 out of 40 children. ( Four teammates were assigned to other groups of the same 40). I was tasked with making sure my group participated in the enrichment opportunities and monitor group dynamics as well as individual behavior. Suffice to say, this was not easy, but this sparked a potential career path in working with youth.

It was also this time that I started to attend church more on a regular basis as a parishoner. I don’t recall if I mentioned this, but there was a time that I did not attend my home church for some time. More on this soon. I need to finish the NCCC bit.

So, as the 8 weeks went by, the kids of Paul’s Place went to different 4 one week church camps, the Constitution center in Philadelphia, an amusement park, a farm, watching Shawn the Sheep at a movie theatre, and a sailing camp. These were not easy days for sure, but there were great memories to be had by all.

After these weeks, we transitioned back to Dundalk to prepare for our final project: returning to upstate New York , but this time in Albany the capital. R2 was assigned to work with Habitat for Humanity Capital District. We assisted with construction of 6-7 row houses . Though we did not complete the construction , we helped with the progression. I gained experience using a concrete saw, installing insulation, also installing phone and cable wire in the ground,installing windows & doors, operating heavy machinery such as a Crane( I don’t know the official name). I enjoyed excursions in Albany: such as hiking, Halloween, grocery shopping at a two story Walmart( that tells you about the excitement level) apple picking, and participating in community meals at a local Lutheran Church.

This project also came to an end. And thus we returned to Dundalk for one final week. We gave our last presentations, enjoyed a awards night, and reflected on our accomplishments from the year. The last day, November 13, 2015, was a rough day. It would be the last time Raven 2 would be together. It was a Friday and we went through a graduation ceremony of sorts. Corps members and team leaders receive certificates of completion for the hours of service. The goal is to reach 1700, but many members easily surpassed that. I don’t remember what my total was, but that is irrelevant. After the ceremony, we had one hour left before the entire corps left for the airport. Yes, we had to prepare to say goodbye.

This was the following list of events: we had lunch, donated items we did not want,we loaded our van (Night-crawler), and we drove to the BWI. The next part was difficult: each of us were dropped off at different terminals. I was dropped off at the American Airlines terminal. We all said goodbyes, emotions were high. I saved my tears for when I got home.

After that week, I had a chance to relax at home. At least I thought so,… I didn’t know what to do after not being on a team. Prior to this return, I was prepared to serve again in Americorps as a team leader in the North Central region in Vinton, Iowa. But, that did not turn out the way I’d hoped. So, I began to search for another opportunity to serve.

During this search, I gained opportunities to reconnect with family, catch up with friends, and traveled to the Bahamas for Thanksgiving. Also, I got the opportunity to see my brother graduate high school. I was thrilled to see these events. Eventually, ESC was the route I chose.

So to sum up the process, I applied in January, had many interviews, and received a few offers. Obviously I said yes to Colorado. Now, why ESC? Why Colorado? In due time dear friend. All the points that I said to come back to, will be answered in the next calender year.

6:20 AM -Mariana

Not a lot happens at 6:20 AM. Denver is slowly waking up.

On Broadway and 5th avenue a couple cars drive past, construction workers hurry to work, homeless people who have spent the night in the parking lot nearby pack up, and I quietly stand waiting.

But I am not alone. In these quiet sluggish moments as the sun  rises I find that I feel closest to God. Prayer comes easily. Love and gratefulness flows easily from my lips and into the universe. And no matter how hard it was to wake up, how much I struggle with my service, how sick I might feel, in those moments at 6:00 AM right before I step into the bus, as I listen to the city wake up, I find that I am most alive.

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Failing with God – Lizzy Markman

Recently my mom sent me a care package in the mail, including one of my favorite books, “Broken Vessels” by Andre Dubus. He is not a well-known author and if you haven’t read him (and are in need of a book recommendation), I highly advise you pick up a copy. Andre Dubus writes personal essays (among many other things) about his his family, his marine corps service, his faith, his childhood, etc, often weaving these many aspects of his life into a single compact essay. He brings the sacred into the ordinary, examining transcendence of the spirit in our everyday world. Reading his essays reminds me that God does not just live in the church, but is with us as we grow, learn, and fail.

In Dubus’ essay, “On Charon’s Wharf” he writes,

“For our lives are hurried and much too distracted, and one of the strangest and most dangerous of all distractions is the lethargy of self we suffer from, this part of ourselves that does not want to get out of bed and once out of bed does not want to dress and once dressed does not want to prepare breakfast and once fed does not want to work. And what does it want? Perhaps it wants nothing at all. It is a mystery, a lovely one because it is human, but it is also dangerous.”

Right now I want to bring light to a place where I have failed. I have been lazy and distracted. In my lethargy, I have yet to write my blog posts. I don’t have any great excuse — only that I have given in to my lovely dangerous human tendencies. Normally, when I struggle to turn in an assignment, I frantically hide behind excuses which are never fully true and, in turn, I never fully forgive myself. There is too much unnecessary guilt weighing on me from past assignments turned in late and sloppily finished. Instead of hiding from shame (which ironically has only brought me more shame), I want to fully admit to my mistakes and bring God into my ordinary human life – one that is full of distractions. In my eyes, being human is not shameful. As Dubus writes, distractions are lovely because they are human. But they can also be dangerous. How can we let God into these lovely, dangerous tendencies? I’m not sure, but I want to try by opening myself up to my faults, forgiving myself, loving myself, and doing what I can to keep trying. I may not always write my blog posts on time (or at all) but those failings are not spaces without God, they are spaces to acknowledge my humanity and to grow. There is common saying, which in some form or another, says, “Your failures do not define you.” But I think, maybe they do — or at least a part of you. Instead of ignoring our failures, let’s acknowledge them for what they are and let God in. We often (or at least I do) push our mistakes into the corner and pretend they don’t exist. We leave God out of it, inviting the spirit into our best moments, but hoping She doesn’t see our worst. We are doing ourselves a disservice. We are human. We are beautiful. And we can also be dangerous. God lives in all parts of our lives, let’s lift up them up (to the lord!) with openness, forgiveness, and love, instead of getting bogged down in secrets and shame. Here lies the true beauty of confession as a way to love ourselves wholly, and not just the better parts of ourselves.