Going and Growing

You've got to GO through it to GROW through it

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‘Tis Better To Receive

…Sometimes. There are times in my life when the call to ministry is just too much. The idea of being a pastor is the most empty feeling I know. Today is one of those days. Yesterday, January 6th, was officially the Epiphany of our Lord. Today consequently was Epiphany Sunday at church. I am not preaching today, I am not assisting today. Today, I am just Dawn. There are days when Just Dawn is the most empty feeling I know too.

I went to service today, not because I wanted to. I went because there are times in my life when getting before my Lord is what I know I need to do rather than what I want to do. Not because I am sinful and in need of reconciliation (although that is always the case, because being a human is complex), not because I need to be around people who themselves worship our Lord (although that is always a good feeling), and not because someone or something told me I had to go (although I am thankful to my parents for introducing me to Jesus at such a young age). No, I went because my Abba understands me. Actually, my Abba is the only person who understands me to the core of my being. I went to service today because I am empty…and I didn’t even realize it until I got to the communion rail.

I sat on the back pew with a senior couple who has been a great encouragement to me in my walk toward the pastorate. After greeting her and exchanging niceties I told Mrs., “I just don’t have it today. I really need an attitude adjustment.” She replied, “It’s okay, you don’t need an attitude adjustment, God still loves you. Some days you just have to say ‘screw it!’” I said, “Really? Because I’m actually pretty sh**ty today, you know.” “It’s okay,” she said, “really.” I thanked her for permission to just be sh**ty and sit on the pew beside them. And yes, I cussed in church. Get over it. God already knows my heart.

At some point, as my head rested on the back wall and my eyes were closed with tears streaming down my face, with no words spoken, I felt a hand put a tissue in my palm. Without a word I accepted it. We all continued on with worship. During the passing of the peace Mr. hugged me and whispered in my ear, “Whatever it is Dawn, it will be okay.” I didn’t reply, but I did receive the word. Deep in my heart. Because I have to believe it. If not, what is all this hocus pocus about salvation and grace and unconditional love all about? I continued through the service intently and intentionally listening to every word spoken, sung and read. I tried my best to take it all in.

As I knelt to receive communion I noticed I was crying, all I could muster was, “I’m empty Lord. Fill me up.” After repeating this a few times I left the rail to return to my seat, hedged in by Mrs. and Mr.

The minister in me knows I was called to congregational leadership many years ago. During my life God allowed me to walk down many roads. Some were paved and some were gravel. No matter what road I was on I knew God was with me. That knowing is a gift. Yes, I read about it in my Bible and have been witness to the presence of the Almighty at work before my eyes, but there are days when what I feel is so far removed from what I know that I just don’t want to be in ministry.

My life has been a brutally beautiful mess the past eight years. My family has been hit with a battery of heinous experiences and some of us have not recovered. Well, none of us has really, but we are making it as best we can and God’s grace continuously abides with each of us, whether or not we acknowledge it. That’s God’s unconditional and radical love for us.

One of my children was baptized on Epiphany Sunday many years ago (which recalling this is what started my spiraling this morning, it’s again Epiphany Sunday). I chose the baptism date on purpose. Today that child is atheist. They recently told me they never really believed in God. I wonder if they really had any chance to explore it on their own, in between years of paternal physical abuse and subsequent run-ins with the law. The faithful mom in me knows they are a child of God and the door to the Kingdom remains open wide, always.

One of my children is LGBTQ+. When they first came out the church robbed us of a spirit-filled life. They were a musician in the youth group and  we were active in adult groups, our youngest in their own youth group and I had not yet answered the call to the pulpit. Needless to say the faith life of my family began to crumble right before my eyes. Divorce was not far off and our youngest was caught in the storm of a broken home life. We scattered like ants at a picnic.

So, some days being a minister is too much to embrace. Some days being a mom is so filled with heartache I lose my words and the sorrow is overwhelming. Some days living in a world where we do such horrible things to each other, in the name of God and/or Jesus, I can only cry. Today was one of those days. Thank goodness Mrs. and Mr. gave me a safe and comforting place to receive God’s love.

When I left church my heart was still so heavy and when I got home I took to my discipline of sitting outside to find the presence of God in nature. It was a challenge because it’s January and the sun is not high in the sky. It is twenty-six degrees and windy outside. I’m lonely. I’m hurting. I’m empty and I need healing.

As I sat in the chair overlooking nature I noticed my bamboo wind chime still hanging from summertime. I listened to the knocking of the pieces and also noticed how they are laid out: three vertical pieces and one horizontal piece stretching across behind them all, a long string and a weight at the bottom. As I began reviewing my worship experience and thinking about my life, my eyes focused to the one vertical piece in the middle and the horizontal piece stretched out behind the others. Jesus. Jesus is present with me, in my wind chime, reminding me He’s “got this.” I’m here Dawn, I’m with you and your children and your family and your congregation and Mrs. and Mr. and those who call me Lord and those who don’t. I’m here with you all, I’ve never left you and I never will. Yes, the Kingdom door is open and you can come beside me with or without your attitude adjusted. Ya’ know what, don’t bother adjusting anything. Just come to me. Bring your tears, bring your emptiness, bring your questions.

Some days I have nothing to give. So, for today, I live in the gift of receiving. ‘Tis better to receive sometimes. I realize that the same God who ushered me into pastoral ministry is the same God who gives me permission to not lead but follow for a day.

(c) DawnBennettSpeaks 2018


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Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere

I facilitated a dialogue gathering recently at my seminary. One of the participants shared a saying she saw while surfing the web. As she told it:

“I put my finger on a map and asked, “Where do you hurt?”                                                              The map answered, “Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.”

This statement is very telling for the times we live in. Families, institutions and individuals are all wondering what’s going on  and how to manage the chaos that continues to fall around them. I wonder how much different our lives would be if the map were able to locate the source of pain. Would we then be moved to act on that pain and find a cure? An agreement? A resolve?

For LGBTQ+ families sometimes the hurt is…everywhere. Not all families struggle like you may see in the news. Not all families who identify as Christian are kicking their kids out of the house. But sadly, many are. I could easily fill this blog post with scripture after scripture to show the ways in which Jesus himself responded to those whose lives are “missing the mark” or “falling short of the glory” as the Bible states all do.  Our most grievous shortfall is the failure to love. Loving like Jesus loves is hard sometimes, well, often really. I’ll draw a few lines and connect a few dots to reflect how Jesus engaged people of all places and spaces.

For starters He never once required anyone to bow down. Has that ever occurred to you? No, Jesus never said “you must” anything. We assume He did and some Evangelicals may preach he did, but it was an invitation, a declaration…not a regulation.

How we live in this world is invitational as far as faith is concerned. I’ll use myself here because I’d rather throw myself under the bus so to speak, than someone out of thin air. My past few years has been spent in seminary because it came time for me to answer the call into ordained ministry. This call is certainly not for the faint of heart, the haters are everywhere. Plus, my focus is in bridge-building between the Queer community and the rest of the world.

Parents who’ve realized that Jesus calls us to “double down” and love on the least of these are banding together against bullying, all kinds of phobias (homo/trans/bi etc.) and like the map said “everywhere, everywhere, everywhere”…there is pain for this group of folks, everywhere. But, there is also help and healing. We’re taking back our families. We’re taking back our faith. We’re taking back our cities and we’re taking back our very lives. I’m working to preach and teach a message of healing and relationship that looks very different from what you may think of from “traditional Christianity.” Traditions change, societies change, but humanity doesn’t change. We’ve been the most beautiful creations for thousands of years. But we do need some help in locating our pain and our hope.

Got a second? Go look in the mirror. Stare at yourself for a sec. Where do you hurt? Can’t locate it? Everyone hurts somewhere, don’t be shy. Stare. Look into your own eyes. Get real with yourself. Where do you hurt? See your own humanity. Put your finger on the mirror where your hurting spot is. Now, say to yourself, “I see your wound.” Now tell yourself help is on the way, “Love is here (even though you may not see it or believe it, just say it out loud), Love is here, Love is here.”

Just as the map would tell us the hurt is everywhere, we can teach the map about new roads to love and healing. Take a brave step to locate yourself on your map today. Be well.

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“Thou Shalt Not Steal”

I read the most interesting perspective on stealing. It started with the declaration that whatever we have is not ours anyway, so that makes stealing doubly wrong. I believe it’s accurate to say that when we think of stealing, and the fact that it’s considered wrong, we naturally think of tangible objects. We can’t steal stuff from our neighbors, we can’t rob banks, we can’t “sample” fruit from the produce section. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

As I began to travel down the dusty road of my thoughts, I began to think to myself, but what about the intangible things people own: our thoughts, our feelings, our identity. What about that? How do those things fit into the equation of stealing and God and all that stuff. Here’s my thought:

If everything we have  and everything we own is indeed not necessarily ours but on loan, as in it was given to us (a big prim and proper religious term is bestowed upon us) then our identity also is a gift…and given. The ability to be a free thinker is given to us. The desire to love and be loved is a gift given to us. Stealing is not allowed. Who are are, what we stand for, how we see ourselves…it’s all a gift given to us. We are not allowed to steal another person’s identity. Let me be clear here, I’m not talking about their online identity (although clearly that’s wrong too) I’m talking about their gender identity, sexual identity, how they see themselves in this world and how they expect to be seen.

There are lots of hate groups who have decided that to “be LGBTQ” is wrong and those of us who identify under that acronym need to be “corrected”. (For those who are unfamiliar LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer). Folks who align with L-G-B are talking about their sexuality (very different and not related to gender); those who align with T are referring to their gender (male, female, both, neither); those who align with Q could be referring to either their sexual or gender identity. Further information can be found at PFLAG.org or HRC.org because this is not the blog post to go into this in depth.

Back to the stealing thing. When God (however you align with God or what represents a divine authority in your world) says stealing is wrong it is an abomination (another big scary religious word) and God cries. ALL of everything in what we call this world is made from the abundance of a divine authority who far exceeds any human capacity or authority.

When an organization or a person steals the hopes and dreams, the hard personal effort or blood-sweat-and-tears personal commitment from another person, a crime [against humanity] has been committed. We are what we are and have what we have as a gift. None of us owns any of this. We leave this “world” with the same as we came into it with – nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

When a person decides someone else is wrong for living into their full authenticity (i.e. sexual or gender identity) and advances are made toward taking it away, i.e. stealing it, we are no longer living as we are instructed. When someone robs another of a life worth living, a dream and a hope of a better life, a gesture of giving and receiving love…God cries. We are not allowed to steal.

Thou Shalt Not Steal. Not property. Not grapes. Not a person’s identity. Not a person’s joy.

Mind your business. Mind your manners. Mind yourself.