I Must Go

Yesterday my church blessed our children and our teachers as they prepared to head back to school this week. I can’t imagine a more fitting response to the hatred and bigotry displayed over the weekend across our country, most egregiously in Charlottesville. We prayed that God would “grant that through their study, they may gain the tools to grow in love and faith and service all their days.” And, where better to start a movement of love than among our children and among the teachers and administrators and cafeteria workers and custodians and counselors and nurses and coaches and all those who will touch their lives and influence their learnings?

As Nelson Mandela so wisely stated,

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

I’ve been struggling all weekend with potent feelings – feelings of sadness and disgust, anger and outrage, powerlessness and shame. I’ve read comments and made comments and shared posts, all the while wondering what am I really doing to create change? Our pastor preached a sermon entitled, “Interrupted Prayers,” in which he talked about Peter walking on water. His interpretation was one I had not heard before, and it stuck with me. Peter’s desire to step out onto the water was propelled by his desire to be where Jesus was, to DO what Jesus was doing. Jesus went away to pray, but life (a boat full of disciples defeated by stormy seas) drew him out of solitude and into the fray.

I’ll admit that it’s easier and much more comfortable for me to pray for our persecutors than it is to call out bigoted language like a college friend did when she overheard a group of teenagers “joking” about chanting “white power” at a peace rally (thank you, Rolyn). It’s easier and much more comfortable for me to hide behind my computer than to stand in solidarity against symbols of hate with my brothers and sisters of color. It’s easier and much more comfortable to avoid conflict altogether and just to monitor my own actions and mind my own business.

But, the children we blessed yesterday, and those teenagers my friend encountered over the weekend are MY children too. They are OUR children. MY silence, MY hesitation to speak up, MY willingness to look the other way teaches them a lesson about life and about what’s ok. Our children are not born hating. WE were not born hating. We were born of love and made in the image of LOVE. And, for love to win in these horrifying days, we have to be willing to step out of the boat – to rise up out of our comfort zones and speak love to hate, to DO justice, to show our children, and our brothers and sisters of color that love does indeed come more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

I pray that my own discomfort in these times will actuate within me the courage to step out of the boat, to go where faith calls me to walk boldly toward Jesus. I pray that my words become actions and my prayers become movement, that the lessons I teach on a daily basis will reflect Love, Justice, Mercy, and Humility. Even as I struggle with my own biases and prejudices, I pray that my desire to love well will win.

These are terrifying times. It would be easy to succumb to defeat, to give up hope, to lose faith. But, Jesus bids us, “Come.” And, as a follower, I must go.


Let Go and Remember

It’s January 1, and I’ve seen sooooo many posts hailing good riddance to 2016. I’ll admit, it hasn’t been our best year as a country, as a people, a human community. And, that’s precisely why we need to remember it. Yes, let’s let go of the anger and meanness and hurt and sadness and grief (if you’re ready) and prepare ourselves to move forward. Let’s let go of what held us back and kept us from being brave. We can let go of the shoulds and ought tos and the need to perfect and please. We can let go of so much about what made 2016 a contemptible year for so many.

But, please, please let’s remember. Let’s remember what we’ve learned: that we need to listen more, that we need to make space for struggle and extend grace in disagreement. Let’s remember that we are, NONE OF US, perfect or infallible. Let’s remember that the courageous choice is rarely the comfortable one. Let’s remember that we still have work to do, that reconciliation is born out of honest, engaged conversation, that there is more we share in common than that which separates us. Let’s please remember that all lives are sacred and all lives matter and that acknowledging the oppression of one people doesn’t negate the value of others. Let’s remember to pause and to take another’s perspective. Let’s remember that there are pockets of people in every community, every church, every school, every workplace, in both political parties who feel forgotten, betrayed, disappointed and alone. Let’s remember.

Let’s remember that magic happens in the midst of the ordinary everydayness of our lives, that good things happen when we least expect them. Let’s remember that we have the ability to make a difference, that our voices matter. Let’s remember that our words matter, and kindness matters. Let’s remember that we are enough, that gratitude is the antidote to scarcity, that we can be brave and afraid in the same moment. Let’s remember.

I’m all for the year in rearview – keep your eyes forward and aim yourself towards the journey ahead, but glance back every now and then, and remember…





Adulting is hard. As I’ve seen all the “back to school” posts today, I’m aware that I really miss those days! Sometimes I wish I could go back to the carefree years when the most difficult decision I had to make was what to eat for breakfast. Today, when my friends’ kids were going back to school, I was checking off my to-do list: laundry, return phone calls, for the love – please finally clean up your office, pay bills… Seriously?!? I want to go back to school and receive notes like, “You obviously did not read the chapter assigned for review.” (Told you I was cleaning up my office). :-/

Nowadays, instead of being graded on music theory and sight reading, I’m being called upon to be an adult: to think, act, accept responsibility and believe as an adult, as one “who is fully grown or developed or of age” (according to dictionary.com). Some days I find this easier said than done. There are parts of this adult thing I get – I don’t necessarily like – but I get. Paying my own bills, making sure my dog and I have proper nutrition and health care, going to work on time, being a responsible citizen, paying taxes, etc. – these things I understand and can do without much consternation. But, the adult relationship stuff – hard. Being respectful of and willing to listen to opposite viewpoints – hard. Addressing conflict – hard. Owning my story (all of it: my privilege, my perfectionism, my heartbreak) – hard. Building bridges – hard. Allowing for what will be – hard.

Being an adult is hard, and yet, I am an adult. And I find myself in situations in which I am called upon to think, act, accept responsibility and believe as an adult who has been taught to love my neighbor, to reach out to those who are marginalized, to care for the vulnerable, to engage in dialogue and to look for ways to bridge the gaps in broken structures.

Hard – especially when the marginalized and vulnerable look so much like people I’ve learned to fear or judge. Hard – especially when my neighbor’s truck is covered with bumper stickers that make my stomach turn. Hard – when dialogue requires me to shut up and listen, really listen. Hard – when a structure seems so broken as not to have any hope of repair. Hard – when I have to examine my own part in perpetuating what is broken.

Adulting is hard because it often means choosing the hard thing: kindness over criticism, action over indifference, silence over insistence. Adulting means not always being right, making room for other viewpoints and perspectives, allowing the experiences of others to matter even when we don’t understand them. Ugh…

Being an adult is hard, but as adults functioning in community, we’re given the opportunity – no, the responsibility – to behave civilly and maturely with those whom we encounter. We’re called upon to work together to build community in places where opinions differ, where ideologies and platforms are as diverse as the number of people present. We’re called on to be community in the unlikeliest of places and in desperately troubling times.

I do miss the days when I didn’t think so much about what made people different. I miss innocently formed friendships based on chosen seats or alphabetically ordered desks. I miss relishing the excitement of learning and being stretched by new ideas and differing opinions. And, yet, I’m aware that with the right attitude and intention, I can “go back to school” too. I can approach life and relationships with an open mind and open heart, ready to learn, ready to hear, ready to explore.

Adulting is hard, but I am an adult. Good thing I get to choose what kind of adult I will be.

I must be brave

I’m a coward. Really. It’s taken me a long to time accept and admit that when it comes to saying hard things, I’m an honest to goodness coward. I keep seeing posts and articles from writers and activists and everyday ordinaries who are speaking difficult words into difficult and often hostile spaces. And I have remained silent. I’ve been reluctant even to click “share” for fear of … well, for fear of being rejected or mistreated or misunderstood. Even as I type the words, I’m making the connection between what I most fear about speaking out and what those on whose behalf I feel compelled to speak face every day – not necessarily because they’ve said or done or shared something of a controversial or provocative nature – but because of who they are: Black, Gay, Muslim, Different, Not Like Me.

No more. I can be silent and cowardly no more. I wear a necklace with the words “Be Brave” engraved on it. It’s an intention I’ve set for my life, and in theory it’s my intention for ALL of my life: my faith, my relationships, my vocation. But, when I named that intention for myself I didn’t think it through very well. I didn’t really consider the risk involved with being brave. I didn’t think about how being brave in one area would affect my life in another. I didn’t think about what being brave could cost.

This week my news feed has been flooded with so many words about so many things. The thought of adding my own words to the mix has felt a little pointless, intimidating. But then I was reminded today of how my silence speaks volumes to those I care about, those who face rejection, mistreatment and misunderstanding every. day.

And, so I write with all the bravery I can muster knowing that all the bravery in the world won’t protect me from the sting of pushback or criticism.

I write because I’m selfishly reminded of Martin Niemöller’s speech:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I write because I believe with every fiber of my being that the hatred and injustice in today’s world breaks the very heart of God.

I write because I believe that Black lives matter and that we must say it aloud, often, so our brothers and sisters of color know that their cries are not in vain.

I write because my LGBTQ friends and neighbors are, too, fearfully and wonderfully made and loved and deserve to hear it said aloud, often.

I write because I believe that when Jesus spoke of loving our neighbors, he meant to include not exclude, those who are Different, Not Like Me. When we find that Jesus always dislikes or disapproves of the same people we dislike or disapprove of, we might just want to check and see who has been made in the image of whom.

I write today because I want to be brave. I want to be brave on behalf of those whose bravery goes unnoticed or is so heavily criticized that their messages get ignored. I want to be brave and not fear awkward dinner conversations or comment section rants. The truth is I know I’ll face both. I know there are those who don’t believe that white privilege exists (or perhaps don’t care if it does). I know there are those who would rather die protecting the Bible than loving their neighbor. I know there are those who would volunteer to build Donald Trump’s wall and stand in line to petition for the exclusion of all Muslims from our country. I know there are those whose perceived rights outweigh the value of another human life. I know there are those who would rather not think about such unpleasantries at all.

The thing is, This – all of this – comes down to one thing for me. I choose to follow Jesus. And, the Jesus I know stripped away privilege (his own included), reached out to those who were marginalized and wounded, and commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love God, and love neighbor. There is no other commandment greater than these, he said. So, political orientation, interpretation of biblical text, and feelings about different religions aside – one thing is very clear to me: I cannot be silent any longer. I cannot stay safe in my cowardliness and betray my friends, my neighbors, with silence. I must be brave.

And so I write. I write because I think Jesus wants me to use my voice for good. I write because I believe in Imago Dei – we are, all of us, made in the image of God, and we, all of us, deserve to hear it said aloud and often. And we, all of us, deserve to be treated with common dignity and respect – valued as human beings.

I write because Black lives matter.

LGBTQ lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

And, these are my neighbors.


“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

May it be so.

It’s ma birthday!

Well, today’s the big day. I woke up early this morning feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. I can’t tell you the last time I was this excited about a birthday. And it hasn’t disappointed. I’ve savored every moment of it, feeling nothing but gratitude and oh so much joy.

And, so begins my year long feast on 40! I had every intention of writing my first official Feasting on Forty post before midnight tonight. However, after a very full day of indulgence (feasting on food, friendship, and all things delightful), I really need a nap… a long one… Alas, it will wait until tomorrow when I will have time and presence of mind to upload photos and tell you what my day has really been been about. (Did I mention it’s been good?)

Happy Birthday to me!

vulnerability hangover

Vulnerability should come with a warning label. Being vulnerable and letting people in is a really good thing and necessary for real connection. However, you’ll probably feel like an a$$ within 24 hours of letting yourself be seen.

So, after my last post (you know, when I talked about wanting to be more vulnerable and let people get to know me better!), I decided to practice a little. An acquaintance had asked me to coffee to chat about my counseling practice and what it was like starting my own business. I agreed, knowing that I’d appreciate the opportunity to cultivate a friendship and to help her out as much as I could.

The conversation started with the usual, “It’s been so long.” “How’ve you been?” etc. Then she filled me in on the business she’s creating and the purpose of her invitation to coffee. I saw this as a prime opportunity to practice a little vulnerability and to come clean with someone about just how my first year or so of self-employment has gone. I explained to her everything I wish I had done differently and what very important steps in the process I had simply overlooked. I spoke very honestly about the struggles and challenges I’ve faced and offered what little guidance I felt I could. I shared my journey with her. I even went so far as to tell her about my dream for the future.

Let me tell you, I was feeling pretty good. I was proud of myself for opening up and finally NOT saying, “Work is fine. Everything is great!” And, she was very receptive and empathetic and appreciative of my honesty and vulnerability. She shared with me. I shared with her. It was a great experience of connecting with someone and feeling heard. We said goodbye, and I headed to my car.

THEN. Wah-wah… In the twenty paces between the cafe door and my front seat, it began – that sinking feeling, the rock in the pit of the stomach, the barrage of self-critical thoughts that inevitably flood in after feeling like you’ve said too much. “Why did I have to present myself as such a failure!?!” “Why did I tell her about my dream for moving forward?” “Why didn’t I just stick to the facts?”

Bam. Vulnerability hangover.
(I can’t claim the term, btw. It belongs to Brené Brown. And, it’s oh. so. accurate.)

Why is it that when we’ve shared even a tiny bit of ourselves, a little bit of truth about our lives, our hopes, our fears – why is it that we often end up feeling terrible?!? I think it’s because we’re so self-critical and judgmental that we assume everyone else is just as critical and judgmental of our journeys as we are. Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure my friend was genuine in her appreciation of my story. And, I honestly don’t think she was judging me at all. AND, it was really liberating to tell my truth rather than find a way to sugar coat what has actually been a rather difficult year.

I think vulnerability takes practice. I think we have to be intentional about sharing our truth with people we can trust to hear it. And, I’m guessing the more practice we have at it, the easier it will become. I certainly hope so, anyway.

Sunday evening I went to a friend’s house for a dessert party. As is usual in a gathering of friends and acquaintances, someone asked me about work. This was not the opportunity to practice my vulnerability (at least I didn’t think so). I gave a very polite, “Work is good,” and walked away. Funny thing is, I still felt like an a$$. I had not been even the slightest bit vulnerable but had rather lied to this man’s face. And, it felt rotten.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we practice our vulnerability in every circumstance or with every person. Brené Brown talks about vulnerability with boundaries. We’re not required to expose our underbellies to strangers or people we don’t trust. We all know over-sharers, those people who tell their business to anyone who will listen – the grocery cashier, the lady at the neighboring gas pump, the bank teller. I’m not talking about over-sharing. But, I’m wondering what it would have been like had I neither revealed it all nor lied about work being peachy. Perhaps I could have said something like, “You know, it’s been an interesting year. I’ve learned a lot about starting a business, and it has definitely not been easy!”

I think I would have felt more authentic in my interaction. I may have even received some empathy and experienced a different kind of connection with my friend.

Anyway, I don’t regret sharing my story over coffee last week. I trust that what I shared was with good intention and was received with integrity. And, while I did experience that hangover and I did question the brutality of my honesty, ultimately I feel good about revealing a bit of my truth.

So, I’ll keep practicing. I’ll remember that being vulnerable means taking some risk and potentially feeling really exposed and nauseous. And, I’ll remember that sharing a bit of one’s truth can lead to authentic connection. And, that feels pretty darn good, I have to tell ya…

it takes a village

Have you ever met someone who is dreadfully determined in their independence? I mean the person who refuses to ask for help, refuses to accept help when offered, and is determined not to be a burden and not to need anything from anyone? Well, you have now. Hello. My name is Marjorie, and I’m obnoxiously independent.

According to my parents, I’ve been this way for a very long time – like since I was 2-ish. Apparently, my nickname as a toddler was “Miss Independence.” I’m pretty sure most toddlers start out this way as they begin to separate somewhat from their parents. They want to open the door by themselves. They don’t want to hold your hand to cross the street. They want to pour the milk by themselves. They definitely don’t want help washing their hands in the sink (even though it’s far too high up for an effective reach).

Question is, why do some of us stay that way – fiercely independent, I mean? I honestly have a visceral reaction to having to ask for help. I really do. It’s one of the most difficult tasks for me. I HATE needing help. with anything. Even when I try really hard to convince myself that people have the ability to refuse, I manage to cloak myself in a huge mantle of guilt. It rarely crosses my mind to let someone else open a door, carry my bags, help me move, give me a ride, etc. I HATE ASKING FOR HELP!

Thing is, we all need help sometimes. And, it isn’t just about needing help with tasks or during hardships, it’s about being connected. It’s about community.

If there’s anything I’m learning as I get older it’s that I can’t do life independently. I mean, I can try. I can open my own doors and lug my own grocery bags. I can even haul boxes and hail a cab. But, at the end of the day, if I really want to find meaning in my life and to live fully and wholeheartedly, I can’t do that in isolation. I have to be open to connection.

In my life, I have hurt friends and sabotaged potential love relationships by refusing to connect fully. It isn’t an intentional choice – not connecting. Here is where I could insert a quote from my last post about that which makes us afraid. Connecting is scary. Allowing ourselves to open to and be vulnerable to relationships of all kinds is frightening. It means being known. It means exposing our imperfections and often those things about ourselves we work so hard to hide. And, ultimately, it means we might get hurt.

Have you ever had your heart broken? And, I don’t mean by your kindergarten sweetheart who broke up with you on the playground (although admittedly traumatic at a young age). I mean the kind of heartbreak that actually hurts in your chest. The kind that leaves you sobbing yourself to sleep for weeks. The kind that causes you to question every ounce of your own worthiness. If not, let me tell you – it sucks!

What happens to many of us after this kind of hurt is that we armor up. And, I don’t mean we protect our temporarily sensitive hearts, I mean we gear up in full on body armor. Head to toe, “I will not let anyone hurt me again. Ever.” When we feel exposed and vulnerable, the last thing we want (or so we tell ourselves) is to be known, for our secrets or those parts of ourselves of which we’re not particularly proud to be seen by another. And, for some of us, it’s difficult even to reveal the parts we like because we’ve convinced ourselves we aren’t worthy of the connection.

I’m currently a professional counselor, and I used to be a hospital chaplain. So, I’ve managed to make a living out of knowing others without ever needing to be known. Because of professional ethical boundaries, it’s important that I not reveal much about myself to my clients. In the hospital, I witnessed some of the most vulnerable and sacred moments in others’ lives while they really knew nothing more about me than the name on my badge.

I burnt out at that hospital job and am quickly shrinking away from my current occupation. I’ve wondered for a while why. What occurs to me now is the isolation, the reality of not opening myself up to others. For a long time I convinced myself that I could be ok carrying intimate knowledge of others without needing to share my own story, without needing to experience mutual connection.

I was wrong. It takes a village, people. I need my village. I need to connect and to experience the fullness of being in community. I was wrong when I thought hiding and ‘protecting myself from hurt’ would actually be less painful than being disconnected and unknown. It isn’t. It’s just as painful and perhaps more so to realize that I can count on one hand the number of people I’d say really know me.

And, so, I’ve started answering more honestly when people ask me how I’m doing. I’m attempting to swallow my pride and perfectionism and show my true colors (even when they’re bleeding into one another). As difficult as it is, I’m trying to be more intentional about letting others in and allowing myself to be known. It’s a little frightening. I take that back. It’s a LOT frightening. Writing this blog is simultaneously terrifying and liberating. Most of you don’t know me. But, some of you do. Some of you are part of my village, whether you realize it or not.

And, that’s just it. Being in community with others means knowing we’re in it together. It means not being afraid to be seen. It means feeling safe in our vulnerability and imperfection. It means raising one another up and helping one another to find our voices and our authentic and best selves.

So, in case you’re one of those fiercely independent types who thinks you can take on this life by yourself, my encouragement is to acknowledge your village. And if you don’t have one, find ways to cultivate community for yourself. It’s really that important. Pretending that we can keep ourselves safe and protect our abilities to be self-sufficient by refusing to connect is hurting not only ourselves but those who wish to join us on our journey.

It takes a village, indeed…