Monthly Archives: October 2012

Saved from ourselves: a Reformation day sermon

This isn’t so much about Luther, I just love Joseph Fiennes, even with the monks haircut. Also, I’m a big Luther fan.

I’m still a little in awe over the things we witnessed earlier in the morning. This morning, at the 8:30 service we were witness to two amazing moments of faith. In the first, the Brakken’s renewed their vows of 50 years of marriage. 50 years of trust in one another and in God’s participation in their lives together. That is no small thing.

In the second, five young adults, whom you have raised up in faith, pledged to turn from sin and towards life in Jesus, affirming the promises made for them at their baptism. This, too is no small thing. There are a million reasons to not do this. First, it’s inherently not cool. We try really hard to make Jesus cool, but we can’t. Because cool is trendy, cool is fleeting. Jesus is eternal. He is bigger than cool. Second, it’s not easy. Jesus asks us to do all sorts of things that are really hard – like put God and other people before ourselves. Our society makes this really, really hard. In fact, to do this perfectly is impossible.

I didn’t want to tell them this, because it’s no way to start off a new day in Jesus, but they will fail. We all do. It’s just not possible to live up to God’s high expectations. It’s not possible to live up to all of the rules. For centuries, people have tried, but they always end up coming up short. We mess up. We forget about God. God becomes inconvenient, God is not cool, the law is complicated and we really aren’t geared towards it. Plus, there’s so much shiny stuff out there to distract us. Wealth, status, power, beauty, lust – these are just a few of the things that catch our eyes and pull us away from Jesus.

But God knows that.

God knows that we can’t do it. God knows that our nature makes it impossible to fully live out the law, to fully follow the commandments in both body and heart. A lot of people don’t like talking about our sinful nature, but seriously – we mess up all the time. The things we want for ourselves are often things that won’t help us at all. The law is there to guide us. It is there to help us in times of trouble, to provide us boundaries. We weren’t so good at following it from the tablets so God wrote it on our hearts. We all know the difference between right and wrong, we all hear God speaking to us saying, “No, don’t… doh! Ah, well.” When we are distracted by the shiny and we can’t hear the law that is written on our hearts, we have the law written in the Bible and as lived out in Jesus. We have so many examples. But we still can’t do it.

I feel like God thought we could, at first. He gave us the written word and we couldn’t do that. So he wrote the word on our hearts and we still couldn’t follow that. Tired of punishing us, realizing that we were never going to get it 100% right, that it was just not in our nature, God sent Jesus down to earth to teach us how to live and to die to atone for our sins – to at one, to bring us into a new relationship with God.

And that is Paul’s word for us today. Now, I find reading Paul to be like eating raw kale – I know it’s good for me, but it’s difficult to chew and to digest. His words often need to be chopped up and then boiled down. So here it is: We are flawed. We can’t get it right. And that’s okay, because Jesus got it right for us and, with faith in Jesus, we can be saved from our brokenness, from our sin.

But why do I need saving? I’m a good person. I do good things. I give to charity, I live a good life. These things, they are all justifications. We are always trying to justify our lives.

Jesus saves from ourselves.

Jesus saves us from the constant keeping track of the good and bad that we do every day, from keeping track of what everyone around us is doing. He saves us from keeping score. Jesus also saves us from those who would have us keep score. If someone tells you that by doing certain things or being a certain way, you are going to hell, you can have confidence that that person is wrong. If you hear that by praying a certain prayer or living a certain Biblical way, you can get wealth or power or any other earthly desire, they’re wrong. God doesn’t work that way. Jesus saves us from the scorekeepers in our hearts, in our households, and in the world.

Jesus saves us from the stress of keeping up with the Jonses. Seriously, how difficult is it to constantly keep an eye on the people around us, trying to make sure that we have what they have (or more). We work ourselves to death (sometimes literally) trying to make sure that we measure up to the people around us. We lose time with our families, time with friends, time with God, and time to ourselves when we press and press on wealth and power and status. We lose the things that are vitally important to our lives so we can have more tv stations or a nicer car or a vacation house. Jesus saves us from this, and saves us for our families and ourselves.

Jesus saves us from the stress of the search for perfection. Because we can’t be perfect. We can’t do perfect. We can do really well, we can be awesome, but we can’t be perfect. Say it to yourselves. Get comfortable with it. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay. You’re going to mess up. Live into it. Jesus rescues us from our drive to perfection.

Jesus saves us from judging other people and ourselves. If we are living in Jesus, living the knowledge that God loves us, then that little voice that says I’m not enough disappears. Because I know that I am enough.

I know that I love to judge other people. It makes me feel better about myself. Why else would we watch reality tv or read gossip magazines or “people watch.” Have you ever noticed that the more judgey you are, the more you assume people are judging you. I’ve noticed that in myself and in others. When I let go of judging, I feel less judged. The judging is up to God, not us. Jesus frees us from it.

But all of this is not easy. If it were, we wouldn’t need Jesus. We wouldn’t need the law. We wouldn’t need the holy spirit’s inspiration or Christian community that we call church to support us.

There are thousands of examples of how we are saved by Jesus in this very room. Little moments when God has saved us from ourselves, moments when God has saved us from the world. Share them. Don’t keep them to yourselves. This is how we spread the good news of Jesus. By telling the stories of our brokenness and the times when God has fixed it, when Grace has come in and made it all make sense or easier or better.

Life is hard. It is full of distractions. If we walk in Gods path, if we trust in Jesus, we can learn how get over ourselves. We will be able to love in ways we never thought possible. We will see transformation in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We will be saved from ourselves.


Things God does not do (Attn: Richard Mourdock and a lot of other people)

Not sure what God’s doing here, but I know what he isn’t doing. He isn’t assisting in a rape so that more babies can be made.

Attention people with microphones/bully pulpits and all other people of earth:

God does not give people cancer/seizures/heart attacks/HIV, STD’s, any other diseases. God does not cause car accidents. God does not assign people to murder others. God did not make that hurricane/earthquake/other natural disaster happen because he was mad at the people living there. God did not do something so that he could have another angel in heaven. GOD DOES NOT CAUSE PEOPLE TO RAPE OTHERS SO THAT BABIES CAN BE MADE.

[2018 edit: GOD DOES NOT CAUSE SCHOOL SHOOTINGS BECAUSE WE DON’T ALLOW PRAYER IN SCHOOLS. IN FACT, ANYONE CAN PRAY IN SCHOOL AND LOTS OF PEOPLE WERE PROBABLY PRAYING DURING EACH AND EVERY SCHOOL SHOOTING. Mass shootings happen because we have a gun and violence fetish, because of toxic masculinity, because we isolate and ignore people, and bunch of other reasons that all boil down to SIN]

God is not the catch all excuse for why bad things happen. So stop using it. Please. It gives God a bad name. In fact, these accusations/excuses might be the worst way we use the name of the Lord in vain. Because shit like this breaks people, it makes God seem downright evil, and it makes God’s people look like a bunch of mean assholes. Stop it.

Bad things happen because we are a broken people living in a broken world. Bad things are usually a result of our bad choices or other people’s bad choices (or the earth’s desire to renew and refresh itself, like volcanoes). Rape? The rapist made a bad, horrible, hurtful choice, and was possibly surrounded by others making mad choices at one point or another. God was not in that.

My dad’s cancer? My dad smoked for 40 years, ate poorly and lived in an environment and food chain that has been broken by the way we misuse it.God didn’t need him in heaven, God didn’t take him because I needed my faith tested.  God did not do that.

Kids with cancer? Awful. Painful. They did nothing and yet are sick. But we messed up the environment; they were born into a broken world, and sometimes, bad things happen for no reason other than we live in a broken world. And it sucks and is painful. But God did not do that.

Car accidents and other seemingly random deaths and painful incidents? There are probably a million little reasons that either boil down to bad choices or shit happens. Either way, God does not make them happen.

Natural disasters? Sometimes nature just needs to clean itself up. Other times, particularly in our day and age, Nature is responding to being fucked with. Killed. Abused. We have made a ton of choices that have gotten us where we are with nature. We are causing many of our natural disasters. God is not.

Also, God does not bless nations more than other nations or pick leaders of nations. We pick our leaders. That’s on us as well.

What does God do? God is always present in our lives. God loves us, God walks with us, God calls us to be better than we are today, to be in relationship with God. God tries to guide all of us to make the best possible choices and we so often ignore God’s voice in our own lives (and have little influence over how much random attackers listen to God). When bad things happen, God is still there, walking along side of us, surrounding us with people who love us and will care for us through the pain, suffering and darkness. God provides the light at the end of the tunnel. God comes to us in ways small and gentle and large and loud. Sometimes we miss the point, sometimes we don’t hear, sometimes we can feel so very alone and wonder why God has cursed us.

But God hasn’t.

God has redeemed and rescued us from ourselves, and we have to accept it. We have to accept God’s love, we have to accept God’s guidance.

Even then, bad things will still happen. Loved ones will still get sick, accidents will claim people, people we love will be victims of violence. We might be victims of violence. Violence that has no face and answers to no name but Sin.

Some think that this makes our God an impotent God. God doesn’t swoop in and rescue us from the evil of this world. Speaking for myself, there are a thousand times God has tried to save me from myself and I have ignored God’s voice and done what I wanted and paid the price. In part, bad things are a price we pay for free will. Otherwise we’d all just be little pieces on God’s chess board — and what would the point of life be then?

We are not little pieces on God’s chess board; we aren’t a part of some kind of grand game God is playing. We are the result of God’s love and our brokenness (individual and communal). We are imperfect. All of creation is imperfect. And shit happens.

But God does not make that shit happen. Not to punish us, not to teach us a lesson, and most certainly not to make babies. God does not make the bad things happen. That is a result of sin in us and sin in the world.

How do I know this? How can I speak with such certainty about God? It is certainly dangerous to make statements about what God does and who God is, because we are so often wrong. But what God in Jesus tells me is this: God loves us. God makes love happen. God makes beauty happen. God makes life happen. That is what God is: life. Things that negate life are not God’s. That is sin. That is brokenness. And that is not God. For God is whole, holy, and wholly loving. And the brokenness in the world is not God’s. It is ours. God did not do that.

The camel and the needle (or how to get into heaven)

23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Oh, the trouble of this passage. It demonizes wealth, it places obstacles between us and the Kingdom of God (often translated to be heaven). When preachers (and lay people) aren’t comfortable with what this passage says about material wealth, they posit a theory that there was an actual place called the eye of the needle and it was a very narrow canyon that was difficult for camels to pass through — difficult, but not impossible.

On the other hand, those who wish to curb our consumerism and warn us against our search for wealth and glory (or wish to shame or scare people into giving up what they have), turn this verse into a black and white statement. A camel can’t get through the eye of a needle (clearly), the rich cannot get into heaven (but for the grace of God, if the preacher is a grace kind of preacher).

On one hand, nothing is asked of us, and nothing really is said to us. On the other, having is demonized, poverty lifted up, and we have a checklist for things we can’t do to get into heaven (yes, I know I’m over simplifying).

I tend to fall on the side of wealth is bad, Jesus wants us to get rid of our possessions and follow him (cause, um, he like says so. A lot. Right before this passage, even). Even though I am rich in material possessions, I want to preach, “DOWN WITH THE RICH! UP WITH THE POOR! SALVATION FOR THE LEAST OF THESE, HELLFIRE FOR THOSE WHO DON’T GIVE TO OTHERS!” I really do. I’m more comfortable damning myself for what I have than a sketchy geological fabrication that lets everyone off way too easy.

Then I went to the Greek. The Greek (which is the best we have as far as original source material), reads more like this:

“How hard will it be for the ones who trust in money to be entering into the kingdom of God.”

There are two things about this that are huge for me.

The first is the glaring difference between those who have money and those who trust in (or have confidence in) money. It isn’t about what you have, it is about what you value, what you trust in. Do you trust in God, or do you trust in money (and therefore, yourself)?

The second is the phrase, “to be entering into.” The camel doesn’t go through the needle and *BAM* — heaven. It’s not an end of life, when you’re dead where do you go kind of thing. It’s not do this and fly with the angels, do that and burn in hell kind of thing. That’s not what this conversation is about. It’s about here and now. It’s about a daily process of entering into God’s presence, experiencing God, filling up with God. If you are placing your trust in your wealth, if you are depending on yourself, if you aren’t putting God first, you will have a really hard time entering into the kingdom of God. In this moment. In this place. In this world, here. The kingdom of God isn’t a far off place that we go to when we die, it is a reality we can create experience (or not) every moment of every day through what we value and how we behave. Trusting in wealth, gripping tightly to our material possessions makes it a lot harder to let God in because we are so full of ourselves, our own worries and our desire for control. We have to let go of that stuff, to be willing to let go of our material possessions, of our need for control, in order to be entering into the kingdom of God. In the kingdom of God we can be fully in each and every moment, we can love without fear and reservations and receive love without question. We can live into life. Or we can hold tightly to what we have, and lived gripped by fear of losing our possessions, of having our heart-broken, of losing our lives. We can live in the kingdom of the Western world, in the kingdom of me.

Which kingdom sounds better? Which one will you be entering into today?

Goodbye, Rockstar (or another reason to hate Oct. 12)

I met him during the summer of 2001. When we met, I had no idea how much I would need him, how much I would learn from him, or how much one can love a dog.

I was working for a youth program on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. It was my job to help 30-some mostly rich, mostly East coast kids grow, bond, and learn about the realities of life on the rez. One day, he just showed up — small, scared, probably starving, he wandered over to the kids I worked with and they just knew what to do — feed him. He was afraid of men; the sound of a man’s voice would make him cower and shake. But he liked cheese and bread and our leftovers (not good for him, but it was better than starving to death). They named him Rocky, because his head was soooo much bigger than his body. It looked like someone had just placed a rock on his neck.

One day, Rocky was apparently at the end of his rope. He was so hungry, he tried to eat a porcupine. He wandered over to us with a face covered in quills and eyes that begged, “Help?!” We pulled out as many as we could with a Leatherman before he started snapping. My boss told me that, if he came back the next day, I could take him to the vet.

He did come back. I took him to the scariest vet ever. We walked in and the vet cleared everything off of his kitchen counter (did I mention this was in a single-wide?). He knocked Rocky out and removed the rest of the quills as well as gave him the shots he needed and had likely never received. From that point on, I was his.

No matter where I was on the rez, he would just appear. At the end of my time there, I opened the rear hatch of my wagon and asked him if he wanted to come with me. He jumped right in.

I lengthened his name to Rockstar because his Sharpei/Shepard mix was so original, he needed an original name to go with it.

We spent the next month on the Blackfeet reservation, where he quickly became the protector of a momma dog and her puppies. No one could mess with her as long as he was around. Even with his rather small stature, he managed to scare off some pretty big dogs. He seemed to always want to save the day.

From there, we moved to Chicago, to an apartment in Hyde Park. He wasn’t so big on apartment life at first. He ran away a few times (once he was caught because he stopped to eat some sweet and sour pork someone had thrown on a tree lawn) and he needed to mark a lot of territory. Over time, he got used to our little box. We went for good, long walks together and he kept me company at the foot of my bed. He ignored the mice in our apartment. I chalk it up to compassion.

That time in Chicago was largely awful for me. I lost a lot of people I loved; most difficult of all, I lost my father. Some days, it was nearly impossible to get out of bed. I hated seminary, I was terribly angry at God, and I was so lost without my dad. Whenever I would cry, Rocky would wander over to me, stick his head under mine and nudge me. He was so aware of my emotions and so ready to help. He was the main reason I got out of bed every day. I don’t know what I would have done without him.

When I moved to Seattle, he was my only friend and constant companion. He was able to go to work with me (for which I am so grateful). We explored the Pacific Northwest together. He apparently knew I was a bad judge of boyfriends and would regularly place himself between me and the boys I had in my life. I think that the first time he didn’t do that was when he met my husband.

This wonderful little guy has been with me through so much. Through it all, he has been an amazing best friend. He is the only stable thing I have had in my life for the past 12 years, and the best example of unconditional love. He adopted my sleeping habits and I never had to get up early to take him for a walk, nor did I have to worry about how long I stayed out. He only barks at squirrels, and even then he only does it if they are a few feet away from his face. He doesn’t lick, but he does give out lots love. He was always amazingly loving to the kids in my youth group. He helped a number of people I know move past their fear of dogs. I can’t imagine life without him.

And yet, I must. Because he is 14 years old. Because his arthritis is so bad he can hardly walk unless he is on a lot of pain medication. Because he can no longer tell me when he needs to go out. Because he has a tumor underneath his eye that has not only rendered him blind in that eye, but it also makes him bleed a lot. His life has been wonderful, but now the good moments are shorter and more rare than the bad.

I am not okay with this. I don’t like making a decision for an animal that can’t tell me if he is ready to go. I am not comfortable taking the power of God into my own hands. But everyone tells me it is time. I know they are not wrong, but I don’t want them to be right. I’d rather he just decide to go to sleep one night and not wake up. But that is not his style; he is incredibly stubborn, just like me.

I am so thankful for the time we have had together, so thankful that God hooked me up with this amazing little animal just before I was going to need more love, comfort, and adorable cuteness than I ever thought I would. But I will miss him so badly, I don’t even know what to do with myself. I am terrible at dealing with loss.

Tomorrow night (Friday Oct. 12, 2012, coincidentally the anniversary of other deaths and painful moments in my life), Rocky and I will say our final goodbyes. We will have our last walk together and then our vet will come over to help move Rocky to the next part of life, the part of life that involves no body and no pain. I can’t explain how much I wish I didn’t have to do this. But his pain is real, and the only way out of it is for him to leave me.

I fucking love my dog. He is the best ever. Tomorrow, we will hang out for the last time.

Thank you to all of you who have cared for him over the years. He thanks you too.

God rest his little Yoda-eared soul.

See you on the other side, buddy.

stop bullying. spread love.

Lookin’ good at 8th grade confirmation with the fam. Not even a little fat. But that’s all I heard at school, and it is all I believed.

It started in the 4th grade, at least so far as I remember. Some of it was typical elementary school girl drama – fighting on the playground, friends switching loyalties, complicated wars involving spies and double spies. It was hard to know where anyone’s loyalties lay, but they often came out during a game of kickball or when you wanted to play on the Big Toy. Girls are warriors – they are cunning, careful, quick and smart. They know how to find the weakness of their enemies. Their words are carefully chosen to cut each other just right. This is how it begins: on the playground. I have no idea where we learn it from, but we are good at it. Too good.

I don’t know why the playground stuff was something that, though it hurt at the time, I can shrug off as being “girls being girls.” It is what it is. There were other acts, though, that are still with me 24 years later. Acts that seemed more intentional; more designed to hurt me (isn’t premeditated murder the capital crime?). Acts that feel more like bullying than the others.

I got made fun for being fat a lot. I wasn’t. I was a pretty average pre-pubescent girl growing into herself. I was taller than the other girls. I was one of the first to get breasts. I didn’t really pay it any mind until the day I found the note in my locker.

Two things you need to know for this. 1) I was in a best friend war. My best friend, Amy* had been hanging around a lot with Susanne. I was losing Amy to Susanne. 2) For most of my young life, I had gone back and forth with a boy, Zeke. We rarely had crushes on each other at the same time, but we had traded the crush back and forth since nursery school (and would do this into high school).

The final battle in the friendship war took place at my locker. It was well played and amazingly cruel. I got to my locker to find a note I thought was from Zeke. It started out as a love note. I don’t remember the first part. Here’s what I remember — the words that are still with me long after I left my hometown, “I love the way your fat thighs rub together as you walk down the hallway… Love (NOT), Zeke.” There was a large shiny heart sticker with a line through it next to “his” signature. I tried really hard not to cry. I grew up with a lot of boys and I knew that crying would show my weakness. I looked down the hall to see Amy and Susanne standing together, staring at me and giggling. I was crushed. Amy had betrayed me, Suzanne had won. I was alone in the world. Also, I was fat and no one would ever love me because of this. I know this sounds totally melodramatic, but do you remember being 10? It’s all so big, so huge, so awesome and so hard.

The fat taunts continued. Maybe they had always been there, I just didn’t hear them until they were shoved in my face. Now I couldn’t not hear them. They were everywhere. I remember getting them when I was in plays – I would come off stage to the comments, I would hear them whispered, occasionally they were yelled at me. It happened in class, it happened on the playground. The teasing continued through middle school. By the 8th grade, I was hearing that it was amazing I could climb out of my window at night because I was so fat (I think I told a story once about how I had done that, but I didn’t go anywhere, I just wanted to be outside). The firemen would never be able to rescue me in case of a fire. I shouldn’t wear bathing suits; it was grotesque.  I was 5’8” and 132 lbs.  I was also too pale, unfashionable, dumb at math and had bad hair (the final one is true, but it was 1992 – who didn’t have bad hair?). In middle school, most of this was from one girl. One girl who made me want to stay home from school sick. Her presence drove me to avoid my friends, to try to stay home from parties because I knew, I just knew, the fat, ugly and nasty taunts were next.

I never knew why she hated me so much. She would say awful, awful things to me behind my back (designed to get back to me) and in public. The gossip and back stabbing and picking on me got so bad that I became totally isolated. I spent the summer between 8th and 9th grade watching tv, alone (some of this was my fault, my reactions to the taunts and meanness were dumb and mean as well). I tried to transfer schools so as to not face all of the people I felt had turned against me and were now hanging out with the queen of meal girls. Fortunately, she left instead and the larger sea of high school allowed me to find friends and turned down the volume on the others who mocked me (though I could still hear them).

I have seen a discussion online about there being a difference between teasing and bullying. I agree there is a boundary between the two, but it is small and can be crossed over in a second. I wasn’t beaten nor was I picked on by “everyone.” I had friends, for the most part (most of us were picked on, but at least we had each other). Yet these experiences with the “mean girls” have impacted me for the last 20 years. When I was 19, my boyfriend caught me throwing up after eating an entire box of Chewy Chips Ahoy. He asked me why I was torturing myself and I thought about it for a minute. Then it all spilled out: the harassment, the mocking, the meanness. It took years to get over the bingeing and purging, and even today I have a problematic relationship with food and my body.

This summer, I was in my hometown at the pool. I got out of the pool and sat down, only to notice that the girl from middle school was two benches away from me. I picked up my bag and practically ran out of the pool. I’m 34 years old and I ran away from a middle-school bully. It was so embarrassing, to realize that she still can make me feel like a scared little girl – that I still allow myself to feel that way.

Why do I feel the need to share this? Because those things were probably so small to the others involved and to the adults around me, but they have affected me into adulthood. I developed an eating disorder and ulcers and I still struggle with my body image every single day.

The stories we hear about bullying in the media are about kids who are picked on every single day, kids who are afraid to go to school, kids for whom it gets so bad that they lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel and end their lives. For each of these stories, there are thousands of other kids who are being tormented on a lesser scale. Bullying doesn’t start big. It starts with one kid calling another a name. It starts quietly.

Actually, it starts with parents or other adults making remarks about the weight, weaknesses, intelligence, appearance, athletic ability, perceived sexual orientation or whatever else of the people around them (or the people on TV). Then the kids see that behavior is sanctioned and they follow suit. The behavior gets explained away: it’s no big deal, boys will be boys, girls will be girls. Kids develop body image issues in silence. They start to starve themselves or purge what they have eaten so the mocking will stop. They do whatever they can to be what others see as “normal.” Kids will twist themselves into a knot to fit in. When they can’t, they start to hate themselves because of what others say they aren’t – smart, athletic, fashionable, straight, White, good public speakers, or conventionally good looking – or because of what they are – smart, artistic, a person of color, queer (or perceived as such) differently-abled, a kid with a learning disability, or poor.

These kids that have been picked on may not show outward signs until much later in life. They may hide it well. They may use it as a reason to become the next Bill Gates or an amazing musician. Or they might break. They might take it out on other students. They might develop an eating disorder or start acting out with drugs or sex. They may decide to take their own life.

The kids who picked on me are having kids now. I hope and pray that they are kinder now than they were – that they are raising their kids to be full of love for the people around them. Because until we as adults stop trash talking others, until we stop judging people on how fat or thin or smart or stupid or rich or poor or whatever, we will keep creating bullies. We will keep allowing kids to be bullied. We will be complicit in teen eating disorders, drinking problems and teen suicide. It is up to us, the adults of the world, to start treating each other better. That’s how we stop bullying. It starts with us.

It starts with us teaching children that they are beloved creations of God and behaving as though we truly believe that all people are created in God’s image. That all people are worthy of God’s love and our love. We have to learn to love each other no matter what — fat, thin, smart, not as smart, athletic, uncoordinated, straight, gay, bi, trans, people of color, melanin-challenged — the list goes on and on. I am loved. You are loved. We are loved. That is the truth of it, and we are called to live out that truth.

We were created by God to love and be loved. When we mock others, when we aim for the jugular, when we allowed our children to mock or to beat people up, we are violating creation, violating God’s law. We were created for so much more than petty mocking, envy and hate. Live into that creation. Live into love.

*All names have been changed. Some of these people I have forgiven. Amy and I came back around to each other later in school and I got to see she was just taken in by a very strong personality, and she was struggling just like me — like so many young people are. Others I am clearly still working on forgiving. Also, I know I was a jerk too. To those I took it out on, I’m really, really sorry.