kyndallrae

creating me [using words]

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Little Squirrel in the Tree

Little squirrel in the tree
I can see its anger swell
chastening my chasing dog
expressing itself remarkably well

on and on and on,
lets its fury fly
from the safety
of its branches high

mouth full of acorn
and vile disdain
it spits out its rage
while holding on to its gain

on and on and on
until it’s had its say
and then moves to another tree,
another spot to play

Now a jaded-squirrel–
finds a dog-free yard, perhaps
My panting dog watches
lazily from the grass

without reply
game over in her eye
that squirrel-holding branch
far too high

But that didn’t stop
the violated squirrel from shouting
squeaky obscenities, waving
its bushy tail, pouting,

“How dare you! How dare you!”
I envy its uninhibited ability
to speak its mind and even more
its unhindered capacity

to scamper right along
when once it sees
it is through, leave the fight
behind in pursuit of trees

Oh to speak your speech
then let it be!
What glorious simplicity–
if only that were me!

An Inner Dialogue

I am afraid.

Don’t be.

Ha! As if it were that easy . . . 

Don’t. Be.

But, but . . .

Don’t. Be. Afraid.

What if I had a choice?
What if I could walk away from fear?
The angels are always saying, “Fear not. Don’t be afraid,”
as if it were possible.
Do angels know something I do not? 

Do. Not. Be. Afraid. Feel afraid,
perhaps, but do not BE afraid.

What’s the difference?

This is about WHO YOU ARE
in your core,
and your CORE is LOVE
and LOVE casts out fear.

Right. Perfect love casts out fear. 
I’ve hardly got it perfect.

Perfect love is gift
and it is being given to you
from on high every day.

Oh.

You feel afraid.

Yes. So many yeses.

Fine. Do. not. be. afraid.

Are you an angel?
(or my courage?)

What’s the difference?

But the Bible Says Women Can’t Preach

(We take a break from our regularly-scheduled poetry posting to bring you instead this lengthy response about women in ministry that took me ten years before I could sit down and write it.)

Recently when I was being interviewed on a local Christian radio program, the host asked me how I respond to people who say the Bible doesn’t allow women pastors. This is a question I generally avoid, but being on the radio and all, there was little space for dodging. I primarily avoid talking about this for three reasons: 1) As a general rule, I pathetically avoid all controversy because I am allergic to conflict, 2) I get completely frustrated that we are still having this conversation in the 21st century, and frustration saps my energy, which is already in low supply, and 3) defending women in ministry feels to me like a defense of my very existence on this planet, which gets a mite tiresome after awhile and instead of offering up the intelligent, caring reply I know I am capable of, my exhausted little spirit just wants to say, “Back off and leave me alone.” Fortunately the radio host was a supportive, encouraging figure, which gave me the morale boost to sit up straight and answer rather than ducking under the table and hiding, Please, not that question again.

Besides avoiding conflict, the other thing I run away from like the plague is anger. I hate feeling it, I hate having it, I hate being on the receiving end of it, I hate its being a force in the world and/or a force inside of me. I am very allergic. As a result, I have become an expert anger-stuffer. I’ve got crevices where I tuck that anger away so that no one, including me, could ever find it. I’ve recently been trying to get in touch with my anger, but even then, I take calculated, planned trips to visit it—a scheduled trek to the batting cages, an intentional run, a carefully crafted poem—like I am visiting a man in prison but I make sure that volatile thing stays behind the glass. No way am I letting it loose. I don’t even know where I’ve hidden the keys—my psyche has made sure of that.

I say all of that to say: it is a giant surprise in my life when I feel anger. I mean, I cuss when I stub my toe or lose my keys (why am I always losing my f*** keys?!) just like the rest of the world, but to feel anger over something that matters is rare, not because I’m heartless to injustice but because I am allergic to anger, remember? I can feel sorrow, frustration, passion, and all manner of appropriate emotions, just not-so-much the anger. I actually get jealous of people who can lose their temper, because I wouldn’t know where to begin to lose it I’m so enmeshed in my own tempered evenness, but when did this turn into a therapy session? Moving on . . .

So last Sunday I invited my friend Courtney to be a guest preacher at the church where I pastor. Saturday night I got violently sick and it became obvious there was no way I was going to make it to church on Sunday morning. This is the worst time of week for a pastor to be sick. By 6:30am I was on the phone, making arrangements for my impending absence. I was relieved I already had a guest preacher lined up, but still, my guilt complex kicked in, as well as my ego, both trying to convince me that I needed to be at church. My stomach promptly revolted against such nonsense, and it was perched unattractively on the bathroom tile by the toilet that I told my guilt and ego to shut the hell up and let me stay home.

It was almost a full week before I was able to sit down and listen to the recording of Courtney’s sermon that I missed while sick, and let me just tell you, it was awesome. It was soooo good, and I know because one of the annoyances of being a preacher is that it becomes almost impossible to listen to other sermons and enjoy them because you cannot turn off the critic in your head. There is so much bad preaching in our culture, and after the bad preaching there is all the mediocre preaching, and this is so nauseating it becomes difficult to listen. Courtney, however, was easy to listen to, because she was brilliant, passionate, and inspired. Courtney was challenging to listen to, only in that she was really preaching and real preaching splits you open. And then, then she started singing, and oh my, we hadn’t been friends long enough yet for me to know that she could sing, and so I was caught off guard by the haunting beauty of her singing voice and by the way the music wedged its way inside me. It brought tears to my eyes, and I am not, by nature, a crier.

The second thing that caught me off-guard, after the song and after the sermon was over, is that I got angry. I felt anger. Stoic me was feeling it.

Because I suddenly thought of anybody and everybody who has ever said women can’t or shouldn’t preach. I thought of anybody and everybody who may have ever told Courtney specifically that she couldn’t or shouldn’t preach. I thought of all the mediocre to downright-shitty preaching that gets consumed in our culture when we all could be listening to Courtney for crying-out-loud. I thought of all the folks in my generation leaving the church because of its bigoted, polarized rhetoric when there are preachers like Courtney who are saying and doing something wholly other than that nonsense but so few are stopping to listen.

Because I grew up in an environment that discouraged women from pastoral leadership and because I had never met a woman minister in my life until well into college, it took me years to discern and own my sense of call. I felt the tug, the divine pull, the beckoning and even the outpouring of giftedness from the Holy Spirit, but I was terrified, genuinely terrified of disobeying God or flouting Scripture by pursuing the call to preach and pastor.

Many people discouraged me away from this call as I tentatively and timidly began to voice my suspicions about where I was being led—they were also afraid that I would disobey God or flout Scripture by pursuing this call to preach and to pastor. But many other people bolstered and supported me, saw God at work in me, and pushed me forward. I privately wrestled, year after year. Here is what—or, I should say, who—changed things for me:

Brittany and Judy. Judy was a middle-aged woman who had come back to school later in life to study theology. Brittany was one of my new friends at the time, and she is still the person whose active faith in the world I admire most of all the Christians I have personally witnessed. It was Brittany, Judy, and me in a room of men for our first-ever preaching class. I learned in that class just how much I loved preaching—the preparation, the study, the writing and crafting, the delivering. But what I also learned, and what was far more crucial, was that Brittany and Judy were damn good preachers, even if we were all beginners. Of course, this was long before cursing had entered my vocabulary and even my inner thoughts were well-groomed and polite, so my reaction to their preaching was far more well-mannered and I thought this:

God is with them.
They are gifted.
It is obvious they are gifted and called.
It would be a tragedy if they weren’t allowed to preach.

Women can preach.

Women.Can.Preach. No doubt about it. Just listen to Brittany. Or to Judy. Or to Courtney. And your spirit will recognize Spirit and you will know that God does not discriminate, God does not withhold, God does not limit, God does not restrict, God does not silence, God does put you in a box. God does not build glass ceilings; God shatters them. God does not still the voices of women; God sings and God soars through the voice of women. God proclaims through the voice of women. God liberates through the voice of women. God instructs through the voice of women. God heals through the voice of women. God moves through the voice of women. God is embodied in the voice of women. God is being birthed into the world through the voice of women.

Men can preach too, and I grateful for the wonderful male preachers who have dramatically shaped and blessed my life, but no one is questioning their right to be here and to open their mouths, at least, never as a whole. We may question a certain man’s place in the pulpit due to his own theology, or moral failures, or lack of charisma, or whatever. But we never encounter a man doing a poor job in the pulpit or in the pastorate and conclude that men as a race of human beings should be banned from that role.

We women carry the weight of ALL women-struggling-to-have-voice every time we open our mouths and speak, because there are still people who want the whole of us shut down. There are still people who will find one fault in one of us and apply it to our entire gender. There are still people who tune us out because our voices are soft or because our manner is too “aggressive” and masculine for a woman, or whatever other fault they may find. (Interestingly, soft-spoken me has been accused of being too aggressive and of being too timid, so it’s pretty much a lose-lose situation for women, because however we choose to use our voices, someone will find fault.)

I guess what I am telling you is: I feel angry. I feel angry that we are still fighting this battle. We want to be peace-makers for Christ’s kingdom, but we are forced, time and time again into a posture of self-defense. It is difficult for me, because of my personality and aversion to conflict, to feel anger on my own behalf, but when I hear my sisters preach, I am angry because I know what they have endured just to be given a space to open their mouths and speak. I know what they still endure, what we still endure.

In one of my few feminist posts, written on a day when I was ignoring my allergies and speaking out, I wrote that I am a damn good preacher. I can’t tell you how good that felt to own that about myself. I got some grief from someone who found that line offensive and prideful, but I know that my fellow sisters know exactly what I mean. We aren’t being prideful in the bad sense, but prideful in the good sense. We are coming “unbent” and standing tall in the world, and this is good and important work, and it is forced and false humility that has kept us small and kept us from owning our giftedness and kept us from doing our work in the world, and kept us using our voices. I know I have a long ways to go before I am all I hope to be as a preacher and a pastor, but I have heard enough bad sermons to know that I am improving the quality of sermons in this country, not diminishing them, and sometimes it is this knowledge that keeps me going on the days when I wonder if anyone is listening, if it will ever make a difference at all that I am preaching.

I also got some grief for writing about anger and rage, and I think that may be because it is a little surprising when quiet, cool, calm, and collected Kyndall admits she has and feels and is even trying to embrace anger. That is understandable, because, like I said, it is a great surprise to me when I feel anger. So yeah, it might a be a little disconcerting when I let a four-letter word fly or when I write a graphic, violent poem about welcoming that murderous little devil rage into my life. The revelation for me is that the anger is there, whether I acknowledge it or not, whether I give it its voice or not. Anger at injustice is a healthy emotion, and when I actually feel it, something like relief hits me after the surprise dies down, and then it becomes energy. Positive energy with which I sing my song in the world, speak my words, write my poems, lift up my sisters, do my work, set captives free, tell the truth boldly, risk vulnerability, protect the downtrodden, and PREACH.

What do I say to people who tell me the Bible says women can’t preach? Listen to a woman first, and then you will hear the Bible differently. I’ve never said this before, but I am saying it now: You listen to a sister preach, then look me in the eye and tell me God isn’t in her. You open your Bible and I will open mine, but instead of squabbling with you, I’m gonna take this powerful Word out into the world, do the work of the Kingdom, and never, ever shut up. That is our argument, and we do not need another one.

Amen.

Regret

I wish I had abandoned
my meditation to stand
outdoors in the rain
to feel sensual drops
touch my skin and the
holy water cascade
down my head
Only a drizzle remained
by the time I tidily finished
my indoor work
and now I cannot enter
the day sopping,
drenched, covered
only vaguely dampened

Do not pray yourself
into avoiding the answer,
nor worry yourself out from
grace, nor raise your
disciplines like an umbrella
to ward off spontaneous
splashes of divine downpour

Do not hide your heart in poncho
fear nor preserve your hair
at the expense of living
nor refuse to stroke the mud
from which you came,
its ooze still reeking
of God’s own stirring breath

Open your eyes, go outside
with stretched arms,
receive every drop
that falls from the heavens
Then you shall know God

Revelation!

I can make mistakes.
I am allowed to make them.
I can express my feelings.
I can get it wrong.
Or partially right.
Then I can try again.
I can apologize when needed,
but also, I don’t have to apologize for living
for growing, for risking, for going,
for making my noise in the world at last.

I can make mistakes.
I am protected from big mistakes
when I follow my inner wisdom
and trust the Power bigger than myself.
I am being guided
as I bumble through life.
But no guidance kicks in
as long as I sit, never speaking.

Lake Water

The water looks speckled
in the morning light
from where I sit
and thank God that
car finally turned off
its engine and the noisy
men fishing stopped
talking too and we’re all
sharing communion
now enveloped in the
stillness that is God
and the bird-sounds
echo back to God
then occasional interruption
of human voice or laugh
forming a messy trinity
of noises
We are all somewhat reverent
by a lake, soaking in
God, whether we have a
name for him or not
whether she has yet to
show herself in a way
we can grasp
Mostly God avoids all
our grasping
which leaves us bewildered
and frustrated or apathetic
but occasionally bowled over
by the intuitive sense
that we are small specks
on the surface of a
magnificent water

A Writer’s Prayer

I am pregnant, absolutely pregnant with a book. I can feel the swelling and the kicking. But I hesitate to induce because a premature book-baby might not thrive, might not even survive. I don’t know what this baby is going to look like. I keep trying to envision her, but I don’t want to taint the creation process with my imaginings. God, when the time is right, I pray for clear and unmistakable, irresistible contractions. Meanwhile, I will shovel in prenatal vitamins, work on my breathing, and clear out/prepare room for her arrival.

Looking at His Face

(The World, As Seen Through This Window in My Heart)

Twice sitting in McDonald’s borrowing internet,
I have seen his face flash on the screen,
young man responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.
His hair is dark, tousled.
He does not look old enough to commit a crime is all I can think.
I cannot connect this face to that crime—my brain resists.
How many people
are looking at this face
with disgust and outrage?
Maybe a person with a lost limb whose life has been forever altered
is looking at this face.
Maybe a now-childless parent
is looking at this face.
Maybe the parent of this young man
is now looking at his face
on the cold, distant screen—
their son a murderer.
And all I see looks like a boy
with a life ahead,
tousled ideas in his head.
How do we reach a breaking point,
like the one he reached
and how did he build up that much anger that young?
How can humanity get this out of control?

The Damsel Whine

(*Note: This is meant to be heard comically in its hyperbolic complaint, not to be read as a cause for alarm.)

My neediness is a monster
who occasionally rears
her ugly head,
bares her angry teeth
and ravages me.
She roars until
I am deaf so that
I no longer trust anyone.
I need you to be perfect.
No one is doing enough!
I need you to rescue me.
Help! Help! Help!
Can’t you see that I need you?
I become desperate and clingy,
grasping and terribly grumpy
without you here.
Save me! Save me! Save me!
I don’t want to save myself
any longer.
Why don’t you notice me??
I am angry at the world
for clearly all have abandoned me
and I will be stuck
forever, damsel-in-distress.
Obviously in distress
if anyone were looking my way!
I am screaming from the tower
window and damn you all–you
do not dwell on my beauty
and rush to slay the dragon?!
If only I would meet a tragic
fate so all would mourn
my loss and miss me at last
and I would escape
this prison
and stop hurting.
If only you would race up
here and find me, I would turn
suddenly sweet and perfectly charming
and the world would live
happily ever after,
but hurry up you stupid
slow-poke, get with
the program and find me!

Eventually neediness calms
down to normal needs
that I can name
and ask for appropriate help.
But every now and again,
I face the Dark Dragon
who puts a silver-plated
tiara atop my Whine
and for an hour or two
I am a nasty Rapunzel
who willfully chops off her hair
and hides her own sword
to prove to herself
no one cares
and there is nothing
I can do to fight back.

Thoughts: Why do we create the melodramatic for ourselves? To feel alive? To avoid the hard work of actual healing? Because we have so much damn feeling that we’ve got to create a miniature explosion every so often to relieve some pressure? Because the appropriate avenues of attention don’t always deliver fast enough? Because we’ve forgotten to look beyond ourselves? And does this happen differently in women than it does in men? What are your thoughts? 

Purple Rage

Tonight my rage
is purple
like a bruise
and my sorrow clear
like a salted tear
my loneliness gray
like a lurking shadow
my longing red
like a throbbing heart
my heartache black
like a bottomless hole
and my desire
is pale yellow
like a fading dream
but also tinted blue
like the hot center of a flame
and I am ripped in two
with color
my pain a prism
that splinters me
and I splash
my refractions
onto no one
for there is no eye
to behold the shimmering
ache that tears
asunder my light
in the blackness
of this lonesome night

Post Navigation

.Joysong.

creating me [using words]

What Would Jesus Eat?

Exploring the convergence of theology, consumerism, food, ecology and economy

Momastery

creating me [using words]