Advent prayer: Soul

An Advent poem/prayer on the theme of “soul.”

Soul

God,

I want to live and move 
out of the depths of my soul.

I want to see soul in everyone I meet. 

I want to be connected with my soul.

So many forces have tried to break this connection.
Sometimes it feels like they have succeeded.
But not entirely.

I want to know my soul, 
and to know that she is worth knowing.

I want to live in communities 
where souls are seen and honored, 
reconnected with themselves, 
connected with one another
in love, trust, acceptance.

God, they say institutions have souls. 
So many of them are so bent, so broken. 

I don’t want to move in spaces 
that ask me to cut my soul off at the door.

God, restore my soul. 
Heal her. 

Help me trust her again, 
even when everything around me tells me not to. 

Amen.

A couple other pieces elsewhere on the web, if you’re looking for some (short and sweet) Christmas break reading:

  • A prayer and some reflections on joy – over at Christians for Social Action. Reflecting on the connections between joy, activism, and purpose. And Mary’s Song, because it’s Christmas. With appreciative shout-outs to Karen Walrond, Rebecca Solnit, & Cherrie Moraga.
  • I participated in a Patheos “seasonal holidays” initiative where I got to choose among a number of predetermined prompts…thinking and writing about New Years resolutions seemed fun, so here we are: How Do I Make Religious New Years Resolutions?
  • Still meandering through the Bible-themed part of a series of reflections on faith-related things I’ve changed my mind about. The latest: What Does It Mean to Read the Bible for Guidance?
  • Also, if you want to get an email whenever I post on Patheos, feel free to sign up here. (I believe this link should get you my posts specifically, not just Patheos Progressive Christian posts in general – please let me know if you experience something different :).)

Peace to you this Christmas.

Advent prayer: Open

Last Advent season, in 2021, I wrote a bunch of poem/prayers, responding to different daily one-word prompts offered by my church.

This Advent season felt like a good time to revisit these prayers and share some of the ones that still resonate. This one is on theme: open.

Open

God,
I want to be open 
with an openness that knows its boundaries 
and guards them zealously.

An openness that wells up from deep within 
and is not pressed or forced or manipulated.

I want to shut out so much.

I need to learn to shut out so much:
the insulters, the tired misogynist tropes, 
the name-callers, the actors in bad faith.

And yet, as I learn to shut them out, 
I want to be open.

Open to wonder. To awe. 
To the things I have yet to learn.

Open to beauty, to nature, to art.
Open to joy, to breaking open and being remade.

Open to challenge and correction 
from those who love me and are for me.

Open to letting people surprise me 
with their generosity, their kindness, 
their capacity for transformation.

There is goodness in the world.
It is not only sorrow.

God, in your extravagant profligate openness 
you created humans—
raw, unpredictable, glorious, fickle.

You know everything but were open 
to being surprised by us.

Help me be open to being surprised, too.
Amen.	

Are there parts of this prayer that you feel? Other prayers or reflections that come to mind when you think of openness?

On an unrelated note, this is what I’ve been up to writing-wise since the last update (and as a reminder, you can always go to the “on the web” page to see what’s new…or old…).

  1. Do Not Worry: A Communal Approach (Red Letter Christians)

For a while (like, October 2021 – Feb 2022), I was blogging a lot about the passage in Matthew where Jesus tells people not to worry. It started with a mini-sermon from church and then went all sorts of places, from worry as a good thing, to the feminine side of God, to what does and doesn’t add an hour to our lives, to what it might look like to learn from the wildflowers. And those are just a few.

Do Not Worry: A Communal Approach is a piece I wrote as part of that series and then thought, I wonder if someone wants to publish this one. Many months later, here we are!

2. On Hope: Prayers & Reflections (Christians for Social Action)

This is the first in a four-part series on the weekly themes of Advent (hope, peace, love, joy). It incorporates some of the prayers I wrote last year with new reflections on what these words might mean in our world. Featuring lots of engagement with activist scholars & writers.

3. When Clarity of Belief is Important (Patheos)

I wrote some things about my discomfort with belief statements and how they’re sometimes used – but of course everything is more complicated than that. When Clarity of Belief is Important adds a little of that complexity, particularly with LGBTQ+ people/communities in mind.

4. A Crisis of Authority – or, Life in the Mud (Patheos)

Starting off a series of reflections on how my views of authority (Bible, church, pastors, etc.) have changed over time. This post explores in a general way what crises of authority can look like…and how they can feel.

As always, thoughts about any of this are very welcome!

New column at Patheos: Always Re-forming

Hi friends,

I wanted to let you know that a couple weeks ago I started blogging at Patheos. I’ve got my own column, called Always Re-forming.

(It’s a sort of a play on the motto of the early Protestant Reformers: the reformed church will always be reforming. There’s more background, context, and words of welcome at the introductory post.)

I’m enjoying it, but I also think it’ll take a little time to settle into a good rhythm of posting there, posting here, and, well, all the other things. And to feel out what each space is best used for.

In that spirit, I’m very open to your thoughts and suggestions for what you’d like to see in this space (the personal blog). More poems? (It’s been a minute.) More super chill book reviews? (Or are there way too many already?) More random Bible/Greek thoughts? Brief weekly brain dumps of whatever I’ve been thinking about that I haven’t written about anywhere else yet? Other ideas – probably better ones? I’d love to hear.

In the meanwhile, I offer my four Patheos posts as some light reading for your Thanksgiving holiday:

  1. Forming and Re-forming: Words of Welcome, Words of Hope
  2. It’s Good to Change Our Minds
  3. What Are Theological Discussions Really About? (Or, Why I Didn’t Have Friends in Seminary)
  4. Faith is a Practice, Not a Belief Statement

I’m slowly gearing up, over at the Patheos blog, to spend quite a while running with the idea of how I’ve changed my mind about all sorts of different faith-related things over time. The first cluster will have to do with power and authority, and then we’ll move on to things like women’s roles in church, LGBTQ+ affirmation, and more. Very open to topic suggestions for the series!

Thanks for hanging with the changes, and do feel free to let me know what you think about…any of this.

Hope you have a wonderful long weekend!

Out there on the web: asking for what we need, and Christians with questions

Hi friends, there have been a couple additions to the “out there on the web” category of things since I last posted an update.

  1. I Didn’t Know How to Ask (Or What Would Have Happened if I Had) (Guest blog for Rose Madrid Swetman)

This is a guest post as part of Rose’s series on being a woman in ministry in a patriarchal world. Since she used the word “pioneering” in her series tile, I thought of that one time I started a new on-campus Christian group at my alma mater.

It was a good time in a lot of ways – well, really mostly just because the students were great, and also because it was exciting to try new things and dream of what could be – but it was also a rough time. This essay explores part of why it was rough, and how I see gender and patriarchy playing into that.

I imagine these reflections are relatable for anyone who’s had a hard time asking for what they need – or who has asked but has not been received well.

2. The People Who Have Always Had Questions (Feminism & Religion)

I liked this piece by Jemar Tisby about evangelicals as “the people who don’t have any questions,” and I see my essay for Feminism & Religion as a sort of addendum to it. I’m not disagreeing with anything so much as wondering out loud how gender plays into everything.

Reading bell hooks’ The Will to Change at the same time as I was thinking about these things felt relevant and fruitful. This need for certainty as a means of control, this impulse to have an answer to every question and to coerce everyone to agree with these answers – all the things Tisby names – are endemic to white evangelicalism, and also to patriarchy.

(Agree? Disagree vehemently? Read Tisby’s The People Who Don’t Have Any Questions, read my The People Who Have Always Had Questions, and let me know what you think.)

Hope you enjoyed this brief update and find these articles thought-provoking! As always, I’d love to hear from you.

Out there on the web: food security & well-intentioned patriarchs

Hi there. I realized I’m not always great about making sure everyone who might want to read things knows that these things exist. Particularly since I became a very late adopter of Instagram a little over a year ago, I use IG a lot (feel free to follow @lizcoolj and @postevangelicalprayers). But I know not everyone has an IG account, and not everyone who has an account looks at it regularly. (I fully encourage not being addicted to social media, and cultivating an IRL life—I guess that would just be an RL, if you will—outside of it!)

Anyhow, all this to say, I thought I’d start being a little more intentional about posting here to point your attention toward things I’ve written that appear elsewhere on the interwebs. I did sneakily make an “on the web” page a while back, where I’m keeping an up-to-date list of articles and such, so feel free to check that anytime as well if you’re looking for some reading material :).

But for now, I wanted to point you toward two recent pieces:

1) If a Person Doesn’t Work, Let Them Eat Anyway (Christians for Social Action)

There’s a Bible verse (2 Thess 3:10) that kind of sounds like it’s against some basic social safety nets for food security and such. In this article I unpack why I don’t think that’s actually the case. Like many parts of the Christian scriptures, there is more to it than meets the eye.

I felt like this was relevant especially in light of all the choices governing bodies (at national, state, and local levels) have been making about food-related safety nets—including universal free school lunches—as we emerge out of a time when COVID defined everything and into a time when COVID still very much exists but we’re all kind of in a collective denial about it. I would love to see our leaders resist the urge to pretend that COVID was the only source of all of our problems and inequities—and to think very carefully before slashing funding for programs that may have been initially sparked by COVID but are really just good ideas in general. 

2) Well-Intentioned Patriarchs Are Still Patriarchs (Word&Way)

I feel like the title of this one might sound a little odd, especially if you don’t spend all your time reading and thinking about patriarchy and such. (What, not everyone does?) So…better title ideas are welcome, in case I write something in a similar vein in the future!

In this one I tease out some of the implications of seeing patriarchy not just as individual men’s attitudes or desire for power, but as structures and systems that harm all of us. Sometimes it isn’t easy to talk about what I see as nice churchy patriarchy (and its devastating-ness) with my Christian female friends, and I think at least part of the reason is that Christians often tend to see everything both in individual terms and in terms of good vs evil. So basically it feels like calling out patriarchy is the same thing as calling individual men evil. 

This provokes cognitive dissonance, because we all know and love a lot of good-hearted, well-intentioned Christian men. Even the ones who perpetuate patriarchal systems—not because they’re power hungry, but because they think it’s what the Bible says and therefore the right thing to do. This article explores that dissonance.

I hope you enjoy one or both of these lines of thought! I don’t think either article (at CSA or Word&Way) is open for comments…which may be a good thing (nervous laugh)…but feel free to comment here and/or shoot me an email, as always. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

New post at Feminism & Religion

Just got done with a Zoom book discussion of Kyla Schuller’s The Trouble with White Women: A Counterhistory of Feminism. What a book. Definitely “super chill book review” material, so keep on the lookout for that sometime soon-ish.

(And spoiler alert: as a white woman, I didn’t feel nearly as offended as the title might perhaps make one worry. I didn’t feel like the book was criticizing me so much as inviting me into better ways of thinking about things and moving in this world. Which most of us very much need.)

One of the (many) things The Trouble with White Women made me think about was the (complicated) legacy of Margaret Sanger in regard to birth control and reproductive rights and that sort of highly-relevant-to-current-events thing. I wrote a post about all this at Feminism & Religion – check it out here if you like!

Reflections on a four hundred year old essay

I wrote down some thoughts about how my mind was blown when I read an essay called “Women’s Speaking Justified,” written by Margaret Fell in 1666. Feminism & Religion posted my piece on their website, which is exciting – glad to be included in their work.

Check out the full article here if you’re interested! Spoiler: the kinds of debates that go on in many churches today around women preaching and such have been happening for a lot longer than one might think. Or at least a lot longer than I had imagined.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – here, or on the Feminism & Religion post, or anywhere else you like!