Tag Archives: emergent

riding lessons

My girls have always wanted to ride horses, especially the little one, Molly. She has pictures all over her room of horses. They have ridden a few times, on vacations -Trent and I retired our desire to ride after riding up faces of sliding rock in Costa Rica. Were good on riding, thanks. We have some friends who have horses that the girls occasionally ride. But, riding lessons have not been in our budget. Until, this week. No, we didn’t win the lottery. “You gotta play to win” and all. But, this week, as Rob took the girls by to see the horses that board not far from our house, he ran into some riders…They struck up a conversation…Rob often takes time to just talk to people. He explained how the girls came by to see, occasionally bring an apple to the horses. Their trainer offered to let them ride, to give them lessons, for nearly nothing. Another woman there, Miriam, joined the conversation. She had been waiting on her young riders who board their horses at this barn as well. She met my girls. She took to them, they are friendly, like their Daddy. She offered the use of her horses, whenever they might want to ride.

I met Miriam yesterday. We went by to check on the horses, to see  who might be around feeding, my girls are as interested in taking care of the horses as they are riding. Miriam’s oldest daughter was feeding their horses. Her three-year old was helping keep the horses to their own feed bucket. Her baby was sleeping in her car. She walked up and graciously greeted me, making the connection that I was Molly’s mother. She introduced me to her children who were feeding the horses and invited me to come and talk with her whenever the girls might come ride. Then she suggested that the girls, hers and mine, walk the horses to their pasture a bit  down the road. She and I followed in our cars. As we approached the gate, Miriam offered me her phone number and told me to call her anytime my children wanted to come, gave me their riding/ feeding schedule, made me feel more welcome and wanted than I can remember in a long time. What a beautiful, gracious, loving woman she is. Her children are kind and generous and embracing. I feel very blessed to have come to know them.

Miriam and her daughters wear their hair in a scarf, they explained gently to my inquisitive youngest child, that they are muslim. I can see Molly, not much the theologian, shaking her head okay, and grabbing Simine’s hand, “Come on let’s go.” I can see Meg’s mind churning, but loving her friend Sima, from school who is there to ride as well, and chalking up her good fortune to have found a friend and a ride as from God.

Yesterday, on the way over to meet up with our new friends and the horses, Molly asked me. “Mama, what does being a Muslim mean?”

I stopped a minute  before I answered and listened to the heart of our God… I told them that we had the same God, the God that came and found Abraham. That we call Him different names but He is the same. I told them that the father of their faith was Abraham’s first son. The father of the Jewish faith was Isaac. They are family. We, the Sullivan and our kin, who trace our ancestry to neither line, are just blessed to be included in such a heritage of God’s choosing and blessing. We are the one’s who are the outsiders, the ones  graciously, lovingly not cast aside but taken in and treated as if we were indeed family.

The horse is a powerful symbol in Arab culture of strength and beauty. It symbolizes wealth and nobility, family line. For them to offer us access, unmerited, unproven access to their horses and lives was nothing but grace.

I told my girls that Muslims recognize Jesus as a man of God. They like their cousins, the Jews, who so many believe can do no wrong, do not recognize Him as very God. We, those adopted in, because of Jesus, do believe that anyone that generous, kind and self-sacrificing, must have been God Himself.

Because generous, kind and self-sacrificing pretty much sum up the heart of God, don’t they?


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what’s with “under 33″

I’ve met some new friends, people who sometimes see the world a little like I do.  I read their blogs: see much of their minds and hearts exposed, purposefully. They are pretty dang brave. I have read the friend of a friend’s blog all weekend, seeing well why all these far separated souls so love, like really do love one another. But, other than Papa Bear himself, Brother Brian – McLaren, who I just plain love and will defend with all my person whether he is absolutely on point on every jot and tittle or not – because he is so damn brave and beautiful and big-hearted – which is more than I can say for most everybody else weighing in to nay-say. I digress… all my newfound soul mates are under 33.

Why is that I ask. Is it the technology? I am no techie. Just a mom and wife and high school teacher. Why is that? And why do all I come upon of late tell me somewhere soon as I am reading that they too are, have just crossed over or will soon be 33. My generation screams in me – is this a SIGN? Maybe so, maybe not. But I must at least offer a glance toward such.

33 means born in 1977, right? I was in Mrs. Furr’s (God rest her dear, dear soul- you can read about her and you should) fifth grade class. I started babysitting a munchin in the summer of 1977. I guess he is thirty three now, too. Maybe there is no magic behind the number save Jesus’ own apparent decision to spend no more life here human after it either.

Is life really over for those of us who are over 33? Did we die out of ourselves? Did our generation so sell out questioning anything save that which might effect our comfort or  convenience?  Do we question and strain and struggle with anything… or do we so focus our energies on soccer schedules, and seemingly meaningless discussions of our rounds and routine days and of our ever constant desire to protect our children from everything…especially ideas.

I don’t think all have died out, and I so understand the ridiculousness of my sweeping assertion that we have. But in my life, my very specific life, it seems so, it feels so.

I can’t seem to communicate with people over 33. Like we just can’t find the language. We can’t compute with our numerics. We can’t communicate. We miss each other over and over.

It’s so frustrating.

It’s why I call many of those ten years my junior my “friends.” They aren’t the ones I spend most of my time with. They aren’t the people I talk to the most. The aren’t the ones that I love most.

But they are my friends, my comrades and compatriots. They get me, I get them, we see some things together and that’s a kind of friend I don’t long do well without.


To my Friends,

Thank you, thank you for letting this old lady tag along.



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safe spaces

(I don’t usually write so personally in this blog, by that I mean I don’t start out to share my heart, what I am feeling. I have a venue for that kind of journaling stuff. But, I’m going to break with that tradition and do otherwise. Maybe it is time I showed a little more of myself.)

I have read some great posts and had some very insulating interaction in the last few days.


Things (holy) are swirling all inside of me. I feel the need to work through them here, to unload them and unwrap some of them, if I might.

I just learned that most of my family is going to sight the guns. Gun season (this is Alabama) starts next weekend, their trip gives me a few precious hours before Edge tonight, sweet uninterrupted hours. So I ‘m taking time to ask “What’s at the center of all this swirling mass?”

As I stepped out of the bathroom, to the laundry room, too much information? safe spaces popped into my head.

Now that is a kettle of fish….Remember, Jesus said the Kingdom nets up all kinds. I haven’t always dwelled in the safest of spaces, Kingdom wise. But then again, I’ve known some incredibly safe spaces, too.

Right now, there are  few hidey holes in my life. There are so few spaces to let my breath and real words out fully, truthfully. There are so few spaces that it is okay to ask questions, good ones, truth seeking, God seeking questions. It scares me a little, okay a lot, my not having those spaces. I can crack up, I’ve done it before.

Not that there aren’t safe spaces for me. There are, if I am willing to drive a few 5 or 10 hours, there are some safe couches and guest rooms where I and the real me are always welcome to drop by and stay long as I will. But that is pretty hard to pull off now a days, with this job and family and all.

Don’t get me wrong, there are enough pockets of such oxygen for me here, enough to survive, but honestly, not to flourish. My closest, as in I can be honest and real and scared –  friends are few and younger than I, numerically. Too many of them are boys/men, so little to no emotional help for me there. I KNOW not to go anywhere near there. And the safest places that I know are full of 16 -17 year olds, incredible, so far ahead of my sixteen year old self kids, but kids nonetheless. So not a real safe space for me…them, yes, but not really for me.

Oh, I did the women’s ministry thing for a while. The things I want/need to talk about don’t   interest or freak the heck out of even the most mature of these women. Trust me I’ve tried with all manner of strategies. Cutting edge theological ramblings and geopolitical shifts, culture war and post modern context and focus are not big topics in suburban Alabama.         (They were normal in my neck of the woods, back in Athens.) I need/want people to talk to who give a rip about some of the things I care passionately about as well. I want, am I a so very  unsatisfied child? I sound so. I want people who will read things with me and talk to me about what they read. I want challenge and a place to say, “I don’t get this” or  “Why?” And I want relationships who will answer when appropriate, “Honey, I don’t know either.”

And I miss couch time, to talk or listen or just be – together with a friend(s), laughing or its close cousin, crying. I so miss a space to cry with somebody, who won’t get bent out of shape or who won’t try to pray my grappling, struggling away…but who will just be there with me in it.

Oh,  I still cry, often… over all kinds of things: the good, the bad and oh so ugly. But, it’s been so long since I have been in a space safe enough- to just cry about what and for however long necessary with somebody who gets me.

I know what a luxury I am describing. I know it is not my right or reward. I know what I seek costs and how costly all that is. I know.

But every year, though I keep it secret as my wish, it’s all I want, all I ever really ask for.

When I was twenty, I was the richest person on the planet.

This sounds pretty needy. I pride myself on not ever appearing so, though I am as needy as the next person.

Something has stirred this up. It’s finding people in Blogland who care about the things I do, who are asking similar questions, coming to similar conclusions and who sometimes just feel the need to share with somebody who cares enough to read, what is going on inside of them.

That’s why I love Blogland. It has become in a way, a safe space for me.

Sometimes it even is like being twenty again.


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The long wall

I ran into it first in college. I found it substantial and high, no small thing to just vault with a running start, though many times I backed away, gained perspective and leapt.

When it came clear that this static structure, not my desire, was the impediment, I did what we all did. I poured my life into new construction. We pretty much borrowed the old blueprints, adjusted ever so slightly. But we figured some new energy and technology and the fact that God’s very breath seemed so viable at our ear and all…that somehow that would change what came into being. But only close cousins came to be. It was not new and neither was it ancient in ways noble. It was the same old twisted sister.

I have run at the thing too many times to be less than embarrassed. I have tried to leap, or scale or find the edge …the Chinese have nothing on the length of this sucker. I can’t get around…

The only way to more, more God in me, more life and love and good is through. Deconstruction. I have but my hands for the work. They are getting bloody and sore…suffering seems the way of this work.

My eyes are being turned toward suffering: the world’s doing and our’s.

But God is not far from suffering.  He is here with me, so very near, at times uncomfortably near, scraping away the sand and stone that walls us all off.

Some of the most beautiful, God breathed words in the  letter of Paul to the church at Ephesus claim that Christ came to break down the wall ( between Jew and Gentile.) To the Galatians, Paul pasionately declared- obviously euphorically inspired – that Jesus has actually broken down every wall: male/female, greek/jew, slave/free. I imagine Paul later worried over those words that his captained hand wrote. I feel likewise writing this.

I am comforted that Jesus breaks down walls –  that it’s Who he is, what He does. So please pardon my deconstruction, as we take this down together.

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Every whisper…

...every waking hour, I’m choosing my confession.

A native Athenian, REM sort of speaks to me, for me.

I have so many of the lyrics of this classic running through my head. The tender frustration and self doubt Michael so powerfully relays, feels mine as well.

Sometimes you just have to re-stack your shelves. Sometimes you just have to reorganize your understanding and all the things in your head, move them around to a new place, maybe even make some new shelves. I’ve already left many things that I have been carrying around, in my hand or in my apron pocket, in some other locale than they once knew. And then there are those things that are just appearing on the floor, on the tables, by the doorways like the socks and flip flops that just mushroom about my house. From time to time though, I think that one must do one’s best to put things where they more rightly belong, best one can.

I know I could keep quietly changing, keep the places of my mind  “long changed,” silently held so. I could and in many ways will do just that. I will go on being who I am as well as who I may be becoming, best I know how, and try to live at peace with all, best I can.

But, alas, I am a teacher, by trade and more importantly, by calling. And so, there are things that are escaping me, things I cannot seem to rope down, they are coming free, flowing upon the waters of my call. I can clearly, easily not pick fights with ignorant and parroting parishioners. I can walk away from the bragidocious and insensitive. I can chalk up corporate delusion to a century of conference with only ourselves.

But when I teach the young, the  hungry, the not nearly so easily satisfied, I cannot offer less than as many viewpoints as I can grasp, as much generosity as I can fathom, as much mystery as I can imagine.

I can live a life in the corner…but when I teach in the spotlight (Oh No! I’ve said too much)….

I haven’t said enough.

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Greek to me

I often rave in my classroom about the curse of dualism: either/or, black/white thinking. Dualism is the fallout of the Greco-Roman system of thought and categorization. It produces a culture of we/they, as in, we are good, they are bad. We are right, they are wrong. Get the picture. It is not very knowledge based, hardly wisdom based, and it does wonders for one’s relational IQ.

But dualism has been all the rage in the west for a couple of thousand years. That is until now, its power to possess is waning. Maybe it is a function of the “smalling” of the world. Information and technology can change a lot about what we know and who else can know it quickly. Post modernism embodies this paradigm shift, this new, more respectful way of seeing the universe and those who dwell in it. And everyone is getting the memo – except those who should have identified, addressed, and corrected  this error first, the “truth seekers,” the Church.

Unfortunately, we seem to cling most passionately to something old and worn and honestly never really helpful: dualism. In the third century there was a huge brouhaha about gnosticism in the church, the same basic dualism argument. It contended that “Matter is evil and spirit is good.” It was derived from the traditional Greco- Roman nomenclature: essence is reality and matter  is decaying. From such were derived many non-incarnational mentalities, which in turn led us to value less the earth, humanity, and the interactions between the two. Never mind that Jesus didn’t just teach about incarnation, He was the embodiment of it.

Anyway, the mentalities of Plato’s perfection and Aristotle’s ascending achievement totally eclipsed our view of Christ. We, at least in the west, see Him via these lenses. But what if He was something altogether different and/or more? What if through our understandings of the way the world worked – ( and how much did we have right back then? or do we really have now?) we totally missed the story of God. The story God told us about Himself, most clearly punctuated by the Person of Christ. What if we missed it all? What if in our retelling, the beautiful story got botched? Maybe a few characters were remembered and salvaged, but the plot and the back stories all got confused and glossed over in our desire to make the story line fit our way of seeing the world.

What if all along, the beautiful story (of God) was right there in front of us? What if so much that we do not see about God, about us, was right there, but we saw it through lenses that all but blinded us to it.

Anybody willing to have your prescription checked? Continue reading


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College was about quest, more than anything else. I spent most of my time, energy and  money  pursuing more of what I did not know. A little of that occurred in classrooms. Most occurred along the way: on the bus, in the lounge, on the steps, in organized group discussions, in church, at the park, as we read things together and responded, as we sat silent and listened and responded.

The people I spent most of my time with loved God. We came to love Him in very different ways, through very different experiences, in very different venues. That was a huge blessing. The people I spent some of my time with likewise differed from me in all those things. What we had in common, in a somewhat hostile climate of students, professors, administrators and city culture, was a genuine and proven love for God.

Growing up in Athens was the greatest blessing. The non-Christianess of the place helped me appreciate my brothers and sisters, to respect them and, therefore, believe them when they offered an understanding congruent or contrary to mine. I began to see that God is not static or boxable, that Jesus, a person, was Truth, and that Spirit, not law, was God’s chosen way of relating to man.

We used to sit around and discuss, not to find the answer to a question, but to find better questions to ask. We sat around everywhere, all the time talking about who God had shown, was showing Himself to be to us and hearing others’ accounts. We enjoyed the happy tension that brings about balance, the both/and of God if you will. We all sat around and pulled hard our way – we shared with passion what revelation we had been given and listened equally intently for our brothers’. It was not an exercise or even a game. It was a life style. A lifestyle that held us all in the faith through tragedy, trial and triumph. It is a lifestyle which helps us to lead in the Church in all arenas and understandings, all over the world, today. God gave me and mine a gift –  a huge gift.

I was cradled in Methodism, reared by the nuns, trained by the PCA’ers, filled anew with Wesley’s finest, inspired by artist Anglicans, cheered by the Church of God gang, and directed by Dominion doctrine. I am now at an Assembly of God church, who trains its leaders with contemplation and candor. I’ve been everywhere, though I am not a church hopper. But I have had seasons of exposure and seasons of study in most major perspectives. I am more, not less for it. What I have found is that the pursuit of answer is a trap. The pursuit of Jesus brings joy and peace.

I will go on record at this moment saying I am experiencing cabin fever (makes me think of the muppet movie). I need  quest in my life, deeper, wilder, more wonderful quest. I am out of the fuel those hours 25 years ago gave me, the fumes as well. I must move on in search of more – Jesus. I cannot, I will not sit stoically and die.

Upon encountering the disciples, Jesus said, “Come,  follow Me.”  It is safe to follow and totally unsafe to linger. And I trust those who follow after as well, as brothers.

I’m up for quest. How about you?


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