Monday, April 2, 2018

What Will Our Female Leaders Do Now?

Recently it came to light that yet another mega church pastor was accused of sexual misconduct, and unsurprisingly the church mishandled the accusations.

This was shocking to many in the Christian community because the Willow Creek Church stands apart from the typical mega church where these allegations take place in one pivotal manner: they treat women as equal. At Willow Creek women regularly preach, and serve as pastors. They have been the epitome of egalitarianism. We, in the Christian community, have upheld them as an example to follow. Willow Creek serves 25 thousand people locally, they plant churches, coach church leadership, and are involved in a variety of good works. Nevertheless, it has come to light that three board leaders have resigned over these allegations. These board members believe Willow Creek mishandled allegations that their senior pastor Bill Hybels engaged in sexual misconduct, and had an affair.

These allegations come with another complicated layer that could be easily overlooked. Bill Hybels has a daughter who is what we some would call Christian famous. She has written extensively within the Christian realm. Shauna has a brand, and a following. She has taught us how to make a home, how to host, and bake bread. We have loved her for it. Shauna is someone many of us would say stands up for women. She's an example. She isn't someone her followers believe would tolerate abuse, or the subjugation of women. We would say these things in part because of her own words, and in part because of those with whom she is connected, the other famous friends she clearly supports.

If you've spent any time in female Christian circles you know who the big voices are, who our female leaders are. And if you pay attention you're also aware that they all know one another. You may even be a little jealous of the time they've spent face to face with each other. After all, we the (relatively unknown Christian female) have leaned on these women to be our examples. They have spoken for us, loudly, emphatically, demanding that we be heard, when we could not. We are so thankful for the Hatmakers, the Doyles, the Voskamps, the Besseys, the Brenes and Hamptons of our world. Sometimes we are barely able to distinguish their voices from our own. Where would be without them?

We are grateful for their platforms. They speak our truth. And this leaves me wondering, now what? Shauna wisely took a week off of social media, and spent some time with her family. But not before declaring her trust in her father's character.

I am wondering, who are our female leaders when someone close to one of their own is accused? How will they respond when the rumors encircle someone they care about? Will they stand up, and still demand the truth as they have in every other instance, when it could cost them personally? We have followed their paths. How will they lead us now?

This is where the rubber meets the road. It's easy to take out Andy Savage, or John Piper. Especially if you're not best friends with his kid and you and his wife aren't on a first name basis. Blasting either of them on the web for their moral failings doesn't cost you much. But commitment to truth, commitment to the fundamental right of victims to come forward and be heard cannot waver just because we personally know the accused. I have read Hybels' books. They're still on my shelves. His words have guided my spiritual journey. I have attended Willow Creek conferences. I would say God met me profoundly at one of them, ultimately setting me on a path toward freedom. None of that can change what needs to happen now. These allegations must be handled fairly and appropriately.

If our female leaders choose to stay silent now, if they don't insist, as they have every other time, in fairness, and truth telling, I fear they will have failed us. I sincerely hope they are brave in this moment, when it could cost them. I am praying they are. Please don't falter. We need your voices to still echo the same truth you've been telling us for years. If they do not choose to demand the truth now, if they do not support the victims now, we have every right to call them out on it. And we should.

For Shauna and her family I pray. Regardless of her father's behavior, she, her husband and children did not deserve this.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Manifesting is Crap. I already know I'm unpopular.

I just do not believe you can will life into being positive. These annoying notions of manifesting and declaring a word and your life this year will be… glorious, happy, joyful. It’s complete nonsense. It has never worked for anyone I know, ever.

Life exists one way for all of us: on its own terms.

There is no such thing as deciding how a year will unfold. There is only deciding how you will respond to the events that occur. And of course, it would be insane to decide to respond “joyfully” to all things.

What if your child falls ill, or you break a bone and are unable to work, or your favorite relative dies? You can not will yourself out of a cancer diagnosis. You do not decide if your company shuts down. Are you really expecting yourself to respond joyfully to those things? Isn’t that insanity? Or worse dissociation and delusion?

I’d rather live in the real world. Where I realize that life will be whatever the forces outside of me decide it will be. I am going to try to accept that I am not in charge of any of it. I am not all-powerful. I do not get to choose if my children are pleasant, or cross. I can’t decide if my husband’s work is happy, and plentiful, or difficult, and lacking. Therefore, I also don’t decide what mood he comes home in. I am barely in charge of my own course schedule. My body, I’m sort of in charge of it, in so far as I decide to move it for health, and feed it for health, or give it water, and sleep. But I’m not quite in charge of whether, or not my body decides to hurt, to let me sleep, and how it responds to my efforts.

As I have committed to my yoga journey this fall I’ve had to try to listen to my body for perhaps the first time. In the beginning, I didn’t understand why it didn’t immediately start improving in flexibility. After all, I was giving my body the necessary movement to improve. That’s when I was taught that yoga was about accepting what already is, not trying to change it. I have little tolerance for accepting deficiencies. I most always want to work on changing them, eliminating them, improving them. Accepting them feels like failure, resignation, giving up.

However, life is much the same. We can accept the things we are dealt or we can relentlessly struggle against them. The cards we are dealt: trauma, abuse, illness, premature death, divorce, rebellious children, financial lack, or higher education, professional opportunity, intact families, and financial excess, will not change. The only thing that does change is our response to them. Our unceasing struggle to plan ourselves out of danger, to work our loved ones into a secure, happy, insulated place is a palace in the sky, a fallacy. It cannot happen, it will not happen. No amount of expended energy will change this.

The best we can hope for, or work toward, is the acceptance of what is right this moment. We can be conduits of peace and love. We can be honorable, and take care of our responsibilities. But we will not change our stars, or fates. We will not add a day, or hour of life to anyone we know, not even ourselves. We can choose how pleasurable we are to be around for each of those hours. We can choose if we are real in our moments with others, or false, masked, distant. We can choose vulnerability, bravery, and freedom, or not. Those are our choices. What kind of year unfolds for us, that is not in our hands.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A new year. I have changed.

I struggle not with pretense but with living too honestly. If I do not like something you may not hear a loud protest, (although you may) I simply don’t/won’t participate. I do not live from a contrived place. Yet as I approach another new year, I find myself saying “I want to live more genuinely, honestly.” But, haven’t I already?

If it’s not honesty I’m lacking then what is it? I’m cold and stoic when I feel distant. I’m warm and gregarious when I am happy. I’m silent when I don’t feel like talking. And yet something about my way of living in this world still feels… false. Not fully me. The gurus and the spiritual guides say:

“Live closer to your center.”

“Be fully who you are.”

Meh. It’s not that which is lacking. If I get any closer to my center I’ll stop interacting with all humans. I am fully myself; I admit to donning the occasional mask in the name of self-preservation. There are still tender parts within me who need to be protected.

As I face this year wondering what the hell did I do with the last one, I ask what do I really want from it? This is a new page, new leaf. But really isn’t each day a new page, a new leaf. Nothing is all that special about this one if we’re truly rational about it.

What I want is all boring, typical mundane nonsense, financial stability and security, to buy our house, my kids, our kids, to be at peace and happy. Less tension in my home, and more laughter. To lose all the weight, for my body to hurt less and my garden to be prettier. To finally take a family vacation with all our kids. None of these things are accomplished by living closer to my center. Most of them happen through intentional living, self-sacrifice, paying the bills, less sleep, and more work, extra jobs, biting my tongue, and drinking more water.

What feels false about that?

As a teenager, I dreamed about what a different life I’d lead than my parents. I’d adopt kids from Africa, I would travel overseas, I would __________, whatever it was that they didn’t do. My notions of superiority and grandiosity were plentiful. Years ago, when I had the white-picket-fence-life I rejected it. I struggled against it, and longed for freedom. I didn’t want to live in the suburbs, be the mom with the over-sized, expensive house, and wayward husband. My lungs gasped for the air of freedom, my brain was so over being stifled and simplified at MOPS brunches. I felt suffocated at every turn.

Now, I find myself longing for simplicity. I want a house, and mortgage, a job, and a paycheck, a vacation annually to the Outer Banks and a sectional in our living room. A dining room table with our crazy divergent 5 children crowded around it. And I feel like a traitor to myself. How dare I?! What a terribly boring, normal existence. Who are you anymore, Shannon?

It’s as if my perspective aged without my permission. The free spirit whose wings beat against my chest, longing for flight for decades, sat down, and took a nap. She’s tired of the relentless struggle. And honestly, who can blame her?

I’m scared, if I’m honest. I don’t know who I am if I’m not fighting my way through life. Without having to constantly claw myself out of trouble, and insecurity. Without the fight. If I just sit down, what happens to the person I’ve always been? Will the fire die within me?

My soul longs for peace. I want to edit my book on a comfortable sectional with my boring black lab laying at my feet. The mind and soul are tired. Bring rest this new year, God. Bring us peace.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

On Our Wedding Day

Hey Babe,

You're well aware that I'm a wordsmith and given the contemplative nature of our wedding ceremony I had a couple of things I wanted to make sure I got to say.

The more I have thought about marriage and being married over the years the more I have realized marriage is among the most ordinary of things. Any trip to the grocery store with mild observation skills will lead to the conclusion that more people are married than not. Being unmarried after a certain age is more of a shock than being married. It's almost a presumed state. And does being married seem to have added value to the lives of those who have chosen it? Has it fundamentally changed how they are in this world for the better? Often times not. It is a neutral state of being: married. Normal, ordinary, and yet, if you ask anyone who knew me before you did, my love, you’ll hear that I was never getting married again. I had no desire to be normal among the masses. Furthermore, being a wife was not a status I wanted, it had been more prison for me than it had freedom and flourishing. I found the word married, the words wife and husband to hold such negativity that I couldn’t imagine ever wanting them to be attached to me again.

I can not tell you how much you have changed that for me. I was not expecting you babe. Nowhere in my consciousness was there any hope that someone like you existed for me. I have never met a man, or a person who was more fiercely committed to me being me. I have never been around anyone who rejected outright any facades I tried to give him, someone who was so committed to having, knowing, and being with the real Shannon. You push me hard in the direction of whole hearted living, the direction of my dreams, and I am in awe every time you do. You show up for me, the real me, when I’m a crying mess on the bathroom floor, and when I’m walking across a stage to receive another theology degree. You show up for my kids, you show up period. So yes, Dan Hall, I want to be your wife. And I believe that our marriage will be far from ordinary, this will not be a neutral state of being for us………
In you I have found the love of my life, and my closest, truest friend.

Monday, June 19, 2017

To the Fathers

To those who’ve lost their father and grieve today, I am with you.

To those who were never fathered, I am with you.

To those whose children lack a worthy father, I am with you.

To those trying step-father, I am with you.

To the fathers who’ve been rejected by their children, I am with you.

To the mothers who’ve been both mother and father, I am with you.

To the fathers who’ve buried their babies, I am with you.

To the fathers who do this parenting thing alone, I am with you.

To grandfathers who long to know their grandchildren and are denied that privilege, I am with you.

To the women preparing to walk down an aisle alone, I am with you.

To the adopted fathers who are on that beautiful hard path, I am with you.

To the children who were terribly abused by their fathers, I am with you.

To those fathers whose children have chosen a path filled with their own destruction, I have been there.

To the fathers battling addiction so they can be present to father, I am with you.

To the fathers consumed with thoughts of how they’ve screwed this fatherhood thing up, I am with you.

To the mothers who’ve never been fathered and don’t know how to let someone father their children, I am with you.

To the fathers-yet-to-be who long for children, I am with you.

To the exhausted, over-extended, struggling fathers, I am with you.

To the confused and broken fathers, I am with you.

To the fathers filled with joy, I am with you.

~ God