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AN ATHEIST & A CHRISTIAN WALK INTO A BAR…

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ACTUALLY, it was a social work classroom. She had a shaved head and I had some sort of pixie cut, and we slowly began sitting together, working together, answering questions in class, passionate about the people and stories we studied.

After a few years of being in the social work program together, we knew that we were called to the same spaces, in the same ways, to care for those that have been broken and abused, to take up the cause of the weary.

We sat through lectures on LGBTQ rights, even in my naivety of knowing nothing about sexual orientation; we worked on projects together, talked about family and communities and how to make them better. She was patient with me as I fell out of my conservative bubble, and as I learned, we learned together.

She was a friend who celebrated my first pregnancy with me, expectantly waited for my first little boy to enter into our world.

We were a part of each other’s realms in so many ways, and yet, we were different.

She calls herself an atheist, and I call myself a Christ-follower. She may say I’m kind, and I might say I see Jesus in the passionate things she says & does.

These days, our dividing lines keep us from understanding that there is a thread of humanity that holds us– it’s a sacred thread, and because we belong to each other, we belong to the great conversation, based on care and compassion and justice.

When I was pregnant with my second son a few years later, we’d swapped places. I had a buzzed head and she had the full locks. Somehow, we’d meshed into each other, and learned in the midst of it that there are spaces in humanity, in friendships, that hold us steadily in line with each other.

Pelagius said it like this:

There are some who call themselves Christian, and who attend worship regularly, yet perform no Christian actions in their daily lives. There are others who do not call themselves Christian, and who never attend worship, yet perform many Christian actions in their daily lives. Which of these two groups are the better disciples of Christ? Some would say that believing in Christ and worshipping him is what matters for salvation. But this is not what Jesus himself said. His teaching was almost entirely concerned with action, and with the motives that inspire action. He affirmed goodness of behavior in whoever he found, whether the person was a Jew or Roman, male or female. And he condemned those who kept all the religious requirements, yet were greedy and cruel. Jesus does not invite people to become his disciples for his own benefit, but to teach and guide them in the ways of goodness. And if a person can walk along that way without ever knowing the earthly Jesus, then we may say that he [she] is following the spirit of Christ in his [her] heart.

 

It is a dangerous space we inhabit in today’s America. We are polarized and splintered, and it is more unbearable than I’d ever imagined.

But this story, it is not just about the Christian and the atheist. It’s not about the bar or social work classroom where they sit down next to each other and talk.

It’s about the people who know these two together, the onlookers and the bystanders. It’s about recognizing the organic relationship between people that leads to a life centered around care and justice for anyone who is marginalized.

Do you know why my relationship with my dear friend is so important to me?

Because it happens outside the walls of the church. We meet at a coffee shop on a warm afternoon, and we look at each other and cry with each other and know that on either side of salvation, we are working ourselves to the bone to love and care for whoever is around us.

And Jesus is in those spaces for me.

And humanity is in those spaces for us.

We remember again that we are not alone.

So what the world needs now is for dividing lines to be seen but stepped over, to be recognized but not given power, so that on either side of everything, we understand who we are to be–

people to other people;

friends to enemies;

lovers in the midst of hate;

warriors of peace;

creators of resistance;

lifelong learners;

prophets who speak truth;

creatures longing to be whole.

An atheist and a Christian walk into a bar–

or a social work classroom–

or a community event–

or a synagogue–

or a protest rally–

or a home–

and what they create together makes this reality sure:

that the world is never the same again.

DEAR PRESIDENT TRUMP: a promise for your coming inauguration & presidency

 

Dear President Trump,

As a new era begins in your life, so it begins in mine. About a year and a half ago, I began culturally engaging my Potawatomi Citizen Band/Chickasaw/Cherokee heritage along with my husband and two sons.

It has transformed my life in every way, coming back to something inside of me that has asked to be paid attention to. In a way, I’ve promised myself that I’ll never be the same again, never go back to “before.”

And so it is with you. Today you begin a new life as our president, and you cannot go back even one day. You take the past that has made you and move forward with it, with a steady promise to our nation and world that you’ll justly care for it.

But I’ve got another promise to make to you.

As a child, I wrote President Clinton a letter. I’ve written to President Obama numerous times as an adult, and my five-year-old son has written to him as well. We’re told to write to our leaders, to let them know that we see them, hear them, hold them up to the light.

So I’ll be writing to you, President Trump.

Weekly, you’ll receive a letter from me.

I’ll update you on the education of my two boys; I’ll describe our life to you so you can understand what it’s like to live in our space.

I’ll tell you that I pray for you, and I’ll ask you to make better decisions if I see something wrong.

Justice is a beautiful thing, because it holds us– not the other way around. So I’ll write to you my own thoughts on justice, this nation, my perspective as a lower-class native american work-from-home mother and writer.

I promise to write to you as a Christ-follower, to check my own heart against political views, and I promise to write to you on the premise of grace.

As our President, you’ll know me. You’ll know my handwriting and my voice, my distant presence at your office door every week when the time comes.

If you’d like to think of it this way, I will haunt you, a less-knowing reminder than the good spirits who visited Ebenezer Scrooge throughout the night to remind him of who he was meant to be.

I promise to be your reminder, President Trump, to send my voice to your door, to show you our world so that every day of your presidency you cannot truthfully say that you didn’t know.

This is my promise to you.

Welcome to the Presidency.

With watching eyes & steady hand,

 

Kaitlin Curtice

Shalom: her magnetic heart

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You and I are “other” to each other,
foreign creatures,
locked in our independent skin.

You and I, we’re unnerved
when we’re together,
we’re fractured, disconnected,
thin as moth-wing.

And yet, the same stuff
that tears us from each other
gravitates us to each other,
and all along,
the earth keeps spinning
to help us shake the
regret-dust from
our shoulders.

I cannot assume you,
and you cannot assume me.

And yet, we began in the same
womb of thought,
the same dream of beginning.

We started and we will end,
and in between we can
detonate bombs
or
unmake them;

We can tighten the noose
or
make climbing ropes;

We can pull triggers
or
bury our weapons
beneath the trees
in our city parks
and let our
oneness
grow out of their
metal mouths.

You and I are “other” to each other,
but desperate enough to invade
these spaces–

desperate enough to fill up the
missing places,

patch up the broken links,

re-engage where we’ve
abandoned.

Shalom– She is a sacred word,
an everlasting act.

Shalom– She is an enduring
vision on the
darkest night,

and that magnet-force that keeps
fighting against our
pulling
and
tugging,
because she puts us
always back
where we were before–

hand in hand by the fire.

Shalom– She knows us better.

Shalom– She binds together the
blistered souls,

and we quiet ourselves,

eyes locked,

all “otherness” dissipated
in a stream of
perfect light.

An Open Letter to Donald Trump: the day after the election

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Dear President-Elect:

This morning, I lay in bed beside my three year old as my husband explained to my five year old in the next room that you will be our next president.

Our oldest son has watched you closely these past months. He has called you a bully, a man with a hateful attitude.

But here we are, and congratulations to you.

Please know that a fire has been lit.

It has been lit by children who refuse to be bullied and parents who want to see a healthy world for their little ones, a world where minorities and females and the poor can also rise to the leadership positions and change things.

I am a worship leader at an LGBT-affirming church; I am a Native American; I am an author, a homeschooling mother, a wife of a PhD student.

And a fire has been lit in me.

This morning I lay with my oldest son in my bed. We cuddled before we started the day and I reminded him of the power of a phone call.

We’ve called Obama a few times these last few weeks to ask him to stop the pipeline in North Dakota, and my boy’s voice was recorded and his words sent on to a listening president.

Now I’m asking you to be that listening ear in the coming years, because Mr. Trump, if things go awry, he will be calling you.

And if things are all as they should be, he will still be calling, because he is a citizen of a country that is held steady by its future– the children.

Mr. Trump, listen to the children.

Start now.

And know that we will be praying for you.

We will be praying that every morning when you rise from your bed and every night when you go to sleep and all the moments in between, you’ll be seeking shalom in your leadership.

I don’t want to see you at my church, or at a pulpit with a bible in your hand. I don’t want to hear you proclaiming God’s good will in sending you to our great nation as a prophet-leader.

I want to see you doing the things that Jesus did.

Eating with the outcast.

Caring for the poor, widowed, orphaned.

Embracing all the other.

Creating equal rights.

Becoming a peacemaker.

Mr. Trump, that fire was lit under Jesus, too.

It’s a fire of justice, grace, and Kingdom, and I’m praying you find it in your early days of leadership and carry it as a humble torch through the next four years.

And please remember who’s watching.

And keep your phone line open.

 

Sincerely,

A citizen who stands for many of things you’ve spoken against.

One of The Church’s Greatest Mistakes: to those for whom there is no room

There’s a story about a laboring woman and the baby inside of her, a story about how far they journeyed together to find a safe place to rest, a suitable place for a birth.

They travelled and travelled and finally the innkeeper said to them, “Sorry, no room,” and they found their way alone.

And today, a lot of people– a lot of churches, a lot of Christians– have taken up the mantle of telling the “other” the same thing.

No room, no room.

No room for the woman who seems impoverished, waiting for her daughter in the church building;

No room for the socially awkward or outcast to find community;

No room for those who have made mistakes and wish to be redeemed;

No room for the Native Americans to keep their own land and find God in it;

No room for the women to lead;

No room for the curious, for the people who ask questions and admit that they seek God outside the church walls;

No room for the children to be children, their little voices heard and considered.

No room. 

And as the privileged voices become louder and the marginalized become quieter, they say, “Speak up, we can’t hear you….No room, no room inside of me for you.”

Maybe those marginalized voices have been speaking, reaching, trying to break glass ceilings and enter the in-crowd for decades.

But still, no room.

And Jesus said, “Those who have hears, let them hear…”

But maybe today He says, “Those who have always had ears and means but haven’t really been listening to anyone but their own…close your mouths for a second.”

And then He looks us in the eyes and says, “Because someone told my mama once, ‘no room, ma’am,’ and she birthed me in a cave.”

And so today, new voices shout from the street corners and church parking lots, “No room! No room for displacement, prejudice, hatred.

No room for xenophobic social circles and secret gossip clubs.

There is no room for the one-person agenda,

No room for the top-down scheme.”

And with every breath of Kingdom, that man who was born in a cave says, “Room…there is room at this table and plenty to eat…

…Come with your questions and let us journey together. Let us make room.

And there, the new church is born.

 

Hallelujah and Amen.

At The End of a Long Week: a Friday Prayer

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All I can say at the end of a long week is that I hope Your will was done.

I hope good came from bad,

holy from evil,

life from brokenness.

I hope somewhere that someone felt the sunlight sink deep into their bones,

that those same rays of sun bolted back out of them

and blessed their every neighbor.

I hope that when Kingdom came this week,

someone was paying attention,

someone engaged with their humanity

and Your perfection.

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It’s the end of a long week,

and I hope that we’re learning to rest better by now.

I hope our deep breaths are deeper

and our hunched shoulders are lowered

and our voices are less strained.

I hope we fill the spaces of the coming weekend

with that kind of Sabbath rest that only Kingdom

can teach us.

All I can say at the end of a long week is

Kingdom, come.

I hope that even where I feel empty, I am full;

I hope that where I feel full, I will be emptied back out;

and I hope all things will be leveled and brought to a good kind of justice,

because at the end of a long week,

the world is both terribly frightening

and

breath-takingly beautiful.

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At the end of a long week,

I hope that our daily bread was given,

that our debts were shackled off of us,

and that our hearts of stone were broken to meet the work of forgiveness.

At the end of a long week,

I hope that we stepped out of our realm and

into Yours,

and realized that they aren’t so far apart after all.

 

So at the end of a long week, I keep praying to the King of Tenderness:

God to enfold me,                                                                                                                                             

God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.

God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.

God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul,
God in mine eternity.

–Ancient Celtic Prayer, The Carmina Gadelica 

Amen.

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We sit together, one, together,

pressed into green chairs, shoulder to shoulder

with the glory and remembrance of sainthood carved into our hearts,

with cake on our laps and coffee steaming the air between.

We, the broken and undone,

We, the cherished and welcomed in.

We, the family.

And we bring to this windowed room our

thunderous laughter and our stone-heavy tears,

and we pour forth the nectar of our opened hearts and stilled souls.

And we speak of quiet Spirit and of leading Voice,

when it booms in our deepest places.

And I see that our shoes are all tied to our feet,

each of us in our shoes that have journeyed each single journey

to come here, to this mecca of community.

And we open our Book, whose pages

cover us and count us,

words that gather us in.

And it’s an hour, but our time here is forever,

for the Kingdom We Seek is not bound by time or secured by

our fingertips.

No.

It weaves itself through and between us, sewing us into

a tapestry meant for the world.

Hem us in, hem us in.

And we run to You in the beginning, each of us both prodigal son and brother of pride

embodied.

We come to You,

and gathered up in Your embraces,

we leave with the joy of sainthood sheltering us,

All is well, all is well.

 

Amen.

 

 

The Pursuit of Seeing

There is seeing, and there is seeing.

Ann Voskamp mentions it in her book, One Thousand Gifts, and last summer when I read it, I felt like she put words to what I’d been trying to do for the past year or so.

There is a way to knowingly step outside ourselves and look around us– to see our family, our friends, our community– there’s a way to take all of that in as a gift.

I’ve written about it here before, when I’ve needed to stop and step back to see my boys and my husband. Even to see my God.

Maybe that’s what the Holy Spirit gives that is so valuable– a new way of seeing and beholding, a new way of being.

This morning I chopped onions and minced garlic and poured olive oil. I sprinkled cumin and dashed salt, I cracked pepper and rinsed beans and spooned rice.

And for a second I thought, All this work for a 20 minute lunch? What’s the point?

And then the Solomon inside of me gave way to something stronger, and I thought about how God must delight in the way we delight– that He must take joy in our cooking and in our eating, in our experiencing and in our seeing.

And if God can see that as precious, me standing in my sweatpants, making a mess of my kitchen so our family can eat– if He can cherish that, I should, too.

This next season is going to be hard, and I admit, I’m scared. I’m scared of not communicating enough, of not listening enough or not sharing enough. I’m scared of losing my own space, afraid that selfishness will strangle my joy.

So for the next 5 years (and then some), I need to stop and see.

 

Uganda 1.8

Photo by Travis Curtice

How does the blind man see? I would argue he sees with his whole being. He sees with his hands, his ears, his footsteps; he sees with his breath and his heart.

He sees with all that he is, all that is around him.

I’d like to see that way.

The Pursuit of Seeing is the pursuit of life, slowed-down.

If you’re part of the online mommy world, or even the minimalist realm, you’ll hear about it plenty: the push to slow down, the importance of simplifying and stopping and treasuring.

But can we stop reading about how to, and actually do it?

Dive in, be blind, experience your life with your whole being. Let it sink in.

This is a place of STORIES, and today my story was about smelling simmering veggies and cumin. It was about eating with my house full of men and recognizing– seeing –that it’s beautiful to share my table with them.

What do you see?

If you blog, join me in the journey– write your story, your pursuit, and post it in the comments section.

If you don’t blog…join us anyway. Let us know what you see.

We’ll be focusing on seeing monthly.

If you need a little nudge, choose your definition of seeing. Choose how you want to look:

–to come to know

–to perceive the importance of

–to care for

–to notice someone

–to become aware

–to imagine as possibility

Annie Dillard says it like this:

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf.

We must somehow take in a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here.

Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.”

Annie saw something in the creek bed, and she chose not to close her eyes.

Friends, let us open our eyes and see, that we may journey together in the adventurous pursuit of life sweetly lived.

 

Let Loose and Dance, Mom

You can be sure that in this house, when mom’s stressed, everyone else is, too. Paper’s due tomorrow, the dishes are piled high, and there’s not enough coffee to fill my thirsty throat. I still can’t find the right person to interview for that project, and Charlie is getting his brown doggy hair all over the kitchen floor.

Travis makes me laugh and exaggerates my sour attitude with sarcasm.

Eliot whines more because, well, that’s what mom’s doing.

So this afternoon, we just need to dance.

Travis is gone to fill his students’ heads with wonderful things, empowering them to change the world. (I really love him.) Eliot’s eating blueberries and a “baked organic cheese & grain snack” that’s got him smiling.

So we turn on Pandora. First, the Lecrae station. A little headbanging and jiving, and we’re done.

Next, Gotye– that’s better. Now he’s hiding behind the curtain and laughing. Eating his puff off the floor and wiggling his little legs, clapping all the time.

The party’s just not quite right without his new dog– the plastic one that scoots and barks at him. We invite him into the kitchen, and Eliot’s in bear crawl position, bouncing his booty up and down.

I dance while I put away the dishes, he dances while he bangs on the refrigerator. Now it’s “Lights” by Ellie Goulding. Hands in the air. Celebrate something. Howl like the dogs do. It will make it more fun. And feel every beat.

We keep jamming. I can’t wash the dishes because I got a spray tan this afternoon (go ahead and laugh), but I can clean while I dance. Cleaning is sort of my hobby, my de-stresser. I wonder if Eliot will pick up the habit.

He watches me, wants to know when I’m smiling, when I’m glaring, frowning, worried and stuck in my own head and circumstance. I smile, he smiles. I dance, he dances, and the world appears right. It’s a piece of God in the brokenness, and it’s what I need. What we’ve always needed.

Maybe when he’s 11 he will pick up my habit of worry. He will be up until 12 trying to write a paper that he knows he will get an “A” on. I will teach him the lessons I’m still trying to learn at age 24 now, at age 35 then. But right now, the lesson for both of us is simple.

Let loose and dance.