Monday, March 31, 2014

I Grieve for my church with Joy

I Grieve for my church with Joy,

We strive to make life safer, easier, better.  In our drive to avoid pain & suffering we often miss something don’t we?  Our drive can lead to great science, invention inspiration and industry.  Our pain can lead us to revenge/retribution, violence, destruction & war.   Like our brothers & sisters in the creature world we are hard wired for flight or fight.  Healthy fear warns us of danger, enables us to protect ourselves gives us time to flee.  Healthy anger makes us strong, gives us courage and fortitude.  Anger & Fear gone wrong is everything that destroys ourselves, each other, and the environment we live.

So today I grieve.  I sit with a pain that is not my own, and that is.  I weep tears of sadness, loss and longing.  I see but through the fog, how free will, the ability to choose has lead to our very destruction.  Who is the I - the us?  Today I grieve for our church’s in whatever form they take – but in particular institutionalized bodies that call themselves Christian.  We forget the stories.  We forget the history.  We loose sight of the truth – the whole truth – not our particular version of the truth.  We react to our fear & anger that turns ugly on our person, on each other on the world.  We take a little bit of knowledge, immature emotions and turn it into fact, morality, law and to prove our points we beat the crap out of each other with judgment, rejection and condemnation.  An example is how we take the writings we call Holy or Sacred, and we pull out of context a character, idea, behavior and we use it to prove “our” own points, projecting our fear & anger outward judging ourselves & each other, condemning. 

In the beginning was “I AM.”  Not man, not creature, not element, not male or female, not religion, not nation.  Can I prove it?  No I can’t.  Can it be proven otherwise?  No it can’t be.  Even science, what we claim as empirical evidence is based on certain assumptions & principles, all of which in and of themselves cannot be “proven.”  Do I need to prove it – sometimes it feels like it – but every time I try to defend my religion – if I am being rigorously honest with myself – I am responding in fear creating barriers, putting up walls between me and the other – all out of fear losing something I value.  The story continues – out of nothing everything was created, out of the primordial ooze life breaths and I AM said it is good.

Then enters choice & will.  What is becomes what could be.  Enter temptation and knowledge.  Innocence is lost.  Curse & Blessing come to play and we begin to count.  Who’s in, who’s out?  What is mine, what is yours?  We measure, compare, judge and condemn.  Death comes in many forms.  And a pattern emerges and repeats.  We rise, corrupt, destroy, fall and rise.  Take the stories, Noah called to pilot a rescue boat to save a handful along with the creatures. Abraham promised a legacy which becomes tainted not in the who’s of who’s – but in his will to create that which was already promised.  Moses, taken out of slavery to free slaves only to be denied the promised land due to his will.   David, called from shepherd boy to King to coveting a woman not his own.  A nation a people lifted out of slavery to rule, only to fall again and again and finally to be scattered.  

And the pattern repeats, the Rise & Fall of Rome.  Nations are formed, rise and fall.  Continents divided.  State lines mapped.  Lines are drawn, we -they, us – them, mine - yours.  Jews - gentiles, christians - pagans, muslims - infedels, evangelicals – mainline, fundamentalist - progressive.  Walls are built for comfort, peace of mind, safely.  They divide and speak to who’s in and who’s out, who belongs who does not.  And we count, we tally the sins, the costs, the blessings the curses – we count, worry, fear, project, judge and build adding brick upon brick to the walls of division.  Temples and glorious houses of worship are built, torn down and built again.

The more is see the more I long to be blind again.  I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the connections that have lead to our fall.  I feel the burden of responsibility for my part in the unfolding drama.  I weep for the illness within that causes us to hurt ourselves, each other and creation.  I weep for the pain we cause each other by our inability to accept & embrace ourselves and each other as we are – as we were created – as I AM made it – “it is Good.”  I weep for the needless divisions we create out of our fear & anger.  I weep for the loss of the innocent.  I weep for the counting we do as we add to the cost or think we can save our buildings & social clubs by getting asses in pew with money for our dwindling treasuries.  I weep for those who are left in the cold, alone and abandoned by our failure to give freely the love we have been freely given.  I weep for the price WE have attached to the unconditional love & acceptance of I AM.  I weep for the destruction we cause to body, land, creature, earth and now even as we reach beyond to the stars.  We leave in our wake destruction, want and waist.  I watch and I wait and I weep.

From where will my help come?  Hope enters.  Promise is made in the rainbow, in the counting of stars & sand, in the burning of bushes, in the cry of the prophets, in the suffering of a man on a cross.  I AM who is was & will be shouts out in grief over the destruction and in his wrath cries out for love’s sake.  Entering our reality with the gentle, healing, nurturing power of love to make right what went wrong.  A seed germinates under the earth.  The earth aligns with the sun and is warmed as winter yields to spring.  A tree sprouts buds with the promise of life.  Mama Grizzly awakes in her den to playful innocents and she leads them out into the world.  The stone is rolled away from an empty tomb.  Easter is coming.  I remember what was.  I weep for what is.  I hope for what will be.  I take another step.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Welcome to the Party – it’s called Life!

I AM is your host.  Absolutely everyone is welcome - our host does not discriminate by age, race, nationality, class, gender, intelligence, orientation, skill level, body image, culture, fashion sense or any other division.  There is no cover charge, the bar is open, the food, ganja, and drinks are on the house.  We have some good shit, steaks, lobster, pizza, and for our vegan friends we have fruits, vegi’s, nuts & whole grain breads from around the world.  Oh, you got to try some of the deserts, chocolates, cakes, pies, candies.  We have the original horticulturist on staff, who along with those delightful fruits & vegi’s has provided for us the finest indica, sativa, and hybrid ganja.  We have oils, concentrates, smokables & eadables, along with everything you need to enjoy them.  We have a wide selection of beverages, the cleanest spring waters, milk, kool-aid, pop, wines, beers and liquors.  We have some kick-ass tunes.  The entertainment is the bomb, award wining celebrities, sports figures, gamers, and the DJ has a poppin selection that is sure to have you dancing.  So come on in, chill, get some refreshments, mingle, dance and enjoy.  We are here to get down with love, peace & joy.  We have only one request Love – receive the love, be loved, give love.

I AM is also your bouncer, so check yourself – love, peace & joy are not simple sentiment or feelings.  Love looks to the well being of the other above the self.  Peace requires stepping out of our history, biases and emotion to find commonality.  Joy is deeper than happy – one can discover Joy in the midst of suffering – it is found through knowing we are loved & no one and nothing can take that from us.

Let’s get it on!  DJ spin some vinyl. Hay – can someone pass me a pipe. Anyone up for a game of chess? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What’s in a Name?

What is your name?  What name is on your birth certificate?  What is its significance?  Has it been changed over the years?  My name has changed many times over the years.  Often I carry different names at the same time.  Some of those names legal, some in the form of a nick name or aliases, some are label’s others have given me.  A name/label holds within it ones identity.  Who am I in relation to those around me?  How am I experienced by others?  I may claim, wear or reject the claims of the designation.

My parents named me Jeana-marie Louise Johnson.  Each of these names is connected to their history, my heritage, these are the names of those who have gone before me.  The spelling of “Jeana,” is a weird thing my biological father had for wanting all his children’s names to start with a “J.”  So a compromise was made.  Johnson is a stolen name, an alias.  The family story is that great-grandfather (paternal) was on the lamb for murder in the mid-west.  He fled west to Arizona and started using Johnson, and married a Chiricahua Apache woman.  My great-grandmother’s name and heritage were almost completely annihilated from our family memory.  Grandfather was sent to a mission school, where he learned to hate and turned it inward, denying our history even to himself.
Over the years that name has taken many forms. From just Jeana, which was enough to get my attention, to mother’s call when I was in trouble “Jeana-marie Louise…!!”  You’ve heard that voice.  In school I was labeled, teacher’s would say she is quiet or shy, she doesn’t socialize with others.  Kids called me fat and stupid.  As an early teen I began to take on the persona of thug, bad girl, slut, bitch etc.  As I began healing and working my formal education the names that came included, lazy welfare bum, victim, lost soul, white trash, bitch, survivor, student, advocate, service provider, social worker, pastor.

Several years back, I went through another of those rough patches that life can throw at us.  One part of that mess was that my marriage came to an end.  My X had informed me many times over the years that if that happened that he wanted his name back.  At that point quite frankly I was happy to oblige.  Yet, after all I’d been through in my life, all the healing, success, failure I just could not wear the name of my birth.  My father was a violent and deviant sociopath.  I was not willing to claim any longer the inheritance he left in his wake.  Yet mother on the other hand, having had her own role in the story, takes up her part, owns her responsibility, has made possible healing through her active love along the way that has helped to make whole what was broken.  Then there are the stories through my Italian and German ancestors I am named after, which needed to be honored.  Therefore, I took the original spellings back, and went to my family elders for permission to take on the family name of Pezzi.  A formality perhaps, but I wanted to offer my respect for what that name is for them & their history, as well as claim my place within that family. 

I often hear the phrase, “let go of the past.”  This can be helpful in keeping us in the present and looking toward the future.  However, there is value in our history, even a history of violence, dysfunction and brokenness.  Robert McAfee Brown, in the preface of the 25th anniversary edition of Ellie Wiesel’s work, “Night” offers us insight.  Ellie Wiesel was a survivor of the death camps at Auschwitz and Buchwald, Rabbi, Professor and Nobel Peace Prize holder.  Brown writes:
“Among the few who survived the onslaught of that formidable shadow [of death] turned substance, was Elie Wiesel, whose deliverance condemned him to tell the story to an unbelieving and uncaring world.  But because of his telling,  many who did not believe have come to believe, and some who did not care have come to care.  He tells the story, out of infinite pain, partly to honor the dead, but also to warn the living – to warn the living that it could happen again and that it must never happen again.  Better that one heart be broken a thousand times in the retelling, he has decided, if it means that a thousand others hearts need not be broken at all.” 

Within the main-line church denominations we teach that our baptism is where God, names, identifies and claims us as one of God’s own, blessed, beloved child.  We are adopted into the family.  Because this is traditionally done early in life most can’t actually remember the event, even though we are reminded often to remember our baptism.  Within that memory, hold the name that identifies our heritage, who we are, who we are becoming, and who we belong too/with.  It is not a one-time event but an education and process we live into.  Attached to this naming is a responsibility to the community to teach, learn, nurture, grow, inspire and return, give back.  Again, it is not a one-time event, rather a process that is on-going.

In Mark’s gospel, is the story of an encounter which included labels, divisions, insults, name calling and claiming, teaching, healing and identity.  Jesus wants to get away from the crowds he needs some space.  He goes to a place he is not likely to be known or even noticed.  He goes to the hood.  You know that place where “those” people are.  He is not interested in connecting with them, just hiding from the “us.”  Then, if it don’t beat all, one of them finds him.  Now, this wasn't just one of them, it was a woman.  Law, culture, race, gender are all part of what would have prevented this encounter.  But this was no meek and mild woman – she was a mother – a mother with a desperately sick child.  She was one determined and tenacious spitfire.  She had heard rumors of a healer, so she sought him out and mustered up the courage to approach him.  Once found, she asks him to help her.  He has no reason whatsoever to care or want to help her.  He says to her, in effect, “Bitch you kidding me, what I do is for my kid’s.  I’m not giving you the bread from their table.”  Un-deterred she retorts, “even bitch’s get the scraps falling from the table.”  Having heard her plea, he relents, “Indeed, go home your daughter is healed.”
Rather than argue or deny her identified place in relation to Jesus, she embraces it, flips it, teaches him something new and ultimately accomplishes her objective.  

Many folks are confused, intrigued, offended and curious as to why or how I can call myself “Jesus’ Bitch.”  Technically the word bitch refers to a female dog.  We all know we have made it something else.  It is used today as an insult, an attitude, a term of endearment and even affection.  “Who the hell do you think you are bitch?” “Hey bitch, let’s hit the club.”  I have a history that includes a high-risk street life.  I have the playful loving heart, passion and tenacity of a bulldog, once I bite into something you’ll be hard pressed to un-clench these jaws.  Along with having an attitude throughout my life which moved from in your face defensiveness based out of insecurity - to a confident - I don’t really give a shit what you think about me - it then made since that this story was used as the passage at the center of my ordination.  As my very dear friend, mentor and pastor Doug Vold preached it:
We who know Jeana-marie are often inclined to think this story is about her. She has used that language. She could tell her story, if someone asked her to. And we are blown away by that story, to be honest. Those who know it more are the more deeply drawn into its drama and its wonders. It is a story, by the way, that includes an amazing and tangled history with God, full of sharp exchanges, and more than witty repartee. The Syrophoenecian woman could look tame by comparison!
But all that is to get the subject of this story wrong. It is not really a story about Jeana-marie. It just looks like it. And Jeana-marie is the first to say so. This is a story about God, and God’s grace. This is a story about God’s love that reaches farther and deeper than we can ever imagine. This is a story about God’s promise that crosses barriers of gender and culture and personal history and, at times, even outright rejection. This is a story about a gospel in which crumbs become feasts and the gift of acceptance and grace, itself, can draw us into a life, into a world, into a story that is bigger than we are. This ordination of Jeana-marie is a story of God, God’s grace, and how it hit its mark.”

So, I claim my name, with memory and with attitude. I am Jesus’ Bitch. I will wear it in faith, love and humility.  I ask for the faith and courage to live into it and share it. What is your Name? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ever ask yourself, "What can one person do?"

Perhaps you can relate – ever had what seemed like profound inspiration?  I hear something interesting, it gets processed through the filters in my brain – my memory, my history, my emotions – and bang a light goes on/off – whatever.  All of the sudden it makes since, and it weaves its way through me as I process, developing into what I think are great ideas.  However, unlike mathematics, A + B does not always = C.  Too often the ideas, although exciting, don’t turn to action/implementation/outcome. 

There are many reasons for that reality, lack of knowledge or know how, lack of resources, lack of energy, health issues, lack of time.  It soon becomes overwhelming, and I realize it’s too big an idea for one person.  Perhaps if I pass the idea on, someone will take it up – yea right as soon as pigs grow wings.  It doesn't take long before I've moved from all that is “lacking,” into the self-pity and blame game.  It starts with “I should do this…”“if only I could…” “why bother I’ll just screw it up…” “no one will listen…” “no one cares…” “why bother…” “Fuck it another one bites the dust…”

Then I add it to my list of failures.  So how can one break the pattern?  And don’t say, “think or be positive.”  (ok you can say it but…)  The next person to tell me to be positive better be out of foot range, cause my foot will likely find its way to their ass.  Think Positive implies that if I think happy thoughts somehow shit will magically come to pass.  Sorry folks life just isn’t that easy.  And yes I often wish it were.  It takes a bit of effort and personal responsibility.  Don’t get me wrong, positive can be a good thing, but not a magic pill.

We, that is the church (I don’t care which version/denomination/non-denomination) have been complicit it promoting this magical thinking.  We say things like, “Pray for it, believing and it will happen.”  This notion implies that when it doesn’t happen, it’s because I didn’t believe enough.  Or we will say something like, “sometimes God’s answer is no” or “you didn’t ask for the right thing or in the right way somehow.”  So, we are left with believing that God is an evil magician, or somehow something within me has the ability to make God do God’s magic.
It’s not that there isn’t truth in those statements, simply that it isn’t magic.  The truth is revealed within/amongst those thoughts.  Positive thinking can keep us open to the possibilities.  Prayer allows us the opportunity to vocalize – internally & externally –and meditate on our thoughts, fears & hopes.  Hope can feed our positive thinking.  But the truth is much simpler & much bigger.  The truth is that on our own we can’t do much of anything.  As infants & children, someone or a number of people, have to care for us and teach us how to do the most basic of things.  Our relationships with one another become influential.  Our biology becomes a factor.  Our community and how we see ourselves within it or outside of it, becomes a factor.  Society and environment become influential.  It’s not that God couldn’t choose to act in such a dramatic and magical way, rather that God has chosen to utilize what already is.

As a person of faith, I make certain assumption about the “natural order” of things – I do the same when thinking scientifically, we refer to what we call “natural laws/principles.”  Those assumptions, are based on our observations filtered through our history, personality, experiences, education etc.  One assumption I’ve come to claim is that I do not have the power to change one element into another, nor do I have power over others, sometimes I don’t even have the power to get my ass out of bed in the morning.  My second assumption is that something, some force, some process has/had the power of creation – the ability to make something out of nothing.  I call that power God.

There is a story in our sacred writings,  which speaks of Jesus being “tempted.”  The first temptation says in effect “If you are of God, you could transform a rock into a loaf of bread.”  The temptation is not one of simple hunger rather it is one of identity and power.   Jesus response is to claim his identity.  Just before this scene God speaks to identify Jesus as his “beloved son.”  Claiming his identity in relationship to his Dad, Jesus chooses to also let what was created be what it was meant to be, as Dad intended.  Can anyone say, “Respect!” 

Next the tempter/antagonist/accuser takes Jesus to the center of community life – the biggest stage around.  Lights, camera action – the spotlight shines – “throw yourself down, Dad’s got ya covered – he will send out the rescue squad and they will catch you before you hit the dirt – and everyone will see how awesome you are.”  Become a celebrity and the world will follow you.  I mean get real, how exciting is it to feel admired, appreciated, lifted up, paid, followed.  Glory is very tempting.  And again, with glory can come power.  Jesus response is one of what we call obedience, not in the since of blindly following another’s will, rather of trusting that the one in charge has put together an effective & working plan.  Jesus is already at the heart of the plan, so he chooses to stay the course, even through all the injustice, suffering, pain, grief and death – trusting by faith – Dad has it covered.  We can call that one, "humility."

Now we come to the final challenge.  So Jesus is taken to the highest place available in order to get a good look at the world and all the nations.  “I will let you conquer & take power over all these nations.  All you have to do is give me the glory and your allegiance.”  If Jesus won’t use power to change the natural order, and he won’t use glory to gain the power of celebrity, perhaps the power-over or use of force will work.  As the Genie in the movie Disney's Aladan stated, "Hail the conquering hero."  Jesus response, “pay attention I’m not interested in using power in such a way.  Get lost!” Jesus chooses the way of "Peace."

Throughout the rest of his life & ministry, Jesus uses not power over, but the power found in/through/amongst relationships.  The first relationship is with Dad.  Knowing & trusting the love of his parents he understands his role & place within the family dynamics.  The second relationship is with others, he walks from place to place encountering one person or small groups of folks at a time.  In the gospel according to Matthew, he uses ordinary things to make happen the miraculous.  He touches, he speaks, he takes dirt & water to make mud packs to cure blindness, he takes a few fish & some bread and starts passing it around, soon everyone has shared what they have and there is plenty with enough to spare.  The third relationship is with society and its clashing culture, politics, economic, and structures/institutions.  He chooses the way of peace rather than force.  He chooses to be his human self rather than taking away human free will.  He chooses to love.

Jesus is able to love because he knows/is love.  He knows the love of God.  He lives that love in and through each encounter as he journeys.  He pours himself out for loves sake, allowing us to be who we are, and to freely choose.  As he loves, he teaches/reveals how it happens.  It happens in such a way that as we are loved we become loving.  It is not law in the way we tend to think - as in the movie Dogma (one of my favorites) “Do it or I’ll spank you…” or perhaps as stated in Bruce Almighty "Oh smite me mighty smighter..."rather our love becomes a natural response and in living into it we get better at it, we become lovers, we are loved again and can love again.

So how is that translated into where I started?  Well, in spite of my history or perhaps because of it: I’ve known love.  I’ve got some street smarts.   I have learned & grown.  I acquired an education.  I developed my gifts & skills.  I became self-aware in such a way as to become aware of those around me, their lives, experiences, needs, desires, and hopes.  Yet it is process and the pattern is not linear – more circular and paradoxical in nature.  Sometimes I fail and my failure becomes what was needed.  Sometimes I succeed and that success was tainted.  The point is that through the power of love I’m able to recognize most of my limits as well as my gifts & skill sets.  Through the power of love, I’m able to care for those closest to me.  Through the power of love, I’m able to take one small step at a time to be loving in the wider communities I’m a part of, which filters into the wider society and culture, world.  I can’t change the world, but I don’t have to.  I can take action, one step at a time – but I have to choose to take the step, then the next and so on.  I can use the voice I’ve been given.  With, in, through, because of the power of Love, so can you.

Peace be with you

(As a note & example – some of my reflections today were directly inspired by the preaching of my friend & colleague Rev. Mike Keys)   

Saturday, March 8, 2014

New Ventures

In recent months I have been inspired to actively engage/pursue what seems like many activities at once.  However, having come to a time in my life that my spirit, brain & heart have been jumped into high gear – yet my body, responsibilities & circumstances can’t always keep up.  So I’m attempting here to “kill a number of bird” with the same stone.
I have a history - a story - a number of life experiences reflecting a broad range of realities from profoundly destructive to radically healing – I am deeply emotional, yet understand emotions pass as easily as gas – I am intelligent with an extensive education, although I don’t play academic well – I can be an opinionated mouthy bitch yet don’t insist my beliefs/values/opinions ought to be yours - I am at once wounded and healed.  Some might say I was very orthodox (conservative) in my theology (the words we use to talk about the sacred) – that orthodoxy is reflected in radical grace – politically I could be viewed as socialist – practically I have a broad range of likes and dislikes – all reflect my faith & values.  To know that just check out my Facebook page under Ginamarie Pezzi – most of it is available for public viewing – I am dangerously forthright.
This reality calls me to a place of public responsibility – I believe we are all responsible for our own lives, feelings & actions AND that we must learn/teach how to take up that responsibility – it is a process not a complete work.  I am one voice of many – yet called/driven/inspired to speak.  You may or may not choose to listen, understand and/or agree.  I encourage questions and openness to the possibilities found in life’s journey.  Yes I am passionate and bold – don’t mistake that passion for expectation – desire/hope yes – I live in reality with a great deal of faith and hope – for myself, my family, the communities I’m a part of, our society, this world – all people’s, creatures  & the environment.
I am free to be AND freed to be for – as Martin Luther stated, “I am the perfectly free lord of all subject to none; I am the perfectly dutiful servant of all subject to all.”
Therefore, as a place to begin this blog is an attempt to bring together the observations, thoughts, feelings, inspirations and opinions which percolate from my daily encounters in my life and ministry.  This includes but is not limited to – my vocational endeavors as a “street” pastor; a truth speaker (some might call prophetic voice) for the religious & civic structures (we are all a part of) which have lost their way – speaking for active love, freedom, justice and mercy; a book I’m writing; along with the economics of developing the resources to support my work in line with my faith and values.
So I strongly encourage comments, questions, challenges, opinions, feedback and prayers (however you pray).  So let’s talk, share, argue, inspire, encourage, laugh and celebrate!

Peace be with you…