Goodbye, My Crazy, Dear Friend

Death has a way of teaching us how to live. It teaches us to lean in to love.

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Yesterday, we said, “goodbye” to our beloved dog of 14 years, Leroy. For those of you who knew Leroy, you know what I mean when I say he was dear, and he was crazy. On a sunny spring day in Huntington Beach, Caleb went to the animal shelter and picked-up a very handsome, and very rambunctious pup about 14 years ago. He felt like he had won a prize that day. And in a way he did. There was a waitlist for Leroy and Caleb was the lucky one to get the call. What Caleb didn’t know was that he was in for years of schooling. Lessons that only life can teach, such as how to not lose your shit when someone you love is losing theirs.

IMG_0043 (1)Caleb swears that having Leroy made him a better dad. When we buried him yesterday, Caleb thanked Leroy for being his “teacher of patience.” Luca looked up at Caleb and said softly, “Don’t worry Dad, I’ll be your new patience teacher now.” We both laughed and, of course, agreed.

For me, Leroy taught me also how to “hold on to myself,” a concept in psychology that IMG_0371
refers to the ability to stay grounded and stay true to yourself while in relationship with another. It’s incredibly difficult to do this and I’m still learning. But who would have thought that a dog could teach so much? Who would have thought that a dog who actually bit the ankle of our UPS man, snapped at anyone who seemed threatening on walks, and wailed like a walrus when a skateboarder rolled by- could teach us to love the parts of ourselves that seem unlovable.

And that was his greatest gift. Leroy taught us unconditional love. We worked hard to train him, to help him feel secure in his “place in the pack” (ode to Cesar Milan), and fought to give him grace when we were tempted to throw in the towel. We saw good in Leroy. And there really was a lot of good. We also knew that his less-than-desirable qualities were almost certainly remnants of trauma from his pre-Caleb life. He helped us to be better because he helped us remember that all of us have wounds and when we act in our own undesirable ways, we are acting from those wounded places. In this way Leroy taught us to love our family, our friends, our clients, our kids, and ultimately, ourselves on a deeper level than any philosopher or Bible scripture could conjure.

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Thank you God, for giving us time with Leroy. He was a beautiful soul and we are honored to have called him ours. Now he is yours and he is free.

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I Guess I’m a Dirty Christian

Image from Catholic.org “Christians shouldn’t be afraid to get their hands dirty to save others from sin”

There’s a movement flowing through Christianity at the moment. A movement that perhaps was sparked by thought leaders like Brennan Manning, Martin Luther King Jr, Henri Nouwen, Marianne Williamson and Shaine Claiborne. The movement was set ablaze after the election when so many Christians, like myself, found it inexplicable that the GOP could be so heavily endorsed by the Evangelical Church. We simply cannot understand how the teachings of Jesus who told us to care for the poor, welcome the refugee, and bless the sick, can be fulfilled through politically conservative policies. This has become about so much more than one or two issues (abortion and gay marriage, for example) this is about tone. It’s about underlying motivations for policies. The motivations feel very un-Christian to us. It feels like many Christians just want people to follow their rules instead of truly caring about the people involved. This has created a great deal of angst.

This angst has caused us to start asking… Where is Jesus in all of this?

We’re starting to ask questions about Biblical context.

We’re starting to broaden our views of what the term “pro-life” means.

Best of all, we’re starting to throw-off the facade that being a Christian means to have it all together.

Surely, we are re-defining Christianity. Many of my friends have said lately that they don’t even want to take on the label of “Christian” anymore because of the connotations that come with that. The vibe that comes with this label is one that feels self-serving, self-righteous, self-reliant. This feels so wrong compared to the tone of Jesus who displayed humility, sacrificial love, and deep dependence.

So what does this new wave of Christians look like? Well…

We may cuss. Continue reading

Dear Progressive Church,

*This was originally written in August 2016*

Dear Progressive Church, My Friends,

I can look you square in the face and tell you all of the reasons why we shouldn’t drive faster than the speed limit. I know it increases mortality rates. But yeah, I just got a speeding ticket for going 15 miles over the speed limit a couple of weeks ago so… So my point is, what I am about to write about isn’t something I’ve perfected. In fact, I think I’m actually pretty horrible at this and I want you to know I’m really not saying that to sound humble. But I’ve been feeling really convicted to write about it. This is one of those pieces that I just can’t shake. So here it is.

I avoided Christianity for years because I didn’t like Christians. They seriously annoyed the heck out of me. How can people be so exclusive? How can people be so judgmental? ESPECIALLY people who claim to follow Jesus, a man who radiated love and inclusiveness. A man who effortlessly loved the outcasts and the marginalized. The outcasts of our day, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, people of color, muslims, etc., are seeming to receive no such love from the church. How can a group of self-proclaimed Jesus followers be so hateful to those groups of people?? It makes my blood boil. I’ll stop there but let tell you, I could go on for paragraphs about this.

I don’t think I’m alone here. I’ve heard many of my progressive Christian friends and even pastors talk down about this group of people. We are harsh when we remind them that the only people Jesus was harsh to were the Pharisees. We rally ourselves around this and claim that we will not be like them.

Now, I’m going to write about the part I don’t want to write about. The part where I admit what is probably quite obvious to outsiders. Wait for it, it’s going to sting. Take a deep breath: We’re projecting.

The Pharisees were the judgmental, exclusive, rule-obsesesed religious folk of Jesus’ day. Somehow, this has given us license to exclude, judge, and maybe even hate the Pharisees of our day. This is not ok. We are doing to them, the same thing that they are doing to the “least of these.” My fellow liberal Christians, we have to figure out a way to extend love to this group and here are a couple of reasons why. Continue reading