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Archive for the ‘embodied love’ Category

Way Opens

Today I am thinking about the many gifts and dreams I don’t want to die inside me before I die. I am thinking about poetry and preaching, consulting and team building, I am thinking about dancing and laughing well into the night. I am thinking about love. And lovers.

Life isn’t a straight line. I don’t know where I heard that phrase first. But my own history tells me it’s so. Sitting here staring at the approaching end of 2012 (where did the YEAR GO???), I am struck by the constant yearning in my own heart not to waste time, to be useful on the planet. I want my life to have counted for good. To have changed and grown more and more in love. I want to be Love in the earth. To leave Love as a legacy. I want Love to be ablaze on my face and afire in my body. And for everyone I encounter to know that she or he has encountered love, a kind of god-with-skin-on encounter.

And so I am attuning my heart to the way/s in which the doors to yearnings fulfilled are opened/opening. And I am leaning into the acting toward all the possibilities of passionate living. The Quakers say that the way one knows that Way Opens is that Way Closes. That is, doors shut in and around us and we begin to look for New Ways and New Possibilities. That”s where I am today…. leaning into Way Opens and I hear the shutting of old and creaking doors.


Violence-Free Parenting: (NOT an oxymoron III) Emotions are Human and so are Hormones

“We hate children.” ~ My pastor as we were talking about the comments people were making on Facebook about punishment (not discipline)

“STOP Crying!”

“I’m going to give you something to cry about!”

My older son came in from school one day very angry and slamming doors. I was in the kitchen and heard the huffing and puffing and the slamming and rushed in to the living room. “What is WRONG with you!???” I demanded. “You better STOP slamming my doors, boy!” He looked me in my face and through his clenched teeth with a ferocity he said, “Mama, teenagers have bad days, too!” I softened my face and put my arms to my side. He was heaving. I didn’t really know what was going on and I had charged him without any concern for him, but for the door and for my own peace of mind. “You’re right son. You’re right.” We stood there and I waited for my words to soak in. He started sobbing. I reached for him and he came to me and let me hold him. He wasn’t ready to tell me what had happened. But he was ready to let me comfort him. When he calmed down, I said: “You’re right. We all have bad days. I”m sorry you’re having one. If you want to talk about it, let me know. But you can’t slam doors.” With that he went to his room with his own emotions, free to share them or not.

We reminded ourselves and our children that it’s okay to have emotions. We have tear ducts for a reason. We get disappointed, frustrated, angry. None of these emotions is sin. They are human. And my husband and I had to remember that preteens and teens have the added rush of hormones coursing through their young bodies, with changes rapidly happening that they neither understand nor could control. Add a menopausal woman to that mix and the interactions could be volatile. Unless. Unless we allow each other to be human. Unless we are kind and tenderhearted toward one another. Unless we refuse to keep a record of wrongs.

But expecting our children to “grin and bear it” when privileges are withdrawn, restrictions are imposed, or when we refuse a request is not fair. As adults, we don’t expect ourselves not to feel disappointment, grief, sadness, or anger. We learn to govern our emotions, not deny them.

This particular son had emotional outbursts often before this moment, or as he came to say, “anger issues.” I taught him a proverb (Proverbs 16:32) when he was very young. That text reads,” One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.” I told him that if he learned to manage his emotions it would make him a mighty man. It became our touchstone when he was out of control. And he disciplined himself with it even now. But my discipline that day was to re-train myself as to how to react to human BEING. He needed to emote. He didn’t need to slam the door. But if I had focused only on that door, I would have unnecessarily provoked more frustration and anger. Instead I nurtured him and made space for him to bring his full self into that room. I admonished him not to destroy anything in the process (thus the “don’t slam doors”). Both were warranted.

We were NOT perfect parents. We prayed often and repented as much. We didn’t get it right all the time. But I had a delightful conversation with my now 32-year-old son about parenting: mine, his dad’s, his… And the fact that we managed to live into our commitment to violence-free parenting. He said the whippings he can count on ONE hand (without using all the fingers) he absolutely deserved. I argued that he did not; that we could have found other ways for consequences to be in play. But to hear him talk about discipline (not punishment) and the fact that he NEVER (his word) felt we were being punitive in any correction he received blessed me beyond measure.

We were committed to treating our children with respect and dignity. After reading all the horrific comments on Facebook and twitter advocating for brutal and violent parenting euphemized as “spanking,” I had to reflect on key moments rearing my children. I’ll keep posting about it until I’m done. I will post some Epic Fails as well. But I start here. Because I can’t believe how cruel we are to our own children–in the name of love.

Violence-Free Parenting (NOT an oxymoron II): We do not own our Children

“I worry about us. We treat children with such disdain. We hate children.” ~ My pastor when we were discussing the Creflo Dollar episode

Sweet Honey in the Rock put to song the poem by Lebanese poet/prophet Khalil Gibran. “Your children are not your children.” These words no doubt make some people bristle as we really believe that we “own” our children, like slavers “owned” slaves.

Rearing children is daunting. I often said to my sons: “You have the seed of a man in you, but you’re not yet a man. I’m trying to rear boys into men that I’d be glad to be friends with were I to meet you in your grown self.” Most days I think we pulled that off. My daughters-in-love think so most days as each have thanked us for the men we reared. I remember a conversation between my older son and me. I was lamenting that neither of them had, as yet, finished a college degree. He begin to recount who they were in their character: men of integrity who respected women and children and loved God. “Mom,” he said, “you didn’t get it how you wanted it, but you got what you wanted in grown men.” I had to stop crying. And I had to remind myself that they made their own choices and would have to live their lives. They do. Not perfectly at all. They’ve had their struggles.

That is the way growing up can be. Full of struggles. But as parents we sought to give them tools to handle life–tools suited for their individual lives. My mother taught me that “train up a children in the way he or she should go” means exactly that: each child has her or his own path. You can’t treat all your children “exactly the same” as people often argue. The parent’s role is to be discerning and try to bend each child in her or his own direction. Sometimes we pull it off. Sometimes not. But as my ethics professor said to us: parents should take neither too much credit nor too much blame for how their children turn out, for good or ill. They are their own persons. We can “screw” a child up and they can become phenomenal in spite of us. Or we can give them all the loving boundary-laden discipline with a home full of laughter and joy and they can choose a deleterious life.

One of the things we gave our children was the right to speak their own mind at a very early age. You can say anything you want to say to me as long as you are respectful, we said. Ouch! They sometimes told us about our selves. And MOST of the time–they were right. Once we went out to dinner at a swank (enough) restaurant to honor an award my younger son had received. Something happened in the car that ticked me off. I began a tirade at the table that was, in fact, ruining the celebrative mood. My older son looked at me and said, “Mom. You’re out of control and what you’re saying is way over the top.” He said it in a low (and I admit, loving) tone. I was stopped in my tracks. I got up from the table and went to the bathroom to cry and then to laugh. I had just heard myself coming out of his mouth. And he was RIGHT. I went back to the table after fixing my face and thanked my child for calling me on my bad behavior and apologized to my family. We had a lovely meal.

But they were not always that respectful in their language. Once I walked out of the living room as my son (15-years-old at the time) was yelling. My first instinct was to yell back and to yank him. Instead, I walked into my bedroom and locked the door. He banged on it, screaming that he was talking to me. About 20 minutes later, when he calmed down, I went back into the living room and asked whether he wanted to talk with me. I was talking to you, mom, he said. I said, “No, you were yelling. And it occurred to me that I was being yelled at by someone who paid nothing to be in this house and for whom I bought all his food and clothing.” He dropped his head and apologized. It didn’t always go this way. We valued violent-free parenting, even if we didn’t always live it. But these kinds of interactions were more common than the violent ones we sought not to have.

Both my sons (and ALL my godchildren) have a stubborn streak. I mean an “I’ll-take-the-consequences-because-you-can’t-make-me” streak. And they often did. So my husband and I often had to check ourselves on who did the disciplining, to answer the question whether we were responding to a teachable moment or whether our buttons had been pushed. I walked away a few times with the words, “go deal with your son because I’d be beating the Valerie out of him.” That is, many times what we respond to in our children is the shadow side of us that we despise or with which we have not dealt.

I thank God that we were able to communicate to our sons the integrity of their own personhood–the fact that they were not “mini mes” and not beholden to think, believe, act, or emote like their parents. They are not ours. They belong to the future to which we cannot visit, not even in our dreams. They belong to God. We were given the daunting responsibility to see them from helpless baby to productive adult, allowing them their own mistakes and learning along the way. But we don’t and never did “own” them.

How Love Shows Up

Saturday, June 2, 2012, my house was filled with love. Sisters gathered to do the work of WomanPreach! Inc.: to think together, to strategize, to plan. We worked hard. And laughed loudly. And ate well. It was one of those times in my life that reminded me that love shows up in myriad ways. This time, love showed up as sisters putting their hands to the work and willing to commit to something larger than us and beyond our control in many ways. Love showed up as help, as support, as thoughtfulness, as enthusiasm, as encouragement, as laughter, as guacamole, as salad, as rice chips, as hugs…. Love permeated my house and my psyche. When the 6 sisters who helped all day (one via Skype) were finally gone, Love lingered.

Answering Facebook Inboxes: Me, God, and Same-Sex Anything…

Several people sent me inbox messages chiding me about my postings on Facebook regarding same-sex marriage and “gay special interests” questions. The gist of what they said: “you’re not interested in a debate, you’re just advancing an ungodly gay agenda.”

Hmmmmm… where to start?

First: How right you are that I am not interested in a debate. While I posted the words of learned biblical scholars (Renita Weems comes to mind), I don’t feel like trotting out the bible badminton where we just volley scriptures back and forth between one another. I find it particularly offensive for youngsters to quote scriptures at me like I (Hebrew bible scholar with a cognate degree in NT) have never read them. Really? Your mind is set. Frankly, so is mine. I didn’t just arrive here 53 years later. So, no. I’m not interested in a debate. I would be interested in a conversation, but I’m not even sure that’s productive. You think being gay is like having to lose weight (all you need is a good diet and will power). I think it’s like being 4’10 (I can’t get taller no matter how hard I try) [nod to OT scholar Julia M. O’Brien for this example].

Second: yes, I am pushing the “special interest” agenda of my LGBTQ friends, family, Christian members. You insist on calling it “special interest” as if  civil rights for people are not of special interest ( and as if “Civil Rights” = Black American Rights and no other rights). I’ll join you in calling them “special interests.” I am especially interested in us doing civically right by a minority portion of our population. Our constitution presumably is designed to protect the rights of people the majority would deny. And the question about same-sex marriage is a civil question, even if it is a religious one for some people as well.

Screaming that there is a conspiracy to take down “traditional marriage” is so unconvincing to me. If you want “traditional marriage” to be protected, protect yours and keep the vows you made to your friends when you stood with them at their wedding and said you would uphold them and support them in their vows. It’s not my fault that you can’t see the same “scriptural” argumentation (not even argument, just the way the bible is used) that was used by white slavers against freedom for slaves, by men against rights for women, by white people against marriage between people from different ethnic/racial backgrounds, for example, is the same argumentation you have employed. I heard a black pastor say, “I would vote with the klan if it means putting down this ‘gay agenda.'” I thought, “Well you just did.”

Third: we will just disagree about whether my stance is ungodly. That’s all. I find it interesting that we can disagree on the nature of salvation, on baptism, on what happens at the Table, and you’ll still believe I’m Christian, invite me to preach, etc. Salvation, Baptism, Communion–we can disagree. But not about this question…. Pause. Consider.

It is not that I believe thinking religious people cannot disagree. We do it all the time. It’s called the marketplace of ideas. And, presumably, up here on “Mars Hill,” the ideas with the most theological, ethical, political capital will win the day. I “evolved” to my position. I really did. (Bishop Yvette Flunder is right. People get here through relationships with others, not through debating). And, I think I’m on the right side of this “special interest” in every way, and on the right side of history. And while it may not seem like it to you, I do respect your right to disagree with me. The difference between us is I won’t relegate YOU to hell, to heresy, to… whatever. I will reiterate my own strongly-held conviction: If I am wrong, I will gladly go to hell loving God and loving people.

I Pray for you: the BEST way I love you

Ruth Forman: “I Wear Prayers Like Shoes…”

I post these words, ever so often, on my Facebook page:  “I love you. I REALLY do love you. VERY MUCH. And I take you with me into my prayer place to offer you before the God of grace and love. It is the BEST way I love you. I hope you receive it as the gift it is–from my great big heart. Love is my calling card, and I pray to breathe.”

Ruth Forman speaks of prayer as shoes that steady her for the day’s journey. For me, it is my very breath, the cloak of life that sustains me. Prayer is not a cop-out, an easy fix. It is an act of love so I may garner my strength and resolve to act. I wrote the poem below 10 years ago:

When I Don’t Know What to Do, I Pray for You

When I don’t know what to do, I pray for you,
A voice ascending to a distant and present throne,
The sound of a crone professing faith in you
And the divine impress imprinted on your soul

You cry into the hollow of my hands,
Confess your night terrors
And the times your mother caressed your manhood
Like a woman in need

You tell me how confusing it all was
And that the first time, you sneaked into the liquor
Searching for the elixir that would guarantee
You would forget—
You never did

And, though you loved her madly,
You could never look upon her breasts and be comforted
The way only a mother’s bosom can comfort a son
You explain to me the sacred math of reason,
How you went for seasons after women 20 years your age,
How you found yourself wanting a mother,
And yielded to this Oedipal urge that drove you
All the while you abandoned her—your own Jocasta
Who troubled you with her demons

You cry into the hollow of my hands,
Lean a heavy burden on my shoulders,
Sigh your curses into my hair
When I don’t know what to say, I hold you
Gently against my body and pray for you,
A silent petition for the healing
Of that first and fractured bond
Between a mother and her son

You tell me how confusing it all was
And how you found a toke and dipped it
In formaldehyde and stroked yourself
To sleep, crying softly and whimpering “Mama”—
How she tried to take it back the second
That she touched you, begged you
To forgive her, told you she was sorry—and drunk

You shrunk from her pleading
And told her to go to hell
Your words break and swell
In telling me as you cry your pain
Into the hollow of my hands
And I pray for you and hold you
To keep you from drowning
In your own confusion

When I don’t know what to do, I pray for you,
A voice ascending
A silent petition
A holy struggle
To deliver you from the fires
That scorch you still

(c) Valerie Bridgeman [Davis],
2002, 18 September


Music Man and Professor Dr. Guthrie "Guy" Ramsey and me

My friend, Guthrie “Guy” Ramsey, calls me Hugsy. He says that every picture he sees me in, I’m hugged up with someone. And, he’s right for the most part. I love people. My family and friends mean the world to me. And hugging them is my way–skin-to-skin–of saying, I’m here for and with you. I think too much “touch” happens in harmful ways: at the end of a fist or a gun.

My beautiful granddaughter and me

I want to be a part of that group of lovers who provide healing touch. Hugs are just the start. But they are, I believe a really good start.

My beloved friends, SahLeem and Raymond and me

I don’t know how I became such a “hugger.” I don’t remember being hugged that much growing up. I felt loved–deeply, but our family wasn’t touchy-feely. But as a parent and as a friend and lover, I am so the opposite. I hugged and kissed my boys and their friends so much, I irritated them.

My beautiful artist-friend-daughter Jessica and me

My hands communicate much better than any words I say, “I love you; I care about you; I want you to be well.”

I gladly embrace Guy’s nickname for me. I am Hugsy. And I love it.

The Voice(s) Lawrence, Thomas and me.

My beautiful sisters Gwen, Pam, Deb and me

I am testifying against being touch-starved. I want those I love to know that love feels good, and warm and whole. So, I say “thank you” with a hug, and “I believe in you” with a hug, and “you’re somebody special” with a hug.

One of my besties, Rev. Catharine Cummings and me

I often say (and I really mean), Love is my calling card. Hugsy. Yeah. That’s me.

My beautiful goddaughter Christina and me