Pregnancy and the Liberation Front

Pregnancy and the Liberation Front

It keeps ringing in my mind, the question—will this satisfy? Does this satisfy my bearing body, mind, and soul?

A while back, just after some new friends asked us to bring poems to their party, Berry’s “Manifesto” entered my ears. Thank God, too, for I felt I had lost my mooring; I did not find my bare and pregnant footing secure on the Liberation Front, but felt instead tucked away somewhere in the back behind selfish sentimentality and careless caution, shut in the “mothers’ room,” it seemed, away from the unction and the action.

And then I remembered those words, words that had once called a congregation to worship through me, through my all-woman, dress-clad, wild-haired body. I remembered those words, that question—“will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child?”

9 Less-Waste Goals: January Update

9 Less-Waste Goals: January Update

January was a quick and focused month around here. I did not blog regularly; my mental energies went almost entirely to implementing our 9 less-waste goals for 2019 and, of course, entering into my third trimester of pregnancy.

As I promised myself, however, I pause now to review and reflect upon the month and our efforts. This is not a shaming protocol, but rather an opportunity to consider what went well, what rose or fell in priority, and how I might proceed this month in the pursuit of embodied and ecologically-conscious love.

Love Marks Me

Love Marks Me

Noticed today that Aaron's mark of love and troth rounds my finger even when the gold hasn't been there for a week. I kinda dig that.

I haven't been wearing my wedding ring because between the dry winter air and my amazingly frequent trips to the bathroom my hands reach for lotion almost of their own volition. Maybe that's another way love is making its mark on me.

Pregnant people pee a lot. For me it's up to 3-4 times an hour or absolutely any time I stand up, whichever comes first. Like the marriage signified by that band about my finger, the thing that does not go away even when the gold is gone, this process of creating new life challenges my notions of control and self...hood? Sufficiency? Self at all?

Marriage asks me to bend and try, go and stay--to do wild things and tame things outside my own perspective, ingenuity, initiation, and will. In responding I find that I am caught up in something bigger than myself where any notion of "control" is truly absurd. It just doesn't fit.

Pregnancy is like that, except it doesn't even ask first--though it doesn't compel, either.

It just happens…

Good News: The Chaff's Gonna Burn

Good News: The Chaff's Gonna Burn

I laughed when I read the gospel in the lectionary last week.

John the Baptist often has that kind of effect on me, which may be the point. I don’t laugh out of ridicule or mockery. Rather, John wakes me to the unexpected and absurd nature of good news.

The laughter was specifically centered on a verse actually skipped by the lectionary, a non-important juncture, so it would seem, in the flow of the story of our Lord’s baptism.

I read it anyway.

Right after telling us about chaff burning with unquenchable fire, John the Baptizer’s narrator says: “So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people” (Luke 3:18).

Is that not hilarious? I could not contain myself.

Oh yeah, One is coming, John said, who will baptize us with Spirit and fire—sounds pretty cool—and then, smackdown, this Coming One will separate chaff from the grain and BURN IT WITH FIRE.

Which is good news, Luke says.

What the heck about burning anything with unquenchable fire is supposed to be good news? When is unquenchable fire EVER good news?

9 Less-Waste Goals for 2019

9 Less-Waste Goals for 2019

“Waste” is an anomaly. There is no away in creation; humans are the only species to think up such a thing.

Going zero-waste is an overarching direction in the Coyle-Carr household. We have been working toward sending less to the landfill and decreasing our need for recycling for several years, learning all sorts of creative skills, tips, and crafts along the way.

But as I explored in a recent post, a life that makes “zero” waste in the society in which I live is impossible, which can be disappointing and discouraging if individualistic perfection is what we are after. In the journey toward ecological well-being I have found that perfection is not helpful. Further, it ain’t even the goal.

I want to make less waste and more life!

The goal is to love. And love is the long labor of a lifetime.

Here are some specific ways I hope to press on in love this year.

"Zero" Waste?

"Zero" Waste?

I am shifting away from using the phrase “zero-waste” exclusively because the more I venture toward a holistically integrated life of love the more I realize how “zero” waste is impossible.

Zero-Waste as a movement is a powerful instrument of good. The movement invites and challenges folks to reconsider mainline consumerism as the only way of living. Specifically, Zero-Wasters want to empower folks to put down the fiscally cheap, but environmentally costly plastic and invest in the well-being of the whole earth community. Instead of only Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, we want to live into the truth as nature tells it: there is no away.

Creation in its natural state does not make waste—every single molecule of matter is, rather, transformed from one useful state to the next in order create and sustain more diverse and varied forms of life.

Poop, for instance, is not a toxic problem in nature. Instead it is a biofuel and a fertilizer. Notice the language there—what first-world people have been conditioned to consider the epitome of “waste,” nature sees and names Nourishment and Fertility.

How We'll Christmas the 12 Days Through

How We'll Christmas the 12 Days Through

I woke up this morning in a bit of a funk. I felt aimless and overwhelmed at the same time. It’s still Christmas, but the “big stuff” is over.

Our big Carolina Christmas tour de family wrapped up on Christmas Eve, our church sang Joy to the World to the top of its lungs to welcome the holiday that night, and then we got to host the Carr Family Christmas for the very first time in our home on Christmas Day.

All the shopping, wrapping, prepping, and planning is done.

And yet Christmas is here. Christmas is still here, and as I type there are 10 more days of it stretching out in front of me.

How do we celebrate and revel in this holy hootenanny of a festival when the world’s moved on? I believe there is more to Christmas than opening presents and feeling nostalgic, but how do I live that out?

Well, I’ve been thinking and here’s where I’m at.

Mighty Stirring: Not the Salvation We Choose

Mighty Stirring: Not the Salvation We Choose

Stir Up Sunday should be featured on an episode of The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass (please tell me you’ve seen these; Aaron and I are obsessed).

On the last Sunday of the church year traditional liturgy rises in a cognate with Psalm 80:2: “Excita, quæsumus, Domine…,” “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…” While hailing the divine, this liturgical invocation has also summoned many a British homemaker, cook, and baker to stir up their Christmas pudding so that it has time to mature before the big day.

I find the tradition charming and have embraced the fun injunction this Advent season through Sunday bakeathons.

But that phrase, excita , has stuck with me. Three out of the four Advent Sundays also begin with excita, calling congregations deep into the active wait for Christ.

When the invitation is made to God, however, as it is in today’s psalm, the question haunts me. What does it mean to say, “Stir up thy might, O God”?

What does God’s might look like? What am I really asking?

Why I Shave Ritually, Not Religiously

Why I Shave Ritually, Not Religiously

A year ago this week I shaved my legs for the first time in two years.

"’Bout time you shaved them hairy legs, ain't it?"

We were in a Chikfila parking lot, my dad and I. I remember.

He held some sway, for I started shaving that weekend.

I had been wanting to shave my legs. The older girls at church did it, so the idea held a special glow. There are few coming of age markers for girls and I craved one, needing something to announce my place on the cusp of young womanhood.

My mom had held me off a while. Perhaps she wanted to preserve my childhood. Perhaps she wanted a watershed experience for me, too, and maybe did not know how to give it. Perhaps it is difficult to watch your daughter grow up.

Regardless, at his words I got what I wanted. But it was not special. I remember feeling that I had been shunted to the bathtub to do the deed, isolated there with the shaving cream and the blue Venus razor.

I knew even then that I had gotten what I wanted at the cost of something dear.

The awareness still raises the fuzz on the back of my arms. The first rule of patriarchy is this: You can have what you want on our terms.

This time the cost was body-confidence. Evidently there was something wrong with my legs without shaving. Something was wrong with me. My body was wrong.

This is the way of patriarchy. Get what you want, but only if you feel bad about it. Sure, have it, it croons, because otherwise you are deficient and gross.

When God Sings: Beth Moore and the Brood of Vipers

When God Sings: Beth Moore and the Brood of Vipers

It is not every day that a conservative evangelical gets my attention. This week one such person did. Author and speaker Beth Moore wrote all of social media…

And great rejoicing ensued.

If Beth Moore is radicalizing—“rooting” in the embodied, incarnational love of God—then perhaps there is hope for the rest of us white, well-to-do people of faith.

We are probably the most difficult to reach.

Our ears are so stopped with comfort and luxury; it is easy to forget the naked and hungry.

Our shoulders are so heavy with the expectation to perform, achieve, and get ahead; it is hard to distinguish between the cultural, shame-induced patterns of white upper-middle class church folk and the radically nuanced gospel that is really worth of our lives.

Beth Moore sounds like John the Baptist to me this week.

How Praying the “O Antiphons” Can Bring You through the Wait of Advent

How Praying the “O Antiphons” Can Bring You through the Wait of Advent

We are coming up on the last push of Advent.

Now is the time when perhaps waiting seems most impossible. Indeed, for some families, gatherings with grandparents, cousins, great-uncles, etc. will begin in a matter of days. Church musicals and special services are whipping to a frenzy. And maybe our hearts are burning, just a little, with the strain of the wait.

Good. This is probably a safe indication that Advent is well at home with us, in our bodies, minds, and spirits.

Keeping Advent in this space is possible and worth it. This could be the time in which it matters the most.

Zechariah’s Refinement: An Old Man Learns Something New

Zechariah’s Refinement: An Old Man Learns Something New

Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth and the father of John the Baptist, was a priest. He was kind of a big deal, really. Only descendants of Levi could be priests and he was one of them.

We do not know very much about his economic status or learning, but we do know that he had responsibilities in the Temple—a turn to touch the holy.

That is always a big deal.

The lectionary tells the story this week of John the Baptist. Starting with Malachi we learn that God is sending a messenger to prepare the way; “The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1b). But this will not necessarily be an easy coming. It will be something to be endured like a “refiner’s fire” and “fullers’ soap” (Malachi 3:2). The messenger’s coming will require transformation of us all, but especially, Malachi says, of the descendants of Levi.

How interesting that John the Baptist’s own father was one such person.

Malachi believed that the all-male religious leadership he knew would especially feel the effects of the messenger’s coming—and that the well-being of the entire people would depend upon their heeding that transformation.

Fast forward a few hundred years and we see Zechariah tending his duties in the Temple. Along comes the angel Gabriel with good, good news. The messenger is coming, he says, and through your partnership with your wife!

Zechariah’s response, Say what? How will I know that this is so?

And the angel promptly strikes him mute.

St. Nicholas, Our Brother

St. Nicholas, Our Brother

The feast of St. Nicholas is upon us. Tonight lots of little shoes will be set out in hopes that he will stop by in the night. Our stockings are certainly hung with care.

I so enjoy the fun of this feast day because I enjoy our brother.

Though not much can be said for the St. Nicholas from our 21st century historicity standards, thousands upon thousands of faithful folks have carried stories about him through the centuries. These widely-held legends all have common threads running throughout as well, themes of generosity, liberation, compassion, and faith.

How We'll Advent this Year

How We'll Advent this Year

Advent began yesterday in a soft and glorious manner. The children called us to worship with their song and the family of faith looked on as Hope lit up the sanctuary. It is here. The season of watching and waiting is finally here.

Advent pasts have looked quite different than this one in the Coyle-Carr house. Until now, at least one of us has faced down finals and term papers ‘til Gaudete Sunday three weeks in. This time around, though, graduate days are behind us and a bump swells before us day by day.

Our family is changing and growing, as is its expression of vocation and faithful living. We are seeing things in new lights and from new angles. There is a stirring in our bones even as we feel the most at home yet.

I do feel rooted. My feet can almost find their way around here. I technically became a Texan last Friday.

And here comes Advent.

See the Signs: An Invitation to Anticipation

See the Signs: An Invitation to Anticipation

Advent begins today with what could be a rather ominous gospel reading.

We hear Jesus talking about the apocalyptic coming of the Son of Humanity—his own glorified return at the end of this age. The End is always tinged in mysterious light; it has been a source of anxiety for Christians since the beginning. “When will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” (Luke 21:7). We worry about burning skies and brimstone, persecutions and purgatory—pretty much everything that is not found in this text.

In fact, the Teacher answers the anxiety of his disciples not with a series of warning signals, but a serious invitation to anticipation. To be clear, Jesus does not trivialize the disciples’ fears. He does not shame them for being confused or afraid. Indeed, the End could be scary for those not expecting it to come. But that is just it: Jesus gives us a heads up and a hand up—an invitation to anticipation.

When Temps Rise, Our Thermostat Does Too

When Temps Rise, Our Thermostat Does Too

As I sit here and type the outside thermometer reads 93 degrees and the indoor…74.

Actually the thermostat is currently set to 78 degrees because as I did more research for this blogpost, I (re)learned that the official Energy.gov recommendation for daily AC use in the summer is 78 degrees. Fahrenheit. Yes, you read that correctly.

For the past month Aaron and I have been enjoying a balmy 74 degrees indoors with only a little complaining, mostly from me at night. His encouragement kept us on track, however, and here we are sort of willing to punch the thermostat up a few more degrees.

Maybe you’re wondering (as I was last night) why the heck our thermostat climbs with the summer temperature. Well, I’ll blame it on the pope.  

Ascended, But Not Far Away

Ascended, But Not Far Away

Well, the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus is coming up, folks. Observance start tomorrow and in some places happens all day on Sunday.

It’s got me thinking.

To be completely honest, Jesus’ Ascension has always stirred up feelings of abandonment in me. Why did he have to go? What did it feel like to stand there on that mountain and watch your friend and savior disappear before your eyes, especially after the ultimate miracle of his resurrection? And why did he have to go so far away, all the way up to the “the right hand of God?”

The whole thing reminds me of that moment right after the goodbye while your love’s car rounds the corner out of sight.

And it doesn’t feel good. There’s an ache to it. It’s fine in the long run, really. Life goes on and there is work to be done. But, still. It hurts me to think of it--maybe especially because the separation my spouse and I had to endure so that I could finish seminary is still very fresh in my body.

I am bringing this to Christ’s Ascension; it’s all tied up.

The scripture today (find the whole list of daily lectionary readings here), however, upsets my despair. It disturbs this notion of an abandoning, far-away Jesus.

Ordinary Mary

Ordinary Mary

The very first sermon I ever preached was called “Ordinary Mary.” It explored the Annunciation of Mary, when God asked an ordinary girl to play an extraordinary part in healing the world (Luke 1:26-56). As a fourteen-year-old young woman, I was fascinated with this God who would invite people like me into such plans.

It was and is still important to me today to emphasize the human-ness of Mary, her ordinariness. Her story bears much hope and power, but only if she is not immaculately conceived, “born [especially] pure,” or whatever else nonsense folks have put on her over the centuries of church argument.

Put plainly, they have been trying to figure out what to do with a woman so intimately involved in the redemption of the world.

Mary being a woman is not enough for some theologies. Their deficient doctrines of original sin gets in the way; Mary has to be immaculately conceived in order to be holy enough to get pregnant with God. But not only does this not have to be true, it misses the point of the incarnation. God became flesh and dwelt among us. The scripture does not say God became “perfected flesh” or “oddly pure” flesh. The Word became flesh, period, of a woman who just so happened to get one every month.

Mary’s story bears its intriguing and liberating lesson if Mary is just Mary—a human female chosen to be the mother of God, chosen to birth Jesus into the world.

"Peace on Earth Begins at Birth"

"Peace on Earth Begins at Birth"

“Peace on earth begins at birth.”

I heard this quote somewhere years ago. It is a fairly popular refrain among female activists and birth-givers. I thought it referred to “calm,” “soothing,” or “natural” birth practices, or, I don’t know, trying not to make the baby cry. I thought it was about the baby’s experience.

However, my experience of finishing Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth on Good Friday and then going to services—all during peak ovulation and its brave hope—brought out a different and deeper meaning that extends and encompasses the baby’s experience, the mother’s, and, indeed, the whole human community.

If we truly respected women (or “womben”), life-making, and life-giving, there could be peace on earth. If we truly recognized and honored the sacred nature of the birthing process, the holy passage of it all, how could anyone move to diminish or destroy creation, that which came through such a sacred course? If we understood and honored all of the hope and tears and spiritual labor that went into one child—how could we ever take that person from this world, either with one bullet or hundreds of denied opportunities? How could anyone destroy a mother’s child? Someone who has come though the sacred gates?