Viewing entries tagged
love heals

A New Emancipation Proclamation

A New Emancipation Proclamation

Recently, I have kept returning to the idea of Emancipation. My hope for sexual assault survivors, who are willing to speak their truth amidst their pain and hard work, is that there is healing. Not just for themselves, but for this culture that would still rather keep the secrets of abusers than hear the cry of those assaulted.  

Video: "Thistles were the last wildflower..."

Video: "Thistles were the last wildflower..."

Becca was recently interviewed for a filming project. Here, she talks about the beauty she found in the thistle and why they’re so important to Thistle Farms

“I wanted to name the whole place ‘Thistle Farms’ to celebrate the women, their ability to survive, their persistence, but also deep beauty and their softness, like the thistles.” —Becca

We Can Do Better Than Being Civil

We Can Do Better Than Being Civil

The cynicism and anger smoldering under a veneer of civility is ready to crack because of inauthenticity peeking through. We have to truly want with our whole hearts to show loving kindness to whomever we deem the “other." It is the hard work of our times: to stand for justice and proclaim our truth, but to do it with authentic love for one another. 

 Beauty & Love in Brokenness

Beauty & Love in Brokenness

On a recent trip…I started recounting all the sisters of the community of Thistle Farms who have died as saints and survivors of some of the oldest pain the world inflicts on young women. If I could create a stained glass, I would make a field of wildflowers with thistles and healing plants. There would be sunlight pouring down, and I would piece together all the names I could recall.

It's About Friends

It's About Friends

Friendship is critical in justice work. Its bonds and generosity allow all of us grow together. I am so grateful for the love and trust of friendship.

#ChurchToo: Reflections on Willow Creek

#ChurchToo: Reflections on Willow Creek

I applaud the women who break up dysfunctional communities with the ploughshare of truth. I applaud communities which speak out about sexual abuse within sacred walls. And I respect the guts it takes for survivors to say, “#metoo.”  The hallowed and hard ground of abuse within the church requires us all to begin a complicated and delicate walk towards healing. Abuse survivors who come forward need allies. They need spaces to speak the truth – where the only question is “tell me what happened to you.” Women’s stories, like those revealed at Willow Creek and like mine, can transform brokenness into compassion. They can transform blame for victims into support for survivors. 

Views from the Farm: First Time Down the Thistle Road

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This was written by Brooke Byers, my new Executive Assistant and the National Travel Coordinator. Her generous spirit and talent are such a gift.

---Becca

...

There was a day in the not so distant past (I can still see it in the rear view mirro, lthough it's fading) that fear would've kept me from this work. I grew-up as a sheltered preacher's kid in the Deep South. Diversity wasn't a word I knew or really understood. I didn't have a clue about my privilege in the world until a veil slowly started to lift while living in the great Pacific Northwest a few years back. Self-awareness can be life-changing.

Fast forward to mid-April when I found myself boarding a plane headed to Kansas City. I had the opportunity to travel with Becca and two Thistle Farms survivor leader (Regina & Tiffany) to Kansas and Fort Smith, Arkansas. Becca travels globally spreading the message that love is the most powerful force for change in the world, and she typically travels with to 2-3 of the Thistle Farms women and a road assistant. I was anxious to get to know Regina, so I plopped down in the seat next to her. She is Director of our Thistle Farms Residential program, Magdalene. For 20 years she has extended her heart and hand to women still on the streets so they can find their way home. She is one of the most courageous women I've ever met. We talked about what it's like to find our own freedom and we shared stories about our kids. It was such an honor to hear some of her story. We laughed, cried and had fun cutting up on the plane.

As the road assistant, I had a few tasks for the weekend: keep us on time, drive the oh-so-hot mini-van and sell products on a POS system I'd never used. No big deal, right? Usually pressure like this would give me a migraine and put me under, but I had a great sense of pride and was overwhelmed by gratitude. This is my life-work now (I'm still pinching myself!). Tiffany is such a rock star and patiently helped me with the POS. She knows so much about our products and is great with customers. I really enjoyed getting to know her. She is a strong, courageous woman and has overcome so much. I truly admire her great strength and consider her my sister for life!

The weekend was full of messages about the "good news of healing", "daily practices and rituals to keep the spirit moving," and contemplative practices. It was awesome to see Becca in action. I’m such a geek and even took notes while Becca spoke. I was hanging on every word! These beautiful quotes by Dr. Rev. Becca Stevens particularly impacted my heart and are still resonating with me.

“We need to be reminded about the good news of healing.”

“Love is the end of the story.”

“How do I speak my truth in love?”

“Good news is not oppressive.”

“We need to have space and a moment to dream about what healing looks like in our own lives."

We enjoyed a feast of some of the finest BBQ in KC with Becca's friends, met some amazing folks in Mission and Fort Smith, devoured some of the best guacamole at an Ecuadorian restaurant in Fort Smith, sold over $10k of Thistle Farms products and traveled through 6 different states in 4 days. We had a fairly quiet and (thankfully) uneventful 4.5 hour drive to Ft. Smith, but I’ll never forget how the lyrics hit me when Becca ooked up her phone to the sound system in the van and playe the song "Make it Love." I remember feeling a great sense of joy and was reminded that I’m not alone by the line “let’s just make it love and take each other’s hands.” I was in a van with three amazing women who make it love EVERY DAY! Check it out here!

It's easy for me to sit behind a computer, type up the travel itineraries and coordinate all of the logistics from afar but to be on "ground zero" with the heroes from Thistle Farms is truly a great gift.

blog image credit: pixabay.com

Easter 2016 Sermon: "I Lay Me Down"

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I want to lay me down in wildflowers; the silent harbingers of spring. During the Lenten season just as we are called to new life, flowers become the best preachers. With unaffected modesty larkspur blush in morning light. Dancing with the slightest breeze, Dutchmen’s britches celebrate everything. Trout lilies in long lines genuflect every sunset. Wildflowers seem to pass so quickly, yet their roots lead us back to Eve’s mother, and their descendants and distant cousins were witnesses in the garden on Easter morning. After Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethemane, his trial and crucifixion, the Gospel of John tells us he was carried by Joseph and Nicodemus to a garden with a new tomb. There they took spices and oils, wrapped his body in a shroud and laid him in the tomb. On the 3rd morning the Gospel places Magdalene with some assortment of other women in that garden searching for Jesus on the wings of that morning in Jerusalem. I can imagine wild lilies and geraniums greeting Magdalene as she and her sisters set out to anoint their Lord’s body. Carrying spices along with heavy hearts and fear, they followed the worn path just as dawn was breaking. Surely such a path was clearer because of tender blossoms pointing the way. I wonder if Magdalene, burdened with leadership and love, looked down long enough to consider the lilies as they bore a regal witness to hope. I wonder if the path she took smelled rich and offered her hope as she prepared to face the stone and saw them as a sign that in the midst of death love was rising. I wonder then if she remembered Jesus’ words as he led them on their first mission, “Don’t worry about your life.” “Seek the kingdom, and all else will be added unto you.” “Consider the lilies and how they neither toil or spin, yet even Solomon in all his glory is not arrayed like one of these.” Then breathing in the abundance that flowers offer, Magdalene reaches the tomb and finds angels, and discarded shrouds, and drops everything to run and proclaim the good news, “He is risen.” 

Just after finishing the clinics, sewing, tending the gardens and organizing the school in San Eduardo on our 19th annual trip to Ecuador, our group from St. Augustine’s headed into the mountains. We walked on rocky soil 13,000 feet above sea level draped in native paper trees, wild flowers and beautiful orchids as hawks soared  along vertical rocks from long forgotten volcanoes. Wildflowers are universal and timeless, and when we consider them in the hills of Tennessee, the Gardens of Jerusalem, or the mountains of Ecuador, they remind us of the abundance in God’s kingdom. The whole gospel is a reminder, even in death and injustice that God’s abundant love for us is more than 500 denari worth of sins that have been forgiven 70 times 7 times. When we are thirsty, 60 gallons of water can become wine and when we are hungry 5000 people can be fed from a few baskets. The gospel preaches that once barren nets spill over with fish, and we can pour out our hearts as lavishly as lavender oil on feet.

Leaving the mountain and flowers, we headed back to the city where I found myself early in the morning sitting in front of a big flower market by the Sanctuary Mariano. Aproned women made quick work of making arrangements for weddings and graves. Tuber rose filled the air with thick memory. It was an ever flowing stream of flowers that could fill anyone’s well of longing. There on an ordinary Saturday morning with a full heart, I bore witness to enough wild and cut flowers to sate new grievers and young lovers who long to mark ordinary days as sacred. With a heart full of gratitude, I stepped into the sanctuary with gilded lilies and bronzed saints to pray and was taken aback by the huge purple shrouds covering everything…the altar, the saints, the flowers. It was all hidden, as though it was too much for us to bear in our Lenten state. 

The abundance of love is right there, in the beauty of the flowers and the eternal hope of Easter, but sometimes we can’t see it, either because of the scarcity of wilderness, the shame clouding our vision, grief pressing like a heavy stone, and its too hard to bear in real time that everything we love passes. Sometimes the sting of death makes us feel as fragile as the spring beauties and it’s easier to drape a shroud over it all. But can’t you imagine the flower sellers, like Magdalene herself, on the dawn of Easter, letting the purple fabrics fall to the floor like the shroud in the tomb? And how the women will drape their saints and altars with garlands of herbs and flowers. Working through the night, they prepare for the pilgrims searching for the hope of a glimpse of love’s abundance.

This is what I believe. In the sacred and imperishable truth of resurrection, there is abundance. We have all grieved for people we love who have died. Magdalene knew suffering and grief, yet those pains did not outweigh her longing for love and the hope of resurrection. It is that longing and hope that carried her through the flowers to the tomb. I have known grief my whole life and have thought about that truth and believe that inside us is a well of tears that pour out in abundance as we remember that love washes away the scarcity that the fear of death holds over us. We know it like wildflowers know to bloom and like Magdalene knew, that before we make it to a graveside, love rises. Just like we know how to grieve, we know how to love beyond death.

I wish we could all lie down in flowers and feel our hearts beat with that truth coursing through our veins. We would lie there and breathe in the knowledge that even though these spring beauties pass in a moment, they return despite drought, floods, and grief and remind us that what seems dead rises in splendor. When we follow in the footsteps of Magdalene, through the garden, we can dance among the wildflowers as we glimpse the stone rolled and feel that all those who have died live on in love and the memory of God. All we grieve rises, like the wildflowers in spring. There are enough long winters over hard and hallowed ground, but today let the shroud fall and sing with Magdalene among the flowers that even in the face of disparity, fear, and injustice love blossoms. The wildflowers, the very preachers of how there is a time for everything, demonstrate that we can live in hope dedicated to justice and truth. Flowers are ours for the beholding and allow us to make our song even at our own Easter morning, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.”

image credit: pixabay.com