grace and welcome

An invitation has been pressed upon me, pressed into me. 

I have been called to a life lived with great hospitality, to cultivate a heart of radical welcome. For years Joshua and I have sought to grow in the grace of hospitality, and now that seeking has sought us.

And, it is being revealed to me, in order to offer this deep and genuine welcome to others, I must learn to extend greater acceptance and grace to myself. 

If my house is dirty and disorganized,
if I'm unkempt and flabby, 
if I never return to work or finish my degree—
if I lose what I think I need to be myself, 
I am still a self loved and welcomed by Christ and those dear ones He has put in my life.

From a place of peace we may offer peace; from a place of welcome we may offer welcome. 

You're welcome here, Baby Bennett <3

I'm A Blessed Little Unicorn!

I'm a rarely seen species: a woman in theology who has no sad stories to tell you about being harassed, roadblocked, or discriminated against by others who thought she was stepping beyond her place. I've spent ten years in formal study of theology, but no one has ever made a snide remark about my gender. I've spent three years in professional ministry and never had anyone oppose my work, my preaching, or my spiritual life because I was a woman-pastor or woman-chaplain or woman-evangelist.

I hear the stories of my female colleagues and I wince. They've been teased, told outright to change their majors, marginalized in meetings, scoffed at, refused entrance into educational programs, even ignored in their own parishes. I admire their perseverance in service in the face of such painful and discouraging opposition. But I can't relate. 

This could be in part because I just haven't observed the discrimination. Perhaps decisions were made about me or sneers were sneered at me that I never knew about, and I went on theologizing and ministering in blissful ignorance.

I also need to acknowledge that my own optimism about people expects them to be friendly and reasonable and helpful, and this probably blinds me to some people's cautiousness or perhaps even hostility to me as a woman in ministry. (Actually, I know this has happened. Months after I left the Ministerial Department of Oregon Conference I realized that this one active lay leader kept asking me to make copies because he thought I was an administrative assistant. I thought he was too old to know how to work the copier!)

Honestly, I'm happy to be ignorant in these ways, not seeing when others have some unfounded gripe against me. 

But some of the other reasons that I think I've received such an unusually warm reception in theology and ministry don't sit as well with me. I have a complicated relationship with them. 

I wonder if I've been embraced by the people in my circles because I'm a safe person who doesn't challenge their paradigm. Perhaps I benefit from the system because I don't threaten its parameters.

In my physical appearance I have the advantage of being just "feminine" enough. I'm petite and sprightly, just about the opposite of someone you might picture trying to usurp authority. I've got some hips on me, but my chest is small and people might call me "cute," but never "sexy." (Sexiness is a terrible attribute to have as a Christian woman. Christians have an awful time with women's sexuality.) Also, I'm white. I'm like Tinker Bell, but more modestly dressed. Not at all threatening. 

In my disposition, I have the advantage of being just "masculine" enough. I err on the side of the logical. I'm confident, not cowering. I'm a problem-solver, not a natural empathizer. I, like many women (even a disproportionate number of women) who make it into academic theology, feel more naturally at home with my many guy friends than my few girl friends. Sometimes it can feel that I'm accepted in my guild as an "exceptional" woman, not like those typical, lesser women. 

So I think about myself and wonder how I feel about these advantages, the tiny ribcage and the emotionally quiet mind and all the others. It seems I wouldn't be where I am today without them. Have they blessed me or betrayed my kind? Should I thank them for giving me an advantage or resent them for supporting the system that gives others disadvantages? 

Maybe there's no finding out the "should." Maybe I need just to accept that they did some dirty work for me.



thin faith

When put into a narrow place, a strait and still straiter space,
the impulse of the breath is up up up and in
to rearrange the organs and turn sideways the gait
to make the self disappear and the breath turn thin.

The mountains are firm, we've learned,
and there's no use asking them to move for us.
If pressed by crag or by hot coal burned,
we rush our steps, tremble at the peak before us.

The mountain range is an insistent endless danger. 
The hope to see the summit has gone dry.
---Hope now to shrink our bodies, and hurry in anger
at ourselves for childish feelings and long lives.

Whatever pocket once held the mustard seeds
had some hole, eaten through maybe in our sleep?
We ask nothing of these cliffs, this sea,
but to spare us. They have no promises to keep.

So we force ourselves thin to fit, to slide
unsuccessfully past the crush of narrow paths
---or, fat, we succumb and try to hide
beneath falling rocks, to feel their fatal wrath.

No one is casting any mountains in the sea or begging
for the crooked ways to go straight.
The problem is not with the landscape, we reckon,
but with our bodies. So we lose weight.




Little Treasures of Sensation

Those awkward body movements one makes when carrying luggage. I was making those. 

Joshua and I were returning from a quick little trip to Michigan for the weekend and when we emerged from the train tunnel into the open light of downtown Chicago, we were smacked in the face by blowing winds and a thousand falling snowflakes. Late March and it's snowing hard. 

Millennium Station, downtown Chicago

Millennium Station, downtown Chicago

Because I packed for this trip spontaneously and at 2:30am, I'm wearing canvas sneakers and cotton socks on my feet. On top I'm wearing all the shirts and sweaters I could find in my bag, with my slanket (that's my giant scarf/blanket) draped and wrapped and generally adding to my bag lady look. 

And we are hustling and slushing through downtown with those awkward body movements one makes when carrying hand luggage, trying to get to our bus before the snow soaks through our clothes. And I'm freezing. But it's Chicago, and it's downtown, and it's snowing big fat flakes and in spite of myself I see that it's beautiful and that I'm privileged to get to stand in icy wind in the Theater District and take in the postcard of it all. 

Chicago's Theater District in snow

Chicago's Theater District in snow

We find our bus and continue our journey toward home, the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, nestled into the far north side of the city, next to Lake Michigan. For an hour we trek up Clark Street, passing sites that have become landmarks of our lives in this city: my sweetheart, the Poetry Foundation; our favorite cupcake place (Molly's!); the quirky theater where we went on our last anniversary (Public House Theatre); M. Henry, our favorite brunch spot; our old gym, our new gym, my old dance studio... 

The back doors of the bus open and I stretch my short legs long to reach the sidewalk, and I slip, slide, and fall awkwardly, still with the luggage. Exceptionally covered in snow now, I remember why I invested in the high-quality, well-insulated snow boots with rugged traction that are sitting dry in my closet. 

The most treacherous obstacles for any pedestrian on a day like today are the moats of icy slush and filthy street water that separate the sidewalks from the roads, moats which must be crossed to cross the street. We must overcome four of these murky, freezing waterways to get to our block and we carefully maneuver in such a way that our shoes and socks are completely soaked.

Joshua starts jogging for home, his backpack bouncing, yellow suitcase swinging with his arm. So close to home it's okay that our feet are frozen and our bags are jostling us and we slide across the sidewalk, giggling. He looks back at me with love and joviality in his eyes, snow still floating heavily down, and I laugh the louder at the postcard of it all.

snow falling on our street

view from the front door

a bit of our living room :)

We make it home. We squeak our slushy sneakers through the doorway and set down the awkward baggage. 

The next hour is for me an hour of perfect sensory delights. I discard my soggy and snowflaked layers. I doze off in a warm bath. I wake up to fragrant Indian food. We eat on the couch, sitting close, listening to the Sleeping At Last vinyl sing through the stereo. I very slowly eat four chocolate cookies that have just come out of the oven. We nap, sandwiched between my favorite sheets and topped with a down comforter wrapped in a cool cotton duvet. The sun shines through the gauzy bedroom curtains. Bliss. 

In prayer with Joshua I thank God for these delights of the body, His little treasures of sensation. And I am grateful for this day, for being alive and happy.