Monday, September 8, 2014

October is NDVAM

I know it’s just barely September, but preparation involves advance notice, and so I’m here to talk about October—National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You’ve probably seen and read and heard a lot about verbal and physical violence against women lately—conversation about sexual assault (especially on college campuses) and the new domestic violence policies in the NFL have been center stage. There’s a lot you can do to educate yourself about what’s happening in your community and communities around the nation and world—this month, next month, and every month.

Are you a student? Think and talk about the violence against women on your campus.
Are you employed? Think and talk about the violence against women in your workplace.
Are you a voter? Think and talk about the violence against women in your government.
Are you a sports fan? Think and talk about the violence against women perpetrated by professional male athletes.
Are you a person of faith? Think and talk about the violence against women in your sacred texts, your denomination, your congregation.

Where I live, the organization my family and I routinely support is the Community Resource Center—check it out, especially if you’re in San Diego.

Wherever you live, somebody is working to end violence against women and children. You can, too. Start with these websites if you don’t know who the changemakers are in your community. 
Find out what you can donate, when you can volunteer, to whom you can listen, to whom you can speak out. Let me know what you find. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lost and found and lost and...

This is me, fourish years ago, during my first year of seminary:

I'm at the Albatross--our walkable bar--with my friend and classmate Sara. I weighed 233 pounds the week this photograph was taken. Look at that face. If you can tear yourself away from the fact that my tank top will not contain that torso (those boobs). Did I say that out loud? Technically I typed it.

This is me, a yearish ago, about to start my fourth year of seminary:

We're at the wedding of our dear friends Gretchen and Jill. I weighed 171 pounds the week this photograph was taken. We're looking at adorable baby Gabe, but you're looking at my surprisingly small waist and great shoulders, am I right? 

This is me, a few months ago, just before graduating from seminary:

We're celebrating/lamenting everything that comes with graduating and moving and getting jobs (or not). I've weighed between 176 and 184 pounds in the weeks since this photograph was taken. A couple of weeks ago it was 177, this week it was 181. Most weeks I don't weigh in. The weight is going to go and come and go and come. That's life.

Why am I posting about this now? I hit the 50lb loss mark almost 18 months ago, and I've been hovering in the vicinity of that pretty much since then. Some weeks, I go to the gym every other day and I kick ass and take names and love myself and everyone else. Other weeks, I drink a lot of wine and bake more than one batch of cookies and think more about the blob (that's what I call my fat, because I'm hilarious and terrible). My mom made her world-famous (people who moved to other nations have eaten it, so, technically!) macaroni and cheese a few nights ago, at my request, because it is so freaking delicious. In the leftovers that I've had each day since then (that's what's up) I've cut up some kale and thrown it in there, so I can feel better about consuming it. 

It was tonight, as I was pouring a glass of wine and looking at the cookie jar, that I thought UGH Kloehn you haven't been to the gym enough this week what are you doing? Do you really think throwing some kale in that mac and cheese makes it okay? 

But then I though about Kelsey and Jocelyn. Kelsey and Jocelyn are two (out of three) women I'd identify as my best friends on the planet. When it comes to health and happiness, these two are bursting with both. They run marathons, bike centuries, verb triathlons, mix margaritas, bake cookies, inhale avocados, and love me to death. Their moral support was unmatched during my "I JUST WANT TO EAT ALL THE OREOS" phase(s). They also helped me tremendously when I needed stretches for my newly sore muscles and opinions on the new dresses I could fit in. They're the best.

Before them, before this whole adventure, I would have believed that you could lose weight by eating one salad, and gain weight by eating one cupcake. I would never have considered throwing a handful of kale into my mac and cheese--although living in Berkeley may have as much to do with that as being friends with Kels and Joce. I would have believed that it wasn't possible to feel beautiful and fun and full and healthy and energetic and thin and awesome all in one moment! There are many moments where I don't feel great. I'm writing this post because right now is one of those days, and I need this reminder. I need to look at those photographs to see where I've been and know where I am and see where I can still go. 

I have love and support from Kelsey and Jocelyn and all the other loves of my life. I have parents who schedule dinners around Zumba classes; and a boyfriend who loves to eat cookies for breakfast before a hike; and a brother who's a dietitian; and friends who walk to the gym with me, then meet up for a pitcher of beer after dinner; and you, all of you, who love me all the while. Thank you, for who you've been. Thank you, for who you've made me. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Something something bucket pun.

There are a variety of opinions on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

A lot of the opinions on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge make me want to roll my eyes forever. "Dumping water over your head doesn't cure ALS" or "You should do the ice water AND give money" or "[Insert personal fundraising cause] is just as important as ALS" or "People with ALS think the ice bucket challenge is _____" -- the list could literally go on forever because this is a very populous nation.

But the opinion that I am finding the dumbest is the one that insists that Californians should not participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge because we are in a terrible drought.

This is a terrible opinion to have. It is true that there are many uses for water other than dumping over your head. It is true that we do not have any excess water in the great state of California. HOWEVER, it is this kind of reasoning about water use in California that keeps us in such dire straits whenever drought conditions worsen. If you're under the impression that the volume of water being used in this challenge is remotely close to the amount of water needed to hydrate California, you are kidding yourself.

The volume of water being "wasted" via the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a drop in the bucket when it comes to California's water usage. I know you know how to Google, but if you're looking for numbers and maps about the drought, visit the State's website on the subject for details. If you really want to conserve water in California, you can follow their tips for reduction in your home and business. Really, though, you should be writing your representatives about reducing agricultural water use in our great state. That's where the waste is happening. Not in ALS fundraising.

Did you know that because of this meme, the ALS Association has raised 13.3 million dollars this summer, as opposed to their usual 1.7? Check it out. The number of individuals, families, and communities whose lives have been forever changed by ALS diagnoses will now be forever changed by the boost in research, equipment, and care that these dollars will supply.

So if you're an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge environmental naysayer, please send some money to the ALS fund of your choice; write your representatives about water use; eat less beef; buy local produce; replace all your grass with native, low-water-use plants; replace your toilets with low-flow models; reduce your shower time; get off your high horse.

[In case you're curious, I was challenged by my dear friend Jocelyn--I chose to forgo the ice water not because I'm a Californian but because I'm a wuss. Donating to fight a disease that has claimed the lives and livelihoods of people I love was fine by me.]

Monday, August 11, 2014

Let's talk.

Depression. Addiction. Suicide. Let's talk about 'em.

In the last few weeks, my mind has been pre-occupied with stories of depression and addiction and suicide because people I love are trapped and tortured and dead. There's not a "nice" way to talk about it. Well, there's a "nice" way, but it's false. There's a way to say that it's sad, and that they were gone to soon, and that we wish we could have done something, and that we wish they would have made better choices, and that we wish they'd asked for help. We put the onus on people who are not in control of anything to somehow snap out of it. And that dishonors humanness.

I can no longer count on just one hand the people in my life who are currently in the pit of addiction. Some of them have been in my hand for years. A few weeks ago, I learned that a long-lost friend-of-a-friend had died of an overdose a few years ago, and I'd never heard about it. While that sounds so far away, it just reminded me of the trajectory, in general. This weekend, dozens of people I graduated high school with came home to mourn one of our own. This weekend, I learned that another friend has been using--whether or not he'll seek professional help right away is uncertain. This morning, Robin Williams, a beloved entertainer whose lifetime of mental health struggle has been in the news, was found dead of apparent suicide.

So this afternoon, on the internet, we started to talk about it. We talked about how much we have loved him, how much joy he has brought us, how much his career affected our lives. Oh, it was wonderful. I used up 70% of my iPhone battery refreshing twitter to read the public grief. So many people expressing their dismay that such a positive contributor to the life of the world could meet such a devastating end.

Robin Williams and my friends and your friends have not suffered from something they could have avoided. Part of what's so terrible about depression and addiction is that we, as a society, only whisper about them and believe that seeing a therapist is a problem and that asking for help is a weakness. A woman I follow on twitter wrote a while back--in response to the suicide of a famous person--that the reason we are so aghast at addiction and mental illness and overdose, in particular, is that our minds have never been in such a way that that was an option, let alone the option. We cannot imagine what it's like to be so desperate.

And Robin Williams and my friends and your friends are not at fault. And when they die, you're not at fault, either. But while they live, let's talk about it. Let's let it out. Let's allow at least the decency to pronounce the words "depression" and "addiction" like we pronounce "cancer" and "heart disease" so that we might, together, pronounce "recovery."

The thing is, dear ones, I love you. I am glad you are alive. You matter to me. You matter to a lot of people besides me. You matter to your God (or to mine, if you don't consider God "yours"). The thing about depression is that it can rob us of that knowledge. Know it. Share it.

If you or someone you love needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or visit

Sunday, June 29, 2014

You're Invited -- Matthew 10:40-42

On weeks like this, as a preacher, you read over the assigned gospel text and say, “Well, I could just read that aloud and sit down.” Some weeks, the message delivers itself. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Welcome! 

Though you would not have asked me here today if that was all you needed, so, I suppose I’ll say a few words.

In this tenth chapter of Matthew’s account of the good news, Jesus is explaining to the disciples just what they ought to expect as they go out to continue the work of proclaiming the good news to the world. Over the last few weeks, the lectionary has walked us through the ups and downs. First, Jesus told them who to proclaim to, what to proclaim, and what else they should be doing: cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons—you know, the usual. They should take no payment for this work, but rely on the kindness of strangers. However, the disciples will be like lambs among wolves—not ideal. They should be prepared to be arrested and beaten and put on trial because of their affiliation with Jesus. He assures them, though, that the Spirit will move through them in this trauma. 

This really drives home the idea that Jesus was not necessarily the most popular guy in town. And we’re aware of that. Christians are still not necessarily the most popular guys in town. We’re “welcome” in a community (or a conversation, even) based on how people feel about knowing we’re affiliated with Jesus. Because of what most people associate with words like “christian” and “pastor” and “worship” and “baptism” and “salvation” and “evangelism”—the Religious Right—we the Religious Left have a hard time getting our message through before people’s eyes glaze over. 

And that’s a best case scenario! Plenty of folks have been hurt by the church—you and me included—who struggle to believe that “Progressive” and “Christian” can go together. Our own ELCA has had it’s struggles with this, when it comes to the ordination of female pastors and the ordination of queer pastors. 
How many of the first female seminarians—told they could study just as hard and care just as much as their male classmates but were “unfit” for the ministry of word and sacrament—felt welcome? 
How many queer seminarians—told they could study just as hard and care just as much as their heterosexual classmates but were “unfit” for the ministry of word and sacrament—feel welcome? And though we have rules and regulations and Vision and Expectations on the subject, we’re not perfect. 

Pulpits aside, what about you? 
What about the people in our pews and the people not in our pews? What does that welcome feel like? 

While we’re at it, let’s look at that word, “welcome.” Think about how that word works. When someone arrives at the place where you are—your home, probably—you welcome them. Right? Sometimes they’ve arrived unannounced—like if you’re welcoming them to your place of business. They’ve come to you, and you have offered them, at the very least, the word “welcome!” 

A friend of mine, Rob Moss, is a pastor in suburban Denver. Last year, he and his congregation decided to change that word. Because, welcoming someone is “passive. It denotes waiting for visitors and guests to drop by. When they do, we attempt treat them very well and do everything possible to make them comfortable. We’ll be willing to change who we are. We’ll follow particular formats that have proven to be more welcoming to new people. We’ll do whatever it takes to have them come back the next Sunday, even if they shouldn’t. Welcoming is about us, not about them.” 

Welcoming people into our church communities assumes that they’re going to know to show up at our door. That they’re going to come to us.  That they’re going to be the ones doing all the work.

Rob and his congregation decided to change their verbiage to being an “inviting” congregation. Because that’s different. In order to invite someone,  “we leave the comfort of our congregational home-court advantage. The main activity doesn’t happen in our worship space when people drop in, but in the neighborhood when we go out. It isn’t so much welcoming them into our place, but going out into their place and meeting them there.” Pastor Rob synthesizes the whole idea when he writes, “Welcoming involves hoping whoever happens to find you will join. Inviting involves sharing God’s specific gifts—made real in your congregation—in the world.”

How does this change Jesus’ words in the text for today? “Whoever invites you invites me, and whoever invites me invites the one who sent me.” Later on, in the text, Jesus says that those who welcome prophets—no matter if you agree with that prophet’s message—will be rewarded as those prophets will be rewarded. How people receive us is going to be affected by how we receive them. How people receive us is going to be affected by how we invite them. 

I can feel you all squirming. Invite someone? To church? The horror! Heaven forbid we engage in evangelism, out loud, to a real fellow human person! Ahhhh! 

Today, of all days, is going to be a great day to do that. After church today, I’m going to watch the Pride Parade, and cheer for all of the incredible performers and floats and groups doing incredible work for everyone in this city—for people of every gender and sexual expression. This is a welcoming day, of course. But today can also be an inviting day. 

If you’re out today, and someone notices that you’re, say, wearing a cross and also waving a rainbow flag—take that opportunity to say, “Looking for a way of being church that wants you, celebrates you, loves you? I’d like to invite you to mine.” If you’re out today, and you run into a protestor waving a horrific sign that puts words in God’s mouth that we’ve never read in this book—take that opportunity not to swear at them or spit on them (though Lord knows we’ve all considered it) but rather to say, “God loves you and me and everyone, actually, and if you’d like to experience that God, I’d like to invite you to my church.” I have my doubts that people will agree on the street to come to worship next Sunday, but they’ll at least think about the idea that you, and St. Francis, and the ELCA, and people who love Jesus could also invite, welcome, and love them. 

We know (or are learning) that God loves us. That we are claimed and loved as children of God despite and because of everything that makes us unique individuals and a motley crew.  We know that though we have not always done everything according to plan—ours or our parents’ or anyone else’s—God has loved us and the Spirit has moved throughout. We know that, as the Apostle Paul claims in this week’s text from his letter to the Romans, though we have been slaves to sin, and we have done things of which we are now ashamed. This much cannot be denied by any among us. But what is undeniable, too, is that we are free from that sin. We are freed by the grace of God. Who wouldn’t want to be invited into that?