Thursday, January 4, 2018

Horses Speak of God...Coming Soon!

After many months of writing, editing, more writing, and more editing, I'm over the moon about the cover and the opportunity to share how horses have given me a way to experience God more fully when I'm in their presence in this book.

While the book should be available in April, keep checking here for updates, excerpts, and links to reviews.

Whether you've ridden horses yourself and know the deep spiritual relationship they offer or have simply admired them from afar (or enjoy writing that I hope blends undisguised emotion and edgy, humorous insight about just how messy our human relationships with the Holy are), this book has words to speak to you.

Horses Speak of God from Paraclete Press, Spring 2018

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Stable in Our Heart

Christmas in Connecticut is one of my favorite Christmas movies. It stars Miss Barbara Stanwyck, who’d I watch read the phone book if it were filmed. She stars as a magazine food writer Elizabeth Lane.

She fills her articles with recipes of the amazing food she grows and cooks on her Connecticut farm, asides of the antics of her adorable baby, and loving references to her husband. She’s basically that person on Facebook, except the movie takes place in the 1940’s and no one could read how amazing her 25 layer cake made with flour she milled herself while teaching her 18 month old how to speak Chinese as her spouse finished adding a quaint but perfectly decorated guest house to their back acreage while we stand in line at Kroger’s on Christmas Eve hoping no one will notice the mashed potatoes we serve tomorrow come from a box.

Except there’s a twist. 

Because there’s always a twist. 

Elizabeth Lane is single, lives in New York, and the closest she comes to cooking is opening the menu at her favorite restaurant.

Through some twists and turns, Elizabeth tries to live up to the image she’s created for the world to see one Christmas in Connecticut and it, as it always does, all comes crashing down.

One reason I love this movie is that, without really ever mentioning a deeply true meaning of Christmas, it tells that story. Many of us rush around to find the perfect gifts, decorate our homes with the latest ideas in holiday d├ęcor, and strive for whatever image we have in our hearts and minds Christmas should be. We want to write the Facebook post, Christmas letter, or story that is merry and bright.

But the dark streets of life are ever present. The perfect gift can’t make up for the strained relationships we might have. While decorating the tree we hold an ornament that was the favorite of a loved one who died, and the grief rushes up on us. The feasts and parties can’t fill our souls, often weary from the ever-present discord we hear in the state of our nation and the world.

As much as we want to write a story of perfection, the true words of humanity and life twist and turn in us, shifting us off balance, making us wonder exactly what is so merry about this season.

Just as a young couple wondered over 2000 years ago. Two Jewish people living in an empire ruled by Rome, who at best tolerated this sect of people who had the audacity to worship a god they called the One, True God, who promised to send a savior, Emmanuel, God with us, to ransom a people captive in unrest and discord.

In keeping Christ in Christmas, we are called not so much to worry about what the local salesperson says to us as we hand over money, but more that we remember Jesus was not born all those eons ago into a world that suddenly stopped all its wrongs and said, “Wow, you’re here. Now we can get our act together.”

God doesn’t come into a perfect world. God comes into our world, messy and disorganized at best, scary and intimidating at its worst. God comes to us, just as we are – not the we that posts the filtered picture on Instagram that makes us look amazing or the we that seems all together, but the we that is simply where we are.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, may we meet him as we are, in our honest joy and even our honest pain. The world may want the false idol of perfection. We may be tempted to embrace picture, too, thinking we have to pretend to be merry and bright to come to the manger. After all, image is everything.

But not for God. God's love that was birthed into creation eons ago continues to find a way to be born into our lives through honesty and even doubtful faith.

In fact, perhaps in our meekness, our vulnerability, and even in our fearfulness, that is when Christ truly can be born into our hearts.

Into the Darkest Hour
by Madeleine L’Engle

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.

Hungry yawned the abyss —

and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight —

and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?

Ah! wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Times Have Changed...

Sexual misconduct and abuse is not an occasional event that happens randomly and to people who "deserve" it. This traumatic and sinful act occurs daily, hourly even. Since my first book, I have received emails and letters, mainly from women, who shared their stories of sexual abuse and misconduct within the community of the church. Almost all of them noted that their abusers continue to be active in the church as an ordained or lay leader.

Now - finally and hopefully - we are reaching a time in our culture where these experiences are not excused as boys being boys or misunderstandings between two people. I have hope, and I also realize old patterns are hard to break.

But old patterns can be changed.

I do have hope that more and more women and men and people will share their stories. I hope that more people, especially men, will call out abusive behaviors in others and recognize these behaviors in themselves. I hope those in power, especially those in power of the church, will look deeply at their complicity in a system of gender bias that leads to abuse.

I also realize that in the midst of this change, I will retire the name Dirty Sexy Ministry. When I started Dirty Sexy Ministry almost a decade ago, the name of the blog was a bit shocking and edgy. The name got attention. People engaged, read, and shared posts. We were able to use this forum to speak some truths of a life of faith with humor, authenticity, and vulnerability.

But times have changed, and what was at one time edgy diminishes the very real issue of sexual abuse and harassment that pervades our society and our church.

The name changes, but the blog remains. It will be under my name, LaurieMBrock. This change will take place in the next couple of weeks.

Thank you to all who have been a part of this journey. More is most certainly on the way. I look forward to the release of my new book Horses Speak of God in the spring and details about release events and speaking engagements will be on this blog.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to tell the true stories, particularly those stories of people who are mistreated and abused in ways that diminishes their sexuality.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

It's Hard Being Wedded to the Dead

I stood in our Memory Garden at Church last week, surveying the space. We clear the renegade spouts that have taken root through the summer and trim the bushes as we ready the Garden for fall and winter. I pinched a few dead flowers from their stems.

Thursday is All Souls’ Day, and our Requiem Eucharist ends with prayers in the Memory Garden. We name aloud those who have died and are buried here as we light candles, a visual reminder that the darkness of death and sorrow shall not overcome the light of Resurrection. We do this in the midst of our sorrow, at times. 

Even at the grave we make our song, "Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia."
A neighborhood cat who enjoys our church grounds joined me in the Garden, rolling joyfully in the newly-spread mulch. On the very edge of the memorial marker, I saw a chipmunk peep over the granite edge, deciding which creature, the human or the cat, would be the bigger threat to its survival.

It apparently decided neither of us looked particularly threatening, so it busily buried an acorn. I presume for a later meal.

Even in the midst of death, life exists.

One of the names we will read at the end of the service would have enjoyed this moment. She loved nature, all its wildness and movement. I still miss her.

I miss many of the names listed on this marker. I’ve buried all of them, and each year, we add one or two or four or several more names. The numbers don't increase the grief as much as give it a different weight in my soul.

All these names will be spoken aloud on Thursday evening, as we light candles for each of them in the dark Kentucky night.

All Souls’ Day is one of those holy days of the church that gets slightly ignored. It is the third and final day of the Fall Triduum, the three holy days of All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day, three days that remind us of the waning light of our human life and that the apostrophe lessons in grammar classes really do matter.

Its official name in the Episcopal Church is the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed. I like All Souls’ Day and will remain unpersuaded that a longer, more complicated title for the day is useful. The roots of the day are found in the practice of having Masses for the souls of the dead on the anniversary of their death. Over centuries this became conflated with the practice of praying souls out of purgatory and other abuses associated with Masses for the dead.

The abuses are mostly gone. Yet the day remains.

On a very basic level, I think it’s an important day to commemorate because grief needs a place to be welcome. We don’t suddenly stop grieving because our loved ones have been dead a year or a decade or whatever random time stamp we humans desperately develop to control the wildness and unpredictability of grief. Our ancestors who had a church service on the anniversary of the death of a loved one were making space for grief, welcoming her again to the table, and reminding themselves that it’s okay still to miss them.

That we remember still loving and missing our family and friends who have died is welcome in the emotions of God. Our culture treats grief as an emotion slightly ignored and almost irrelevant after a certain amount of time.

Yet it isn’t.

Grief becomes part of our bones. A certain smell can bring us back to childhood days in our grandmother’s kitchen when we gathered for Sunday dinners of fried chicken and mashed potatoes, and we remember the people no longer alive. Seeing the reds and oranges of autumn leaves as we drive through a mountain pass on our way to another church meeting brings forth in us the words, “You know, he always loved the mountains in fall as we remember a dead colleague.” A courageous chipmunk and lazy cat stir the image of a woman who would love them both. I can almost…almost... hear her laugh on this unusually warm autumn day.  

Grief becomes part of us when someone we love dies. We are wedded to it, mostly unwillingly, like a bride forced to marry a man she’s never met and does not love. But the transaction has happened, and here we stand, remembering those whom we love but see no longer. And on this day, we have the holy space and time to grieve.

I hope you find a place to remember them today, to say their names aloud – those you love still who have died whose voice you miss or whose laugh seems to fade over the years. Maybe a church service. Maybe a visit to a place they loved. Maybe their grave.

Take today and visit with grief and God. Maybe you will cry. Maybe you will laugh. Maybe you will do both.

I hope the day shakes loose some grief and in that moment, you feel the connection of love across the ages that joins the living to the dead in Eternal Life. Maybe you feel anger and hate, too. Grief is complicated in its expression because humans are complicated.

I hope this day reminds us grief, while often unwelcomed, is part of the intricate experience of being human. We, whether we like it or not, are wedded to the living and the dead in our love, anger, joy, and sorrow.

This is part of the communion of saints. And on this one, lovely, challenging holy day, we come before God, standing with our grief, and She blesses us in our marriage to the deep intricacies of our human experience.

It Is Hard Being Wedded to the Dead
– Jan Richardson

It is hard
being wedded
to the dead;
they make different claims,
offer comforts
that do not feel comfortable
at the first.

They do not let you
remain numb.
Neither do they allow you
to languish forever
in your grief.

They will safeguard
your sorrow
but will not permit
that it should become
your new country,
your home.

They knew you first
in joy,
in delight,
and though they will be patient
when you travel
by other roads,
it is here
that they will wait
for you,
here they can best
be found

where the river runs deep
with gladness,
the water over each stone
singing your
unforgotten name.