A few years ago, at UNCO (a conference I attend annually almost religiously) I was pouring my second cup of coffee in the cafeteria when I saw Carol Howard Merritt writing on a bunch of small pieces of paper. As I walked by, she looked up and asked if I could help her.
“Sure, what are we doing?” I asked as I took a seat at her table.
“I’m writing permission slips. We’re going to hand them out at the closing gathering as a way to let folks know they can go do the thing they want to do. They don’t need permission to be who they are or to do what they believe God is calling them to do. We need to stop waiting for permission to do the important things on our minds and in our hearts.”
I took a blue sharpie and starting writing phrases like: You have permission. Just do it. Yes, you can. Go ahead; do it. Today is your day. And the one that I got – This is your year.
I carried that permission slip around in my wallet for more than a year.
That was a stellar year for me and my congregation. We created a third vocation for our community of faith - a Wellness Center. And I wrote a memoir.
You see, my friend Carol encourages life – full life. The kind mentioned in the Gospel of John, chapter 10, when Jesus says that he came to “give us life – full life.”
My friend, Carol affirms full life – so much so that she wrote a book on how to embrace full life even when the community of the guy who desires to give us full life beats the life out of us.
Carol has a similar background as me. She went to Moody Bible Institute; I went to Oral Roberts. She has been a faithful follower of Jesus since her earliest days. She has memories of church and prayer meetings and bible studies that mirror my own. She also has painful family memories that are intertwined with her faith formation – just like mine.
In our childhood and youth, we learn of faith while we are learning to be people. And then more often than not in our early adult life, we spend a lot of time with and money on therapists trying to separate the two. As a pastor, I have cared for so many people who have baggage from conservative Christian homes. This may be offensive, but one of my seminary professors told us that when she was raising her children, they were allowed to watch anything on television except Christian broadcasting. Christian dogma, or any religious dogma, is the hardest thing to unlearn.
Carol's book doesn’t seek to help someone unlearn dogma. Instead, it creates a path for full life, despite dogma. She's has even created a path alongside dogma. But the book isn’t for the faint of heart because she asks a lot from the reader. She asks us to remember moments of pain, grief an confusion. She questions the the picture of God we hold in our deepest hearts and she turns it upside down while still treasuring that very picture.
Carol, like so many of my friends and colleagues, have persisted in relationship with the church despite being chastised for our questions, our gender, our sexuality, our beliefs and interpretations of the Bible. Even though you may never know it, there actually is a robust herd of followers of Jesus who do not consider themselves evangelical Christians. We have a whole other way of understanding faith and God and our world and one another and ourselves. And we still call ourselves, rightfully, Christians.
There still are a lot of people who persist in attending church to sit next to people who are different, sometimes odd, almost always needing something in life – love, acceptance, rest, forgiveness, peace and maybe permission. But as many who have persisted with the thing called church, there are a lot who have not. There are a lot of people who have given up because the very place that should have offered them love, hurt them or rejected them. Carol shines light on some of that rejection: abuse, patriarchy, gender identity, sexual identity, body image, finances and even fear of emotions.
If this sounds like you or someone you know - maybe this is your year or their year. Maybe this is the year to remember the pain, grief or confusion of faith and religion. Maybe this is your year to turn your image of God upside down while still treasuring it. And if this is your year, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Carol Howard Merritt.
PS: Seriously... don't worry. She would happily guide you whether you have any intention of darkening the door of a church again or not. I promise. This journey is worth it regardless of the religious outcome.
I'm a manuscript preacher - you know what that means when I'm calling my representatives to tell them thank you and to offer my concerns? I need a script. It doesn't make me stupid. It doesn't mean I'm bad with words. It means I like to think about what I'm going to say before I say it. It means I care enough about my representatives time - no, the staffer's time who is answering countless calls each day - to say something in a concise manner.
So here - I'm sharing my script. Cut and paste. Adjust for yourself. Share it.
Step One: If you get a real person:
May I speak with the staffer responsible for: issue you're calling about (immigration, ban on refugees, healthcare, education, senate hearings, etc...)
Step Two: Introduce and Thank
Hello my name is NAME. And my zip is ZIP CODE.
First I'm calling to say thank you for all that the SENATOR OR CONGRESSWOMAN/MAN does for our state. And thank you for all that you and the rest of the staff do here and in Washington, DC.
Step Three: Share Your Conern
If calling about refugees -
I am concerned about this latest temporary ban on refugees. In particular a ban on Muslims coming into the country and even more disturbed by any preferential treatment that a Christian may receive coming into the country.
Please do whatever you can to lift this temporary ban on refugees. (For those in my congregation, I add: My congregation has been working with Church World Service to settle refugees and I am calling asking you to help lift the temporary ban so that we can continue our work.)
Add this when calling Senators - In addition, I understand Jeff Sessions co-wrote the ban so please make sure to vote no at his confirmation hearing.
Again, thank you for all that you do. There is no need to call me back.
If Calling about Healthcare –
I am concerned about repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. My husband has secondary multiple sclerosis and is on federal disability. Right now he relies on the healthcare that I get through my employer. We are concerned for those with preexisting conditions. The ACA has also made healthcare affordable for so many in my circles through the medicaid expansion. Please ensure that the replacement for the ACA looks after those who are most vulnerable in our society.
Again, thank you for all that you do. There is no need to call me back.
I woke this morning, rolled over and glanced at the news on my ipad. I should not have allowed this to be the first thing I think about after a good night of sleep. But I did.
Since September, I've limited my news intake significantly. I've stopped watching television news completely. I deleted the facebook app on my phone to avoid click click and wrong information. I've limited myself to long form articles from typically the Atlantic or the Guardian. And I usually follow up my reading of those long articles with quick fact checks from the specific governmental or other sites mentioned or from AP or Reuters.
Consuming the news for me is a disciplined activity.
Now this morning, the article I read was from the Atlantic, so I didn't really break my disciplined intake per se... it was just now going to consume my mind for the first part of my day. Typically, the best part of my day - the part of the day where my mind is fresh and sharp.
Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order "Temporarily suspending US refugee intake." While reading the article, I noticed my breathing had changed to short, shallow breaths. It felt like someone or something was sitting on my chest, pressing on me. I stopped periodically to take longer breaths, catch my courage before it was stifled.
As a leader of the Christian Church, a pastor of the Presbyterian Church USA, I'm horrified by this clear inhospitable action, something that runs contrary to my faith tradition and the faith traditions of those in my community - Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish. The call to welcome the stranger is pervasive in religion. How is this happening to my country, a country of immigrants, that welcomes the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?
My husband just came in while I was writing to offer me another cup of coffee and to tell me that the executive order is already being set to review by the court of law. He reminded me that we still have law.
I told him though that I'm going at this from a Christian leader perspective. The Atlantic also offered an article, "Which Christians Leaders Are Telling Donald Trump to Keep Out Refugees?" I am certain my denomination has counseled the opposite. In fact,
The announcement was met with immediate backlash from leaders of nearly every Christian denomination, along with those of other faiths. They argue that Trump’s actions do not reflect the teachings of the Bible, nor the traditions of the United States, and they have urged the president to let them get back to work—many of the country’s most prominent refugee resettlement organizations are faith-based.
The article names two faith based leaders who are counseling the President: Franklin Graham and Focus on the Family. I decided to write a quick note to these faith leaders urging them to provide a moral compass for the President. If you would like to join me, here are links to contact forms for these two organizations:
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Family Policy Alliance (Public Policy arm of Focus on the Family)
And here is the letter I wrote.
Now I'm reasonable enough to know that Franklin Graham and James Dobson aren't going to take a Presbyterian Woman clergy person seriously anyway. So, what is my actual pastoral political response? The next paragraph of the article asks...
If so many prominent Christian leaders reject the notion that their fellow Christians should get preferential treatment, why has this become Trump’s policy? One possible answer is that these leaders don’t necessarily reflect what their flocks believe. Even if they think an open refugee policy is in line with the teachings of Christianity, lay Americans don’t necessarily feel the same way.
You know on Sunday morning I have folks who voted for President Trump and I have folks triggered by President Trump because of past trauma in their lives. Sunday morning is an incredibly difficult, complex place for preachers these days.
We're not on the same page. We weren't on the same page November 9 and we're not going to be on the same page tomorrow morning January 29 when we walk into church together. But my job as a leader is to help people get on the same page.
Sunday morning (or Saturday morning in synagogues and Friday nights in Mosques) need to be a place where we can wrestle with the ways in which our faith makes us uncomfortable.
It's uncomfortable to realize that our faith calls us to places of risk. It's uncomfortable to trust in God who loves the stranger as much as the familiar. It's uncomfortable and downright scary to admit that Jesus, if he were to come today, would not be on the side of the empire but instead would be seeking to tear it down, undermine it, and call people into community - a beloved community of equality and right living.
If this election has shown us anything, it's that the American people want decisive, strong leadership. So, let's lead. Let's get under people's skin and then sit down for coffee to talk through it.
Let's talk about the faith passed down to us by our ancestors - not the nationalistic, empire-driven American version of Shintoism. Let's lead the conversation toward the good news. The good news of Jesus creating a movement for poor people by poor people. The good news of Jesus not letting empire get away with mistreatment and dismissal of those who are hurting and vulnerable. The good news that Jesus was once a refugee himself.
I'm heartsick about what is happening at Standing Rock. I have two friends and colleagues who are there right now and another who was arrested a couple weeks back for peaceful protestation. In so many ways, I see us as deciding that living in the history books as being a savage people who robe indigenous folks of their land is better than actually having to live with the answer, "No."
No, we can't put a pipeline through their land. What if they were allowed to say, "No?"
Because that's not even on the table as an option. I welcomed this article that explained the many "talks" that had happened with the indigenous folks. The author explained that the Native American counsels often didn't meet on their schedule or in their time frame. The Native people simply didn't play by the rules we set out. But we set out the rules to ask them a favor. It wasn't ours to set the rules. It wasn't ours to decide to rescind on the contract and understanding of sovereign land.
I have two colleagues who are at Standing Rock now, sitting by the seven tribal fires that have come together in one encampment. This hasn't happened since 1876. Here is one colleague Aric Clark offering a Thanksgiving Day meditation. Here's another article from Thanksgiving by Benjamin Perry, "Spending Thanksgiving at Standing Rock Changed How I View the Holiday."
I can't get enough of it - news of it, prayer for it, information about it.
Of all the things that have happened this month, this is the watershed event. Forget what we thought of the last election being a watershed event - forget Clinton being the first female to run for a major party, forget Trump defying the odds and destroying the Republican party - the action we are taking at Standing Rock is going to speak to the character of our nation.
History books will continue the long tradition of describing American as the place that came and took land from others. We are the land that makes treaties and then breaks them. We are the land of manifest destiny. We are a bully who is greedy and doesn't take no for an answer - actually we don't even offer it as an option as an answer.
As a Christian clergy person in the United States, I can no longer read, interpret or preach the sacred texts of my tradition from any other perspective than that of the oppressor. I am on the side of the oppressor. And I am heartsick about it.
I'm starting to read a book called Faithful Resistance. It's been on my shelf for months and now is the time. Why? In it, Rick Ufford-Chase asks the question, Can a church who has been at the center of Empire for as long as we have make a course correction intentionally moving from the center of Empire to the margins?" I don't know the answer to this question but I want to find out what my friends and colleagues suggest is the answer. Would you like to join me in reading? I would certainly enjoy the company.
An excerpt from my memoir Breathing and Grieving,
Pete' We still see Dr. Mike weekly. It's been eight years for me. I go more often than Pete these days. Mike cares deeply for me. He watches the changes in me, not just my back but my attitude and my energy and whether or not I'm laughing. He's developed a genuine relationship with me.
This has begun to happen I think with Pete's cardiologists. He has two - a plumber and an electrician. In the past four months, we've been to their office at least twelve times. Pete's heart health has not been fine. And amidst us not being fine, they are respectful (they call him Mr. Scibienski) but they speak in friendly, loving tones. Pete banters back and forth with all of the staff, particularly the phlebotomist. (If we've been twelve times, he's had blood drawn at least six of those times.)
The Cardiologist's office has a salt water fish tank. I took these pictures yesterday.
We found out yesterday that the electrician/ cardiologist is going to have a baby. She told us as she was answering Pete's concern about a car accident they had over their vacation this past summer. He asked if they had working cars and how they were doing since the accident. She leaned back on the counter as she told us about totaling one car but not the other. She said she was getting a Subaru and then she went on to explain that she was going to have a baby and they needed to upgrade their car space. We told them about our family getting a Subaru for the same reason. All the while, none of us were itching to end the conversation and move on with our day.
I found myself saying little prayers for her afterwards, for her health and her marriage. I found myself excited for her and so happy to know her. And a full day later, I thought about her taking some leave and I worried a little bit. But only a little bit because she has her partner the plumber and the whole office knows us and cares about us. And it'll be fine. But this small amount of worry reminds me how important doctors are to the chronically ill. It's not just the expertise and the medication, it's the relationship and feeling safe while everything in life is so unpredictable and vulnerable.
In a healthcare climate where physicians are asked to see patients faster, where most patients often want a refill on their prescription rather than a relationship with their physician, where healthcare is expensive (particularly for those who are healthy because they are paying for those who are not), I'd like to say thanks for our team of doctors. Amidst the climate of healthcare, they also know the climate of our lives. They see the stress on my face and they see the stresses on Pete's body. In a world where the answer to "how are you?" is "fine," our team of doctors know we are anything but fine.
My grandson Mateo was helping his Dad, PopPop and Uncle a few days ago by picking up all of the tools on the floor and handing it to someone willing to tell him what the tool was called. Over twenty years ago I moved into a house full of men, who loved me then and still love me today but who use as few words as possible when they are together. It's the most silently active room in the house. They are thinking and grunting and looking at each other and pointing at things and looking at each other again. So much said, so few words uttered. Mateo fits right in.
Pick up tool. Look up. Catch an eye. Raise an eyebrow.
“That's a hammer.”
“Hamur,” Mateo says, mimicking his PopPop.
Pick up next tool. Look up. Catch another eye. “Hmm?”
“Vice Grip pliers.”
“right gip pies,” echoes Mateo.
Mateo holds the “pies” for a little bit fiddling with them while the others problem solve the newest furniture addition to my bedroom: a twin hospital bed. And then – click… followed by crying.
Mateo had pinched his finger in the pliers. Dan picked him up, rubbed his back and whispered in his ear, “can Daddy see?”
Mateo shook his head.
“Ok, not yet. It's ok," his dad affirmed him.
A few moments later, Dan asked, “You ready to show Daddy?”
Still no. Dan continued to affirm, "Ok. ok. ok. Shhh.”
It was several times before Mateo was willing to show his dad where the vice grip pliers pinched his finger. Sometimes we're just not ready to let others see where it hurts.
Twelve weeks ago, life “pinched” me and I simply haven't been ready to let others see or hear about my hurt. Throughout the process of accepting and adjusting to my husband's diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, I have written about the grief associated with chronic illness. Many of my thoughts are found in these posts that I have fashioned into a memoir that I am looking to publish.
While I was putting the memoir together, I stopped writing about the everyday “pinches” that still happen to us. But my silence hasn't been because I've been busy with the memoir. My silence has been like Mateo, I have been unwilling to let others see my hurt. The most recent pinch seems like I need to perhaps start talking about some of the hurt.
Pete has had heart disease since I've known him. A heart attack and double bypass surgery was when I first became a Scibienski – sitting beside his sister and brother and mother in the waiting room, staying overnight with Joe in the evenings in what would become my home soon after. Heart disease is managed these days with medication, regular stress tests, stints and defibrillators. Pete's two cardiologists are part of a team of seven professionals who manage Pete's overall health. He sees two because one “is the plumber and one is the electrician,” they say.
Twelve weeks ago, Pete woke with shortness of breath. It scared him. We called the cardiologist and the plumber told us, “Come into the office today and we'll figure it out.” Adjusted medication, blood work and a return visit revealed that Pete was suffering from Congestive Heart Failure – which is less of a diagnosis and more of a turn in the corner of his already clear diagnosis of heart disease. Turning this corner set off a series of needed changes – some we were ready for, others we were not.
Pete has probably had MS for 35-40 years but we learned of it with a difficulty walking 11 years ago. For a couple years, he used a walking stick from time to time. A couple years later, we introduced a walker. Then two years after that, the walker was replaced with a rollator (a walker that can transform into a transport wheelchair.) Then two years later, he began using a motorized wheelchair. This year, we have become the proud owners of a fully automatic hospital bed.
When I lay it out like that, it seems structured, calculated, simplistic. It is none of those things. The truth is: each transition is the result of incremental pressure that eventually forces the vice grip pliers of life to pinch us. The last bit of pressure on the pliers was congestive heart failure, but the pressure that led up to it was a progressive loss in Pete's mobility and independence. Pete was needing help more and more moving from chair to bed or to toilet or to shower. Pete was needing help dressing or putting his shoes and socks on.
Adjusting my life to these needs has hurt my whole self - mind, body and spirit. These adjustments won't leave a mark. I can't point to the "ouch" anymore. It's been absorbed in my daily routine, in Pete's daily routine. The pressure (at least to the point of vice grip) has been relieved by our team which included my mother bringing dinner each week, cleaning my kitchen and doing my laundry for almost two months. Some of the potential pressure is alleviated by my youngest son helping out more regularly. But like Mateo, when he was ready to show his dad his pinched finger, he blinked his eyes, looked around, pointed to the pliers. He looked up at his dad, raised his eyebrow and his dad said, “Yeah. Pliers. Ouch.”
Mateo shook his head up and down and said, “Pies. Ouch. Yeah.”
I hear you Mateo. Chronic illness. Ouch. Yeah.
I've just come home from a mission trip to West Virginia. It's been a long time since I have done something like this – load up a caravan of cars filled with suitcases, pillows, sleeping bags, donated items needed for the work yet to be determined and snacks – lots of snacks. In fact, I believe peanut M&Ms literally sustained me over the past six days. (They're really trail mix if you think about it.)
I joined ten others ranging in age from 13 – 50-something in a caravan to Gary, WV. I had never been to West Virginia, except to drive through on the way to somewhere else. I had never driven deep into the luscious green trees interrupted by windy, single lane roads that look and feel more like long driveways. I had never heard the unique drawl of folks from West Virginia, which is sweet to the ear and slow – oh, so slow – when compared to the rapid fire to which my mind was accustomed.
On our first night we met an endearing man who greeted us with enthusiasm. I believe he was an individual on the autism spectrum, which to me means that his mind was created with more space for information, for wonder, for relationship. He listened to every word and repeated it. “You from New Jersey. Where bout?” “You from Kendall Park, New Jersey, Kendall Park. Where's that?” “You from Kendall Park, New Jersey. Right between Philadelphia and New York City.”
He had committed us to memory. We met others with the similar slow drawl, not quite as unique as our first friend. But the pace, and the intentionality with which we would speak and listen, was the pace at which we would live our life for the next six days. This pace... I believe it saved me.
And there was space for me - a twin bed in a building that was more abandoned than it was re-purposed. The first night I fell asleep in a hot, sticky room while the lights were still on, the conversation of my teammates continued to buzz around me. But when I woke, I immediately realized that my body had finally shut down and was beginning a full system reboot.
This new place, with its slow pace and welcoming people – it's green, expansive trees towering around and above us – this new place was able to shut me down. My mind, body and spirit would reboot at the pace of the slow drawl of this foreign land. My mind would tune to a new frequency, my ears would learn to process differently, my muscles would unwind, my breath would deepen. Over the next six days, this foreign place dug through my worry - removed files, categorized experiences, negotiated memories and filed them all appropriately.
On the ride home last night, when we were punchy from lack of sleep and longing for our clean beds in our air conditioned homes, we found ourselves imitating that first person who had greeted us with enthusiasm – who had listened and committed to memory who we were. His voice was sweet on our tongues as we turn his phrases with his unique drawl. They say, imitation is the best form of flattery and it was true last night. It was flattery with bits of reverence as we tried to sound like him. Our mouths and our tongues and our vocal chords were committing him to memory. And by committing him to memory, we were creating a forever file of the day when he committed us to memory.
I can't speak for the rest of my team but I have committed him to memory because it was his welcome that set in motion a process of salvation for which I am so deeply grateful.
For the past several months, I've been on an interesting professional journey. Like many of my colleagues, we are having to be creative about funding our vocation. I've been saying for most of the last decade that the traditional way of funding a local church is changing. Along with the funding, the traditional way of being a community of faithful people is changing. Just as every other industry in our culture is having to adapt, those of us who lead groups of people who are attempting to follow the ways of Jesus in our world, are having to reinvent, reimagine and after death, resurrect ourselves to the new life that God intends.
We've been looking and dreaming and planning and planting the new for years it seems. And despite all of our hard work, it is still clear that my congregation, a vibrant, missional community of faith with far reaching outreach in our community will soon not be able to fund a full time pastorate. This is not an indictment on us. This is a reality of our cultural changes. And it is also important to note that every single volunteer in my church is bivcocational. We would do ourselves a great service it we would all remember the importance of us giving of ourselves in many ways, using the gifts that God has given us for many purposes.
Now none of can tell the future but I wanted to be faithful to what I was seeing so I've been listening for the still, small voice of the Spirit of God guiding me and directing me about how I might become a bivocational pastor. I had to let go of the idea, the picture of what I thought it meant to be a pastor.
To help me do that, I've resurrected something important to me that I had let die... music.
I studied vocal performance long, long ago and then went into youth ministry where I picked up a guitar and sang mostly youth group songs. Now I play my guitar in preschool chapel... sure at least I'm playing it, right? I've long said that if there is a conversation we have to have with God at the end of our lives about how we used the gifts we were given, talking about my voice would not go well. I was given a tremendous gift, one I rarely use and have hardly cultivated. Until now.
A couple friends and I recorded an EP this week with four hymns that are on the public domain. Generally speaking, the songs I picked go really well with the subject matter of the memoir and I hope that somehow they could be marketed together. At the very least, it proved to me that I could not only speak on broader themes but that I could offer music as part of my ministry to a larger audience. I'll keep you posted about its release and what I plan to do with it.
I still feel incredibly called to the local church. Being a pastor keeps me grounded, aware of what real people are thinking about and struggling with. I think my greatest gifts still remain in being a pastor. In fact, resurrecting music has reminded me of God's promise to continue to do new things.
Here's a sample - not from the mixed recording but from my phone resting on a table nearby... enjoy!
It's a snow day here in New Jersey. We've cancelled church and I'm missing my congregation who would be gathering this morning. I saw a post for devotions to do at home and thought - let me put something together really quick to get us thinking this morning.
I was going to preach from Psalm 19.
You can read it by clicking here.
And then here is a video that speaks to the themes of Psalm 19. Take a look. The lyrics are below.
Creation Calls by Brian Doerksen
I have felt the wind blow, Whispering your name
I have seen your tears fall, When I watch the rain.
How could I say there is no God? When all around creation calls!!
A singing bird, a mighty tree, The vast expanse of open sea
Gazing at a bird in flight, Soaring through the air.
Lying down beneath the stars, I feel your presence there.
I love to stand at ocean shore And feel the thundering breakers roar,
To walk through golden fields of grain With endless bloom horizons fray.
Listening to a river run, Watering the Earth.
Fragrance of a rose in bloom, A newborns cry at birth.
For more meditation, Go to The Timeless Psalm by Joan Stott
And finally, here is a prayer from Rev-0-Lution
Architect of Creation, create in us new hearts that grow room to love those who are different from us.
Draw up plans for our future that include us reaching out to those who are different from us.
Remind us that You have built a foundation for us to stand on that will never fail.
Call us to trust in Your design for our lives to love and serve one another, especially those who are different from us.
Keep us in Your vision, as You continue to build something new in our world and in our lives. In the name of Christ, who has shown us Your blueprints and continues to build the kingdom among us, we pray.
There are only five weeks in between Epiphany and Lent this year. For us pastor-types, this feels like we're running through the stories in the Bible. If Jesus were a toddler when the Magi met him, then it's almost like he grew one year each day from now until Ash Wednesday.
Our church sponsors a preschool. One of my favorite moments each year is when we switch gears from teaching about the Christmas story to teaching about Jesus' teaching and healing ministry. Inevitably, one of the preschool students always asks, "how did he grow up so fast?!" I shrug and say, "we're pretending."
We were joking about how fast this season of ordinary time is between Epiphany and Lent when one of my friends said, "someone should do a blog each day for each year of Jesus' life between now and Ash Wednesday." What a great idea!
Of course there are almost three decades of "quiet years." This is what has been called "the white fire" of the scriptural texts.
"An old Jewish commentary speaks of the Bible as having been composed in black and white fire. The black fire is seen in the form of the printed or handwritten words on the page or scroll. The white fire is found in the spaces between and around the black.
I learned this technique of interpretation in a series of Bibliodrama classes. A group of us gathered and "played" around with scripture together, using our imagination to experience more of the text than what the written words had to say.
And speaking of written words, we don't have too many written words about Jesus' childhood or young adulthood. There are many 'infancy gospels" that didn't make the final cut for the canon of scripture. Check out these.
By using some of these infancy gospels and engaging with the white fire, many have written really wonderful works of fiction about Jesus' life. Here are some of my favorites:
Because an important part of my theological education comes from an imaginative New Testament scholar, Virginia Wiles, let me also give you a link to her website. She has recently published for purchase a series of "playdates with scripture." These easy, fun exercises help you to use your own imagination with scripture. Enjoy!
And one more thing... if you think I'm crazy or that playing with scripture is irreverent or sinful. If you believe we need to be serious only in our interpretation, check out this article I found the other day about "Why children need Biblical Melodrama."