A Different Kind of Proof

A man named Bob Ebeling thought he was a loser.

Mr. Ebeling was an engineer on the Challenger Space Shuttle and discovered that the O-ring seals in the rocket might not hold up in the cold temperatures of the 1986 launch.

He and fellow engineers pleaded with NASA to stop the launch, but they decided to go ahead anyways.

He went home, knowing the shuttle would explode. “And it did, 73 seconds after liftoff. Seven astronauts died.” (NPR 2/25/2016)

In an interview with National Public Radio, Mr. Ebeling shared that for thirty years has been carrying the guilt and the burden of the loss of life on that day.

Lots of people told him that it wasn’t his fault…

That he had done everything he could…

But he couldn’t forgive himself.

He believed one of the mistakes God made was picking him for the job.

And because NASA and the contractor in charge of the launch had never given him confirmation that he had done the right thing, he didn’t believe it.

 

What fascinates me about this story is that Mr. Ebeling did the right thing. He told the truth. He did everything he could to prevent the launch. And after his story first aired in January of this year, calls and letters poured in to his home. People who had been close to him. People who had worked with him. Complete strangers who had been moved to write and let him know that he wasn’t a loser, but a hero.

And yet, he wouldn’t believe… he couldn’t forgive himself…

Unless there was a specific act of proof – a call or a letter from NASA themselves.

 

I hear in his story the same kind of need to know and to find proof that I hear in our gospel lesson this morning.

Women trek to the tomb are the break of dawn. And they have no idea what to make of the stone rolled away. The body of their Lord is no longer there. What they are experiencing doesn’t make any sense until the angels appear and remind them what Jesus had told them: that on the third day, he would rise. And they remember.

Can you imagine their amazement?

They rush back to the disciples and tell everyone about what they have discovered. They tell them about the tomb. They tell the crowd: He Is Risen!!!!

And no one believes them.

They need proof.

They need something more concrete.

They need to see it to believe it.

 

And so Peter runs to the tomb himself, looks inside, and sees nothing but a cloth.

And the scripture says… he returned home, wondering at what had happened

But what I find amazing is that this account leaves out a key detail:  It never says he believes.

And I think if I had showed up there, I would have been surprised and amazed, but I’m not sure I would totally understand what had happened.

I think he was unsure.

Filled with doubt and questions.

He didn’t have enough proof to believe that what the ladies had told him was true.

Unless there was a specific act of proof…

 

Friends, it isn’t easy to believe the story that we share with you this morning.

Resurrection? Yeah, right.

We haven’t seen it or experienced it.

We can’t go back in time and run to the tomb ourselves.

Angels aren’t popping in to worship this morning to tell us how it is.

If even the disciples had a hard time believing, how are we supposed to understand this good news?

Where is the proof? Where is the concrete evidence?

 

Mr. Ebling wanted a word from specific people in order to forgive himself.

And he got it. He got a call on the phone from one of the vice presidents for the contractor, Thiokol who told Mr. Ebling – you did all that you could do. (NPR)

And George Hardy, a NASA official involved in the Challenger loss wrote to Mr. Ebeling – “You and your colleagues did everything that was expected of you.”

And it started to make a difference.

And then came a statement from NASA itself: “We honor [the Challenger astronauts] not through bearing the burden of their loss, but by constantly reminding each other to remain vigilant… and to listen to those like Mr. Ebeling who have the courage to speak up so that our astronauts can safely carry out their missions.”

That was it. That was the thing he wanted to see and hear. The proof he needed to let go of his burden of guilt.

 

The disciples wanted to see it with their own eyes… to touch their Rabbi with their own fingers.

And Jesus appeared to them.

He showed them his hands and feet. He ate a piece of fish with them. He personally reminded them of everything he had said – that he was supposed to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.

They got the proof they wanted.

 

But there is something that those disciples didn’t quite understand…

something that Mr. Ebeling didn’t quite understand…

something that we don’t quite understand whenever we are looking for a specific piece of proof or evidence… something concrete to demonstrate truth.

 

Yes, Jesus gives them the proof they wanted – he shows them his physical resurrected self – but the proof they needed was still to come.

Jesus isn’t there to show them his body. He is there to send them forth to live out his message.

“A change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Look, I’m sending you to what my Father promised.”

 

What if we have it all wrong?

We always say, “seeing is believing.”

But what if DOING is believing?

 

What if in the very act of living out the resurrection and the good news of Jesus Christ we find the proof we are looking for?

What if we are looking for proof instead of living out the proof with our very selves?

 

You see, Jesus, didn’t ask us to intellectually understand the resurrection.

He didn’t ask us to be able to explain it scientifically.

He doesn’t want us to have a philosophical debate with people about it.

Jesus wants us to live it.

To change our hearts and our lives.

To go out in the world and turn it upside down.

He started a resurrection insurrection and Jesus rebelled against the powers of evil, sin and death… and now he calls us to follow him in turning the forces of destruction on their heads.

It is in the process of living it, that we discover just how true and real the power of the resurrection is.

 

Over the last few weeks here at church we have been reading this book, Renegade Gospel. And it hasn’t been an easy book. The author has challenged us time and time again to get out there and live our faith!!!

That has been a hard message to swallow, because so many of us feel like we aren’t doing as much as Mike Slaughter asks of us. We feel guilty because we don’t go as far as he asks us to go. We aren’t sure we are ready to give it our all.

But what Slaughter reminds us in the very last chapter is “that an abundance of faith is not necessary.” Jesus told the disciples that faith as small as a mustard seed could change the world. “It’s not about how much faith you have, but how much of what you have that you commit to action.”

You don’t have to believe every single word of the gospel to live out the power of resurrection.

You can have all kinds of doubts and questions and you can still live out the power of the resurrection.

 

I’m begging you… don’t sit back, waiting for definitive concrete proof before you decide to become a Christian.

I’m not sure it’s there.

But what I do know is that when I live out my teeny tiny little mustard seed faith and trust in the power of resurrection, I find intangible, mysterious, holy truth everywhere.

I find it in this room when I hear the stories of healing in this life and in the celebration of a life that will continue in the next.

I find in in a letter I received from one of you this very morning that describes how you have awakened to a new understanding of faith and discipleship.

I find it at the food pantry in the hope that comes to life on the face of a mom who was desperate.

I find it in the pile of goods and sleeping bags and food that are outside the sanctuary, waiting to be delivered to homeless people through Joppa.

I find it in the discovery on a child’s face when they learn a new word.

 

Mike Slaughter writes that “the resurrected Jesus revealed himself to his followers in a very personal and real way. But he made clear its impossible to know him apart from the commitment to become intimately involved in his life and mission. Intentional participation in his life and mission is part and parcel of faith. Faith is a verb!!!”

So friends, don’t wait for proof.

Don’t spend thirty years of your life waiting for some kind of external validation.

Just follow Jesus.

Go where he sends us.

Join the incredible movement to transform this world!

Live it out by showing forgiveness and grace to every person you meet.

Live it out by praying for the sick.

Live it out by loving the unloveable.

Live it out by holding the hand of someone who is dying.

And you will find the proof you are looking for…

Because Christ is risen!

No More Denial

Seventy five years ago, I probably would not have been welcomed in this pulpit.  As a woman, ordination was out of the question.  A combination of tradition and a patriarchal society and a way of reading the scriptures precluded the church from welcoming women as preachers and pastors.

But here I stand… robed, ordained, my calling from the Holy Spirit confirmed by the church.

As a young woman, I have always lived in a church that ordained women.  I have always been a part of a church that valued the contributions women made in ministry, in leadership, and in the world.  It has been a given.

And so it was a wake-up call to remember at General Conference this year that this church has not always welcomed everyone.

Of the many things we celebrated – one was the fortieth anniversary of Cosrow – the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.  CSRW has worked tirelessly these past forty years to make sure women have had a place in the church… and continue to work hard in places like Nigeria, Tanzania and the Congo to help the United Methodist Church there continue to affirm the calling of women in a culture that has traditionally been led by men.

We also had a time of celebration of full-communion with our African Methodist brothers and sisters.  For students of history, the historically black Methodist denominations in our nation were formed out of discrimination and exclusion… beginning with the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The AME Church was founded in 1816 by Richard Allen who left the Methodist Episcopal Church.  At the time, black congregants were segregated to the second floor gallery and although the church affirmed his calling to be a pastor… Allen was only allowed to preach to and minister to other black Methodists.

After the AME Church came other Pan-Methodist denominations like the AME Zion church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church and the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church.

Twelve years ago, the United Methodist Church repented of our acts of discrimination and exclusion towards our brothers and sisters and this year, we celebrated full-communion together.  We now recognize one another’s churches, share sacraments, and affim the clergy and ministries of one another’s denominations.

I think that it is important to have this backdrop of our own exclusion, presumptions, and history of discrimination as we read our text from Acts for this morning.

You see, Peter has been sent on a missionary journey to the home of Cornelius… a gentile.  A Gentile is a non-jew, someone who was not a part of the family of Israel, someone who was an outsider as far as the faith was concerned.  Gentiles would not have been allowed into holy places of the Jewish temple. They were excluded because they were unclean.  They were different.  They were not welcome.

But while Peter is in this community, he has a vision of the clean and unclean joining together.  He has a vision of a new sort of body of Christ.  And when he goes to preach to Cornelius and his family, the Holy Spirit descends upon them and they recieve the gift of faith.

Peter’s world has just been turned upside down.  Those he thought were outside of God’s love and power have just had it poured upon them.  And exclaims: “These people have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. Surely no one can stop them from being baptized with water, can they?”

No one could deny their gifts. Water was brought and Cornelius and his whole family were baptized on the spot… they were part of the family of God.

I wonder if at various points throughout our history faithful folk stood up and exclaimed about women or people of color:  These people have received the Holy Spirit… just like we did – How can we stop them from being baptized?  How can we deny them a place at the table?  How can we stop them from being ordained when God has so clearly spoken in their lives?

I wonder what kinds of upside down realizations helped people to reverse traditionally held views about who was outside of the call and power of God?  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism was against women preaching in principle… until he witnessed the Holy Spirit working through the lives of women like Sarah Crosby, Grace Murry, and Hannah Ball.  He relented and licensed them for preaching in the circuits across England.

And I wonder where we need to have our worlds turned upside down once again?

In a small community like Marengo, we are not exceptionally diverse.  And so when we come to church we find a lot of people who look and think and talk like we do.  Or at least it might appear that way.

When we dig deeper, we find that we are young and we are old.  We are rich and we are poor.  We are healthy and we are in need of healing.  We have been educated by the streets and we have been taught in universities.  We vote republican and we vote democrat.  And yet, we have made room here in this place for all of this difference.  God is good!

And yet, there are still people missing from our midst.  There are still people in this community and in this world who either do not know that they are welcome here or who actively feel excluded from this community and from leadership in our church.  Our sign outside might say, “All Welcome…” but do we truly live that out with our lives?  And do we actively let people know with our words and our deeds that they truly can enter this building and be a part of our community? Do we go out into the world to discover where the Holy Spirit is active and moving in the hearts of children of God?

In our gospel lesson this morning, we are reminded that we have been chosen by God.  We are friends of Jesus… but not because of anything special that we have done to deserve that recognition.  No, God chooses who God wants.  And as we look through history we find that God choose people like the murderer, Moses; the deciever, Jacob; the prostitute, Rahab; the tax collector, Matthew; and the super-religious, Saul.

In spite of our pasts, in spite of our present, in spite of where we were born or who we were born, God has chosen to love us.  And God also chooses to love people outside of these four walls.  The Holy Spirit is out there in the world right now moving among people in this community:  parents with little kids; single moms; drug addicts; gays and lesbians; the elderly who are homebound; folks who partied too much last night; and people who don’t want to know Jesus Christ.

God is out there moving!  It was the Holy Spirit that led our apostle Peter into the community of Caesarea and into the household of Cornelius.  Cornelius may have been a Gentile, but God was moving in his life.  Cornelius actively supported the local synagogue and Jewish ministries… even though he was not allowed in the Temple to worship like those who were born Jews.

God chose to speak through him.  God chose to act through him.  And Peter was the one who needed the wake up call to see that the Holy Spirit could move even outside of the traditional bounds of faith.

In his farewell message to his disciples, Jesus not only called them friends, but he also reminded them that they were sent.  Sent out into the world to point to where the Holy Spirit is moving.  Sent out into the world to love the people, to love the creation, and to bear the fruit of the gospel.  And as we go, we need to remember that God can and does choose people who don’t look like us, talk like us, love like us, minister like us.

In May of 1956, the Methodist Church began to ordain women with the same full rights as men.  And in May of 2012, the United Methodist Church voted to fully recognize and value the ordination and sacramental authority of men and women that our church had shut the doors to 200 years ago.  And this General Conference, we began to make the first steps towards reconciliation with Native American brothers and sisters – who we as United Methodists have actively pushed to the margins of society.

As we experienced those acts of repentence at General Conference, my heart couldn’t help but wonder who we are leaving out today and are not yet ready to even admit… who are we still excluding?  Who has God called while we remain in denial?  May we have open eyes and open hearts and open minds to see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people in this world.  May we always be ready and willing to share this church and this ministry with all of those whom God has chosen.  And together, as friends of God, may we all go into this world ready to bear the fruit of the Gospel.

Treasures in the closet

image

When my grandmother passed away, my aunts and I spent hours going through her closets. Grandma Doni was a stylish lady. She was put together. But she was also my grandma, and we didn’t necessarily have the same fashion sense.

While there were a number of nice suits and jackets and outfits, there were few that really tripped my trigger. As a 20 year old college student, the clothes just didn’t fit with my life. Shoulder pads were out. The fits were off. But I reluctantly took a few pieces, stuck them in a closet at my parents and left them.

A couple of months ago, I was peeking in that same closet looking for my sewing machine. It was passed down from my grandma, too.  It is this heavy, old, seafoam green monster and I love it. But there in the closet, I also saw a few of those jackets and suits and found my eyes drawn to this pink camel hair pencil skirt. Of course, it had a matching jacket that still seemed a bit hideous, but that skirt caught my attention. So, I took it back home.

It hung in my closet for a bit until I finally decided to bust it out this past Sunday. I paired it with some white tights and a white wrap-around/button-up shirt.

One of my favorite things about the skirt is how well it is made. The lining is crisp. The side zipper actually hides inside the pocket. It fits in all the right places and moves well.

But most importantly, putting on that skirt, I think I stood taller. I thought about the woman she was and the woman she would have wanted me to be. And I would like to think that she would be pleased to see me up there, at the front of the church, in her pink camel hair skirt :)

competing goods and womens’ bodies…

Lately, womens’ bodies and health care and pregnancy and contraception and abortion and religious freedom and laws and the kitchen sink have been tossed around and talked about ad naseum.

My twitter feed blew up with critiques and praises of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  My newsfeed from facebook was littered with comments about rights to health care and freedom of religion. Over breakfast, having coffee, in person, on the phone, the issues these questions raise are all around me.

And I guess why this is so exasperating for me, personally, is that I can’t figure out what to say and where to stand.  I see all sorts of different sides to these issues.  There are a thousand shades of grey to understand in the conversations and multiple “goods” that unfortunately do not play well together. And so when I’m asked my opinion or what I think about it, it would probably take three hours just to lay out all of the pieces of the puzzle… and that doesn’t include any time spent trying to actually give an answer.

Most often, however, the arguments are boiled down to two positions.

On the one side – let’s just call it what it is – the left side – the argument comes from a question of whether or not people have access to resources they need to care for their bodies, make informed decisions, and lead autonomous lives. It is about rights and conscience.

On the other side – the right side – the argument begins with the beliefs/traditions/morals that institutions hold about our bodies.  It is also about rights and conscience.

You could start trying to pick a side by asking yourself -well, which is more important?  An individual’s rights? or an institution’s beliefs?

But then that leads to questions about what happens when one individuals conscience leads them to harm another? What happens when an institution’s conscience leads them to harm another institution? or an individual? or a group of individuals? Who/what is more valued? Which institution gets the say? The government? A church? Are any particular persons more “persons” than others?

(we aren’t even dealing with details, yet… just the big picture of rights)

Take the issue of birth control and the mandate (or whatever it is) that all institutions will have to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees through their health care.  It doesn’t apply to churches, but it would to educational institutions, hospitals, etc. that are religiously affiliated.  Which puts the issue of institutional vs. individual right smack dab in the center of the debate for an institution like the Roman Catholic Church that does not see contraceptives as a moral good.  It prevents life, therefore they are against it. I can completely understand and respect an institution’s beliefs and values and want them to have the freedom to stand by them.  But I would also like for the many Catholics who actually use birth control pill to have the ability to have it affordably.  I would like for the teenagers covered by their parents insurance who use birth control pills to mitigate acne to get it for a good price.  I would like the women who suffer with long and painful periods to be able to make a choice and have it covered by their employeers insurance if they need to use the birth control pill or IUD or other method to help regulate their cycles.  I recently read that over 50% of the women who use the birth control pill do so for a reason besides pregnancy prevention.  That number absolutely floored me.

As I heard on NPR this afternoon – if it is an argument about religious freedom… the bishops win.  If it is an argument about accessibility of contraceptives for individuals… then the administration wins. I want both institutions and individuals to have the freedom to make informed decisions and to stand by their convictions.  But in these particular issues, we just can’t have it both ways. So which is more important?  Religious freedom? or access to health care? Pressed to make a choice, I take the fifth.

I think I struggle also with the issue of abortion because it is not clearly a black/white issue… as much as people try to frame it that way.

The official United Methodist position regarding the issue can be found in The Book of Discipline:

The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born.

Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection.

We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. We particularly encourage the Church, the government, and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption. (See ¶ 161.K.)

Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

I appreciate the nuance that our position holds.  I believe it tries to hold up the goods of not only life, but also the good of family, responsible parenting, a woman’s body.  It also leads us into prayer about “the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion.”

One of my most memorable experiences in seminary was attending the Cal Turner Center for Moral Ethics retreat.  Graduate students from five different fields were brought together to discuss issues that we all will face in our career fields.  I was surrounded by students from the law, business, medical and nursing school – along with my colleagues from the divinity school.  The presenter that really helped me to understand the “gray” area of the abortion question was Dr. Frank Boehm, who had written a book called, “Doctors Cry, Too.”  He talked about his experiences in the emergency room treating young women who had either tried to perform abortive measures on themselves or had recieved “back-alley” abortions.  They found themselves in the E.R. with deadly infections, rips and tears, and irreparable damage. Some died.  He struggled with his convictions about life and the pragmatic reality that safe and legal ways of terminating a pregnancy were needed or these women would continue to use whatever means necessary.  His story has caused me to truly not have an answer when asked if I am pro-life or pro-choice.  I both want to uphold the sanctity of life and want those who see no other options to have safe and legal options available to them.  I also firmly seek to provide options and resources and hope to those who find themselves in those positions.

The UMC position also tries to bring some nuance to the very term “abortion.” We make a distinction between the stages at which procedures are performed. But mentioned here in this piece is no mention of the “morning-after pill.”   Some who are pro-life today would oppose use of the morning-after pill because it would prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg.  And yet, most morning-after pills are merely strong doses of the same ingredients found in other contraceptives. In reality, many contraceptives are effective in part because of this reason.  At the same time there is national conversation about mandating the coverage of contraceptives in health care, states like Mississippi have proposed legislation that take the definition of abortion to extremes that could potentially make said contraceptives illegal. That measure was NOT passed thanks to 58% of the voters of the state rejecting the measure. We have to have these conversations because even if and when we agree that protecting life is good, we don’t agree about what life is and when it begins.  Fertilization? Implantation? when an embryo becomes a fetus? According to some places in the Old Testament, life was determined by the breath.  We have talked about life ceasing with heart beats, so does it also begin with them? What about brain waves? It is a complicated and difficult conversation with no easy answers.

In all of these questions, there are goods that we are trying to achieve.  Goods like health, life, equality, choice, accessibility, convictions, morality, community, and accountability. And unfortunately, sometimes those goods compete and we have to choose between them.  And sometimes our decisions are merely choices between evils rather than goods. I see so many different sides and truly faithful and good people coming from all different perspectives.  My number one hope is that we might have these conversations with civility, respect, and a willingness to listen to the heart and experience of another person.

I just wish that these debates weren’t always about women’s bodies.  It is frustrating that we live in a world in which so many of these complicated issues have to do with what women can and cannot do with their bodies and have so little to do with the physical bodies of adult men.  I sometimes wonder if the conversations would be different.

Bible and Newspaper #1

Coming home from a recent conference in Washington, D.C., I’m trying to be more courageous. But I’m also faced with the reality that being a pastor, and ministering to a diverse group of folks… I can’t always link and share and say everything that I want to…

So, here is what I am going to do.
I’m going to continue to encourage us to look at the world with the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. And when stuff comes up that affects us all, I’m going to try to point out where our church has spoken on the issue and how we have interpreted scriptures.

So, for the first one, we might as well dive right in to the hard stuff: Abortion.

I do not believe abortion can be seen as a starkly black and white issue – all are bad or all are good… real lives of real people are bound up in these life and death decisions. And no matter what choices we have made, our task as Christians is love and care for one another – to help people heal and to be whole.

For those of us who are United Methodist and from Iowa, I encourage you to read House File 153 and to hold it in light with our own denominational position on abortion and our best understandings of scripture. Both Exodus 21 and Psalm 139 come to mind… one does not hold embryos, fetuses, or any unborn child to the same standard of life and the other does.

And perhaps, also think of the implications of such a law.  How would it affect birth control which in part prevents the implantation of fertilized eggs?  How would it affect emergency contraceptives? How would it affect the decision making process when the life of the mother is at risk if pregnancy is carried to term?

And not related to the issue, what does it mean for checks and balances that included in this bill it is written the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over a portion of our legislation.

Pray, read, and if you feel led, call your state representantive. As a citizen of this state, you have a voice… as a person of faith, you have something to say.

What “Little House on the Prairie” Leaves Out…

As a child, I absolutely adored the “Little House” books.  I fawned over the pages and the stories of Laura Ingalls and imagined her life growing up in the midwest in the late 1800’s.  They were full of rich detail and you could put yourself into that little sod house or the cabin in the woods or the shanty out on the prairie with FULL detail.

There is one thing that I think Mrs. Ingalls Wilder forgot, however – a small tidbit about life for women that perhaps she just couldn’t bring herself to mention.
I almost didn’t notice, until I finally finished a book on life in Iowa during the Great Depression called Little Heathens.  It is an autobiography, perhaps much in the same way that Wilder’s was – but with a slightly more matter of fact sense about it.  Mrs. Armstrong Kalish recounted her days as a little girl and described everything from butchering chickens to taming racoons, from school days to first kisses.  It was charming but not sentimental.  I really enjoyed reading it… so thanks Glenn and Maggie for the gift!
And in the last chapter of the book, as she told in some ways “the rest of the story,”  Kalish tells the story that Wilder forgot – what happens when little girls became young women.

Perhaps it is the fact that decades separated these women and the cultural allowances just weren’t the same when Wilder sat down to write out her stories.  But in the back of my mind, as I was becoming a young woman myself, I secretly wondered what exactly they did in those days.

Now, I know. Safety pins, old blanket scraps, and a bucket of water by the dresser… until she could save up her pennies to buy Kotex.
(I got curious after I typed this post as to whether I was wrong and Wilder did mention her “coming of age” somewhere in her journals or books.  I found this comment: “Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 1890s diary of the move from Dakota Territory to Missouri hints only: ‘I am not feeling very well and cannot go [river-bathing]’. Her daughter (technically also a Victorian, although quite forward-thinking as early 20th century standards went) deleted even that from the published version of the diary.”)

KEEPER!

A fellow pastor has a blog entry entitled “keepers” for this week.  My blog post will be nothing like his. Although, his made me think about the fact that it was about time for me to write this post.

If you are not a woman, you might want to skip this post.  Just come back in a few days and read about something completely different.

If you get grossed out really easily, you might want to do the same.

Because, I have a completely different type of “keeper” to talk about.

About once a year, I like to do my own public service announcement about the joys and benefits of menstrual cups.

Yes, you read that right. 

In college, I began to learn about being eco-friendly.  I was about a decade behind my friends who went to the other elementary school in our district.  They put on this awesome musical called, “Recycle It” in 2nd grade or something.  They continued to sing the songs through high school… but I never really got into the whole recycling and environment thing.  I was a republican, after all.  And we lived in the country.  And we burned our own trash.  It was just how we did things.
But in college… wow – my whole world turned upside down.  In a thousand different ways.  And perhaps the best way was this amazing group of men and women who cared about the world and the people in it and continually challenged me to make a difference – even in the small things that we do.
We served at the Catholic Worker House.  We protested.  We reduced, reused, and recycled.  We lived in community (most of the time successfully!).  We slept outside in winter to raise awareness about homelessness.  And we had lots and lots and lots of conversations.
One of the conversations that personally impacted me the most was the one about menstrual products.  For years, I had done what most women in the United States do.  I went to the store every month and plunked down my dollars for pads and tampons.  I had no idea that there was any alternative.  Suddenly as a result of that conversation though, keepers, and lunapads and natural sponges were on my mind.  I was intrigued.  I was curious.  I decided… what the heck!  I’ll try it.
It has now been seven years since I purchased my first lunapads and my keeper.  I spent a grand total of $65 and since that time I have spent NOTHING on disposable pads and tampons.  My keeper is my go-to for my menstrual cycle, but I like the flexibility of having the lunapads if I want to use them overnight. 
My first major traveling experience with my keeper was a two week European trip, and it got me through all sorts of different kinds of bathroom experiences.  The best part was that I could empty it in the morning and when we got back at night and never worry about it during the day when we were unsure about the bathrooms we would find.  It works wonderfully for swimming, it is comfortable, and most days I don’t even notice that it is there.

My husband never has to run to the grocery store to stock the cabinets with feminine products.  And for that he is grateful.  We don’t have heaps of trash to deal with. (For a REALLY stunning picture of the difference for the environment this switch can make check this out!)

I really feel like it is one of the best decisions that I have made for myself and for the environment.  And if you have any questions, feel free to ask me!