Category Archives: christianity


CLICK HERE TO BECOME A FOUNDING MEMBER

Can I start my message out with a scream??! Or maybe a song, “The hills are alive with the sound of music, ah ah ah ah!” If you could see me, I am doing leg kicks I am so excited about TARALOMA YOGA STUDIO! This place is a culmination of many dreams all wrapped up into one amazing opportunity. Many of you know I spent the last 10 years in ministry. You know that I am passionate about creating sacred spaces for people to encounter the Divine. You know how much I love to sing and use music to touch people’s souls (following all of the Keeping God’s People Safe rules of course). You know my creativity and my desire to embody and incarnate the Spirit and share this joy with others. 

For many years I felt tugged in different directions: musician or minister? Church or yoga? I realized I want it all. No bifurcating passions. No more dualism. Then suddenly I began to see how all of me fits into this TARALOMA dream. Right now (while I am doing leg kicks) I am designing healing liturgies for our bodies– especially for those of us who have been sexually abused, who struggle with addictions, or seeing ourselves in God’s image and are just too hard on ourselves. I am writing songs and chants to enhance my yoga teaching. I am designing a sacred space for people to encounter the Divine as we become more transformed into the beautiful selves we are but have maybe forgotten. 

Fargo is booming now and yoga and alternative expressions of Christianity & spirituality are a pioneering work in this historically conservative Christian area. As a seminary graduate, a youth minister in The Episcopal Church for ten years and yoga instructor I have the skills to make bridges and be a leader in this changing landscape.  As an introvert I am prone to do things by myself.  As a person of faith I know I need the community’s support and God’s help.  I can pull off the bare bones by September or I could invite others to help me create something bigger than I could imagine or ever do on my own.Here is my vision, and maybe you are a part of it: I see a sacred room, with yoga mats, blankets, blocks, and straps, available for guests to pop in before work, over lunch or before dinner to still their minds in meditation, prayer, music, and strengthen their bodies with yoga. I imagine inspirational art on the walls, candles, a warm room on a cold winter day where people can escape to center themselves and grow spiritually. I dream of a space where people can take off their masks and explore the deep questions of life.  I envision a healthy meal (a gluten free pan o’ bars and kale juice) shared in community after a Sunday’s healing liturgy of the body.

To launch TARALOMA YOGA STUDIO I am in need of basic yoga supplies, a few pieces of art, internet, insurance, some office furniture and a computer software program.  I’m so excited to begin this work!  And I am excited to see what happens has I partner with others to manifest this dream.

Donors will receive an invitation to the exclusive Grand Opening Celebration and free yoga/meditation passes. Far away friends who cannot join us will receive a copy of the homemade work of art that will hang in our studio with your name on it as one of our founding members as well as a personal guided meditation and/or yoga routine and/or song created just for you.

This page is a work in progress and I look forward to keeping you updated!

Thank you!  And Namaste! (Leg kick!)
Jessica

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May 19, 2014 · 12:17 pm

Were You There When They Crucified My Girl

A spin on an old spiritual. Often in holy week we focus on the history of the story. I wanted to contextualize and feminize the modern idea of crucifixion. Also to bring to light the fact that the female experience and the Divine Feminine are still excluded from mainstream Christian worship. Maybe the modern crucified Christ is the feminine form of God that is devalued and raped every day. Maybe it is time for Her to rise from the shadows of our unconsciousness.
#RiseWithHer

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Revealing Our True Selves

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It was a 6th grade assembly and I sat in the bleachers with my mouth hanging open as I watched a visiting jump rope squad perform a routine to Michael Jackson’s hit, Billy Jean.

“She is so cute!” Billy said pointing to the confident smiling girl in the center of the floor.  The boys quickly agreed that Jill (God I even remember her name!) was the cutest and I began to feel my skin grow hot and green.  It was another confirmation that what I needed most in life–to be loved–existed outside of my ordinary power.  If wanted to be like the confident girl that everyone adored, some serious changes were in order.

I began to grow out my hair (the whole mullet thing was seriously cramping my style).  I begged my mom for new clothes.  But even as I tried to change the outside, something was still fundamentally wrong with me.  I began making a list of all my physical inadequacies:  bony knees, glasses, no breasts (not much has changed in all these years).  I began to dread that since I couldn’t change these things that I would be doomed to live in the Land of Nerdom for all of eternity.

When my elementary school announced we would be starting our own jump rope team called the Jammin’ Jumpers I shed my usual shyness and ran to the front of the room to sign up.  Every girl was allowed to come to the practices, but if we wanted to travel to other schools and perform we had to make the cut.

I practiced for hours at home every night until I could do the routine in my sleep.  This was no small feat for a girl who didn’t even know how to jump rope and was called klutz by her family because she was often found splayed out on the ground with no explanation for why she just fell on her face.  Try outs were one week away and I was ready.

During our final practice the girls began to gossip about who was going to make the cut and who wasn’t.  Suddenly I realized the intense anxiety that filled the room as all of our eyes fell on Jenny.  If I lived in the Land of Nerdom, she lived in a land somewhere beyond it–in the next solar system.

Jenny was adopted and she looked different.  She was Native American with dark skin, wide chocolate eyes she looked at the world as if she had come from another planet.  I saw her jump rope tangled up in her feet. Tears welling up in her eyes.  I ran over to her and asked her if she wanted to practice with me after school since she lived on my street.  She looked up at me and smiled.

We practiced every day up until tryouts.  She told me how nervous she was.  I told her to watch my feet.  I promised to stand by her during tryouts.  I told her I would whisper the moves so she knew what do to.

Finally the big day arrived.  “Billy Jean is not my lover,” blared through the gym speakers.  “Criss cross,” I whispered to Jenny.  “One, two, three, four, heel toe,” I whispered.

The teachers made two initial cuts.  Jenny and I stood in the center of the gym with a few other girls. The teachers asked us to perform the routine one last time.  I was so relieved that I hadn’t made the cut yet so I could help Jenny.  I continued to watch Jenny’s feet and whisper the moves to her.  I was so proud of her.  She was nailing it.

At the end of the routine the teachers said, “We could tell which of you had learned your routine, and which of you were watching other’s girl’s feet because you had not practiced enough.”  Then they read the last cut.  When they called Jenny’s name we both screamed and jumped up and down.  But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

The teachers folded up their papers, stood up and congratulated the new Jammin’ Jumpers.  And I was not one of them.

“But you knew the routine!” Several of my peers gathered around me to console me.  They knew that I knew the routine.  They knew that I had worked with Jenny all week.  But the teacher’s did not.  I remember that pain of being unseen.  Of having no words and no power to change the outcome of the situation.  I remember the dark clouds that rolled in that day.  The way I curled up under my covers and cried when I got home.  I remember that feeling of exclusion, as if my exile from belonging was now publicly official.

The teacher’s were right, though.  I was not looking at them and smiling.  I was looking at Jenny’s feet and whispering her the moves.  I was sacrificing my best so that Jenny would make the cut.  Only I had no idea how much I was sacrificing.

As a woman, I find that sacrificing everything–even my success–is a very easy thing to do. I was raised in a Christian home that valued service and shunned selfishness.  I looked to Jesus who gave even his life away for others.  I learned how to be a spiritual doormat.  The nuance I was missing was seeing clearly who I AM.  Often when I let others define me I feel like I am a nobody.  On the other hand,  Jesus (as ego-inflated as this may sound) knew he was God (at least in some of the gospels)  and it was this radical audacity that really pissed off the religious leaders.  He was claiming his own power.  A power that he knew was divine.  I had yet to find a connection to that kind of power in my life.  For so long that power remained outside of my self.

Psychologists tell us how important mirroring is in forming our early identities as children.  When we have been abused or neglected that work of seeing our true essence is even more difficult.  As I have grown up I have often had women confess that they hated me initially because I was tall and beautiful, which I still don’t get because when I think of “me” I think of the picture posted at the top of this article.  I think of the girl who didn’t make the Jammin’ Jumpers.  How blessed are we when we are surrounded by people who see our value and divine worth.  (Even when we sport mullets.)

What I am finally learning as I near 40, is that belonging is not about fitting in at all. Brene Brown reminds us that actually fitting in is the ultimate barrier to belonging.  Her research has shown the tolls of trying to twist ourselves into something else for others.  Belonging begins with self acceptance.  For me it begins by loving the nerd that I am.

I still don’t know my limits, I don’t know exactly who I am and what I am capable of.  But I am testing those limits and gathering the courage to face whatever learning opportunities present themselves.  I am becoming mindful of the twisting that I can do for others (this has nothing to do with yoga)  in order to belong.  I am learning to distance my true self from the voice that is constantly hounding me:  “You’re going to get run through the ringer for that one.”  “You’ll never make a living doing what you love.”  “You have nothing to give.”  I am learning that this voice wants to protect me from future harm.  But it goes too far when it protects me from truly living.

So I am learning to live with less judgement.  To accept each day as having an abundance of grace and all that I need on my path.  I am meditating on the great I AM.  When I meditate on I AM I cannot see myself separated from the mystery of creation.  Instead I become keenly aware that the life force of the universe dwells also inside of me.  Jesus called this God.  It has also been called Love.  A love that is stronger than death.  And it’s this realization of incarnate love that allows us to make the great sacrifices in life.

I remember watching Jenny run down the hallway with all the Jammin’ Jumpers.  I had never seen her body radiate so much joy.  And in the midst of my own feelings of rejection, her joy touched my heart and I was able to share in her bliss.  The illusion was that I had been cut off and separated from that joy–but the truth was that I had been a part of it all along.

Today, I know that I am not the outcast I thought I was.  I am the fruit of creation’s ancient journey.  I am made of star dust.  I am a miracle.  I am enough just the way I am.    And so are you.

Michael Jackson was right, Billy Jean is not my lover.  I am the lover I have been looking for all along.  And you are yours.   May you have compassion on yourself this day, and receive who you are.

Happy Valentines Day!

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On the Incarnation of Joy

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The birth of Christ is a miracle that happens everyday.  Likely, you have experienced it too.  After some stretch of darkness.  In the winter of the heart.  In the daunting face of a reality that we can finally open our eyes and behold.  Maybe with someone holding our hand.  Usually in some cold manger night, in some strange place, in a challenge that seems insurmountable.  Beholding begets humility.  It moves us from a place of denial, from a place of anger into the tenuous realm of acceptance.  Here looms the ominous threat of annihilation.   Can we survive the void?  The deep caverns of the unknown?  Are we strong enough to make the journey into new life?  

I stepped into that chasm about six months ago, when I resigned from my full time job as a youth minister in the Episcopal Church where I had worked for the past ten years and moved to Moorhead, Minnesota as my husband accepted a new teaching position here.  When I telephoned the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota (which includes the Fargo-Moorhead area) they sighed when I inquired about continuing my youth ministry work in the area.  I learned that this area (which is Lutheran country) is sort of an Episcopalian mission field.  Of the few Episcopal churches in the area (that makes three) most are made up of part time clergy and lay ministers who volunteer their time and talents.  And though I have talents and time to share (and will) I also need to help pay the bills.  And so my new career search began.

I had this dream, for years I have had this dream, of creating alternative liturgies to help heal the body.  Naturally I was drawn to the church.  I have considered ordination.  (I may still be considering it.)  But first, I needed to do something else.  I needed to work on my own healing if I wanted to help others heal.  So I wrote a memoir to work through the issues in my past.  And I began practicing yoga to work on healing my body.  When we moved to the great white north, I serendipitously began yoga teacher training.

The practice of yoga is more than postures (or asana).  Yoga means to “yoke” or “unite.”  Yoga is about wholeness.  It is not a religion in itself.  Practicing yoga is simply adding to your spiritual toolbox.  In asana, we practice uniting the breath (prana) with the movements of the body.  The Hebrew word for breath is ruach, and in the story of Genesis 1, it is the breath of God that creates the universe.  To be alive–to be filled with spirit–is to be filled with the breath.   When we are breathing deeply and fully we are bringing life healing energy into our bodies.  We are incarnating the Spirit as we open ourselves to receive the nourishment of our breath.  Just this very simple attention and practice of breathing and mindfulness can dramatically change our lives and our health.

I applied for jobs as a baby photographer, as a web designer, I even went looking for bar tending jobs.  I started to panic.  I began to reassess my dreams and goals.  I wasn’t interested in making money just to pay the bills.  I wanted to move on the dream in my heart.  And so I stepped out it faith.  And things started to happen.

Monday night I will begin teaching my first yoga class at The Spirit Room in downtown Fargo.  I am developing a class called Healing Yoga.  We will fill our bodies with restorative and energizing breath.  We will bring the breath into our fears and aches.  We will listen to our dreams, sing, chant, and move our bodies like liturgical movements that build to that most holy union of spirit and flesh.

I will also begin teaching at the Fargo YMCA (schedule to follow) which comes with the perks of free child care while I work.  I feel like I am beginning another journey into the unknown, carrying these seeds of hope.  I also feel carried by invisible hands and so supported by friends and family.  I am so grateful to be doing what I love and to witness the universe tending to our basic needs as I pursue the incarnation of my joy in the world.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!   I am praying that all of your joy may manifest in the world too.

 

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Advent Reflections: Pain is Determined to Be Heard, by guest blogger Kate Green

This is the first reflection offered in our advent series on our experiences of incarnation.  To submit a piece for consideration please email Jessica at jessicajcreech@gmail.com and see the guidelines here.

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Back in May, when my job involved being surrounded by little ones who were not my own, I hurt my neck. I assumed I slept on it wrong and pinched a nerve, but the sports med doctor I saw two months later assured me that, no, pain like I had doesn’t come about by sleeping, but by moving. It’s in the resting for hours later that my body had time and space to register the pain. And with that comment, a journey began in which God spoke clearly and distinctly to me, through me. Or rather through my body.

I started physical therapy a little nervous. I am in no way, and have never been (even when I played softball that one year in high school just because my sister did) athletic. I was feeling guilty and ashamed and sure the therapist would blame me for the pain I was in, due to my lack of caring for myself. I waited with trepidation until she called me back and we began. And she, well, she was amazing. She spoke words of life and encouragement and I knew, I just knew, that this was something way beyond becoming pain-free. This was something sacred.

“Don’t invalidate your pain. Don’t brush it off or think it isn’t a big deal. Don’t dismiss it by comparing it to others whose pain is worse.”

Yep. First session and she had me pegged as she spoke those words to me. A month later when the pain flared up again as I did some work in my son’s classroom, she reminded me that

“With movement, comes pain, and life involves movement.”

Life. Movement. Pain. There was something there and I needed to listen. I needed to start listening to my pain. It was telling me something, telling me that I was alive and that as one alive, there was pain. Pain that I was trying hard to brush away, to fix, to get rid off as fast as I possibly could. Deep emotional pain that was forcing itself on my body, determined to be heard.

I was thinking this morning of how I feel things so intensely in my body. How emotions move through me with power and force. When I am afraid, I am gut-wrenchingly sick-to-my-stomach afraid. When I am sad, each ragged breath is almost too much to bear. When someone I love is hurting, my heart literally aches for them. When my children valiantly walk their way through hurtful situations, I feel it deep in me. Pain is a felt thing for me.

I am learning that healing needs to be a felt thing for me. Many a day I’ve sat at my piano crying out to God with every movement of my fingers, feeling the release as they move along the keys. Too few mornings, I follow my PT regiment with purpose, feeling the release as each muscle pulls and relaxes. In quiet moments before the after-school rush, I breath deep, full breaths, feeling the release as my heartbeat slows and space for God to move opens up.

Having this body that moves and feels pain and breathes life, I am speechless when I remember

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)

I close my eyes and try to fathom this Man feeling pain in His flesh. This Man walking, touching, laughing, crying, sleeping. This Man breathing life, one ragged breath after another. I think of how His Spirit moved through His body with passion, and at times with anguish, as the NIV says. I think of Him taking into Himself the pain of the world and really living that pain. Feeling that pain.

To live advent, to know Christmas, for me this year, is to let the Spirit have free reign in my body. I don’t know what God is birthing in me but I know that the same Spirit who hovered over Mary is doing something. When each step forward feels wrought with anxiety… when my soul burns within me… when my heart is stretched and pulled, I think of my therapist gently cradling my head in her arms, enfolding me with care, twisting and turning, not to inflict more pain, but to bring release, and I remember to surrender to the movement. I walked out of physical therapy pain-free but with the knowledge that staying pain-free was a precarious thing dependent in great part on listening to my body, leaning into what it is saying, and letting myself be fully alive in it.

Kate Green is a Jesus follower, mom, friend and neighbor who enjoys contemplative prayer, Coldplay, and the Detroit Tigers. She cares deeply about lgbtq inclusion and autism acceptance, and really can’t live without a constant supply of grace and coffee.  You can follow her on Twitter @cgmama.  

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Now receiving submitions for my advent blog!

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Calling all bloggers to submit a reflection on the incarnation for my blog this advent. Specifically share how you have experienced God in your body or conversely tell of your experience of the absence of God in your flesh. I love the theology of advent, particularly this idea that we are all created to be God-bearers. But I am curious about how one makes their body a sacred dwelling place in a culture that often devalues and objectifies the body. How do you handle this tension?  I also love the feminine implications of this reflection: let us all imagine ourselves pregnant with holiness. Write about how you carry and nourish what is sacred within.

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Are Men’s Bible Studies Killing the Church?

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The church’s cancer is insidious.  But we know it’s here, growing, consuming all that is sacred and if we don’t do something to stop it now, the fabric of our society and our world will be torn beyond repair and we will lose everything that is holy to us.  But let’s thank the Lord that we have the tools we need to direct the radiation and begin the treatment.

We know the feminists really messed up the God ordained structures of our society.  Our men were emasculated and our children were abandoned.  Suddenly men thought we really needed one another.  We thought that talking to others like ourselves would help us understand our unexpressed thoughts and feelings.  We needed the reassurance of our faith.  We needed to build up our trust in an all powerful God.  We needed more hugs and we began to call one another brother.  We needed family ministries because our families were falling apart.  The church doubled down and courageously survived the waves of feminism.  Thank the Lord, no one started praying to Sophia on Sunday or radically changed our time worn liturgies and languages to reflect that anything but the ancient belief that only the male sex can hold divine qualities.  Yes, some of us allowed girls to become pastors and priests–but only if these girls were able to support the powerful God-ordained patriarchal top down order of the church.  Sustaining this order is certainly the key to the church’s survival.  But here we are, having won the battle of the sexes and still: our churches are dying.  And it is with this understanding that I have come to realize how men’s bible studies have become the cancer that is infecting us all.  And because we can take it:  you can begin directing the radiation here.

Kate Murphey recently claimed that Youth Ministry is killing the church.  But let’s man up a little bit.  Children are an easy target.   Do we really want to send our kids to the front lines of this cancerous battle?  Maybe.  I’ll be the first to say it:  If we are going to cut youth ministry, then it’s time to surrender our men’s bible studies too.  We too have become our own sort of mickey-mouse eared church.  We are like a clique that lives to serve it’s own selfish purpose.   We have deep conversations that are meaningful together that no one else would understand.  Damn, we have even cried together.  But it’s time to grow up now and be a role model for our youth.  It’s time to get thicker skin.  I know that this will be difficult for us to do, and that’s when it hit me:  a radically reinvention of church is necessary.

I mean, we really can’t afford to hire a youth minister anyway, so let’s just be honest about why we think it’s youth ministry that is killing the church.  That certainly alleviates a lot of pressure.  After all it’s nearly impossible to find someone who is willing to work at such a low wage with no insurance, who actually has a theological education, who has been trained in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd or Godly Play and understands the spirituality of the child anyways.  Besides, even if we found someone willing to do this work, it would require the parish to embrace this spirituality of the child and we may have to radically change church in ways we can’t control.  Honestly, and let’s admit what we only post on other blogs anonymously: youth ministers are really just immature people who don’t really deserve our respect.  I mean, they work with children after all, children who are not even fully human and put very little into our offering plates on Sunday mornings anyways.

Whatever Jesus said about becoming like a little child to understand the heart of Christian spirituality is forgetting how much fun it is to practice a religion filled with masochistic guilt.  Our graying congregations have already figured out the secret to building a vibrant community and it’s not by self-serving anyone but our inner curmudgeon.  What little children need to understand is how to worship like grown ups.  They need to put down their iPhones and come rake my leaves.

It’s time to put a stop to all the tender feel good ministries of the church and get everyone back in their uncomfortable pews on Sunday morning.  It’s time to stop asking questions, stop having meaningful conversations with our peers.  We all should be forced into a community with people and that’s why no one is going to be allowed to pick their own seat anymore.  We’ll assign pews so everyone must sit by strangers because the most important thing about church isn’t being comfortable or welcoming, but perfecting the liturgy and keeping our bills paid.  (In fact, lets all invite our rich friends because the poor have become such a drain on us in this economy).  Let’s cut all the fluff ministries. No more kids programs.  No more men’s bible studies or women’s groups.  No more home visitations (what have they done for us lately?)  And yes, no more youth ministry.

But let’s be honest about why we’re doing this.  It’s because our overworked priest really gives us all that we need for one hour on Sunday.  The rest of us already know that we are not worthy and could never live up to our priest’s spiritual standards and that’s why we’d rather not get involved anyway.  And frankly, we’re quite happy to carry the burden of guilt because we enjoy suffering silently.  And besides, being passive aggressive is actually kind of an exciting way to live one’s life when you’ve got nothing better to live for.

It’s time to cut the crap and get our churches back on track.  And I’m willing to give up the ministries that feed my soul in order to do that.

–J. Creech  was an immature Youth Minister in the Episcopal Church for ten years,  who unwittingly helped kill the church by creating sacred spaces for children of all ages to respond to God at age appropriate levels.  

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