Happy Fourth of July

Be grateful for what you have,

they say.

Okay.

I’m grateful for my marriage

with my husband.

But many folks across the country,

emboldened with power,

want to rip our marriage apart,

calling our love unconstitutional,

along with many other nasty

words, phrases, and threats.

Seeking the goal of allowing

states to make our union illegal,

or perhaps a full-fledged federal ban.

So I’ll be grateful for what I have,

as I’ve been told,

before it all gets legislated away.

Happy Fourth of July

Psalm 23 as a Gay Love Letter

My Lover is my Lord,

in him, I do not want.

He lies with me on clean linens

and wraps me in his sinewy arms.

He enlivens my body and soul

and leads me on pleasurable paths

toward mutual ecstasy.

With him I journey through 

the soft fleshy curves,

hard muscled edges,

and vulnerable tissues 

of our bodies.

In him, I fear no harm,

for his rod 

and my staff

are in the hands

of excellent communicators.

He prepares a warm cuddle for me

after the stresses and joys

of the daily grind;

he anoints my head with kisses

and my heart overflows.

Goodness and mercy

flow from our union

into all of the days 

and the ways

of our lives.

I shall dwell in the embodied home

of my Lord – my Husband – 

until death do us part

and we reunite 

in eternal embrace.

Showalter-Swanson: Coat of Arms Explanation

We are excited to announce that we are now legally…

  • Connor Alexander Showalter-Swanson
  • Grant Tyler Showalter-Swanson

Reason: Over the past four years of marriage, we have spent a lot of time discerning how we can (a) best honor our wonderful families through our family names and (b) create a unified last name for our family in the future. After much time of prayer, listening, and conversation, we have settled on the hyphenated last name: Showalter-Swanson. We are thrilled that this hyphenated last name enables us to be unified in name as we contemplate the future of our household and pay tribute to our incredible families who have poured into us, loved us, and formed us into who we are today.

Coat of Arms: During our name merging conversations, we noticed that four values from our families continued to come up that were not only deeply meaningful, but also came from both our Swanson and Showalter families. When we concluded that hyphenating our two names was the best way to honor our distinct family experiences, we also wanted to find a way to name and celebrate these joint family values. As a result, we decided to create a Coat of Arms in consultation with artist kerrysilkpainting / silkandtimber. We weren’t interested in a Coat of Arms in the traditional heraldry sense, but in the sense of family history, legacy, and four named values. The consultation process was amazing and allowed us to not only honor our families’ values, but think about how we, as the Showalter-Swanson family, can continue to embody and live out these values in our present and future.

The following is an explanation of the different parts of the Coat of Arms.

  • Shield: The shield is the focal point of the Coat of Arms since it memorializes the four common family values we identified in our family legacies, our upbringing, and in the familial future we hope to create together. 
    • Quadrant 1- Faith: Faith is a central tenet of our lives that was instilled in us by the Swanson and Showalter families and through our church communities. Our families taught us to pursue God’s goodness in our lives and in the lives of others. Faith will always remain a central guiding value in our lives. One of the places that this faith has shown up is within the United Methodist Church. Connor grew up attending a United Methodist Church and Grant’s grandfather and uncle were both United Methodist pastors. As we have grown together as a couple, we have found a church community and home at Urban Village Church (UMC). Grant is also ordained as a Deacon in the UMC. As a result, this quadrant is represented by the UMC cross and flame symbol. Additionally, we want to partner with the Holy Spirit in co-creating the Church as a place where all people can find community and church precisely because of who they are, so the flames include the colors of the progress pride flag.
    • Quadrant 2 – Love: The Showalter and Swanson families have always been places of love, warmth, and joy. This familial model has greatly impacted how we interact with the world as individuals, and as a couple. One of the ways that we have understood what we mean by this ongoing tradition of love is through Galatians 5:22-23: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Since the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ translates as singular, we like to interpret ‘love’ as the fruit of the Spirit, and ‘joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ as descriptors of this love. As a result, we can be attentive to the ‘fruit’ of our lives- individually, as a couple, and in community- to assess if we are being faithful in our commitments to God, one another, and our communities. As a result, this quadrant is represented by two tree trunks that have intertwined and bear the literal fruit of love. The two trees represent the union of the Swanson and Showalter families through us. 
    • Quadrant 3 – Hardworking/Trailblazing: Both the Swanson and Showalter families are extremely hardworking people. Both families are committed to putting in their best effort, whether in work, family, relationships, faith, etc. Not only that, but the Swanson and Showalter families have a tradition of being trailblazers: seeking vocation and occupation that fulfills their particular callings and giftings, whether there is a family precedent or not. Ranging from a rancher, pastor, attorney, mechanic, legal judge secretary, domestic engineer, prevention program specialist, and development director, there is a clear family precedence of blazing new paths in the pursuit of God’s call and vocation in our lives. We continue in this family tradition of hardwork and trailblazing as an educator, recruiter, and soon to be PhD student. As a result, this quadrant is represented by a bright and shining north star. Just as the wise men in the Bible made a new path pursuing God’s call in their lives by following a bright and shining star, and just as travelers used the north star as a guide to find a path out of now way, so too do we pursue God’s vocation and call in our lives with God as our focal point. Stars are also particularly important to us since we began dating under the geminid meteor shower and Grant’s proposal for Connor occurred at the Adler Planetarium. 
    • Quadrant 4 – Education: The Showalter and Swanson families have always placed great importance on the power of education. Education was modeled and encouraged at an early age. We have lived into that with a deep love for learning, 6 total post-secondary degrees (and one more to come), and a vocational call to the ministry of education. We have witnessed the transformational power of learning and feel called to be co-laborers with the Holy Spirit in the ministry of education. Connor has now been a teacher and educator for a decade and is a leader at his school and network. Grant taught for five years and is now pursuing a PhD to be able to teach at a post-secondary level. As a result, this quadrant is represented by an open book with flames coming out of it. The book represents learning and the process of education. The flames represent the transformation possible when ideas ignite through learning and the power of the Holy Spirit through pentecost. Also, the flames are shaped as hands, demonstrating that education is a ministry of helping and accompaniment between the relationships of student, teacher, community of support, and the movement of the Holy Spirit. 
  • Banners
    • The top banner pronounces our merged family name: Showalter-Swanson. The doves holding the banner both represent the Holy Spirit moving and guiding our lives and the desire for peace to be a fruit of our partnership together. 
    • The bottom banner memorializes the date of our wedding: February 18, 2018 
  • Crest
    • The crest begins on the outside with the two stars that symbolize two unique individuals coming together in one bond. As mentioned before, stars are particularly important to us since we began dating under the geminid meteor shower and Grant’s proposal for Connor occurred at the Adler Planetarium.  
    • Next moving inward on the crest are the olive branches, symbolizing peace.
    • The center of the crest memorializes our love of cats, particularly our cat Nessa. Nessa has been our fur baby since the beginning. She has brought us much life, joy, and love – traits that we hope to bring to those with whom we interact as a couple. The gray and white design mimics Nessa’s fur markings.
  • Border:
    • We love to travel. Being able to see the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, both in our front door in the United States, and around the world, is a particular passion of ours. For Connor, that love of travel is best represented by his family’s pilgrimages to the Ocean City, NJ seashore. As a result, waves comprise the bottom part of the shield’s border. For Grant, the love of travel is best represented by his family’s frequent trips to the Vail/Beaver Creek areas. As a result, mountains makeup the top half of the shield’s border. 

Preparation Prayer

Lord,

prepare my ears to hear the suffering

shield my heart to not take on that pain

warm my soul toward genuine empathy

enliven my mind to interpret and translate

and sharpen my tongue to speak the wisdom

of Your Holy Spirit

Amen.

‘Nature Poem’ by Tommy Pico Review

www.goodreads.com/book/show/32311036

“NDN teens have the highest rate of suicide of any population group in America. A white man can massacre 9 black ppl in a church and be fed Burger King by the cops afterward. A presidential candidate gains a platform by saying Mexican immigrants are murdered and rapists

It’s hard for me to imagine curiosity [in America] as anything more than a pretext for colonialism” (Tommy Pico, ‘Nature Poem,’ 40).

“Look, I’m sure you really do just want to wear those dream catcher earrings. They’re beautiful. I’m sure you don’t mean any harm, I’m sure you don’t really think abt us at all. I’m sure you don’t understand the concept of off-limits. But what if by not wearing a headdress in yr music video or changing yr damn mascot and perhaps adding .05% of personal annoyance to yr life for the twenty minutes it lasts, the 103 young ppl who tried to kill themselves on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation over the past four months wanted to live 50% more” (Tommy Pico, ‘Nature Poem,’ 56).

Tommy Pico’s ‘IRL’

www.goodreads.com/book/show/30968235

“I recoil

at we. Now we

know; We feel love

when; We believed

the Earth was flat

until; We stir with

heavy feeling bc…

I wipe my muddy feet

on the loveseat of We

unless I’m talking

about you and me.

Kumeyaays knew

a rounded Earth based

on the curve of stars

or didn’t, I’ll never know.

It’s a dark part inside me.

Books are fallible, towers

of letters with the power

you give them. It’s heartbreaking

to watch your pillars fall

Watch the crops dry up

and die House set on fire Forced

to dig up yr dead To. Literally.

Dig. Up. The. Old. Graveyard.

n move w/them onto a stone hill

where nothing that grows

can live. Penned in like cattle.

Approaching scientism,

universalism, a supremacy

of any given thought

process—strikes me A

hammer of dark spots. America

never intended for me to live

So that we never intended

to include me”

(Tommy Pico, ‘IRL,’ 70).

Poem in Geez Magazine’s 2021 Advent Devotion

I’m thrilled to share that my poem was included in Geez Magazine’s 2021 Advent book: ‘Songs for the Shadows: A Season of Embracing the Dark.’

If you don’t have a plan for advent devotions already, I highly recommend snagging yourself a copy today: https://geezmagazine.org/blogs/entry/songs-for-the-shadows

My poem is called ‘The Spirit Finds Me in the Darkness’ and is a re-imagining of Psalm 23.

‘Homeland Elegies’ Book Response

www.goodreads.com/book/show/50358133

I especially appreciated Akhtar’s clear explanation of how ‘Economy’ is our National god in the United States. All people, no matter their religion, bow down in deference to Economy before their gods.

Review of ‘Who was Jesus and What does it Matter’ by Dr. Nancy Bedford

www.goodreads.com/review/show/4236110185

This short book from Dr. Nancy Bedford packs a vital theological punch. It poses the question ‘Who was Jesus’ and ‘What does it mean to follow him’ in an attempt to redirect the Church back toward the centrality of Christ, the gospel message, and what it means to be the Body of Christ. Without the centralization of Christ and what it means to tangibly follow Christ, the Church has lost its way. This text is a clarion call for our times with tangible steps for redirecting ourselves and our communities toward Christ.

Dr. Bedford provides 6 entry points into the two posed questions:

1. Who is Jesus of Nazareth and what does it mean to follow him?

2. Who is Jesus ‘the Incarnate One’ and what does it mean to follow him?

3. Who is Jesus as Prophet, Teacher, and Healer? And how to follow him?

4. Who is Jesus ‘the executed one?’ How do we follow him?

5. Who is Jesus resurrected and exalted? How do we follow him?

6. Who is Jesus in the Spirit, and how do we follow them?

This book is written to be accessible to all people and has discussion questions for each chapter. As a result, it is perfect for small groups! I highly recommend.

I’ll end this review with a succinct quote that I believe speaks to the concise clarity, beauty, and conviction of this text:

“If we say we follow Jesus, whenever it seems that the fruit of our discipleship does not lead to justice and peacemaking, it is time to reexamine our lives and those of our communities of faith. We can do so with the help of the Spirit by examining more closely the way Jesus lived (Matthew 7:15-20) and asking ourselves whether we are truly walking in his footsteps” (Dr. Nancy Bedford, ‘Who was Jesus and What Does it Mean to Follow Him,’ 74).

Amen!

Review of ‘The NIV Beautiful Word Bible: Updated Version’

www.goodreads.com/book/show/45734929

First and foremost, I need to clear the air: this is NOT a gendered book. The only place where the editors hint at a particular presentation is when the editor’s note only mentions biblical figures Hannah and Esther. And to that, I say “come on editors, do better. Resist the idolatry of capitalism and gendered marketing, please. It harms all of us who cannot fit your false expectations of hyper masculinity and feminism.” We need to resist the consumer world that says a Bible designed to highlight the beauty of scripture does NOT mean that it should be primarily marketed to girls. Boys MUST learn to see the beauty of scripture, too. If you get this version for a girl, get it for a boy, too. The Bible is for all people, so let’s stop boxing ourselves in with gendered stereotypes. Thank you and I will now step off my soap box.

This Zondervan NIV 2011 updated translation, written in Zondervan NIV typeface, is a WONDERFUL version of the Bible that is highly engaging. First of all, it does what many versions cannot: it meets the needs of visual learners. The editors of this version worked with BibleGateway to find the most searched scriptures and balanced them with scriptures that are lesser known to present 600 scriptures in colorful artistic presentations through the entirety of the Bible! 9 different artists took charge of illuminating the 600 different scriptures. They also did a fantastic job of making the chosen scriptures memorizable so that folks can engage with their Scripture reading for memorization as well.

Each page of the Bible has a couple of inches on the edge with lines for note-taking. Every few pages has this space taken up with the artistic presentation of scripture. These illustrations are gorgeous and reflect the essence of each individual scripture.

The Bible also comes with sticker tabs for each book of the Bible, if you want to have the books of the Bible marked in this way. All this to say, this version of the Bible is meant to be engaged: written on, highlighted, and covered in stickers. Have at it! Mark it up and make it your own!

The Bible also comes with a sturdy box carrying case which is helpful for being mobile. It is also small enough to carry around with you! The cover itself is a gorgeous felt floral pattern with a woody brown felt binding. Visually appealing without being obnoxious.

The back of the Bible has a table for understanding biblical weights and measures in comparison with our modern weights and measures, an index of the 9 scripture artists and which scriptures illustrations they created, and 5 pages of lines for note-taking.

It has been a joy engaging with this visually stimulating and artistic version of the NIV translation Bible and I look forward to utilizing it and learning from it in the months/years to come!