Another day, another stole

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My stole from Amani Ya Juu (Peace from Above)
Today I took a quick trip into downtown DC, to the plaza in front of the US Supreme Court building. Before I started my rounds with my hospice patients, I put on my collar and this stole. The stole was made by refugee artists from Amani Ya Juu. It was the first stole given to me when I was ordained, and has a special place in my heart.

(Make sure you visit their website — see the beautiful things they have created, and read their stories!)

The artisans of Amani Ya Juu use their love of African textiles, their commitment to their community thriving, and their skills in creating beautiful items. My stole is just one of the items they make. But the beauty of their craft is just part of what I have learned from these women.It is their example of faithfulness in the face of horrible injustice. It is how they move past those experiences and find “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” They have learned to survive life’s twists and turns, and to make sure their community thrives with them.

It is this selflessness, this desire deep within them to serve others that inspires me in my ministry. I do it so imperfectly… but their example challenges me.

So I stood on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court this morning, with flurries and a stiff, cold breeze. There, I gathered with many other faith leaders to speak out…

…for those who are unjustly detained

…for those who are denied due process in our courts

…for the attack on our civil liberties — ALL of our civil liberties — by those who refuse to obey court injunctions, who defy our Constitution, and who act for selfish gain. 

…for eviscerating the progress made under Loretta Lynch in defending the rights of all persons of color. #BlackLivesMatter

I am compelled to respond because I believe the God I serve demands it. I am compelled to respond because I believe in the worth and value of my fellow humans. And I am compelled to respond because we have done enough waiting. We have given enough “chances.” The actions over the last ten days are sufficient.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

I am angry. Angry that the powerful do not use their power for the common good. Angry that elected officials are not governing in a way that benefits ALL of us — our country, our world, our future.

I am motivated. I have called, written and tweeted my elected officials. I have encouraged them to stand firm and defend our Constitution. I have pleaded with them to uphold “liberty and justice FOR ALL.”

On Sunday, I led this prayer… and I stand by every word, knowing that God will be with us as we stand up to injustice and bigotry.

LET US PRAY.

Lord God, we gather in your Presence, aware of your care for us and for the world. We ask for your Spirit to guide our words and our worship this morning.

Gracious God, the hungry are all around us. May we faithfully share of our pantries and cupboards, our money and our time, that they will be bountifully fed.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

Lord of all, we pray for our elected officials, that they will serve the people and defend and protect our Constitution. We hear the words of the spiritually empty, the proud, and those who abuse their power. We pray you will burden their hearts with your Truth and convict them by your Holy Spirit.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

God of all nations, we pray for those in legal limbo, whose immigration status is wrongfully blocked, who are doctors and teachers, researchers and laborers, parents and children. May your justice prevail and may your angels take charge of them and liberate them.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

Healer of the broken-hearted, we your children humbly repent for the ways we have not cared for the aliens and the strangers in our midst. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and selfishness. Give us courage to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. May our actions make a difference as we join with others who follow Christ.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

We pray all this in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Amen.

I do not understand the whys and breakdown of common decency that led to our country’s situation today. I lean on hope in a God who is more powerful than the power-obsessed. I am resting in that Peace from Above.

Pray with me, friends…

We must stick together and believe in God’s love for us and for all humanity.

If you have regrets…

Cross-posted from Facebook…

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My Women’s March stole-of-many-names and a “comfort pack”(miscellaneous necessities to share with others.)

At the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. yesterday, I carried many names on my stole. It was an honor and a privilege. When someone asked me, I could hardly talk about it without getting teary. There were many among my family and friends and coworkers and patients who could not go… and I was aware of your reasons.

So this is for you…

Perhaps you didn’t go to the Women’s March near you and are having some regrets. I’m thinking of all you who have a case of the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s. I’ve gotten a few PMs and wanted to say this…

  • Perhaps you could not go because you were doing something that needed YOU. No one else had your skills, your knowledge, the gift of YOU.
  • Perhaps you had to work (there were several of you who did that.) It wasn’t an option. Pay the rent, work your shift, be responsible.
  • Perhaps you had someone to take care of and couldn’t give that duty to someone else. (Thank you to all those parents, grandparents, caregivers, and overtired family members.)
  • Perhaps you were not physically able (my tired bones get that, too!)
  • Perhaps large crowds are not your thing.
  • Perhaps the cost was just too much — your job, your finances, your relationships, your time, your job security, your physical stamina, your emotional health, your workload for the rest of the week, your studies. You made a choice not to go — and I want to affirm… it was a good choice. It’s about your WHOLE life. It was a matter of balance and being real with yourself. Please don’t second-guess yourself about not going.

I want to thank you for reading our posts, listening to our stories and being in the moment, vicariously. While your voice may have been missed, you can start speaking up now.

HONESTLY? Now comes the hard part. Now is when we need each other. Now is when we need YOU. Your voice. Your gifts. Your focus. Your prayers. Your anger. Your integrity. Your wit.

This movement is JUST BEGINNING.

When the celebrities leave the stage, the busses go home, the pink hats come off, the signs start collecting dust, the pundits start mocking and dissecting us… NOW is when we are all needed.

To keep each other honest.

To ask the hard questions.

To be intentional in including ALL of us in the next days and weeks.

To read, write, think, discuss, pray and do things in ways we have never done them before.

To volunteer for causes and issues we are passionate about.

To support nonprofits who are the only backstop some folks have.

To watch our elected officials like a hawk and write them/call them/badger them.

To trust each other more and be less pissy. (Can a pastor say that? YES I CAN.)

I had a distinct honor to be able to march. I went as a white woman of privilege to bear witness. I left hoping to bring more into the story. So may we all.

 

This is what democracy looks like…

“After” the March… beginning to spill out on the National Mall!

“There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race.”President John F. Kennedy

Today I participated in the messy, noisy, and occasionally inconvenient work of democracy. With over 500,000 other people in Washington, DC, we brought the area around the National Mall to a complete standstill. Apparently, due to permitting issues with the National Park Service, the Trump inaguration committee, and other arcane rules (the source of which I do not know!) the Women’s March on Washington was not allowed to congregate on the Mall. Instead, the organizers were allotted a street corner. One stage. The limited PA speakers and Jumbotrons meant that unless you were were within a block of the main stage, you couldn’t hear or see a thing. 

Wait?!?!! Is that the Jumbotron?

And you know what? It was fine. It was more than fine. 

Because of the YUUUUGE turnout, the barriers were removed between the streets and the Mall in many places. The estimated number of marchers tripled (at least) what was expected. There was no real “march” for many of us, in part because it would have taken hours for us to clear the parade route. 


Yes, the lines for the porta-potties were long. Yes, there were no places to get food or drink (there may have been… but we didn’t see them.) Yes, the cell signal was poor to missing, which one would expect at such a huge gathering of people. And YES there were so many people that we could not march!! 

My friend Karen’s sign was a hit!

We stood, sang songs, shared food, laughed at witty signs, had thoughtful discussions with strangers, and generally found ourselves caught up in something MUCH bigger than we are. 

Tonight my aging bones feel every step and hour of standing in the damp cold air. It does not matter. I feel hope and a sense of purpose.

Trying on my rainbow stole on Friday night, pinned with the names of friends, family, co-workers and patients. I marched for them too.

 
There are hard conversations ahead. There are many who did not feel included in the March’s planning. There are deep social, political and systemic ills that one March will not change. There are significant roadblocks to progress in the new administration (ponder JFK’s quote…)  

BUT… 

Our voices were loud and clear. We will be watching. We will speak out. You have poked the sleeping giant, and She will not be stilled. 

I don’t speak for you

I don’t speak for you.

There. I said it.

I also don’t speak for people who look like me, dress like me, work with me, worship with me, or live near me. And, most importantly, I most definitely do not speak for someone who is nothing like me!

I am just… me. A wife and mom. A hospice chaplain. A progressive Baptist. A pastor. An LGBTQ+ally (and yes — I asked and was told that I am. If that matters.)

I look like women who voted for Trump in large numbers, and that pisses me off. (White, middle class, Christian.) I supported Hillary and contributed to her campaign. I tried to influence the hearts and minds of people around me to vote for her. And apparently, I was not very good at it.

Election night, I had tears in my eyes and felt frustrated. I had no words for those closest to me who were also devastated. I heard their fears. I was distressed with them. I am deeply worried about them because of the rhetoric and abuse we all heard from Trump during the campaign. They are vulnerable because of who they are.

Here’s what I have learned in the last few days…  (Sorry it’s in bullet points. I don’t have time to create fantastic, in-depth prose.)

  • By accident of birth, education and economic status, I could fade into the Great Beyond of white suburbia. But my Calling, my conscience and my faith do not allow that.
  • Those who know me already, know that when I wear a safety pin* or a rainbow bracelet, that I am visibly trying to signal what I believe and will do. And that I want them to be treated fairly, kindly, respectfully as I want to be treated.
  • Those who don’t know me personally might think I’m posturing.
  • The dying patients I serve, as well as their families, need my focus and care. Many of them are marginalized by their race, religion or gender identity.
  • My coworkers who care for the dying with me every day are sad, stressed and discouraged.
  • My family, friends, and parishioners have real fears, hurts and anxieties because of this election season.
  • I don’t have enough money, time or energy to respond to every need around me. That means I have to pick and choose, and I try to do that wisely.
  • I am praying — fiercely — for the projected new President.** (As of this date, the Electoral College has not met.)

 

I am trying to make a difference where I am. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Next year. In my context. Wherever God takes me.

I will do this imperfectly. Incompletely. Ignorantly. But I will keep trying.

I will  continue speak up against hate speech whenever I witness it.

I will keep learning. Growing. Praying. Reading. Listening. Serving. I’ll wear a safety pin and a rainbow bracelet. And sometimes, a cross. And I’ll try to do a better job of being an example of Christ in the world.

soli deo gloria

 

*It used to be that when someone wore a cross, they were expected to act “Christianly”. But today, the cross has been co-opted by political entities within American politics. It seems that a safety pin might better express my effort to be a welcoming, affirming and listening presence, without the trappings of a particular religious group.

**[edited to add] This does not mean he has my approval or my trust. (Bless his heart.) It means I am fulfilling a Scriptural admonishment to pray for those in authority.

What shall I tell my daughters?

Oh Lord…

How did we arrive in this unholy mess? The latest kerfuffle with the presidential election makes me want to throw things. Or vomit. Or maybe throw vomit. How did things get so thoroughly mucked up? Is this really the result of an uninvested, uneducated electorate, who were distracted by the rhetoric of obstructionist Legislatures, both national and local? (…as some pundits would suggest)

img_2179What shall I tell my daughters? They are voting in their first presidential election. The big issues like our national debt and student loans matter to them. (Hello. To me, too!) So does affordable healthcare. Getting a job. A clean environment. Global warming. A safer world. Marrying the person they love.

How shall I explain what their parents’ generation has done…and not done? They know as well as I do that it is a complex world we live in, far more complex than when I snoozed my way through “Principles of Democracy” (aka “civics”) in high school. It’s more than sound bites. It’s more than tabloid-driven news (God, help us!) It’s more than he-said-she-said.

This much I do know… I believe these young women, these wonderful daughters of ours are, inherently and personally, people of value and promise. They and their friends have much to give to our nation and our world. They have drive and dreams. They are articulate and compassionate.

They are watching and waiting with me, Lord.

I know You guide the hearts and actions of the nations.
I know You are able to steer even the most stubborn autocrat.
I know that whoever is elected will be flawed human being… just like me.
May Your peace reign.
May we hear Your direction.
May we know Your heart.
May we have Your mind.
And may those of us who are tasked with spiritual leadership
guard our tongues and increase our prayers…

Amen.

Back to my roots

 

Old Man’s Cave trail, Hocking Hills, Ohio

 

 A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these, she said, is roots, the other, wings.

Quoted by Hodding Carter in “Where Main Street Meets the River”

We had our annual family reunion last week. It was full of pun-offs, adventures, and close living quarters. We feasted on fresh Carolina peaches, sweet corn and brick oven pizza.

A bodaciously awesome pizza, if I do say so myself!

I realized as I listened to the laughter and conversation swirling around the dinner table that our stories are entwined in so many ways. We share history as well as DNA. We share losses and joys. We fight to the death to keep the essential, clarifying, and off-debated Oxford comma. (See what I did there?)

We shared peaceful views at sunset. Hiking at childhood haunts. Competitive card games. And hugs. Lots of hugs.

Sunset at poolside.

The genealogists in the family (my mom being the most experienced) will share interesting bits of family trivia. Through years of research, Mom, (as well as my Dad and maternal grandmother) have uncovered when a specific ancestor emigrated to the US, what wars  they fought in, how they worshipped, and where they homesteaded. The ancestral “fan chart” is impressive with the names and dates going back to ten generations!

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Ancestral Fan-Chart created by my grandmother, Lura Morrow Hickox

For my daughters, I wish for them this same sense of rootedness and belonging. A place to be accepted and encircled with love. A reminder that they are loved and prayed for daily. A retreat from the world when its suckiness seems to out-weigh the promises of the future. A secure take-off. A safe landing zone. And enough love in their buckets to spill out into the world around them.

Our progeny: The Johnnie and The Gardener

It’s something I wish for all…  Not a wall. Not belligerence and hate. Not ridicule and judgmental scorn.

It’s really quite simple:

Roots. Belonging. Acceptance. Love.

The true mark of someone who loves God is one that demonstrates their rootedness in the Divine. And the fruit that grows from it.

Jesus said:

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Matthew 7:16-20 (NLT)

The Not-So-Welcome

visitors

There they were. Smack dab in the middle of every “Visitor” space in the entire parking lot. And I, being a visitor, was quite bemused (and just a wee bit annoyed). I parked one street over and hiked back to the building. It was a crisp, fall day and I was grateful the rain from the previous night had ended.

When I got to the lobby, I asked the receptionist, “What’s with all of the Visitor spaces being blocked off? I had to park in the next block!”

She looked sheepish and said, “Oh, our Board of Directors is coming for a site visit. They always park in the visitor spots.”

“They aren’t exactly visitors, are they?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “But they expect to be treated like one.”

Now, I’m in the ministry. (That’s in case you hadn’t picked up on that fact!) We think a lot about how to welcome visitors and encourage them to join in our church’s vision and mission and values. We want there to be an easy entry into worshipping and getting involved.

Sometimes we get it mostly right. And sometimes we create obstacles to making a “visitor” feel welcomed. If it’s all about the insider and the stakeholders, how does a new face become a part of the church family? If it requires a lot of “translating” so that people know what to do without feeling awkward or strange, what are all our plans for, anyway? Why are we clinging to actions which make no sense to an onlooker? What language, music and worship practices do we use? And does it make sense to modern ears? And where is the invitation to join us in our love and relationship with God?

Just musing… and wanting to do a better job. After all, if I believe this life with Jesus is better lived with the care and support of a church family, shouldn’t I try to help others experience it too?

(In case you wondered… the answer is YES!)