I am so grateful for all those who stand alongside those who are marginalized for one reason or another. It is not an easy place to be. It takes a lot of courage to get outside your own protected box and help those who are not so protected. Injustice is often veiled/masked in a way that you miss it unless you look hard at it. In our happy little world where we have what we need and more we can completely be unaware that there are many who are hungry, homeless, working poor, or ignored. While most people in the US have enough to eat etc, there are still many who struggle to have all basic needs met, like food AND medicine AND job security AND a decent safe place to live. Choices have to be made and quite frankly I think it is horrible to have to do that in a country as rich as ours. Before someone says anyone can “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” let me tell you that that phrase is nonsensical. You can’t. There are systems in place (racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist) that make it hard for people to ever escape from poverty, or have the luxury to just relax about life from time to time. So, thank you to all those who are working to make a difference, who are trying to move our country into the 21st century, who think lives matter. Thanks for helping those who are struggling to help themselves, thank you for standing beside them. Thank you for helping those whose voices are not heard. Thank you for supporting those who are are saying enough is enough, we are tired of fighting these systems. The work is hard and can be so frustrating but as we inch toward real justice and yes, though it seems glacial at times, it is really the work of love and compassion. Peace is possible. Justice for all is possible, but love must be the basis for this. We have to love one another and remember that if some of us suffer and we do nothing about it, we are all the worse for it. Equality does not mean we all have the same stuff. It means we are all valued as human beings and that we all respected for who we are. Children of God.
I have been trying to process the events around the country involving the police and people of color. I’ve written a bit about the immediate situation but overall it has been very difficult coming to grips with what has happened and continues to happen.
There is racism in the United States and if you don’t believe that you are living in some sort of insulated world. These events of the past several in Ferguson and New York etc. have brought a well known (in minority communities) injustice to the common knowledge. People are outraged, people find it incredible that this is happening in our country. It has been happening but in places most of us never go. As a result, it seems it doesn’t exist. I have to give the social media some credit here. The sad part is that once it is no longer “newsworthy” it will fall back into the “out of sight out of mind” category.
These events have sparked some dialogue in the communities involved and I can only hope that some good will come of it. If there is a move toward conversation and relationship building in the communities, there will be improvement. Fear is decreased when people get to know each other.
There is an effort to press for reform of the criminal justice system. It is broken ad much needs to be done about it. I am hopeful that the energy will propel this forward. There is a strong clergy involvement. People are still talking about it.
I have to come to terms with my own frustration about the glacial pace of Reconciliation work in my own church. We have been working on this for some 70 years and still we struggle. I work on the area team but find little interest in the regular church going crowd. I was drawn into the work by my son who as a teen and young adult was very interested and active in the work. As leadership ignored him and showed little interest in his participation he fell away from the work and from the church itself. I have remained but have seen the work become less and less shared. We have had to change our approach because attendance at programs has dropped. People just don’t want to talk about it. We have moved out of the churches and into the community. Still it is hard and frustrating work. The events of this summer and fall have made a opening for our work. I remain frustrated but hopeful. It hurts to think about these things. I know God has a different plan for us, one of equality where basic needs are met and all are given respect and care. It is too easy to let this very important need for change in our society slip back on the shelf when something big like the terrorist killings come to light. We must be diligent. We must keep praying and we need to keep it in the societal conscious.
There is tension in the air. The whole area is waiting for the Grand Jury to come back with a decision on the Darren Wilson case. Is there enough evidence to indict him and bring him to trial? We are preparing for the worst. Governor Nixon has called a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, clergy and other volunteers have been trained to help control crowds if there is unrest. Pins and Needles. People are very worried.
Churches in the area are providing 24 hour presence for those who need solace, prayer time, or just a place to go to talk or rest and be away from the news for a while. I’m happy that my church is one of those offering this place of caring for the community. There continue to be peaceful protests. People are talking about the issues.
O God, please bring healing to your people. Help us all to find ways to live together in peace, caring for one another. Strengthen relationships for a better future. Amen
It has been a while since my last post and there has been an outpouring of support for the African American community in Ferguson. Many clergy have been participating in peaceful protests. Today several members of the Eden Theological Seminary community took part in a protest in the pouring rain. It resulted in several (I believe it was reported as 49) persons including activist and author Cornell West and my pastor being arrested for civil disobedience. There was a concurrent Vigil held at the chapel on the seminary campus where we prayed in support of those at the protest and in the neighborhoods affected by shooting tragedies. A second death of a young black man by multiple gun shots occurred this week. Some colleagues who live in the area were involved in a prayer service and protest where there was violence. We have been trying to process these events in our own back yard.
It is difficult to wrap your head around these kinds of events happening in the 21st century but the sad fact is that racism is alive and well. We have seen some definite progress but it isn’t enough. There are too many persons for whom these events are common occurrences. They don’t get the press that we’ve seen here but maybe it is time for another civil rights movement. Maybe people are waking up to the fact that there are people in our country (the great United States of America) that are treated as expendable. No, we are not talking about a 3rd world country we are talking about the USA. Institutionalized racism. systemic racism, is so much a part of the fabric of our society that we often fail to even be aware of it. It is a power inequality that leaves some having control of and benefiting from the wealth of our nation while others struggle to get by and are actively blocked from moving ahead. While often unconscious, privilege is given to those with white or lighter skin while those with darker or black skin are treated as threats and made to suffer humiliation, disproportionate scrutiny and simply poor disrespectful treatment, often for no other reason than the color of their skin.
There are many who just don’t get it and it is because they truly have no idea what it is like to live as a person of color in the society. They don’t take the time to get to know anyone and simply choose to be afraid either because of media portrayal or because they have been told or taught to think this way, or perhaps because of one encounter with an unsavory character. It isn’t about prejudice. It is about the power that one group has over another because the society allows it. That is systemic racism and it is ingrained, unseen unless carefully inspected. My denomination has taken on the task of becoming a pro-reconciling, anti-racist church. It is a slow moving process but we have training about white privilege that really helps people understand the real problem. The problem is power. In the past when a group of whites felt like it they might go out an lynch a black person or two. The authorities did nothing about it and very sad scenes of people hanging from trees made other people of color terrified. (Yes, acts of terrorism). Now the lynching takes the form of our police officers accosting, harassing or shooting young black men at will, and getting away with it because the system allows it. It is abuse of power. As a friend of mine said, “It is a lynching of the spirit.”
I have been thinking about how there was that stop and frisk policy in New York, which has since been outlawed. The officers claimed it was needed to keep crime down. But the problem was that they only targeted minorities, It occurred to me that the simple solution to the problem, if it was truly a crime deterrent, was to randomize it and stop and frisk everyone. Statistically more drug abuse and thus criminal possession occurs in white populations. I’d bet the same is true of gun possession. But we all know how long that would last. (Privilege)
I must stop now, This is weighing heavy on my heart and I just wanted to write a bit of it down. Perhaps I will write more later. I will end with one of the prayers I prayed today in the chapel:
O God of all, please enter the hearts of those involved in this terrible tragedy and all those who think like them. Break open the hardened hearts to allow fear and dislike to flow out and your love to fill them up. Anyone who knows your love cannot help but love. That is what is needed. Love which leads to respect which leads to relationship and mutual care for one another. Your love is powerful – help those haters to love. Help those who feel disrespected and treated as if they have little value to turn there anger to energy to continue the fight and protest the injustice. Bless those who walk alongside the Ferguson and Shaw communities and give them courage and strength to continue to work toward justice even when things seem impossible. With you there is always hope. Amen
I wanted to write about this before but I had no words. Even as I sit to write this now there are tears in my eyes. A young man dead. A community aching angry and wanting justice but not trusting that it will be forthcoming. There are two sides (at least) to every story and part of the problem in this case is lack of information. Racism is alive and well in the US and we cannot deny it. It is so much a part of who we are we don’t even know when it raises its ugly head. Why did that officer feel compelled to engage that youth about getting off the street? According to his police chief he didn’t even know about the store robbery incident. In an ideal situation, the young man would feel that the police officer only wanted him to be safe but according to the eyewitness, he said wasn’t kind in his speech. Even I, who live in a very safe community, am distrustful of police. I would think twice before calling on police for help. I hate to admit it. I tried to introduce my children to the local police officers when they were young so that they would know that there were people who would help them if they needed it. We are law abiding citizens. Yet, our encounters with officers over the years have been mixed. Some kind, many testy, others outright rude.
What stands out in the Ferguson case is that a teenager who just graduated from high school will not be able to finish his education, will not participate in the community, won’t have a family of his own because his life was taken. People say he had committed a crime, trying to give a reason for the situation. Eye witnesses give differing accounts. But it remains, simple theft, walking in the middle of the street or even trying to show he was not weak by speech or body language are no reason for the use of such deadly force. The fact that he was shot so many times and that his body was left in the street for hours shows a disregard that is unacceptable in civilized society. I just feel sadness and some despair that these events happen at all. This has made the national news and people are reacting to it but events like this happen all the time in our cities, it just doesn’t get much press because the life of an African American is not that important. Many people in that community, and I agree with them, feel certain that had the young man been white none of this would have happened.
Now, it is well known that the brains of young people are not fully developed until their 20s. Teenagers are moody, make crazy choices, act out, and are trying to establish themselves as adults without the benefit of thinking beyond the moment. You would think that police officers would be trained to know that and interact with youth accordingly. If indeed this young man had robbed a store on a dare it would be cause for punishment but in no possible scenario should this have ended in death. He was unarmed. Another shooting made the news, The case of a mentally disturbed person. Again, deadly force is not an acceptable way to handle the situation. The training of police officers has to prepare them for encounters such as these. Are they going to kill anyone who acts out of the ordinary? I just don’t understand it. There has to be an alternative to the use of deadly force. (Getting rid of guns altogether would help but that’s another discussion)
I pray for everyone who is involved. I pray for justice. I pray for forgiveness, I pray for courage, patience and strength. I pray that something positive comes from this and that young Michael Brown didn’t just lose his life for nothing. I pray for his family in their grief. I pray for the community of Ferguson, that life can return to normal. So many people have been touched by this tragedy, it is weighing heavy on so many hearts. I pray for those people whose comments are so clearly racist and unhelpful. I pray for the police department that they might learn from this and put in place better policies and training for the future. O God of justice and peace watch over us all in the days to come. AMEN.
Hello Everyone! It has been a while since I last posted anything. Life sure has been busy. I am so very proud of our daughter who earned her Master of Arts degree in Religion this May. We were all able to go out to California and celebrate with her. Our son is busy working in his chosen field – video. It is nice to watch your children grow into amazing adults. I feel that we were privileged to be their parents. It is such a fantastic gift that God entrusts us with these precious lives. I get all emotional and teary eyed when I have the chance to feel what my mom and dad felt. I understand their joy when we were all together. Hooray for family.
I was driving to church one Sunday morning and this question crossed my mind. Why DO I go to church? I have a good relationship with God. I am a spiritual director and I practice what I preach, I find God in everyday living, I pray, I try to live a life of faith. So what is it about going to church that draws me every week and occasionally mid-week?
I enjoy the people. I find it so comforting to sit with others and share time worshiping God in community. It is good to hear others’ prayers, to hear another reaction to scripture, to share bread and cup and know that we are part of something really big and special, called together by God who is love. The people in my church are diverse in age, theological perspective, political affiliation. Their occupations are across the board. There is variation in socioeconomic status. The people whose lives have touched me have enriched my life so much. I like that I can share my own faith with others. Together we try to be a mission-centered church and care for one another, locally and outside our walls. In doing all this I have grown to know God a little more. I have felt God’s presence and have seen the face of Christ in so many people.
I love to make music. Praying with hymns and anthems is so nurturing to my soul. I share this gift in several ways and that has given me a way to worship and a way to share with others. Helping others have a richer worship experience through music is a great blessing to me. I have made good friends through this ministry.
One might argue that these things are attainable outside a church setting and that is probably true but to have all of them in one place is a real joy. My particular church has been a vital part of our family life for many years and I truly appreciate the time spent in ministry. I have had several leadership roles and have found those to be meaningful ways to consider what God might have in store for us and strive to be God’s people in this world. It has been my privilege to be an organizer and a teacher and a caregiver. I have been supported in my own ministry of listening. I may or may not have the same experience in another church but I tend to believe that people generally are good and church life brings our the best in folks.
So why do I go to church? Because when I wake up on Sunday morning I don’t want to be at home in my own space. I genuinely want to be in a place where people gather to praise God and lift one another up in prayer and support. As I close my eyes I see those people rising to greet one another. It makes me smile.
Last weekend Opening to the Sacred, the retreat ministry I share with a friend who is also a spiritual director, offered a retreat called Rest For Your Soul. We had a good group and it was a lovely day of exploring scripture, prayer, and reflection. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-29
My partner considered the nature of aspen trees. A stand or grove of aspens grows from a single seed. It the the root system that spreads and the trees multiply in this way. We related that to our connectedness as people of God. For as the days of a tree , so will be the days of my people. Isaiah 65:22b
It was a quiet, wisdom-filled and restful day.
Moved by the sharing of ideas and thoughts about the Matthew text, I wrote a poem
I thought a yoke was limiting But it depends on the "yokees" Being yoked to Christ means freedom Trusting in loving guidance. We are led in the Way designed for us Specially and lovingly for us Not sent where we don't want to go But in the direction we must go to fulfill our destiny Our own path but side by side With the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. I will take your yoke and I learn from you In gratitude and humility In Awe In love
Truth is I am glad to see 2013 end. What a year. There was much stress and anguish and grief yet I was able to get through it with the great comfort of knowing I was loved and supported by God. I felt this in the beautiful relationships I share. We tend to think of the difficult times and overlook those blessings that come to us in the midst of the trials. I am reminded of the joy of seeing my husband come home from work, of talking in the late evening with my son, of keeping up with my daughter by text and phone and sometimes Skype. I have good friends. There is music, worship, chats, puzzle making, enjoying the colors and shapes which surround us. I had the joy of being a prayer guide and of working with lovely people in spiritual direction. Even sitting in the hospital I was able to be grateful for medical technology and for people who care for the sick. So I am thankful that the challenges of 2013 are behind us and look forward to what might be in store for us in the new year. I pray that I will remain open to the grace and blessing we are given in abundance.
I saw this video Wealth Inequality in America today and it made me sick. I know that this is true but have no idea what to do about it. Perhaps sharing this will be some small contribution. Remember that this is about wealth in the United States. If you include the world even our poor are rich.
As I think about Christmas and the teachings of Jesus about equality and loving one another, I wish that humanity would learn that when everyone is cared for the world is a better place. Humans are so easily ruled by ego, by desire, by greed. I believe that it is work to avoid temptation. Perhaps it is written into our DNA so we can survive but the reality is that we are social beings and survival isn’t individual but communal. We could enact laws to insure the ideal in the video for our country but those in power are among the wealthiest and don’t want to see it change. I suppose what disturbs me most is that the top 1 % controlling 40 % of the wealth will never even begin to use it all and those at the bottom may not even have the basic needs met. The top could easily change the bottom without losing anything of substance for their own lives.
The argument that they worked hard for their money doesn’t explain why so many hard working Americans struggle. It is hard to be efficient when you are hungry or worried that your children will not be ok. I ache for the people who are just barely making it.
Christmas season is a time of giving, it should also be a time of recognizing the truth and maybe finding a way to care a little more.