Take Time to Smell the Shit

Take Time to Smell the Shit

img_1699It’s been one month and 4 days since we got our puppy….not like anyone’s counting!  In some ways, it seems like she’s always been part of our family…she’s already got her favorite spot on the couch.  She’s already knows the route to the kids’ school, and she practically sprints there when it’s time to pick up her boys.  It’s been a pretty smooth transition.  That said, this is our first family dog, and there are few things we’re still getting used to.

Case in point: dogs sniffing poop.  Now, really….WHY?  It’s gross!  I can’t even handle my boys delighting in each other’s noisy farts.  Now, I have a dog that wants to smell shit…her own, others, you name it…she wants to smell it.  Finally, yesterday, I had to google….WHY DO DOGS SMELL POOP?

Answer: According to Rover.com, ‘Dogs “see” through their nose. With their acute sense of smell, they distinguish individual components of smell to understand the world around them.  Vetstreet.com adds, “Other dogs who come upon the scent can discern a lot about fellow canines in the neighborhood. With one whiff of urine, a pup can determine how many dogs have been there, how long ago they were in the area.”

Some of you are probably thinking my head as gone to the dogs!  (So sorry for the bad pun!)…..stick with me.  With this new information, I studied my puppy the next time she went out.  I realized that she was less obsessed with smelling poop and more interested in just understanding her world.

How does ANY of this relate to theology?  So glad you asked!

Suffering Sucks 

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The BEST chocolate croissants

Today, I was back at one of my favorite spots, Mademoiselle Colette (they have the best chocolate croissants, but I digress…), eating lunch with a dear friend.  We talked about a recent health scare she’d had, made all the more scary by the growing number of friends and family members we know battling cancer or some other health ailment.

It is alarming, even for those of us who have all the resources to manage these scares – if and when they come.  In confessing our fears, we acknowledged how much more terrifying it would be if we were fleeing a war-torn country, or if we were forced to live even in the shadows (because we didn’t have papers for this country), or if we were a young black man, wondering how to respond to a nation becoming less tolerant, rather than more.   Our suffering matters….it is not easy.  But, in the same breath, we must see those who are suffering just as much, if not more.

David Brooks had a great a great post in the New York Times called, What Suffering Does.  He wrote:

When people remember the past, they don’t only talk about happiness. It is often the ordeals that seem most significant. People shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.

This is true on an individual level and it’s true on a broader scale too.  This is a defining moment for both our country, as well as the church.  I firmly believe that as hard and painful as it may be, we need to not only align ourselves with those who suffer, but we must be willing to suffer ourselves.  The Bible uses the analogy of the ‘refiner’s fire’ – indeed, we can be ‘formed’ into something much closer to the Matthew 25 vision for the church.

img_1775For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

The Bible is very clear about loving the least and speaking up for the vulnerable.  I was encouraged by the Washington Post article listing 500+ pastors, calling on the President and Vice President to support refugees.  Now, we need to not only add to that list, we need to keep showing up in tangible and vocal ways for all those who are suffering.  This call, it is not radical or optional – IT IS BIBLICAL.  As Ann Voskamp tweeted, “The call isn’t: deny your neighbor, take up your comfort and follow your dreams.  It’s, deny your yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus.”  That’s the call.

Too Political??

fullsizerender-29Raise your hand….how many of you wish all the political posts on Facebook would go away and we could go back to watching cat videos and indulging in throw-back Thursday pictures of everyone’s cute kids?  ME, ME, ME!!!!!

Hands down!  Those were the days!  Right!?!?   fullsizerender-30I’m not even a cat person and I’d gladly take that over the video of an unarmed black teen getting shot or the image of a toddler refugee washed up on the sands.  We ALL would love to NOT see the suffering and heartache.

But, just because it hurts and it challenges on so many levels, doesn’t mean we can turn our heads.  Just because we don’t see the suffering, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  IT IS.  In response to some of the ‘I’m tired of political posts’ theme, a friend shared this:

I want my friends to understand that “staying out of politics” or being “sick of politics” is privilege in action….Your privilege allows you to live a non-political existence. Your wealth, your race, your abilities, your religion, or your gender allows you to live a life in which you likely will not be a target of bigotry, attacks, deportation, or genocide. You don’t want to get political, you don’t want to fight because your life and safety are not at stake.. It is hard and exhausting to bring up issues of oppression (aka “get political”). The fighting is tiring. I get it. Self-care is essential. But if you find politics annoying and you just want everyone to be nice, please know that people are literally fighting for their lives and safety. You might not see it, but that’s what privilege does.

fullsizerender-28Ignorance is not bliss – it’s just ignorance.  And, to borrow from Bonhoeffer, silence in the face of evil is not just silence – it’s evil.  The white, evangelical church has allowed its privilege to blind its eyes to the suffering of so many around us.  Not surprisingly, we can find truth and guidance from African-American civil rights leader, Ida B Wells: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth on them.”  Or, as Jesus put it in the book of John, ‘the truth will set you free’.  Church, we cannot claim to be leaders or truth tellers in arenas we are too afraid to talk about from the pulpit.  It is not enough to take an offering for refugees or say a prayer of reconciliation on MLK Day.  For such a time as this, we were placed upon the earth, to hear the voice of God, and DO HIS WILL, WHATEVER IT IS!!!!!!

Forget Franklin and Focus

fullsizerender-31I joined twitter a few days ago.  That’s been interesting.  One tweet that caught my attention was from Franklin Graham: “We have to realize that the president’s job is not the same as the job of the church.”  Say, WHAAAAT????

Shane Claiborne had the best response: “No.  It is theological malpractice to say that the president is exempt from the Sermon on the Mount or not accountable to Christ’s commands.”  Reality check….not only is the President accountable, we ALL are accountable.

Similarly, the Atlantic just published the story of Joy Beth Smith, a Focus on the Family employee fired for sharing on her personal blog, her experience with sexual abuse and reactions to Trump’s comments about women.  Joy’s experience has been replicated countless times at churches and Christian organizations around the country.  As another woman shared, “It seems like there is this silencing of evangelical women if we don’t stick with approved talking points.”  Ummm….NOT OKAY.

THIS IS A TIPPING POINT.  This isn’t about politics.  It’s about theology.  It’s about unapologetically loving the least.  This is about crawling into the trenches with those who are suffering, rather than offering token trinkets and words.  This is about resolving to not be goats or cymbals or whitewashed tombs.  

Back to that lunch with my friend at Mademoiselle Colette.  Call it morbid, but we both have been thinking about the day we stand before God and are held to account.  We’ve both wondered, will my reasons for why I didn’t do more suffice?  The short answer: NO.  We both have felt this deep conviction that it is not enough to volunteer periodically in Sunday School or put an extra $20 in the offering basket when there’s a collection for a missions partner or post an MLK quote on January 16th.  It is time to get down in the trenches.  To quote Shane Claiborne again, “all that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.  #WhyIResist.”  It is time for the church to resist.  We must lead by loving the least – it is what we should be BEST at! 

So, farewell to the Dobson’s and Franklin’s.  Never again will I send a dime to Samaritan’s Purse or Focus on the Family.  #WeAreNeverEverGettingBackTogether #WWJD  Franklin, you forget the very story, for which your organization is named.  In the story of the Good Samaritan, God praises the foreigner who had compassion on the man attacked by robbers.  The American church has become too much like the Levite and the Priest.  The whole premise of the story was to answer the question, ‘how do I get eternal life?’.  And, the answer was, HAVE MERCY.  This is our template.  This is how we can love the least.  To borrow from Matthew 25….we gotta lot of goats in America right now.

So, seriously… What Would Jesus Do?

fullsizerender-27In my last post, I shared Brene Brown’s comparison between sympathy and empathy.  When we sympathize, we look at the person in a dark hole and say, ‘gosh, that looks tough down there….want a sandwich?’.  When we empathize, we get down in the hole with them.

 

When Jesus came to earth, the angels called him, ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us.  Jesus got into the whole with us.  But, when that baby grew up, he took it one step further.  He said, ‘You know that dark hole that you’re stuck in….I’m gonna take your place.’  Jesus, the son of God, who was without sin, said, ‘I’ve got this’.  Or, as the old hymn puts it, ‘Jesus paid it all.’  He took our place.

Want to know what Jesus would do?  At the very least, we come alongside the hurting and oppressed….we get in the hole with the Syrian refugee and the African-American teen….when possible, we take their place.  I am honestly not sure what taking their place looks like, but I can tell you it looks a hell of a lot different from our posture to date.  And, I’d like to be part of a Christian community that can create safe places where we can talk about what that looks like and then actually go DO IT.

Shit Happens

Dogs smell because it’s how they understand their world.  And, while dogs cannot selectively smell, we humans have gotten pretty good at selectively seeing.  All too often, we decide what we want to see and what we want to avoid.  We have become blind to the poor, the undocumented, the African-American man, the LGBTQ teen, the victims of sexual abuse.  There’s nothing wrong with stopping to smell the roses, but there IS something messed up about acting like you’re in a field of flowers rather than a pile of shit.

fullsizerender-32As Ann Voskamp (who signed the letter in support of refugees) said, “I have felt it—how no one wants anything of anyone but to be honest and real and to trust enough to take off the mask.”  Wearing a mask won’t shield you from the stench of suffering.  So, wake up, church.  Shit happens.  Suffering happens.  Our avoidance won’t make it go away.  But, we CAN use this moment to reorient our faith around loving the least, not just in word but in deed.  If we think history will be unkind to our indifference, how about heaven?  (I suggest re-reading Matthew 25). As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”  #StillShePersisted.

 

This weekend, my church is going to talk about how we as a Christian community respond to everything that is going on in our nation today.  We should all be praying for our pastors, as these are difficult days for them.  But, I know that I, and I alone will one day be held to account….there will be no excuses for what my budget allowed or what my pastor did or did not say or what my view of national security did or did not permit….there will just be ME.  And, so, we are back at Micah 6:8…

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

In this, we persist.

 

Make America Great Again

fullsizerender-14It doesn’t get much better than Jon Stewart on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. We are less than two weeks into the Trump administration and I’m even more panicked than I was the day after the election. As Salena Zito wrote in the Atlantic, back in September, “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” Well, guess what folks…he meant what he said. So, I guess it wasn’t so crazy for those of us on the left to freak-out over some of his more outlandish statements….it wasn’t hyperbole. Which, brings us back to Stewart and Colbert….two of my favorite satirists, always, but especially these days. Stewart ended his bit by saying that we’re gonna make America great again….just not in the way Trump envisioned.

fullsizerender-20I sat in Mama Coco, a Mexican restaurant in Menlo Park, the day of the inauguration. I was joined by friends who are studying white privilege with me. We were numb with sadness…..our usually chatty group had no words. We watched, as a large group of protestors stood along El Camino Real. Some planned to participate in the Women’s March in San Francisco the next day. Some were not sure whether protesting was something they were comfortable with. For a collection of left-leaning white evangelical women, the world of ‘protest’ is a new one. We all felt called to resist – we just varied on the ways in which we felt we could best make fullsizerender-18a difference. As we left, I told one of the gals that while I’d never in a million years wish for a Trump victory, I confessed that the silver lining was that now we’d have to actually put our faith into action. Now, it was time to be the Church and the People.

Since that day, we’ve begun exchanging ideas on how we can make an impact. For those who also reside in the lonely land between traditional evangelical alliances and progressive politics, here’s are some ideas for making America great again….just not in the way Trump envisioned.

Make the Church Great Again

As Shane Claiborn tweeted today, in response to a statement by Franklin Graham (don’t get me started….), “No. It is theological malpractice to say that the president is exempt from the Sermon on the Mount or not accountable to Christ’s commands.” We are ALL accountable. I’m not sure why I even have to say that, but newsflash…there are no exemptions. For the those of us who love Jesus and are aghast at Trump’s first 12 days, we must stand up.  Even as we preach, we must hold ourselves to the same standards we’re asking of others. With that said, what shall we preach?

How does the church ‘show up’ in this moment?  We must stand with the oppressed.

1. IT’S TIME TO BE THE CHURCH.

Jim Wallis was in the Bay Area this weekend, teaching on Matthew 25. Here are verses 35-36:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

These verses are not only compelling on their own, but especially when read in the context of the rest of the chapter, where Jesus essentially explains how to get into heaven. Near the end of this chapter is where Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

Church, there’s no ‘out’ for national security or political ideology or personal finances or any other consideration. What we DON’T do for the least, we DON’T do for Jesus.  As Jen Hatmaker tweeted this morning, your chance of being killed in a terror attack carried out by refugees is 1 in 3.6 billion.  Sit on that for a second…..

We probably don’t need lessons in public policies from the pulpit, but we do need reminders on what the scriptures actually say, as they relate to current events in our nation today.  Talk to your pastor or church leaders.  I am so grateful to the Pope, among others, for being respectfully direct in his statements on immigrants and refugees.  We need more Christian leaders to join him.  

You can take the Matthew 25 Pledge here.

2. Learn.  

Church, lives are at stake here.  The least we can do is educate ourselves.  If these ideas are foreign (pardon the pun) or scary to you, commit to at least educating yourself. A recent Christianity Today article provides not only a good summary on this issue, but some great links to books by Christian authors on this topic.  Or, here’s a great article in the Washington Post, just out February 1st, explaining the already robust vetting process.

3. Skip the BS. Consider actually doing something.

Seriously, don’t be a goat. (Read Matthew 25) God isn’t fooled and the rest of the world isn’t either. For heavens sake, we’ve seen more protests in the last few days than in decades prior. The Women’s March is being called one of the largest demonstrations ever. So, we can’t afford to sit on our laurels and do nothing. And, even as we do something, we must recognize that our credibility is one the line if we talk the talk without walking the walk.

To walk with others, especially migrants and refugees, here are some ideas.

  • First, churches can shed their reputation for being irrelevant religious relics by teaching about these topics and creating forums for conversation. If we can’t apply the scriptures to our present day, what’s the point? The word ‘sanctuary’ originates in the Bible, and it doesn’t just mean the fancy auditorium where we sing worship songs. In the scriptures, the words sanctuary and refuge are often used interchangeably.
  • Second, if we can’t have respectful dialogues within our faith communities, we should seriously close our doors.  How can there be reasonable hope in elsewhere if we can’t do it ourselves???
  • Lastly, in addition to talking about these issues from the pulpit, can become literal sanctuaries, of learning, support and protection by sponsoring immigration clinics or supporting refugee relief organizations (thanks to Laura Ortberg Turner for this list: CAIR, IRC, and The Bread Project) and to even physical protection and refuge. As one Methodist minister said in a recent RNS article, “It’s really key that people of faith be active, especially white America….It’s time to put your bodies, buildings and assets on the line.”

The Bible is pretty clear that we become great when we come alongside the least. Period.  Now would be a good time to put that concept into practice.  As we do, let’s remember to encourage one another.  Whether you take your stand on Facebook or behind a pulpit, progressive Christian leaders have been punished in recent months for their views.  There’s no getting around the fact that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump.  The 19% that spoke out before and after the election have paid a steep price, whether it’s Russell Moore risking his position with the Southern Baptist Convention in the wake of Trump criticism or Jen Hatmaker being pulled from Lifeway bookstores for her LGBTQ comments or Shauna Neiquist for her expressed enthusiasm over the Women’s March…  Visit the Facebook pages of Rachel Held Evans or Sarah Bessey, and you’ll find plenty of vicious attacks, all uttered in the name of Jesus, of course.  NOT OKAY.

So, let’s drown out those voices (the mean ones, not necessarily the dissenting ones) by walking humbly through this process, giving a lot of grace along the way.  There’s the phrase, iron sharpens iron.  We can do that for one another, but not so successfully when we are constantly trying to stab one another in the back.

Make America Great Again

I don’t know why young people or minorities don’t vote. Truly. I know that access has been seriously curtailed by a variety of factors, for African Americans, in particular. But, even still, that doesn’t explain why so many didn’t show up on November 8th.

But, that was November 8th….. I have a feeling that President Trump will inspire more young people and minorities to get involved than any prior voter-registration or citizenship drive ever could. Citizen participation in the last 11 days has been off the charts.  IT’S TIME TO BE THE PEOPLE.

According to the latest Pew Research Center polls, cited in NY Magazine, the Women’s fullsizerender-17March not only made a better impression than the tea party movement and marches of 2010, it made a BETTER one. In addition, 40% of democratic women say they plan to get more involved in political causes this year. Newsflash: women are busy….we needed another project as much as Alec Baldwin needs more Trump material. That’s huge that 40% would say they will make space for greater political involvement.

To paraphrase the Japanese commander Isoroku Yamamoto, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we may have awakened a sleeping giant.  If events of the last few days are any indication, we may have finally awakened a bigger chunk of our nation’s citizenry.  And, that’s a good thing.  Democracy was never intended to be a spectator sport. 

At the local level, folks on the Peninsula have a wide array of organizations they can plug into.  There are three near and dear to my heart that I want to plug here.

  • Able Works: This group, led by my friend Sue, equips individuals with financial education, life skills and assets that enable one to live free from oppression and poverty. FYI, they are hosting an event on February 9th, FINDING A WAY FORWARD: Mass Incarceration, Community Policing and The Effects On The Family.  Go if you can!
  • Life Moves Opportunity Services Center: This is the spot where my journey began in the fall, to help ‘the least’/Bay Area homeless by serving lunch.  There are lots of ways to plug-in; they do excellent work in striving to break the cycle of homelessness.
  • My New Red Shoes: Founded by one of my best friends, this amazing group works to give kids the tools they need to be confident at school.  One of the main reasons of absenteeism, is adequate clothing/shoes.  My New Red Shoes works with local community partners across the bay to provide kids with clothes and shoes at the start of each year.  They work year-round to prepare for the 1st day of school.  At Mothers Together last Tuesday, we donated shoes, sewed bags and made cards.  In addition, My New Red Shoes is one of the few charities you can bring your kids, if you want to volunteer at their warehouse.

There are countless ways to get involved.  These are just a few.  But, if the last 12 days are any indication, those at the bottom will get hit the hardest in the coming four years.  Some folks are taking the bold step of running for office.  Some are writing letters and making phone calls. Others are plugging into activist roles with various organizations.  As Americans, it’s time for us to wake-up, smell the coffee, and get involved.  Even if I don’t always agree with you, I believe in our democracy enough to know that if millions of Americans get engaged in the process, we will come out ahead in the end.

While I think engaging in person is the best way to get involved, I’d be remiss if I didn’t list a few ways to let your money do the talking.  You can support, with your purchases, these companies and organizations working to help refugees or immigrants:

  • The CEO’s of Netflix, Apple, Airbnb, Nike, Ford, Starbucks and many more have all been critical of the refugee ban.  Starbucks is also vowing to hire 10,000 refugees. fullsizerender-19 Airbnb is offering free housing to refugees.  Support companies that have taken a stand on this issue, even in the face of a president determined to punish those who oppose him.  I’m using this as an excuse to drink more Starbucks coffee!
  • One of my new favorite groups is Preemptive Love.  Refugees actually make these fullsizerender-16amazing soaps.  Your purchase helps support them.  I gave several bars out at Christmas, and folks loved them.  They also have some great t-shirts, among other things.
  • Support organizations providing help on the ground AND create a conversation starter buy purchasing a cool t-shirt from either the ACLU or Southern Poverty Law Center.

Make Our Families Great Again

Part of the reason I started this blog, was because I wanted to be publicly accountable in my effort as a mom to teach my kids what it looks like to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  I shared in my last post, how my kids aren’t always jumping for joy when I suggest a book, film or activity that isn’t somehow related to Disney, Marvel or Legos.  But, they also don’t like veggies.  That doesn’t mean I give up.  I keep trying.  I get creative.  This matters.

For me, this is my most important measure as mom….did I teach my kids how to truly love God by loving others?  Not in the, show up for Sunday school each week way….but, in the tolerance for others not like you or compassion for the person on the corner or in sacrifice giving to those in need….  We are called to love one another, regardless of how they’ve messed up or if they look like us or pray to the same God as us or the color of their skin…..loving God means loving ALL His people.

Since this is Black History Month, I wanted to invest in some books for my kids that would heighten their awareness of social justice issues.

I’m looking for options other than just books.  But, during these rainy winter days in California, it’s a start.  Going back to Black History Month, here’s a Frederick Douglas quote that Shane Claiborne tweeted yesterday: “Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.”  I guess some things take a long time to change….but, we must be the change we want to see (to quote Ghandi).

Be Bonhoeffer

One of my friends from the White Privilege study encouraged me to read Bonhoeffer’s biography.  While I haven’t read the whole thing yet, my initial inquiry into this storied leader in Christian history readily reveal why my friend felt we might be inspired today by his example.

It’s one thing to quote Bonhoeffer, it’s another thing to emulate the minister that stood up to Hitler.  Now, before some of you jump off the deep end….I’m not saying Trump is Hitler.  (I do wonder sometimes, but that’s not my point.)  My point is that we can’t pretend that if we could go back in history to the periods and people we extoll, that we’d be right there with them….but, then we have 101 excuses for why we can’t take the same risks or emulate in any fashion the courageous men and women we admire.  Not all of us were cut out to pick up picket signs and protest.  But, that doesn’t mean we don’t have spheres of influence and places where we can take a stand.  WE MUST TAKE A STAND.  Here are a few quotes from his biography that cut to my core:

  • Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
  • Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.
  • Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.
  • Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.

I’ve always loved listening to Christian music.  In my car, NPR, the classical station and KLOVE are the three stations I tune to most often.  But, these have been difficult days.  As one evangelical friend who is half-Indian recently told me, I’ve never felt so lonely at church.  I get it.  Sometimes, it’s like the WASPY world would love for the dust to settle, so we can get back to business as usual.  But, when your kids are half Asian or your husband has a green card and you worry whether he’ll be allowed back into the US when he travels or your African American best friend is torn apart by the racism in America or you find out that a precious child in your class is undocumented and living in daily fear….when you dip your toe outside of the WASPY world, you see things differently.

Whether I’m in the car or in church, I wonder if the words mean the same thing to others that they mean to me…if they take them seriously or just figuratively.  These days, I take them more and more literally.  As much as I feel somewhat alone in my faith, I am reassured by the small but passionate band of friends who share my deep devotion to the Jesus who came and gave it all for all.  The other day, a new song called Giants Fall by
Francesca Battistelli, came on the radio.  Its words soothed my overwhelmed heart, reminding me of who God is and what He can do.

Don’t you be afraid
Of giants in your way
With God you know that anything’s possible
So step into the fight
He’s right there by your side
The stones inside your hand might be too small
But watch the giants fall

I’m clinging to these words.  I am not afraid.  Anything is possible.  GIANTS WILL FALL.  It’s not just about America….it’s about all of us across the globe.  God always has been, He is, and He always will be GREAT…just not always the way we initially envisioned.

 

 

 

 

Farewell, Mr. President

 

fullsizerender-12
Medal Ceremony

We’re going through a lot of Kleenex these days.  First, there was President Obama’s Farewell Address in Chicago.  Then, there was the surprise conferment of the Medal of Freedom by Obama to his beloved Vice President, Joe Biden.  This morning, I saw a video of Obama visiting a homeless shelter where children were the recipients of Sasha and Malia’s playground set.  And, just now, Obama held his final press conference.  Cue the tears!  THIS WHITE, EVANGELICAL WOMAN IS HEARTBROKEN TO SEE OBAMA GO.

 

Coffee, wine and then tea…..

fullsizerender-3I love coffee.

I love wine.

Sadly, you can only drink so much of both.  It seems as though even Mother Nature mourns, as it has been an unusually cold and rainy winter in California.  And, so, I drink a lot of tea.  Last night, I stared at the tag: Comforting Camomile….if only.  If only it were so simple.  If only the clouds would part, and we’d realize it was all just a bad dream.  But, it’s not.  And, I’m left to sit with my emotions….to think, and pray and contemplate how I will respond.  And, honestly, I still don’t know.  That’s partly why I’ve not blogged.  What do you say?  Some of what we’re going through is unchartered territory; the other part is rooted in conflicts that have festered for decades, even centuries.

The other reason I haven’t blogged is because life happened.  My daughter broke her ankle in three places.  We got a puppy.  My mom was healed.

That last one isn’t a typo or even an exaggeration.  Today, my mom celebrates yet another birthday, laughing in the face of a cancer that has threatened her place in this world for over a year.  After a lifetime of loving others, the affection has come full circle, as friends and family have become the hands and feet of Jesus, taking her to appointments, bringing meals, saying prayers…..those prayers….they worked.  We never thought that ‘remission’ was a word we’d hear, yet it’s the word that the Mayo Clinic doctors gave – it’s a word we now cling to.

Remission isn’t just for cancer.  Remission is for sins.  I look at the church today, and our divisions are like a cancer.  It is a no-brainer that when a loved one is sick, you pray.  You gather, you organize, you rally, you contribute – one way or another.  But, these days, when our nation is sick and hurting, we seem to be tripping over one-another…sometimes, even making enemies when what we need are allegiances.  If only Obama could pardon our pains in his final days; but, the absolution we seek, is one only God can give.  And, while I believe strongly that there’s much government could and should do, my deep heartache comes in watching mainstream Christians wish to sweep discords under the rug and just move on.

Don’t Be A Dog

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Happy Go Lucky Kid

To be fair, I’m tempted to look for my broom too.  I’m tempted to sweep this moment and this heartache from my life.

 

We just got a puppy, Calli.  My husband used to say that in his next life, he wanted to come back as our happy go lucky six-year-old.  We envy his charmed life.

Then, Calli came….bliss found even higher heights!  The whole family is entertained by this pup who wishes for nothing more than to just be with her people.  She eats.  She plays.  She cuddles.  She pees and poops.  And, that’s about it.  Life is good.  Now, we joke that we want to come back as Calli.  What could be better?

fullsizerender-8Genesis.  Genesis tells us what’s better.

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God had created many marvelous things to fill the heavens and earth; only one was created in His image.  Us.  Only one creation was made to be like God.  As John Ortberg detailed in a sermon at Menlo Church last Sunday, humanity’s very first commandments were essentially to go have sex, to enjoy the delicious fruits and foods and to go innovate, create and rule.  We are made in His image.  And, from Genesis to Revelation, the most constant themes are of love, grace and mercy…..not legalism or jugmentalism.  So, why do we lead with this when we go into the world?

We have a unique opportunity, to be like God.  This is a gift given to no other img_1371creation….even dogs (man’s best friend).  Being ‘like’ God and ‘being God’ are two entirely different things, to be sure.  Assuming that our collective calling is to be like Christ, then the proof of this pursuit is the fruits of the spirit, which are:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  As much as a big part of me wants to shrink back into my safe and comfortable life, to make cups of tea, pull my babies and puppy close and just shut out the world – I know that this is to miss out on not just God’s strongest commandments but also His greatest invitation….to be part of something that is worthy, holy and eternal.

Facebook Follies

I live in Menlo Park….home to Facebook.  I love it for the ways I can connect with friends across the globe.  I love it for the way I can efficiently share life events with those closest to me.  I love that I’ve found women like Sarah Bessey, Jen Hatmaker and Rachel Held Evans….all through Facebook.  Facebook has its strengths.  It also has its weaknesses.  We’ve seen this in the last election.  We found our silos.  And, to our detriment, we’ve dug even deeper trenches.

On Monday, many of us availed ourselves of the feel-good exercise of posting favorite MLK quotes.  But, thankfully, women like Rachel Held Evans reminded us of our tainted Christian history:

“Reducing the struggles of the past to conflict between “the Christians” and “the culture” disregards the fact that slavery, Jim Crow, Native American removal, and all sorts of racial and gender inequalities have all flourished in a supposedly Christian culture…It’s easy to comfort ourselves with the thought that Christians of the past were only using religion and Scripture to support their oppression, but in truth those Christians rarely saw it that way. Often the difference between using Scripture to justify injustice and appealing to Scripture to support the truth proves clearest in hindsight. Pride, privilege, and confirmation bias are formidable adversaries on the path to justice, which is why we must familiarize ourselves with past justifications for oppression or inaction lest we make the same mistakes again.”

She spoke to an inconvenient truth that while hard to swallow, resonates because I know it is not a white-washing of history.  And, as they say, if we do not study and learn history in its truest form – we are bound to repeat it.  This is my great fear, as we head into the next four years.  I replied to Rachel’s post and she responded.  Here’s our exchange:

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So, there you have it.

It might not be an exhaustive list of solutions, but it is definitely a good place to start.  And, discussing solutions and paths forward is indeed where the church can and should set an example.

Sadly, without going into details, there were multiple white men who quickly replied to my question, feeling the need to say that Trump isn’t a racist, misogynist, Islamophobe, etc.  I was shocked.  This is MLK Day.  We are exchanging ideas on racial healing.  My question never labeled Trump as any of those things.  But, it clearly touched a nerve.

The day after MLK Day, a friend sent me these wonderful words written by Richard Rohr:

We see in the Gospels that it’s those on the bottom who tend to follow Jesus: the lame, the poor, the blind, the prostitutes, the drunkards, the tax collectors, the sinners, the outsiders, the foreigners.  It’s demonstrably those on the inside and the top who crucify him: elders, chief priests, teachers of the Law, scribes, and Roman occupiers.  

Rohr goes on to emphasize the importance of perspective, saying that Western Christians “fail to appreciate liberation theology” thanks to so many years of seeing the Scriptures through the lens of empowered clergy class rather than the marginalized.  He reminds us that for the first 300 years after Jesus, Christianity was a religion of the oppressed.  And, this isn’t just a historical observation; it’s a reflection of the heart of God.  Over and over and over again, Jesus points us to the least.  As Dorothy Day puts it, we must live at the bottom.  

White Privilege

For several months now, I’ve been meeting with a group of white women, as we study racism and our own white privilege; I recognize my life doesn’t lend itself to truly living with or loving the least.  For those who aren’t ready yet for a year-long study, there was a really good article from 2015, circulating yet again on MLK Day.  One line in it, where a white woman like myself discusses her own white privilege, says: Acknowledging privilege is not admitting to be a racist.

So, church…..can we grow-up enough to create safe spaces where conversations like the one Rachel recommended can happen?  If it can’t happen with us or in our sacred spaces, where do we think it can or will happen?  Can we shut-up and listen to learn, not to defend?  For, if other spaces do manage to facilitate those dialogues, what does that say of us?  Jesus will never be irrelevant but Christians….we can be.  Let’s not.  For God’s sake!

Meet Katharine, Dorothy and Mary

On Monday, I took my kids to see Hidden Figures.  This film introduces us to Katharine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three brilliant African-American women who were not just involved with but essential to the early milestones in our nation’s space program.  And, till now, their stories were unknown.  But, thanks to Hollywood, we finally get to learn about the obstacles they overcame to work at NASA.  Given my lifelong love of history and recent interest in learning about racism and African American heroes, this was a no-brainer.

But, I have a confession: my kids didn’t want to go.  I am so embarrassed to admit thisfullsizerender-11, but it’s the truth.  In the end, my eldest liked it.  My middle child said his favorite part was the end, when the rocket carrying John Glenn is launched.  And, my youngest (the happy-go-lucky one), spent most of the movie with his popcorn bucket over his head.  I kid you not.  (God knows how to keep me humble.)  But, I am trusting that after a lifetime of leaning into opportunities to learn, whether that’s walking around Angel Island and learning about the Chinese immigrants who first arrived in America or the ‘hidden figures’ essential to our early days of space exploration, there will be a net gain in deep understanding and true compassion.  Reality is that empathy isn’t automatic, which is why it can’t be option in my family.  This is a non-negotiable.  As Martin Luther King wrote:

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. . . . We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. 

Writer Judy Wu Dominick recently confessed on Facebook, how she’d come full circle from being an Obama detractor and critic to sincere supporter.  The turning point: when she switched to a more diverse church, one that was over 50% black.  Over time, her perspective and eventually her heart changed.  Our bubbles shape us more than we realize.

I have a dream…

Yesterday, I spoke to the Mothers Together group at Menlo Church.  It wasn’t my first time holding a microphone.  But, it was my first time teaching a large group in a religious setting.  All prior coaching and speaking was at universities or in corporate conference rooms and learning centers.  This year, I joined the teaching and missions teams, believing these were areas where I needed to stretch (you learn by doing)!  One of the passages I studied in preparing for this talk, came from the Book of Esther (credit to John Ortberg for his analysis and teaching on this book).  What’s amazing about this story, and what I shared with the ladies, is that the name of God is never uttered in Esther’s story.  As John puts it:

The writer (of Esther) wants you to know that even in exile…no Jerusalem, no temple, no Sanhedrin, far from home, surrounded by problems…God is right there. Even though in Esther’s story God’s name is never spoken, God’s heart is never absent. God’s arm is never missing. So don’t you give up. In your position, however important it may or may not look, however likely your success does or does not appear, whether you feel like your mission is going well or terrible, don’t you give up, because it’s God at work, not you.

So this is what I’m clinging to.  I’m not giving up.  I’m leaning into even those places and spaces that are awkward, even painful.  I’m believing miracles still happen but I’m not relying just on religious institutions or Christian forums.  Because, honestly, I think vast swaths are becoming holy huddles of privilege, be it economic, racial, educational, etc.  And, please know that I lump myself into that group!   But, as one mom shared during our Mothers Together gathering, be willing to do the little things….like, go to a playground across the railroad tracks or facilitate play dates with friends who may live on the other side of town.  Even though big strides are needed, little steps are far better than backward slides.  As the Franciscan prayer Sarah Bessey asks, may we be blessed with the anger, tears and foolishness.

So, my question isn’t whether you posted your favorite MLK quote on Monday….it’s fullsizerender-10whether you’re still talking about him and honoring his work today….just a few days later.  And, will you keep thinking and praying about how we the church can make his dream a reality?  Cause, here’s the thing…Dr King’s I Have A Dream speech is laden with inspiration borrowed rhetoric from the New and Old Testament.  The dream didn’t originate with Dr King….it originated with God.  It’s God’s dream. We know that this is the picture of heaven.  Frankly speaking, there will always be brokenness in this world.  But, God didn’t stop in Genesis.  He had a dream.  Why not be part of it now? 

What’s a cubit?

5ae0c50d-ed2c-4eb1-84cf-4714f2317aa4It’s just about time for Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin to ring in the New Year from Times Square in NYC.  If I could swap Anderson for another ‘newsy’ celebrity, I think I’d pick Stephen Colbert.  He makes you laugh, but he’s been incredibly transparent about his own election hangover.  Similarly, I’ve struggled to find the usual levity and joy that accompanies the holiday season.

I’m about half-way through Accidental Saints, by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  She contrasts our idealized, Normal Rockwell Christmases, with the actual story in the Bible.  I love her takeaway, saying this of the first Christmas:

It reveals a God who has entered our world as it actually exists, and not as the world would 16ab5b0d-1e59-4edf-93b4-52f45ee49065often wish it would be.  God’s love is too pure to enter a world that does not exist, even though this is often how we treat Jesus, like we are trying to shelter Him from reality.  We often behave as though Jesus is only interested in saving and loving a romanticized version of our selves, or an idealized version of our mess of a world, and so we offer him a version of our best selves.  

I have a long ways to go, but I feel like this has been the year when my eyes were opened and my heart was broken, by the world as it actually is. 

The bad news is that the world is still messed up.  The good news is that God is in the mess.  Just these last few weeks, that’s been the painful truth for my family.  My mom is over a year into her battle against cancer.  We were so glad she was well enough to make it out to California for what we’ve dubbed ‘Turkey Christmas’ (gift exchanges done at Thanksgiving).  But, the day after her return, she was admitted to the hospital and she’s been back and forth between the hospital and rehab ever since.  Just to add to the medical drama for our family, my daughter fell and broke her ankle in 3 places, the day after Christmas.  It is dangerous to sugarcoat hardship; you cheapen the real pain of the folks closest to the suffering.  But, it is also dishonest to omit the very real ways God showed up in the midst of it all.  

Just when things looked bleakest for my mom, the pieces started falling into place for my Mom to get to Mayo, with friends and family moving mountains to facilitate this endeavor and provide care in between.  For my daughter, there have also been some mixed f26f1a1e-a965-48df-94ad-e05f368b85a6blessings.  A little backstory to her injury helps…

She went upstairs to get her little brother, when he failed to show up and set the table (after being called no less than 23 times).  And, long story short, she tripped and fell, carrying him down the stairs.  Like all big sisters around the globe, she’s frustrated by her brothers’ frequent reluctance to pitch in and help.  But, it’s been baptism by fire since the day she broke her ankle.  I wouldn’t call either of them ‘Martha’, but they’ve definitely shouldered a larger chore load, and have even displayed more compassion and care for their sister, since the accident.  I have no illusions about the long-term durability of these lessons; it’s likely they’ll be back to their usual quarreling selves, about 5 minutes after the cast comes off.  However, that doesn’t take away from the lessons we can learn when we’re forced to just stop for a moment.  And, this moment, as we start a New Year, might be a good time for all of us to pause.

John Dickerson interviewed Stephen Colbert on Christmas Day.  Among other things, they talked about the 2016 Oxford Word of the Year: Post-Truth, an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.  Here’s a snippet of their post-truth exchange:

COLBERT: That scares me, the idea that facts don’t exist anymore is actually scary to me, whereas if there are no facts anymore, then there is nothing to agree upon and so we can’t agree. You can’t build anything.

DICKERSON: You’ve got to agree on the measurement of things if you’re building (INAUDIBLE)…

COLBERT: What is one kilo?

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Dickerson & Colbert

DICKERSON: Right.

Or one cubit?

COLBERT: Exactly.

What is a cubit?

Exactly.

Exactly…..what’s a cubit?

As Dickerson puts it, if we want to build something, we have to agree on the measurement.  in.  I think this is part of the reason why these last few weeks have been so disorienting.  It’s not just that we disagree on facts, our worldview or preferred prescription for the world….it’s this sense that everything has been turned upside down, and truth doesn’t matter.  What can you build when you can’t define a cubit?

The Bible talks a lot about weights and measurements.  Proverbs 11:1 states, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.”  Too often, the church has either turned a blind eye to or been party to false balances.  And, the church will inevitably continue as a diverse body, with a huge variance of perspectives and prescriptions (and, this is good!!!). However, if we are to maintain any shred of credibility in 2017, we must agree on the cubit.  We must seek some common ground upon which at least a critical mass of Christians agree.  The church must go back to its Biblical roots to welcome the foreigner, protect the oppressed, help the poor, heal the sick, respect the elderly, defend women and children, etc.  If we can find that critical mass in 2017, maybe we can move closer to the tipping points that affect broader change.  We might not always agree on the details, but let’s not let politics or ideology of earth stand between us and the heaven’s plea to be light in the darkness.  And, quick clarification: light in the darkness has a lot more to do with those folks I just mentioned (poor, sick, foreigner, etc.) than it does well-crafted worship services or Bible programs.  The book of Amos has some harsh words, on the topic of scales:

Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land,
5 saying,

“When will the New Moon be over
that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure,
boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,
6 buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat.

The chapter continues with this admonishment:

7 The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.

8 “Will not the land tremble for this,
and all who live in it mourn?
The whole land will rise like the Nile;
it will be stirred up and then sink
like the river of Egypt.
9 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord,

“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10 I will turn your religious festivals into mourning
and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.
11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the Lord,
but they will not find it.

Part of my pivot for 2017 is to look for the people and organizations doing the best work to help these groups, and then go join them….whether they’re affiliated with a church or not.  Being the church doesn’t require a steeple – just hands and feet.  In fact, we have spent far too much time quarreling with each other (case in point, recent criticisms of Russell Moore) or point a finger at others, when there’s so much common ground with both religious and secular groups that we could have used as a foundation for being hands and feet.  Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it this way:

That is the surprising scandal of the gospel, the surprising scandal of the kingdom: it looks like the same crappy mess that bumps us out of our unconscious addiction to being good, so that we can look at Jesus as he approaches us on the street and says, Man, you look like you could use a good meal.

I hope that the church will lean into those messy places, in bolder and more courageous ways than we have in a long time.  But, there will come a day when I am accountable.  And, on that day there will be nothing else to blame; ideology, theology, my calendar nor my finances, and all of life’s countless demands and perceived constraints….you name it….they won’t matter.  I, and I alone will be measured.  So, I’d better figure out what is a cubit.

Politicians and pundits might not agree on much, but I think the Bible is pretty clear on

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From Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

measurements.  We are called to love God and love people.  And, we’re known by our fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  And, the places where these commandments ring true and our true selves are revealed, are in our responses to the broken people and messy places.

The real question is not, what’s a cubit….the real question is what’s a person worth?  God’s already shown us what a person is worth to Him.  But, what’s a person….a young black man, a Hispanic housekeeper, a Syrian refugee, a homeless child or female pastor worth to us?  Is there room in our 2017 gospel for them?  Let’s make it so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Outsider’s Christmas

87b7b32c-f249-42f8-9f61-95302f9a19ec-28288-000025ad7be0ba74_tmpOver coffee and wine….  It’s not just catchy, it’s my life.  I need a solid two cups of coffee in the morning to be somewhat functional (sincerest apologies to my running partner who sees me 3x/week@6:30 am sans any caffeine…God only knows what comes out of my mouth!).  So, you can be sure that I’ll be holding at least a few of those red Starbucks cups this December.  For the second year in a row, Starbucks has been accused of waging a war against Christianity, with its cup design.  I have this crazy theory that Christmas is about more than what is or is not on our coffee cups.  Here’s how Rachel Held Evans puts it:

The whole story of Advent is the story of how God can’t be kept out. God is present. God is with us. God shows up—not with a parade but with the whimper of a baby, not among the powerful but among the marginalized, not to the demanding but to the humble. From Advent to Easter, the story of Jesus should teach us that God doesn’t need a mention in our pledge or on our money or over the loudspeaker at the mall to be present, and when we fight like spoiled children to “keep” God in those things, we are fighting for idols. We’re chasing wind.

The birth of Jesus offers so many lessons.  But, the central role of outsiders in the Christmas story demands a second look, as we consider the real reason for the season.  And, I pray, the lessons from that look, give us some new ways to celebrate this Christmas.

Foreigners in Bethlehem

3296142c-3ec5-4f2e-854c-9345e0211524-27975-00002563db99d8af_tmpToday’s nativity scenes are almost a dime a dozen.  We see them and shrug.  Mary and Joseph, in a barn with some farm animals standing around and three funny looking guys in the background.  Yep.  We know the story.  But, maybe the story has gotten too familiar?

While Joseph had family ties to Bethlehem, they were visitors in this tiny town.  And, they weren’t the only outsiders.  We often hear about the three wise men.  These magi or astrologers, came from the East.  So, these are men from a foreign land, with foreign traditions and faith.  They bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, gifts typically given to a king or royalty….not the typical ‘congrats on your baby’ gift.  These are wealthy, well-educated men who had a lot to lose, traveling to Israel, bearing gifts for a new king.

The gifts are not only symbolically significant, but they were likely life-saving financial resources for Mary and Joseph.  Herod becomes so paranoid by the news of this baby, that he slaughters baby boys under the age of two in Bethlehem.  Fortunately, Joseph and Mary escaped with baby Jesus, to Egypt.  But, consider all of the times we see an outsider playing a key role in the Christmas story.

First, Mary and Joseph are far from home, having come to Bethlehem at such a delicate time in Mary’s pregnancy to take part in the census.  Then, they receive gifts from foreigners from the East.  (FYI…unlike the little nativity sets we put up next to our Christmas tree, where the shepherds and wisemen simultaneously assembled in the manger, the wisemen probably didn’t arrive until roughly a year later.)  Finally, they become refugees in Egypt for a few years, likely surviving on the resources they received from the magi.  It isn’t until Herod dies, that Mary, Joseph and Jesus can return to Israel.

It’s not just this chapter in the Christmas story that highlights the role of a foreigner.  The very lineage of Christ paints a picture of a Savior who came for all.  For example, not only does the Bible include the names of 5 women in Jesus’s genealogy (unheard of in that day), but among them we find Ruth.  Ruth was a foreigner from Moab, whose entire race was a lasting reminder of the incest committed between Lot and his oldest daughter.  Over and over again, we are reminded that there’s no sin so big or person so far, that they are beyond the love of Christ.  Just in case we missed it in looking at his family tree, or in the story of his birth, Jesus repeatedly shows us that we are to love the outsider.  It is in His commandments to love one another.  It’s in His stories, like that of the Good Samaritan (despised foreigner).  It’s in His blood, which He explicitly states is for all, Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free…you name it, it’s there for each and every one of us.

Foreigners in the United States

Even though we are a nation built by immigrants, the present level of hostility towards foreigners is at an all-time high.  As a white woman, married to a Singaporean immigrant, parenting bi-racial children, I have some admittedly selfish and personal reasons for rejecting this posture.  But, there are reasons beyond decency that should give us pause, before we permit the nativist rhetoric to become normalized speech or worse yet, public policy.

Immigrants thru history

First, a quick history lesson.  In a book by Eric Weiner, called the Geography of Genius, he looks at civilizations through the years to identify the places/people that evolved into 1fde0261-ee3e-4af8-b0fc-2e71c8008017-28288-000025adc70f0b45_tmpthe most influential and productive centers for their time(s).  So, just to clarify, we’re looking across the globe, from the time history has been recorded.  And, one of the most consistent catalysts for growth, creativity whether it’s ancient Athens or Vienna and Florence during the Renaissance or Silicon Valley today: the influx of new ideas and perspective from immigrants.  Unless you’re Native American, the rest of us were at one time immigrants ourselves.  And, until the late 19th century, there were few immigration regulations.  There weren’t the visas, lengthy processes and countless forms of today.  Today’s undocumented can’t ‘do it the right way’ like our great-grandparents.

Immigrants in America today

So, let’s fast forward to today.  The election results do not somehow turn political rhetoric into statistical fact.  On the two hot topics of refugees and immigration, here’s the deal: refugees aren’t dangerous and immigration is not bad for the economy.  It’s tempting to cut and paste the hundreds of articles and studies validating the importance of foreigners to our own American society and economy – there is an avalanche of evidence.  I’ll spare you!  But, here are a few actual facts worth considering (don’t worry…..we WILL get back to the Christmas story):

  • Entrepreneurs: Immigrants are twice as likely to start a new business.  9903cdd8-2d20-44cb-b603-858458e027bf-28288-000025af99fb3ab3_tmpImmigrants (and their children) started such iconic companies as Apple, Google, Intel, Bank of America, AT&T, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Pfizer, DuPont, eBay and Ford.
  • Individual Mobility/Wages: Immigrant children show extraordinary upward mobility, in terms of income, occupation and education.  In addition, studies find that immigrants raise wages for native-born American.  Interestingly, cities with the most immigrants tend to support a continuation of pro-immigrant policies.  On the flip-side, Rust Belt states with greater resentment at the “illegals” who are “taking all of our jobs” — actually have relatively small populations of them, with fewer than 2% of jobs held by illegal immigrants,” according to Rex Nutting.
  • Macro-economics: According to the 15bc62c8-9073-440f-bf37-8c8e475e2fe1-28886-00002639defed4cf_tmpmost-cited anti-immigration economist, Harvard Professor George Borjas, there is a small but positive contribution to the economy as a whole.  Even the George W Bush Institute published in the spring, a comprehensive report stating that the benefits of immigration outweigh the costs.  Speaking to the macro-economic benefits, they state: “When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP. Their incomes rise, but so do those of natives. It’s a phenomenon dubbed the “immigration surplus,” and while a small share of additional GDP accrues to natives — typically 0.2 to 0.4 percent — it still amounts to $36 to $72 billion per year.”
  • Science/Tech: Immigrants are essential to critical sectors of the economy, including science, medicine and technology.  Again, according to the George W Bush Institute, Forty-four percent of medical scientists are foreign born, for example, as are 42 percent of computer software developers. Immigrant workers are also overrepresented among college professors, engineers, mathematicians, nurses, doctors and dentists, to name a few.  Research cited by the Harvard Business School indicates that although many tech firms do tend to favor employing younger workers, older native workers are not losing their jobs as a direct result of the immigrants being hired.  In fact, hiring young skilled immigrants raised the overall employment of skilled workers in the firm.  In a nutshell: we need these people!
  • Safety: For those who worry about safety and security more than economics, there are plenty of statistics proving that as a group, immigrants are actually much less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.
  • Refugees: According to national security experts, refugees from war torn places, like Syria, are not a security threat.  Treating them as such has turned what should be a humanitarian issue into a politicized policy of fear-mongering.
  • Terrorism: If you’re worried about personal safety, check out the CDC website for actual statistics.  Unintentional poisonings, traffic accidents and suicide deaths are the leading causes of death (not health-related).  You’re actually more likely to be killed by deer, cows, dogs or even falling out of bed – than by terrorists.  Back to the CDC, you are 77781e3e-1283-47e6-a5f2-3f40d561c70e-28288-000025adf3c2883c_tmp35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack.  That means that all those Christmas cookies and egg nog are far more dangerous than the Syrian Refugees.
  • Costs: We also can’t ignore the real cost of deporting millions of migrants; estimates range from $400-600 billion, take 20 years to implement, shave $1.6 trillion off GDP and lower economic growth by 5.7%.

Up Close and Personal

Whether you look at the big picture or the individual stories, the take-away is the same: we benefit from welcoming outsiders into our great nation.  Here’s one of those individual stories, published in Time magazine, a couple

Liz Dong

days ago by Liz Dong.  In her story, titled, I’m an Undocumented Immigrant and an Evangelical Christian, she shares how she and her mother came legally, but their attorney forget to attach her papers to her mother’s visa renewal forms – resulting her joining the ranks of the undocumented.  Liz’s story is telling on a few levels.

  • First, she is Chinese.  Trump may rant about building a wall to keep out Mexicans, but according to an article in the Atlantic, migrants from Asia outpace Mexicans in terms of undocumented growth.  Chinese, South Koreans, and Indians among the fastest-growing segments of undocumented immigrants.  My husband is ethnically Chinese, so the last thing I’d want to do is shift the animosity towards Asia.  The point is that it’s hard to fix a problem when you don’t even define it properly.  And, the problem is definitely not Mexico sending its criminals and rapists, or Hispanics at large.  Nobody disputes the need for immigration reform, but let’s not build policies based on xenophobia.
  • Second, I know from personal experience how challenging the immigration process can be, going through it myself, when my husband applied for his green card.  I honestly don’t know how we could have done it, without the help of attorneys.  And, we don’t even have the added challenge of having English as our second language.
  • Third, in many instances, the children of migrants (legal or not) do not even realize they are undocumented until years later.  Many will question why someone like Liz doesn’t just go through the visa process, upon realizing she’s undocumented. The reason is that you have to immediately leave the country and then wait 10+ years before you can return (the backlog of cases for immigration 32cf2401-7de6-4cb5-bba3-5e3e05083e3c-28288-000025b07998a5fb_tmpcourts is in the hundreds of thousands, with wait times of several years to get a hearing).  For children who grew up in the US and know no other home, this is insane!  And, that’s why Obama signed DACA (after Congress failed to act, even though there was bipartisan support).
  • Last point, folks who trusted our government and surrendered their details, should not now have to live in fear of deportation.  It is our civic and moral duty to stand up for the 750,000 who jumped at the first chance they had to come out of the shadows and secure the proper permits to work.  Immigration has many facets, but this one should be a no brainer-for Christians.

b4946d74-0ca3-44df-9911-5430a48757af-28408-000025c183e56243_tmpFolks, from a patriotic standpoint, we would not be the country we are today, leader of the free world, without foreigners – we are a nation of migrants.  From a faith standpoint, we would not be trimming our trees and preparing for Christmas today, without migrants.  Jesus was himself a refugee, who was helped by foreigners.  No matter what angle you look at the Christmas story, you see foreigners playing a key part in the narrative.  And, as American Christians – we should not turn a blind eye.

What you can do

Mindset: Abby Odio, of Menlo Church, shared a beautiful Quaker definition to the word repentance: to think differently after being with.  Maybe this Christmas, there are some things we can think differently about, after seeing either old stories or present realities with fresh eyes.  Is it possible you’ve let the messy, scandalous version of the Christmas story be usurped by a cleaned-up, Norman Rockwell version?

There are also some really practical steps for ways we can help those among us, especially the undocumented, who are entering this holiday season with a lot of fear.

Risk: The shepherds had to leave their sheep to go see Jesus.  The magi said ‘no’ to Herod in order to say yes to Jesus. The shepherds could have lots their flocks.  The magi could have lost their lives.  We can’t claim to say YES to God but then a polite no to the people and places He calls us to love.  (Thanks, again, to Abby for these ideas.)  Are you willing to put some skin in the game?  Jesus never promised us safe or easy.  In Luke, he says: Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  It wasn’t meant to be cliche – it was meant to be made real in us.

img_0975Gifts: Your holiday shopping and gifts can this year be a gift to refugees abroad.   Check out Sisterhood Soaps.  Their gorgeous soaps, candles and crafts are handmade by refugee women, and help to fund job creation efforts in Iraq.

Just Ask: These last few weeks, I’ve started stepping outside of my comfort zone.  Whether it’s nannies, cleaning ladies, construction workers or landscapers, I’ve decided to move beyond pleasantries and just ask the simple questions: how are recent events impacting you and how can I help?  I want to hear their stories.  I want to learn.  So far, the consistent response is, ‘we’re afraid’…regardless of whether they’re documented or not.  It seems so inadequate, but I tell them that if there’s anything I can do to help – they should just let me know.  And, in an effort to bring substance to my words, I’ve begun looking for resources I can pass to them. Here’s an example of an information sheet anyone can print and share (post-election-community-info-sheet-nov-2016-final.

Prayer: Prayer is a double-edged sword.  To be clear, I believe strongly in the power of prayer.  But, I almost hesitate to list it because so often we say a half-hearted prayer and then move-on….even for me, it’s often a one-way conversation with God.  If we way, let’s commit to the tw0-way….let’s promise to listen to God’s answer back.

pinMake a statement: Wear the pin.  Yes, it’s imperfect and incomplete.  But, it’s a start!  I wear it each day, as a reminder to be a safe person for someone else.

Connection: There are many evangelicals who have actually been very vocal in their support of Syrian refugees.  Consider connecting with groups like, World Relief, who are actively working to engage churches and evangelical communities to come alongside refugees with vital services ranging from legal help to housing or education and employment.  Another great resource/organization is Red Letter Christians, whose goal is to take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings, tackling issues like racism, poverty, justice, immigration and more.  My prayer is that when folks think of Christians, they think of a people who stand for love, justice, grace, mercy, compassion…..folks who come alongside the broken and hurting.  Let’s start connecting the dots and building bridges with likeminded churches, organizations, business leaders, stay-at-home moms, community leaders…you name it, let’s rally.

Christmas is for the broken, the rejected, the powerless, and, yes….the outsider.  Christmas, in every way, says that there’s no distance too far, sin so egregious, place so img_0974dark, that Heaven can’t find you.  Are we more holy than Him, that we can claim some offense that He’s somehow immune to?  It’s fine if he wants to shower the world with his love, grace and mercy….but, we’ll take a pass.  Should not the people of God mirror His love for the world?

I remember learning that the Biblical definition of humility has more to do with how we see the world, than it is some kind of self-loathing or ‘woe is me’ posture.  In the same vane, I don’t think during the holiday season, God is as offended by our tinsel and lights, Santa’s and silly songs, as He is our ease in forgetting what Christmas is really about and who it is really for.  Put another way: I’m not suggesting that loving God means walking away from things we love (though there’s often sacrifice) – it’s about walking towards others; we are to share the love and joy of Christ, in ways that are meaningful and life-changing.

There’s this beautiful song about the name of Jesus, and in it there’s the line:

You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus, You brought heaven down

If Heaven wants each of us so desperately, that the son of God would come down to our broken world, why can’t we find it in our 75a4d4c4-1ae5-4fb6-b11a-82c8dbb0b0dd-28659-000026293d610498_tmp-1hearts to love one another, regardless of where they were born?  And, as the people of God, aren’t we now called to bring heaven to earth, each and every day of our lives?

The most famous cup ever mentioned in the New Testament, is the cup Jesus raised on the night of the Last Supper.  Jesus set the tone for that evening, by washing the feet of his disciples.  Then, he raised a glass and broke bread, telling those at the table that this was his body and his blood.  I don’t think anyone was fretting over what was or was not on the cup.  What mattered was something much deeper…something so much more profound.  He not only commanded them to love one another, He gave them the most perfect picture of the love we are called to emulate.  Maybe, this Christmas, we can celebrate by loving others beyond our normal circles or typical traditions.  Maybe, this Christmas, we can take Christmas to the corners of the world that most desperately need His love, joy and peace.

Today, I stayed home….

Today, I stayed home….

img_0894This blog has been about coffee and wine.  It is about the things I love.  It is about the things that break my heart.  It is about figuring out when I’m meant to grab that extra cup of coffee and get out into the world, trying to live out my mission to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  Other times, living out that mantra means being still, resting in Him.  Today, I stayed home.

I was supposed to go help at the Life Moves Opportunity Services Center in Palo Alto today.  These last couple months, few experiences have shaped my mindset around compassion and serving as much as the handful of meals I’ve served there.  But, today I needed to stay home.

My mom has cancer.  She’s been waging her courageous battle for over a year now.  Her strength in the face of this horrible disease, and yet simultaneous trust in God, has been an up close and personal masterclass in true faith.  Lucky for me, I’ve had a front row seat my entire life.  We got to spend some time with her over the Thanksgiving holiday.  The day after she returned, she was being rushed to the hospital (I swear, we didn’t undercook the turkey!).  The last 72 hours have been tough.  It’s not easy to watch from afar, completely powerless.

img_0895I was reflecting today, on a story that Kevin Kim told earlier this week.  Kevin and Bea Takasugi from NU2U came to speak to our Mothers Together group for Missions Tuesday.  In fact, I had just gotten the news that my mom was being rushed to the Emergency Room, as we were kicking off our morning at Menlo Church.  Being there was exactly where God wanted me; their testimonies were both a salve for my battered soul.  Kevin shared a bit of his personal story, how he saw the hardships his mother endured as a single mom, running a small hotel.  At just 5 years old, he vowed to one day be rich, so he could take care of his mom.  He succeeded in getting himself into med school, but then started to feel God calling him into ministry.  But, if he wasn’t a doctor, how could he fulfill that childhood promise to take care of his mom?  You could have cut the air with a knife when Kevin shared with us the message God had given Him: I’ve taken care of your mom her whole life.  Don’t you think you can trust me to keep taking care of her?

I am convinced that this is a moment when we need to actually go BE the church OUT there.  We need to get out of the pews and make our faith tangible to a hurting world.  We need to drink more cups of coffee and leave nothing on the table.  But, even in the midst of the doing, there must be surrender….there must be trust.  Do we actually look for God in the midst of it all?

Sometimes, He doesn’t move the mountains or part the waters.  Sometimes, He doesn’t say, peace, be still.  Sometimes, instead of calming the seas, He comforts His child.

Last Sunday, we celebrated the 1st week of Advent, as we prepare our hearts for the Christmas season.  I am reminded of the name the angels gave Jesus, calling him, Emmanuel.  Maybe, this Advent, God’s calling me to rediscover not just the sufficiency but the beauty of God With Us.  Because, let’s be honest….most of us, no matter how many times we paste the calligraphy version of Emmanuel on our walls and Christmas cards, will actually be content with that promise.  We want the omnipotent god to change things.  We want the omniscient god to reveal things.

img_0892Right now, the control freak in me yearns for the God that can heal my mother or end poverty or stop racism.  This afternoon, I had planned to go serve the homeless.  As I admitted to my husband, going there would be a useful distraction from my worry.  And, sometimes, useful distractions are good and productive.  But, as the time neared for me to leave home this afternoon, I knew that my place was by my computer and next to my phone, where I could stay on top of things in Chicago.  I initially stayed home because I felt like I couldn’t entertain any distractions that would delay my replies to the folks on the front lines of my mother’s care.  But, I think the real reason God wanted me home was to sit me down at the foot of the cross…..to remind me through the stillness of this moment, through the beauty of sunlight filtering thru the autumn leaves in the backyard, that no matter what happens, He is Emmanuel.  And, today, that’s more than enough.

40084029-4fa6-41ad-a16d-b264a5542025-18407-00001a67a15dcfa1_tmpOn Tuesday, Bea introduced us to a story first told on the How I Built This podcast.  This episode features Jim Koch, the first Samuel Adams employee.  He talks about the difference between scary and dangerous, saying, “There are plenty of things that are scary but aren’t dangerous and there are plenty of things that are dangerous but not scary, and those are the things that can get you.”  He then goes on to give the examples of rappelling (scary but not so dangerous) vs walking on a snowy mountainside on a sunny spring day (dangerous…avalanche!).  One feels scary, but poses little real risk – the other feels delightful, but could be life-threatening.  Bea connected the dots for us, relating Jim’s story to her own testimony.  Only after she left her old life, did she realize how much she’d actually put on the line by playing it safe.  Confession: I think most of us, myself included, waltz into the dangerous as we side-step the scary.

It can be scary to trust in Emmanuel…to say, it is enough to know that He is God.  Period.  But, surrender is truly the least dangerous, most prudent path.  The question is whether I can embrace it at such.  Sometimes, walking humbly has as much to do with my posture towards God, as it does my posture towards people.  Sometimes, God’s mercy is greater in the valleys than the mountaintops.  Sometimes, justice by heaven’s scales looks completely different than what a democratic system or American culture could ever deliver.

These last few weeks, it has felt that the pillars holding up my life are shaking; my faith in my country, my religion and even the assurance of health and well-being, have all been tested.  After the election, I was completely despondent.  Perhaps, it is typical for anyone going through the stages of grief.  My tears are fewer these days, as my resolve grows stronger.  Now, more than ever before, we must stand up.  We must make our faith real.  We have to get out of the pews.  But, today, I am reminded that serving the world OUT there can never replace or usurp the moments I spend alone with God.  Today, I am practicing being still…at home, knowing that I can trust God to take care of my mom….to take care of me.   There’s that old hymn that says, my faith built on NOTHING LESS, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness….On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.  Maybe, tomorrow, He’ll call me back out to the world….to do something more tangible.  But, not today.  Today, I stayed home.

We Are The Ones

We Are The Ones

tissuesI’ve had to stop wearing mascara.  The tears just won’t stop.  Every time I think I’ve turned a corner, the grief hits me like a ton of bricks.  These last 10+ days have been excruciating.  I’ve written about ‘the day after’.  This time, the day after November 8th broke me.  But, I’m still here.  One of the most encouraging lines I’ve read in recent days, came from Ann Voskamp: “God sees the broken as the best, and He sees the best in the broken, and He calls the wounded to be the world changers.” This, whatever this is….it is not okay.  We may be wounded, but we are not defeated.  For those who are struggling, like me, I offer my rough draft list of ways to begin healing.

FOR YOURSELF

LISTEN AND LEARN

How did we become a nation so divided?  There are many reasons, but one is that we don’t listen well.  Here are books and articles that I’ve either read (and LOVE) or have in recent days learned about, and hope to read soon.  Some provide insights into forgotten communities dotting the the rust belt…others, into the pain of racism that still rages today or to a new posture for the evangelical church in a hurting world.

Books for Adults

As my recent ancestry.com genetic test proves, I am about as white as you can get!  So, to my fellow Caucasians, please consider the books above (or films below) that speak to the pain of bias and discrimination, especially racism.  While there’s no disputing the many forgotten towns where the ‘white working class’ has seen better days, these communities do not hold a monopoly over suffering in America.  The numbers do not lie, and they tell us that Latinos and African Americans remain worse off than the white working class—which is still the “largest demographic bloc in the workforce”—by pretty much every measurable outcome, from home ownership to life expectancy.  Our desire to help those who have been hurt by a broken system should be universal and unbiased.  That is why I also include books that will broaden my own perspective, like Hillbilly Elegy.

Books for Kids

There have been reports of harassment from both sides, in areas not far from me.  Kids are not immune from dinner table conversations or the palpable fear grownups are walking around with.  And, for some kids, the threat of deportation or explicit racism is very real.  Here are some of my favorite books for kids, which are helpful anytime, but especially at times like these.  Teaching our kids to embrace diversity, practice generosity and show compassion should be paramount in parenting.

Movies

This isn’t a complete list, but just new films that have caught my eye and speak powerfully to the issues we’re facing today.  1468522346_loving_social_2-398x398

Bible Studies

Here’s the deal.  A week ago, I wasn’t ready to open my Bible.  I couldn’t.  I felt (and, to a large extent) still feel like a stranger in my own faith, with 81% voting for Trump.  We all have the same life manual, yet we come away with such drastically different conclusions.  But, a dear friend urged me to open Romans.  I did.  And, God met me.  The next day, she said she had already ordered an NT Wright study on Romans for us to do together.  This friend reminds me of Aaron (in the Old Testament), who held up Moses’s arms during the battle with the Amalekites; as long as Moses’s arms were raised, Israel prevailed.  We all need someone to hold up our arms, when we don’t have the strength.

Lauren Daigle

Yesterday, I pulled up my Lauren Daigle playlist.  I love her.  But, for days it was just too how-to-backup-itunes-playlist-1much.  Were you ever so sad that you were afraid of healing?  Part of me was desperate for assurance and another part of me felt like I would be betraying those on the front-lines of suffering.  See, I will be okay.  I’ve never doubted that.  So many others…the LGBTQ community, people of color, the undocumented, Muslims….they will not.

I did not want to pick up the pieces and move ON until I knew where I was moving TO.  

I tapped on my Lauren Daigle playlist and My Revival randomly came on…except, nothing is random with God.  It begins…

I will run and not grow weary
I will walk, I will not faint
I will soar on wings like eagles
Find my rest in your everlasting name
You are my revival
Jesus on you I wait
I’ll lean on your promise
You will renew my strength

I stood in my bathroom, weeping.  And, then, I wiped away the tears and got ready to go to go feed lunch to the homeless.  I was so glad it was Thursday.  I knew that spending time with those who wear their brokenness on the outside, would help me find direction for the brokenness on my inside, which had rendered me so distraught and disoriented.  And, it did.

PAY-UP

the-new-york-times-logo-featuredI have a confession.  I love a good deal.  And, what’s better than free?  Now I know.

For years, I’ve loved getting my news for free via the internet.  I’d even ration my access to New York Times articles (10 a month!) so that I wouldn’t have to pay.  Our new economy is driven by clicks, not quality reporting or truth.  No matter who is in the White House, we need quality news outlets, if we are to be well informed.  Therefore, I plan to start paying for news subscriptions to the institutions I believe are doing some of the best reporting, like NPR/PBS and the New York Times, among others.  On the flip-side, avoid fake news or fake news sources.

FIND A FRIEND

No, not the ones on Facebook.  I am so grateful for the friends who came alongside me in my grief.  Dark days have a way of revealing who your true friends are.   A book.  A coffee.  A pot of split-pea soup.  A morning run.  A bunch of crazy cat videos.  Repeated calls or texts to say, ‘are you okay?’.  These last few days have drenched me in both love and grief.  The folks who made me feel less alone, by confessing that they too were not okay…..

FOR OTHERS

#NOTOKAY

I will be okay.  My heart breaks because there are millions of people in our country who will NOT be okay.  It seems to me, part of faith and loving God is letting your heart be broken for the folks who are not okay.

California has a large Hispanic population.  I decided to lean into that starbuckspain, talking folks who are already seeing their lives turned upside down.  One gal, with tears streaming down her face, told me of how her son cries when she drops him at school, not knowing if she might not pick him up.  A Hispanic gentleman told me, shared how a lady in Starbucks looked at him on November 9th and said, “Make America White Again.”  There are no words….  I know these people well.  They are good, hardworking individuals.  One of them looked at me, and with the greatest sincerity said, “I still believe that America is the greatest country on the planet.”  He loves America.

Though I should be the one wearing the ‘encourager’ hat, they are the ones who have instilled hope in me; they say, “it’s just four years…..it will be hard but we will get through it…..sometimes, things have to get worse before they get better….”  Their personal resilience and collective faith inspires me.  They are the ones who make America great.

If you are looking for a place to start, try talking to the people you already know.  Offer them a safe space to share their story.  We cannot absolve ourselves of the impact, even if our intent was not to do harm.  No matter how you voted, we must come step out of our silos and listen with a desire to learn, not to respond.

WEAR A PIN

pinIn the wake of the election, many started wearing a safety pin.  It’s a way of showing support and solidarity with those who are afraid.  There are lots of opinions on whether this is actually useful.  (Here’s a good assessment.)  But, I’ve decided to continue wearing it for the time-being.  The first reason is somewhat personal.  When my daughter initially saw it and asked what it meant, she immediately suggested that I move the pin where others could see it more easily.  In that moment, it dawned on me that she believed I could be a safe person…she wanted me to be a safe person for others.  If I want her to be brave, I have to be brave.  And, so, I’ve worn it everyday for a week now.  When I put it on, it reminds me to look for opportunities to show kindness.

People holds hands looking at post-election Post-it notes  pasted along a tiled walk at Union Square subway station in New YorkThe pin can be as little or as much as we make it; I am trying to make it step #1 in a long path of aligning myself with those who are scared and worry what the future may hold.  In some cities, thousands have pledged to stand by neighbors who are afraid.  In the case of my friend, I told her to put my number in her son’s backpack and have him call me if ever he needs help.  God help me – I will be the one.  There are so many ways you can make it more than just a pin.  If you are local and you want a safety pin, I have stocked up.  Just ask.

VOLUNTEER

Find an under-resourced school or an organization that helps the homeless.  Sign up to be a Big Brother or Big Sister.  Find local groups fighting sex trafficking.  Here in the Bay Area, some favorites of mine are:

I love the church because it is the body of Christ…the hands and feet of Jesus.  It is where I have focused the bulk of my volunteer hours.  But, I will be honest that I am really struggling in my relationship with organized religion at the moment.  I see some institutions and individuals who aren’t afraid to stand up, who believe the greatest commandment is to love others and who understand that the world is watching.  Young people, like my children, are watching.  I believe the church is OUT there.  Maybe, that is where I should be….

Elizabeth Elliot once said, “Live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord.”  Jesus never took a survey or ran from conflict.  His love was not based upon strategy or maximizing his ROI.  As I pray about the future, I’m personally going to be looking for the people and places where the gospel is being preached and practice without abandon.

GIVE

poverty-incWe are heading into the holiday season, with Thanksgiving just days away.  If ever there was a time to give well, the time is now.  I recently watched the documentary, Poverty, Inc. with my small group.  It reinforces themes from books, including, When Helping Hurts.  Sometimes, our best intentions go awry.  All too often, this is the case with charity.  Our world needs help.  Some of that help is tangible.  Some is not.  But, if you decide to give, take the time to give well.

Here’s a list of organizations that either do charity or rate charities.

If you like sponsorship-type programs, here are alternatives to Samaritan’s Purse (information on why Operation Christmas Child can have unintended consequences):

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS….

puppyIn the midst of the tears, we learned that a breeder we’d followed for a long time had puppies. And, after many years of bribing healthy habits and good behavior out of our kids, we finally felt this was the time.  A few days after Christmas, we’ll bring home a little girl.  We’ve named her Calli.

The good our family hopes to do will require a lot more than a safety pin.  And, I have no doubt the years ahead will be tough; there will be moments when I need to turn off the computer, grab the leash and take this little lady for a walk….while simultaneously spending some time talking to God.  There’s that great verse that says, be still, and know that I am God.  I know that God sits on the throne; my most fervent prayer right now, is that in ways big and small, I can be a reflection of his love on earth.  Fingers crossed, puppy kisses and a wagging tail, will also serve as a tangible reminder of unconditional love.

SECOND CLASS SAINTS

Do we believe that one day in heaven, there will be second class saints or celestial slums? I think most would say NO.  But, if there is an order in heaven, Jesus gives a pretty big clue as to what it looks like, saying that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  We are his church.  We are his hands and feet.  We are here to bring what’s up there down here….to people of all colors, religions, genders, economic status…you name it.  For God so loved the WHOLE WORLD.  How can we possibly justify a rationing of love and kindness, based upon our own bias or greed?  We cannot.  We must not.

To borrow from a Hopi poem, “we are the ones we have been waiting for.”  The times is now.mc  We are the ones.  On November 9th, a dear friend and I sat at Mademoiselle Colette, just reeling.  She had brought me a copy of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  I confess that I’ve not very far into it (it hasn’t been my most productive week….), but I absolutely love that this friend wanted to encourage me in my writing.

In the introduction, there’s this great line that so speaks to this moment: “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try tobook do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up.”  It’s been rather dark for me, these last few days.  But, I have hope.  I believe that dawn WILL come.

I was staring at my “act justly, love mercy, walk humbly” necklace yesterday, complete now with its large safety pin.  The little pearl caught my eye.  I remembered the verse in Matthew 13:46, where Jesus tells the parable of necklace2the merchant who, when he found a pearl, went and sold all that he had to buy it.  Not only did Christ give his all for us, but we in turn are called to emulate this kind of love…to the widow, orphan, foreigner or poor.   Folks, there are pearls all around us.  The question is whether we are the ones who see them as such, believe the broken are indeed the best and will do whatever it takes to love them with reckless abandon.   

 

 

 

 

 

I’m FOREVER with you: another letter to my kids

I’m FOREVER with you: another letter to my kids

dayna_005Dear Ana, Aaron and Nathaniel:

Oh, my.  We are REALLY sad.  We thought that we would be celebrating the election of the first female president.  Instead, we are wondering what life will be like with President Trump.  Even after a couple days, we are all still a bit numb and shell-shocked.  I don’t think I’ve done much to quell your fears; so, I return to the place where I make sense of and peace with the tangle of thoughts and emotions in my head.  I write.  I write, because today YOU need me.  I write, because tomorrow we ALL must remember the lessons of this election.

IT HURTS

I still choke up, reflecting on that moment when you woke up on Wednesday morning, asked me who won, and learned the news that similarly shocked so many across the country.  You all wanted to know if we were moving to Singapore.  I wanted to say, yes.  We all search for a response that tells the world, ‘this is not okay with me’.  But, instead, with my heart still beating out of my chest and stomach still in knots, I told you we would stay….that we must cling to all that is good, and strive to make our nation even better.  Ana, your fear and tears will haunt me for a long time, in the best possible way.  It was you that motivated me to ‘go public’ with my beliefs, even though they went against the grain of what many in our Christian circles espouse.  And, it is you and your brothers that will fuel me to keep searching for God’s place in this messy life; out of these broken pieces, we will build something.  This is not the end.

MAKE A PLAN 

bidenI showed you guys that funny Joe Biden video clip, where he encourages voters to make a plan to get to the polls.  Well, sadly, our plans didn’t work out…..THIS TIME.  But, there will be another time.  Quick lesson in American government: mid-term elections occur every two years and the next presidential election will be in four.  Let’s make a plan.  

More than half of your generation (well, those that are old enough to vote but still young!), voted for Hillary Clinton.  Many of your values, from the way we take care of our planet to compassion for others regardless of their race, gender or religion, will likely be more commonplace in the years to come.  We had thought that year was this year.  But, we were wrong.  Clearly, there is work still to be done.

They say necessity is the mother of invention.  Well, we need to come up with new plans and new people.  Our nation is hurting.  You can be part of the healing.  As your mother, I am telling you it is more true today than ever before, that God invented (created) you for such a time as this.

WHEN THEY GO LOW, YOU GO HIGH 

103816023-gettyimages-580960452-600x400Ana, you and I watched Michelle Obama give a speech during the Democratic Convention, where she said a line that became a bit of a mantra during the rest of the Clinton campaign: when they go low, you go high.  Well, it’s a good line!  And, we’re gonna keep using it.  And, more than just saying it, we need to do it.  Part of going high means that we need to listen.  It is clear from the election results and exit polling that we are a divided nation…urban vs rural, rich vs poor, young vs old, men vs women, etc.

One of the groups that voted overwhelmingly for Trump was evangelicals.  So, guess what?  We have to be a bridge.  We fall into a category of folks who are strong believers in the Bible AND progressive politics.  Please know that we are not alone, but we ARE in the minority.

Let’s change that….by listening to others and by our fruits.  In Sunday School, you’ve learned about the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  The Bible says, they’ll know us by our fruits – this is what it means to be a Christian.  PERIOD.  More than our church attendance or political affiliation, these are the qualities that define us.  The world is watching, so let’s cultivate those fruits.  To be more specific, we are not moving to Singapore.  We are not giving up.  We are not going to be silent.  We re-double our commitment to the greatest commandment, loving others.

BE LIKE WILLIE

This morning, I put on my black dress and pearls, stuffed a huge wad of Kleenex into my purse and went to the funeral of Willie J Mackey.  I didn’t know Willie well, but when I heard of his passing, I knew I had to go to his service, especially since it was occurring on the very day I was already scheduled to serve lunch at OSC….it’s like God put it on my calendar.  Today, I heard Willie’s story, and it changed me.

Long ago, after 15 years as an account, Willie lost his job.  As the months without a paycheck passed, he used up all of this savings.  When he couldn’t afford to keep his home, he moved into his car.  Eventually, he was forced to sell his car, which left

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Willie at the Santa Clara Medical Respite Program

him with nowhere to go but the streets.  The hardship of those years, took a major toll on his health.  Thankfully, he found Hotel de Zink, which provides emergency meals and housing to the homeless, with the hosting rotating through churches throughout the bay area.  Willie also connected with much needed health care resources, which helped him diagnose and treating his diabetes.  So many years without care resulted in what would be the first of many partial foot amputations.  Once Willie found long-term housing through the Opportunity Services Center plus much-needed health assistance, he was able to start an entirely new chapter.

The first time I remember seeing Willie, was at church, where he served for six years as an usher.  To be honest, till today, I just knew him as the guy who was lucky enough to find help from our church, which allowed him to turn his life around. This morning, God hit your mama over the head with a 2×4.  Unsuccessfully, I tried to hide my tears; at one point, someone actually handed me a stack of paper towels.  Kids, I was so ashamed of my false assumptions and pride.  Sitting there, I was saw that Willie had given all of us, far more than what we ever gave him….that he was the one with a life worth emulating, not vice versa.

The courtyard at the Opportunity Services Center where I sat, was packed with people from across the Bay Area.  Some were community leaders.  Some were priests and pastors.  Some were homeless.  All loved Willie.  Speaker after speaker got up to tell their story; it was astonishing, how many considered Willie their right-hand man; he was indispensable to countless organizations.  As it turns out, Willie had been active in the community for years before he lost his job, volunteering with organizations that provided African American youth with STEM programs/scholarships.  Willie had a big heart before hardship came his way.  His personal experience with homelessness merely reoriented his focus and intensified his passion, with most of his involvement in later years focusing on poverty, homelessness and health related organizations.

stepup_logo_horizontalCheck out Willie’s LinkedIn Page.  There, you see the very long list of organizations where Willie served as Board Member, Commissioner, Volunteer and Member/Participant.  It was clear, in listening to people talk about his technical expertise, his compassion for others and unwavering willingness to help – Willie could have easily returned to a paying job, once his life stabilized.  But, he leaned into the very place he’d once shunned.  Shame had once upon a time prevented him from asking for help from those he’d previously worked and volunteered with.  But, eventually, he found purpose and peace in going all over the bay, to advocate for the very community he’d once been so afraid to be associated with.

There is a verse in the Bible that says the first shall be last.  I realized how profoundly true this is, when you look at a life like Willie.  Listening to people speak, I saw the beauty in being last (by our modern, American standards).  I want to be like Willie.  I want you to be like Willie.  Better to surrender your life to service, than to chase promotions or titles.  In your world, as kids, this means that kindness must come before good grades or the extra curricular activities we hope will one day help you get into college.  You must ruthlessly carve out space in your life for the broken.  It may not be easy, but it essential.

It is easy to judge or make assumptions when you don’t take the time to ask someone their story.  Hearing more of Willie’s story broke me in the best possible way today.  For pincamwalker01example, I learned the reason why he often wore an orthopedic boot.  As your mom, I’m embarrassed to admit this, given how much I preach about compassion or not judging others.  But, I confess that when I’d see the boot (month after month, year after year), I’d think, “why doesn’t he get that checked?  Is there some part of his health or recovery he’s not managing well?  Why does someone wear a boot for years?”.

Now I know.  He wore that boot because of his ongoing battle with diabetes, which required multiple partial foot amputations….first the toes, then a bit more….and a bit more.  Some of the ushers he served with, told stories today of how diligent he was in his work as an usher, often staying late to help with one more thing, or straighten one more area.  One lady told of how she could see the pain on his face, but somehow he still had a smile; he refused to stop.  At church or Hotel de Zink or the many other organizations in which he served.   He never gave up.  And, I never knew…

I think that is part of the lesson here.  Everyone has a story.  When folks talked about Willie and the influence he had on organizations that served the homeless, one of the repeated themes was his insistence that clients be part of the conversation.  Even serving, should not be something we do FOR people….it is something we do WITH people.  Ask questions.  Hear the story.  Listen to learn, not to respond.  Remember always that we are all broken, and you never really know who is helping who.

When people talked about Willie, the adjective they used over and over again was GENTLE.  His gentleness did not impede his impact; it facilitated it.  To be sure, there are moments you have to stick up for yourself or others.  But, whatever the circumstances, be kind.  I saw a phrase online today: Make American Kind Again.  Yep.  Let’s.

Kids, the closest you’ll ever get to a cold night without a roof over your head is a campinghomeless-3-750xx7360-4152-0-589 trip.  If Willie can pull himself up, so can you. And, let’s honor Willie and the many others who practice their faith by becoming ‘hands and feet’ by loving others.  If you want to find Jesus, you will find Him when you serve a meal, or help a child or wash feet or stand up for the oppressed or give shelter to folks like Willie.    

Love is not a box you tick.  It is an intentional choice to show up and give with all you’ve got, to the ones who need it most…maybe, sometimes, even the ones you feel deserve it least.  THIS, is what we must do over and over and over and over again.  That is our plan.  

CAVES   

Our pastor, John Ortberg, writes of caves in his book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You Gotta Get Out of the Boat.  In it, he recounts the story of how David, when fleeing Saul, took refuge in a cave.  The cave was both a physical and symbolic place of hiding.  He’d been stripped rpi-nqtpd-nottingham-caves-jan-enof all the power, security, wealth and fame and now here he was, fearful for his life.  But, God met David in that cave.  The Bible says, David strengthened himself in the Lord His God.  When we are in the cave, and we fear this is it, it is easy to get discouraged.  But, the phrase that gets repeated more than any other in the Bible is, FEAR NOT.  When Jesus came, the angels called Him, Emmanuel, God with us.  He is the God who meets us in the cave, and strengthens us when we are afraid.  And, when that baby grew up, they nailed Him to a cross and then put Him in a cave.  This was defeat.  This was the end.  Except, it wasn’t.  Because, God does His best work in caves.

Nobody likes the cave.  The cave is dark and scary.  But, that’s where we are right now.  And, we have a choice.  We can surrender to our fears and throw in the towel.  Or, we can look for God in this, remembering that sometimes the moments that seem the worst are actually when God is preparing us for His best work yet.  We can look to the testimony of great men like Willie, as examples for how we will live out our faith going forward.  As Charley Scandlyn said in his remarks during today’s service, Willie helped us to see others the way God sees them.  And, that should be how we move forward….loving others.  Nothing has changed since my last letter: we STILL believe in a God that loves us and everyone else with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

I started this blog because I was trying to figure out how to truly act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  And, a few days ago, my words became a letter to you.  My grief has left me hallowed; but, perhaps now there is space for God to come in even more powerfully than before.  It is true, that no matter who is elected, God is still on the throne.  What is also true, is that we are still on earth.  And, so long as there is breath in our lungs, we will work to bring heaven to earth.  We will open our hearts to hurting and broken, we will defend those without an advocate and we will give to those in need.  In the same way that democracy is not a spectator sport, so faith is requires our daily surrender the commandment to love God and love others.  That’s our plan.

Still love you to the moon and back,

Mom

 

 

I’m STILL With Her: a letter to my tween daughter

I’m STILL With Her: a letter to my tween daughter

dayna_044Dear Ana,

In a few days, our nation will hold a historic election.  Either, we will elect the first woman ever to hold the highest position in the land.  Or, we will elect someone who comes to the stage via an unconventional path, offering with it, a promise to bring change.  No matter who is elected, we can be sure that change is coming.  Here’s what I want you to know and remember about this, the eve of the 2016 Presidential Election.

I’M WITH HER

First and foremost, I voted for Hillary Clinton.  Even with all the ups and downs, at the endflat800x800075t-u1 of the day, I am 110% certain she is better prepared and more qualified than her opponent – just look at the incredibly long list of business leaders, academics, religious leaders and even members of both parties who have endorsed her.  Her platform aligns with my beliefs regarding important issues, like making investments in education so that we can compete with countries like Singapore (where your dad is from!), helping the poor and middle class, reforming our criminal justice system and fighting gun violence, tackling immigration and terrorism in thoughtful and measured ways that do not see those of a different faith or race (like you!) as our enemies, taking care of our planet, etc.  She isn’t perfect, but she has the right then-us-democratic-presidential-candidates-barack-obama-and-hillary-clinton-pose-for-photographers-prior-to-the-cnnlos-angeles-times-democratic-presidential-debate-in-hollywood-california-january-31-2experience and temperament for the job.  In addition, she is the first woman to represent a major party in a Presidential election.  When you’re older, I hope this is commonplace.  But, for now, this is historic!  In your lifetime, you’ve gotten to see an African American and now a woman at the top of the ticket; I am so glad you will grow up, witnessing women and minorities break ceilings in all kinds of industries and roles.

When I voted, I thought of you and the world you would grow-up in…..as much as I john-f-kennedy-inauguration-1961-1considered my own preferences or interests.  You deserve as much, and I hope that when you grow up, you will have a similar mind towards democracy, embracing both the rights as well as the responsibilities of citizenship.  As John F Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  Thousands have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom; we must not discard the sacred honor, that is the right to vote and participate in a democratic process.  In seven years, when you are old enough to vote, do your homework.  Listen to and read sources from varied perspectives.  Then, go vote.  Never again could a man like Trump think of holding such a high office if someone like you shows up to the polls….a young, female, mixed-race voter.  Your voice matters.  Young people, matter.  Minorities, matter.  Women, matter.

ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS

Second, while my blood pressure, along with the hysteria of this moment in history will eventually die down, it will take a long time to fully recover from this election cycle.  Pundits, researchers and writers will spend years dissecting this moment in history – mark my words, there will be an entire chapter on this election in your high school American History text book!  In this instance, 5c801018f3dacaa014c2652d4e0598eethe hyperbole is actually closer to truth than not – there has never been an American election in our nation’s history, quite like this one.  This is why I have been so public in my own thoughts, because it matters that much.

Many of your peers are getting ready for a theater production of Anne Frank, playing this weekend at your middle school.  I have thought of that era often during this election, reflecting upon the lessons learned and how they might apply to today.  It is easy to criticize bygone eras through the 20/20 lenses of history.  But, we are dangerously close to electing a man who talks like many strongmen before him.  We cannot turn a blind eye, as our democracy is more fragile than we think.  The best way to keep it strong is to stay informed, speak up and get involved.  Perhaps, I should have done all three a lot sooner.

BE STILL AND KNOW……

Third, though I suspect emotions will run high for a while, your Dad and I were reminded at church last Sunday, that God is still in control and He’s not worried.  I remember when you were a tiny baby.  There were nights when you’d cry for no reason.  I’d check your diaper.  I’d make sure you were fed.  Yet, you continued to fret.  So, I’d just

img_0109
After much rocking and swaying…

rock and rock and rock.  Sometimes, I’d walk and sway…and, sway….and, sway….  One night, around 3 am, while doing lots of rocking and swaying, I felt God telling me that in the same way I wished so desperately that you, my baby, could know that everything was going to be okay and there was no reason to cry….similarly, He wished I knew just how much He loved us, cared for us and held us in the palm of His Hands.  We are God’s children.  No matter how big or how small this is in the course of American history, it cannot alter God’s plans.  We should be interested to the point that it gets us informed and involved.  But, we should always keep these events in perspective – God’s got this!  Therefore, I do not worry about the Kingdom above; I do, however, wonder about the church below.

YOUR FAITH CHOICES

I worry that your generation is being offered a choice between a version of belief that raises its fists in condemnation and judgement verses a faith that is wishy washy at best.  You don’t become a better Christian by getting good at pointing out the flaws and sins of others.  (Newsflash, we’ve all sinned….including me, your amazing mother…shocking, I know.)  Adults like to use funny sayings, like “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”  In this case, young people can get disillusioned by churches or Christians that seem hypocritical and irrelevant.  I get it.  But, don’t throw away your faith because of others.  You focus on what you believe.  In my case, I’ve learned that you can be madly in love with Jesus and have a progressive view of the world; it does not have to be an ‘either or’ decision.  My advice, in discerning the essence of faith: start with God’s Word.  It is precisely because of the Bible, that I am teaching you to prioritize love, justice and mercy above all else.  Read it!  Study it!  Learn the scriptures, looking for how they all point in the direction of the great commandment Jesus Christ gives us in the New Testament.  In Matthew, when Jesus was asked pointblank what mattered most, he said:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.   

img_9250Our family follows this commandment as best we can, not because it is our ‘nice to have’ insurance policy for entrance into heaven.  Rather, we surrender all because the story we read from Genesis to Revelation is of a God that loves us with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love (to use the words from your Jesus Storybook Bible).

Take the path of love, justice and mercy, and as you do, stick close to Jesus.  In your faith journey, religion and the church may disappoint, but Jesus never will, as no human has advocated for or personified to a greater extent, these ideals.  There does not exist, any greater sacrifice for these virtues, than the Son of God’s death on the cross.  No matter who wins on November 8th, God’s already won the greatest contest.

DIVERSITY AND GRACE IN FAITH

So, a moment ago I encouraged you to find a faith built of love, grace and mercy.  And, while we believe strongly in that, we need to watch that our own assurance doesn’t breed arrogance.  The church can often reflect the brokenness that is in all of us.

menlo-park-presbyterian-church

At the church we take you each Sunday, we try to be open and honest about that, in saying that nobody is perfect and everybody is welcome.  Liberal ideals of inclusion and diversity must apply universally, and be true within our own faith.  We must be civil and gracious towards those who practice our faith differently, while at the same time committing ourselves to a better way.

 

A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM…

You can be that better way…in the church and beyond.  In fact, I want you kids to learn that the best way to practice your faith is OUT there.  I believe your generation will be advocates for helping the poor or bringing justice to the persecuted.  We get to be the hands and feet.  We get to be Jesus by loving others.  And, you are never too young or the wrong gender or race or whatever the label or reason…..there is nothing you cannot do, if you do life with Jesus.  For such a time as this, we were placed upon this earth, to do His will….to bring heaven to earth, in our homes, classrooms and workplace.  You can make a difference, from volleyball games to math class, summer camps to play dates.   Now, and in the years to come, know this: you matter, you have a voice and God’s given you gifts so that you might make an impact in this world.  

FAITH AND DOUBT

Some might question the wisdom in sharing my own doubts with you, but I believe there’s value in authenticity, especially in matters as significant as my walk with God and relationship with the church.  I would not want to pass you a faith built upon Christian cliches and etsy wall-hangings (displaying our favorite220px-madeleine_lengle Bible verses, of course).  Like much else in life, faith is a journey and it can be a rocky path, at times. Madeleine L’Engle, an American writer, who authored stories like A Wrinkle In Time, wrote:

Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.

So, while it can be heartbreaking and even maddening, stay on the path.  Ask good questions.  Let your doubts lead you to deeper understanding.  You probably learned about Susan B. Anthony in school; she was a pioneer in the women’s suffrage movement.  She once said, “I distrust those people who knew so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”  To go back to Madeleine’s idea….it is the idea of God (namely, their idea), more so than God Himself, that entraps so many.  Be more afraid of ignorance than doubt.

YOU ARE A WARRIOR

Whether it’s the latest trend in fashion or faith….don’t feel like you always have to follow the masses.  BE YOU.  Be the person that God made you to be.  Stake out your own faith.  And, don’t be afraid to go against the flow.  The characters in the Bible look so familiar and tame to us, we often forget how radical they were at the time.  Did you know that the name God gives to women, ezer kenegdo, in the very beginning of the Bible, means Warrior?  You, my sweet girl, are a Warrior.  

cxll4jrk_400x400GO CUBBIES!!!!!!

So, last night, we saw a different kind of warrior.  You, your brothers, father and I all watched the Chicago Cubs battle their way to victory, in a seven game, extra-innings nail-biter of a World Series finale – ending their 108 year losing streak.

FLY THE W!!!!

Next Tuesday, is going to be another nail-biter, as we watch the election returns come in, on what promises to be another historic night!  It seems that good things come from Chicago, these days.  Eight years ago, we had Barack Obama, who was from the South Side of Chicago, and became the first African American elected President.  Today, we have Hillary Clinton.  I don’t know if you knew this, but Hillary Clinton grew up in Park Ridge, which is just outside Chicago.  As you are well aware, I, your own mother, am from Chicago….so, just sayin’….  But, seriously, I do hope and pray we can fly the W once more – only this time, for her.  If ct-hillary-clinton-high-school-park-ridge-20161017Trump wins, it will disappointing, but we cannot despair.  I am reminded of a famous line from Anne Frank’s diary, one which we all must remember during tumultuous times:

I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

For now….I’m STILL with her.  I’m holding to my faith in God and hope in the democratic process.  Know always, that from the breakfast I cook for you each morning, to the vote I cast in the afternoon, to the prayers I say before bed….in everything, I will do all I can to provide the best possible future for you, believing always that God holds the two of us in His Hands.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mom

 

Loving

batman-2Batman Flew

Today, we made it.  On time.  Ready for the Kindergarten Halloween Poetry performance.  After getting my dates mixed up a couple weeks ago, we finally got to see the bats and witches, owls and ghosts recite their lines – full of excitement and glee.  They were adorable.  Today, we managed to get to school sans the tears and drama of our 1st attempt at the poetry morning…the morning when I got it all wrong.  As we walked to school, Nathaniel said, ‘Are you sure it is today?’.  I replied, ‘Yes, I’m sure.  Your teacher sent out a note just last night to remind us of the poetry morning today.’  He continued, ‘but, I feel a little silly in my bat costume.’  I could see him scouting the kids around us, looking for someone else in a costume or any kind reassurance that today would not be a repeat of our prior snafu.  I told him again, how sorry I was, for the morning when I got my dates confused.  I told him mommy had made a mistake, but this time we’d get it right.  He replied: ‘I trust you’.  My heart melted.

giant-meteorThe Day After

In less than two weeks, we will know our President for the next four years.  There will be a November 9th….a day when we begin to pick up the pieces of this political season.  The yard signs will come up, and we will decide how we want to move forward.  I haven’t blogged in a few days….partly because my kids have an early-release schedule this week (translation: I am getting NOTHING done) ….and, partly because like so many others, I’m just weary of the whole thing.  I saw a bumper sticker the other day that I think captures the sentiments of many.  We just want it over.

The day after the election, we will know our next President, but we wont know entirely how this will all play out; we will still have a lot of choices about how we as a nation want to move forward.  I hope we collectively decide that working together is better than fighting it out.  As the saying goes, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  I pray that grownups could show some grace and uphold the worth of others by saying, “I trust you – let’s work this out together”.

Understanding Race in MY LIFE

I’m part of a group of women studying racism and white privilege.  We went into it landscape-1437572064-gettyimages-481592935thinking that we had this issue mostly figured out.  But, I confess that we’ve all been challenged to shift our understanding of both ourselves and this issue.  At our last gathering, something clicked.  I’d never been able to figure out why I, a Caucasian girl from a conservative, Midwestern family, would be so drawn to Asian people and cultures.  Not that it’s wierd, but why?  As a child, many of my best friends were 2nd generation immigrants; their parents migrated from Asia as young Spicesadults, eventually starting families in the Chicago suburbs.  Listening to another woman talk about her faith background, the dots connected in my brain…something clicked.

Holy Rollers

Growing up in the Pentecostal church, we weren’t allowed to wear makeup or jewelry, we couldn’t watch TV, listen to secular music or dance. With my school friends, I pretended to know about shows or musicians, when in truth I was clueless.  Eventually, we did get a TV, but when church friends came over, we told them it was only for watching movies.  Women had to wear skirts and couldn’t cut their hair.  I learned how to style my hair in ways that hid the fact that we’d trimmed my super long, thick locks.  We epitomized a ‘holy huddle’.  The outside world was one you could not trust.  Our church was 45 minutes away, so I only saw church friends on the leaf_on_the_windweekend.  In the days between services, I felt like a leaf blowing in the wind.  I was disconnected, uninformed and fearful.  Nothing felt right.  Nowhere was home.  Even if I epitomized the holy huddle, I wasn’t really in it.

Finding Friends

But, belonging was born out of my friendships with the Asian kids at school.  From their acceptance, grew curiosity.  And, over the decades, I came to love the colors, flavors and history of Asian history and culture.  I was learning to not be afraid.  The kids with roots in a world far away, were helping me find my footing in own backyard.

These days, I believe that the world is wonderfully diverse and inherently fascinating.  Its merits alone, were sufficient to draw me in long ago.  But, till that night, talking about racism and who I am as a white woman, I hadn’t really understood how the broken pieces of my heart had created a space.  The void was filled with kids who looked so different on the outside, but shared a common feeling on the inside.  It now made sense.  These kids, like me, were outsiders.  To be clear, this was not the club of loners and misfits!  None of us were bullied or overtly excluded.  Rather, it was this super-subtle sense of belonging.  We were all disconnected one degree from the world around us, but therein lied the key for connecting with one another.

13939504_1012819652150363_6244638166953430036_nBlack Lives Matter

Jen Hatmaker has written at length about how adopting two children from Ethiopia opened her eyes to the world of racism in our country.  In an RNS article published yesterday, she says, “My son is good to the core. When I think about him being viewed as criminal, dangerous, threatening, in any scenario — driving, walking, changing lanes, hanging around with his friends — I could just come unraveled. It terrifies me. I could cry my eyes out right now.”  I can’t claim to understand the pain and fear that our African American brothers and sisters face.  But, the small taste that I have known, being in a mixed marriage with biracial kids, is enough to make me cry my eyes out with Jen.  

Richard and Mildred

Today, I saw a trailer for a new film called, Loving.  #MoreCrying  It is based upon the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, who are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.   Over and over, I watch the trailer – it haunts me. 1468522346_loving_social_2-398x398 Folks, interracial marriage was illegal until just 10 years before I was born.  Only one generation separated Richard and Mildred from Dayna and Jay.  So, yes, it’s personal.  And, it’s scary to see the vitriol and hate that has been out on full display of late.  These are not the battles of some bygone era.

#NotSoProgressive

Since coming to California, I’ve enjoyed the relative progressiveness and diversity of cal-stanfordlogoSilicon Valley.  Racism was something other geographies grappled with – but not us.  We, especially here in the shadows of Stanford and Berkeley, knew better; we were smart enough to drive global technology, believe in global warming, love people of all colors or beliefs and, for sure, support investments in things like, education.

Sorry to sound like Trump, but WRONG.  Just like when I thought I knew the date and time of my son’s poetry reading, I was wrong in my assumptions of my own community.  In May, Menlo Park residents rejected proposals to continue vital public school funding (parcel tax).  Now that beloved programs like music, art, languages and more are on the au_mp_marketchopping block, many (especially, parents) are freaking out.  And, rightly so, but it’s been sobering to read comments by those who STILL question whether our schools need to be ‘that great’.  So much for living with the enlightened in the shadows of the Ivy Leagues.

Just a few days ago, our town made it into the New York Times, in an article recounting how a Latino woman (who is a citizen) was told in an upscale market that she should visit the Safeway across town, as this place was for ‘white people’.  Around town, the response afterwards ranged from calls to reject racism to skepticism that such events actually happen in our area.  Even as many have offered their own encounters with racism, there are still a few who worry more for the reputation of our local high-end grocery than for those on the receiving end of such discrimination and injustice.

Reading the online discussions that play-out on Facebook and Nextdoor.com in the days download-2following these incidents, you realize that fear, distrust and a fair bit of incivility lives on…..even in my beloved Bay Area.  Places built on change and innovation, can still struggle to accept ideas and people different from themselves.  My point here isn’t to beat-up on the Bay (because I LOVE California!!!) but rather to just make the point that we ALL have stuff to work on.

Tipping Scales

Part of the reason folks are so riled up this election season, is because those who thought they knew what our country was all about, feel like it is changing.  And, that’s scary.  And, 27161156those who have been pushed to the sidelines for a long time, finally see a fighting chance for greater acceptance or equality.  Whether the battle lines are drawn based upon race, gender, economics, religion, education or some other qualifier – the nation is waiting to see how the scales will tip.  And, trust me – they ARE tipping.  We can’t change that.  But, what we can change is our response.  J.D. Vance, in his new bestselling book, Hillbilly Elegy, says “whenever people

mildred_jeter_and_richard_loving
Mildred and Richard Loving

ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class, I say, “The feeling that our choices don’t matter.”  This November, we remember that democracy is not a spectator sport; we must be the people.  Whatever our color or creed, our choices DO matter.  Our vote matters.  And, on November 9th, we get another important choice about how we respond.  Regardless who is elected President, there will still be conversations at the grocery store and parcel tax votes.  From our attitude in the car line at school to our mindset at work…it all matters.  What happens at the national level, is often a byproduct of what’s happening at a more micro level in our own communities.

 

read-the-booksGet Over it – Nobody’s Perfect

Brene Brown says in Daring Greatly, that true belonging can only happen we offer “our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.”  Deep within all of us, is a desire to belong.  And, newsflash: the road to belonging is littered with messy, broken people – starting with me.  In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg writes, “To accept people is to be for them. It is to recognize that it is a very good thing that these people are alive, and to long for the best for them. It does not, of course, mean to approve of everything they do. It means to continue to want what is best for their souls no matter what they do.”  Guess which people God accepts?  Last time I checked John 3:16, it said, ‘For God so loved the world…’.  That kinda sounds like everyone….on planet earth.

Seriously, Let’s Play Nice

So, here’s the deal: we might not love every person or policy after November 9th.  But, we do have a choice of whether we make space for and accept those who don’t look or pray or love or vote like us.  We may even have to revisit issues we thought we had all figured out; maybe we were wrong.  There’s another great line in Ortberg’s book where he says, 150304-loving-grey-villet-03“Bitterness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”  Isn’t that the truth!  Too bad most of us stick these sayings on the walls of our home or Facebook profile, but rarely our heart.  The reality is that staying angry won’t help anyone.  Finding belonging by excluding others, won’t do any good.  In the Loving trailer, Mildred says, “I know we have some enemies, but we have some friends too.”  Maybe it’s time that others know they have a friend in us, even if we don’t always agree.  Maybe it’s time to let go of some things and just try to be nice.

#LoveWins

The Bible talks of childlike faith.  This morning, my son and I were running late.  Again.  As we hurried down the street, I slowed my mind enough to bookmark the moment when my son, with every reason to doubt me, said, “I trust you”.  The path to belonging is paved with brokenness, and sealed with forgiveness.  We don’t fall into trust through our perfect performance or constant alignment.  We get there when we let mercy, justice and humility reign.  We get there, when love wins.

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The Love of My Life