All posts by Connie Tuttle

What Time Is It?

     I haven’t posted in over three weeks and as I sit here before a blank page I keep cycling through outrage at the President’s continuing message of hate, hope in my sisters and brothers who RESIST every day in many ways, grief over what is happening in our nation as our light dims, and fear that we will not be able to turn back the tide of evil.

Then there are my duties as pastor, family member, writer, and therapist. Life hasn’t stopped. No matter how horrific Trump’s behavior I still need to earn a living, clean house, cook meals, pastor my flock, respond to the needs of the vulnerable in my community, listen deeply to the journey of my clients, and write.

Now you might think I haven’t been writing but the truth is, I finished the manuscript that was seven years in the making.(!) I am told it is normal for a first book to simmer that long. My story has found its final shape and I even like it. Now I am free to begin my next project.

Most of us live busy and fractured lives but that is not the full picture. Just being alive means at any given moment we may be dealing with loss, stress, joy, love, times of celebration, times to make love, and times of grief.

Many of us in the resistance are on care overload. We feel and are deeply responsible for our macro as well as micro existence. For the world, the nation, our families and friends, and ourselves.

We cannot, MUST NOT stop caring. To do so endangers real people, real values, real events, real history. Nor can we ignore the needs of those in our immediate purview. What good is it to work for a better world if we neglect those closest to us?

So this is not an either/or reflection. Nor is it a both/and one. Rather I am reminded of the deep wisdom of being in the moment. Maybe this should be our spiritual challenge: to recognize the moment we are in and the needs of that moment.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said it best:

3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

May we be blessed in our discernment, our work, and our passion for there is much to be done. We must find our way one day, one moment, one act at a time.

Today I leave you with a question only you can answer for yourself: what time is it?

 

 

 

 

Jesus Talks Seeds of Resistance

            You know those stories you’ve heard a thousand times? The ones you almost know by heart, that are so entrenched in your psyche you assume you know their meaning? The ones that are kind of boring you have heard them so often?

That’s what happened to me with this past Sunday’s lectionary gospel passage. Matthew relates Jesus telling several parables about what the kin-dom of heaven is like. At least that is what I thought it was about. Jesus says “The kin-dom of heaven is like… a mustard seed or yeast (in these stories).

So familiar. As a child my Mom gave me a necklace with a mustard seed enshrined in a clear bead. That seed represented the seed Jesus referred to but the actual seeds he was talking about were more like dust than the seed I wore around my throat.

I have heard it preached a hundred times that a mustard plant would grow almost to the size of a tree. We are all amazed at the girth of a plant that comes from the seed that tiny. Here is where many of us make the leap to thinking the kin-dom of heaven is like this huge bush. But that is not what Jesus says. He says it’s like dust.

The problem is we don’t trust the value of small things. We tend to think that what is valuable is what is bigger, better, more powerful. The truth of the matter is that the kin-dom is millions of small acts of love, comfort, compassion, and justice scattered into the world trusting that enough will fall on fertile soil.

In these murky days, where power and might, money and privilege are worshipped it is important to remind ourselves that our small acts of resistance matter. They are the seeds of connection. The seeds of healing. The substance of hope. The revolutionary seeds we plant to honor all that is sacred in one another.

So do not be discouraged. Scatter seeds of love for immigrants. Seeds of comfort for those facing the hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, and trans-phobia exposed and encouraged by this president. Seeds of compassion for those who have been seduced by fear that someday dialogue may be restored. And scatter seeds of justice, even if you have to fight like hell to plant them.

I Will Not Leave You Comfortless

I can imagine no pain greater than one’s child dying. It is out of the natural order of things. It is difficult enough to lose one’s parent’s but we know that death is the natural end to a long life. It isn’t the natural end to a young one.

I will not use names because I respect the family whose loss is so recent, so raw, so unexpected. But I will tell you about a young woman with a huge heart, kind and loving, who adored her fur-kids, and lived out loud. She loved her family and they adored her. Now you might not think that needs remarked upon, and it wouldn’t, except that she was a lesbian born and raised in the South.

Born and raised in the Baptist Church where her family still worships. Where the pastor refused to hold her memorial service.

Mister, you make me ashamed to be a Christian. Or more truthfully, you make me ashamed that you call yourself a Christian. Over the years I’ve been told I wasn’t really a Christian because: a. I am an activist. B. I’m a feminist. C. I am a lesbian. And D. my theology is heretical. My piety credentials don’t pass muster. And that’s alright by me. Lest we forget, Jesus’ piety credentials didn’t pass muster either. If yours do, then I want no part of what you call Christianity.

It breaks my imagination to conceive of a ‘pastor’ who would refuse comfort and grace to a grieving family. Show me where you can justify your actions by asking what Jesus would do. Or show me, even if you worship rules, how you can refuse to offer comfort. Is it because the skirts of your self-righteousness might touch the ground? Is it because rejecting a soul that has been in the care of your community from birth is what you think is the ‘faithful’ thing to do? Is it because you simply don’t want to challenge your own discomfort? The discomfort of others? Are you afraid that the offering plate might not be so full?  Whatever the reason, there is no justification for the ham-handed, soul-less way you treated a family, all of whom, living or dead, are children of God.

To my dear friend’s family: I hate that you had to deal with the grief of rejection in addition to the enormous grief of your loss. One of the sure times we rely on our faith community is at the death of a loved one. Please know that wherever you find comfort and love, acceptance and shared grief, God is with you. The community of Spirit may look unfamiliar but  whatever colors, beliefs, disbeliefs, genders, or sexualities, know  you encounter Jesus there. You were not left alone. Jesus sits with you, holds you, lends you comfort in every face that is turned toward you and not away, in everyone who shared in her life and shares in your sadness, in ever person who reaches out in small ways and large. God enfolds you with grace and care. And God embraces the one we have lost with a love we can hardly imagine.

                 John 14:18  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Meet Me in the Streets

Recently, my dear friend, Linda Bryant, posted a thoughtful blog ‘Meet Me In the Field’ https://charisgrandma.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/meet-me-in-the-field/

Take some time to read it. It is a challenge to those of us who live in a polarized society. It calls us to a kind of faithfulness, no matter our faith tradition, that requires compassion, authenticity, and the willingness to listen. What she has to say is important for us all to hear.

She posted it right before I posted my last blog, ‘Put on Your Big Girl Panties’. It seems like we are polar opposites in our calls to address the same problem.

While she encourages us to face our fears and withhold judgment I said things like:

“It’s time to change the conversation. We don’t need to be in dialogue with those who would destroy our values and vision of a nation whose arc is ‘bent toward justice’.

 It’s time to stop compromising about the lives and deaths of our fellow citizens.

It’s time to get up, gird up, and put on our big girl panties.

We cannot afford to wait and see how things ‘play out’.

We are the majority and we need to assert our power. Even if it is for the first time.

Vote now. Get involved now. Be the change now.

This is not the time to make nice. It’s time to make policy.”

Is there any way both of us could be right? Could both of us good people? Is only one of us faithful? My answers are yes, yes, and no. As feminists, both Linda and I believe there are many ‘right’ answers. Our perceptions are not so contrary to one another as they are coexistent. How can that be so?

I used to be afraid that I was not spiritual enough because of my loud, radical, and often coarsely worded calls to justice. I choose words for impact, to move people, and to challenge systems of evil. Those calls and words are important. They are part of the long-standing tradition of prophetic speaking. Prophetic calls to justice are often harsh, uncomfortable, and urgent. They are never a call to destroy ‘the other’.

Linda’s pastoral call to faithfulness is equally important. We need to be challenged to live faithfully in ways that stretch us. Facing our fears, the willingness to listen and be vulnerable, to love those difficult to love are the challenges of a deepening faith. However,  it should never compromise our call  to stand for justice.

Both perspectives are necessary. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it the ‘cost of discipleship’. Carter Heyward coined the phrase ‘justice-love’. The nature of faith is dynamic. The expression of faith kaleidoscopic. Our many ‘right’ ways move together to form a pattern of the whole. The call is to live our faith . The gifts of sharing the journey is that it deepens our relationship with the Sacred and challenges us to live authentically.

 

 

Put On Your Big Girl Panties

   

We have not lived up to the ideals of our democracy. Ever. But there is a beacon that leads us in the direction of justice. Principles that inform our path through history and by which we find our bearings when we get off course.

America is built on the idea of inclusion in a just society. We thrive as new people and cultures add their colors, design, warp and weft, to our tapestry. The Americans with Disabilities act aided citizens with disabilities to more fully participate in families, in the workplace, and in the political arena. The expansion of women’s rights and LGBT rights have all grown our understanding of human worth and dignity

Now our elected officials want to build walls, to isolate us – not only from the world but also from one another. The rights of the most vulnerable are being eroded one law, one amendment, on step at a time. Those who gained protections are losing them. When I was little I was taught that the United States was a melting pot. Later I loved an essay by Norah Roberts who imagined us as a tossed salad. Republicans play into our fears and construct the myth of ‘the other’. They persuade us to distrust immigrants, to disrespect a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions, to openly and sometimes viciously discriminate against the LGBT community, and encourage racism as usual and acceptable, disregarding  the sanctity of black lives and brown lives and native American lives. They fan the flames of distrust and fear. So much so that I cringe when I hear a crowd chanting “USA! USA!” What I hear is: “Us not them! Us not them!”

It’s time  to change the conversation. We don’t need to be in dialogue with those who would destroy our values and vision of a nation whose arc is ‘bent toward justice’.

 It’s time to stop compromising about the lives and deaths of our fellow citizens.

It’s time to get up, gird up, and put on our big girl panties.

We cannot afford to wait and see how things ‘play out’.

We are the majority and we need to assert our power. Even if it is for the first time.

Vote now. Get involved now. Be the change now.

This is not the time to make nice.  It’s time to make policy.

Wisdom: Day Two

Some of you may have noticed a lag between this and my last Wisdom blog (Day One 5/22/17). I’ve had a lot to say  about  our recent elections and their fallout . We are at political DefCon Alpha. Current events get in the way of more general thoughts about life.  As a student of history, a world traveler, a user of the Oxford comma, and a person of faith I  have a whole lot to say about our Orwellian present.

    But today let’s veer off the political track for a moment and let me tell you about a practice I am new at and love: laughing at myself.

One of my character flaws is that I take myself seriously. Those who love me say  I take myself too seriously. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I do. Okay,  lots of times. That being said, when I laugh at myself something happens. My perspective shifts and I experience a sharp drop of stress. It’s a two for one special:  freedom from self-judgment and openness to self-acceptance.

So the entirety of my wisdom for today is this: learn to laugh at yourself – your foibles, your missteps, your idiocy – and don’t wait until you are my age to do it. Life will be so much easier to navigate.

On the bright side…

As angry as I am/have been/probably will be again I can’t leave my last blog hanging out there for a week without making a point of the good stuff. There is much to encourage us about the race for the 6th in Georgia. I see things every day since that give me hope to power on.

Women are on fire! It was amazing to work with and see so many energetic, committed women putting themselves out there every day and every evening for months. We have realized that politics cannot be a spectator sport. Voting is great, putting up a sign is important, giving matters – but it is not enough. And we worked our ‘osses’ off!

We got woke. We became aware of voting issues and committed to work on the issues of racist voter suppression, gerrymandering, and election hacking. We got informed about the efficacy of paper ballots, ballot trails, and the need for election overhaul. Now we’re going to do something about it. We: long time activists like myself, and those who now join us, worked together, made connections, and saw it through.

We took Michelle Obama’s words to heart: when they go low, we go high. We encouraged one another every day in face-to-face confrontation with the opposition ‘going very low’ to ‘go high’. We defined and continue to define ourselves by what we value  .

To paraphrase Hamilton: We are not a Moment, We are a Movement.

 

We are not an Algorithm

I may feel too angry right now to write a blog but there is much to say.  I am not even sure what to keep in and what to leave out. It all started on Tuesday night when, after a hard fought race, Jon Ossoff lost to Karen Handel in the Georgia 6th District race.

I have lots of thoughts about it- the whys and hows of it – and I am sure the race will be dissected ad infinitum by the press and the DNC, both publically and privately. However, we who ran the race – and it was we, not just Jon – may think differently about it and have not been consulted at all.

That’s the problem with the DNC today. As a national party they have lost touch with the local electorate. They have been hands-off in most of the South in local elections for years. Maybe not on national elections but certainly on local ones.

In this election they ran ads that were not approved by the campaign and that had a negative impact. They did not coordinate phone banking so that people around the nation were calling (that’s fine) but without an inkling of the intensive effort by volunteers here in Atlanta. A little coordination would have been helpful. As it was, the DNC’s efforts were clumsy. They participated in making this election a national mandate in a race that is truly local.

If the DNC deigns to involve itself I suggest they follow the lead of the locals. It is not their job to take over nor, I might add, are they very good at it. The arrogance of the national party works against local Democratic interests.

Finally, the question needs to be asked: what motivated 12,000 volunteers (the majority women) to put in countless hours over the past several months? Do you or do you not want to tap into our energy and fire? If so, are you willing to listen to us or would you rather pour over your computer generated data.

We are not an algorithm.

We Are the Resistance

 

          After the Women’s March I came back to Georgia and became a part of the Huddle network. A Huddle is a group of people who participated in the march – either in D.C. or locally – and who want to continue to stand, act, move, make a difference. We are the resistance.

Our most recent effort is to elect Jon Ossoff to the 6th District. Hundreds and hundreds of women have shown up and worked their “osses” off. We have canvassed, phone banked, written personal letters and postcards to voters, and rallied on street corners trying to get out the vote. We showed up at Board of Election meetings and got early voting times and locations expanded. We showed up in courtrooms and for hearings before the Georgia Legislature.

We showed up.

The race is very close. I teeter between the real hope that Jon will be elected as a harbinger of change from our current ‘leadership’ and political direction. And in the deepest night I am afraid he will be defeated and the direction of our nation will continue to careen in the direction it is headed.

But even in those moments I realize that what cannot be stopped is a million women who refuse to give in or give up. A million women who continue to engage the system with intention and energy. Making change doesn’t depend on this one election. It depends on every action of each one of us in all times and all places. No matter what happens tomorrow we have made our connections, found our strength, and will resist with every breath we take.

 

Lady Justice: America’s Wonder Woman

You ever know something – or at least in theory know something – and then find that you hadn’t really grasped the enormity of what you knew?

Okay, that may be too vague so let me get to the point.

I have heard a million times that we are a nation of laws but I’m not sure I ever fully appreciated what that meant. Or how important it is. Or at least that it is a VERY BIG DEAL.

Last week I sat in a courtroom for 8 ½ hours. I observed a case brought by Georgia voters, with the help of a non-profit voter advocacy group, challenging the efficacy of our (Georgia) voting machines. Particularly in how it might affect the outcome of our election in the 6th district.

I learned a lot. I learned a lot about cyber security from amazing and articulate expert witnesses. I learned a lot about electronic voting systems in general. And I heard the deep concern of voters that our votes be tabulated correctly and that we be able to verify our votes. Fascinating.

I listened to opposing arguments about current law, the applicability of old law to electronic systems, about the prohibitive cost of providing paper ballots, training for polling officials, and the problem of what the votes of early voters would mean. I heard the plaintiffs (with whom I clearly identify) rebut with ‘least harm’ if going forward the votes were changed to paper.

I watched the Judge listen, ask probing questions, discuss law and precedence, and run a no nonsense courtroom. And then I went home to join a postcard writing party for Jon Ossoff who is running for Tom Price’s old House seat.

That day and every day since I come back to the majesty of what took place in that county Superior Court. An African-American woman judge ruled on motions with an even hand, asked questions that clarified an argument or exposed it as unreasonable, and expedited a timely concern. The attorneys on both sides, women and men, white and people of color, were prepared, reasoned and courteous.

It reminded me of what it means to our nation that we respect opposing views and have ways for those views to be presented fairly, factually, and even-handedly. It reminded me of the notion that, after vigorous and well-reasoned debate, we work together to find a ‘third way’. We forget that finding a third way takes time and struggle but at least that is the ideal we used to strive for.

We all know our political discourse no longer encompasses mutual respect or even facts. As a national community we no longer subscribe to rules of civil political engagement. Facts and reason are optional. Congress, the body that makes law, used its power to overturn structures aimed at keeping our democracy safe. Like overturning the 60 vote majority rule for the election of Supreme Court justices.

Oh the horrors we have seen from Congress, the current Attorney General, and the election of a Supreme Court justice tied to ‘dark money’. But we haven’t lost it all. Go into a county or state courtroom sometime and watch what happens. You may even come to appreciate what seems to be aggravating ‘points of law’ and see the greater context that they serve.

Our courts, the rule of law, and the idea of justice as the cornerstone of this democracy may be what saves us. I thought I knew what it meant that we are a nation of laws. I never truly grasped how imperative it is that our justice system be the messy, sometimes seemingly unreasonable, shining beacon that returns us over and over to sanity.

By the way, we (meaning the side arguing for paper ballots for this election) lost. It doesn’t take away a smatter of how I feel about the procedure, itself. Like blind justice holding her scales aloft, it was magnificent.