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Dear Friends… stand up

Dear Friends,

Well, there’s 19 days to go before the election
and we are holding our collective breath.
It looks good but we must persist.
Vote early if you can.
I worry about disrupters at the polls on Election Day.
Make sure your friends are voting.
Offer rides.
Take water to those waiting in line.
Phone bank.
Pray.
Now is the time to stand up
to do all we can however we can wherever we can.

It cannot be said too often:
this is the most important election of our lifetimes.
Be a hero for our time.
Do the best you can with what you have and who you are.

Together, let us stand
to make a country that insists on justice
and relies on science
a country that celebrates differences
protects the weak
frees children
fights systemic racism and sexism
feeds the hungry
a country where we tell ourselves difficult truths

Now is the time
if ever there was one.
Stand up.

Connie

Dear Friends… I’m so sorry for your loss

Dear Friends,

In times like these words seem hollow.  I am sorry for your loss. Our loss.
Sorry beyond words. We stand before the mystery of death and try to comfort one another – not with the certainty of belief  but by holding one other in the pain of our grief.

We grieve  for this majestic woman who championed and embodied ideals that so many of us live and breathe. Let us enfold one another in care. In any other time her death would be a great loss, these times make who and what we mourn even more difficult.
We grieve the loss of a bright light who fought for justice.
We grieve for a woman who changed our world in so many ways for the better.
We grieve not only our loss of advocate and judge but of one who was a protector of the marginalized.

We need to grieve. We need to grieve and to give thanks for her life well-lived, for her voice lifted, for the witness and tenacity of her stands for justice.

For me, the loss of Justice Ginsberg mirrors the apparent loss of so much else in the nation:
civility
human decency
shared values
and who we can aspire to be as a democratic nation.

I wish that we could gather and lift our candles to the sky along with our fists, defying the darkness. I wish I could tell you everything will be alright and that we are passing through a storm. That joy comes in the morning.
Actually, I will tell you that.
Ruth Bator Ginsberg did not give up, not to her dying breath.
How can we honor her and do any less?

What we cannot grieve is the loss of hope.
To do so would disrespect not only her memory but the memories of all who fought for the principles of justice, equality, and shared power.
We can grieve but we must not despair.

I am sorry for our loss. So deeply sorry that it brought me to my knees.
But we are her legacy. Our task is to continue the work she has done.
As it says in the Talmud:
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now,       walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

I am so sorry for our loss. May our tears cleanse our vision and create a tsunami that will clear a way to a new day.

peace, my friends,
Connie

Dear Friends… turn your socks inside out

Dear Friends,

I want to tell you a story about my Dad. He was career military and in active combat  both in  World War II and the Korean War. He was also a story teller. As a child, I sat on his knee and listened to him weave what I now recognize as self-deprecating stories of survival and courage. I loved his stories. They were stories of deep friendships told in an offhand way and moments of belly laugh humor.

In these times I recognize the need to tell our stories with the absurdity of dark humor.
We are living through our own horrors, fighting for our lives and for justice against an enemy within the fabric of our nation.
We are fighting for a vigorous, committed response to climate change.
We are fighting for justice for people of color and for a real, committed response to systemic racism.
We are fighting for science.
We are fighting for women’s reproductive rights.
We are fighting for truth over lies, love over hate, community over tribalism.
… and we are fighting desperation and fear.

In the Korean War men were told to change socks every day to prevent trench foot. It was a ludicrous command to men sleeping in tents, marching miles a day in rain and snow, with no possible way of doing laundry, much less of the laundry drying. To follow the order in letter, though clearly not spirit, the men had a ritual after they set up camp to ‘change socks’ by turning them inside out and putting them on again. Okay, I can’t tell it like my dad. He had a way of recounting  the story with a twinkle and a chuckle so you saw how ridiculous both the order and the action were .

The thing is, those guys would have loved to have clean, dry socks. They rebuked their misery by laughing at the circumstances and poking fun at the stupidity of the order. We can learn something from them. It’s awful right now. Tribalism is so  virulent that it’s hard to imagine how or if we can ever bridge our differences. The possibility of another term for 45 looms. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything I can do to make a difference. But I get up every day and do the tedious work of making change. It is easy to be overwhelmed. It is reasonable to get depressed.

But let us end our days by adopting the ritual of ‘changing our socks’.
Find the absurdity of the day, the news, the man and laugh.
Remember that we are in this together, clustered around the same campfire, impelled by the same passion for justice. Laugh at the absurdity of where we find ourselves and at what we must do to survive.
My dad’s stories taught me that connection and laughter are absolutely necessary for survival when in the thick of a battle.

So laugh with me over some smarmy lie, some absurd policy, some ridiculous assertion then sit down and turn your socks inside out, get some rest, we fight again tomorrow.

love and blessings,
Connie

Dear Friends… How are you today?

Dear Friends,

How are you today? I wonder how you are managing life in this time of Covid and Trump? Things are difficult and I wonder how you are making it through?

Were you able to get out of bed today? If not, take a deep breath, linger in the scent of your aliveness, and do not judge yourself. There will be days like this. Days when you clench your jaw as you listen to the news. Days when your heart tap dances in your chest trying to find the rhythm of reality. Days when you cry without being able to name just what outrage you grieve. It is okay to descend into that shadow land. Your responses make sense. You are not over the overreacting.

If this is where you are, know that others have hoisted the burden and rose to challenge injustice and cruelty today. Let your work come from under your covers as you pray for their courage and safety.  Let their work help carve out a space for hope to take hold so that tomorrow or the next day you are able join the battle for the soul of our nation again.

If this is a good day, I hope you are honoring it by moving the arc toward justice a little further along. What songs are you singing to put steel in your spine? What do you love enough to make this work imperative? Is it the sweet green earth crying out for care? Is it black lives that have not mattered for way way too long? Is it your trans neighbor struggling to survive?

The work that is being done, from marching in the streets to making a plan to vote to volunteering to phone bank, is work we  do together. Sometimes it is on a crowded zoom call and sometimes  it is a relay race where we hand off to the next person and ready ourselves for the next hand off to us. Together we will be enough to make the necessary change.

I close here with this invitation, whether you are energized or struggling: reach out and share with one other person today and every day. Share your fears and your hopes. Share your struggles and your triumphs. Not the calculable results of your actions, but the experience of acting. Nurture the connections that remind us why what we are doing matters.

Dear friends, today I got out of bed. Today I prayed for you. Tomorrow I may march. Today I wrestled with the demon of despair. Today I won.

Blessings,
Connie

Dear Friends… Do Not Let Despair Defeat Us

Dear Friends,
Another week of living, breathing, grieving, working, and loving amidst a pandemic has passed and weeks of the same loom before us. In the midst of trying to navigate life with closed parameters, we witness more and more accounts of our fellow citizens being murdered and maimed,  white supremacists wielding weapons with the intent to kill protestors, and a president who encourages hateful division as his best method of retaining power.

How are you managing? How is your heart? Mine is awash with grief and wrestling each day not to descend into despair.  It is from this place I am  urging  us not to succumb. Despair sucks the life out of our ability to hope  and paralyzes our ability to act. So I write  not to deny the despair you might be feeling but to beg you not to surrender to it.

Despair is manifesting in a couple of ways (at least). Some are striking out blindly like a cornered animal.  Let us, instead, calculate our acts of resistance  to achieve the better outcome and make the necessary change we seek. Still impassioned, but result oriented or, as Michelle Obama said, ” When they go low, we go high.”  The other way despair manifests is in giving up. We cannot allow ourselves to believe that nothing we do will make a difference. This is the kind of despair I am hearing from so many.

For those of us mired in despair: we cannot surrender to it. If we do,  we are lost.
So today I invite you to the difficult task of refusing to give into despair. Challenge it by believing that each of our small acts make a difference. Challenge it by doing necessary and important menial work: get it involved with voter registration, become a poll worker, participate in texting, phone banking,  or letter writing campaigns urging people to register and vote.

Whatever you do, do something. We cannot let despair be what defeats us.

Dear friends,  I promised to offer hope in the weeks leading up to this most important election.
Today, this is the hope I offer:
You choosing to fight feelings of despair.
You refusing to descend to the shadow side of resistance.
You finding the small acts that make a difference.
You committing to vote and making a plan.
You standing shoulder to shoulder with all who seek justice.

You.
You are the hope.

Blessings and peace,
Connie

p.s. the song on a loop in my head today:
I will hold the Christ light for you
in the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
speak the peace you long to hear:

 

 

Love and Fear in the Age of Trump

What does ‘love casts out fear’ mean in a time when we have so much to fear? In the past three and half years fear has ridden me like the proverbial hound from hell.
I fear the rise of fascism, the rise and deepening of racism and sexism.
I fear the corona virus.
I fear people who do not socially distance and/or wear masks.
I fear anti-vaxxers who may waylay our best outcome.
I fear the unbridled hatred of an ‘us and them’ culture.
I fear that our nation will devour itself and descend into the chaos of hate.

Fear unchallenged devolves into hatred. Our primal need to survive, fueled by fear, can shift our experience of powerlessness into hatred. If we find and claim our power through hatred we may survive but our dreams for a better world will be stunted. I feel it. I feel utter hatred when bombarded by ignorance, injustice, lies, and evil. But I also feel how it can make me a smaller person. Hatred has its place, but if I draw my power to act from my hatred I am diminished and the justice I seek to invoke is diminished.

What I don’t imagine when I ponder the meaning of love casting out fear,  is that Godde is calling us to love what we fear.  Instead,  when we experience ourselves loved by Godde, we trust that Love is the grounding  of the world. It is then that we are freed  to stand up to the very  things that inspire our fears and work to diminish us..

When I began to think about this I started at the place important to me: knowing myself as loved. Living into the certainty of Love as the primary activity of Godde,  I am freed to act without fear.  When I allow myself to experience unfettered love and acceptance I am opened to another kind of power. Unlike the power of hatred, the power of love bequeaths the audacity to act with courage, to live into what Carter Heyward calls justice-love in the world.  (Justice-love: justice as the inherent activity of Divine love)

There is being loved and  there is being the one who loves. In some real sense being loved empowers us to become lovers. When we are lovers – lovers  of our world, lovers of  our neighbor, lovers our children, lovers of justice – it enlarges our hearts and banishes fear. It is then we stand,  protect, and love so fiercely that fear does not inhibit us.

So love extravagantly.
Love boldly.
Love with a ferocity that drives out the fears that keep us from standing and acting on behalf of justice.
Love so that the world we create is better than the one we are challenging.

Centering in Gratitude, Finding Hope


Last night, while online with my spiritual community for a time of prayer, I felt the heaviness of all we are enduring during this pandemic: the chaos of authoritarianism, if not fascism, the small and daily losses we face, the heaviness of systemic racism and sexism in our nation. And it came to me as we were sharing and praying that in the midst of so much suffering, rage, and fear we weren’t praying any prayers of gratitude.

Gratitude is a spiritual practice that centers me. It keeps me from dropping into an abyss of hopelessness. So I invited (okay harangued) everyone to share something, one thing, even a small thing, for which they were grateful. And as we began to share small lumens flickered. Fireflies of grace blinked into view, if only for a moment.

And our tentative lights strengthened into the ‘luminous darkness’ that Howard Thurman talks about. When diving in the ocean we are first illuminated by the light from the sky. Further on, we enter deep darkness where light does not penetrate. And then. And then when we have gone deeper than we think we can bear – there is a the unexpected light at the bottom of the ocean given off by unknown sea creatures.

While not as dramatic, through our gratitude practice we encountered unexpected light. Even more, we began to hope. And the hopes we shared for a better world were glorious. I hadn’t realized how much hope I had given up. I could dream an end to this time of hate, disease, fascism, isolation, anxiety…  but I hadn’t hoped for what we could be.

Last night as hope began to burn within us we dreamed of the wonderful ways this tragedy could be transformed. Eager. Excited. Animated. Things we hadn’t been or felt for so long. It was like gasping  a deep breath after nearly suffocating. We were astonished by our very ability to hope – and not just little hopes, but to hope large.

So today I invite you find gratitude where you can. Small or large, let your gratitude become a place of luminous darkness. And may it carve out space in your heart for the possibility of hope.

Choosing Presence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solitude
creates space
to encounter Godde
in dew touched leaves
that shimmer  in the morning sun
in frosty breath
scattering wordless psalms
into the world
in canyon echoes
calling to the past
in a tender caress
easing an unknown ache,
emptying
and filling
by turn.

Isolation
firmly closes the door
on the Sacred
muddying our thoughts,
thrusting its finger
into open wounds
clouding vision
with wordless fear,
finding only
liquid breath beneath
engorged waves,
sounds muffled
by the relentless pounding
of a thrashing heart
broken by a bruising grip
mottling both skin
and soul.

In these lonely times
choose solitude
choose it
with an open heart
invite Godde to tea
be present in each day
to the gift of every moment
to the awareness of possibilities.
Hold your life  gently.
so that solitude
does not morph
into an isolation that
buries hope
distorts vision
contorts reality –
but rather
enter deeply
into the delight of creation,
the wonder of life,
and the gift of
unexplored vistas.

 

Liberated by History

I have been taught history (a subject I love) in a myriad of ways. Fortunately, not as a series of dates to be memorized but as political movements and change influenced by  disease, technological, medical advances, religion, nationalism, power, and personality.

In seminary I had the great good fortune of reading Justo Gonzalez’ two volume history of the Christian Church. Imagine telling the story of the early Christian church through the challenges that ignited differing theologies and their struggle for primacy and the intersection of politics and nation building with growth of Christianity. HIs history telling is a well researched and clear-eyed exploration of how the political and theological world as we know it came into being.

I wish we taught history this way so that people could see the development and  movement of ideas. Could engage with ideas about how we are connected and  how today is built on what has gone before.I wish we were able to accept historical figures as bound by their time and examine how they were a part of moving us and our ideals, understandings, and values into our present.

As a working theologian, I am always aware that I am in dialogue with ideas that have come before and that my new perspective can offer correction or challenge. But the Ideas of those who lived and struggled before us are important because they open the dialogue.  Liberation, Black, Womanist, Feminist, Process,  or any other theology does not exist in a vacuum. We are all a part of global, historical conversations about faith and our understanding of the universe.  We are informed by science, history, and the constant influx of new information, new generations and populations. For me, Christianity is not about what people believed or how they lived over two thousand years ago. It is about what remains relevant at its core. How the truths of the faith engage with present reality.

Is it not important to know that the world view of first century Christians was very different from our world view today? How can it not be. The same with our politics. It is important to ask the questions of the framers of the Constitution. How were they bound by history and culture? How did they contribute to the conversation that has moved us into where we are today in the struggle for freedom? Do we need to reject what we now see as absolutely unacceptable? of course. But I truly believe we must also see ourselves in a historical relationship that, by its very nature, encourages the tough conversations we are having as a nation today around race, gender, personhood, and human rights.

As a nation, our history is built on what is often called ‘the Great Experiment.’  Rather than reject what and who have come before us, let us do what all experimenters do: build on what works and reject that which does not. This nation is built on glorious ideas tried for the first time in thousands of years (if you think of Athens as a democracy, and then it makes my point that American democracy took much of what worked in Athenian democracy, discarded the rest, and built on it for the then modern age.) We must move forward informed by new voices, differing experiences, new ways of perceiving both the mistakes and the triumphs of our historical past.

May our new understandings of history liberate us to the work of making real the promises of our shared dream.

 

The Audacity to Walk into the Fray

Who are these so- called ‘neighbors’
I keep seeing?
Fellow citizens
sporting swásticas
waving  confederate flags
and spewing hate?
They didn’t  just move in
they’ve always been here,
but now they’ve been given the courage
to display their hideous sympathies by
their great leader.
In our names.

These folks stoke my every fear
by their willingness to dehumanize others
and their shameless hate.
But more important,  as all this has unfolded
like a slow motion train
plowing toward a non-existent trestle,
is who I have become.

The truth is
I have become a hater.
I have become a hater of Trump and his minions.
There I said it.
I hate how you hate
I hate your self-righteousness
I hate your intractability
I hate what you stand for
I hate that you have no shame in your hating.
I hate how your hating makes me afraid.

I don’t like hating
I don’t want to be twisted by
my own hatred.
And I don’t like being afraid.

Scripture tells me
that love casts out fear.
I don’t want to love right now.
But I will try to remember that I am loved.
Because that Love bestows
courage we need to face these times..

So as we move forward
remember how deeply loved you are
all the way out to your edges
all the way down to the breath you draw.
It will not protect you
but it will give you what you need
to do what must be done.
and say what must be said.
Do not be afraid.
For the love of Godde
gives us the audacity
to walk into the fray.