We Aren’t All Okay

You know those signs that appear on pretty suburban lawns? The ones that say “It’s all going to be okay!” or “Everything will be okay!” in cheery colors? Well guess what!?

We aren’t all okay. We are far from okay. I learned today that gun sales in Massachusetts, the hardest state in the nation to buy a gun, have gone up by 85% compared to a year ago. I learned that overdoses and suicides are up. And we all know that unemployment is a rocking 20% in the United States.

And guess what? All the posts on social media moralizing everything we are doing – whether it be wearing or not wearing masks, or opening up the economy – none of that is helping. It’s like watching kids bickering and finally saying “Enough! Go to your rooms RIGHT THIS MINUTE! I don’t want to hear another word from you!”

So don’t tell us we are all going to be okay. We are not in the same boat. If you have a regular pay check, then you may want the country to stay closed. If you don’t have a pay check – you may want it to open so that you can feed your family and pay your rent. If you are a recovering addict, desperately needing your support group, then you may want the country to open. If you have diabetes and other co-morbidities that make you more at risk for COVID-19, then you may want it to stay closed. You may think keeping an economy closed is a moral issue, but the person who just learned that their family member struggling with depression committed suicide, a result of severe depression and loneliness, may think that opening the country is a moral issue. We all have things we’d like to moralize about. GIVE EACH OTHER A BREAK and stop this nonsense.

None of this is easy and we are not okay.

So what? What is my solution?

The only thing I have is to lean into your discomfort. Lean deep into it. Scream. Cry. Rage. Bite your pillow. I promise you it will help.

“Lean into your discomfort” – face the sadness, the madness, the anger, and the hard.

Lean into your discomfort.

But how? How do I lean into my discomfort so that I can come out the other side?

Google the phrase and you get about 7,090,000 results in .45 seconds. This is a phrase that people use a lot. It is the social worker’s mantra – Lean into your discomfort. Don’t deny the pain, the grief, the anger, the frustration.

There are times when leaning into my discomfort is less complicated than others. Today is a perfect example. I just had to do it, I had to navigate the feelings, the tears, the email system that didn’t work, the powerpoint that I had not yet completed, the things that are making me angry – all of it. Other times leaning into my discomfort is so painful I want to anesthetize the process with whatever I can, whether it be sleep, or food, or denial, or putting so much distraction into my life that I don’t have to think about the discomfort.

But ultimately, I have to do it.

“Lean into your discomfort” is a phrase that works for me. It doesn’t deny the process, it doesn’t diminish the pain. Instead it challenges me that in leaning into the pain, the discomfort, the confusion, the grief, we learn to walk. First in baby steps, then in regular steps, finally in giant steps.

The steps are like playing the childhood game of  “Mother May I?”

“Mother may I take three giant steps” says the child. And the one who is ‘Mother’ says “No but you can take three baby steps” or “No but you can take one scissor step”. The goal is to reach ‘mother’ who is at the end of the court. When ‘Mother’ isn’t looking, the child on the court tries to sneak a couple more steps in, wanting to reach the goal faster. Leaning into our discomfort is sometimes like asking for giant steps and getting baby steps; or asking for baby steps and being told we have to take a giant step — only our legs are short and our giant steps feel small.

It is a long process. But the more we lean, the less we try to gloss over and pretend it’s all okay; the less we sit defeated, mourning the life we find ourselves in. The more we face our feelings and circumstances, the quicker we arrive at a place of understanding, at a place that is more comfortable. The more we lean, the taller we stand and the braver we become – and the kinder we can be to each other.

That’s all I have. That’s it. Because it really isn’t all okay right now.

[Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/atlanta-background-brick-city-5065797/]

Ferdinand’s Secret

Ferdinand’s Secret by Anonymous

I am happy to see the story of Ferdinand, that gentle, flower-sniffing, pacifist bull has made the big screen. I have not seen the film, but unless it completely betrays the book, Ferdinand offers us an astonishingly simple, though not entirely painless solution to a vast range of contemporary problems. Handwringing at many of the world’s apparently intractable difficulties – resurgent authoritarianism, Kim Jong Il’s missiles, Harvey Weinstein, Putin’s flaunting of his six pack, the crisis in the Catholic church, Evangelical support for Trump, the ridiculously crowded field of democratic candidates and the looming demographic disaster of an excess of young men in China – might end if we better understood Ferdinand’s secret, which is really not much of a secret at all. Though obscure to me as a boy, Ferdinand’s back story is clear to me now. He had experienced a small, life-transforming operation that freed him from that great plague of humanity – and bulls – which, to maintain the subtlety of children’s literature, we prefer not spell it out. Yes, it does begin with a T, and so do the excised parts. 

I am likely to be severely criticized for oversimplifying many complex problems, but I think that instead we overcomplexify a simple problem. Freud understood this problem better than most. When I was young I thought Freud probably had a puerile mind, though I didn’t know the word. Now, as I shudder at the rash of towers plaguing the skylines of world cities – Istanbul’s is just being erected – I think Freud may have undersold his big idea. I also used to be shocked, like any good Puritan should be, at the Hindu lingam and at the Near Eastern statuettes – I recently saw one at Ephesus Museum – depicting the effects of what appears to be superhuman levels of testosterone. Either that, or an extraordinarily potent premodern Viagra. But anyone who thinks seriously about modern world leaders, Kim Jong Il’s missiles, or our recent #metoo moment surely must see that we still have far more (begins with a T) around than is good for us. We just aren’t as honest about our idolatry as were ancient near eastern idol carvers. 

The solution is right in front of us in the form of a delightful, warm-hearted children’s book. We might begin symbolically. Suppose we replace the Wall Street Bull, so heavily weighed down at the back, with a more balanced, flower-sniffing statue of Ferdinand, appropriately bandaged. Who could argue with a kinder, gentler capitalism? But we need more than symbols. We need role models. I suggest our presidential candidates might begin leading the world by example. Voluntarily? I am of two minds.  A legal requirement would require a pesky Constitutional amendment, and I can see how the idea might be tough to sell at first. But with some appropriate incentives – a requirement for participation in debates? a massive influx of campaign cash? unparalleled publicity? – who could resist the peer pressure, and the potent benefits – somehow that seems like the wrong adjective –  of such a small operation. Mike Pence would never have to worry about being alone in an elevator with a woman again, and neither would the women. President Trump could clearly demonstrate once and for all that, whatever may or may not have been fake news from the past, he will certainly have no future interest in the Wrong Sort of Playmate. Imagine Melania’s relief.   

But it’s the democrats who stand to benefit most. If the idea caught on, we would likely see an immediate and virtuous thinning of that over crowded field. Those who remained would have the immediate benefit of casting away any past #metoo type scandals, and preventing future ones. What about the women candidates? Wouldn’t this give ambitious women an unfair advantage? The IAAF – the the International Association of Athletics Federations – has shown the way, recognizing the fundamental unfairness of excess testosterone.  Amy Klobuchar, judging from her alleged treatment of her staff, should certainly be tested and disqualified, unless she is willing to submit to hormone suppressants and ongoing monitoring. Imagine the love fest our last Presidential election might have been if the race had been between a Ferdinand-like Donald and a Hillary with suppressed hormones, and smiling in the background an entirely benevolent and disinterested Vladimir Putin smelling the flowers of a new Russian Spring.   

If we Christians truly want to distance ourselves from modern paganism – I’m thinking of the statuette in the Ephesus museum again – then why not just cut if off. Literally.

There is excellent biblical warrant. Origen saw this, acted on it, and has been unjustly castigated ever since. Yet it seems the obvious solution to the modern scandal of the Catholic church. If life long celibacy is really such a good idea, why not make it easier and safer?  It could be a truly back to the Bible moment for evangelicals who have inexplicably resisted application one of the clearest of our Lord’s recommendations.   

So I have a dream, a dream in which crowds of men, all with the face of Harvey Weinstein, fill the Mall in Washington, and like the massive gathering of eunuchs in “The Last Emperor”, hold aloft the evidence that they are no longer a danger to humanity and proudly chant “ME TOO!”  It would mark the beginning of an invigorated – sorry, wrong adjective again – and truly gender-inclusive #metoo movement.  Inspiring!   

*Note: The brilliant author of this piece wishes to remain anonymous.

A Friday Prayer

The peach looked beautiful. It had the feel of a peach that was ripe but not too ripe and it smelled perfect. Inside it was rotten to the core. I discovered this as I was cutting it into slices.

So beautiful on the outside, so rotten on the inside.

How like the United States, with its rhetoric of greatness and it’s perfect exterior. Well trimmed lawns, good highways, fancy buildings, plenty of goods for consumers, coffee shops by the thousands, grocery stores by the million, parades and protection are all a part of the eye candy that is the U.S. Yet it takes but a moment of digging to uncover the rotten interior. From rates of abortion to treatment of foreigners we live in a society consumed by self and misguided protection. We daily watch men and women with little soul and even less integrity mismanage a nation in crisis.

Bullet holes in black boys haunt our collective psyche as we try to dismiss of racism. We hear the cries of children ripped from moms in wombs and at borders, breastfed babies panting for milk from mothers who are nowhere to be found. Pride and corruption are rampant and the innocent struggle for justice.

Cries of “I can’t breathe!” fall on our ears. Coffins fill with black bodies and we try to justify this by focusing on rioting and violence, claiming they are not the way to handle this. How dare we. How dare I. We listen to the voices of white theologians and dismiss the voices of prophetic black theologians, because they might make us uncomfortable. How dare we! How dare I!*

Like the Old Testament prophets we cry “How long O Lord? How long?

Tears dry on faces that look up to the Son for justice.

We plead the cause of the orphan, the immigrant, the falsely accused, the unborn who were never given a chance, the dead who can no longer speak.

We plead and we pray.

May we allow the surgery of confession and repentance to root out the rotten core. May we fall on our knees in humility and repentance. May we see with eyes of justice and love with hearts of compassion. May we act with hands of mercy and speak with lips of wisdom. May we pray for our leaders and for ourselves.

May we, like the prophet Micah, do justly, love mercy, and Walk humbly with our God.

Amen and Amen

*This paragraph was added 5/29/2020.

A Valentine’s Day Warning: Don’t Let Corporate America Dictate What Love Is

Happy Vlantim from Egypt – Source unknown

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I have mixed feelings about the day, but there’s one thing I know. It is far too easy to let corporate America dictate what love is to the eager masses. For weeks we have not been able to escape glossy images and advertisements about true love and how it’s best expressed through material things. From jewelry to roses, we are subject to a false understanding of love and relationships.

So here are some basic dos and don’ts about the day.

Some Don’ts

  • Don’t judge your relationships by Hollywood standards.
  • Don’t get swept up in what is purely a profit making machine.
  • Don’t get angry at your partner because they didn’t get the subtle and overt messages of what you wanted for Valentine’s Day.
  • Don’t walk around rejected and dejected because you aren’t in a relationship on a day when everyone is supposed to have somebody
  • Don’t confuse real love and tried and true relationships with the false image that will dominate the day.

Some Dos

  • Celebrate the people you love by letting them know you love them
  • Accept what comes your way with a gracious spirit
  • Realize that a partner washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen is a much more difficult way to say “I love you” than buying a cheap box of chocolates.
  • Let your single friends know that they are whole people and don’t need someone to complete them.
  • Ponder the difference between real love and fairy tale romance
  • Some reading on love and Lent and Ash Wednesday

Most of all, do realize that you are God’s beloved, and nothing in the world will change that. No chocolate, no roses, no candlelight dinners can ever replace knowing that God loves you in the depths of your soul.

Valentine’s Day does a great job at communicating love for one day, but it lacks the impetus or mechanism to help us do the hard work of love. And one thing required for the hard work of love is a repudiation of the very things that keep us from loving well. Ash Wednesday, with its accompanying fast, is that repudiation. – Juliet Vedral

Who are the Immigrants in Your Life?

Immigrant meme


The meme above was shared widely on social media a couple of years ago. The other day as I was thinking about immigrants and immigration reform, I remembered it. While the meme is about things, I began to think about all the people in my life who are immigrants. As I made the list, I started to laugh. It’s unlikely I could function without them.

My doctor is from Jamaica, my surgeon is from Greece, my hairdresser is from Albania.

I occasionally get my nails done by a woman from Vietnam; I buy fruit from a man from Albania.

The advisory board members on a project that I am responsible for at work are from Syria, Iran, Algeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, and the Azores. A consultant who also works with the project is from Somalia.

My colleagues are from Portugal, the Azores, Brazil, Haiti, and Malawi – and that’s only a few of them.

Daily I say hello to hotel employees from Guatemala, Haiti, and Egypt. The restaurant next to my work that sells excellent falafel and shwarma is owned by Iraqis.

My friends at church are from Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Lebanon.

Other regular friends in my life are from Pakistan, Israel, and Iran.

What’s more, my maternal grandfather who died many years ago is from Poland….

Everyone of these people contribute positively to their communities and to the workforce, a fact that validates what studies have shown – that immigration has a positive effect on both economic growth and productivity.

In 2004, a satirical film was released called A Day Without a Mexican. In the film, the state of California wakes up one day to a thick fog and no ability to communicate beyond its borders. They soon find out that one third of the state’s population is missing. What follows is a comedic look at how the California dream is only made possible by the Mexicans who serve in every capacity – from entertainment to politics to service industry. As California ceases to function effectively, those left have to face some hard questions.

While the film was produced over 13 years ago, its message is just as relevant today, perhaps more so.

Any nation has a right to have laws in place around immigration and resettlement, but border arrests and hardline approaches by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are not helping. We are desperate for comprehensive immigration reform and these impulsive and poorly thought out actions are keeping us from pushing for a bipartisan approach that is wise and doable.

Worldwide, we are in a time of unprecedented displacement and crisis from war, famine, and political instability. It is more important than ever that our policies and borders reflect this and that our responses lean toward mercy. It is critical that our conversations are reasoned and based on fact. 

“CIR (Comprehensive Immigration Reform) is caught between the politics of justice and the ethics of mercy.”

Dr. Ruth Melkonian Hoover

There is far more to think about and write about when it comes to immigration reform, and I am not the one to write comprehensively about it. But I do want to offer this challenge – think of the immigrants you know and how they contribute to your daily life. Then, write your own meme.

Because sometimes we need to open our eyes to what and who is around us. 


Some Thoughts on Teen Pregnancy

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If you were giving a talk on teen pregnancy to a conservative, faith-based group who cares, what messages would you want to convey?

A couple of years ago I asked this question of someone in our family planning division at work. I was serious. I wanted her perspective. She did not hesitate.

I would tell them we live in a sex-saturated society, and everyone else is talking about sex – they need to be part of the conversation. I would tell them that you are not giving a teenager a mixed message if you tell them what you believe and what you would want them to do, and yet arm them with tools and knowledge about contraception if they make a different choice.”  It was a great conversation.

So armed with this, as well as facts and figures that tell more of the story of teen pregnancy I ended up leading a discussion at our church.

Along with the facts, I wanted to give a face to the story. I chose to show a clip from a documentary called “The Gloucester 18”.

In 2008 Gloucester, Massachusetts – a seaport city known for its lobster, fishing and The Perfect Storm found itself in the center of a world-wide media frenzy. Reporters from as far away as Australia and Brazil descended on the town with cameras,microphones and all the other apparatus needed for a sensational story. The reason?  There were four times the number of teen pregnancies than previous years and word had surfaced that 18 teenage girls had made a pact to become pregnant. As the nurse practitioner at Gloucester High School said “People love scandal”.

News networks preyed on this story like hawks and the girls and their families were deluged with phone calls from CNN to Dr. Phil.

So what is the real story behind these Gloucester teenagers? More importantly what’s the story behind teen pregnancy in general?

What we know:

We know several things. We know that teen pregnancy is a complicated issue and those that ignore the complexity are living in denial. “Just Don’t Do It” or teaching kids about sex by showing them Barbie and Ken in a shoe box seem to be  ineffective ways to deal with teens and sex, teens and pregnancy. While the United States has seen a significant decline in recent years, the lowest rate in 70 years, we still have the highest rate in the developing world, surpassing Great Britain, France, The Netherlands and Sweden.

We know other things as well….

  • that 50% of teen mothers get a high school diploma by age 22, compared with 90% of teen girls who do not give birth.
  • that teen childbearing costs U.S.taxpayers about $9 billion each year.
  • that girls born to teen mothers are about 30% more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
  • that children of teen parents are more likely to do poorly in school and to drop out of school
  • that half of teen pregnancies end up in abortion – if we care about abortion we need to face and care about the issue of teen pregnancy
  • that southern states have a higher rate of pregnancy than northern states
  • that less teens are having sex now then in 1988
  • that when money is put into sex education and birth control, the abortion rate goes down.

So when the discussion comes around to “Do we expect abstinence only programs to work in the world as we know it” I would say no. Any good sex education program has abstinence as a part of the curriculum, but the operative word is part not the entire curriculum.

Back to the Gloucester 18 – a face to the problem.  The truth is, there was no pact. There was no conspiracy to all get pregnant at the same time. Most of the girls found out about a pact by watching the nightly news. The stories portrayed are poignant and real. In the spirit of a good documentary there is a raw and compelling truth that comes through and you can’t stay detached through facts and figures because they now have names and faces and most of all, babies. Beyond the newspaper stories were kids having kids. Girls searching for meaning and purpose, girls looking for stability and love, girls trying to please boyfriends and parents, friends and school authorities. Girls who were still trying to grow up and ended up facing the task of motherhood and parenting.

God doesn’t force his boundaries on anyone; He may long for us to stay within them, but He doesn’t force us.

As much as I may want to wave my wand and make teenagers make different choices, I don’t have that ability. But I can understand the problem, present my view passionately and at the same time be willing to recognize the world we live in, a world we must respond to in ways that are wise. We live in a broken world, a world that is not as it should be. Our world is made up of people who have choices. God doesn’t force his boundaries on anyone; He may long for us to stay within them for our own protection, but He doesn’t force us. So what should my response be? Compassion? Common sense? Tough Love? Interest? All that and perhaps more? 

As I think about the issue of teen pregnancy and teen sexuality I think about sex as a china cup. A fragile, expensive china cup created by a Master Craftsman, with a unique and beautiful design. But once passed from the Craftsman to us to care for, the china cup broke into many pieces. And each of us try to put together these broken pieces, try to put back a pattern and restore a sense of what was.

Teen pregnancy is just one broken piece of the many. Can the Church be part of a solution to put it back together?

Note: This blog has been revised from a post written in 2012. I chose to repost because of the decision to cut millions of dollars from prevention programs.

From Privilege to Responsibility

religion-1139050_1280

In the United States, Charlottesville, VA has occupied the top news for over 48 hours. This is not a cause for celebration, but a tragic reality where a rally largely controlled by alt right racists turned violent and ugly. The city is now mourning the death of a young woman who died needlessly as the result of a car attack.

The racism displayed was blatant, proudly worn without hoods or disguises. There seemed to be no shame, no lowering of the eyes, no regret.  Instead, it is animal like and brutal.

What have we come to?” So many shake wounded heads and sigh as they voice those words. Alternatively, many rightly respond that this is nothing new; that if you are unaware of the racism in this country then your eyesight needs to be healed.

“It is not the episodic marches and rallies that define white supremacy, it it is the ordinary, dull ways that society props up the racial caste system that lead to the most egregious offenses. American citizens, particularly white people, have to realize how they unintentionally allow Charlottesville and white supremacy to happen.” From RAANetwork.org

I am on my own journey and have much to learn, but I have learned this: As a white woman I must speak up. I must do these three things:

  • Point out injustice
  • Recognize I walk through the world differently than my friends who are people of color.
  • Influence people in my space

I wrote the words below exactly a month ago and I am reposting. Why? Because in my current reality, it’s the only thing I know how to do. That and to pray those ancient words: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me, a sinner. 

***** 

“There was a darker side to high tea I would only confront much later. This pleasure that so delighted me as a little girl was a survival of Pakistan’s colonial past. The “British Raj” era, or the era of British rule, lasted for almost 100 years. It included the entire Indian subcontinent. Pakistan was born in 1948, and my parents arrived only five years later. I was completely blind to my privilege as a little, white, English-speaking girl. I cringe now at what I took for granted. 

Those who were white and English-speaking went to the head of the line. Those who were white and English-speaking could casually criticize Pakistanis without thought. We traveled where we pleased, we went first class or third class on trains –it was our choice. We were educated and would have a world of opportunity. I thank God for parents that had the conscience and determination to discipline me and teach me in various ways that I was not better than those around me. Still, with a strong personality and ego to match, those lessons sometimes fell on ears unwilling to listen and a heart that would need continual reminders that privilege is not something I earned or deserved.” from Passages Through Pakistan © Doorlight Publications, March 2017

In recent years, I have done a lot of thinking about how I view the world. Part of this came as I began to write. The more I wrote, the more I articulated my perspective, I was reminded that that’s what it was – my perspective. I viewed the world through a particular lens and that lens affected all my experiences. As I moved on to writing Passages Through Pakistan, an excerpt of which I’ve included above, I realized how my childhood was affected by growing up in a land that had been colonized not many years before I came into the world.

Another significant part of this journey has come through friendships with, and reading about, people whose life experience has been a stark contrast to my own, due to nothing other than the color of their skin. In other words, I realized that I experienced privilege of which I was completely unaware.

when our eyes are open, we can make wrong situations right.

I know many of us who are white may get tired of words and phrases, that there are times when we want to shout “Not me! I’m not like that!” when we are confronted by stories of racism and bias, but I’ve been learning how important it is to remember that I, as a white woman, walk through the world differently than people of color. I see the world through a lens of privilege. And because I walk through the world differently, I have a responsibility. It’s not a responsibility born of guilt, it’s a responsibility born of privilege.

In the words of Courtney Ariel from Sojourners Magazine:

“Privilege means that you owe a debt. You were born with it. You didn’t ask for it. And you didn’t pay for it either. No one is blaming you for having it. You are lovely, human, and amazing. Being a citizen of a society requires work from everyone within that society. It is up to you whether you choose to acknowledge the work that is yours to do. It is up to you whether you choose to pay this debt and how you choose to do so.”

It is with this in mind that I want to share a short, three-minute video. In this video three things stood out to me. They are clear and they are actionable.

  • Point out injustice
  • Recognize we walk through the world differently
  • Influence people in our space

We think we can’t change the world, but, when our eyes are open, we can make wrong situations right.

“And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” Elie Wiesel

There is a verse in the Old Testament that I learned when I was a teenager. I have memorized it, quoted it, and written about it. Because it is what distinguishes empty religion from true faith. The prophet Micah has been asking rhetorical questions about sacrifice, wondering what God requires. In the verse I love, he answers his own question and the words have been recited and inscribed through time.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God.

And that’s exactly what we are called to do: Do Justly. Love Mercy. Walk humbly. 

Note – this article has been updated since it was originally posted to include new thoughts and new links.

The Echo Chamber of Social Media

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I have been caught in the echo chamber of social media for a long time, but the last few months it has become significantly worse. All around me people rise up, whether on Twitter, Facebook or comments, letting everyone know their strongly held opinions.

But nothing is original.

Everyone is echoing everyone else. As is usually the case, there are two sides and both are extremes. Nuanced opinion and thinking outside the box? That doesn’t happen in echo chambers.

Every once in a while, the echoes collide, creating a palpable dissonance, and then the echoes go their separate ways, making sure they land with what and who is most comfortable. No one ever changes their minds in an echo chamber. We change our minds when we connect over shared bread and real relationships.

Dialogue is best done in relationship, over breaking bread, over coffee.

This echo chamber is bad for our health. I’m convinced of it. I’m convinced that future research will show an increase in ulcers, heart disease, depression, and other stress related illness based on our being unable to turn off the chatter, remove ourselves from the echo chamber.

The echo chamber is even worse for our souls. My soul was in bad shape last week and it was directly related to the social media echo chamber. Because too many echoes create chaos. Information and beliefs are amplified out of proportion to what I can handle.

I am as guilty as anyone, probably more so. I participate in the echo chamber, getting caught up until my head aches from the sounds reverberating around me. Until I am so tired of the sound of my voice and my own opinion that I want to scream.

How do I separate myself?

It’s simple, but really hard. I turn it off. I turn off the echo chamber and I dive into real life and real relationships.So since last week, that is what I have done. The likes or dislikes of social media, the sharing of often useless information, the over abundance of opinions — I had to separate myself so that I could breathe, so I could think clearly. More importantly, I needed to hear God. When you are surrounded by such a cacophony of echoes, you can’t hear yourself, much less God.

Not surprisingly, only a week in to the separation and I can think more clearly. I get home and listen to Mozart and drink a London Fog. I read articles from all sides that I want to read, not those that are stuck in my Facebook face. I pray in ways that I can’t pray when I am surrounded by echoes.

I will not stay off line for long. I have good connections on social media and I know it can be used in great ways. Separating myself in this way is helping me see how I can better use social media when I do return.

But for now, the echo chamber has been banished from my heart and my soul, and I am a healthier person.

[And just in case you’re wondering how I posted this since I have supposedly left Facebook for a time, I have a little secret – I linked accounts so that it would automatically post.]

Really?

 

Toddler falls over railing at zoo into gorilla area.

Gorilla killed to save toddler.

Public outcry from impulse culture addicts.

Parent crucified by public opinion. Have to delete all social media, go into hiding. Told they are the ones who should have been killed.

Meanwhile,in Syria:

NOTE: Quote from Kay Bruner in The Curious Case of the Outraged Amygdala. Kay is author of the book As Soon as I Fell: A Memoir available on Amazon. You can find her blog here. 

Stop Dismissing Millennials

Last week, my husband and I had dinner with some friends. We ate fish tacos, caught up on each other’s lives and laughed until we couldn’t breathe.

Our friends are a lot younger than us. They are millennials – that group of people who are analyzed, written about, and talked about.  And I realize that I need to speak up about something.

This conversation on millennials being lazy and disrespectful, lacking in everything from common sense to brain cells has to stop. It’s gone on too long and it damages all of us.

I like millennials. They are my kids and friends of my kids. They are my nieces and nephews. They are my cousin’s children. They are my colleagues and students. They are my friends. (To be honest, we probably have more friends who are millennials than we do friends our own age – so there could be something very, very wrong with us….but that’s another subject.)

Of course they drive me crazy at times. So do people who are my age.

Millennials have grown up in a rough world. A world that on the one hand tells them they can be anything and have it all, and on the other hand saddles them with school debt and confusion. They have watched those of us who are older use and abuse social media just as much as they use and abuse it. Civil discourse was disintegrating when they were little, and has all but disappeared.

We need to stop making millennials into a single story. Contrary to what the media and others have led us to believe, millennials are creative, donate goods and services, and are worried about the state of the world and how they can make a difference. They value family and will work to create community.

Here’s what I want to say to those of us who are reading the articles and shaking our heads in despair about the next generation:

  1. Shaking our heads at the ‘younger’ generation is an ‘old people’ activity. Don’t do it. They need us and we need them. It’s called the “Circle of Life.” Go see Lion King – then let’s talk.
  2. It’s okay to disagree, but in our disagreement we need to be careful that we don’t dismiss people. There is inherent value in every human being, even when we disagree with them.
  3. Make friends with millennials – like real friends. Have people over for dinner, learn to laugh and talk with them. Relationship changes everything.
  4. Remember when you get really angry and want to lash out at someone who is younger – they are someone else’s son or daughter. The person who serves you coffee has a mom – and almost assuredly that mom loves them deeply and worries that people like you and I will treat them with contempt.
  5. Do what you can to make the life of a millennial a bit easier – that may be giving them an unexpectedly big tip, it may mean encouraging them to leave a job, or stay at a job. It may mean sending them money – just because you know they have college debt that will last ‘to infinity and beyond.’
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone who is younger than you are. Most probably, the millennials in your life are tech savvy and can teach you things that will make your life so much easier. Let them teach you. You will both benefit.
  7. For decades, older people have used the words “Well, when I was young….!” The problem is, it usually prefaces a comment that says we are superior. That is not an effective way to build bridges with people who are younger.
  8. Enjoy millennials – don’t let labels get in the way of enjoying the stories and lives of those in your life.

Now here are my words to the millennials in the room.

  1. You are a targeted generation – people want to look and point and make assumptions. Don’t let the Debbie Downers steal your spirit. It’s easy for the nay sayers in the world to have the loudest voices. Don’t let them.
  2. Find ways to work around the system.  Do not let rules prevent you from doing something that you know will work and work well.
  3. Be nice to the mean people.
  4. Work to defeat ageism. Don’t dismiss those who are older just because they may dismiss you. We need each other. I’ll say what I said to the non millennials: It’s okay to disagree, but don’t dismiss.
  5. Find your community but also make friends with people who are completely different then you in looks, beliefs, and values.
  6. You are the multitasking generation. So go on Facebook, go on Twitter…just don’t stay there. Your communication on social media is not a good substitute for the real thing.
  7. The grey buildings where you may begin your jobs will make you color blind. Don’t let it happen! Keep on seeing the color in your world.
  8. Remember to always operate by this question: “Who do I want to like me when I am 80?” It is an excellent life guide.
  9. You are the Harry Potter generation. You know what Dementors are and you know what the Dementor’s Kiss does. Don’t let the world’s Dementors steal your heart and soul. Guard both of them.
  10. Take care of your eyes and your soul. You’ll want them both to last until the end of your days.

This post is dedicated to some of my favorite millennials: My children, my nieces and nephews, Caitlin, Mary, Tayo, Ashley, Amanda, Amel, Caroline, Mason, Lara, Eric, Tina, Erik, and so many more – you know who you are! 

Beware: the Language of Heaven is Hell for the Passenger

no arabic

While living in the Middle East, we would often quote Islamic scholars and proclaim that we were “learning the language that we’ll all speak in Heaven.” We were not joking. With its rich phrases and flow, Arabic is a beautiful language.

After five minutes in a taxi in an Arabic speaking country, the beautiful sound of Oum Kalthoum’s voice will lull you into relaxing and enjoying all that surrounds you. You would never say a mere “Good Morning” in Arabic; rather you would say “Morning of Goodness!” to which another would respond “Morning of Light!”  You don’t say the mean-spirited “She talks too much!” Rather, you would say the descriptive “She swallowed a radio!”  And nothing so plain as “He’s crazy!” Instead, you would say “His brain is like a shoe!”

Twenty six different countries speak Arabic. It is a language that is centuries old, spoken by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is used in worship by both Christians and Muslims. It is a language with a history of narrative and poetry, a language of song and speech, a language of expression and beauty. While sometimes I shake my head at the impossibilitiy of the ‘ta marbuta’ and the fatḥah(فتحة) /a/, ـِ a kasrah (كسرة) /i/ or ـُ a ḍammah (ضمة) /u/, I absolutely love this language and I will continue trying to learn it until the day I die. 

Evidently, not all think as I do. Earlier this month, a student from University of California, Berkeley was removed from a flight. A passenger heard the student speaking Arabic and reported him. As reported by the New York Times, the student was from Iraq and had been to an event where the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had spoken. The student called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about this event. Unfortunately for the student, an arguably sheltered, bigoted, and clueless fellow passenger headed to the front of the airplane to report him. The rest, we might say, is history.

When I first read about this story, I thought I had no words. Anyone who reads CAB knows that I speak out about these things regularly. And there are times when I want to hear other voices, I want others to do the talking, the writing, to ask the hard questions. But there is a dearth of Western, White People willing to speak into the current climate of fear and xenophobia that creeps like a cancer through our country. This climate is perpetuated by ill-mannered politicians who vow to police Muslim neighborhoods; who ‘one-up’ each other on who can be the most bigoted.

When did we decide that Arabic was the language of terrorists? When did the 295 million Arabic speakers in the world become suspect? A passenger made an assumption based on limited knowledge and world view. An airline heeded that assumption. Instead of questioning her further, asking her if she knew Arabic, finding out more, a decision was made by the airline to remove a man because of the language he spoke. Deanna Othman says this in an article on Alternet: “Southwest Airlines has set a precedent with its action on that flight. It has validated the insidious paranoia that has become rampant in our society. It will unjustly lead Muslims and Arabic speakers to rethink their language of choice when boarding a plane.” 

This should trouble, if not terrify, all of us. It’s one thing when a passenger is misinformed and foolish. It is entirely another when a corporate entity asks no questions and falls into the reactionary fear that causes poor decisions. 

Because here is the truth: 

Unbreakable stereotypes, xenophobia, racism, bigotry, and fear of the one who is ‘other’ – all of these are far more dangerous than any language will ever be.

To you I pose these questions: When did fear begin to replace common sense? How can we change this? What can we do indivdually and/or collectively to respond? إن شاء الله [Insa’Allah] we will find a way to move forward together.

After the Outrage

Sirnak

The outrage that echoed loudly through social media the last few weeks has left us for a time.  It is now old and uninteresting, sort of like leftover turkey that sits, covered in plastic, in the refrigerator a week after Thanksgiving. No one cares anymore, and so we gladly throw away the carcass. We are ready to move on.

But after the outrage there is still a refugee problem. After the outrage, Lebanon, Baghdad, and Paris still cry out from a wounded place. After the outrage, there are still faces of human need that flash across my mind.

Outrage seems to do little to motivate for the long term. It may cause a one time gift of time or money and it certainly feeds the conscience, but it is not sustainable.

But mercy is sustainable. Mercy and compassion continue long after the outrage passes. Mercy and compassion are borne out of love for God and for those who are made in his image.

This next month, the Western world will focus on a day that has come to mean glitter and stuff. A day that has slowly eroded in meaning, coopted by money and market. And in truth, I love glitter and sparkle. I love lights and baubles.

Competing with the glitter and glitz is the Season of Advent. A time of silent nights and candle time. A time of waiting and longing, a time to pray for the refugee and the broken one. Advent is not a time of outrage, but a time of mercy and compassion. It is a time to live beyond the outrage, in a place of quiet consistency and anticipation. It is the time of the irrational season, where mercy and love trump reason.

The outrage is over, and Advent has begun. Refugees still try and get through unsafe waters onto safe shores; millions on millions are still displaced, violence still breaks our hearts and takes those we love.

The outrage is over, but a broken world remains in desperate need of our mercy and compassion. Can we live above and beyond the outrage? 

Ways to live beyond the outrage:

  1. Make refugee kits
  2. Show this movie to some people in your life: Overview of Refugee Crisis from the Refugee Highway. Think about showing it to a community group, your church, a group of friends and use it as a time to learn more about the world of refugees.
  3. Work in a soup kitchen this holiday season. There are huge needs during the cold weather and volunteers are welcome.
  4. Set aside a time each day to pray for the world.

We pray for all whose lives
have been touched by tragedy,
whether by accident
or a deliberate act.
For those who mourn,
immerse them in your love
and lead them through this darkness
into your arms, and light.
For those who comfort,
be in both the words they use
and all that’s left unspoken;
fill each heart with love.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
whose own suffering brought us life,
here and for eternity. Amen

©John Birch Read more at: http://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_peace.htm#ixzz3t4dzO796
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution
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Light Shines in the Darkness 

I woke up early to a grey sky and soft summer rain falling. I could hear water on the pavement sloshing as cars went by.

All was peaceful inside, and then I made the mistake of looking at the news. From harvesting babies to refugees trapped at sea,I saw a world of evil and horror. I began to cry.

I don’t want to live in a world that aborts live babies and cuts them up for profit, saying its only “3% of the total budget.” I don’t want to live in a world that turns people away from its borders, that they might die at sea. I don’t want to live in a world that sees Donald Trump as newsworthy and turns its back on the homeless. I don’t want to live in a world that stays silent in the face of evil.

I don’t want to be part of a nation that calls itself progressive as it drones other parts of the world.

And I don’t want to be that person that stays silent and apathetic.

I don’t want to participate in evil because of my fear of speaking up. I want to love with abandon, to give my life with joy, to turn the other cheek, to pray for my enemies, to speak up for those with no voice — the refugee, the disabled, the unborn.

I have no more patience for politicians and televangelists, for those who manipulate words and cover truth.

I suddenly feel too old to play the games of a politically correct society; a society that sees itself as so progressive that it’s regressive. Because you know something? We are not evolving–we are devolving.

I want to live my life in faith and honor of the One who made me, who gives me breath each day, who understands the human heart and sees beyond the surface to the hurting, the hungry, the lost.

This Sunday I feel old and tired, and I have to believe there are others out there who feel the same.

I read these words and I am encouraged:”In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”*

Light shines in the darkness.

It’s  still raining outside, and the news is still beyond believability. But this truth I know: this truth I need to live by today: Light shines in the darkness. 

Blogger’s Note: It was after I wrote this that I read an article that lightened the grey of the day with its hope. It’s of a Syrian family that makes it safely to the Greek Island of Kos after traveling on a small raft all night long. They are taken in and given security and safety. And the light shines in the darkness.

John 1:4,5

For my Friend and the Kids he’s Raising

I sit in a row of cubicles toward the front of a large building in downtown Boston. One of my cubicle mates is a man from Malawi that I’ll call Paul. He is a handsome, intelligent man and we have become good friends in the past few years.

Today he asked me if I had seen what happened in McKinney, Texas. McKinney, a suburb of Dallas, is described as a “fast-growing, mostly middle-class suburb with deep racial and economic divisions.”*  The setting was a suburban neighborhood on the west side of the city that is described as racially diverse. It is considered a place where there are good relationships between a diverse group of people.

The details slowly emerge. A pool party in a subdivision. A lot of teenagers. A white woman making a racial slur, telling the kid whose mom was hosting the party to “Go back to Section 8 housing; a physical fight; police called; and then an escalation of violence. It had all the ingredients of a tragedy. There was none, except for in the life of a 14-year old girl. 

McKinney now joins the infamous ranks of places that have highlighted the racism present in the United States. Boston, Ferguson, Tamir Rice, “I can’t breathe”, Black Lives Matter, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin – these are the household words of the past couple of years.

And so I had seen what happened in McKinney. I had watched the video feeling sick to my stomach. I wanted to throw up as I saw a man who should know better escalating a situation. I thought of my black friends and colleagues, and realized yet again that the world they live in is different from the world I live in.

But back to my colleague — Paul has two children: a beautiful daughter who just finished her freshman year of college, and a son who is in middle school. And when he saw the video of the 14-year old girl in a bikini, a towel wrapped around her, he saw his daughter. He saw his daughter thrown on the ground, her face in the grass. He saw his daughter, crying out for her mama. He saw an officer, knee on the back of a little girl, his little girl. Because he is black, and his daughter is black.

I have two daughters, and they are strong young women. One of them has been known to yell at a police officer, to shake her finger in his face. I am not proud of that, but I never worried that she would be thrown to the ground — because she lives in a different universe than Paul and his kids.

I’m not arguing the full case of McKinney here. I was not there. I know some of the story, but I don’t know all the story. I am arguing that you don’t throw a 14-year old girl to the ground. It’s not okay.

My heart is breaking for the Pauls and those they are raising – their girls and boys. My heart breaks for that little girl. I don’t care what she was yelling, that she was thrown on the ground, face to the grass, is not okay. She calls for her mama at least three times, and each time my heart breaks.

The United States is grossly arrogant when it comes to the world stage. We claim the moral high ground on every issue. We claim freedom, justice, liberty for all.

For all but Paul and the kids he’s raising. 

**********

I highly recommend this article from Austin Channing – This is What it’s Like. Here is an excerpt:

But for a moment. Before this becomes about you and your actions and your reactions and your thoughts and your assessment and your judgements, i need you to know two things. 

1. I need you to know that she is fully human. I need you to know that she is a full person who exists outside this one moment and also felt every yank, tug, pull, press of what you watch. I need you to know that this is not “just another” anything. This is a moment in this girls life forever. She slept in her bed this weekend, and ate breakfast prepared by her momma, and received phone calls from her girlfriends, and is right now trying to make sense of how her body, mind, emotions and spirit will carry on in the world. She is human. 

2. I need you to know that whatever feelings I had as I watched this unfold, whatever pain I felt, whatever reaction I had, God had tenfold. God felt every yank and pull. God felt every shooting pain and press of the body. God felt her sobs. For God knows the violence of this world, is intimately aware of state-sanctioned brutality. God needs not imagine. God knows. God knows this little girl’s pain, a pain she didnt choose and should not have endured. – Austin Channing

*Jarring Image of Police’s Use of Force at Texas Pool Party – NY Times

A Ten-Dollar Coupon and My Poverty of Soul

ten dollar coupon

The ten-dollar coupon had grown hot in my hand. Literally. I was clutching it tightly. I was doing something I have never done: Arriving at Macy’s at seven in the morning, at the ready for the Big.Sale.

Truth is – I had only just realized Macy’s was having a Big.Sale. The coupon and the sale had been simultaneously discovered. If there’s a coupon, that means you need something, right?

So.Wrong.

I had limited time and I could feel my body growing hot with frustration. This sweater? No. That one? The blue one is pretty, I have too much black. Oh – I can’t buy that one! That’s only twelve dollars and I’m supposed to spend twenty-five in order to get the coupon. Frustration rising I picked out a sweater and began heading to the cashier. The cashier was nowhere to be found – it was after all seven in the morning…..

And right there in the aisle where glitter and sequins met designer jeans, I stopped, assaulted by the irony.

Earnestly shopping for something I didn’t need because I had a coupon. With a rueful sigh I put the sweater on the nearest rack I could find, and there it sat – a bright, blue miserable reminder among all the black, gold, and red glitter of seasonal items.

I headed toward the exit, stopping only to give the coupon away. The woman smiled at me gratefully — who doesn’t love a deal.

The sorry truth of who I was and how I was behaving felt like the 25 degree Farenheit temperature and wind that whipped my face as I stepped outside. It felt icy cold and I wanted to escape.

All for a ten-dollar coupon. Wasted time and sick in my soul, I felt all of it acutely.

It’s my own hypocrisy, my own poverty of soul that slaps me in the face like icy weather. I am so dang good at pointing out the flaws in our society, in other Christians, in America in general (for the arguably big baby that it is). But at the end of the day, the only person I can change is myself.

I think about this season – Advent, Christmas, Nativity, Holiday. The season of Advent differs profoundly from the “Holiday Season” as celebrated in the Western world. Advent brings waiting, hope, and a promise. The holiday season brings coupons, stress, frustration, and poverty of soul.

How do I continually bring myself back to Advent?  It starts today with giving up a sweaty ten-dollar coupon and admitting the poverty in my soul. Tomorrow it may mean something else. But today is what I have.

What about you? Have you ever found yourself with a coupon that grew hot in your hand? How do you separate Advent and Christmas from the Holiday Season? 

Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/shirts-exhibition-shop-shopping-428627/

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What’s Wrong With Halloween?

Halloween pumpkins

Maybe it’s that I’m sick of the sexy nurse costumes, completely demeaning my profession. 

Maybe it’s that I think making a “sexy Olaf” costume, sexualizing a little snowman from the movie Frozen is despicable.

Or perhaps it’s that Halloween is a six billion dollar, yes – six billion dollar – industry. 

But what really pushed me over the edge is the cute baby in the marijuana costume. For a mere $29.99, you too can dress your cuddly, darling to look like a pot plant. So let’s get this straight: Refugee moms are fighting to keep their babies alive, free from dysentery, scabies, upper respiratory infections, and numerous other diseases that one has to fight against in resource poor settings while moms in North America are purchasing costumes that resemble marijuana. 

If I thought I couldn’t go farther over the edge, I was mistaken.I became incensed when I found out that people are actually planning on dressing up as sexy Ebola workers. Yup. You read that correctly. A disease that has claimed countless lives, that has family and community members weeping at graves where they aren’t even allowed to wash the bodies of their loved ones, the spoiled West decides this is funny. So they decide that going as a Sexy Ebola Worker is a good idea? On what planet is this a good idea? I wouldn’t wish Ebola on anyone…but I’d like them to see the disease up close. Maybe it would change them. One can hope.

And that’s what’s wrong with Halloween. At some point Halloween stopped being about kids and cupcakes, about jack-o-lanterns and Trick or Treat, about dress up and bobbing for apples. It ceased being about children and it became about spoiled adults. Adults who evidently think it’s funny to sexualize a profession that they will cry out to at many times in their lives. Adults who want to party hard and drink harder. Adults who haven’t grown up, instead foisting their pitiful excuses for fun onto children who should be able to be pirates and ghosts and cowgirls. Adults who are callous to addiction, pain, and suffering.

So what’s wrong with Halloween? It’s been co-opted by spoiled grown ups – that’s what’s wrong with Halloween. 

You’re Welcome.

P.S – “The UN health agency said that 4,555 people had died from Ebola out of a total of 9,216 cases registered in seven countries, as of October 14. A toll dated just two days earlier had put the death toll at 4,493 out of8,997 cases.” See Source

Oh Yeah! That’s Sexy….!

Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/pumpkins-hokkaido-autumn-october-469641/

About Mother’s Day – aka Holidays Out of Control

Of all the negative traits of capitalism, the co-opting of holidays is one of the most insidious and destructive to our bank accounts and our relationships. 

It’s almost mother’s day – and what was started in the United States during Civil War days to bring honor to a mother deeply loved by her daughter has become a day that causes bitterness, strife, guilt, and all the things that mothers hate so much. Articles circulate the World Wide Web applauding moms as the jewels of the planet or rebuking pastors about not making those who are not moms feel bad.

It is all exhausting

A woman named Anna Jarvis started this holiday. During the civil war she worked hard to promote peace between moms on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, women with either Confederate or Union loyalties, recognizing that they had far more in common then they disagreed on. She loved her own mom deeply and grieved when she died, working to commemorate her by promoting a day to honor mothers. Although it took several years she pushed the idea through to Congress and in 1914 the first official Mother’s Day was recognized, signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.

Jarvis would later be enraged at the commercialism of the holiday, throwing a “Mother’s Day Salad” onto the floor of a restaurant and walking out in disgust as well as trying to rescind the holiday.[Source-The Founder of Mother’s Day Later Fought to Have It Abolished http://shar.es/Sy61D ]

Her beloved idea had spiraled out of control and she was appalled. Her idea of the holiday was “a visit home or writing a long letter to your mother.” She is quoted as saying “A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.”

Let me be clear: I love holidays as much as anybody. I love family, I love getting together, I love tradition. And I love being honored on Mother’s Day.

I also love mothers – a spot soft as velvet is in my heart for mothers everywhere. We have been gifted with so much but there is a cost.

What I don’t love is what we have done with holidays, turning them – all of them, not just Mother’s Day — into opportunities to spend money, times where we feel guilt, experiences where we are left with a sense of inadequacy or inability to do things “right.”, times of mourning our singleness or grieving our losses.

I didn’t grow up under the shadow of Hallmark. There were no card stores in Pakistan and no television shouting at me that “if he loved me he would go to Jared’s”. No stores did campaigns of pink or blue and there were no florist’s shops – just street hawkers with their glorious Irises and Day Lilies sold on the mall of the town of Murree. I feel fortunate that my formative years were free of these images.

Despite this, I have become a product of the society where I currently live and it is sometimes terrifying.

I don’t want to be that mom that imagines her children don’t love her because they forget a card or a phone call. I don’t want to be that person that spends money she doesn’t have to get things other don’t need because of advertising that excels in digging into the human psyche and finding the cracks in our well-oiled armor. I don’t want my holidays and traditions to be characterized by green and red M&M’s and bunny rabbits; by large pink “Remember Your Mom” posters and guilt-ridden stress; by silver hearts from Jared’s and kisses beginning with Kay; by Hollywood and Hallmark telling me what my family, my marriage, my love, and my Mother’s Day should look like.

I want to own my holidays – I don’t want my holidays to own me. 

How can we take back what has been strategically taken from us? How can we reshape our thinking and our expectations so that the goal becomes fun memories and healthy interactions , holidays reconstructed with less money, less stuff, fewer expectations and ultimately more fun?

Can we be brave enough to live counter-culture, set our own agenda our own traditions? Can we turn off the television with its brilliant messaging that tells us how we are supposed to celebrate, that lures us in with soft porn Victoria’s Secret ads and super glossy symbols of false love ? Can we turn down our hearing aids so we are not affected by the insidious words that tell us “this – this is how it’s supposed to be – and it it isn’t then something is wrong?”

I for one want to live free of the bondage of false images and expectations and reclaim my holidays, my relationships, and my money. Is any one else in ? 

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If Sarah Palin Were in Charge

I am grateful for Robynn’s voice on Communicating Across Boundaries, whether on Friday or another day. Today she reacts to something we both found deeply offensive. We know there are varying opinions on these things. Please feel free to use the comment section to voice your thoughts, keeping our guidelines of communication and respect for honest dialogue in mind.

*****************

My blood is boiling. I’m so furious I could spit. I just heard a segment of Sarah Palin’s speech at the recent National Rifle Association Convention. During her speech she said,

If I were in charge they would know that water boarding is how we baptize terrorists”.

As someone who takes my faith seriously I am deeply offended. Here are a couple of things I’d like to say to Ms Palin:

  1. Thank God—-You are not in charge! Jesus is Ruler Supreme. He is King and He alone is in charge!
  2. Water boarding is evil. It is torture of the worst possible variety. According to Wikipedia, waterboarding is a form of torture, more specifically a type of water torture, in which water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning. Waterboarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage, and death.[1] Adverse physical consequences can manifest themselves months after the event, while psychological effects can last for years. More so, torture itself tarnishes the image of God in both the one who tortures and the victim of that torture.
  3. In my faith tradition, baptism is a holy sacrament reserved for those who’ve publically declared allegiance with Jesus. He welcomes anyone to come. No one is excluded. And for those who chose to believe, to follow after him, they’re invited into the sacraments as well. Baptism is a means for people to enter into the death and resurrection experiences of Christ. They voluntarily go down in to the water, dead to themselves, their sin, their old nature. They come up out of the water, alive to Christ, to new life. It’s a beautiful statement—a public commitment– of declaring loyalty to Jesus.
  4. There are those around the world who think that baptism is forced on the naïve and culpable. There are those who believe that Christendom is still stuck in the crusades, that converts are numbered and forced to drink blood and be baptized. This is NOT true. Christians in the past who did these things were WRONG to do them. Such exploitation of the name of Jesus is evil and blasphemous. It is our job—our mandate—to demonstrate that this is no longer true. We do that by quietly loving people. By laying down our lives for them. By caring for widows and orphans, by loving the poor, by reaching out to the ostracized, the marginalized, the foreigner, the minority, the misunderstood. These are the people who Jesus came for.  He came to invite lovingly, gently, the weak and the wounded to come.
  5. Ms. Palin, these types of comments made in public places by public figures, such as yourself, do nothing to erase the evil stereotypes that exist out there about Christians. You are reinforcing things that are not true about Christianity—and by association—about Christ. Please take back this thing you’ve said. Repent. Acknowledge the harm you’ve done. Ask for forgiveness. Jesus will welcome you back.
  6. When you use the word, “terrorists”, Ms Palin, I’m assuming by the greater context that you mean Muslims. I take deep offense at this gross generalization.  Terrorists are those whose violent acts are intended to promote deep fear. Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes. They wear jeans and miniskirts. They wear the hijab and turbans. They speak English and Chinese. There are millions of Muslims who are subject, in the same ways that we are, to the terror incited by non-Muslim and Muslim terrorists. Muslims and non-Muslims feel the same emotions. They also feel afraid. When their family members die, they also grieve.
  7. The flippancy and arrogance you display when you talk about such grave subjects as waterboarding, terrorism and baptism are astounding to me. These are topics reserved for serious conversations. These subjects should be handled with sobriety and with sensitivity. These are not punchlines for your political prowess. People’s lives and souls are in question here. Please speak with respect.
  8. I do thank God that you, Ms Palin, are not in charge. I also pray for you. I pray for the Spirit to convict you. I pray you see the lack of love in your soul. I pray you begin to see the inconsistencies between what you say you believe and the ways you live out that belief.I pray you will begin to love your neighbor as yourself. Because Love Matters.

*As people of faith, Christians specifically, Robynn and I both believe that what we say, how we live out our faith publically matters. This is why, in a space generally reserved for non-political topics, we address this statement on Communicating Across Boundaries.

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