I Must Go

Yesterday my church blessed our children and our teachers as they prepared to head back to school this week. I can’t imagine a more fitting response to the hatred and bigotry displayed over the weekend across our country, most egregiously in Charlottesville. We prayed that God would “grant that through their study, they may gain the tools to grow in love and faith and service all their days.” And, where better to start a movement of love than among our children and among the teachers and administrators and cafeteria workers and custodians and counselors and nurses and coaches and all those who will touch their lives and influence their learnings?

As Nelson Mandela so wisely stated,

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

I’ve been struggling all weekend with potent feelings – feelings of sadness and disgust, anger and outrage, powerlessness and shame. I’ve read comments and made comments and shared posts, all the while wondering what am I really doing to create change? Our pastor preached a sermon entitled, “Interrupted Prayers,” in which he talked about Peter walking on water. His interpretation was one I had not heard before, and it stuck with me. Peter’s desire to step out onto the water was propelled by his desire to be where Jesus was, to DO what Jesus was doing. Jesus went away to pray, but life (a boat full of disciples defeated by stormy seas) drew him out of solitude and into the fray.

I’ll admit that it’s easier and much more comfortable for me to pray for our persecutors than it is to call out bigoted language like a college friend did when she overheard a group of teenagers “joking” about chanting “white power” at a peace rally (thank you, Rolyn). It’s easier and much more comfortable for me to hide behind my computer than to stand in solidarity against symbols of hate with my brothers and sisters of color. It’s easier and much more comfortable to avoid conflict altogether and just to monitor my own actions and mind my own business.

But, the children we blessed yesterday, and those teenagers my friend encountered over the weekend are MY children too. They are OUR children. MY silence, MY hesitation to speak up, MY willingness to look the other way teaches them a lesson about life and about what’s ok. Our children are not born hating. WE were not born hating. We were born of love and made in the image of LOVE. And, for love to win in these horrifying days, we have to be willing to step out of the boat – to rise up out of our comfort zones and speak love to hate, to DO justice, to show our children, and our brothers and sisters of color that love does indeed come more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

I pray that my own discomfort in these times will actuate within me the courage to step out of the boat, to go where faith calls me to walk boldly toward Jesus. I pray that my words become actions and my prayers become movement, that the lessons I teach on a daily basis will reflect Love, Justice, Mercy, and Humility. Even as I struggle with my own biases and prejudices, I pray that my desire to love well will win.

These are terrifying times. It would be easy to succumb to defeat, to give up hope, to lose faith. But, Jesus bids us, “Come.” And, as a follower, I must go.

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Sometimes you need a little Christmas

I used to be one of those people. You know, those people who have all the rules about holiday mash-ups. No jack-o-lanterns with turkeys with Christmas trees. Get through one holiday before moving on to the next one. I used to carry my Christmas cds with me to my parents’ house at Thanksgiving just so I could play them full volume on the drive home – AFTER we’d feasted on turkey and dressing and sweet potato casserole. After Santa had made his appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

I used to have all those rules, too. But not this year. Not today. No, today, I needed a little Christmas. I needed light to break through the darkness heralding a message of hope and love. I needed to hear the sounds of angels singing, “Peace, goodwill on earth.”

In my own season of grief following my dad’s death, I’ve been palpably aware of the sadness around me. Being in touch with the fragility of life – Dad’s, mine, yours, theirs – I can’t help but be more in tune with others’ grief. My heart aches for Paris, for Beirut, and Baghdad, for Kenya and South Sudan, for those whose reasons to grieve never make the news or warrant a hashtag on social media.

It’s easy to get caught up in the media frenzy surrounding global tragedy, to ride its wave until it dissipates or shifts to the next big news story. But, for those involved, the pain doesn’t dissipate with the media coverage. The survivors, family and friends of those most directly in the wake of destruction are still picking up the pieces long after the news of their event is “old.” Their grief goes deeper and farther than manipulated profile pictures and retweeted hashtags.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate displays of support, no matter how small they may seem. And, I’m uncomfortably aware of their inadequacy.

So, this morning, I tuned into Sufjan Stevens’ Holiday station on Pandora, and I got myself ready for church to the sounds of Christmas (two whole weeks before Thanksgiving!).

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Forget the rules. Go after your message of hope. Seek out your light in the darkness. We all need a little Christmas (even in November).