Hey Christians, Where You At?

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My mom always told me, “Stand up for your rights.  Speak up.”

It’s easy to speak up when we are in agreement.  To say, “Me too! I also love dry martinis and bleu cheese and guys with beards.”  Not so much when we are not seeing eye to eye – especially when it’s about the important stuff, the life and death stuff.

The Jesus stuff.

And the fact that some you thought would speak up, should speak up, don’t – it makes you want to shout even louder.  And sometimes, that shout is, “Why?”

I am looking at you, Christians.

This world, this country – we have had a crazy year.  There is war, oppression, hunger, homelessness.  There are people fleeing their homes, trying to escape their war-torn countries, to save their lives and the lives of their children.

There is so much to speak up about right now.  So much to say, “this isn’t right.”

To live a Christian life means to be of service, to help those in need, to be the hands and feet of Christ.

This is where I got confused when I was younger.  And why I left the church for a while.  I saw several people who claimed they were Christians, running around using Jesus’ name, judging and name-calling.  And I saw several who didn’t proclaim a faith, living in a more loving and giving way than I had ever witnessed.

The latter were the ones I wanted to learn from, wanted to be more like, and I still feel that way.  Whether you are Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, atheist – if you are working to make this world a more loving, giving place, speaking up to make it a more loving, giving place –  then you are the boots on the ground.

For example, if you are more concerned with maintaining the “Under God” portion of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools than you are helping the poor, or if you are more concerned with keeping marriage out of reach for a loving gay couple than helping refugee children in need, then I am closer to an atheist who does the latter than a Christian who does the first.

I know I am going to fire some people up with that one, but if it helps to quote scripture, then here is Matthew 12:50 for you:  As Jesus said:  “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Living how Jesus asked us to live.  This includes speaking up.

I remember after the Trump tapes situation during the election season, I was so confused about the amount of Christian leaders who excused this kind of talk, saying that it called for grace and forgiveness and to move on.  But when it came to his opponent, there was none to be found.  So how is the decision made?  That the ones that Christians want to win to further their cause are given grace but the ones who don’t deserve to be “locked up”?  This is incongruous and a convenient way to live, but not a good representation of the one we follow.

Let me be clear, I know several churches, several individuals who have spoken up.  Who have said, “This isn’t right.”  People and groups who have shown in their actions that they want to help.  But if there ever was a time in our world to speak up collectively, it is now.

When refugees try to make a home here in our country and so many saying, “No, they are not welcome,”  And not only are they not speaking up, some Christians, namely our Governor now Vice President- Elect, attempting to put a law into place making it illegal for refugees to find shelter here.  Where is Jesus in that?  It is time to say, “This isn’t right.  We need to do better.”

When we have an election where there is misogyny and xenophobia, it is time to stand up and say, “This isn’t right.”

When we have a group of people being judged based on their faith and it is suggested there could be a registration for that population, it is time to say, “This isn’t right.”

When we have our climate changing, our Earth’s natural resources being pillaged for financial gain – it’s time to say, “This isn’t right.”

Human trafficking, oppression, innocent people being shot – it is time to shout from the rooftops, “This isn’t right!  It is time to live differently.”

I know there is fear.  Fear among politicians that if they speak up, they won’t get re-elected.  Fear that they will lose funding to run another campaign.

I know there is fear in the church to speak up about politics and the state of world.  The need to not alienate anybody, I fear, has done the opposite and left everyone alienated.  How can our leaders rationalize it’s okay that our President-Elect mocked a disabled person?  They can’t, for fear of alienating those who voted for him, for fear the collection plate won’t be as full the next Sunday. So they just don’t bring it up.

But which is more important?  Having courage, speaking the truth, being clear about what being a Christian is about – about love, about service, about bringing everyone, even those you would disagree with, into your life?  Or giving in to the fear that we will anger some and lose their support?

I know I am going to upset people with this.  Some will say I don’t know scripture enough, I don’t have the education to speak about this.  And they’ll be right.

But I do know Jesus.  Even when I left him, when I couldn’t get on board with his followers, he fought for me.  And here I am.

Jesus got in the mix of life, he got dirty. He brazenly spoke out against inequality, helped the oppressed, condemned the oppressor, and embraced those who were alienated.  And by doing so, he was alienated – cast out for speaking up for those stepped on and calling out injustice wherever he saw it.

So here I am.  I am calling it out.  If we who follow Christ know of those suffering, of those being oppressed, of inequality, and do nothing about it, then we are not following Christ at all.

So let’s jump in.  Together let’s speak up. Let’s not be bystanders.  Let’s stand up for those oppressed, let’s call out our leaders when they are being unjust.  Let’s jump in, make our voices known and make our actions louder. It is the most Christian thing we can do.

Hunting Season

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A hike in the woods.

I brought them out here.  Gun shots in the distance.

Put on your bright clothes.  The hunters are far away, though.  They won’t hurt us here.

It wasn’t always gun shots.  They started with their bows.

Quiet.

We couldn’t even tell they were here.

And then gun season.

I brought them out here.  Too beautiful to be inside.

A blanket on the forest floor.  Long periods of peace in between shots.  A resolution of comfort, my girl lying with her book, her head on my lap.  The leaves crunch beneath us.

The encompassing forest, I see the trees I choose.

The big ones, with branches high.

My idea of the wood.

The shadows of others make their way in my line of sight.

The sun makes its way in the cracks of limbs, revealing the roots of all of its composition.

Do I choose to look?

The small trees muddle my truth.

Do I choose to look?

I have them here with me.  The hunters’ shots get louder.

I have to look.

I nourish the fate of all of us.

I have to look.

Bringing Decency Back, Election Season and All

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Give me a reason to reference Pride and Prejudice and I will:)

I remember, he was in the the fourth grade and was nine years old.  The public school system in Geneva, Illinois offered evening etiquette classes and my parents registered my brother.  For five evenings, he went to one of the local schools and learned how to sit at a table, which fork to use, how to dance.  All families were invited the last evening to see the lessons that they’d learned.

I remember seeing my older brother that evening, dressed up, white gloves on.  He pulled out the dining chair for the young lady next to him.  He then stood up from the table, helped that same girl up to stand with his gloved hand, and led her to the dance floor.  It was like watching a fairy tale.  But it wasn’t a fairy tale, it was real life, and it was training him to be the gentleman he is today.

While we were pretty rough and tumble kids, having bruises and scabs and saying the occasional curse word (usually while playing neighborhood kick ball:)), my parents taught us to be respectful of ourselves and others, to hold a door when you can, and to say excuse me when warranted.

I know that when my girls have their friends over, they are some of the most kind, most polite kids I have ever met.

I am thinking they could give us adults some lessons on how to behave right now.

How about we all work together to just lay some ground rules?

No more name calling –  Whomever you are voting for, it is not acceptable to name-call.  We have been taught this since we were little.  Let’s go back to that.  Calling a candidate a “heifer” or a “pimp” won’t change anyone’s mind.  Let’s accept that, have some respect for ourselves and each other, and move on.

Let’s be decent with each other – Let’s remember, we are not the candidates we are voting for.  It’s not okay to call someone ‘deplorable’.  It’s also not okay to make fun of a disabled reporter or grab women’s genitals.  Just because they said or did those things, we should not let them set the example.  Let’s remember what a proper society is comprised of – people who respect each other and teach their children the same.

Let’s listen to each other –    Has someone ever just yelled their opinion at you?  Or you felt, even though they weren’t actually yelling, that they were yelling their opinion at you? Like you couldn’t get a word in edge-wise?  It can be tough to take that in.  I know by now we are all pretty steadfast in our beliefs.  I know you feel strongly.  I feel strongly, too, and I’ll tell you with passion why I feel that way.  And then I will use that same passion, that same energy, to listen to you.  I want to know your opinion, I want to know what you feel strongly about.  And you may change my mind.

Let’s be informed and educated about what we cite in our decisions – I can make reference  to HardcoreDemocrats.com and you can cite TeaPartyExtreme.org all day long.  Maybe we should all check CNN, BBC, and FoxNews so we can know what all of the facts and opinions are.

Earlier in the week, my daughter told me that one of her closest friends had a little brother whose upcoming birthday party was going to be at the local trampoline park.  This friend was allowed to invite one friend and she was trying to decide who to invite.  My daughter and I discussed it, I could tell she wanted to be the one invited.  I could see her working it out in her head.  She then said, “…I know Elyse hasn’t been to the trampoline park yet, though.”  With that she got up, picked up her iPad, and walked to her room.

I admit right now,  I read my daughter’s texting threads.  I think you should, too (one of the things I feel passionate about).   I’m all for privacy, but as I have heard, having privacy on the internet is like asking for privacy at a baseball stadium.  I digress…  Anyway, she knows once a week, I take a look at her iPad to make sure we are all on the up-and-up.  Two days after the birthday party conversation, I see a message my girl sent to this same friend.  My daughter wrote, “…I know it’s hard to pick just one person.  Even if you don’t pick me, I will always be your friend.”  The next bubble from this same friend, said, “…that is just what I needed to hear.”

Decency.  Compassion.  Trying to feel where the other person is coming from.  When we have those things in our corner, then there is no need to name call.  There is no need to yell and not listen to each other.  We can state our educated and informed case to each other, make peace and move on.  And say to each other, no matter what happens, no matter who wins, I listened to you and I respect your opinion.

It is just what I needed to hear.

 

 

 

On Enough

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The cream almost empty, but the jiggling of the carton proves enough for morning coffee.

The broken shoelace, but if removed from one eyelet, enough to tie for a run before buying new.

The market flowers lovely, but the wild ones by the side of the road fill my pitcher.

The tiny hole in the toiletry bag, with a quick whipstitch is made whole again.

Made whole again.

This of mine I give to you.

It opens the space for more.

There is enough for both.

The blanket cannot stretch over the whole bed.

But if you come closer, it can easily cover us both.

And there is enough.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.*

Five years old, sitting on the kitchen table, like every morning.

My mom, curling my hair.  The sun shining in the back window.  The smell of hairspray and coffee.

“Why does she live far away?”

“Because they bus her to your school, honey.”

“You mean she rides the bus to school?”

“Yes, but from a different part of the city.”

“Why?”

“I think it’s because schools in other parts of town might not be as good, honey.”

I didn’t know when we played ‘house’ in first grade that she was from another part of town.  I knew I couldn’t walk to her house to play after school and on the weekends.  And that she was black.

Mostly, I felt she was just like me.

“…schools on the other side of town might not be as good…”

SCHOOLS ENDING CHAPTER IN U.S. DESEGREGATION SAGA

In South Bend, Ind., a city that boasts of being ”the first Northern school district to enter into a voluntary desegregation plan,” school officials say their plan will desegregate the schools ”now and theoretically forever.”

The South Bend plan is not without its critics. White parents have sued, saying the plan is too sweeping, and black civil rights activists have sued, saying it places an unfair burden on minority students.

“Twenty seven years after the United States Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in schools, communities are still caught in confusion and dissension over how best to end it.”

I don’t know how it ends.

Another thirty-five years later.

My girls on their bike ride on our country road.  I let them go by themselves to get a taste of some of the freedom I had at their age.

The young man who lives down the road from us, driving his truck at fifty miles per hour.

This is the time I worry about my girls’ safety.

My luxury.

Mothers who have to worry every time her child leaves the house.

The color of his skin.

Too many stories of others.

Too many.

Thirty five years later.

Sixty five years later.

Two hundred years later.

When will it end?

Mothers in arms.

I stand with you.

Your child is my child.

I worry when he leaves, too.

I cannot say I know how you feel.

But I will no longer let my silence be misunderstood as indifference.

I stand with you.  I stand with love.  And I will not be quiet.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

*Quote – Elie Wiesel

 

 

 

Show ’em What You’re Made Of

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So, it’s not a far stretch to say there are points in my life when I would have been okay with him moving thousands of miles away.

I guess it probably started when we were about three and five.  Coming home with stones in my pants, fat upper lips, and chains off of bicycles, I was pretty used to the normal 1980’s treatment of younger sisters by big brothers.

By middle school, our relationship transitioned into mostly just avoiding each other, although I would take any interaction I could get.  Sometimes I think I would even egg him on to get in a fight with me, just so I could have a sliver of his attention, even if it was painful.  So when I would be upstairs in my room, and I would hear him call, “Sej!!  Seja!  Can you come down here?”, I would drop what I was doing to see what he wanted.  And then of course, him, laying on the sofa, watching TV, looking at me and saying, “…the remote is over there.  Can you throw it to me?”  And me launching the remote directly at his face.

That kind of summed up high school.

As we grew into college, our relationship started to shift, realizing the parts we’d played in each other’s lives up to that point.  The kind of person that isn’t always present, but you know they are there when you need them, and they are the person you call for advice or to just sound something out.

So when David called telling me he’d met this girl, and she was pretty awesome, I knew something was different than the times before.  And a few years later, they were married.  And I gained a sister and a pretty amazing friend.

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And then eventually nephews and a niece.

It’s easy to say my brother is one of my best friends and my strongest ally.

Like the time, when our entire family plus some friends, went to Mexico for spring break together.  A guy started hitting on me.  A guy with no shirt.  And a huge tattoo.  Dave stayed close by, talking with his friends, keeping his eye on me.  I then saw his buddy Jake whisper something to him, then I clearly heard David yell, “Because my sister isn’t going out with a dude with a giant tattoo on his back that says ‘T-Bone.”  That kind of brother.

So now, I feel differently.  I don’t really want him moving thousands of miles away.

But tomorrow they are.  Tomorrow, my brother and his beautiful wife and family are moving to London for three years.

My excitement for them and this experience they are about to have is what comforts me right now.

And mostly, my pride.  I am so proud of this man, who has worked so hard, to go from an entry-level sales representative position to an executive within the same company, and now being transferred across the Atlantic to have the same impact there that he had here.

So now, I kind of feel like that five-year-old again, realizing what I felt even then, wanting his attention, was pride.  Because I knew that even though he beat me to a pulp at times, like all big brothers do, he would never let anyone else.  And his heart, bigger than his little-sister teasing, was always on my side.

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Maia wanting to snuggle when she realizes she won’t see her uncle for a while.

We plan to go visit early next year, and we are so excited for that trip.  But until then, our excitement is for them, for this adventure, for this experience of a lifetime.

We love you, David, Callie, Caden, Brody, and Hadley.  Go show London what you’re made of.

 

Voting for Love

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I love so much, so many things about this country. (Cue Lee Greenwood:)).

I looked out the window while at work today.  Bees and butterflies – they were everywhere – pollinating the flowers and vegetables in my garden.  I love having fresh vegetables and fruit and am so grateful we have them.  I know bees are starting to be around less and less and I would really like to see them stay, so I am voting pro-vegetables-being-around-for-my-grandkids this election.

I love my children.  Being the sisters that they are, they disagree at times (okay, a lot).  They argue, they slam doors, they work it out.  But they don’t make fun of each other and they don’t name-call.  They know once names are thrown, the line has been crossed, and it’s bad for everyone.  In turn, they don’t bully or meanly tease friends.  They’ve learned this because this is what Joe and I and other adults they look up to have taught them, and more importantly, shown them.  So this election season, I am voting for kindness.

I love diversity.  I love others and I love learning about people who are different from me.  We are lucky to live in a melting pot of ethnicities, faiths, and skin colors.  This country was founded so that people from all walks of life could come here in the pursuit of liberty.  The idea that someone cannot come to this country because of their beliefs is called discrimination – not something I love.  So this election, I am voting pro-diversity and inclusion.

I love the feeling of being safe.  I love the idea that my children and family are safe.  I will forever be grateful to the men and women who have died to make this country safe.  I want this feeling for everyone.  I have some friends right now who are not feeling safe because of their faith, because of the idea they one day may have to register their name in this country because of it.  I remember hearing about that once before.  It was in 1939 in Nazi Germany.  And again in 1941 in France.  Those people did not feel safe and for good reason.  So this election cycle, I am voting for safety for all Americans.

I love the rights women have in this country.  I am grateful that I can do all of the things my male counterparts can do.  Currently, I am especially grateful that I can vote, something I couldn’t have done less than one hundred years ago.  I love that my daughters have strong, capable women to look up to and a father who is teaching them skills that used to be reserved just for men.   I love that in this country, they are in control of the choices regarding their bodies, without someone punishing them for it.  So this fall, I am voting for womens’ rights.

I love Jesus.  I love the way he treated everyone around him, including prostitutes, lepers, the poor, and sinners.  He invited them in, dined with them, loved them.  And even though I will never be on the same level as him, I want to live a life as much like him as I can.  A life of empathy, a life of inclusion, and a life of love.  A life of not turning people away because of pre-conceived ideas about who they are.  And I want my children to do the same.  So this fall, I am voting pro-Jesus.

I love working together.  I think it is absolutely amazing when two people who disagree can sit down with each other and listen – really listen – to the others’ opinions and feelings and facts, and come to an understanding.  It gives me goosebumps when leaders from all over the world can work together to make the planet a better place for all of us.  So this fall, I am voting for the leader who will communicate with others.

Most of all, I am voting for hope.  I will not let fear win my vote.  I will let all of that love I shouted all over the page above fill my heart – and throw it all over the place on election day.

I hope you do the same.