Friday, October 2, 2015

Time To Say "Amen"

Candle Light Prayer Vigil

Yesterday the nation reeled from the news that a gun man had opened fire at a community college killing ten and wounded others. Immediately the "pray for Oregon memes" began to appear on social media. Politicians responded with "our thoughts/prayers/condolences are with the victims and their families..." One prominent evangelist responded with "Lord come quickly" as if the return of Jesus is the only thing that can stop this kind of thing from happening.

Let me be clear, I am a firm believer in prayer. And I have been praying for the community, the families, this nation. But there comes a time when we must do more than pray. There comes a time when we say "Amen" and get up and take action. According to reports, there have been 294 mass shootings in 274 days of 2015. A "mass shooting" is defined as a shooting where there are four or more victims. Another report says there has not been a week in any calendar year of Obama's second term where there has not been a mass shooting. Statistics vary on the number of school shootings because it seems no one can decide what defines a school shooting (more than one fatality, does it count if someone was just injured and no one died, if the gun was found before the shooting, etc) but let's be real...if there is one child in one school injured-or dead-from a shooting at school, it is too many.

And every time the response is the same...horror, hurt, fear, recoil...discussions about how we treat mental illness, a stab at suggesting gun control...finger pointing, shouting matches...and the NRA telling us the real trouble is we need more guns. Then it fades, the media moves on and we talk about something different. The nation collectively compartmentalizes the issue in frustration or the belief there is nothing we can do.

The reality of the issue is it is multi-faceted. We need to take a  look at all the issues because it is true that the we way we as a country and as individuals see, treat and deal with mental illness impacts those who suffer from it and those who commit horrific acts of violence. But we cannot blame mental illness for every mass shooting. While we would love to say that someone who would do such a thing has to be crazy, that simply is not the case. So, we have to look at gun control. I am not saying take every gun...but let's be real, the Founding Fathers had no clue the "right to bear arms" would ever look anything like this. And if they had, what would they have done?
From the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

What does it say about us that we put more effort into determining who can drive a car than who can own a gun? The reality is that the refusal to honestly look at gun control is more lobby driven (looking at you NRA) than because the public is afraid they can't hunt enough meat to feed their family for the winter, or that the British are coming, or that we need to protect our homes from burglars and invasions. Your right to bear arms is not more important than the ten lives lost yesterday. Or the hundreds of others lost in the last decade. I don't know exactly what needs to happen and I don't pretend I do...I do believe that standards should be the same in every state, I do believe that background checks should be mandatory, and-HIPPA be damned-some type of mental health evaluation should be mandatory as well. Routine safety classes, a required safe if children are in the home, and no private sales...or the same system applies in the case of private sales. Whatever it takes.

We also need to look at how the media reports the issues. Journalism has taken a sharp turn and 24 hour cable news shows tend to worry more about ratings than integrity in reporting. The shooter in Oregon (whose name I am deliberately not using) blogged about the glory that shooters receive. The shooter in Virginia who killed a reporter and her camera man filmed the act and uploaded it knowing it would make him famous. It has become a common complaint that the shooter gets more attention than the victims. And we are seeing that it has become an incitement for those who feel marginalized. It is time to change the way the media sensationalizes each and every detail of a shooter's life, personality, etc. And it is time for the public to take a hard look at ourselves to see why we are the ones demanding (or at least watching/reading) those details. 
From the shooter's blog

The problem of gun violence in this country is huge...and sometimes seems insurmountable. I am hardly an expert so please understand that my opinion is that of an extremely frustrated citizen who desperately wants to see something done. However, I am one of many extremely frustrated citizens who desperately want to see something done. It is time for those whose responsibility it is to take action to do so. It is time for us to make them. It is time to say "amen" and get to work. 




Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Connections

For the second summer in a row, I have failed as a blogger.

Last summer I spent time in prayer, reading, and meditation as I tried to figure out what being a "peacemaker" looked like...ironically, this summer, I spent learning what being the mother of a Marine looked like.

It's hard to blog when you are struggling to form coherent sentences. The 13 weeks of boot camp Bree and I spent mostly encircled in on ourselves like the wagon trains of old days. Focused entirely on the matrix that showed what Trey would be enduring that day, trying to ease the hurt of his going, learning an entirely new vocabulary and struggling with the fact that words like "gas chamber" and "rapel tower" were part of our every day vocabulary. We stopped pronouncing qualification like a five syllable word...it was simply "quals".  As in swim quals, firing quals, etc. We also watched a lot of Doctor Who...it was therapeutic.

The people I normally lean on, vent to, look to...they could not help. I mean they offered prayers, comfort, etc but they could not offer understanding. It is one of those things you have to go through or have gone through to understand (PSA: please don't tell a mother who is struggling with her child being a boot camp that you know how she feels because your child went to college...it isn't that we don't understand that's difficult for you, it's just it doesn't feel like the same thing at all...and we are not exactly rational at that point) So I took to Facebook to find support, I joined the Parents of Parris Island page, the Hotel Company page and the Marine Moms of GA page.

I was immediately nervous...my politics, beliefs, values, attitudes were so different than so many of these people. I was sure if they became my friend on Facebook or found my blog they would immediately cast me out. I pictured townspeople running after me with pitch forks screaming "HOW COULD YOU VOTE FOR OBAMA???!!!"

Don't judge me...we all know I am dramatic and slightly prone to exaggeration.

Here is what I have learned from these groups...it is more about what we have in common than what we consider differences. When you've gone 11 days without a letter from your recruit and your entire day revolves around getting to the mailbox and there is a group of people who understand, you don't talk about the Republican candidates for president. When you are sitting in a church with a group of other MoMs (Mother of Marine), watching a mother bury her 21 year old son a week after he was killed by a terrorist in Chattanooga, politics have no place. When you are two days away from seeing your new Marine for the first time and you are surrounded by these women as they cheer your child and help keep you sane because after 13 weeks, the last 48 hours almost kills you, there is no thought to the differences among you...you are just ridiculously glad to have them in your lives.

Every issue is so divisive these days. When someone says "black lives matter" then someone decides what they are saying is black lives matter more so they scream "all lives matter" and then someone decides cops are being attacked and they scream "police lives matter" and everyone is focused on what divides us instead of what brings us together...a common belief that life is precious. And we do this in every area. We pick sides and focus on our differences and we are so determined to die on our platform rather than see the other side as human. Rather than focus on the things that would bring us together, we only see the things that tear us to pieces.

In Day of The Doctor, the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor forces the Humans and Zygons to negotiate by using his sonic screwdriver and a device that wipes memory to make them all temporarily forget who is Human and who is Zygon. Therefore, they are forced to focus on what they have in common, what is best for both of them, and what they both want.

What kind of issues could we solve in our time if we did the same? What kind of reconciliation would be wrought? What kind of wrongs would be righted? How many hungry, homeless, hurting people would be helped?

Connections, relationships...they are forged by what we have in common. And when we make those connections, we find that the things that make us different aren't quite as important. As we find ourselves more willing to listen, we even find ourselves learning through the differences (and sometimes changing our mind).

We can die on our platforms or we can get down and get to know each other.

"For The Love" (a review)

In a casual conversation, a coworker once told me "you should check out Brandon and Jen Hatmaker. I think you'd like them." A quick Google search took me to Jen's blog and the very first thing I ever read by her, a letter to Trayvon Martin's mother. Shortly after, I read Interrupted, The Barefoot Church, and Seven. Each one described my journey, impacted my spirit and convicted my heart.

It was love. Like millions of other readers, I am pretty sure Jen and I are destined to be BFFs...she just doesn't know it yet. So, you have this as a disclaimer. I am not an altogether unbiased reader of Jen Hatmaker's newest book, For The Love. I picked it up expecting to love it and I did.

Recently someone told me they were not fans of Jen Hatmaker because they didn't do sarcastic well...to which I replied sarcasm is my first language. That might be one of the reasons I like her, her wit and humor. But another reason I like her is she tells the truth. In love.

In For The Love (Fighting For Grace In a World of Impossible Standards), Jen tackles balance (thank goodness the book is finally out so when I yell "off the beam!" there will be someone in the midst of the funny looks who totally gets it), the gospel (my favorite quote "If it isn't true for the single, Haitian mom...it isn't true"), family, marriage, the church, raising kids and fashion (is now a good time to confess how long it took me to get what "crotchless yoga pants" were?) with grace and wit. Her truths sting sometimes but at the same time her words say "you are not alone" and "we got this". She is comfortable in her imperfections and therefore comfortable sharing her imperfections and she gives you the right to be as well.

The fact she throws in laughs and recipes just sweetens the deal.

Grab this book. But don't read it alone. Grab a couple of girlfriends and read it together. The chapters are more like essays and read more like a conversation than tale and processing it seems to be done in pairs or groups. That isn't to say you can't read it alone...just that you'd enjoy the experience better with friends.

So, to help with this, I have three copies of "For The Love" to give away! In the comments below, tell me about you and two of your friends...how you met, what you like to do together, what you like best about them, why you want to read FTL with them...anything. We'll pick a random winner in one week so check back because I'll need your email to get your address for shipping!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mourn With Those Who Mourn (Lessons From Job)

On Wednesday night, as I was cheering at a baseball game, a 21 year old male entered a church and shot and killed nine people. Nine people who loved Jesus, their families, their community. Nine people who everyday went about making the world a better place in big and small ways. Nine people. Gone. The world seems a little less bright for the loss of them.

I didn't hear about it until the next day. My cell phone vibrated with a CNN update.
One white gunman. Nine people. Killed because of the color of their skin. My spirit groaned. How? How was this happening now? In a year that has seen the black community attacked again and again...and now, this most horrifying terroristic attack.

I was at once exhausted, ashamed, and deeply grieved. There were no words. I am truly grateful for Scripture that says when we have no words to pray, the Holy Spirit translates our groans. Because that is all I had. And to be honest, in trying to put my feelings to words, that is still all I have. Like Daniel, Nehemiah, Jeremiah and other prophets I have spent the last couple of days in a spirit of deep repentance...not because of my sin, but the sin of my people. My heart hurts not only for the families of those lost but for the black community. I am weary of the violence...I can only imagine how they must feel. I think of soldiers suffering battle fatigue and post traumatic stress disorder...how do they continue to hope in "it will get better"?

I finally understand the practice of mourning in ashes. If I could, I would sit in a corner and grieve but even the families of the victims aren't left alone to mourn...it isn't in our culture.

Job lost everything. He is sitting in the ashes mourning his losses and his friends come. Seeing him, they tear their clothes, sprinkle ashes on their heads and sit with him. They mourn with him. They sit there with him for seven days and seven nights and no one speaks, they sit there with their friend. And no one says a word.

I fell in love with Job the first time I read it. Before that I thought it was three chapters: Satan challenges God and God let's Satan take away everything. Job's wife tells Job to curse God. Job doesn't. God gives Job everything back times two. But that is not the story of Job. Job is a man deeply confused by what is happening. Deeply saddened. Everything he thought about life untrue. A man who is hurting and struggling. He wants answers. He wants the chance to defend himself. He wants God to explain...I understand all of that. Especially this week.

I once told a pastor about my love for Job. I told him I loved how the friends sat with Job for days without speaking, just being there for him. I just didn't understand why, when they opened their mouths, they could screw it up so badly. The pastor explained the silence was actually because they were following ancient Jewish custom. If you went to the home of someone in mourning, you did not speak until they spoke. In this case, it took a week. Maybe Job's friends should have taken a little longer before they spoke.

I bring all of this up for a reason. While all of us grieve the loss of those nine people, the black community mourns most of all...for so many things. I believe it is our job to sit along beside them. To tear our clothes, throw ash on our head, and sit in mourning. In a figurative sense of course. But in that posture. And when the black community speaks, it is our job to listen...to comprehend and empathize...and then to speak. Because, we desperately need to speak. We need to speak love for our brothers and sisters and acknowledgements of the hurts. We need to speak out against racism both overt and subtle. We need to speak out against injustice whether it be the treatment of black men and women by those law enforcement officers who act inappropriately or downright criminally. We need to speak out at the way the media handles these stories. We need to speak out against racism being protected as "free speech"(I am looking at you, Confederate flag).

But we have to be careful...because, like Job's friends...we can completely miss the point and we can really screw things up the moment we open up our mouth.

While we need to speak, we need to watch what we say...from the outright denial of feelings...the denial that a "hate crime" is a real thing...the stance that the Confederate flag is not a symbol of oppression for an entire race of people...the subtle word smithing so that a terroristic act is an individual-indeed isolated-event...the distractions of the shooter's family history or possible mental illness...or the outright denial this was a racist act (An attack on religion??? Really??? How many white churches do you think this guy had to drive by before he got to his target?).

We do not need to tell the community how to mourn, push them to forgiveness, to counting their blessings, to move on...we need to mourn with those who mourn...for as long as they mourn. We need to hear their perspective instead of pushing our own. We not only need to see their point of view but understand it. We need to ask the questions...what is it you need or want us to do, to say? I get that some of these conversations are scary but it is time to put aside fear and discomfort for the sake of reconciliation.

Job spends chapter after chapter wanting to make his case, to understand why, to have God explain. And his friends think they have the answer but they are so far off that when God shows up, He rebukes them and demands their repentance.

Because God does show up. In fact, He was there all the time. And that is what He tells Job. He gives him no explanation, no apology.  He reminds Job that He is God, that He is in control, and that nothing happens without Him being aware. And that is what has given me hope this week. That He is God. That He is in control. That nothing happens without Him being aware. I haven't gotten to the parts where He makes all things beautiful or beauty from ashes or any of that. I am sitting in the ashes with my friends and I pray I don't screw it up. I will not offer trite cliches as condolences and I will not shy away from difficult conversations. I will speak up as my black friends have asked (Or in some cases, demanded. You know who you are and how grateful I am for you.) But I will continue to use the black community as my thermometer. If they tell me the Confederate flag is an issue, then I will engage. If they wonder why the shooter has yet to be described as a "thug," then I am going to ponder that as well. And I am sorry...but no white person gets to be the gage in this. It is an outrageous symptom of our white privilege that we think we speak as authorities in all subjects...but we do not, especially not now.

I am here. I stand with you. I mourn with you. And I continue to do what I can-as blundering an effort as it is-because your life matters. I wish I had a fix all solution or answers to the why. I wish my words were profound enough to tell you how truly sorry I am. I wish he'd walked away.


In honor of...

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41: A state senator and the senior pastor of Emanuel, he was married to Jennifer Benjamin and the father of two children, Eliana and Malana. He was a 1995 graduate of Allen University and got his master's degree at the University of South Carolina in 1999. He served in the state Legislature starting in 2000; The Post and Courier says black fabric was draped over Pinckney's Senate chamber seat on Thursday.
Cynthia Hurd, 54: According to the Charleston County Public Library, she was a 31-year employee who managed the John L. Dart Library for 21 years before heading the St. Andrews Regional Library. A statement said Hurd "dedicated her life to serving and improving the lives of others." The system closed its 16 branches Thursday to honor Hurd and the others who died in the shooting. County officials also say the St. Andrews library will be named for Hurd.
The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45: A pastor at Emanuel, she was also a speech therapist and high school girls track and field coach, both positions at Goose Creek High School, according to her LinkedIn page. Jimmy Huskey, the school's principal, called her "a true professional ... [who] cared about her students and was an advocate for them." Her son, Chris Singleton, is a baseball player and student at Charleston Southern University. Coleman-Singleton also had two younger children, writes the Post and Courier.
Tywanza Sanders, 26: He was a 2014 graduate in business administration from Allen University in Columbia. Lady June Cole, the interim president of Allen University, described him as "a quiet, well-known student who was committed to his education." Known as Ty, he had worked in sales at department stores such as Belk and Macy's.
Ethel Lance, 70: She had attended Emanuel for most of her life and worked there as a custodian, as well. From 1968 to 2002, she worked as a custodian at Charleston's Gaillard Municipal Auditorium. The Post and Courier quotes a former colleague as saying, "She was funny and a pleasure to be around. And she was a wonderful mother and grandmother."
Susie Jackson, 87: Lance's cousin, she was a longtime church member.
Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49: The mother of four sang in Emanuel's choir. She had previously directed a community development program in Charleston County. In December, she started a new job as an admissions coordinator at the Charleston campus of her alma mater, Southern Wesleyan University. SWU President Todd Voss said: "Always a warm and enthusiastic leader, DePayne truly believed in the mission of SWU to help students achieve their potential by connecting faith with learning. Our prayers go out to family and friends. This is a great loss for our students and the Charleston region."
The Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74: Simmons survived the initial attack but then died in a hospital operating room. He had previously been a pastor at another church in the Charleston area.
Myra Thompson, 59: She was the wife of the Rev. Anthony Thompson, the vicar of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston.
List taken from npr.org

Friday, June 12, 2015

Hearing Bells (and Putting Things In Perspective)

The other day I found myself in a park reading...just for the sheer joy of it. Which is unusual for me but this is a particularly not busy season so I make time for things like reading in the park. The book was really good so I was pretty intensely focused but every now and then something would drag my attention from what I was reading...

Finally, I came back to reality enough to wonder, "Is that bells?" I listened intently for a few moments but heard no bells or anything else that should have caught my attention so I went back to reading. But I was a bit distracted listening for the possibility of bells.

I heard it again. I looked around. No source for the bells. I went back to reading...and several minutes later, heard it again. At this point, I was a bit frustrated. And concerned. Was I imagining the bells? Is this where my sanity finally said it's goodbye? Was I-in fact-losing it right there on the bench???

I sat and listened. Nothing. Finally, I looked up.


In the tree above me, wind chimes! I was actually hearing bells...or something very close! And could happily hold on to my sanity for a little while longer!

I spend a lot of time making situations worse than they actually are. I worry over things. I over think things. I rehash situations so that by the time I get home from a social situation, I have thought through everything I said, every interaction, every...you get the point.

And believe it or not, this is me better. I used to be a lot worse. I am learning. Oftentimes, to change your view of a situation, you need a little perspective. Take a breath. Look around. Look up and see the windchimes. It doesn't come naturally...you have to remind yourself, discipline yourself, talk to yourself. But it is definitely worth it. If for no other reason than you go from oncoming insanity to enjoying the windchimes in the breeze.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dear White People (My self included…)

I have something to tell you. Something very, very important. Something that will shock you and might completely change the way you think about yourself. But if you’ll accept it…it could change the course of our country.

Ready? Steady yourself. Deep breath.

When it comes to racial injustice-and racial reconciliation-you as a white person do not get to be the expert. You do not get to be the authority on the subject. And unless you have spent some serious time conversing with minorities and getting their perception and understanding of the issue, you barely get to act like you know what you are talking about.

As one of the biggest ”know it alls” ever to draw breath, I understand your bewilderment. But I sincerely believe that until we give up our adamant position of “in charge”, especially on these topics…we will never see change, growth, or healing.

I recently was given the opportunity to join a group focused on racial reconciliation and I couldn’t wait to join in the conversation…I have so much experience growing up in a prejudiced family, my best friend being transferred to another school in eight grade because her parents decided she was hanging out with too many white people, the prayer conference focusing on racial reconciliation and the awesome healing we saw there, being the only white people for BLOCKS in our neighborhood…
So many stories…so much wisdom.

You guys…I don’t know jack diddly.  After almost or not so almost sticking my foot in my mouth a couple of times, I figured it out. I changed my posture from “authority” to “learning” and I rarely comment on anything unless I am holding out my opinion loosely, willing to be taught different.  And I have learned so, so much. And I am better for it.

So before you post that blog…Before you post that comment or status or tweet …Before you say anything…Before your dare place the words persecution, injustice, or discrimination in quotation marks like it isn’t really a thing….Check yourself. Because if you are white and living in America, you honestly don’t know what minorities in this country are going through or what they need to feel like valued human beings in this country. You can empathize and grieve with them but you cannot feel their pain. It would be like telling a rape survivor or a mother who has just lost her child “I know how you feel” when you have never been through either of those situations. (Just don't.)


Just stop. Change your posture. Have conversations with someone who doesn’t look like you. Read articles by those who do know. Let those who know first hand how they feel take the position of authority in this. 

And be ready to follow, to learn, and to walk towards reconciliation. 

Resources:

Books To Read
"Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America" by Michael O. Emerson & Christian Smith 

"More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel" by Spencer Perkins & Chris Rice

"The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity" by Soong-Chan Rah

"A Quiet Revolution: the Christian Response to Human Need, a Strategy for Today" by John Perkins

"The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander

"Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson

"The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson

"Our Global Families: Christians Embracing a Common Identity in a Changing World" by Todd Johnson and Cindy M. Wu

"Disunity in Christ" by Christena Cleveland

"The Cross and the Lynching Tree" by James Cone

"Racial Conflict and Healing" by Andrew Sung Park

Thanks to Judy Wu Dominick and my friend Katie Mumber for this. I'd add "Same Kind of Different As Me" which is not a book focused on racial reconciliation but a story that tells of relationship. It is incredibly eye opening.

Articles
Collective Han: A Framework for Understanding Race Riots and the White Response  by Judy Wu Dominick. This article has seriously impacted and deepened my understanding of the emotions behind the actions in Baltimore, Ferguson, and across the US.

I, as a white mom of two black children, do not share Baltimore’s pain. Instead, I grieve with you. by Jen Hatmaker. She's a white girl...but dang ya'll, this one hit it out of the park for me.

American Mythology by Austin Channing


And a downloadable guide for starting conversations and engagin in racial reconciliation written by Latasha Morrison can be found here:The Bridge To Racial Unity

Sincerely,
A Reformed...ummm "Reforming"...Know It All and Aspiring Bridge Builder

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Last Thing You Need To Know About My Daughter...


When I first began writing this blog in my head, Bree wasn't ready. When she was ready, I was in a season of not writing. Then I got busy. Then I began to wonder if we needed to say these things...they are being said by so many...and so much better than I can. But I've realized how much our voice is needed. And thanks to the bravery of a friend, I was inspired. So here you go, with Bree's full knowledge and consent.

There are a ton of things you need to know about my daughter. She is beautiful. She is intelligent. She has a gift for giving gifts...because she has a gift for seeing and understanding people. She is talented. Knows more about Shakespeare than most twenty year olds ever will or care to know. She has some serious anxiety issues which means she is still not driving. She is a survivor. She loves to read. She loves music...but unfortunately developed my talent for singing.

She is bisexual.

Have you ever watched someone's world fall into place? I saw it the day Embree realized her sexuality. I'd taken her to a friend's house. When I picked her up, she was acting a little...odd. She had this goofy grin on her face.

Here's the deal. I grew up around drugs and alcohol and I had a pretty realistic view point that one day I would have to face the reality that my son or daughter had come home high or drunk because they had experimented. We'd had several conversations about the dangers, the importance of not driving or riding with someone who was under the influence, etc, etc. And I knew Bree's friends well enough to know that several of them smoked pot on occasion. So, when I saw the goofy grin...

I asked her "Are you high?"
"NO!" she responded.

But she was still acting out of it and she still had that grin. So I still had my suspicions. It was just hard to believe she wouldn't talk to me about it. So I decided maybe I was wrong.

Several hours later Embree came to me and said "I have something to tell you."
"Oh my God," I thought. "She was high!" Bree seeing something in my face quickly exclaimed, "It's nothing bad...well, at least I don't think it's bad." But I could see she was becoming anxious so I told her to spit it out.

And she told me she was bisexual. That she'd met a girl at her friends house. That she'd spent the last several hours thinking it over and she wasn't a lesbian but she definitely liked this girl like that and that it explained a lot of things from the last several years that she'd just brushed off as curiosity.

I've shared about my "journey" before and my first thought was extreme gratitude that God had brought me to this place at the perfect time because my sweet daughter was anxiously searching my face so she could know that we were okay, that this was okay. And I said, "Okay. So what does this mean for you?" And I may have offered to make her a rainbow jello shot cake. (FYI, those are way more complicated than I thought!)

At one point, as she obviously wanted me to say something, I had to admit to her "Bree, I understand this is profound for you but to me, you are still you. And I love you just as much as I did before. This doesn't change who you are to me." And it didn't. At least to me.

To others...

There were those who loved Bree just as much. It didn't change who she was to them either. Then there were those who loved her just as much but somehow it did change who she was. She wasn't just Bree, she was bisexual Bree. There were those who brushed it off as though she was just curious or it was just a teenager thing. Someone remarked "Of course she is..." and I'm still not sure what that means. There were those who thought she was just having trouble making up her mind (to which she replied "my mind is made up...I like them all") And those who had serious issues with it.

Bree had been in the process to become a missionary with an organization we had close ties to and a group that had been looking forward to her joining from the time she was in sixth grade. The process stopped. Bree admitted to same sex attraction and that was a deal breaker.

Bree had taught a children's class at church for two years. When she told her service leader, her leader advised her not to tell anyone else. Bree's integrity wouldn't allow it. When she told the children's ministry leader, she was encouraged to take a "break" from teaching her class. Not because she was bisexual, she was told, but because she might accidentally teach the kids that lifestyle was acceptable (I'm still trying to figure out what lesson that would have come up in a class full of second graders!)

There were others who seemed to believe it had happened as a result of my poor parenting. Obviously it was the product of a single parent home. Or perhaps because I let her be in theatre. We did watch Glee every time it came on (damn that Ryan Murphy!). Maybe I didn't give her enough attention, didn't build up her confidence enough. Maybe it was because I had to be on food stamps!

I watched my daughter begin to struggle with her faith. She explained to me that every sin was a choice, an action that we had taken. But she was a sin just by being. Because she was bisexual, she was sin. No amount of me telling her God loved her and she was not a walking, talking, breathing sin fixed the issue. It would take two years before I saw her begin to make her way back to her faith and even now, I don't think it is the same.

The thing is, somehow this one thing became the biggest thing about my daughter. And it doesn't make sense. If you ask someone to describe me, you will hear about the work I do, that I talk a lot, that I give good hugs...if it comes at all, the fact I am heterosexual would be one of the last things anyone mentioned. But for the LGBTQ community, it always seems to be first. It defines who they are...and if that is what they want, great...but if it isn't, if they want to be known as teacher, director, businessman instead of a gay teacher, homosexual director or bisexual businessman...then it is a problem. I honestly don't care what gender my daughter dates as long as they treat each other with respect, with value, and are honest with one another. Bree has a great boyfriend now and they've been together a while. But if they break up and she finds a great girlfriend, I am okay with that. And everyone else should be as well. Because, to be honest, unless you are the person my daughter is dating, who she dates isn't really any of your business.

Realizing that she was bisexual, for Bree, was a huge part in her figuring out who she is...for everyone else, it should be the least important thing about her.

Jesus, Republicans, and the "Gay Agenda"

I can't remember exactly when I first heard the term "gay agenda" but I think I was around 16 or 17...coincidentally (or not), around the time I first started hanging around "church people". My understanding of the gay agenda was that the gays were rising up to take over our families, our churches, our nation and eventually, the world! (Is now a good time to start the Pinky & the Brain theme music?). I also learned that Catholics were secretly Satan worshippers and Joseph Smith was Satan's younger brother (or something like that...they were definitely kin).

I actually tried to do some research on the concept of the "gay agenda" but I couldn't get past the second line of most of the articles that Google search provided me with...the most I could glean is that conservative Republicans and Christians started throwing the term around to great affect around 1992. I am not sure what happened in that time frame that the Republicans needed to begin waging war on the LGBTQ community....but the term became very popular very quickly in those particular circles. Fear is a popular political weapon...especially when avoiding the real issues.

The entire conservative political realm and all Christians were up in arms...and with good reason, those gays were going to convert our children! And despite the fact that science and society has come-by and large-to accept the fact that this is not a "choice" or a "lifestyle" but indeed they way they were born, Conservative Christians and Republicans by and large ignore that fact because it contradicts what they want to believe. And even though the terms have become a bit more politically correct, the "gay agenda" is still a tool being used to strike fear in the hearts of "true Americans."

You guys...can I please explain to you...in the most simple way I know how...that there is no "agenda". The LGBTQ community wants exactly what every heterosexual wants. They want the right to be human. And to be treated fairly. They want to get married, have a family, and go out for a frigging burger without it being a major big deal. If their partner gets sick they want the same rights as a heterosexual couple and if one of them-God forbid-dies, they want the same rights to properties as heterosexual people. If they are a teenager and homeless they want to be able to seek help without who they are preventing them from a decent meal or a bed in a shelter.

If anyone has an "agenda" it is conservative Republicans (and not all of them but I can't make a list for every paragraph so let's just say it is the majority of them and that therefore-for the sake of simplicity-I am going to just say "conservative Republicans"). Their agenda is to put the rights of the white, upper middle class and rich, preferably male Americans above everything else...in short, because those are the ones who keep them in office. Politics is very little about governance these days and very much about power. And to keep the power, you have to keep the office.

History note: do you know a conservative Republican included women in the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Not because he wanted women to be protected, but because he thought that would ensure it didn't pass. That might be irrelevant but in case you were wondering why I stated "preferably male" please do your research and realize little has changed when it comes to Republicans and their stance on women's issues.

Since Republicans took over Congress in January they have cut both estate and income taxes for the nation's wealthiest while at the same time cutting food stamps and other public assistance. They recently including an abortion bill in an anti trafficking bill and then held the bill and the confirmation of attorney general Loretta Lynch hostage until Democrats acquiesced and passed the bill with the anti-abortion clause intact.

They tell us that tax money shouldn't pay for abortions because tax payers should not pay for other peoples mistakes and that they should learn the consequences of their actions. But they then approve further bailouts for brokerages, banks, etc that made rash decisions that caused a recession. And, again since January, voted to repeal restrictions and laws that had been put in place after the recession to try and ensure such things could not happen again. Because their agenda is all about the most wealthy. They say tax payer money shouldn't pay for the irresponsible poor to eat, but they subsidize Amtrak which has consistently lost money for a decade (for the younger ones, Amtrak is a train-and a train wreck both figuratively and literally. People used to ride them as a means of transportation but now they are more a novelty) because the federal government owns a major portion of it. They give Israel 3.5 billion dollars a year to fund 1/4 of that nation's military budget when it is estimated that there are 50,000 homeless veterans in the United States on any given night.

And heaven forbid you should question the idea of giving money to a nation that routinely takes land that it doesn't have the right to or that kills innocent women and children in the thousands. Any other nation would be considered terroristic but Israel. And if you question this, you are automatically anti-Semite. In the same way that if you criticized George W Bush you were anti-American and a terrorist (remember the Dixie Chicks?) but Obama is free game.

And, the worst of it is, that somehow Conservative Republican and Christian have become synonymous. And if you disagree with any of this you are not a true Christian.

So...last week Republicans refused to allow SA 290 to pass the Senate because it contained an anti-discriminatory clause. In case you are unfamiliar with S.A. 290, it would have re-authorized the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act which provides resources, shelter and other services for homeless youth. Democrats included the anti-discriminatory clause because-at this time-any youth who identifies as LGBTQ can be refused services and many are because so many non-profits are religious in nature and that is part of their religious freedoms...to kick a homeless kid to the curb because of how they were born. (There was a similar scenario when it was time to reauthorize the Violence Against Women's Act and Democrats included an anti-discriminatory clause. Republicans delayed the bill but were not able to completely stop it because at the time, Democrats controlled Congress)

I am going to tell you that I don't believe Jesus cares one bit about your religious freedoms. I think he cares more about you being known by your love than he cares about your right to refuse a gay person service at your business. I believe he cares more about that homeless kid-no matter if they are a lesbian or heterosexual-than He does about your crappy political agenda. I believe that He even talked about feeding and giving shelter to the least of these. And I am pretty sure He and the Bible has a lot to say about giving preference to the rich.

While your Conservative Republican Senator or Representative is waving his Bible around, maybe he should read the thing.

Last week Tom Delay claimed God had written the Constitution of the United States and while I think that is one of the most ridiculously loads of drivel I have ever heard, perhaps they should start acting like it. Because the Constitution was written for the general welfare and gave everyone the rights to the "blessings of Liberty". That means black, white, female, male, heterosexual and the LGBTQ community. That means young and old, impoverished and wealthy.

I once heard John Perkins speak at a conference and it was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had. He explained the current political attitude toward the impoverished and explained "they tell you if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day...but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a life time...but then they tell the man, you can't fish here, it doesn't belong to you"

The reality of the situation is that as many times as Republicans tell you that everyone gets an equal opportunity in the United States, it simply isn't true. There are too many places that those who live in poverty and minorities just aren't allowed to fish. And despite what conservative Republicans or Fox "News" tells you...there is no "gay agenda" and the riots you see in Baltimore and Ferguson are not because they are vicious or out destroy America but because they want to be treated equally. They want their rights. They want to be seen as human.

There is a movie called "Man of the Year" It is, in my humble opinion, one of Robin William's best and least appreciated movies. In it, his character talks about political smoke screens and how politicians use them to distract us from the real issues. He used flag burnings and abortion as two of the favorites. I would add the concept of the "gay agenda" as a third. I encourage you to turn off the news and do your own research because CNN and Fox News are not out to inform you but to gain ratings...and they do that more by inflaming you.

I would also encourage you to separate your politics and your religion (that whole separation of church and state thing) long enough to take a look at some of the issues before you. Take a deep breath and forge the fear mongering. And take an honest interest in what is going on in your country and what is happening to those who live in it. Look at both sides. And remember exactly how politically involved Jesus was...because He was more about people and grace than He ever was about policies and politics. And if we are Christians (i.e. like Christ), perhaps we should follow His example.

I realize I attacked Republicans and left Democrats completely out of it. For those who wonder, I don't identify as Democrat either. Neither do I think myself a liberal. I am a moderate. I don't give my loyalty to any political party and I only called out the Republicans because in the last five months they have consistently made decisions that are in direct contrast to what I believe and what I believe the gospel says. The last straw was in deciding politics were more important than the estimated 1.6 million homeless children in the United States today.

Neither do I believe in abortion as a means of birth control. But I do disagree with forcing a woman to have a child and then denying her the means of prenatal care and taking care of that child by reducing social services (especially at the same time as you bail out the nation's richest). Bonhoeffer noted society's responsibilities to women and even went so far as to say that if we refused to help the mother in duress, we were complicit in the sin if she had an abortion "A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed, in cases where is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual..."

It is time we started holding our politicians responsible for their actions and demand they do the job we elected them for...and it is time we lay aside prejudices and fears whipped up by ridiculous concepts and catchy phrases. It is time that this country actually be a place where all men and women are created equal and have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Regardless of sex, religion or sexual identity.

And it is time for us as Christians to lay aside our prejudices and our political adherences and get down to the business that Jesus gave us.




Two Weeks


Two weeks. In two weeks time...my baby will leave home. He will board a bus for Parris Island, SC and the next time I hug him, he will be a Marine.

People often think that the hardest time to be a single parent is in the really difficult times...they talk about the financial difficulties and the heartbreaks. But, in my experience at least, those are not the worst times. Every time we've gone through something really, really difficult we've had the support of amazing people who walked through it with us. When my daughter struggled with depression, people surrounded us with prayer, a mentor stepped forward and the mentor's mother called me on a regular basis. When my son went through a season of anger, there were guys hanging out with him, taking him fishing, building potato cannons (yes, those are actually a thing). When I lost my job and we were struggling financially, friends helped with money, food, gas...

It's the times you don't expect to be the least lonely that are...my daughter's first performance on stage, when the kids graduated high school (admittedly in the most non-traditional way possible) and when they started college. And now, when my son is preparing to leave home.

There is a mixture of extreme pride and at the same time sadness. And I long to look at someone next to me and say, "Look what we did. Look at the man he has become." But the person next to me is my daughter. And she needs me. She and her brother are so close and this is a difficult time for her. She cannot be and will not be the person who holds me when I break down after my son boards that bus (I am determined not to cry before then. I will be strong for him. When he looks back, I will be smiling and waving.)

This is not the fault of my friends. I am fully aware that I have been a single mother in the midst of a singularly amazing community. Few...I think very few...single parents are as fortunate and blessed to have the support that I have in the last fourteen years. There are just times when there is no substitute. And you think I would have become used to that...but not right now.

Last week we took a trip to Washington D.C. (one of our favorite places). We visited the Arlington Museum, the Marine War Memorial, the Smithsonian, and the Marine Museum. While at the Marine War Memorial, there was a moment where Trey was in the midst of two recent graduates from Naval boot camp, a group of veterans and the younger brother of one of the graduates wearing a Navy t-shirt. Embree looked at me and said "It's like he's leaving us for something bigger." And he is. That makes this simultaneously easier and more difficult.

Two weeks will go by way too fast. Last night we were watching a movie and I looked over and watched him laugh and I thought, "Can I freeze time right now?"

But I can't. So I will make the most of these two weeks. I will let him know every day that I will miss him like crazy but no one is more proud of him than me. That I support him in this choice.

That I love him more than words will ever express.

Semper Fi.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

From the overflow

Jen Hatmaker once wrote a tongue in cheek blog about how to be awesome at everything where she advised the aspiring blogger to "blog sporadically"

Apparently I've taken that advice to heart.

It's not that I don't have things to say. It's not that I don't create blogs in my head. There are days where the words are so many it feels like they'll bust if I don't get them out of my brain...and by the time I get home, I'm too tired to put the words in coherent order.

And then there are days that there is this crazy overflow of emotion and I feel like if I open up a blog post, I'll just BLAH all over it...

Trey leaves in eight weeks. My baby is leaving home. He is joining the Marines. Specifically, he is joining the Marines to be in infantry...you know...that thing where you shoot at people and they shoot back. And every day I watch the news and I'm just not sure we can trust that we are going to get to stay out of the mess and I'm not sure if we should stay out of the mess. The only thing I know is that my baby boy will be one of the ones caught up in it if we go.

And I look at him playing with his dog or sleeping on the couch and all I can think is "where in the world did the time go?" I realize that we raise them to grow up and leave home...but it just seems like it happened so fast!

Eight weeks. Two months. It puts so many things in perspective. I've actually went shopping with him twice. Shopping! You guys...ugh. But worth it. And it's funny because he'll leave his freaking dirty dishes in the sink again and I want to be all like "Dewey Wallace Battles! Blah, Blah, CLEAN, Blah!" but I decide maybe that's not the best way to spend what time we have left before he ships out so I just put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher.

Okay...and then there are the days that I decide if he can move out, join the Marine Corps and choose infantry then he can freaking do his dishes like he is supposed to!!!

So...I'm a mess. But as usual, both my kids love me anyway. My friends give me grace. The show and homework distract me. My boss' wife has promised to bring their baby to the office the day he ships out to distract me. And we're making the next two months as fun as possible including a trip to Arlington and-hopefully-one to Orlando.

God bless military mothers! You are my heroes!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Time To Be Happy

Today marked the three year anniversary of my Father's death.

For the past two years we have gone to my Aunt's and visited the cemetery. Today we didn't.
Today we celebrated Trey. It is his last birthday before going off to the Marine Corps and so a bunch of our friends met at Taco Mac for lunch, went to a movie AND went bowling! (All out!)

It's not that I didn't think of my Dad during the day...I did. But I think of him most days. Three years later and I still think of him daily. With Trey getting ready to leave, it's even harder. I want to call my Dad and let him brag or listen to me brag...or listen to me cry!

But today was for the living. Today was celebration. And we can do that while still remembering those that have left us.

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. 
(from BibleGateway.com)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Little Acts of Kindness

Trey turned 19 on Friday and we've basically been celebrating all weekend. Birthdays are a big thing, we celebrate them well. And since we are all celebrating Trey's birthday knowing he might not be home for his next birthday (although, since he got infantry, he'll probably be in California so it's not like he'll be suffering!), we are spoiling him a little more. So we've eaten out with friends, seen two movies and went bowling.

Here is some advice for you young men out there...just, learn from this wisdom I'm about the throw down for you...

If you are about to go into the military, maybe not...just maybe...take your mother and your sister to see a war movie! In this case, American Sniper. (Which by the way, wasn't at all what I expected and was a very good move.) Because-and this may surprise you-your mother and your sister might get a little emotional after the movie.

I say "might" but let's say "will"
We will definitely get emotional. And we will be in the theatre sobbing. And in the bathroom, sobbing.

Have you guys ever been in a public restroom crying? Yea...me either...except for that one time. After watching American Sniper.

So today. Today I was in a public bathroom, hugging my daughter and we were crying.

And some girl who is not that much older than Embree walks in, takes one look at us and asks "Did you guys see American Sniper?" I nod yes and then tell her "It's my son's birthday. He ships out for Parris Island in May" And this young girl lets out a big ol' "Awwww" and stretches out her arms and gives Bree and I a hug. So crying and group hugs with random strangers in public bathrooms. It's a thing.

You know, its no small thing to invite yourself into someone else's pain. To not just give an awkward smile as you sort of creep by them to the stall as far away as possible. To invite yourself in and give what little you can. In this case, a hug.

It was a big deal to me that she was willing. I love the fact we can accomplish so much in such small ways. And I think that in this environment, with so much going on, that we could make significant paths to reconciliation if we were willing to invite ourselves in the pain of others and do the little things we can to tell people "you are not alone" or "How can I help?" We don't have to understand the pain to be with someone through the pain. Little acts of kindness just make it so much easier to walk through it.