Fury in #Ferguson

Helping White Folks Make Sense of Michael Brown

Friends, are you still following along with what’s going on in Ferguson?  If you aren’t, things are about to go down.  Probably this week.  Although it hasn’t stayed at the fore of mainstream media, protests have continued throughout the last 3 months and the grand jury is set to give it’s decision in the possible indictment against Darren Wilson any day now.

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In preparation for the grand jury’s decision, the governor of Missouri has declared an official state of emergency and has activated the state’s National Guard.   That’s a big deal.  If there are no charges brought against Wilson, there are plans in place for more protests and who knows what sort of unrest.  For a lot of White people, though, I think this entire situation is truly baffling and hard to understand.  Sure, a kid died, and maybe he shouldn’t have, but… these things just happen sometimes.  Don’t they?

 

What We Learned From OJ

OJSimpsonWhen O.J. Simpson was found not-guilty back in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, I remember a sense of genuine bewilderment.  Admittedly I was young at the time but I could not understand how people could rejoice over the acquittal of a man so obviously guilty.

I remember watching a newscast with two Black women who said something in an interiew along the lines of, “Oh, we know he’s guilty.  We know he’s guilty.  Everybody knows he’s guilty.  But we’re so happy right now!  This is a good day for Black people!”  

 

WHAT?  It made no sense to me.  How could they admit his guilt AND be happy?   What I didn’t understand at the time was that the trial of O.J. Simpson had taken on immensely more  than just a day in court.  It became the “trial of the century” because it was about more than O.J. Simpson.  It was about more than one man’s guilt for a particular crime.  It was about decades, centuries even, of the mistreatment of Black people.  It was about trial after trial after trial of White men acquitted for murdering Black victims.  It was about conviction after conviction after conviction of Black men and women by White juries.

Do you see?  It was about something much bigger than whether or not this one man was guilty of this one thing.  Was it the perfect answer?  No.  Was it justice?  No.  Was Simpson guilty?  Are there flaws in our justice system.  Undoubtedly.  But it was a victory on one level for a long-oppressed and unjustly treated people group and that’s why there was dancing in the streets that day.

 

And now, Ferguson

Unlike O.J. Simpson, Michael Brown was the victim.  Michael Brown was an unarmed boy shot in broad daylight.   They left his body laying in the street, uncovered, for over 3 hours.    This on the heels of Eric Garner being strangled to death by a White police officer in New York City and John Crawford being shot in the back by White police officers in an Ohio Wal-Mart.   This following Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin.    This following Amadou DialloSean Bell,  Jonathan Ferrell and so many others.

Do you see the similarities?  As with the Simpson trial, this has become about so much more than Michael Brown.  This, too, is about a long-oppressed and unjustly treated people group standing up and saying. We have had ENOUGH. 

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Sister, Sister

When my sister and I were younger we had this scenario that played out time and again between the two of us.  So much so that it has become part of family lore.   Here’s how it went: my sister would bug me in some form or fashion –waving her hands in front of my face while I was doing my homework, making an obnoxious noise when I was reading a book, pushing my chair when I was watching TV.   I would ask her to stop.  She wouldn’t.  I would ask her to stop.  She wouldn’t.  I would ask her to stop.  She wouldn’t.

Until I snapped.

It happened the same way every single time.  She would bug me and bug me and bug me until I couldn’t take it any more and I completely lost my *$#%.   I would snap at her, yell at her, bat her hand away or all three.

And then?

Then she would start crying!

Inevitably I would end up apologizing and it always felt so monumentally unfair.  She bugged the heck out of me, on purpose, yet in the end I had to apologize to her.

An overly simplistic metaphor but I think it’s analogous to what we’re seeing in Ferguson.  As a group, Black people in our country have been pushed down over and over and over again.  Centuries upon centuries of unjust treatment, both subtle and obvious, obscure and heinous are brought to bear on this generation yet we’re surprised when they push back?   We expect them to apologize to us when there is looting and rioting that gets out of hand?

We want to think that the past is the past.  Slavery is over.   We aren’t racist so let’s just move on already.  We’re post-racial, we have a Black president, Civil Rights and all that.  But we’re missing something fundamental if we brush the topic aside in an attempt to absolve ourselves of any guilt.

 

The Sin of Achan

In the book Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith, there’s a scene where the main character, Mma Ramotswe is talking with a friend about the unfair and unjust workload for the women of Africa compared to men.   There is a male friend also standing there with them and Mma Ramotswe stops to consider whether or not they should speak so freely in front of him.  He certainly worked hard.  It wasn’t his fault that the conditions of their country and their continent were the way they were.  But ultimately here’s what she concluded:

 

“He was a hard-working man, of course, but he was the only representative of the world of men present under that tree and so he would have to shoulder some of the blame.”

 

We must shoulder some of the blame.  In Joshua, chapter 7, the entire nation of Israel was held responsible for one man’s crime.   Achan, from the tribe of Judah, stole some of the goods that had been seized during the siege of Jericho.  The goods were off limits because they were set aside as sacred, reserved for God alone.  In response God withdrew his favor until the sin was rooted out from the nation.

The collective whole bore the blame.  This isn’t the case for all transgressions mentioned in the Bible but in this particular instance it was the collective attitude of the nation as a whole that enabled Achan to act as he did. And the nation as a whole was held accountable.  So too with us.  We, as White people, have to shoulder some of the blame.  We have to take collective responsibility.  Like the people of Israel, I think it’s our only way forward.

——-

Want to press in a little further?  Here are some things that might help…

  • Think we’re post-racial?  Think again.
  • Yikes, you aren’t racist like those quoted in the link above.  Sheesh, that was intense.  Read this one, then.  It would be great to hear where your story intersects with mine.
  • Read this.  Ferguson isn’t about Black Rage Against Cops.  It’s about White Rage Against Progress.
  • Look at Shaun King’s timeline of corruption in Ferguson.
  • Then read this interview with Shaun King.  It’s short but outstanding and very insightful.
  • Watch this video.  When I watch it now, nearly 20 years later, I’m able to see the nuance and understand the responses in a different way.
  • Lament.
  • Put yourself into the narrative.
  • Check your bias.   Take the test on the left.
  • Need a little comic relief?  This is so good.  Aamer Rahman on reverse racism.

Other posts related to #Ferguson

Mordecai’s Call
Langston Hughes on #Ferguson
Misplaced Imagining
A Song of Lament

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A Sabbath Poem

I wrote this last Spring on a Sunday afternoon.  A foray into a different genre of writing for Lent.  I find it more frightening to share poetry than other forms of writing but I came back to this particular poem today as I look out the window and drink my tea.  The buds opened, of course, and are now a deep maroon red.  The heron is gone for the winter and I’m struck by how it all persists along its quiet, unhurried way.

heron

Sabbath

The heron leaps headlong, glides
Lands on rocks by water
falling

Ducks go bottom up,
and right side up again
in the brown-yellow brush

Saplings with bantam buds
in no rush
to open

Everything here does hurry shun
I distend my belly
a yogi’s breath

Sip

my

tea

slowly

Attempt assimilation

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Quotable

I had a grand time at the Oprah event last weekend.   I still feel a level of disbelief that I went in the first place.  You all know that usually something like this would typically involve weeks and weeks of mental preparation and anticipation for me!

I had no idea what the weekend would be like.  I basically went in blind, armed only with my admiration for Oprah and the hope of being inspired in some way.  The entire weekend was challenging, thought-provoking, and energizing.   When I got home on Saturday night I gave Jason a synopsis of the entire event.  I mean, like, the full 9 yards.   I recapped every single speaker and exercise.  At some point I realized that he was snoozing but no bother.  I just carried on because there was so much I wanted to process.

I’m still sorting through my thoughts but for now I want to share with you one quote from each speaker.  I hope they engage and encourage you like they did me.

OPRAH oprah2

“At any given point you can choose love or you can choose fear.
So choose love.   Always, always choose love.”

 

MARK NEPO

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 “You slip into meditation whenever you’re more aware of what you’re doing than what you’re producing.”

 

ELIZABETH GILBERT

EG

“Don’t do what I did.  Ask what I asked.”

 

 

ROB BELL

RB

“God, the divine, is present in every area of your life but you are too busy and moving too fast to notice.”

 

IYANLA VANZANT

iyanla

“Your eyes will adjust to the level of deficiency in your vision.  And YOU will adjust to the level of dysfunction in your life.  You’ve gotta check that vision.”

 

—Which one stands out the most to you?

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Oprah @ Last!

Over ten years ago my friend, Kristy and I went to Chicago to visit a friend and we tried every scheme imaginable to get in to the Oprah show.  We wrote to the show together, we wrote individually, we pleaded, we cajoled but in the end?  No dice.   We just didn’t have enough advance notice on our trip and the show times when we were going to be in town were all filled up.   Another time, we said.

Oprah was my main show during my post-college years.  I worked from home and I watched it every day at 4 o’clock.   It was my thing.  And sometimes Kristy got off work early enough to swing by my house on the way home and watch it with me.  The rest of the time she recorded it and we’d talk about it later.

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I used to pontificate and wax poetic to Jason about my theology of Oprah and recapped show after show for him.  There are two episodes that stand out for me still today.   Everybody Has a Story  from 2003 where Oprah gave a few ordinary people a chance to tell their story.  Maya Angelou says that there is no greater burden that bearing an untold story inside of you.  Oprah gave these folks a chance to explore and share their stories.  What a gift.

And Finding Forgiveness  from 2004 when Oprah showed “restorative justice” in action.  She highlighted the work of the Resolve to Stop Violence Project and brought victims together with the criminal who had changed their lives in the hope of bringing some healing to both parties.  It was radical then and it’s still radical now.  A completely different way to approach incarceration and rehabilitation.

With her show and her life, Oprah pulls people in and makes people feel like they are part of something.  She enables people, women in particular, to see that we’re all in this gig together.  Regardless of whether or not you like or agree with her philosophies or her beliefs, she inspires people to live well and to seek the good of others.  That’s why people love and admire her so.    And I can’t help but think that the Church could learn a few things from her.

After we moved to Seattle we no longer had cable and I no longer worked at home.  So my Oprah viewing was spotty at best.  And I no longer had Kristy close at hand to debrief and talk through all things Oprah with me.  But I’ve remained an avid fan and when I heard she was coming to Seattle for her The Life You Want  tour, I immediately scoured the web for tickets.  The cost of the tickets, though, derailed me a bit and without Kristy or another Oprah-loving friend to tag along, it seemed extravagant to spend solely on myself.

Every time I passed the Seattle Center, though, and saw Oprah up on the billboard I’d think, “oooooohhhhh, maybe I should just go by myself.”  But I just didn’t have the heart to buy a solo ticket so I let it go.  Maybe some other time, I told myself.

Last night I got a call from my friend, Shannon.  She asked if I was still interested in going to see Oprah (it’s possible that I’ve mentioned my Oprah love from time to time).  I said yes  v e r y  slowly and then she said, “Well, the other gals from Esperanza (the community group I lead at our church on Thursdays) and I want to send you to the Oprah show if you’re still interested.  We’ve all pitched in and we’re buying you a ticket.”

WHAT!?????!

I was actually speechless for a few seconds.

I’m going to see Oprah!   It turns out it’s actually a two day affair (which better explains the ticket prices) so I had to finagle a few things but it’s happening and I cannot wait!   I am going by myself and it does feel a little lonely, I’ll admit, but think about it: I’m sort of getting an evening and an entire day to myself.  An introvert’s dream!   And besides, did I mention OPRAH?   Enough said.

Time to go throw everything out of my closet figure out what to wear.

——-
Thanks again, friends — I am beyond excited.
And Kristy, I’ll be thinking about you tonight.  Can’t wait to tell you all about it.

 

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School Shootings and the Hope for Heaven

When I was in fifth grade I remember asking my dad when he thought Jesus was going to come back.  You know, just your typical Friday night conversation.  He sighed and paused for a second before answering in a tired voice,

“I don’t know.  But I hope it’s soon.”

I was sitting in the back seat of the car and we drove on in silence for a while.  I wouldn’t have said it out loud but I remember thinking,

“Are you kidding me?”

There was so much I wanted to do!  I wanted to learn how to drive like my big brother!  I wanted to kiss a boy!  I wanted to go to Elizabeth’s sleepover party, make it to State in gymnastics, and read the next Sweet Valley Twins book.   My options seemed endless.  I couldn’t even fathom wanting Jesus to come back.

I think there were two things at play for me that day:

First, I hadn’t lived long enough.

My dad was 42 at the time of that conversation and had already lived through things like the Vietnam War and the assassinations of JFK, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy.  He’d already lost friends, family and his own father to death.  He’d seen ugliness and fear and sadness that I hadn’t yet seen.   When I was 10, things like the Challenger explosion and Chernobyl were still small, far-off blips on an otherwise occupied radar.

I hadn’t yet seen some of my own friends die.   And I certainly hadn’t seen some of my friends’ kids die.  I hadn’t yet seen 9/11 or the Iraq War.  I hadn’t seen the shelling of the Gaza strip or the Rwandan genocide.  I hadn’t seen my mom in the ICU or my grandparents in the throes of death.  I hadn’t seen the orphanage where my nephew lived for the first year of his life.  I hadn’t seen a teenager shot to death for playing the music too loud at the gas station.  I hadn’t seen a man shot in the back at Wal-mart while he chatted on his phone.  I hadn’t seen Columbine, Sandyhook, SPU or, just last week, Marysville Pilchuck.

Second, my theology of Heaven was undeveloped and entirely erroneous.  

When I was ten, I imagined Heaven to be a vast, colorless, empty space where we would all be laid out in front of God, on our backs.  God was inordinately large and sort of glowing and sitting on a huge chair or throne of some sort.   We didn’t move.  We just laid there in a perpetual state of other-worldly awe. I was also under the impression that I would no longer recognize or know my mom and dad, my sister and brother; much less my beloved dog.  I have no idea how I managed to conjure up a vision so unbearably bleak but I was certainly in no hurry to hasten the day to it.

I think my vision of Heaven was desolate and dreary because my understanding of God was desolate and dreary.  As a child I imagined God watching over me with a constantly wagging finger and a tsk tsk tsk whenever I strayed from the path of righteousness which felt like a daily, if not hourly, occurrence.  I had an amazing sense of my own sinfulness as a child and it was only in my 20s that my theology swelled to include the belief that I am held in the mind of God by a love so vast and capacious it’s incomprehensible.

Once my perception of God changed, so too did my perception of Heaven.  My awareness of God’s love spun outward and stretched wide and I began to see Heaven enfolded therein.  Those spaces in my imagination that were once bland and lifeless began to fill in with color and life and zest.  The book of Revelation, while certainly confusing in places, gives us so rich a vision and so grand a view that it’s nearly impossible not to long for such a place.   God will wipe the tears from our eyes.  All of our mourning and grief and anger and sadness will be swept away by the boundless, ineffable love of God.  Death will lose it’s sting and all things will be made new.

The birth of Jesus was the in-breaking of Heaven here on earth.  It’s come in part but not in full.  If we’re paying attention, though, we can see it.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning said,

Earth’s crammed with Heaven.  And every common bush afire with God.”

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Earth is crammed with Heaven.  It’s why we love it so.  It’s why we cling so tenaciously to life.  When our breath catches at the sight of the orange-red leaves of October against the gray Seattle sky; when we hunker down by the fire with our kids on a windy night; when we cheer and jump and scream watching the Sounders score the winning goal; when we sip the most perfect espresso or raise our glasses in a toast with friends; when we read a good book, make bread or love or art, this is Heaven.   These things are the signposts of God’s abiding love and they give us a glimpse of what will one day come in full.

It makes sense then that when I see ugliness and despair so desperate and wild that it feels as though I might not resurface, I long most earnestly for Heaven.   When my anguish and my grief are so great and the hand of fear grips my heart, like it did last week after yet another school shooting, I ardently hope for Heaven and I search most eagerly for those signposts of Heaven; those places of joy and beauty and incandescence.   It’s when I understand my dad’s sentiment most keenly.

The word maranatha is used just once in the Bible and there is some dispute about it’s meaning.  It could be translated, “Our Lord has come!” or it could mean, “Come, Lord!”   If we take both meanings together, the word feels rich with the hope for Heaven.   Heaven is here, the Lord has come!  Heaven is not here;  come, Lord!   It’s the tension of the two that can be hard to hold.  The beauty in the world and the depravity.  The joy and the anguish.  But hold it we must and it’s in the holding that we are pulled close and hemmed in by the boundless love of God.  Maranatha!

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Faithful

At my yearly check-up a few weeks ago my doctor found a mass in my abdomen.  The discovery was followed by X-rays and then an ultrasound and finally a CT scan.  I was pretty scared.  It turned out to be nothing, though.   All the various scans came back saying there was “nothing of interest in the location of the mass.”

It’s weird.  The mass is still there (Jason can feel it) but nothing shows up on the scans.   Strange, right?  My friend, Shane, thinks its a mochi ball.  I’d like  to say that I was very zen about the whole thing and totally chill during those anxious days of waiting.  I wasn’t, though.  I vacillated between “it’s probably nothing” and total hysteria.

My new glasses were supposed to be arriving in the mail and I kept wondering if I would end up wearing them.  You know, if I had cancer. Because who cares about new glasses when you have freaking cancer, right?   I know, I know.  So maudlin and melodramatic. 

But I don’t have cancer.  Not today anyway and to say that I’m grateful is obviously an understatement.   I read this recently in My Bright Abyss and resonated with Wiman’s notion of definite beliefs and what they enable one to withstand…

“Definite beliefs are what make the radical mystery — those moments when we suddenly know there is a God, about whom we “know” absolutely nothing — accessible to us and our ordinary, unmysterious lives.  And more crucially: definite beliefs enable us to withstand the storms of suffering that come into every life, and that tend to destroy any spiritual disposition that does not have deep roots.”

 

oaktree

 

I once thought that having “definite beliefs” would mean that if I one day found myself with cancer, I would believe without a doubt that God would heal me.  Or, at the very least, that God would “have a plan” and that my cancer or illness would somehow be part of that grand plan.  But my theology has shifted and taken a different shape over the years and my experience this month has revealed a new sort of “definite belief.”  I didn’t necessarily think that God would save me.  And I didn’t think that this was part of some divine plan.  But I did believe that God would be faithful.

Faithful to heal me?  Not necessarily.   Faithful to somehow make it ok for me and for Jason and the boys?   No, I don’t think it would have been ok.   But still I believed that God would be faithful.  God is faithful.  And those words kept bubbling to the surface during that week of waiting.  God is faithful; faithful to draw near and extend over me a banner of love.  And I’m praying the roots of that belief go deep enough to sustain me through whatever storms of suffering may one day come.

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My Top 10 Books

books

Did you all see that Facebook challenge a few weeks ago?  The one where you list the 10 most memorable/influential books of your life?   You know, and then you tag 3 people and challenge them to post their own top 10.  I really enjoyed checking out all those lists and although technically  nobody challenged me, I decided to come up with my top 10 anyway!
I tag… myself.   It’s ok, I’ve never been the cool kid on the block.  But I’ve been mulling it over and finally narrowed down my list.

Here are my ten… **

Harry Potter

I started reading the series in 2006 right after the 6th book came out.  So I was a little late to the party but still got to enjoy the immense hype leading up to the release of the 7th and final book.   It’s a little fuzzy now but I’m pretty sure I signed my name on the “I trust Severus Snape” website.  Anyway, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what gripped me so with this series.  I loved Harry from page 1 and really all of the rich and wonderful characters created by Rowling.  I particularly enjoyed the exploration of choice in the novels and how a person might, at any moment, choose to make different choices and thus change the trajectory of their life.  Even if there is a prophecy spelling out how you will perhaps save the world from evil or a Sorting Hat that tells you where you belong, you can make a different choice.  This particular exploration is one that has informed my theology over the years and continues to fascinate me, as you’ll see with my other book choices below.

We also named our son, Gryffin, after Gryffindor House; the house for the courageous.  A griffin is a mythical creature – half lion, half eagle – and in the Middle Ages was often found on church buildings as a symbol of the dual nature of Christ.  King of the air and king of the land.  I mean, come on, JESUS and HARRY POTTER?  Can’t beat that!   The whole HP series is full of symbolic names and beings and I enjoyed the intrigue and digging around for the deeper meanings.

Some Favorite Quotes

“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”Dumbledore

“It’s the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”Dumbledore

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I think this beautiful book stood out to me in particular because I read it as an adult and therefore already knew all that Maya Angelou had gone on to become.  The prose is captivating and it gives light to something that was otherwise dark and suffocating — an amazing gift.

Some Favorite Quotes

“The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic admiration.”

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

 

The Brothers K

I’ve already written about the Brothers K and my admiration of the author, David James Duncan, so I won’t rehash it all here.   I wish I could include the entire excerpt of Kincaid’s dream about the kingdom of God but it’s much too long so I pulled out just a small piece of it…

“The truth is, I’d never been in a place less like a church, and can hardly say what a relief this was…  I picked up the plainest thing I could find – a pebble – and popped it in my mouth, started clunking it around… cautiously at first, then harder and harder, and was amazed to discover as I crushed in into sand, then into mush, that my teeth were like industrial diamonds and my jaws were like a vise. I felt like Paul Bunyan, hell, I felt like Superman – and just the pleasure of such godlike chewing got me so excited that when the pebble-mush began melting and turned out to taste better than the best chocolate in the world, it seemed like a waste somehow.  I mean, I swallowed it anyway, but I sensed as it was going down that the special quality, the joy that had been in the taste, couldn’t go down with it. It just wouldn’t fit inside me. There was simply no way to squeeze a thing so vast and heavenly into a container as small and earthly as myself.

 

The Hiding Place

I think I’ve read this book 5 or 6 times.   It’s the true story of Corrie ten Boom and her family in Holland during WWII.  I think I like it in part because the ten Booms seem so ordinary and humdrum but when they were presented with genuine life or death choices, they were brave and their faith proved to be the bedrock they always believed it to be.  It’s not that I wish to be faced with such danger and hardship but sometimes I think my life lacks urgency.   The faith of Corrie’s father and sister, in particular, who both died in the concentration camps, stands out to me and has always buoyed my own faith.

A Favorite Quote

“No pit is so deep that God’s love  is not deeper still.”

 

The Giver

I read this one in college and I’ve read it 2 or 3 times since.  Like, Harry Potter, it deals with the concepts of choice and free will and although it’s technically “young adult fiction,” it never fails to shake up my thinking.   I often find myself believing that it might just be easier if God preordained everything in our lives.  It just feels like might be easier to understand if it were so.   I was in a terrible car crash in college but walked away essentially unscathed.  Will of God.  I was tested a few years ago for MS but my scans came back clear.  God’s plan.  I have a new job because God ordained that it should be so.   Scored a sweet parking spot today when I picked Isaiah up from school.   Thank you, LORD.   See what I’m saying?  But my theology and my understanding of God runs into trouble here because I then must also contend with the person who didn’t walk away from the car crash; the one whose MRI’s didn’t come back clear, and the friend who has been job hunting for two years.

Reading The Giver always brings me back to a place where I feel ok (or a little better at least) with the mystery of it all.  The mysterious dance of God’s will and human choice.

A Favorite Quote

“Now he saw another elephant emerge from the place where it had stood hidden in the trees. Very slowly it walked to the mutilated body and looked down. With its sinuous trunk it struck the huge corpse; then it reached up, broke some leafy branches with a snap, and draped them over the mass of torn thick flesh. Finally it tilted its massive head, raised its trunk, and roared into the empty landscape.”

 

East of Eden

Still working out my theology of free will!   This one by John Steinbeck fascinates me, like Harry Potter and The Giver, for it’s examination of choice and human free will.   The story winds all about and gets pretty “dark & twisty”at times but we learn so much about ourselves and God in the process.  Each character has choices to make, and while some seem stuck and destined to remain the same, we get to see the ways that their choices impact their lives and the lives of the other people around them.

A Favorite Quote

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”

 

Finding Fish

The memoir of Antwone Quenton Fisher.  He was a foster baby from day 1 after his mother gave birth in prison and his father was murdered.  He recounts his life in foster care, particularly the 14 years he spent with the Picketts who abused him in every possible way.   This book shook me up.  I read it before we had the boys and it weighed heavy on me.  I was especially struck by the impact even a small, seemingly infinitesimal, act of kindness can have on a person’s life.

Before I read this book, I thought there was no way I could be a foster parent.  Having to relinquish a child you love has always seemed too great a burden to bear.  But after reading Finding Fish, that feeling changed to ‘how could I not be a foster parent?’   I don’t know what, exactly, this will look like for us but I feel like it’s going to part of our family’s story – and that feeling took root reading Fisher’s book.

“I reach my hands up and out, as if that can stop my getting wetter, and open my mouth, trying to swallow the downpour, till it finally hits me how funny it is, my trying to stop the rain.”

 

Cold Sassy Tree

Written by Olive Ann Burns.   It’s set in Georgia circa 1906 and is told from the perspective of 14-year-old Will Tweedy.  It gives such a colorful depiction of life in their fictional town and probes social taboos, death, and religion.  The writing is absolutely wonderful and I remember my parents reading the book out loud to one another on a road trip once.   I can still hear them laughing.

“It was like he didn’t hear the silence that greeted them and didn’t see Mama go pale or Aunt Loma flounce out of the parlor and down the hall, handling the baby so rough he woke up squalling.  Grandpa walked in like it was the usual thing to go off and get a new young wife before your old wife is cold in the grave.  Like it never dawned on him anybody would mind.”

 

Charms for the Easy Life

Oh man, the character of the grandma in this book is so well done.  She is a hoot.   The book is set in backwoods North Carolina in the mid-1900s and centers on the lives of 3 generations of women living in the same house.  Charlie Kate is the grandmother and she is a self-taught midwife/healer/dentist/you name it.   I was so captivated by the story and felt a sort of longing to be part of their brood.

A Favorite Quote

“What is most fascinating with regard to her dentistry is that she would put women patients under, but work on the men as is.  She believed that although women, as a rule, could stand more pain and take more punishment than men, they should not have to and would not ever suffer under her care….The degree to which a woman looked tired in the face dictated the amount of chloroform she received, and sometimes when my grandmother recognized that a woman was too taxed by her life, she did her the favor of knocking her out to the point that she couldn’t neither lift her head nor say her name the rest of the day.”

 

My Bright Abyss: Meditation of  a Modern Believer

I feel like I’m cheating a little bit with this one because I haven’t actually finished it!  But I’ve been reading it for the last year and it has had such a potent and profound impact that I have to include it here.   It’s difficult for me to put into words what this book has meant to me.  Have you ever read something and just felt like the author gets you?  Like their soul speaks the same language as yours?   Yeah, I know, that’s maybe a tad  too effusive, but this book speaks to me and it speaks to my faith and it has made me feel less alone.

A few excerpts

“When I assented to the faith that was latent within me — and I phrase it carefully, deliberately, for there was no white light, no ministering or avenging angel that tore my life in two; rather it seemed as if the tiniest seed of belief had finally flowered in me, or, more accurately, as if I had happened upon some rare flower deep in the desert and had known, though I was just then discovering it, that it had been blooming impossibly year after parched year in me, surviving all the seasons of my unbelief.”

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“Christ, though, is a shard of glass in your gut.  Christ is God crying I am here, and here not only in what exalts and completes and uplifts you, but here in what appalls, offends, and degrades you, here in what activates and exacerbates all that you would call not-God.”

-

“There are definitely times when we must suffer God’s absence, when we are called to enter the dark night of the soul in order to pass into some new understanding of God, some deeper communion with him and with all creation.  But this is very rare, and for the most part our dark nights of the soul are, in a way that is more pathetic than tragic, wishful thinking.  God is not absent.  He is everywhere in the world we are too dispirited to love.”

 

Traveling Mercies

There are so many things I like about this book.  Anne Lamott is the kind of writer I aspire to be.  I’ve read nearly all her work and I think she is at her absolute best with non-fiction.  She is vulnerable and brave with what she writes.  With regard to her faith, I appreciate that she’s willing to say the things you might think but wouldn’t dream of saying out loud yet she remains stalwart in her beliefs.   Her conversion story has always stood out to me as compelling and genuine and just the honest truth of how it happened.

Some Favorite Quotes

“F@#$ it.  I quit.  All right, Jesus, You can come in.”

“The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it…I would discover that it hadn’t washed me away.”

 ——
**Yes, yes, I know, that’s actually 11 books.  It’s alright. I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

Oh, and I tag all of you.   Let’s see some more lists!  If it’s too daunting to select the most influential, just tell me one or two that stand out in your mind as memorable.

 

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But Now I Am Six!

I told Jason a few days ago that sometimes parenting with him feels like our own private version of “anything you can do, I can do better.”  If I have a Saturday alone with the boys, I might do something special.  Like, you know, make a coffee cake for breakfast.  Or take the boys on an “adventure walk” which is really just a fancy way of saying “a walk where we look for things.”

But if Jason has a Saturday alone with the boys?  He takes them on the freaking ferry to Bainbridge Island where he then pulls them in the bike trailer to the Bloedel Gardens and all around the island, ending of course with a trip to the ice cream shop.

If I write a note to put in Gryffin’s lunchbox, I might put a few friendly lines about how excited I am to see him at the end of the day and how I can’t wait to hear about P.E.  But if Jason writes the note?  It includes a story with characters and personalized illustrations.

When I put the boys to bed, it’s PJs, teeth, books, bed.  17 minutes, tops.  When Jason puts them to bed, they usually rough-house and wrestle for a while and then he wraps up the evening with this ongoing saga that he has been making up every night for the last six months.   The three of them lay in bed together as he tells them that night’s adventure of boPeep the mouse facing down enemies like Volde-Bear and SauronSheep.

I mean, really.  It’s hard to keep up with this guy.  We make a good team, though, so I let it slide.

Most years I write a post for the boys’ birthdays.  But this year for Gryffin’s birthday, Jason was up to his sneaky ways again.  He’s been letting me think that I’m the writer in the family but now I know the truth.  There he is.  AGAIN.  It’s annoying, really.

Nonetheless, here’s his prayer for Gryffin’s 6th birthday.  It’s good, no?

———————–

Six years ago you came into this world: curled-up, tiny, helpless.
Given by God, we were overjoyed.
No turning of fall would ever be the same,
for it was on a crisp blue day we brought you home.

You have been named after something mythic, half lion and half eagle,
an animal brave and mighty.
But also an animal that is two things at once,
as Jesus is, stretching between humanity and God,
and as we are, rooted to earth and awed to heaven.

You are no longer helpless, be instead helpful.
You are no longer tiny, be instead huge in your love.
You are no longer curled up, be instead stretched up to God and out to others.
You are, however, still covered by our joy and given this day by the Three-in-One.

———————–

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Happy Birthday, Gryffin.  We do love you so (and the SAME AMOUNT, btw.  For the record, I am totally  fun.   Just, you know, in a different way.  Plus I birthed you.  SO THERE).
———-

Other Birthday Posts

Birthdays Make Me Sad
They Say It’s Your Birthday!
On the Occasion of Your 3rd Birthday, the Bombings in Boston and Other Awful Things

 

 

 

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Weekend Worthy

Worth your time from around the web this week…

Asking the Wrong Question
Asking why Janay stays with an abusive husband is as appalling to me as asking whether or not Mike Brown stole some cigarillos.   #NotThePoint

Honestly, I had never even heard of Ray Rice before this week.  I don’t watch football and I don’t think I could name a single NFL player.  But the way we have responded to this is astounding.  Does Janay need to get her sh#* together?  Probably.  But that’s not what we should be talking about.  We should be talking about the fact that Rice punched her so hard that he knocked her out.

Do you know how hard you have to hit someone to knock them out?   I have two boys and both of them, at different times, have fallen down an entire flight of stairs, hitting their heads multiple times on the way down.  Weren’t knocked out, though.  The older one fell backwards off a stool once and landed head-first on concrete.  Wasn’t knocked out, though.   And one time I lunged to catch Isaiah before he toppled backward off the couch only to have my arm accidentally act as a hinge behind his knees causing him to flip upside down onto his head on the hardwood.  Wasn’t knocked out.

Add to this one act of violence the undoubted dozens that have gone before it, the cover ups by the higher-ups, questioning the victim in front of her abuser, the 42 million other women in our country who experience rape and physical abuse at the hands of their partners every year and how we have irrevocably indicted ourselves with our response.  It’s overwhelming.

Ravens running back Ray Rice is planning to address the media at 3 p.m. Friday for the first time since he was charged with knocking

 

Different Rules Apply
A story about the different rules that apply based on our race.   A longer one but it’s worth the read.

“I went home. The other guy didn’t.
That’s white privilege.”

 

Female Socialization
Speaks for itself.  I read this several weeks ago and it has stayed with me.

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Guy who couldn’t get a single call back changed one letter on his resume and the phone started ringing.

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Oily Hair and Frazzled Nerves

I don’t know what is going on with me.  I’m sort of embarrassed to admit it but… this kindergarten sitch has been hard for me, y’all!   I’ve had two nearly sleepless nights and I’ve felt generally anxious all week.  Then this morning, after tossing and turning yet again last night, I put oil that is meant for my skin into my hair.

Part of the problem is that I can’t quite pinpoint what I’m feeling.  Am I just sad?  Am I worried about something in particular?   Am I unsettled by all the change to our daily routine?

Yes.  The answer is yes to all of the above.

I’m sad.

Jason and I are both feeling that familiar tinge of melancholy that comes when your kid crosses over some sort of threshold.  They are usually crossing over to something new and exciting (walking or talking, say) and you are left to mourn what was left behind alone.  Why would Gryffin care that he used to sling his arm around my neck, just so, when he was a baby when there is an entire world to explore now that he can run and jump and dance?

It’s an inevitable part of this gig, I guess, and we’ve made it through many, many milestones in the past.  This just feels different somehow.  It marks the beginning of a more considerable cleaving and it hurts.

This morning, day 3, Gryffin asked eagerly if we had any fun plans for the day.  It took a full minute before it dawned on him that he wouldn’t be here today; that he had to go to school again.   When he realized it, he seemed sad and happy both.  Sad to miss out on a day with his brother but happy that he got to go to school.

And that’s how I feel.  I’m so happy that he likes school thus far.  What a relief.  I know that many parents can’t say the same and I’m grateful.  But I’m still sad.  And I’m trying to just leave it at that.

I’m worried.

This is such new territory that I can barely keep up with all of the things that I’m worried about!  I know that he is fine.  I do.  Promise.  But c’mon, preschool was a classroom of 12 kids with 2 teachers.  It was all in one big room and I pulled my car up right outside the door.

Now we’ve got 20+ kids, 1 teacher, the hallway that never ends, mohawk kid, lunchtime, recess, music class, technology time, assemblies and who knows what else.  I don’t know when he eats lunch or goes outside to play.  I don’t know who this music teacher is or where they do technology time.   I stood outside the wrong door yesterday at afternoon pickup and by the time I found Gryffin, he was crying.    Sheesh, what isn’t there to worry about?

I’m unsettled.

You all know that I like to be in control.   With this new school schedule, a new work situation for me, Isaiah going back to preschool on Monday meaning 2 drop offs and 2 pick ups a day, it’s bound to ruffle my feathers a little.  We’ll settle in here soon enough.  In the meantime, would you all please excuse my oily hair?  It looks like it’s gonna take a girl a few weeks to get things back on track!

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Gryffin discovering some doughnuts in his backpack on the first morning — hidden there by Jason

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We made Gryffin a Rust Family Membership Card, with what it means to be a Rust on the back.

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And he’s off!

 

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