After the Election

Fat lot of good it did.

My stomach feels sick because I’ve been crying. Curled up in a ball under my covers sobbing. I stayed up too late and woke up too early. And I know I’ll crash and burn in a few hours, but there’s no way I can sleep right now. I could give you the litany of my fears. I could share with you the catastrophic scenarios of the future playing out in my mind. I could share the terror gripping my heart as I realize that about half of the people in this country hold values in direct opposition to my own.

The bottom line is that I am scared: scared for myself, scared for my children, scared for people who aren’t male and people who aren’t white and people who aren’t straight and people who aren’t rich (and I’m frankly not sure how even the rich straight white men are going to handle this), scared for the health of people and the health of the planet . . . The list is endless and I will stop now. Because as scared as I am, I also realize that fear is what has landed us here in the first place.

I do not understand much about what happened with the election, but I understand this: when people are afraid they cling to false hopes and make poor decisions. When people are scared enough, the truth no longer matters. Fear has a way of narrowing our vision so that only those closest to us, those most like us, matter. Fear blinds us to creative possibilities. Fear robs us of the energy we need to live well in this world.

So as we face a dark reality this morning, we should grieve; we should be angry; we should acknowledge the dangerous possibilities of the future. But we cannot be overcome by fear. Because we need real hope and we need to make wise decisions. We desperately need truth-tellers, compassionate visionaries, creative problem solvers. And we need energy—we need more energy than we will be able to muster if we let fear take hold too tightly.

I don’t mean today, friends. Today we should cry and eat chocolate and be with friends and pray deep wordless prayers and get out in the sunshine (because the sun will rise despite it all). Today, we do what we need to do to get through.

Tomorrow, or maybe the next day, though, it will be time to wipe our tears and open our eyes and get to work. I realize there is an awful lot of work to do. Perhaps we need a collective chore chart: you make sure people know that sexual assault is unacceptable; I’ll repeat “black lives matter” over and over and over again; she can work on disability rights and he can promote clean energy policies and another person can fight for rational gun laws and someone can advocate for immigrants and someone else for LGBTQ people and . . . Maybe I’ll make a sign-up genius.

It’s hard to know exactly how to move forward. But I trust there is a way. For now, (after the chocolate) I’m going to start with two of the most common commandments in scripture: Do not be afraid. Love one another.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Do not be afraid. Love one another.

And, of course, “Lord, have mercy.”


Meeting Survival Guide for Women

file691263254605Women who attend meetings with men are often frustrated by the sexist dynamics in the room. Some men tend to interrupt, repeat women’s ideas as if they were their own, explain things they don’t really understand, and just generally not listen well. Women often want to advocate for themselves, but it can be hard to know what to say. And it can get wearisome saying the same thing over and over again.

So, as a public service (and because my friend on Facebook asked for it and I’m trying to put off doing real work), here is a four-week rotation of phrases women can use in meetings when men seem to be taking over.

Monday: Please listen to me.

Tuesday: That idea was much more interesting five minutes ago when I [or a female colleague] said it.

Wednesday:  . . . And your time is up. My turn.

Thursday: I realize you were talking. I just thought we were doing that thing where we interrupt each other with redundant comments.

Friday: Well bless your heart.

Monday: I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people will listen to me.

Tuesday: I do have a masters degree in that area, but if you read a Wikipedia article, by all means, share your insight.

Wednesday: Based on my calculations, the men have used up their share of the speaking time for this meeting. Women, let’s get stuff done.

Thursday: Knock, knock. [Who’s there?] Me. [Me who?] Me, the competent woman with good ideas that you’ve been ignoring this whole meeting.

Friday: You should know it really pisses Jesus [or another deity of your choice] off when you are dismissive of women.

Monday: I realize you are trying to interrupt me but I’m just going to keep on speaking and gradually increase the volume of my voice until you stop talking and let me finish.

Tuesday: I will listen to you for two full minutes. Setting my timer . . . and . . . go!

Wednesday: If you could answer the question I actually asked, that would be great.

Thursday: Let me expound on my own idea.

Friday: Take the day off. Ask a guy who gets it to speak up for you today.

Monday: Let me repeat what I just said so you can listen this time.

Tuesday: Before the meeting starts, I just wanted to check. Will we all be expected to talk about things we really understand, or just pull words out of our butts because we like the sound of our own voices?

Wednesday: Let’s play the quiet game. First one to talk loses. [This can be accompanied by flicking the lights on and off until everyone quiets down.]

Thursday: Please tell me more about what I’m really thinking.

Friday: Last night some aliens took me up in their spaceship and told me the solution to all of our problems.

“To Stop Whiteness from Trembling”

nbvwcHaPharaoh trembled at the growing Hebrew population; at the thought that these slaves might realize their oppression and realize their power. He demanded that the Egyptians throw all of the Hebrew baby boys into the Nile River.

Herod trembled at the report from the eastern scholars of a child who had been born King of the Jews; at the prospect of Jewish rebellion and an end to his tenuous hold on power. He ordered the slaughter of all the children in and around Bethlehem who were under the age of two.

I’ll grant that the slaughter in our country is geared toward males past their infancy and toddlerhood, but sometimes not by much. Never by enough. Tamir Rice was only twelve. Laquan McDonald, seventeen. Freddy Gray, twenty-five. Philando Castile, thirty-two. Alton Sterling, thirty-seven.

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon connects the recent killings of Sterling and Castille to the fear that is illustrated in the Pharaoh narrative. She reminds us that “the State is still armed, and murder represents a justifiable response to stop whiteness from trembling.” The fear and slaughter to which we have borne witness this past week are not new.

And neither is the resistance. Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives, refused to carry out Pharaoh’s orders to kill the male babies they helped birth. The wise men from the east went home by another way, disobeying Herod’s orders to return to him and identify the Christ child.

Diamond Reynolds live-streamed the scene with police as her boyfriend sat shot and dying beside her. Members of Stop the Killing, Inc., monitored police scanners and showed up at the Triple S Food Mart in time to film the encounter between Alton Sterling and police.

People across the country are protesting and praying, analyzing and admonishing. We are pushing for reforms in gun laws and police departments and justice systems. We are fighting against the fear we see in others and the fear we sense in ourselves.

When we resist, we join the heartbreaking company of Shiphrah and Puah, of the mysterious men from the east.

We join the company of those, like the midwives, who must watch the trembling powers terrorize innocent people despite our best efforts to thwart the destruction.

We join the company of those, like the magi, who listen to our dreams from God and follow the path God gives us, but somehow still find ourselves part of the horror.

We join the company of the Hebrew mothers of Egypt, the Jewish mothers of Bethlehem, who wail and weep and wait for the slaughter to stop.

Thoughts on a Tragedy

watching-a-rainbow-1405323I struggle to know how to respond in the wake of the shooting at Pulse Nightclub. Fifty dead. Over forty hospitalized. Hundreds traumatized. Guns, again. A tragedy followed by anti-Muslim rhetoric, again. Beautiful queer bodies targeted for violence, again.

I feel grief. And horror. And despair. And anger.

I feel helpless. I feel like I should do something. But then all I do is turn up the radio to hear the latest update. Click on the article links where the words blur together—Orlando, dead, gunman, mass shooting, FBI—and the grief-stricken faces come into sharp focus.

I sit and listen. I sit and look. I sit and wonder what the hell is wrong with us and what I can possibly do in the midst of the mess.

I commend my colleagues who are organizing and attending vigils. I see them posting invitations on Facebook. I imagine them sending emails and making phone calls and gathering candles and writing prayers.

I have not managed anything so energetic. I lit our peace lamp at church yesterday. I am trying to get some words onto this page so they stop ricocheting around in my head. I join my prayers with the millions ascending.

It doesn’t feel like much.

Tonight I will do what I’ve been planning to do for months: I will help out with Vacation Bible School. At first, that didn’t feel like much either. The thought of beach balls and cheesy songs and skits featuring a crab puppet seemed like a frivolity I could hardly manage in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting, yet another attack on LGBTQ people.

Then I read this beautiful, challenging article by my friend Jay Yoder. And I saw my friend Stephanie Krehbiel’s Facebook post: “Homophobia in Islam and homophobia in Christianity is the same damn homophobia.”

And I’m starting to think that maybe helping with Vacation Bible School is the best possible response to the shooting. This week I have a chance to teach children that faith never means hate; that God created them and loves them just as they are; that every person they meet is worthy of their care and respect; that violence is never a good path.

This week I have a chance to counter any voices these children might have heard that suggest to them that the Bible and/or God and/or Jesus wants them to judge and hate people for who they are or how they dress or who they love. And I have a chance to do it while wearing a fabulous foam sun visor with sea animal stickers on it.

I think I’ll add a rainbow to my visor and dedicate every corny song, every silly dance, every messy craft project, every word of hope and love and life this week to the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

How Not to Apologize

file2181285550868A recent Facebook apology from my teenage son: “I’m sorry but I have nothing to do with that.”

And Trump’s apology for posting an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz: “If I had it to do again, I probably wouldn’t have sent it. I didn’t think it was particularly bad, but I probably wouldn’t have sent it.”

And an apology from the moderator and executive director of my denomination: “We apologize to . . . anyone . . . who may have gotten the impression that Executive Board leaders were not fully committed to justice and healing for victims [of sexual abuse].”

I’ve always thought that apologizing was a pretty simple task, one we learn at a young age: “Joanna, tell the dog you’re sorry for dragging him around the house in a pillow case.” “I’m sorry, Fluffy.”

That’s it. That’s an apology. Pretty straight forward. But apparently beyond the grasp of many people.

So, as a public service, here are ten ways to tell that your apology is not really an apology:

  1. The word “but” comes after the word “sorry.”
  2. The words “that you” come after the word “sorry.”
  3. Really, if anything but a period comes after the word “sorry,” you’re likely not apologizing.
  4. You list excuses for your pitiful actions.
  5. You use the passive voice. (“It is regrettable that mistakes were made.”–Not a real apology.)
  6. You claim that the person you are apologizing to is partly (if not completely) to blame for the horrible thing you did to them.
  7. You use words like “seem” and “probably” and “appeared” and “might” and . . . you get the idea.
  8. You mutter your apology to the ground while your mom stands by, glaring at you with her arms crossed.
  9. You pretend that your position of power and privilege makes you less responsible for your actions because it’s so difficult and complicated for someone in your position to negotiate all of their responsibilities—rather than acknowledging that it is exactly your power and privilege that make you that much more responsible for the damage you have caused and the damage you have failed to prevent.
  10. You have apologized for the same damn thing over and over and over again without actually changing your behavior in the slightest.

If you are having trouble crafting a sincere apology, I offer you this template from my younger self. You will need to replace the bracketed words to fit your own situation:

Dear [Fluffy]. I am truly sorry that [I put you in a pillowcase and pulled you around the house]. I am sure you did not like that and I should not have done it. Next time I will [put my stuffed dog in the pillow case] instead and give you a [dog bone].

You’re welcome.

Random Thoughts on Turning 41

Showing off my gray hair. It’s there. I promise.

I’m irritated that all of the temporary hair color says it will “cover the gray.” I’m proud of my gray hair. I’ve earned it. And as a diminutive female, gray hair can only help my pastoral gravitas. Still, I’d love to be a redhead for a month or so. Where is the hair color that LEAVES the gray and just colors the boring brown parts of my hair?

I’m going to eat that crappy pizza in the freezer for lunch today. (I mean, I’ll cook it first.) I know I bought it for my husband, but it’s not my fault he hasn’t eaten it yet. It’s been like three weeks. And surely there is some sort of statute of limitations on these things. And it’s my birthday. And he’s not home.

Continue reading “Random Thoughts on Turning 41”