An Idle Tale

But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

Where did I get this quote? Was it from the news today, yesterday, last week, last month, last year?

An idle tale…maybe a bit archaic. How about, “they thought they were lying, and they did not believe them.”

In this case the “they” are men and the “them” are women. No surprise here!

We seem to be experiencing a reckoning in our country right now, at least in some quarters. Each day, each week, powerful men in media and entertainment are losing their jobs because of a newly found zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace. Why now?

Tales of harassment, abuse, and even assault are now making their way through the political world. We read that members of congress have been using taxpayer dollars for years to make settlements for bad behavior. Maybe more and more of these stories will come to light. I hope so. Meanwhile I ask, why now?

Maybe NOW is because many women are fed up. They’re tired of the silence and have decided to speak truth, as painful as that truth may be. I personally don’t have stories of sexual harassment and/or abuse in the workplace, although I have many stories of being treated differently because of my gender. My own story of abuse is one of a confused little girl. I am working up the courage to one day share that story.

I personally am fed up, and disgusted by, the Christians who in their worship of political power are choosing not to believe the credible stories of multiple women. For the Christians who voted for Donald Trump regardless of the abuse claims leveled against him, the victims, ” words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

Now, those who call themselves Christian, are poised to elect Roy Moore as a senator from Alabama. They call themselves “family values” Christians, yet they are ok with an accused pedophile and predator. Because all they can see is the benefit of political power, the many corroborated stories are to them, idle tales and not to be believed.

I reject this Christianity in the strongest terms. I am ashamed and embarrassed to profess my own Christianity when I see what is being allowed in the misguided pursuit of power.

To be consistent, I also believe that Al Franken and John Conyers and anyone else whose actions show that their respect for all women doesn’t go beyond mere words should resign or be pushed out of power.

It is time for a more thorough reckoning… it is time for all people to reject those who use their positions to abuse others. The first step is to listen to, and believe the stories.

“But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

Where did I get this quote? From the gospel of Luke. It describes the reaction of the disciples to the news, brought by the women, of Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:11). I guess we haven’t progressed much, but change is in the air.

Let’s start listening…and believing…and making change that is good for all. It’s the truly Christian thing to do.

Tears and Gratitude

A few years ago our church had a series during Lent with the theme of “who are our neighbors?” We invited various people from the community to come and speak. The goal was to help our members begin to understand neighbors that they may not know.

One of these weeks we invited two young women who were recent recipients of work permits (and ease of mind against deportation) through DACA. They were excited to come and share their stories. I was happy to hear their stories.

When it came time to talk, both girls looked out at the faces of our church members and began weeping. This emotional response was more powerful than any words. The rescinding of DACA today was a direct attack on these two young women plus the other 800,000 young people living, working, going to school, and contributing to our country.

I am proud to be an American but I am not proud of my country today.

Today I am personally thankful for: my grandparents and great-grandparents who were immigrants; the great cultural diversity that we have in our country; and the immigrants, with documentation and without, who contribute greatly to our community.

Growing up racist – #1

“for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29)

I’m writing today to my white skinned sisters and brothers…

Racism is the great challenge facing our country today (and yesterday and the day before that). Because most of us, being white, don’t usually experience the outright racism that we’ve seen in our country this week, we often don’t think there is a real problem. We can easily dismiss the cries for justice. We can easily choose to close our eyes and our ears.

And when we’re identified as racist, we indignantly cry, “NOT ME!” This cry makes sense because we reject white supremacy, we reject Nazis, we reject white nationalism. So how can we be racist?

I had a professor (in seminary) who used the analogy of fish swimming in water to describe culture. The fish cannot see the water just as we cannot see the air we breathe. The same goes with culture in that there is much we “know” and “believe” without actually being cognizant of it.

This morning I ran a nice, easy and enjoyable 5 miles. My run was, as is often the case, a good time for me to think about my sermon for Sunday. The verse above, from Romans, is part of the text for this week. I love the message that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Not only are they irrevocable, but they are free and they are unconditional. Unfortunately we don’t always hear this message and when we do, we have trouble believing it.

It was as I contemplated this, I remembered something from my childhood. Maybe you remember it too. Indian Giver.

Do you remember this? It was what you said to someone who was not honest. It was what you said to someone who reneged on an offer to give you something. It implied the revocation of a gift. It was an insult. What makes it doubly insulting is that our nation were the one who were not honest with the indigenous. It was (and still is) our nation that stole (steals) land from the indigenous. It was our nation that broke treaties.

But to justify the horrible way we’ve treated the indigenous, we projected our sins on to them…as a culture. So that when I was a child, Indian Giver, meant thief and until I learned otherwise I accepted that.

This is just one of many examples…it happens to be the one that came to mind while I ran this morning. I plan to share more examples as I remember them. I’m glad I remembered because we need to remember these things. It is in remembering that we can repent and hopefully start down the road towards peace.

Please know that God’s gift of grace is irrevocable and it is for you. I hope and pray that as we live into this gift we better see our siblings as God’s beloved.

What examples can you remember?

White Power

White power. I hate those two words together. They represent racism at its most vile. These words evoke images of violence, intimidation, and hate. I would love to reject these words when used together.

Unfortunately I can’t for the stark reality that I, throughout my life have benefited from “white power.” We don’t like to think that. And those of us who do, have substituted a less offensive sounding term, “privilege.” Or, “white privilege.” Many don’t like this expression either, because we don’t really want to face up to the idea that we have benefited from a “privileged” place in society.

Some of us might even vociferously reject this idea. I once rejected this idea. I once thought that my struggles growing up (and I had a few) negated any idea that I was privileged. I’ve since learned differently. But how I got to this place – whether I was privileged or not – is not really important for today.

What is critically important for today is the recognition that I do indeed have privilege today. As a white, middle class woman I am privileged… I have power. The most obvious illustration of that today is that I could choose to ignore the plight of our country today and I’d be largely unaffected. That is power. Many of my fellow Americans do not have that power. Many of my fellow Americans (black, brown, LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, and other religions) are being threatened today, not because they’ve done anything wrong, but because they are not white “Christian.”

This is abhorrent to me both as a person of faith and as an American. I wept as I read statements of despair (and genuine fear) from people affected by the president’s saying “many sides” contributed to the violence in Charlottesville and his doubling down by saying that some “very fine people” were marching with the Nazis and other white supremacists.

I would love to be able to ignore this. To say to myself, “this doesn’t affect me.” But I can’t do that. So what do I do?

  • Continue to love my neighbor, realizing that this may mean speaking against my neighbor.
  • Continue to use my voice (and my power) to oppose those who espouse white supremacy.
  • Continue to pray… for strength… and for fellow Christians that we have the strength to follow the teachings of Jesus throughout the gospels and especially in Matthew 25:

…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…

I (we) must be ready to physically come to the defense of our sisters and brothers should the time arise. The other day a person who’s commentary I follow posted a lament. She is a Jew and is alarmed at the attack on Jews. She notes that her people have had to be ready for these attacks for thousands of years. She notes that the desire to attack Jews never seems to go away. I wished I could have responded by telling her she was wrong, but I couldn’t. Instead, I wrote, “I am so sorry and I vow that I will never turn my back.”

May all decent people who have the power vow to do the same.

Untied and United

The other day I posted a sermon (Sermon on Romans 6:1-11) which to my embarrassment I did not carefully proofread. It had way more typos than I care to admit. I remember sitting in my office, reading the post and having a verbal reaction that caused a church member to ask, “if everything ok?” “Sure” I responded, “I just can’t type!”

The particular typo was one in which I had replaced the word, “united” with the word, “untied.” Nothing like putting in the opposite!

But then I thought about it… and one of the messages of my sermon was that Black Lives Matter and I realized that we’ll never be united until we are untied.

Untied from our fear of our neighbor… especially those who are different (race, religion, language, and nationality).

Untied from our apathy… If I believe that my life is just fine, thus I don’t need to care for my neighbor then I am deceiving myself and not really living.

Untied from our fear of what others may think… some try to say that being an ally of Black Lives Matter means being an enemy of the police. This is absurd and we all benefit from better police training. Let’s not allow the loud voices defending the status quo silence us.

As long as we are bound by fear and apathy we will never experience the life giving, life enhancing unity that is before us. It is only when we are untied that we are free to truly see our brothers and sisters are beloved, as created in God’s image, and a true brother or sister. I don’t think we can experience unity, or be united, until we are untied.

What else do we need to be untied from?

Having Your Back

Says Jesus (as recorded by John):

15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. -John 14:15-17

They, and we, will have an advocate. I like that word, “advocate.” With this word I think of: someone who goes to the defense of someone else; someone you can depend on; or a great helper in times of struggle. Or better:

Someone who “has your back”

The tragedy of our world is that true advocates are so hard to find. How many people can we count on when we truly need them? How good are we at being available for those who need our support? As I think about it, I can think of people in each category…actually it is the same people in each category.

As a pastor I like to think that I am available for people when they need me. Sometimes I feel frustrated when I don’t really know what’s happening and thus can’t help. I also have to then confess that I’m not always as available as I should be. Having one another’s backs is not always easy!

I wonder if some of the problems in our nation (even world) are because we sometimes get so focussed upon what is happening in our own lives that we miss the opportunity to be advocates for others. Sometimes it’s easier to get caught up in the drama of social media than it is to really see & hear what is happening with those we care about. And then sometimes, it is through social media that we learn that maybe we can step up our advocacy.

A few weeks ago I was involved in a FB conversation…actually it was a let’s just yell at one another conversation. I started the conversation from a place of feeling offended and it devolved from there, until I listened to my own inner voice which told me nothing good could come from continuing the conversation. That inner voice in my advocate and once I left the conversation it let me to reflect on how I can move from defensiveness to advocacy.

The particular issue is very painful and all too familiar, sexual assault. This time in the military. The victim of this assault was voicing her frustration with the treatment that she received after the assault. Having heard pieces of the story over the past couple years I can’t help but think of the continued assault women (and men) must experience in the aftermath of the first assault. We seem to be seriously short of advocates…or at least enough advocates to be effective.

So what can be done? First we must continue to fight a culture in which rape is excused, tolerated, and ignored. We must teach our children (and all ages) to respect one another. We must emphasize over and over again that consent to any activity (especially sexual) cannot be given when one is under the influence of anything (or anyone). I feel as if we’ve been talking about this my entire life…and indeed the conversation, the advocacy has been going on much longer. I believe we’ve made some progress but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a long long way to go.

We must be advocates for those who have been sexually assaulted. And here dear friends is where I’ve failed. I’ve been available to listen and to pray… and there is some value here. But what is also needed is for me (and others) to publicly advocate for change, especially when our government is failing in protecting those who serve.

PS: the text tells us that Jesus gives us the advocate…so we have the power within us to have one another’s backs.

Gratitude 2/11

This week I ran 25.5 miles, and except for the week of the Carlsbad Marathon, this was the most mileage for 2017. Taper and recovery account for all the other low mileage weeks. This 25.5 marks the first week of training for Mountains 2 Beach on May 28, only 15 weeks away. Yikes!

Up up up and down down down is pretty fun!

Today’s long run of “only” 9 miles was and out and back that was also an up and down. I’m pleased that my climbing wasn’t too slow and that my heart rate pretty much stayed in the right training zone. I might even be able to quit saying sometime soon that “I suck at running up hills.”

Then the run down was glorious! It was at a perceived easy pace that was at or better than my goal marathon pace. As the next marathon is down the very same trail I’m thinking that I just need to get my legs used to that downhill for a much longer time and then I will have my BQ!

My heart rate only went above 150 near the top of the climb and then when I was having a fun fast finish.

The best part of this week and today’s run is that in every other training re-start after marathon recovery (I’ve run 5 now) that first long run has made me ask myself while running, “how did I ever make it through a marathon?” This didn’t happen today and hopefully with won’t happen next week either!

So, today I am personally thankful for: a good start to training for marathon 6; for the beautiful sound of rushing water as I ran along a stream that was actually filled with water (a rarity here in SoCal); and for the mental and spiritual health benefits of endurance sports (especially in these trying times).