An Invocation for a Liquor Store

A friend had put extraordinary heart and energy into creating a lovingly curated liquor store in her home neighborhood in Birmingham – years after she had been forced out of a similar community endeavor by rising rents in Brooklyn.

Community ministry involves showing up, so when she invited me to bless the store at its public opening, I offered the following:*

Creator and Creation,

We come to this place in a spirit of blessing.

Bless it from roof to floor,
from wall to wall,
from its foundation to the sky.

May all harm be banished,
all disturbance cease.
May the spirit of joy and kindness and protection
and abundance and well-being
dwell within these walls.

May love be shared here.
May peace be shared here.
May all who work here be grounded in goodness.
May all who come here find friend, haven, and resilience.

We pray for wisdom and clarity for
all who are in business – and especially for LeNell –
that their talents may be used for prosperity
not only for themselves,
but for the world.

May blessings abound in this place.

In the name of all that is sacred,

Amen

*this blessing takes an initial cue from a house blessing in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and riffs from there.

The Time It Takes to Decide

I left a homeless man across town

I left a homeless man across town at a rescue mission

I left a homeless man across town at a rescue mission that might not have a bed

I left a homeless man across town at a rescue mission that might not have a bed but he wanted to try anyway

I left a homeless man across town at a rescue mission that might not have a bed but he wanted to try anyway because he knows the guy that runs it

I left a homeless man across town at a rescue mission that might not have a bed but he wanted to try anyway because he knows the guy that runs it and he asked me to

I left a homeless man across town at a rescue mission that might not have a bed but he wanted to try anyway because he knows the guy that runs it and he asked me to and I had time

I left a homeless man across town at a rescue mission that might not have a bed but he wanted to try anyway because he knows the guy that runs it and he asked me to and I had time and I didn’t have any other ideas for him

I left a homeless man across town at a rescue mission that might not have a bed but he wanted to try anyway because he knows the guy that runs it and he asked me to and I had time and I didn’t have any other ideas for him and I gave him bus fare in case he needed to get back

I left a homeless man across town at a rescue mission that might not have a bed but he wanted to try anyway because he knows the guy that runs it and he asked me to and I had time and I didn’t have any other ideas for him and I gave him bus fare in case he needed to get back and a small red umbrella because it
started
to
rain.

This Moment/Life in Justice Work

the manipulation of sentiment by power for profit

that’s the ideology of this country – and that is nothing new

dehumanization in service of exploitation is nothing new. Western (ahem) civilization – and the U.S. in particular – was built on blood and bones woven with self-centered ambition and the quest for material wealth

this heinous ideology manifests every single day in many ugly, destructive ways — and it’s really smart, in part because it’s had so much practice and so much success

if we want to accomplish anything more than feeding on the scalding fuel of outrage (making ourselves feel simultaneously awful and righteous), then we have to do better

concentrated power plans decades, even generations ahead, while we do well to figure out the next step

concentrated power is ruthlessly proactive, while we are consistently reactive

its moves fit consistently with its innovative strategies, while we rise up in furor, get (understandably) exhausted, and settle back into letting guilt and anxiety dance in our dreams

It’s made harder by a commitment to ethics and grassroots power, in that our ends do not justify just any means – but to compromise this means that we become like them. That’s ethically problematic – and beyond that, it just doesn’t work in terms of actual social change.

This is not a critique of anyone. It’s a critique of the contemporary movement for justice and freedom for all people and the planet, by someone who has been in that movement for 35 years.

we have to do better.

Let it begin with a clear understanding that what we face daily is the manipulation of sentiment by power for profit

Let it be understood that we must constantly examine the dynamics of power in every relationship (personal and political, our own and at every level).

Let it continue in a daily dismantling of the ideology of patriarchal, white supremacist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, ageist, earth-destroying, xenophobic practice at every level. We must see and make the connections.

Let us ask – always – “who benefits from this?” (at any level – and whether the actions are theirs or ours) – and continually refine our analysis and our actions

Let us understand that the struggle for justice and liberation is a life-long way of living – and that we must sustain ourselves in joy and community and resilience and courage even as our hearts are continually broken open.

Amen

The Truth

Midweek I sat
fingering purple plastic
prayer beads strung
by the faithful
for those passing
through a hospital
chapel, who slip
them in a
coat pocket so
as to find
them by touch –

sitting in a
county courtroom populated
by shackled black
men in faded
prison stripes –
irony feasting on
the wall portrait
framing an old
white man in
his impeccable regimental
striped tie and
gleaming cufflinks –

A repeat felon,
facing new charges,
urged to plea
lest he face
mandatory life without
parole –

“No, your honor,
I ain’t going
to plead to
nothing
I
didn’t
do.”

But the moment
that makes us
all bow our
heads –

the young blonde
prosecutor clears her
throat,
hesitates,
before explaining that
no, they can’t
reschedule for Monday
for a man
trying to keep
his job because
it’s the
Jefferson Davis
holiday.

One-Time Shot Logic

death
smells like poisonous gas
feels like fire from
bombs dropped
between busy hours
of laundry,
bathing children,
signatures on significant
documents,
dollars trading
hands for bread,
medicine,
safety,
a promise.

death
tastes like Flint’s water
scalding the skin
mirage of clean
burned to bone
thirst quenched by
dangerous illusions
sounds like self-checkout registers
turning jobs
into vapor

death
looks like hell,
run by callous men
But really –
You know death
when you see it.

What You Can Do

I’m hearing a lot of overwhelmed from people right now – and understandably so. Here’s what I’ve got to offer – take it to the extent it is useful:

Keep speaking truth to power with love.

Keep doing works of mercy.

Keep learning so that you gain ever more clarity and ever more skill in those tasks.

Rest as you need. You are allowed to rest. All living things require it.

Pay attention – and discern when it’s useful to speak and when it isn’t. Both issues and people reveal themselves – and are changed in and by – the stresses of the world.

Remember that this work (all of this work, wherever you are) is a long haul. There are acute moments, but it is most certainly a (life-) long commitment to a better world. It was here before you. It will (sadly) be here after you. Each of us is but a small part of that work.

You are called to do what you can. You are not called to do more or less than that. Work on discerning what is within your control and what is beyond it.

Be kind when you can – for the sake of your own heart as well as those around you.

There are contextual variations on these principles. And I’ve got more thoughts for my fellow Jesus followers (and that’s what I preach on each week). But I’ve found that these notions hold true in most contexts and for most people.

Peace and blessings for the day, friends.

The Clash of Interdependence with the Ideology of Power

I am staring at the news of the world today and especially at the tragic, infuriating deaths of Nabra Hassanen in Sterling, VA and Charleena Lyles in Seattle and at the effects of the devastating creep of climate change.

In this world where our hearts are continually broken by such wrenching tragedy, I am pondering today some key questions within the following context –

(and these are not actually new questions – I have been asking them and seeking answers to them for 30 years now, but this musing represents the refinement of my framing of them in today’s moment)

I affirm that the well-being of all living things – including me and those dearest to me and the body of the earth – is interconnected.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr explained that “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny.”

Buddhists (wisely) frame it in terms of the concept of interdependence (pratitya-samutpada).

I get to it in Christianity by (a) seeing the face of Jesus in all around me, particularly in those whom our culture marginalizes, (b) acknowledging that we are all created in God’s image, and (c) affirming that the Holy Spirit dwells within us all. These are central principles in my theology.

I understand interdependence as a simple fact of existence. We are interdependent as living beings and on that basis we ought to care for another.

That is both an ethical stance and a pragmatic one.

We are confronted with a culture – and plenty of people within it – who view living as a game of accumulation of power and material comfort in which the goal is to protect their own well-being (which they believe deserves to be protected even at the expense of the well-being of others).

I admit that I and other well-meaning folk of relative privilege (whatever that relative cultural power is in any immediate moment) are not immune to the lure of this thinking. We are soaked in it and sold it daily, so it takes constant work to scrub it off.

This view renders the majority of the population as disposable beyond their economic value as consumers and as threats to the extent that they are construed to infringe upon the perceived right to accumulate power and material comfort.

These two perspectives cannot exist side-by-side merely as different views of the world.

The second perspective attempts to obliterate and obscure the first – by violence and by constant seduction.

The first perspective floods the second with a demand for justice for all, mercy toward all, equity, care, and compassion. Those who seek to protect the second rightly assess that accepting the fact of our interdependence erodes their fictive claim to deserved superiority.

This is a life and death struggle. Make no mistake about that. It is also a struggle for our souls and the soul of our culture.

Those who would accumulate power in service to their own privilege are prevailing. They have been and continue to effectively shape the world according to their image of it and to their benefit. They adapt quickly and strategically to new challenges.

They are not only not afraid of their own power, they glory in it.

My question is this – how do we who believe in the reality of our interdependence effectively change the game without becoming like those who serve their own power and privilege?

As it stands now, pitting their strategies and worldview against ours, we are losing this life and death struggle.

And yet if we adopt their methods and methodologies (even with different ends in mind) and their tight grasp of power, then we become like them. Or do we?

Surely these are not the only two options – (1) continuing to lose in the struggle for the fully recognized dignity and intrinsic worth of all human lives and all of Creation or (2) becoming like those who so willfully destroy the earth and its people ( or at least callously stand by and allow it to happen).

How do we get beyond this trap of choices?

A Prayer for the Morning of the National Prayer Breakfast

I hear the National Prayer Breakfast is taking place this morning in Washington. 
 
Here in Alabama, as I sit with my coffee, I am praying this prayer –

Gracious and Loving God,
 
I lift up to you this morning the weary and determined spirits of those everywhere who love justice and mercy, who seek to live with compassion and joy and commitment, and who daily do that work as best they can.
 
I count myself among this number and ask for wisdom and guidance and skill in my own work, that I might be an instrument of your love and light in this world.
 
I lift up the disenfranchised and dispossessed, those from whom land and life and the means of life have been taken, those who have been denied the basic dignity and respect due to all people.
 
I lift up the anxieties and fears that weigh upon the hearts of so many. I pray for comfort and courage to face whatever lies ahead.
 
I lift up hard hearts and closed minds and bitter spirits and selfish interests that they might be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
I lift up the powers of this world – greed and power-seeking and ego-gratification and cruelty – that we might recognize them for what they are, wherever they are and from whomever they come. I pray for strength and insight for us all in confronting such sin wherever it comes from.
 
I lift up the Earth which gives rise to all that is good, which we must protect and nurture and cherish and love with our whole broken hearts. I pray for ecosystems and plants and rocks and animals and hills and mountains and rivers and seas and all the planet.
 
For all in need, I pray for healing, solace, wisdom, courage, justice, compassion, insight, and hope.
 
I pray for us all.
 
It is the example of Jesus that has taught me the love that I bring to this prayer and it is in that spirit that I pray.
 
Amen.

Finding the Sacred in the Everyday: Part II – Justice and the Other

We’ll begin today with a quote from Father Daniel Berrigan, who passed from this world into the next yesterday after a long life of faithful work for justice-

“Obviously there will be no genuine peace while such an inherently violent scheme of things continues. America will in time extricate herself from the bloody swamps, the ruined villages, the mutilated dead of Vietnam. But nothing will be settled there, nothing mitigated at home. Nothing changed, that is, until a change of heart leads us to a change of social structures in every area of our lives.”

Justice for the Other is a sacred task.

It’s a humbling thing to be talking about justice here today because I know this is a congregation for whom a desire for justice is woven into the fabric of your faith – we can see how it says so right there in your bulletin.

We talked last week about connecting with the sacred in ourselves – and I suspect for many here that’s a more challenging concept than the notion that we would find the sacred among others and especially among the Other – those whom our society marginalizes for one reason or another.

Today we are talking about how people in the spring of 2016 living in Birmingham Alabama, participating in the life of this congregation – how can you encounter the sacred in the lives of others and live out a path of justice?

First of all, I know that many of you already are doing so. Let us take a moment to celebrate the consistent witness of this congregation and you among it on so many vital issues. Let us be grateful that you create and hold a progressive, inclusive faith space in an environment where those can be difficult to find.

Do you do this perfectly? I suspect not. I’ve never known any congregation who did. But from what I know you strive to make the connections between how we ought to live and how we do live – and how we treat one another, both individually and systemically.

Thank you for that. That is a calling and it is a gift to you and through you to the broader community.

That ought to be said.

And because I know you take this commitment seriously, today I’m going to offer to you a few further reflections rooted in my own years of social justice engagement and in my sense of your community – each of you on your individual journeys and along your path together.

I am going to make 4 points (and don’t worry, I’ll make them briefly) –

1)  let us realize that we are not all called to do the same sort of work. This was the message I offered the young people – and let me reassert it now. Any work for justice is built on a variety of tasks. Some people are good at critique. Others create. Some people are the logistics folks. Vision and practicality. It takes all of us. Often we devalue our own roles. Or we criticize others because they are not just like us.

Don’t get me wrong – accountability is important and we need to examine critical words to figure out if we can learn something from them. Or to offer some critical words – from a place of love, not ego. But we’re in this together – and we do the work best when we do what we are called to do and support others in what they are called to do.

That acknowledges the sacred in ourselves and in the others whom we struggle alongside.

So that’s first. In the struggle for justice, let us keep building one another up.

2)  we know there is a constant struggle for justice and against oppression across difference.

We can name forms of oppression –

Systemic racism
Sexism and patriarchy
Homophobia and heterosexism
Ableism
Ageism
Colonialism
Militarism
Materialism

Systemic discrimination because of economic status or class, national origin, religion (or lack thereof). There are others.

And today we especially honor International Workers Day. We remember the long history of labor demands and the ongoing needs for wage justice across the globe. The obstacles to minimum wage legislation locally are just one example in the ongoing demand for dignity and a fair wage for all working people, for all who want and need to work.

Today is also International Family Equality Day, a world-wide celebration of the LGBTQ parenting and family community and a time of recognition that many parents and their children continue to face discrimination and the threat of violence. In a week that has seen Oxford threaten to jail transgender people based on bathroom use and Chief Justice Roy Moore publically reiterating his claim that same-sex marriage violates state law, we must celebrate loving and caring family in all of its formations.

Each of the causes, each of these demands for justice and experience of injustice bring their own specific conditions.

We can acknowledge that no paths are the same while we at once recognize that the forces of oppression have something in common.

Our culture continues to set forth a particular norm. And with that norm goes power in society. And across that norm – on the other side, you find less power, less value.

Across that norm, we move from subject to object. And if we look around the room, there are ways in which we all cross that norm – you might be a black straight woman or a low-income white man. You might be a Latino man with dementia. Or a trans Muslim youth.

We flip across the continuum of power in all of our identities – and we owe it to the quest for justice to recognize the ways in which we are granted power, even as in other ways we are denied it.

And further to understand that the intersections of those layers of identity render people especially privileged. Or especially vulnerable.

That is the reality of our world. The question to us is what we do with it.

IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. This is not some natural order. We have constructed a society in which difference is viewed with suspicion and denied full humanity – or the full respect of creation if we look beyond human life into the health of our ecosystems and the future of the planet.

This is human-made.

Injustice is persistent and pervasive but we always have choices. We always have the capacity to assert that the system as we know it is wrong.

We are not all the same. But our differences can be viewed as a source of richness, as the vibrant texture of our full humanity, as the opportunity to come to come into relationships of mutuality.

We have that choice. To embrace and assert the value of a pluralistic world, one that celebrates rather than erases differences and yet strives for full justice and full value and the recognition of the full humanity of all people and indeed the value and meaning of all creation.

This requires us continually to educate ourselves. No matter how much we know, there is more to learn. Change is a constant. And it is not the responsibility of people at the margins or those whom we have made vulnerable in our society to educate us. We must not assume that our good intentions entitle us to relationship. When we’re in the position of privilege – we have to do our own work.

We can learn to respect people as the subjects of their own lives rather than as the objects of our derision or mockery OR our charity or aspirations for them.

When we bring our open hearts and our open minds – and when we leave our defensiveness and our egos and our need to be the good white person/straight person/ally/and so on back at home – we can find the room to do meaningful work.

We may not always be setting the agenda. Maybe we just need to show up and listen and then take what we’ve learned back to our own communities and circles.

And there, even in the most hard-hearted places of ingrained racism or sexism or homophobia, maybe we find that through our commitment, our compassion, and our ever-growing wisdom maybe we find the opportunities to chip away at oppression at its source.

That is difficult and delicate work – and if we wield our truths like an angry hammer – well, sometimes we have to do that – but most of the time, if we look, we can find ways to speak truth to power has a chance to be heard. And a lot of times, it may not even be about the person you’re speaking directly to. Even if you are just disrupting the illusion of consensus, you may be speaking a truth that someone needs to hear – and doing what’s right because it’s right.

3) Okay, so having talked about justice as own specific identities and at the intersections, let’s widen the circle a little. The way that we do community can be a radical act of justice. In a world of commodification and consumerism, creating spaces of intentional genuine community – community that has porous borders, so that it’s open to all – community where people can join in relationship – that is a justice act.

And it is from that community and from those relationships that we come to understand the visceral realities of the structures of power and privilege. These connections can be counter-cultural. They can interrupt norms.

And I know y’all know that.  This congregation is one of those places.

But I also know that – as I said earlier – no gathering of human people is perfect. And I know that times of transition are hard. And the world that we live in today encourages us to harden our edges. So as a friend to this community, I want to take this opportunity to reiterate the importance of building real, non-exclusive, mutually-accountable, open-hearted relationships among yourselves.

This takes commitment and patience. It is active and evolving. We bring the world with us – and all of our own stuff – when we walk through these doors. But in your willingness to do this work, to dedicate this effort, you create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

4) Finally, I know we could spend all day talking about layers and levels of injustice and the struggle to achieve justice, but I will close with one other matter that takes us out another level into the community.

One element of my own current work is a focus on how we regard the question of economic development in our city and in our state. There are a lot of wonderful things happening in Birmingham right now. But in some cases they are happening – as these things have ALWAYS happened here – on the backs of the poorest among us. I’m talking about what, depending on how you look at it, is described as neighborhood revitalization or as gentrification.

I’m all about cool places to eat and fixing up dilapidated housing and craft beer – seriously, we can say that in the UU church, right? Good beer is a great thing.

But once again it comes at a price – and it does not take much digging at all to realize that this is absolutely a consistent pattern over the whole of the history of this metropolitan area — we put the interests of business and of the relatively affluent above the needs of the poor.

In Birmingham, this is always a racialized narrative as well, so that we have the needs of poor black and brown people subsumed to the profit and pleasure of the affluent, who are predominantly, though not exclusively, white. Poor people of color are displaced in the name of so-called economic and neighborhood development. We see it decade after decade in the history our city and it is happening now.

Unfortunately, the sides on this argument have come to a point where everyone more or less knows what the other is going to say.

Add to that that these are complicated, nuanced issues, where the economic engines involved have become ever-more sophisticated in their presentation and the methods.

Add in the persistent pernicious ideology of globalization which is constantly soaked into our outlook. Gentrification is globalization made manifest at a local level.

If we take it out another level, we see the ways in which the economic development rhetoric in our state tends to happen at the expense of the natural environment.

Disposable people, disposable ecosystems.

Collateral damage laid on the altar of profit and productivity.

I raise these issue here today not because we can fully address it – I myself often have more questions than solutions, but because I would like to invite you as a religious community to participate in a broader religious dialogue on gentrification. This is not a centralized conversation, but instead a grassroots effort to bring our lens of faith to examine such questions as

Who benefits from economic revitalization and neighborhood (re)development and at whose expense does it take place? and

How should we as religious communities and individuals respond to the fact that current models of economic and neighborhood development do little to disrupt systems that marginalize significant groups of people – because they are rooted in neoliberal economic approaches and top-down strategies that reinforce outsider hierarchies rather than grassroots participation.

Make no mistake that they are more sophisticated than past blunt tools of legalized racial segregation and so-called urban renewal. But they are this century’s face of our continued neglect of the most vulnerable among us in the service of a cultural narrative of economic self-sufficiency and continued accumulation of wealth and power for a sliver of the populace.

In a world that does not now and will not ever IN the current economic system have enough living wage jobs for people to gainfully support themselves, I would argue that it is of great relevance on International Workers Day to question the status quo – and the violence it does to people on the economic margins.

If this question of a religious dialogue on gentrification and how you might bring a UU faith lens to examine these issues has any interest to you – either as individuals or as a community, please let me know. This is an organically evolving dialogue and I would love to discuss at some point in the days, weeks, or months ahead how we might productively generate such a conversation here and what sort of action might come out of it.

As we conclude these meditations on finding the sacred among us in everyday life, on living out a path of justice, I offer more words from Daniel Berrigan:

“For my part, I believe that the vain, glorious and the violent will not inherit the earth.  In pursuance of that faith my friends and I take the hands of the dying in our hands. And some of us travel to the Pentagon, and others live in the Bowery and serve there, and others speak unpopularly and plainly. It is all one.”

An Orlando Massacre Journal of Reflection and Action

Most of my conversation in the immediate aftermath of the massacre in Orlando took place on Facebook in communion with people in my community. This post documents those reflections as they unfolded that day and since, forming something of a journal of grief and sense-making.

Sunday, June 12 7:58 am
‘THIS IS NOT GOD’S LOVE!!!!’ screamed a protester (who shames the name of Christ by claiming it) an arm’s length from me during last night’s Pride parade. I thought ‘you got that right.’

That is among the more printable of the things that this small, loud group hurled at us as we walked past in last night’s Pride parade. They were particularly incensed by the row of churches that showed up to proclaim the (genuine) inclusive nature of God’s love.

We don’t yet know many of the details about the shooting in Orlando – a shooting that took place in a nightclub much like the one in which Phyllis and I were hanging out into the early hours the other night.

But I do know these things, which I had planned to say today anyway and which take on a particular poignant, painful significance in light of this horrible event:

When you see us LGBTQIA folks celebrating Pride, realize that we are fighting for not only for dignity and inclusion, but for life itself.

We are celebrating our integrity and our full humanity in a society that that often denies it.

We are calling for a world that embraces our diversity and that understands this example of diversity as instructive – for we can help teach the rest of our culture that difference is a source of strength and wonder instead of fear, judgment, and hatred.

Even in this day, there is no shortage of people who would deny us the right to simply live as ourselves. The play we saw Friday night included a wrenching video clip of cases of physical violence to LGBTQIA people. This is not uncommon. And countless more lives are broken by the rejection and stigma that we face daily. That is the sinful behavior here.

There is nothing wrong with us. There is nothing related to our sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity that needs to be fixed or changed. We are proud of who we are because of who we are, NOT in spite of it.

I would not choose to be other than I am.

The day that we as a global culture learn to live and let live and to treat people with dignity and respect will be a grand day indeed.

We don’t know yet what led to the slaughter of a score of people in Orlando last night and the injury of many more, but it certainly has the marks of a hate crime. We certainly do know what leads to physical violence, awful insult, and soul injury to LGBTQIA people EVERY SINGLE DAY in this culture.

Please consider this morning if your words and your attitudes and your actions contribute to that. There is no neutral ground in this matter. We are fighting for our lives.

11:47 a.m. – Further news brings us the information that this club was the heart of the scene for Orlando’s Latino LGBTQIA population. LGBTQIA people of color face the dual brutalities of society’s racism and homophobia and it would appear they have born the brunt of this senseless slaughter. There are no words to convey what I feel.

8:06 p.m. –  I wrote this as a comment earlier, but it was buried in the long thread of my first post today – and I think it’s worth foregrounding (so I quote myself):

‘Fundamentalism comes in all forms. It can be found in religious and secular settings. It is a mechanism of power – human power, which has nothing to do with the power of faith or divine power, though it often claims that. It is the opposite of pluralism and dedicates itself through a range of violent exclusionary tactics (which include sophisticated and not-so-sophisticated social discourse) to the eradication of pluralism.

I am a pluralist, though I also operate with joy and intensity from my own social location. I respect the right of fundamentalists (whether they be Muslims, Christians, atheists, political ideologues, or any flavor) to live and believe. Their rights end when they move into broader cultural space because their dearest intent is to suffocate pluralist society by sucking the air out of it with their noxious ideological commitments.

My commitment to respond to dehumanization leads me to speak and act against fundamentalism in all of its forms. I have lived long enough, however, to recognize that it comes in far more forms than we commonly name (i.e., far beyond the Islam and the Christianity that we typically associate with extremism).’

I will add to that now: peace and prayers and love to all who – in myriad meaningful ways – counter the forces of dehumanization. It is essential work.

Monday, June 13 11:59 a.m.
Dear God, today I pray especially for all of those working in LGBTQIA service and advocacy organizations and groups, for they are dealing with their own grief while also trying to love and serve the whole community. Give them strength of soul and peace of heart and wisdom of word in all that they do – and rest and well-being for themselves. We offer our gratitude to them and to you. Amen.

Tuesday, June 14 9:56 p.m.
A reminder to my LGBTQIA friends – you can turn off the news if you need to. It’s okay. You can walk away from it for a while. Take care of yourself. The struggle and the honor of memory will still be there when you get back.

Wednesday, June 15 6:42 a.m.
May we remember today that kindness and advocacy need not be mutually exclusive.

May we be filled with both compassion and a whole-hearted commitment to justice for all.

May we honor that which is holy within each person and on this earth, even as we ask for accountability and discernment.

May we be wise.

8:10 a.m. –  If you are ally or friend of LGBTQIA people and especially LGBTQIA people of color – or want to be – or just respect people period – I have a suggestion.

Our cultural space is really, really noisy right now.

The LGBTQIA community is not of one mind about where we go from here (and that’s okay), though we’re pretty universal about taking note of and condemning individual and cultural homophobia.

So while we’re not monolithic, one way you can support people is to make room for our voices. You can listen, ask respectful questions (NOT devil’s-advocate, opinions-disguised-as-questions, or argumentative questions) IF the person welcomes questions, and research and read what’s being said by LGBTQIA people about all the different issues.

This is about hearing, not about being heard yourself.

When you help to create that space where LGBTQIA people’s voices are made central, you are helping (even just a little bit) to shift the power in our cultural conversations. No one speaks for the whole community (ever – for any community), but there’s good learning in seeking out a range of perspectives.

I believe this to be good solidarity practice across the board, but today let us keep in mind the context of LGBTQIA people, Latino/Latinx folks, and the intersections of sexual orientation and gender identity, race, and ethnicity.

11:13 a.m. –  An update about tonight’s Religious Memorial Observance for the Victims of the Orlando Massacre (let me know if you have questions) –

we will gather tonight at 8:00 on the first floor of Beloved. After an opening welcome, there will be 5 separate spaces for prayer and reflection in honor of the lives lost and disrupted at Pulse in Orlando. You will be able to move among them according to your own needs. They are:

1) downstairs at Beloved – a diverse group of faith leaders from around the community will offer their prayers

2) upstairs at Beloved – a space for silent prayer, meditation, centering prayer, and silent worship. this space will also be open before the service beginning at 7:00.

3) at The Abbey – names and images of those who were killed

4) at The Abbey – a memorial creative art space

5) at The Abbey – a place to talk and pray individually with ministers and chaplains

We hope that all will feel welcome and that all can find a forum for their own grief and healing.

Thursday, June 16 7:06 a.m.
Prayer versus action – this is a false binary.

It’s not either/or. The best action is grounded in prayer*.

And the lessons of action give clarity to prayer.

These are complementary means, not opposite ones.

*as a Christian, I pray to a gracious and loving God in the name of the Incarnate Christ, but I’d certainly never say that is the only meaningful form of prayer. Translate for yourself and your own traditions or non-traditions accordingly.

Friday, June 17 7:06 a.m.
Sweet friends and family have been reaching out since the Orlando shooting to offer words of comfort, affirmation, and love. That’s meant a lot. And many of them (many of y’all 🙂 ) will also include a concern about safety. ‘Be careful.’ is the refrain.

Here’s the thing – I don’t feel any less safe after Orlando than I felt before it. That, sadly, is because I didn’t feel safe before Orlando. And I know very few LGBTQIA people who do feel wholly safe. And – with no disrespect intended at all – I think those few who do are probably not staring at the reality of things.

We construct communities of love and relationship – or at least the fortunate among us are in a place to do so – that provide for support and meaning in the rhythms of life.

But there are a lot of people that hate us, that consider us sinful, or find us disgusting. There’s an entire spectrum of dis-affirmation and down at the far end of it is a small violent group.

We are harmed by that whole spectrum – and that’s why I keep repeating that there’s no neutral ground. I want people to get off of that spectrum and locate themselves in a place that at least embraces ‘live and let live’ and eschews rhetoric about sin or anything less than the full humanity and dignity of LGBTQIA people.

But we are all – and always have been – at real risk of significant harm from genuinely dangerous people. The reality of that has been magnified by Orlando, but it was no less true before. People often remain closeted in whole or in part not because they are ashamed but because they are afraid. And they ought to be.

The awful murder of British MP Jo Cox yesterday further illustrates the vulnerability of good people to those who are willing to make their hatred manifest in the most brutal ways. That wasn’t about LGBTQIA issues, but it’s a related form of extremism that from all reports led to her death. I am 100% aware that in every public presence I claim as an out lesbian – and this is true for all of us – that it is good fortune that my path and that of some violent hater doesn’t cross. I am especially aware of that in terms of a pastoral presence. I am never not aware of it.

I want every-body to feel and be safe from needlessly inflicted harm. Queer bodies. Black bodies. Brown bodies. Disabled bodies. Poor bodies. Women’s bodies. Old bodies. And all of the intersections of those things. Every body. Every body to live knowing that their inherent worth as human beings – their right to live, to love, and to face each day with the integrity of a whole self – is fully respected by all.

That’s the world I strive for. It is not the world we have now. And I know it.

There is no neutral ground. Either you stand with love* across all our differences or you are somewhere on that spectrum that tips downward to the most horrible of places.

(* and some conservative Christians – will say “Oh, I love everybody. I just . . .” STOP RIGHT THERE. Where that sentence goes from there indicates that they really don’t get what the radical love of Jesus Christ is or means or demands of those of us who claim to be his followers. They do NOT love everybody because THAT.IS.NOT.THE.LOVE.OF.CHRIST.)

9:17 p.m. – It has been a week of horror and grief, including today the anniversary of the white-supremacy-driven killings at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston.

It has been a week of human connection that embraces and celebrates our diversity and our innate capacity for joy and relationship. We bear witness to the brutality, but all around me, people are responding with love. Real love and care and concern.

Amen and Amen.

Tonight Temple Emanu-El invited both the LGBTQIA community and the Muslim community to worship and grieve in a memorial in their Shabbat service. It was heartfelt, inclusive, and deeply resonant with the spirit (Spirit) of promise for a better world.

Shabbat Shalom.

Saturday, June 18 7:54 a.m.
A word I need to say:

if anyone were ever to come for my Muslim friends, they would have to come through me.

And I’m small, but I’m mean when people mess with my peeps.

Please don’t think you know anything about Islam if you are not in personal fellowship with any Muslims.

(and yes, that’s a dramatic statement, but given the nature of our sociopolitical discourse these days, I wanted to say something equally unequivocal)

(and yes, I feel that way about my other friends too, but this is the claim that is called for in this particular moment)

Sunday, June 19 7:59 a.m.
In a week where I have been critiquing the violent culture of toxic masculinity, it’s lovely to have a day to celebrate all the good men in this world.

I know a LOT of them and I’m sure you do too. Not only in my own biological family – my father, step-father, grandfathers, and uncles – but among my friends, the fathers of my friends (and now days the sons of my friends), and countless other men who put their energy into caring for the people around them and for the world.

I critique the culture of patriarchy, but I do so in the hope of freeing us ALL from the pressures that cause some men to miss the joy of living, the capacity to care, and the pleasures of non-conforming individuality. I count a bunch of non-conforming, open-hearted men as my chosen brothers in this world and the world needs more like them (even though they are nothing alike on the surface).

Keep fathering, good men, whether you are a biological father or not. The world needs you – and I’m grateful to travel in it with you.

9:59 p.m. – I’ve been thinking about how the victim total for the Orlando shooting was reduced from 50 to 49. The 50th fatality was the shooter, Omar Mateen.

Something bothers me about that. I had the same reaction about Newtown when Adam Lanza was removed from the count.

Now if I were an injured victim or a loved one of those killed or injured, I doubt I could manage any equanimity about these men. I would not make this argument to those people.

But most of us are not those people. We are a step or many steps removed and our perspective can be different. We can carry some of the load that those closer to the tragedy cannot.

I suggest that a part of that load is grieving for the man who did the killing and whatever happened in his life to turn him into the person who committed mass murder – and analyzing with some compassion (rather than just polarized vitriol) the factors that led to it.

None of us can know what peculiar alchemy turned Omar Mateen into killer, but we can look for the causes and try to deal with them. And we can pray for his soul and for the souls of other damaged people out there.

There are no simple answers – and we won’t find answers with simple judgments. I am not in any way recommending that we excuse the behavior or fail to hold people accountable.

But hurt people hurt people. And maybe if we can figure out what about our culture and our individual lives within it harms people to the point of their doing harm to others, we might make a difference.

Tuesday, June 21 2:53 p.m.
After I prayed last week at the Central Alabama Pride/City of Birmingham vigil, I was quoted in a local NPR-affiliate interview as saying “Our responses are what teach us how to live,” *

Tragic moments remind us that we want to live lives of genuine meaning.

We want lives that matter.

It doesn’t have to be on any grand global scale.

It’s really about living with integrity and commitment in whatever context you find yourself.

This is counter-cultural. Our culture insists that we must purchase something to bring ourselves that sort of contentment and connection. The system depends on our always wanting (convincing ourselves that we need) something more.

But the horrible moments, along with the truly joyous ones, reveal that for the fiction that it is.

Everyone of us can live a life that matters. That’s a choice we make in our engagement with one another every single day.

In this contentious season, I pray that we all remember this basic truth.

*(otherwise I probably would have forgotten I said it – but I’ve been reflecting since I read them on those words, which I did indeed say)

Sunday, June 26 2:28 p.m.
Been catching up on a couple of back yard chores this blazing afternoon and thinking about a book by the noted American Buddhist Jack Kornfield. It’s called ‘After the Ecstasy, the Laundry’ and it’s a skillful reminder of how we live in the realm of the daily even after moments of enlightenment and insight.

What I’m working with this afternoon – two weeks after waking up to the news about the Orlando shootings – is more the concept of ‘After the Tragedy, the Laundry.’

For those who are personally touched by horrible events, sometimes things are never the same. Our lives are surely as shaped by our losses as by our joys and triumphs. But often from a bit more remove we bear witness to the terrible things that happen in this world and then we move on. What else are we supposed to do?

Getting stuck is never a good option. The meaningful choice, I believe, is in how we go about moving forward.

It’s easy to get caught up in the cause-of-the-moment. It becomes a lightening quick grief fad.We can move on from that to the next awful thing – or to ignoring the next awful thing or to ignoring the chronic misery of many in our world. Or we can acknowledge that in this interdependent world we are all changed by the suffering of others. Then we choose to let that embitter us or open our hearts.

That’s our fundamental choice – slide right on by, turn ugly, or keep letting our spirits grow with a heart of compassion and care.

It’s really up to us. The laundry still has to get done. The backyard still has to be mowed. It’s really all about what we bring to it and what we give back into the world around us. That comes after ecstasy and it comes after tragedy – and it’s one better measure of the meaning of our time on this earth.