ashes turn grey

Churches are burning. I sat down with a pen and a scrap piece of paper. This is what came out.

ashes turn grey

ashes turn grey

and coals as black

as black can

be

remain.

charred remnants

of holy worship

and cries for

justice

and peace.

where songs were

sung there by

brown, black, mohagany

beautiful

people.

people unseen

unheard

unwanted

but by

God.

God – help.

terrorism erupts

in flames

in shots

in flags

in hearts.

firebombs

from the 60s

the segregationists

are coming

i see

their remnants

in the coals

in the ashes

in the pain

in the

hell and damnation

they cause

and continue

to purpose.

my voice

my mind

my heart

seem small

in the shadows

of the

surging

churning

raging

hatred and blissful

ignorance.

numbness.

apathy.

resolute.

pen and paper

are all i can

bring myself to

words will not come.

how can we wake

wake ourselves up?

then what?

and churches burn

and ashes turn grey.

and brown, black, mohagany

remain.

resolute

to overcome

the terror.

not only God help them.

We.

how did we get here?

what must we do?

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Growing Hope

Pregnancy is one of those phenomena I find difficult to describe. Everyday, I feel our daughter growing stronger and bigger inside of me, as I grow larger and more excited and more curious about what she will be like. Along with all that growth, my energy and my ability to focus has not been what it was, and so, writing as often as I’d like has not been possible.

There is so much I have wanted to say over the past several weeks. I had a whole post planned out in my head for Vicky Beeching, who recently came out and has faced quite the backlash, but also some wonderful support. I still plan to write out everything I wanted to say, but not today. So for now, let it be said that I was so encouraged by her bravery and touched by many of her supporters.

I have had a lot on my mind as far as sexual assault and domestic violence. The recent NFL controversies, sexual assaults on college campuses, and an assault involving local high school students has had me reflecting and also planning on what all I can do as an education professional and a counselor. I have worked closely with sexual trauma for several years now, and I am always looking for ways to help more, prevent more, and educate more.

I could say more about the international conflicts, about LGBT homeless, about my own frustrations with my career and wanting to use my counseling skills on a full time basis again – desperately.

I could talk about the economy, the election season, freedom of speech, and  РFerguson- My God, help us. There is so much to say.

The truth of the matter is that there are so many horrible things going on in the world right now. And the truth is also that there are good things – acts of courage, acts of kindness, acts of selfless giving.

Throughout the Gospels, we read about “the Kingdom of God.” When I was younger, I always pictured a palace, a crown, gaudy royal things that didn’t much appeal to me. Honestly, those images still don’t.

But now that I understand more, I see the simplicity, and I realize that the simplicity and the smallness is the point.

The Kingdom of God is like…

a mustard seed…

yeast…

a pearl…

a buried treasure…

little children…

Small, beautiful, full of potential.

Always growing and working behind the scenes.

This week was not very good for me. I had my hopes up for a big positive change, and those hopes were let down on Friday morning. A family member has made some horrible choices and is self-destructing. Illness was bad.

But still, through being sick, through being told I didn’t get the position, through hearing the latest bad decision of a loved one,

our daughter kicked, and moved, and grew inside of me.

Life, even in the darkness, was growing and is still growing behind the scenes.

I am so quick to forget that the good is still at work, that the sweet will soon come to contrast the bitter, and that the sun will, indeed, come up again.

Yesterday, we dug up our sweet potatoes. To be completely honest, D dug them up while I watched and went back and forth to get things as needed- bending over and working isn’t as easy now that I am about to move into my third trimester!

We neglected the bed of potatoes. The weeds had all but completely taken over. We hardly watered them. We had way too large of a garden this year, and it was more than we could manage. So, the potatoes were left on their own.

We were pretty sure we would have a very small amount of sad little scrawny sweet potatoes. But, we were wrong. We had a good amount overall, many small, but several large.

Even among the choking weeds, drought, and neglect, life was still at work – growing and becoming full of more life to give.

Right now, the life growing inside of me serves as my reminder, as does the garden we plant and tend to. What reminders can you use to continually remember that the good is at work behind the scenes? That life and hope are growing? And that the sun will shine again?

I hope you’ll think on it, and that you will share in the comments if you are willing.

With much hope and anticipation for the better.

Love,

C.

 

 

 

Virtual Reality

This is the third time I have attempted to post something. Either the words wouldn’t come, or they didn’t make since, or I quite frankly didn’t have the energy.

To my readers, I apologize for my silence.

I do have some news to begin with which might also explain my absence.

Ready?

I’m pregnant!

Yes, after all that wondering and worry, I am now at the beginning of my second trimester. D & I couldn’t be happier about adding someone to our family, and about the opportunity before us to be good loving parents. Here’s to hoping for better energy levels and no more morning sickness (Please, dear God.)

I do plan to write more about the process we went through sometime in the future, but I have a lot on my mind now.

I’ve decided to take a break from Facebook. It just gets difficult to read across the news feed sometimes. Honestly, it’s always worse when there is a controversy of some kind. I don’t mean it’s difficult to see opinions that differ from mine. That’s to be expected and part of what makes friendships so interesting sometimes.

No, what I am talking about is the tendency for us as a society to wall up with our own views and criticize everyone who tends to disagree with us. I’m talking about the other-ing we engage in when we bring up so-called “hot topics.” I’m talking about the way we form opinions and take stances from our safe distances instead of engaging with the people for whom the issue of the hour is not an intellectual exercise – but is real life.

I see it in my liberal and conservative and moderate friends. I see it in myself, my employer, my family, and in my communities I live and worship in.

For the sake of example, I noticed comments about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case. I saw where people belittled one another for one view or another, and even questioning how one side could be called Christian; then saw the exact reverse of that siding and other-ing elsewhere. I noticed rants about Chick-fil-a mixed in, and witnessed comparisons and contrasts.

I missed something though, and maybe that’s why I feel so compelled to write about it. What about the point of view of the one who is really affected? The one who gets ignored in the cross hairs of firing our rhetoric at one another.

I feel pain for women who have difficulty in taking oral contraceptives and cannot have access to other means of birth control due to their employer. I cringe for them when people say callous things like “get a job elsewhere” or there are plenty of employers who will support it, go work for them. Have those who say such things tested the job market lately? Not to mention, I wonder at how cruel it is that someone has to find another job with a place that might not be as good of a fit due to rules like that.

I don’t have to wonder long. I worked as an intern, and then as an adjunct counselor at my alma mater. I even applied for a full-time position there. However, at the advice of dear friends who knew the double life I would have to lead, I decided not to go through with pursuing what was an amazing opportunity, and excellent fit, and truly – a dream job for me. Lee University does not allow LGBT people to work there. It goes against their version of Christianity.

So, I know all too well of missed opportunity and the sting of feeling like a black sheep to an institution or company you once called home and truly felt part of. I still am looking for work that is fulfilling and a good fit for me. Women who find yourself in a similar position – who have to choose between the birth control you need and the employer you feel loyal to – to LGBT people who cannot work where you wish because of discriminatory hiring practices – To others who relate – I stand with you. I am so sorry. I know the pain. It is real.

I think about the whole Chick-fil-a debacle, and wonder at how many people still take the stance of still eating their food even though the company made a stance they disagree with politically. Then I remember the vivid images of the charred remains of an African gay man, brutally murdered in his village for being gay. I think about the fear and sheer terror of African lesbian women in Uganda and other countries who have been victims of so-called “corrective rape” – and I shudder when I remember that the funding that taught hatred in the name of God in those parts of Africa came partially from the Family Research Council, a listed hate-group with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a group which Chick-fil-a donated their proceeds to. All of that got covered up, ironically, by a statement against gay marriage that sent some straight into lines to contribute to the system, while others picketed against statements made instead of the dollars which had turned into blood money.

I feel for the father and mother of the son who was a prisoner of war; regardless of how he came to be in captivity. Regardless of how their behavior may have been inappropriate – but showed their desperation for their son to be returned home safely to them.

I feel for the children, and the parents of children who do everything in their means to escape their own country to join ours.

I feel for the girl in my town, who was brutalized at an after-party on the night of prom.

I feel… and I instinctively touch my belly, wanting so badly to protect the little one inside. To protect our precious daughter or son from the evils, but also from the indifference¬† – including the indifference that comes in the guise of caring.

It’s too easy to write a status about praying for families where the latest shooting occurred, too easy to call someone we have never met a traitor, too easy to say someone should make this choice or that choice.

It’s much harder to reflect on what we can do about gun violence and start acting on it. Much harder to listen when we want to reply. Much harder to walk with someone through life’s difficult moments and to truly be with them in their pain so that they can make hard choices and not be alone. Much harder to see where we can lay our own positions of power aside, to give rise to justice for someone else.

So, instead of facebooking about the issues, I think the best thing for me is to live a life I can be proud of in front of my wife, and in front of our children. I think it’s best for me to call my friends and see how they are instead of relying on “liking” pictures and quick texts and wall-posts. I think it would do me and the world more good if I write my representatives more often, participate in actions locally and more widely, and if I stop intellectualizing¬† – which I believe is the defense mechanism of our current society.

This is as much to me as to anyone else.

Surely, we can live life in a way more real, more meaningful, and more productive than superfluous comments and statements on social media; more than the degrading name calling we engage in when talking about someone different than us – no matter how rude or spiteful they have been to us; more than the idea that “liking” or “sharing” is really doing something good.

We live in a technological bubble. Let’s pop it. And truly engage with one another. Sit face-to-face and have real conversations. I hope this post sparks some conversations of your own.

As a child of the 80s, I thought virtual reality was the coolest thing ever.

But now, I think real life is.

Go and live it, friends. Abundantly.

Love,

C.