Lift Your Drooping Hands

I am pretty adamant about not being a participant in my own dehumanization. Christian Cooper, birdwatcher. New Yorker. black man

Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12

Lord of Love and Justice make us honest enough to tell the truth about racial terror and courageous enough to step into the waters of racial justice. Amen


Last week, a black male birdwatcher in Central Park asked a white female dog walker to observe the leash law in the brambles. Instead of honoring the law and her neighbor, she called 911 and told the dispatcher: A black man is threatening me in the brambles; send the police. Christian Cooper calmly lifted his phone and video recorded her little shit fit. His sister posted the video on the internet and it went viral.

When asked why he stood firm, Mr. Cooper said, I am pretty adamant about not being a participant in my own dehumanization.

Christian Cooper held on to his humanity as well his neighbor’s and lived to tell about it. The attempt on George Floyd’s humanity ended differently. His body was crushed under the knee of an armed bully. Mr. Floyd was unable to escape the terror of a public lynching.

Friends, like it or not, we are inextricably connected to one another. If we don’t stand up to racial terror, we are complicit– and we have become participants in our own dehumanization and the dehumanization of our siblings of color, worldwide.

We have a problem:

We live in a culture that favors its privileged children in every way imaginable. As a result, most white Americans lack some of the discipline needed to become fully responsible adults. Instead of responsibility, we blindly engage in self-protective and indulgent patterns, which act as an opiate—numbing our personal and collective conscience. We are literally swimming in an ocean of unconscious self-interest. Unconsciousness is why white Europeans and Americans enslaved Africans in the first place. Unconsciousness permits the terror of mass incarceration (modern day slavery) and police brutality (modern day lynching) to happen in 2020.

There is Hope

There is a passage in Hebrews Chapter 12 that applies to this situation. The word discipline is used at least nine times. The writer uses the image of a parent disciplining a child. In ancient families, the role of parent was to discipline a child so that the child could grow up to be a responsible member of the family. The Old Testament prophet Amos describes how unaware, religious adults come to “trample on the poor” with unjust economic policy and corrupt judicial process. (Sound familiar for our time? Have you seen the movie Just Mercy?) In Amos’s time, these practices catered to the privileged at the expense of the vulnerable.

In the face of such exploitation, prophets like Amos, Jesus, Nelson Mandela, MLK and Malcolm X name the evil and call the children of God back to responsibility. “Seek the Lord, seek good, hate evil, love good, establish justice.” These are the works of good neighbors everywhere.

The time is now. Americans of all faiths are in a season of discipline by which God is summoning us away from the self-service that furthers racial oppression, and in many situations, racial terror. This problem is more than 500 years old with new permutations and combinations emerging every generation. The call to grow up goes way beyond private character and all the way to public practice.

If we are lucky, we modern culprits will grow up to be like the tax collector in Jesus’s parable: aware of our own sin and hopeful that the LORD of mercy will forgive us and heal us.

Will we put our armor (privilege) down and stand up to racial oppression and terror with true power– our human vulnerability (most effectively exercised by acts of compassion and truth)? Or will we hide behind the lame armor of blaming and scapegoating various individuals, institutions, neighbors of color, non-church-goers, rioters and arsonists?

Spiritual practice:

Each person must ask: What does the LORD require of ME? How will I stand firm in my vulnerability?

Some things I’ve decided to do out of simple discipline: Go all in for #blacklivesmatter. As a Christian pastor, I sometimes stay quiet about subjects that might alienate a parishioner. No more. #blacklivesmatter. PERIOD.

I’m going to re-read and re-watch a whole library of works written and scripted by black leaders and theologians over time. I’ll share the bibliography and watch list with you here in the coming days.

I don’t really care what religion you are. Being a Christian does not make you a conscious person. Many people outside my faith are awake and active and working for justice. Our siblings of color need us all to work together.

Love you, K

Routine

ROUTINE can itself be a means of creation. Rob Hoerburger

May God strengthen you with power deep inside. The Apostle Paul

God of all comfort and joy, give me eyes to see how your Spirit is working in the routines of my daily life. Amen


My Grandmother spent half her life a farmer, the other half a townsperson with showstopping gardens. She was also a cook who put out large and delicious spreads for holidays and family picnics. People always wondered how she and her sisters could create such beautiful home places and feed such crowds.

Grandma B. survived the Big Thompson Flood of 1976. Her home in the canyon was only a few hundred feet from the river. I was 11 at the time and spent the rest of the summer living with her to keep her company and help with chores. In the aftermath of the flood we had no electricity, no running water, no road into town for months. My mom and uncle trucked our groceries and drinking water over high country ranch roads south of the canyon.

That summer I learned the secret of Grandma’s creativity and contentment—ROUTINE.

Every day we got up with the sun, hauled water, tended gardens, baked, did laundry, ate breakfast and lunch, prepped dinner, had tea and sweets, read, fired up the cookstove, cooked, ate, washed dishes, took a walk, lit kerosene lamps, got ready for bed and slept like logs.

Grandma B. was not one you would label a “creative.” She had no “career.” Her talents were gardening and home-keeping, and her secret weapon was routine. We live in a world that often pits creativity against routine. But the summer I lived with Grandma, I learned how our creativity depends on it.

When it was my turn to be a grown up, I established my own routines: Morning reading, coffee, exercise, laundry, packed-lunch, dinner prep, evening news… When there were little ones: waking, feeding, playing, napping, bathing and bedtime. At work: morning creative projects followed by meetings and afternoon admin.

Sometimes I wonder how my routines are hindering, rather than enhancing, creativity.

Now that I’m living in the land of quarantine like all of you, I’m renewing my appreciation for the creative power of routine. Rob Hoerburger writes: Routine can itself be a means of creation. Routines, like all acts of creation, [are] essentially acts of faith.

Spiritual Practice

What routines are a means of creation for you?

How have your routines changed or been strengthened during the pandemic? Which routines get boring? When do you notice a lack of joy or peace? Is there a routine that might give you comfort and stability?

Sleep tight, and don’t forget the sleep enhancing properties of a healthy bedtime routine!

L, Katie

Devoted

The happiest and most fulfilled people are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self-interest. John Glenn

God will not forget your work and the love you have shown as you have helped people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10

Spirit of Christ who trains our hearts for service: Help us appreciate the servants among us and grow in our devotion to serve. Amen


They were a couple all their lives—met as toddlers! Annie was married to John Glenn, the hero astronaut and first American to orbit the earth. She struggled with severe stuttering that became a painful challenge when she was thrust into NASA’s spotlight as portrayed in the Hollywood film, The Right Stuff.

But Annie overcame her speech limitations while living in Washington and serving as the wife of a U.S. Senator. She became a public speaker and advocate for persons with speech disabilities. She and John served out four terms before leaving politics.

Annie testified that she had given John Glenn up to serve our country for 55 years and it was now time to take him back! But John Glenn embarked on one more mission in space at age 77—to test the effects of weightlessness on the elderly.

After 73 years of marriage Annie Glenn buried John at Arlington in 2017 on the day that would have been their wedding anniversary. She died yesterday of complications from Covid-19. Annie was 100 years old.

The people I live with keep asking the same question: Why don’t we have more wise, good-hearted and competent people in positions of power?

I don’t think anyone has a good answer to that question. The only theory I have is this: Many people who seek positions of power, or are able to ascend power structures, are disinclined to use their power to serve the public good. And people like Annie and John Glenn, who use their strength to serve, are less likely enter a toxic political arena.

Nevertheless, many gifted people have given their whole lives to public service. Annie Glenn was one of those people, and there are many others.

Spiritual Practice

Who are your mentors and guides in public leadership? It’s so important that we celebrate their work, send them notes of thanks and talk them up at our dinner tables. Let’s not allow the bad apples to spoil our appreciation for true public servants.

We’re heading into one of those political seasons, you know. How can we influence our community with wise prayers, good thoughts and a hopeful outlook? I believe that all those things have true power to transform situations and foster healing in our society.

Rest well,
Katie

Clean

The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment.  Marie Kondo

God of Creation, help us to adopt new health practices which enhance our lives and promote the safety and happiness of our homes and neighborhoods. Amen.


I’m super jazzed about a new term I just learned from a hog farmer: biosecurity.

Brad Greenway raises pigs on a farm near Mitchell, S.D., and the measures we are taking to stay germ-safe during this pandemic are things Brad always practices. When he arrives back at the farm after errands, he showers, puts on fresh clothes and wipes down the supplies he’s bringing into the barn. He says, “We’ve always tried to practice good biosecurity.”

I think back to the lessons I learned from my Grandmother in her kitchen. Being a farmer herself, she taught me things like: How to wash up the counters, carving knife and kitchen sink after cleaning and prepping a turkey or chicken for roasting. She had a utility sink near the back door and emphasized hand washing and scrubbing under one’s fingernails with a stiff brush, because “that’s where the germs can hide.” Baby diapers, sheets and towels were hung on the line to dry, because “the sunshine is a natural disinfectant.”

(I also have my own biosecurity theory: I think tequila kills germs in the throat and cures colds. Go ahead and laugh… as my kids do. It’s what I believe and for good reason:)

Spiritual Practice

This pandemic is a fantastic opportunity to develop new habits that protect our health.

My grandparents were fastidious about biosecurity because they raised crops and livestock and because their generation was fairly new to the germ theory of medicine. People in their neighborhood had died of trichinosis or salmonella.

What can we be fastidious about NOW? Handwashing for sure…

I spent a couple of weeks in Hong Kong ten years ago. SARS had converted the whole society to mask-wearing whenever a person is ill or susceptible to illness. Analysts credit Hong Kong’s health in this pandemic to mask wearing in the early days of the outbreak. If masks don’t help, the hyper-intelligent residents of Hong Kong would NOT have permanently converted to the practice. Masks help!

Vitamin D? Drinking ginger tea? Staying hydrated? These are all practices that enhance our biosecurity.

And still there is no shame in falling ill. Our best efforts cannot guaranty our safety. Farmer Brad’s storyteller remarks: Even stringent methods run up against natural limits. One is found in the pits beneath a hog farm, which gather the roughly 1.3 gallons of manure each hog produces a day. It’s clean, but it still smells. Pigs poop a lot.

Have a nice evening. Be sure to wash your hands and brush your teeth. The future of the universe depends on us and God!

Katie

Process

The Spirit of Christ is within us, inspiring creativity as a way of life. Ephesians 2

Creator God, why do I resist the creative process in my own life? Help me enjoy my life as a work in progress. Help me celebrate the creative process in other lives as well. Amen


It’s been almost three months since we moved into our newly remodeled house, and we’ve averaged a couple of big move-in chores per day ever since. First it was the beds, then the clothes, the kitchen and the furniture. Yesterday Dave finished the sprinkler system, and now he’s into earth-moving, manure and grass seed. Yippee! Today I’m washing summer blankets that smell like cardboard boxes. This evening we plan to hang some artwork. On second thought, I’m done working today, and the artwork will have to wait for tomorrow or next year.

Why is this move-in taking so long? Two good reasons: 1.) The world is experiencing a pandemic, some symptoms of which I pray are beginning to recede in your life. And speaking of life, 2.) I’m still trying to live mine—exercising, socializing with family, washing clothes, cooking for fun, working a meaningful job, watching movies, reading, expecting my first grandchild, and getting the travel trailer ready for a road trip to Montana. So truthfully, there will be little progress made on the yard or artwork until late-June.

And while it’s easy for us to feel behind or overwhelmed about the business of life, the important thing to remember is that EVERYTHING is ALWAYS a work in progress. Not because we are unable to finish something, but because life and work is a continual process. One who is unwilling to embrace this reality will never be happy and will spread their misery far and wide.

I hope this pandemic has helped you move closer to accepting process-orientation as a healthy state of life and not some kind of failure. Process-orientation is a term used by helping professionals who walk with people through challenging times. Therapists, life coaches and other guides are held accountable for allowing clients to evolve without the pressure to perform or reach the helper’s goals. Shouldn’t we extend the same grace to ourselves? If process-orientation is important in therapy, isn’t it important in everything?

Spiritual Practice

Right now, I’m looking at the evolving backyard. On the one hand it looks like a lot of dirt; and I can smell manure. On the other hand, it looks fresh and new and ready to get growing.

What is unfinished and evolving in your life? (That’s a trick question. The answer is: Everything!) Where are you in the process? And how can “behind” be reframed as “on the way?”

Take courage,
Katie

Change

See, I am doing a new thing! Isaiah 43:19

Major change is often said to be impossible unless the head of the [family or organization] is an active supporter. John P. Kotter

God of transformation. Help us recognize when it’s time to change. Give us courage to champion the move on behalf of those who look to us for guidance.


Last night we learned that Cal State has canceled most in-person classes for the fall. I don’t recall it being mentioned, but certainly there will be no dorm life and no Greek life. There will be no rite of passage as tens of thousands of freshmen stream onto campus, buy books, rush houses and feel the exhilaration of independence when their parents drive away. There will be no music wafting from the open windows of practice studios—no marching band on the quad. No frisbee golf, no roommates, no study sessions in the libraries. There will be no office hours with faculty in the hollowed halls of learning.

These days I’m thinking about parents, grandparents and other leaders who are helping young people navigate change. It’s not just the parents of would-be college freshman. All leaders are under pressure to help our youth adapt and change to emerging realities in their educational and social lives.

A colleague of mine just explained his family’s innovative plan for a birthday party in the driveway. That’s the idea. There is no limit to the adaptive spirit of parents and educators these days.

John P. Kotter has been a mentor to me on the subject of accepting and leading change. His books help us understand why we resist change, even how the head of a household, group or org can sabotage the group’s ability to change and survive.

There is so much I could say on this subject, and it would be very fun to talk about it in a lively conversation with you.

Spiritual Practice

But here is my question for everyone who is in a position of responsibility—in a home, a workplace, a community. How can you help the group you lead accept necessary changes, adapt and thrive?

I know that’s a big question. I keep reading Kotter’s books to help me get better at this! But the question is first personal. Will you forgive the tough circumstance you’re in and lift your eyes to the opportunities inherent in change?

If your child can’t move into the dorms, can you champion the value of education in some other way? If the church facility isn’t open for worship services, can we champion the value of the church mission some other way? If we can’t fly in planes, can we champion the value of family vacation in some other way? If the wedding party or baby shower can’t happen the old way, how will it be wonderful in the new way?

Forgiveness and imagination are necessary components of change and growth. The last thing we want to do is be some log jam in another person’s evolution, especially a young person’s. Where am I holding on too tight?

Sleep peacefully,
Katie

Illness as a Messenger

May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.
John O’Donohue


Before I write about the hope of springtime, I want to say something about illness.

Illness is a messenger. When your body takes ill, it’s speaking. When a social illness erupts in a family, there is a message for the family leader/s. When a church or corporation turns toxic, it’s time to listen up big time. When a pandemic strikes the earth, there is an important message for her inhabitants.

And when it’s a pandemic, I can’t help but think the message is for the whole global community, rather than for a specific individual; although illness amidst pandemic speaks to individually infected people and families as well.

You may think I’m crazy for saying these things, but many of you know what I’m talking about. To soften the claim let me explain:

The message of illness is not a shaming or hurtful message. It’s always a sign of hope for your wellbeing. Your body has been created by God to care enough about you to speak up and help you heal. And so too, the earth that God created and loves always cares enough to speak to her inhabitants when we are hurting.

Everything I’ve just said is an oversimplification of a life principle, which is never straightforward and calls for careful interpretation.

Tonight, I just wanted to name it. To get it off my chest. To ask us to begin thinking about it. This pandemic is a messenger.

Spiritual Practice

To get us started thinking about the hopeful possibilities, here is a blessing from the late John O’Donohue, a poet, theologian and philosopher.

A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness
by John O’Donohue


Now is the time of dark invitation
Beyond a frontier that you did not expect
Abruptly, your old life seems distant.
You barely noticed how each day opened
A path through fields never questioned,
Yet expected deep down to hold treasure.
Now your time on earth becomes full of threat;
Before your eyes your future shrinks.
You lived absorbed in the day to day,
So continuous with everything around you,
That you could forget you were separate;
Now this dark companion has come between you,
Distances have opened in your eyes,
You feel that against your will
A stranger has married your heart.
Nothing before has made you
Feel so isolated and lost.
When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.

May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Towards what is difficult,
Painful and unknown.

May you use this illness
As a lantern to illuminate
The new qualities that will emerge in you.
May the fragile harvesting of this slow light
Help you to release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
Through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
Until you feel arising within you a tranquility
Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.
May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:
Ask it why it came? Why it chose your friendship?
Where it wants to take you? What it wants you to know?
What quality of space it wants to create in you?
What you need to learn to become more fully yourself
That your presence may shine in the world.
May you keep faith with your body,
Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
Which can bring this night-wound gradually
Towards the healing and freedom of dawn.

May you be granted the courage and vision
To work through passivity and self-pity,
To see the beauty you can harvest
From the riches of this dark invitation.

May you learn to receive it graciously,
And promise to learn swiftly
That it may leave you newborn,
Willing to dedicate your time to birth.

Sleep peacefully,
Katie