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

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

Global

Go into all the world and share God’s Love with every creature. Mark 16

God who is able to open the eyes of our hearts: Give our graduates the special ability to share their compassion and talents during these trying times. Amen


This week’s evening drop of hope is dedicated to the class of 2020. Yesterday I wrote about the reality of being chosen. Today I’m thinking about the significance of global compassion within our graduates.

My youngest daughter Amy graduated from CU in December—not quite the class of 2020, but close enough! So, here’s an open letter to Amy. Some of these ideas are inspired by a recent editorial written by Melinda and Bill Gates.

Dear Amy: Your grandparents were just coming of age at the end of WW2—over 70 years ago. In 1947, then Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave the commencement address at Harvard University. He urged the graduates to rise above their own comfort and security and assist our European neighbors despite being “distant from the troubled areas of the Earth.”

About that time, your Grandfather Eusebio Martinez was your age and living with his Mexican, immigrant family in north Denver. Grandpa Chepo was deployed under the Marshall Plan and served with the U.S. Army near Munich. It was there that he met a 19-year-old Bavarian villager, Anna Höecker.

Your grandparents fell in love in war-torn Germany where Chepo was serving the vision of the Marshall Plan. This strategy, which helped Western Europe recover, also spurred a turning point in history from global war to an era of peace and prosperity.

Today in 2020, we again face mass suffering and uncertainty. Again, groups will need to work together to recover and rebuild. Only now, we look to a generation of young adults who are extremely tuned in to the world. Unlike the Harvard grads of 1947, you are well acquainted with what is happening all over the globe! You’ve been online since you were toddlers. You consume popular culture from near and far. Your thinking has been shaped by a multiplicity of mentors who speak various languages. You have access to the truth about our cruelest problems such as racism, economic injustice, mass incarceration and hunger.

I am hopeful, because your access to cross cultural information and experiences has made you exceptionally compassionate and aware. You know that you are inextricably connected to the whole human family—across generations, ethnicities and access to resources. There is no limit to how you might serve humanity well—public service, teaching, writing, parenting, researching, healing, feeding…

It’s true. You’re entering the workforce in a time of global suffering. For some time, you and your peers will grieve the loss of rituals and rites of passage like grad parties, family memorials, weddings and birthday celebrations. Your sister Anne will give birth to your nephew, and there will be no baby shower– perhaps not even a hospital or home visit. These are big deals that will change us forever.

You and your peers have a hike ahead of you. So, don’t accept any pressure to answer the big questions about jobs, housing plans or graduate school on anyone’s timeline but your own. There are so many ways you can use your voice and share your talents, wherever you are. Oswald Chambers said that prayer is the highest form of social justice. Jesus said that sharing food and water with the hungry and thirsty proves that one is close to God.

The willingness to connect and serve the world led your grandparents to overcome global tragedy and create a better world. Now it’s our turn. The same spirit that empowered Jesus is still healing the world from generation to generation. I treasure every moment we have to love and serve together. Love, Mom.

Spiritual Practice

Friends: If you have endured this mercilessly long post, will you also join me in serving the class of 2020? When we write out our graduation cards, can we do the following?

  • Empathize with the graduate. It must be terribly disappointing and weird to miss the rituals and festivals of graduation.
  • Affirm the graduate. Graduations mark a very special passage from one stage of life and learning to the next. The world needs brave and brokenhearted young adults more now than ever. “We have the highest confidence in your talents and your courageous heart, and we can’t wait to see what you teach the world in the next decade and beyond!”

If you live with a graduate, please affirm them NOW. Say, “Word on the street is that you and your class are going to be a very special influence in the next decade. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”

God bless you, and please encourage a graduate this week!
Katie

Speak

My speech was plain, not with a lot of eloquence or human persuasion, but the Holy Spirit’s power was in my words, showing those who heard them that the message was from God. 1 Corinthians 2

God who speaks worlds into being, teach me how to speak from my heart. Amen


This evening’s drop of hope is dedicated to the power of speech.

The NFL Draft is now under way, and the first pick has become a hometown hero for calling attention to something impacting so many families in this pandemic—hunger.

Even before food banks were overwhelmed by Americans desperate to feed their families Joe Burrow had used his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech to remind us there has always been hunger in America.

“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area,” the 23-year-old Burrow said on a New York stage in December. “The poverty rate is almost two times the national average, and there’s so many people there that don’t have a lot. I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and in Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school,” he added, telling those kids, “and you guys can be up here, too.”

The night of the ceremony the people in that community were paying attention. Will Drabold said Burrow’s mention of southeast Ohio struck him like a bolt of lightning. Will put the quote on Facebook and wrote, “Let’s honor Joey’s words and give money to the food pantry.” He didn’t think it would raise a thousand dollars.

But donations poured in from all over the country raising $650K—five years of ordinary income.

The food pantry director told newscaster Lester Holt: Joe has given a voice to this region and to its needs. I hope that this conversation will turn into something that will actually help us go out of business.

Spiritual Practice

This story reminds me that it is not the artfulness of our words that moves people to compassionate action. Even complacent people will recognize the message of Christ when they hear it from a pure heart.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering: What is the message of Christ at the heart of me?

According to Joe Burrow’s example, it’s probably related to gratitude. He said, “I didn’t write it. I just went up there and started talking. I wanted to mention southeast Ohio because so many people had helped me from that area. Then it just kind of came to my mind that I could mention the struggles that area goes through.”

Joe’s dad recalls checking in with Joe before the ceremony. He found Joe writing some notes on a scrap of paper. But when his son received the award and started speaking, Dad could tell Joe was off script and speaking from his heart.

What are you grateful for NOW? What could you say about that?

Sniff-sniff; smile-smile; sleep well,
Katie

Every-day Peacemaking

Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5

Spirit of Christ, embodied by Jesus and the assembly of saints: Help me to host your peacemaking ways in my body too! Help my faith community become agents of peace near and far. Amen


Today Daily Drop of Hope is from Bethlehem! That’s right—we’re coming to you from that sacred space 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem.

Our teacher, Sami Awad, is director of the Holy Land Trust. The Holy Land Trust builds communities of resiliency through grassroots movements of nonviolent resistance. Sami is a friend of Pastor Ryan Howell. Ryan has been going live every day at 10am, and this week he is introducing us to the Howell’s ministry partners around the world.

Sami’s teaching and exhortation especially aligns with Crossroads mission to become a network of every-day peacemakers. He shared the three ways his community is sowing peace in Palestine: Non-violent resistance, healing trauma, and nurturing transformation.

He defines PEACE as something other than safety and security. Peace derives from the risky life-arts of breaking privilege, giving freely, listening well and compassionate service. This brand of peace requires significant disruption!

Ryan talked about the necessity of ending the “myth of sacred violence” that fuels harmful religion, including some modern strains of Christianity.

Sami also spoke of the blessing of being locked down for 50 days. He thanks God for the opportunity to change our way of life. God is giving us permission to turn the tables of economic injustice, pay attention to the brokenhearted and spin free of fearful motivations into deeper movements of love, compassion and care. He urged us to think beyond protecting our wealth during this pandemic and to lean in to the possibilities in God’s bigger vision for humankind.

Spiritual Practice

My summary does not do it justice. Watch/listen to Sami’s brief video message. At the end, he prays for us in Arabic!

The Peace of Christ be with you,
Katie

Decisions

Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3

Jesus, who taught us the Way of Wisdom, thank you for relieving us of the anguish of impossible decisions. Help us use your good judgment to help ourselves and our neighbors. Amen


Today Pastor Doru Cirdei who leads Filadelphia Church in Chisinau Moldova was Ryan Howell’s guest on the Morning Drop of Hope. Early in their conversation I was struck with a one-word theme: Decisions. They were talking about decisions that faith communities, parents, health organizations and governments are making in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The best decision-making guidance I know comes from the late, great Peter Drucker. His classic book The Effective Executive is like a devotional. Every year, I try to read it slowly and get better at the big themes of his teaching. One of those themes is decision-making.

According to Drucker, good decision-makers do not make a great many decisions. They concentrate on what is important. They try to make the few, critical decisions they make at the highest level of understanding. Their decisions are based on pre-determined values, principles and rules that they apply over and over. Then when a new problem emerges, the decision is largely processed by applying earlier high-level decisions already in practice.

As my church and my household have responded to the vexing problem of our time—Covid-19—we fairly easily make decisions about how we will operate. We value life, therefore we will limit our freedom of movement, or gathering in person, in favor of protecting all life. We have already decided that Jesus gives special preference to the poor, the incarcerated, foreigners among us and the sick; therefore, our decisions will be made in favor these vulnerable neighbors.

It’s surprising how many dilemmas disappear when we base our current decisions on good decisions already made. And as patterns in our decision-making emerge, these can be named as values, which enlighten any analysis we need to do in a novel situation.

Spiritual Practice

As we all transition from the Stay at Home directive of April to the Safer at Home directive of May, we have decisions to make. How will we use our additional freedom?

What decisions have you previously made in your life which will guide your operations in the month of May?

It matters not if our enterprise is a corporation, a small business, a church, a home or our own spiritual transformation—our choices matter. And by God’s grace very few of these choices are novel and vexing. Most of the time our decisions are as complicated as we choose to make them.

I am heartened to be a spiritual leader in the company of wise persons like Ryan, Doru, Governor Polis and all of you!

Have a blessed evening,
Katie

Victory

Death has been swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15

God of new life, heal us from our fear of death, that we may no longer participate in the deathly swirl of greed and violence. Give us liberty to do your good work in the world. Amen. (Walter Brueggemann)


Did you know Easter is just getting started? We are only now finishing the first of seven weeks! Just as there are 12 traditional days of Christmas for me to unwind in the midwinter quiet and light, so too I have seven weeks of Easter sunshine.

In this Covid-19 crisis, I’m thinking more about the serious side of Easter than the straight-up sunny side. Perhaps in Aprils-past, I’ve not fully appreciated Easter’s power over death, nor thought too much about my role in the ongoing mystery of overcoming death in every-day life. I’m sure I still don’t get it, but I am a little more aware today.

In 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 Paul makes a powerful Easter statement followed by an imperative call to action: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Walter Brueggemann comments: Paul’s claim does not announce that we will not die. It announces, rather, that we do not need to live our lives in response to the power and sting of death that wants to negate our life, because death has been disarmed of its power to hurt us. This is defining news for us because we live in a society that is largely propelled by the fear of death. The outcome of that fear is anxiety, greed, and violence, all grounded in an elemental fear of scarcity; death specializes in scarcity and parsimony. (I looked up “parsimony”; it means tight-fistedness.)

Here is the JOY for those whose hearts are renovated in Christ’s Love: Though we are fighting a threatening disease, and though there is fear-driven anxiety, greed and violence in our society, those forces are obsolete and irrelevant to your life. Why? Because such a negative spirit has lost all its authority over your actual/real life in Christ.

Because of this Good News, Paul turns the corner with “therefore”: Be steady and constant without anxiety; Above all, excel in your performance of God’s work.

Spiritual Practice

I realize this Easter lesson adds responsibility to our lives. It’s not the typical way of thinking about Easter freedom. But where else will we go with our thoughts? This is the actual Message of Life. You carry in your very body, and within your household, and in your relationships, Christ’s Presence, which cannot be negated by anything going on in the world around you.

This Easter Friday reflect on your importance in the ongoing Easter story. How can you be hope and life to some part of the human family this weekend?

Come Monday, we get to keep learning Easter.

Blessings,
Katie