We are losing the giants of the Civil Rights Movement so quickly. My only encouragement in this moment, is that it’s our turn. And after the global uprising that Black + queer + women just led us through, I’m sad but not devastated. It’s our turn to change the world. Austin Channing Brown, author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Wisdom is vindicated by all her children. Jesus from Matthew 7
If you’re like me the best things you do these days are small actions– like wearing a mask when you’re around other people or praying for parents and educators.
This weekend, I’ve been reminded of what can happen when determined people put their lives on the line to change the world.
The documentary was released two weeks before the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader’s death on July 17. If you’ve enjoyed the eulogies and remembrances, you will love seeing the actual footage of young Lewis marching and leading through the American South in the 1960’s.
You will feel a glimmer of hope, because Lewis had huge hopes that the next generation will complete the work God began in the American civil rights movement.
I love how Austin Channing Brown put it in a Facebook post: We are losing the giants of the Civil Rights Movement so quickly. My only encouragement in this moment, is that it’s our turn. And after the global uprising that Black + queer + women just led us through, I’m sad but not devastated. It’s our turn to change the world.
I have four daughters and two sons-in-law– six Millennials and counting. I can’t wait for Austin Channing Brown and my Millennials and a throng of wholehearted young adults to rise up and change the world.
The American dream reminds us—and we should think about it anew on this Independence Day—that every man is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. July 4th Sermon, 1965
It was 1976 when all the fifth graders in the Thompson School District came together for a gigantic Bi-Centennial music program. Our music teachers organized it, we rehearsed for months and we performed it in the Loveland High Gymnasium for parents and the Loveland community.
I loved that program—a montage of pop and patriotic songs ending with Let There be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin with Me. Parents were crying, teachers were beaming, and every child was singing.
I remember one particular song, Freedom Isn’t Free. I remember the lesson of the song: That we live in the land of the free and home of the brave because people have given their lives in war to keep our country free. I was happy. I was proud to be an American and a Lovelander. I was glad for our shared Independence story and the music of the moment.
The years have flown by, and every time I celebrate our independence on July 4th, I have those same feelings. Gratitude, safety, joy and a bond with my family, friends and neighbors. I am grateful for whatever measure of peace and tranquility does exist in America and for those who lay down their lives to preserve this American life we love.
But over the years my way of understanding the gift of American freedom has changed. As I’ve grown up, I’ve become aware that not all Americans are safe and free—and that we cannot be a free country until everyone is free. In the past decade I’ve learned about mass incarceration of black men as a means of modern-day slavery, stand your ground laws in white neighborhoods as means of modern-day lynching and racial inequality as our American brand of a caste system.
Today we stand in the current of a new racial justice movement, and my growing awareness is in full bloom. My curiosity about the depths of racism and the urgency of this moment is on fire. I can’t stop thinking about this moment.
And so, this July 4th is different for me—a mix of sadness and hope.
Andrea Young, the A.C.L.U. director is the daughter of Andrew Young, Atlanta Mayor, UN ambassador and civil rights giant. When asked if there is reason to hope that this moment could accomplish what the Civil Rights Movement could not, she said, “Nobody has believed more in the promise and mythology of America than blacks. We have believed all people were created equal and fought over generations for the truth of the statement. The fact I am here means I am descended from people who, even enslaved, did not give up hope. To do so now would be a betrayal.”
Andrea Young’s statement reminds me of Rev. MLK Jr.’s sermon, The American Dream. (This is not his I Have a Dream Speech.) This is a sermon King delivered on Sunday July 4, 1965 to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Read it this weekend and notice the brilliance.
King has left us with much inspiration, and it is never easy to choose a favorite passage, so allow me to share a sampling.
He begins by reciting the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God, Creator, with certain inalienable rights, that among these are the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is a DREAM. It’s a great DREAM.
King continues: The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. It doesn’t say, ‘some men’; it says ‘all men.’ It doesn’t say ‘all white men’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes black men. It does not say ‘all Gentiles’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Jews. It doesn’t say ‘all Protestants’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Catholics. It doesn’t even say ‘all theists and believers’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes humanists and agnostics.
He continues: Never before in the history of the world has a sociopolitical document expressed in such profound, eloquent and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of human personality. The American dream reminds us—and we should think about it anew on this Independence Day—that every man is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth.
The point of Rev. King’s sermon is that the dream is brilliant, but we are trashing our own dream by oppressing and excluding God’s black children.
He explains the way out of our nightmare and into the light: And so if the American dream is to be a reality, we must work to make it a reality and realize the urgency of the moment. And we must say now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to get rid of segregation and discrimination. Now is the time to make Georgia a better state. Now is the time to make the United States a better nation. (Yes) We must live with that, and we must believe that.
And to close the sermon he addresses his enemies: One day we will win our freedom, but we will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process. And our victory will be a double victory. Oh yes, love is the way. (Yes) Love is the only absolute.
And so for me, Saturday, July 4, 2020 will not be the Independence Day of my youth. It will be a New Independence Day—a day to adopt a beginner’s mind and celebrate the long road to freedom America has yet to choose.
Be safe and happy. Pray for the real American Dream to be true for all God’s children, and don’t forget to bring your mask and wash your hands!
This evening’s drop of hope and spiritual direction comes from my colleagues at the Love Mercy, Do Justice ministry initiative in Chicago:
On June 19, 1865 (over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln), enslaved Africans in Texas finally received word that they had been emancipated. The celebration of their freedom became what is known to us today as “Juneteenth” (a mash-up of the words June and nineteenth).
Jemar Tisby says, “Freedom has always come with an asterisk in America,” and perhaps this year more than any in recent history, we feel that asterisk. We acknowledge and grieve the paradox in today’s celebration of freedom – a freedom that has been underscored by unfulfilled promise; a freedom that has looked different for some than it has for others.
In the early days of celebrating Juneteenth, the day was spent by bringing families and communities together for a time of prayer and thanksgiving. So this evening, gather your family and pray for the brokenness in our nation. Enter into a time of thanksgiving for the freedom we have both as citizens of this nation and as the children of God. And perhaps read or sing these words of James Weldon Johnson’s song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the anthem which has become known as the African American National Anthem:
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on ’til victory is won
I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11 & 36; Jeremiah 31; Hebrews 8.
Lord of Creation, create in me a dynamic and resilient heart of flesh. And may my own well-being, and my concern for all your children, be a True Prayer that accomplishes much good. Amen
Brené Brown says that we belong to one another. This universal reality can be forgotten, but it can never be lost. Her research in recent years has confirmed to the world that there is an uncomfortable, life-supporting link between vulnerability and courage.
Dr. Brown has made famous a saying: Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. The moment I heard the saying and read the full quote by Roshi Joan Halifax, I thought of the voice of God who speaks: I will give all my children One, soft heart. Though you are fractured and hurting, I will replace your broken chards-of-heart with a Whole one–strong, soft, wise, hopeful and full of faith.
All scripture speaks of this vision. When the Apostle Paul wrote about creation groaning and waiting for redemption, I wonder if this is what we he meant– for the heart of stone to become a heart of flesh. These passages and themes are really about the universal healing of creation and can be applied at the individual and communal level any time the user chooses. Our redemption is an ongoing process and God only knows when it will feel finished to us. This renovation of creatures and communities is God’s purpose; and it shall be so.
Remember: The good that God has begun in you will be completed through the Spirit of the Living Christ working in you.
This post is not aimed at racism, protests and violence. Such horrors can only be healed at the level of cause. My reflections pertain to this community and our emotional health and well-being. Never underestimate the healing power of your own humanity-in-Christ and your prayers for the well-being of your neighbors and the whole world.
Be safe. And be a healing presence wherever you are. I happen to be visiting my Dad in Salmon Idaho, looking out the window at the continental divide. Had a good, long, steep hike this morning.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:)
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!
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?
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?”
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.
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?
Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. Brené Brown
Every day we learn of a new loss to grieve in this season of change. Today I am grieving the loss of women. Rather than grieving alone, I’m reaching out for your help.
You and I were born into a male dominated world—a place when most of our power, influence and resources are controlled by men. I then attempted a career in a disproportionately male-dominated enterprise—spiritual leadership. Like you, I know our world, and my own job, like the back of my hand.
I also raised a family of four little women in this world. The Martinez women are now in the workforce observing these things for themselves and kicking my butt.
Gender bias has produced pain and grief in our lives. How could it not? Scaling walls, getting tired, falling from heights and rolling backwards down hills are not anyone’s vision of an exhilarating career. To be fair, there have been some satisfying moments of pure survival, navigating change successfully and living by grace.
We’ve long known that even when women are technically welcome and wanted in their chosen field, there is a high cost. Men bear a far smaller share of this cost burden. By and large, men have more resources to run their homes and care for their children while they work from home, travel or office-away.
Dear Peacemakers, here is our new loss: The pandemic is causing a caregiving crisis. Melinda Gates explained on NBC last week: “If we’re going to look at re-opening our economy, we have to take care of our most essential workers,” she says. “Eighty-five percent of nurses are women. And yet, who is the primary caregiver at home? Women. Who is the primary one for educating the kids? Women.”
She explains that when caregiving disproportionately falls on women, it makes it hard for them to do their jobs, leading to a loss of income for some women who end up taking a break from work or leaving the workforce altogether.
I know from my friends, family and neighbors that our women with children or aging parents are struggling under the burden of disproportionate caregiving. We are losing women.
One loss is the emotional vitality of our sisters, NOW. The next loss will be to watch our progress away from gender bias diminished. The next loss will the wellbeing of our world, homes, relationships and workplaces. The world needs women who are fully alive, leading strong and loving our neighbors well.
Will you open your mind and learn about this scary topic with me?
As a starting point, will you read this short article with short video from Secretary-General António Guterres speaking at a meeting of the United Nations? I like it because it is plain spoken, caring and true.
And sisters: Please enjoy this mother’s day blessing spoken by Wendy Howell to my church in northern Colorado.
What can you do to help shoulder some domestic load for a woman or mother today?
Where women thrive, the world thrives. A rising tide floats all boats.