Sunday, June 20, 2021

Juneteenth Conversation

 Juneteenth!  Parades and celebrations across the country. Here in my small city my husband Burton and I went to a gathering at Monroe Park.  It was small.  Mason City is small.  But no matter.  What I will remember the most is the three of us, Burton, Reginald, an African American man, and I sitting on a park bench together in the shade and talking. We had not met before, but we talked about Juneteenth and our lives and, well, a wide range of topics and issues.  We listened and learned from one another.

Between Juneteenth and July 4, I can just imagine what it might mean for each person in this country to have such a meeting and conversation, with one other person we had not met before of a different race or ethnicity.  Can you just imagine, 300 million such one-on-one conversations?  

Monday, June 14, 2021

Birth Stories

 Oldest son Mark's birthday was Saturday, June 12. Each of our three sons has a story.  Mark was born in 1963; We adopted him the day I graduated from seminary in 1964. Joel, was 10 two weeks late, born in 1967 the summer of the Detroit "riots" (Rebellion) He wasn't sure he wanted to come into this world of fire and guns. Kirk was born in 1969, the day the U.S. astronauts came back from their first trip to the moon. What are you stories? 

Mark with daughter Aimee

Joel and Kirk with Dad.

Joel with son Jackson and me

Kirk and me.

Mark and Dad Burton


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Urgent Choices

 Insurrection                                                   Voter Suppression

Rioters running through the Capitol.             Voting Restrictions running through Rep. Legislatures

Priority? Keep people not like us from voting.  Priority? Ensure everyone's voice heard to preserve                                                                                                       democracy

The "Big Lie" lives on                                 Unless we tell the truth.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Girls Killed in Afghanistan; More guns in U.S.

 There have been at least 191 mass shootings in the U.S. since the beginning of the year. In Afghanistan over the weekend over 50 people were killed and over 100 injured in a bomb attack...mostly school girls. In Iowa as of July 1 anyone can carry a gun in public places, e.g. grocery stores, malls, without safety training or a permit. How many more people will have to die? We, too, are a killing culture. How do we live in the image of the Creating, Reconciling, Life-giving God? 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Witnesses to Truth

 Initial Milwaukee Police Department report: "Man dies after medical incident during police interaction." That would have been it after George Floyd's death, except for 17-year-old Darnella Frazier's camera witness to the world.

By-standers became witnesses to the truth, including the 9-year-old who said to the police, "Get off of him." And thanks be to the witness and work of Keith Ellison, and his team.  And thanks to . . . .

We are called to be witnesses to truth and to now work beyond accountability to systemic change.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Marigolds and the Climate Crisis


Marigolds! I planted marigolds in the city. Earth Day is this Thursday, April 22. Decades ago, at the time of the first Earth Day, we were living in the inner city of Detroit. Then we moved to the inner city of New Haven, CT.  Planting flowers in the city is not easy. They are easily uprooted, trodden down.  No roses. No fragile or tender plants.  So I planted Marigolds.  The more children picked them, the more they flourished. I love the varied colors, each flower unique.

And then we began to recycle cans, and then paper. (As a child we did save paper for wartime paper drives.) 

But now?  Climate Change!  I prefer calling it a Climate Crisis because it is, and we know it.  In fact, we know that doing things to steward the earth is already too late. I applaud Pres. Biden having the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, the international accord designed to avert catastrophic global warming. Too late? It's never too late, to be serious, and to work boldly together in every way possible. . . and to plant some more Marigolds.

The United States in February this year  formally rejoined the Paris climate agreement, the international accord designed to avert catastrophic global warming.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

 St. George's Chapel: Remembering Prince Philip.

Dignity, respect, loyalty, responsibility, love, companionship.  With family procession, the Queen walked alone. She will carry on.  The worship was calm, 30 people masked, distanced, and yet so much together. Beautiful music and prayer and the Word of God: "Your brother will rise again. . . I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they died, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 

And they left.  And we in this country turn again to our challenges: guns and division, fear and barbed wire. Will we have the courage to carry on with love and responsibility and respect? Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

We Need Everyone to be Able to Vote

 Today, Sunday, March 7, is the 56th anniversary of the march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama. John Lewis, having died last summer, is not with us this year.  The attack on the marchers by state troopers on "Bloody Sunday" 1965 awakened a nation then. The sweeping Voters Rights Act was passed later that year.

Today over 40 states are trying to pass--and many succeeding--voter suppression laws.  The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed HR 1, a voting rights bill, so essential now. But it faces fierce opposition in the Senate.  

The nation has gone through a bloody year of brutality against African Americans. Are we as a nation awakened? Can we care enough, work hard enough, to reject voter suppression bills this year?  Can we care enough, work hard enough to secure voting rights for all this year?

Friday, March 5, 2021

Oh, To Sing Again!

 With masks on, and being so very careful, Mason City High School Choral Music performed the 73rd Annual Follies last evening. What a joy! Grandchildren Jennaya, a junior, and Jackson, a freshman sang and danced and acted in skits.  Their mother, Rachel, played the piano wonderfully, for all the performers.  Son Joel has been choral director for over 25 years here in Mason City, Iowa.  The theme this year was the "Fifties" which brought back memories of when I sang in Mason City High School Follies from 1953-56, yes, 68 years ago. 

Mason City schools began the year with hybrid learning and recently went to full days.  Students, educators and parents have been very responsible in keeping people well.  We are thankful. The Follies this year could not be held at the local Community College where usually 1000 people each night for three nights fill the auditorium.  Changing plans and being creative in how to perform this year, the show was held in the FEMA room a the high school (Yes, built for a place to go during a tornado.) Only 199 people could come for each performance, and we sat with two empty seats between everyone, even family groups. Each student had two tickets for people who could attend. The crowd cheered, as though there were 1000 people present.

This is a public community school.  Joel and Rachel seek to build community through music.  What did we like best?  Everything!  But perhaps what I appreciated most was that Joel met with the student musicians before hand--as they do every year--this time in the large cafeteria, and had students tell each other what they personally appreciated about one another.  

Friday, February 26, 2021

Frivolous Fascination?

 Frivolous Fascination? I can't help noticing people's bookcases behind them when they are being interviewed on TV. Some are simply full of books, either nicely arranged or looking like they are actually used. (Of course, that doesn't exclude a book being nicely arranged AND used.) Many people, I've noticed, have a plant on a table nearby, usually a gorgeous big orchid. I have an orchid, too, in another room; it's two years old, not nice and new, but it's still blooming.

I've seen people who are being interviewed who have their own latest publication propped up in front.  One copy good, but five copies?  Some books are blurred by camera focus.  I can see clearly other bookcases; I enjoy seeing what people who are being interviewed have been studying.

I've seen books on a windowsill.  I've seen bookshelves with no books on them--only little treasures.  Now, I have little treasures on my bookshelf, too. But only little treasures and no books?

I noticed one person's books shelved color coded: all the red books, together, then the blue ones, the yellow ones, the black ones, etc.  Who designed that system?  I would never be able to find a book I needed. (I arranged my books in my faculty office by the areas of research and teaching.). One person's shelf really caught my attention: all the books had plain-clothed "dust jackets" put on them.  What secret is being kept so that we don't know what books are there? That may be understandable when some in our own Iowa legislature recently brought up the idea of doing away with tenure at the three state universities because the professors there were thought to be putting all those "liberal ideas" into students' heads.

PBS' Judy Woodruff has what I would call an "ordinary bookshelf." She is well-read and her books look used.  I kept trying to see the fat light blue one with the corner worn off.  I would say to my TV, "Please Judy, move over just an inch so I can tell what it is."  Last night I paused the TV so I could look closer. It's The History of the American People."  So, what's in your bookcase? What's in mine? Unfortunately, my largest bookcase is not behind me, but on a side wall, out of camera view, so, I'm sorry, my Zoom viewers simply won't know.

Frivolous Fascination! It's time to listen closely to the interviews: COVID-19 Budget Reconciliation Bill; diplomacy and airstrikes in Syria; threats to blow up the capitol during the President's State of the Union address; the race to vaccinate, and more. . . 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Troubling Terms in Difficult Times

 During these challenging, even dangerous, times, how we pick our metaphors matters greatly. Here are three I have heard used by news commentators, and officials lately that trouble me:

1. "We are like a third world country." This phrase has been used to describe the Texas disaster of people losing their power, water, and then having to boil water to drink, and drive to find bottled water and food. I find this term an insult to developing countries. I have been in countries where people have to boil their water every day. We have seen on television people, usually women, walking miles each day to obtain water at all.  I have been in countries where the power is on for only 3 hours a day, if that.  This is the "normal" difficult life for them.  I join in global efforts to help a community be able to dig a well that everyone in their area can use for regular, daily water.  Millions and millions of people struggle daily. This is not to diminish the suffering in Texas. (My son and family live there.) It is to remind us that such a phrase: "We are like a third world country" assumes implicitly that we as a privileged country should not have to be "like them." Rather this situation is a call to care for the earth and its resources, to work for structures and regulations that help us care for each other.  And this is a call to learn from developing nations and to participate in seeing that all people everywhere have clean water and power resources.

2. "He/she is missing in action" has been used lately to describe a leader who isn't leading.  Senator Ted Cruz leaving the country when the state of Texas which he represents is suffering is deplorable. But what other words could we use?  An MIA, a missing in action person, is one who was in the midst of a battle, risking his or her life.  "Missing in Action" often resulted in hearing later or never hearing that one's loved one was killed and the body was not found.  We indeed have had and still do have leaders who refuse to fill the office they hold.  These people were never actually suffering in the midst of the struggle at all, but could with their privilege and power simply avoid serving.  We have a call to be engaged, to help out, to lead where we can and to hold accountable those who do not lead well or do not lead at all.

3."Banana Republic." I've heard elected officials use this term. It's so derogatory on many levels. Perhaps the speaker wasn't thinking.  Or has our believing the United States is "God's chosen people" so permeated our views that we can't imagine this country having experienced an insurrection? Building and retaining a democracy is difficult everywhere. Having a dictator arise in one's midst is so dangerous and damaging.  Having militias take over or nearly take over a country is awful. Having leaders who are "in it" only for their own greed and gain and want to retain power forever cannot serve the country well.  That could not have happened here; or could it?  Rather than calling other countries in negative terms,  this is a call as citizens to be informed, be engaged, and committed to being a country with "liberty and justice for all."  And this is a call to be engaged globally to help--not judge--people in every place.  We are called to be global citizens and to think carefully about what we are saying and doing.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

It's Time to Reconceive What "Evangelical" Means

 Global theologian and my friend, Dr. Karen Bloomquist recently wrote this, before the Insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, January 6, 2021. I find it particularly relevant since Epiphany is a time of being "born anew" with the "self- and world-changing power of belief" that cannot be limited.  At the core of beliefs of the insurrectionists is bigotry and white-privilege. To be evangelical is not to wrap the cross in the flag, but to be grounded in grace which calls us to love the neighbor.  NCE

It’s time to reconceive what “evangelical” means

by Rev. Dr. Karen L. Bloomquist

I am tired of how the word “evangelical” is repeatedly attached to and distorts what is at the core of Christianity. It is being used instead as a political weapon that polarizes (which it has often tragically done throughout history). The heart of the Christian message is the Gospel that liberates not only persons for also systems that discriminate from bondage. The political agenda of so-called “evangelical” Christianity often is used to excuse or reinforce this bondage, resulting in various forms of bigotry. When this occurs what is “Christian” is being prostrated: it is reinforcing patterns of sexism, racism, and “othering” that are contrary to the core of the Gospels, as known through what Jesus said and what he did, especially in how he related to those who were being marginalized. 

Throughout the centuries, “evangelical” has been quite contextual, and has varied greatly throughout history. When the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was formed over 30 years ago, many wondered what “evangelical” meant; I was contacted by media folks who assumed it must have very conservative social positions. At the turn of the 20th century in America, many whom could hardly been thought of as “evangelical” today (such as Unitarian/Universalists) were often labeled with this word. At the time of the 16th century Protestant Reformation those distinguished from Catholics were identified as “evangelical”, which continues throughout many places in the world today. In some places, “Christians” (i.e., “evangelicals”) are still distinguished from Catholics. Yet in recent years this is disputed, especially since the 1999 signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between Lutheran and Catholic churches. Catholics also affirm salvation by grace alone.

Being “born anew” is hardly what makes one “evangelical” today. Being “born anew” with the revolutionary, self- and world-changing power of belief cannot be limited, as Mary’s revolutionary song proclaims (in Canticle of the Turning): God is turning the world around. What is key is challenging and changing systems of discrimination, not only personal attitudes.. Instead, “evangelical” – which often claims to be “spiritual but not political” – has become what is supportive of bigoted political agendas that are in opposition to those who are white, heterosexual, well-off and usually male. This betrays what we read in the Gospels of how Jesus actually related to those who were different sexually, racially, status-wise or by other forms of “otherness.” He was continually crossing boundaries of what was appropriate – and therein is the Good News for all today.

Abandoning the designation “evangelical” may not be appropriate or possible today – it is too widely and popularly used. But those who see it at the heart of what the Gospel means, which must be lived out because of what Jesus said and did, can provide a counter-witness to what evangelical means. It is the Good News of not fearing the future but embracing those who are different, of crossing boundaries and liberating from bondage. Many are yearning to hear and experience this Good News, especially in 2021, so let’s be bolder in doing so.