We’re All Jews Now . . .

The Nazi Holocaust was evil incarnate. So was the Middle Passage, and so are latter-day annihilations of whole peoples based on prejudice and hate.

I believe that is why words of hate must be countered with words of love. More than that, I believe that when groups in our community are targeted for hate, we must join them.

Not to stand with them is to stand against them. There is no neutral ground when it comes to hate. Jews learned in the Holocaust that it was bystanders, not just the Nazis, who made the ovens possible.

That is why I will go to the Virginia Holocaust Museum on Tuesday to stand in solidarity with my Jewish siblings, and why I will follow the lead of students at Hermitage High School and stand in solidarity with them — to show love for them, and for everyone, including those who come into our community to peddle hate.

The Christian term for this is “witness,” as in to give testimony. I testify to the reality and power of God’s love, knowing God does not hate.

Anyone can be a witness. And there are many ways to be a witness.

Not everyone can go to one of the sites of Tuesday’s hate invasion from Kansas. But everyone can take a moment to pray or offer a word of love to someone (and explain they are doing so in solidarity with victims of hate). Among those who come, not everyone needs to carry a sign nor do the signs have to say the same thing.

Let creativity break out. Let love empower us to make the witness that works for us.

But let us witness. Because, in a moment like this, we’re all Jews, we’re all gay, we’re all . . . . at risk.

Never Too Old to Learn

Yesterday was my day off. Like most such days, I had a lot to do–even some work-related items.

As I checked my list, I felt a knot of anxiety around the need to clean the house (or at least get rid of the worst of the mess and dirt).  My usual plan is do it late in the day, concluding the work by taking out the trash and recyclying for the next morning.

This time, I heard my mother’s voice: “Why don’t you do it now, so you can relax and enjoy the rest of the day?”

Of course, I did not expect to relax exactly (my list was long), but at the same time I knew she was right. I would enjoy the day more if I did the dreaded task first.

A reasonable person might think I, at 63, would not have to be reminded of this simple truth: face into what troubles you and deal with it so it does not fester and cause you more pain and anxiety than is necessary.

I guess this just proves that I am never too old to learn an old trick.

I Want MY Country Back

I have been watching the Tea Party political phenomenon lately. I am glad people are standing up for what they believe. We are a better nation when we do that.

So, I want to start a counter-movement. Because I don’t agree with much of what I am hearing.

I do agree on one point: politicians have become too chummy with special interests, and money is greasing the system for the big boys and girls.

But I don’t agree that taxes are inherently bad, or that a plan to provide health care for 30 million Americans without it is bad, or that legislation to protect the environment and begin to reverse global warming is a plot to turn us into Europe, or that global warming is a hoax.

And frankly, I am tired of people who seem to be winning the political battles–they have stymied majority Democrats in Washington–claiming they are victims.

I want MY country back, the one that cares about the sick, the elderly, the children; the one that dares to struggle to grant equal rights to oppressed people; the one where all religions (and none) are welcome; the one where owning a gun and being able to carry it into a bar is not the most burning civil rights question of the moment. 

I’d be glad to hear from you–if you disagree or agree. Or if you have a name to suggest for this movement.

Enjoying Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday.

When I was a kid in Michigan–midway through the last century–everyone wore the sign of ashes on this day. Now, it is almost a shock when you meet someone with the smudge on their forehead.

There is a lot of talk about spirituality these days, and there are plenty of people running around claiming their religion is the only true way (“America is a Christian nation”), but I don’t observe much reverence.

That is how I have come to understand Ash Wednesday, not as a day laden with guilt (that is what I grew up with) but as a day of gratitude for the presence of God in my life and in the world. Lent is a time set aside to help me get closer to God, and thus closer to the true, beautiful self God is creating with me.

Stephen Covey writes, “When people seriously undertake to identify what matters most to them in their lives, what they really want to be and do, they become very reverent. They start to think in larger terms than today or tomorrow.”

May we enjoy this day, set aside for us to know our source, and our possibilities.

Renewing the Connection

Adam and God connecting, from the Sistine Chapel

How we begin each day helps set the course of the day.

Most days, I lie in bed for a minute or so after waking, to say, “Today, God, I rest in you, I share all my thoughts with you and leave my worries with you, trusting you to guide me.”

Of course, I forget this during the day, but I also remember it, and every time I remember, my course is righted and my spirit is balanced again.

During my morning prayer, I always repeat the following: “God, you are, therefore I am. You are with me, and within me. And I am with you and within you.”

Again, I stray from this, but I also return to it many times, remembering whose I am.

As I pray, I also remember these words from Gunilla Norris, “Help me to sit here quietly, help me not so much to plan as to listen. Help me to be informed, as in “shaped from within,” by Your will (I substitute the word “desire”). My burden is so heavy, yours is always light.”

Prayer is not magic, it is connection with the Holy One. When I begin my day reaffirming that connection, life is not only better, it is good.

Turn on the Son Lamp

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, I was cursing the snow and the cold, and feeling out of sorts. Today, I cherish the sunshine, and feel much lighter.

It reminds me of when I first lived in Maine. The gray of winter was so long and intense, and I was feeling so depressed, I went to a tanning salon to lie under a sun lamp. My spirits lifted.

Most days, I am able to get a lift from prayer, or from one of Jonathan’s dazzling smiles, or some goofiness or prank by Cocoa. Or all of the above.

Of course, God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are always ready to lift me, if I let them. This Sunday evening, at the 6:30 pm Gospel Service, we will sing “Love Lifted Me.” That love comes from God. Indeed, the source of all love is God.

I don’t need to lie under a sun lamp any more, but I could use more time with the Son lamp. No weather, no matter how nasty, no matter if it is caused by Mother Nature or human nature, can withstand that candle-power.

I have seen the Light. I am following the Light. I am living the Light.

Changing Virginia

We took the step. Now, we have to take the next one.

State Senator Donald McEachin

Senate Bill 66, to prohibit discrimination in state employment due to sexual orientation or gender expression and identity, passed the Virginia State Senate, 23-17, yesterday. Thank you, Senator Donald McEachin.

Sadly, it was mostly a party-live vote, with all 22 Democrats voting “yes,” but only one Republican, Frederick Quayle, joining them.

State Senator Frederick Quayle

This is not a partisan issue, but a justice issue.

The Family Foundation claims there have been no instances of discrimination so there is no need for the legislation. That is nonsense. Of course, LGBT people have been denied job protection in state government. They have to craft their own protection: staying closeted. This reduces their ability to perform their jobs at peak levels. That is their loss, and ours.

The Republican-controlled House of Delegates is undoubtedly less friendly to this legislation. But that should not stop us from letting them know what we want them to do. Until they hear us speak up for ourselves, and hear from our friends, families, and allies, they will think the Family Foundation is right.

You can contact your Delegate. Visit http://dela.state.va.us/dela/MemBios.nsf/MWebsiteTL?OpenView Don’t know who your Delegate is? Visit http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform

Virginia won’t change until we change it.

God Is Not a Terrorist

Recently, I spent some time with a friend who told me about growing up in a family and church where everyone, except maybe the preacher, was destined for hell. She was relieved when, during her teenage years, her family moved, and the family stopped going to church.

Thirty years later, she met the love of her life, who was, and is, a regular churchgoer–every Sunday, and a few times in between. What to do?

Eventually, my friend, tired of being alone on Sunday morning, attended church.

Can it be? The God in this church sounds friendly, loving, caring. The preacher doesn’t condemn anyone, and keeps talking about how God loves all people.

She wonders, “When and how did God change?”

Now, my friend realizes God did not change. God has always been loving. God has never been, and will never be, a terrorist.

Today, God, I give thanks for my friend’s journey (and her partner who showed you to her). I pray that more people will find you, the real you, and that they too will spread the good news of your love for us all. And help me do my part in that, too.

Bending the Military

Finally.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The nation’s top military leaders have decided to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It will take them a year (or more) to study it and then to do it, but at least they have made the right decision.

Of course, we can already see and hear the forces of reaction digging in to be sure it doesn’t happen. Senator John McCain even claims the policy was “effective.” I wonder if he means that it was effective in forcing out thousands of qualified personnel just when we desperately need them?

Virginia’s senior U.S. Senator, James Webb, himself a former Navy Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Defense, as well as a decorated veteran, is going to need some prodding and convincing on this. I encourage people to write him, helping him understand that his leadership is needed.

Still, I am encouraged by Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen. I also am glad President Obama helped them get it right.

Whenever anyone asks me about the existence of God, I point to things like this. I remember Dr. King: “We shall overcome because the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

God is the bender.

Clearing away the Piles

I drove to church yesterday. The roads near my house on the south side were passable, in some cases almost bare. This was true even after about a foot of snow over the weekend.

Then, as I got near the church, in the Fan District, the roads were awful. No snow had been plowed. Cars were snow-covered, and often parked at odd angles (presumably where they had tried to get out).

I thought, “Why, right in the city center are things so bad? Why haven’t the plows been here?” Of course, Richmond has little or no snow removal equipment. It doesn’t snow often enough here to justify it. Still, it seemed clear the city crews had been in my area.

Then, as I looked around, it dawned on me. There is no place to put the snow. Space is at a premium.

Sometimes, my life feels like that, too. Things pile up, and I don’t seem to have any place to put them.

That is because I have forgotten God. I can pass anything I can’t handle to God. “Please take this for awhile, God, so I can deal with the stuff I can handle.”

Of course, at some later time, I receive inspiration about what to do, or not to do, about that pile I gave up to God. It is simply amazing what God can do, if we get out of the way.