2020 simply won’t stop. Hurricanes hitting the gulf this week, the fires in California are bad enough we’re even getting some of the smoke haze, Iowa experienced a severe derecho wind storm in early August that has devastated so many farms and crops, and another shooting of an unarmed African American man walking away toward his car where his three children were, and being shot in the back 7 times. He shouldn’t have been walking away, but without a weapon was deadly force required? And no, I don’t want to defund the police. And no it doesn’t excuse violent behavior. And yes, I believe 99% of our police professionals across the country are the best of the best – probably a greater ratio than clergy. A bad sermon or disappointment in a pastor’s human weakness, including mine, and people walk away and find other places to worship. When people leave it breaks my heart every time and has happened more than I can count over 32 years. So understand, I don’t come from a place of judgment or anywhere near perfection. And no, I do not support rioting and looting and burning, and yes I do support and have been part of peaceful protests – it’s part of our freedom to assemble and our freedom to speak. And last night there were two more deaths from non-peaceful chaos and confrontations. And no, there are NOT. ANY. EASY. ANSWERS. And I fear for our Republic because we are destroying ourselves in fear and division. And there is plenty of blame to go around, and I do not stand outside the responsibility to try and do what I can to make things better for everyone.
What does that look like? I will continue to invest my money and my spiritual strength to places like Center of Grace who seek to concretely and effectively serve all families who are insecure in food, clothing, education, and rent and utility assistance. I will continue to preach a gospel that I pray is both uplifting and convicting, prophetic and pastoral, inviting calls to action that include foundations of prayer, education, advocacy through being allies and listening to the leadership of those voices representing any who are not being offered justice and lives of peace. I will increase my willingness to learn what it’s like to be a top-notch police officer in these most difficult times and find ways to be passionately supportive. AND I will increase my willingness to learn what it’s like to be black and seeking to live in a country where, as a parent, you don’t worry every. single. day. whether your teenage or adult sons and daughters will come home alive.
I somehow believe we can be passionately and demonstrably supportive of our men and women in the police force AND passionately and demonstrably supportive of our men and women of color who are at vastly greater risk of dying in a land whose ideal is constitutionally stated that all men and women (sic) are created equal.
Allow me to call myself out today. I got annoyed and then the tears came because of these two things:
They are working on the street where our main entrances to the church parking lot are. Without any notice, 114th street is closed and they put cones across both south entrances to our church. Is there still an entrance? Yes. The north one that you have to be coming from the south to enter. It’s a lovely entrance, rimmed by the trees of our wilderness-y undeveloped north acreage, but it’s not my usual and most efficient entrance. And they closed our west lower parking lot. Is there still a parking lot? Yes. Our beautiful and expansive upper level lot with three sets of 8 glass doors, two of which are automatic opening, are quite available – but they are not my usual way of parking or entering.
Then there’s the toilet issue. Seriously? I was leaving work late on Monday night and I’m ready to walk out and hear the toilet running, just running and running. So I jiggle the handle – the extent of my plumbing skills, and I wait for the water to stop because I don’t want it just running all night. And it doesn’t stop. So I take the lid off and the plug, or whatever it’s called, has broken apart. O.k. this building is only 21 years old, a rubber plug thing is already obsolete? Now I’m searching for a way to stop the water so I don’t have to feel guilty about lowering the water table with a broken plug in my toilet. Yes, yes, I COULD have turned the water off with the little water off knob that goes to the toilet and NO, I did NOT think about that in that moment. I found my kind of scary back scratcher that someone gave me as a gag gift more years ago than I can remember. And the awkward looking plastic hand with nail polish worked perfectly in holding up the arm so the plug would settle into the water run out opening at the bottom of the tank. And voila’, I saved the water table that my running toilet would have clearly ruined.
Were either of those things worth tears this morning? Um, no. But my tough mindedness about hurricanes and fires and devastating derecho winds, and one more shooting ripping our nation apart and driving further racial division between fundamentally good people of all colors who are children of God hit its max, and these two things pushed me over the edge I think. I let them come, the tears, because sometimes I simply can’t.
So then I read an article in my newest Running magazine about running. Yes, you are paying my salary to do clergy stuff and it is during the workday, but I’m letting you know as my direct supervisors, I blatantly read an article from my Running magazine about running, smack-dab in the middle of my work day. The tears stopped. I was reminded that we can take on hard challenges. That God gives us strength when we think we can’t go one more mile either physically or sometimes spiritually and prophetically in the race toward justice. And then sometimes, we just need to sit down, to rest, to take a swig of gatorade and let others run for a bit. And then we can get up again and rejoin the race with renewed energy to love and act with passion.
Prayer moves mountains. Please pray for strength and healing for those in the path of hurricanes, still fighting and also recovering from the devastation of fires and the derecho winds, and for our brothers and sisters of color who are grieving and afraid, our family of police officers who are strong and courageous and so very, very, many bringing their best to one of the most difficult jobs of all.
I leave you with my favorite (other than the Lord’s Prayer) prayer of all – the “Prayer of St. Francis in word and then in song:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.