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My block is a true cross-section of America. African-American families live on either side of my house. Across the street, there are a few White families. Next door to them, a Latino family. A Native American family lives at the end of the street. There’s a lesbian couple, an older lady and her dog, and a foster family.
In my own home, there’s me – a tiny, little “ginger” (5”5), so white that, in a snowstorm, you’d miss me; ☺ my tall (6”3) bi-racial, teen-age son who wears his brown hair in an Afro; and our cat, who’s black, brown, and white – the perfect mascot for the family and for the neighborhood.
I’ve got to be honest. In all my years here in New Jersey, I’ve never used the word “diversity.” The reason for that is that it’s a part of my life, so it doesn’t need a label. It’s just, y’know, my block.
My theory is that most people who use the word “diversity” really have no experience of it in their lives, so their views may be based on stereotypes or misconceptions.
I’ve heard a lot of people rail against the Black Lives Matter movement, and the usual argument is this: why should any one group matter more than the others? Don’t all lives matter?
SueBe wrote the book on this issue, literally, with Professor Duchess Harris, and critics piled on, even before the book came out. Lori spoke for me when she wrote of her anger toward people spewing such hate without having all the facts.
I look at it this way. I’m a proponent of the “Faster Care for Veterans Act.”
While I support the idea of veterans receiving faster care, that doesn’t mean that I think everyone else should receive slower care. I just believe it’s long overdue that this group should have their specific concerns addressed and resolved.
Supporting a group’s right to have their issues heard doesn’t mean that nobody else matters. It means that we’ve still got some work to do. We live on the block together. Can’t we live in the world together?
Yes, church is a place of worship but for me it is also home.
Yesterday a conversation popped up on a friend’s Facebook wall. She is a university professor. In class, she showed her students a video on white privilege. Let’s just say that it did not go over well. Some students felt guilty. Others felt angry. No one seemed to understand why they felt these things but they did know that black people are to blame for their bad feelings.
Talk about missing the point of a lesson.
Room by room, we’ve been cleaning out my dad’s house. That means things are making their way here and to my sisters. One corner of my basement looks like this. A table. A trunk. I’m not sure what under the table. And boxes. I’ll be honest with you — I started to let this stuff freak me out in part because we have similar stacks in other corners and in the garage. It is all just too much. All I felt was the burden.
Then a friend at church asked for small flower pots. She’s going to re-pot cuttings for the church rummage sale. My husband took a bag into the garage and cleared off a shelf. Wow. That felt good.
While I was at choir rehearsal, he cleaned off a shelf of sports bottles. They went into the recycling. The recycled plastic will be put to use somewhere else.
Privilege is a lot like this. You can look at it all around you and hate it, or you can find a way to use it to benefit others. I can’t give someone my whiteness, but I can speak up for them. I can’t hand over my education, but I can help them gain their own.
God has blessed me with a quite a bit. It can become a burden in my life or a blessing to others. The choice is mine.
What does a wall full of plates have to do with mystery? They belonged to my Grandmother. She was the one who most often had to answer my why questions. “Why did this happen?” “Why didn’t God heal so-and-so?” “How could God …”
Honestly, this woman was endlessly patient. She didn’t have all of the answers but she did have the most important one. “No one knows why things happen the way they do, but we do know that God loves us.” We may not understand everything, but we can know that. God loves us.
Many years ago, when I was a young and naïve slip of a thing, my husband went out of town, leaving me alone in our townhouse. One evening during this trip, there came a knock on the door. More like a fusillade of knocking. And yelling. A man with a loud and angry voice demanded I “open the door right now!” and proceeded to call me a variety of ugly names.
I froze in fear. Should I hit the alarm button (which had gone off before without the neighbors doing a darned thing about it)? Call the cops? Hide? He was, after all, threatening to kick the door down.
“Sherry! (or Sheila or Shelly…I forget)” he screamed. “I’m going to kill you if you don’t open this door RIGHT NOW!”
“Sherry (or Sheila or Shelly) doesn’t live here,” I yelled back. There was a moment of silence.
“Okay,” came the voice from the other side of the door, and the man walked away.
Sometimes troubles come knocking on our door, and sometimes they threaten to kick it down. It can feel like the whole world is calling us a variety of ugly names. It can feel like we are powerless to prevent the nameless nastiness that is certain to come — soon. Any minute, it seems.
Maybe yelling at your difficulties won’t keep them from coming. On the other hand, like David facing Goliath or Daniel in the lion’s den, a little moxie couldn’t hurt. In fact, sometimes it’s all you need to power your way through a tough time. No one needs to know you don’t really have anything left in you to back it up.
Why? Because even if you are trembling in your boots, God isn’t. And God has your back. You may not be able to picture the other side of the mountain of woe that stands in front of you, but you will reach the other side. What’s there might not be any prettier, but once you’ve climbed one mountain, you will know the steps you need to take to climb the next.
So the next time life offers you lemons, don’t bother with lemonade. Just yell, “Sherry/Sheila/Shelly doesn’t live here!” at it. Refuse to engage that person who wants to draw you into a quarrel. Choose not to let someone else take advantage of you, even if you have to rely on bluster you don’t feel. Decide to forgive someone not because they deserve it, but because you do.
Most of all, don’t forget how deeply loved you are. God recognizes your sorrows and feels them deeply. Jesus, fully divine and fully human, understands what it is to fear, suffer, mourn. Even if the door comes crashing down, you’ve got an army behind you.
Sometimes you don’t have to travel anywhere for a retreat from the business of life. The St. Louis area had a significant nighttime snowfall Tuesday to Wednesday. Plowing didn’t make sense because it was still coming down but schools were canceled. I loved seeing the number of people on Facebook who were posting about getting to spend time at home with their kids.
I for one am grateful for God’s weather induced breaks. Snowdays are retreat days.
Wrestling and Faith taken together makes a lot of people think of Jacob wrestling God.
Today, it made me think of my work as a writer. Things don’t come together quickly or neatly. This is a photo of two pages of draft 1 of a new book. Note the yellow? Draft one is full of highlighted sections with comments like “define” and “more detail.” Writing isn’t easy and I spend time wrestling the manuscript into shape.
Many tasks, whether they are mental or physical, take a prolonged effort. Not everything is as easy as the click of an app. And that’s a blessing.
Sometimes I suspect that I handle freedom in a very cat-like way.
Do you know Garrison Keillor’s “In and Out Cat” song? To put it simply, as much as we want our freedom, what we want most is to be on the other side of that door. When we’re in, we want to be out. When we’re out, we want to be in.
I pray for work and then pray for time to relax. I get time to relax and then worry that I don’t have any deadlines. Meow.
That’s Cindy in the photo and she’s not laughing. Apparently I should just accept my place in the universe, sit down, and make a lap.
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. ”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
As a mother, it’s rare to find time for yourself. When my son was a toddler, I was, um, indisposed, shall we say, and had left the bathroom door slightly ajar. Suddenly, poking through the door, there was a prominent proboscis, covered in black and white fur and sprout-like whiskers.
It was my Black Labrador/Border Collie Mix, Sheena, barging into the bathroom, followed closely by one wobbly toddler with blanket in hand. My son and my dog ambled in, sat down, and watched me as if I was a television show.
Life has certainly changed, I said to them, as if they understood. Both just looked at me and smiled. (Believe me, dogs can smile, too!)
That was fifteen years ago, and since that time, I’ve learned the importance of what Virginia Woolf referred to as “a room of one’s own.” Back then, I didn’t have a dedicated space in which to write, so I developed a habit of creating a “sacred space.”
I’d spread my purple blanket on the couch or comfy chair, or even on the floor if the spirit moved me, and I’d write, even if there was chaos – or worse still, crumbs! – all around me.
For many of us, the blogosphere has become a sacred space. Climbing into cyberspace, you can read and produce poetry, art, music, rants about politics – even ideas about changing the world.
For people of faith, there’s a treasure trove of spiritual blogs, great books of truth and ministries online.
If it moves you, move with it. A room of one’s own can be built from within, but you don’t have to live there alone. You’ll find your kinfolk. If you build it, they will come.
This is part of the view from my favorite prayer location — the living room. When I settle down with a cup of coffee, the cat climbs into my lap and we spend a little quiet time together to start our day.