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It happened in a neighborhood much like yours. My friends — two of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever known — had their home attacked by hatred. Let me set the scene: On their lawn, these friends have placed two signs. One says “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in three languages. The other simply states, “Black Lives Matter.” Lately, a cowardly Someone planted a third sign in their yard. This one was different. Scrawled on poster board were ugly, racist things. My friends were called “America haters” and instructed to “get a job.” (May I also mention that my friends are two of the hardest working folks you might ever meet?)

I spent a long time feeling sad, knowing how I might react to such a thing — with despair, anger and fear. But then I knew just how my friends were going to react to it — with compassion and resilient grace. And I realized: Hate has no chance. None at all.

Hate has no home here.
It scrabbles in crannies,
finding footholds in fearful dark places.
It squints in ignorance, afraid of light
that will certainly kill it, sure as any germ.
Though we long to burn it, let us refrain.
Instead, stand in loving audacity,
face forward into the abyss
that is, after all, only smoke:
quickly dispelled by the ongoing breath
of all who know our God.

Beata Zawrzel—NurPhoto/Getty Images

Drop me off in a snowstorm, and you might lose me. I’m not just Caucasian, I’m lily white. Polar bear pale. But I can tell you one thing: Black Lives Matter.

I thought it went without saying that to say, “Black Lives Matter” is not to say that no one else’s life matters.

The other day, I had to “unfriend” someone on Facebook because she posted these hashtags: “AllLivesMatter” and “CopsLivesMatter.”

This means that, despite seeing the video of George Floyd being choked to death by an officer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck, she believes that the police are always in the right.

It’s shocking to see something so graphic and realize that someone else doesn’t appreciate the gravity and brutality of the incident.

In this unprecedented time, the country is contending with two virulent contagions: COVID-19 and systemic racism.

If only there were a way to implant a moral compass into everyone’s heart, the way a surgeon does a pacemaker. Or give the whole world an empathy-injection, along with our B-12 shots. 

There’s no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, and certainly no vaccine for racism.

You can’t regulate or legislate hate out of a heart, but short of that, there are a few concrete steps to be taken:

  1. Remove the issue of police discipline from union labor negotiations. Many police union rules protect officers who act violently. 
  2. Enforce the use of body cameras so that officers aren’t allowed to turn them off to commit acts of violence.
  3. Fire any officer using choke-holds or excessive force on a citizen.

We’ve got some deep rifts in this country now, and many wounds in need of healing. As for those who deny there are systemic problems in law enforcement and implicit bias toward people of color? Sadly, there’s no vaccine for that.

1. Never sneeze with half-chewed nuts in your mouth. I’m still picking bits out of my hair.

2. If your wife makes something for the potluck, remember to actually bring it. (Owen, that’s you I’m talking to.)

3. Folks can say in one breath that they voted for Trump because he is pro-life, yet in the next breath fully countenance the forcible removal of immigrants, the yanking of health care to thousands — making pregnancy a “pre-existing condition,” while simultaneously denying prenatal care, and failing to understand why Black Lives Matter.

4. When one only has herself to cook for, one tends to eat sporadically and strangely. Creamed kale for supper, anyone?

5. God makes God’s-self known in loud trumpeting…and barely perceivable whispers. Both. I am much better at hearing the trumpeting. Although it is jolting.

6. As a brilliant artist friend reminded me with his painting of Jeremiah being lifted from the cistern (the biblical prophet’s enemies throw him into a dry cistern; a court official rescues him, not just with rope, but — thoughtfully — with pieces of cloth to place under his arms while he is being lifted, so the ropes don’t chafe him), you can lift a person up by throwing them a line and expecting them to be grateful for it, OR you can lift someone up with special attention to their individual needs — i.e., gently. How do you lift people up?

7. There is always a third option: To not lift people up at all. This is becoming less and less acceptable to me, yet more and more common in the world.

8. I need to speak less and listen more. This will render me pretty much selectively mute. That’s okay; the world has enough noise in it. It will, however, make phone calls awkward.

9. I need a nap. A year or two ought to do it. Now, if you’ll excuse me….

Yesterday Lori wrote about the Pope’s comments on DACA.  Yesterday the moderator of our Presbytery put out a message about the fact that a non-guilty verdict came down in the police killing of a black man.  Rev. Howard is leading a denomination with many predominantly white churches.  He, on the other hand, is not white.

He reminded us that the protests are not about this case alone.  The protests have grown up out of the racialized treatment of Blacks.  That’s it.

Because it has, for 100s of years, been okay to own or otherwise mistreat Blacks, they protest.  Because the police are significantly more likely to shoot a black male than anyone else, they protest.  They carry signs to inform us that Black Lives Matter.

The rest of us?  We need to hear their cry.  We need to listen and we need to cry out for them.  This cannot be their struggle alone.  After all, it impacts us all.


holding-hands-858005_1920As I typed my response to Lori’s post, I typed and I typed and then I typed some more.  I went back and rewrote and it got even longer.  I realized that I was actually writing my post for today.  I wasn’t going to write about the Terrifying Cheeto (aka he who shall not be named) since Lori had already written about him in her post. After all, this isn’t a blog about politics. It is a blog about prayer and faith and God’s love.

But Faith and Love have a lot to do with politics. What we are seeing in politics now is a backlash.  It isn’t just a backlash against women who speak out against assault.  Yes, that’s been the loudest portion of the backlash this week thanks to the Cheeto and his talk about forcing himself on women.

This political season we are seeing a backlash against the modern civil rights movement.  Such a backlash happens whenever progress has been made.

The slaves were freed.  Then we had the KKK and Jim Crow laws.

The Civil Rights movement helped minorities and women.  Then we had redlining, white flight and Phyllis Schlafly.

Black Lives Matter and progress by women in society and we have the current backlash which includes none other than the Terrifying Cheeto. But it isn’t just him.  This all took root when Nixon told Southern voters that if they supported him (vs the Democratic Party), he wouldn’t push civil rights. It has grown from there but that was to be expected.

Every time there is progress, the ripples disturb something dark and rotten.  It has floated to the surface.  Ugly as it is, it isn’t new.  It is the response that follows a shift in power when one side loses this power to the other.

So, as Christians, what do we do? We hope and we act as Christ’s hands on this Earth.  We hold up those who are hurting and worried because they’ve already been impacted by the kind of hate that is screaming down the air waves.  We look for other helpers, people in office and out, running and not, who are working for civil rights and for empowerment.  We catch stones.  We hold people up.  And we look to God the source of power and Love and all that is truly Good.



peace makersLast week, I spoke at a writer’s guild conference in Rush Limbaugh’s home town. You don’t hear as much about ol’ Rush as you used to but for those of you who are unfamiliar with him, he was a conservative radio host who was always saying something nasty about someone.

Me? I’m just a nonfiction writer with a book about Black Lives Matter. Yeah, I was nervous.

During my talk a woman raised her hand. She lived in LA when Rodney King was beaten.  She detailed what a wretched human being he was and how many weapons he had in the trunk of his car when the police beat him. I don’t have a clue what was or wasn’t in his trunk, which I admitted, but I also pointed out that even a person who has broken the law has rights and they shouldn’t be used to criminalize an entire race.

But the story doesn’t end there. When this woman approached me later in the day, I braced myself.  I expected to get chewed up one side and down the other. Instead, she thanked me for encouraging her to think about how taking sides isn’t the answer.  Instead, we should be focusing on treating each other with respect.

I have to admit that I wasn’t mentally present for large portions of the next session. I was too busy thanking God for sending this woman into my life. After all, she was the one who had had the nerve to extend the olive branch and start a true “after the disagreement” dialogue. Without her, I’d still be angry and mentally replaying the encounter. But thanks to her courage we reached across the divide. Before it was over, we were thanking God as we hugged each other good-bye.

God sends people into our lives to help us grow. I’m convinced that this woman was one of these people. I only hope that I can show similar grace in the weeks to come and take advantage of any opportunities I might have to extend an olive branch and create an opportunity for true dialogue. How else can we hope to work for God on Earth?


reaching outEarlier this week, I read a news story that didn’t make it past Facebook.  It just wasn’t sensational enough.  It didn’t bleed so it didn’t lead, but I thought of it again when I read Lori’s post about mercy.

Early in the morning, a woman in my community heard a boom as the sky lit up. We get a lot of thunderstorms this time of year but the sky was clear.  She hurried to the front of the house and saw a car had hit a tree and an electrical box.

The driver was sitting on the ground and she hurried over to see if he was okay. He was very drunk.  It would have been so easy for this woman to go inside and call the police. Who wants to mess with someone whose drunk first thing in the day?  But she introduced herself and asked for his car keys. He handed them over and told her his name.

A crowd was gathering and someone yelled that the police were on their way. Again, this woman could have chosen not to get involved. But the young man was scared and she stayed by his side.  She told him that she knew that a lot of bad things had happened lately between the police and the black community but he just needed to cooperate.  She explained that she was worried that because he was so drunk he would make bad choices.

As the police arrived, people called out that they were about to see some police brutality. The woman didn’t argue with them. When the police arrived, she introduced him to the officers and handed over his keys.  She told him that the police were there to help.

He showed them respect.  They showed him respect.

And I have to wonder how much of this should be credited to one woman who stepped out of the crowd. She didn’t see a criminal.  She saw someone’s son who had made a mistake. She didn’t see the opportunity to make a video and gain fame on YouTube or Facebook. Instead, she acted in mercy as the hands of Christ.

Blessed are the peacemakers.  For they shall be called the children of God.


Black Lives Matter, African American, GraffitiEarly in the day that 12 police officers were shot in Dallas, my son and I had a surreal conversation.

Him:  Mom, did you see the video on Facebook?  I can’t believe they would show that where little kids might see it.  The police shot that guy.

Me:  The guy that died on the parking lot or the guy that died in the car?

Him: The guy in Baton Rouge.

How bizarre that we had to clarify – which video showing which shooting?

My Facebook feed is awash with people ranting. “Black Lives Matter!” “All Lives Matter!” They type, they hate and they fume. What they don’t do is truly dialogue.

My co-author, Duchess Harris, and I do this on a regular basis. We ask each other questions, we listen to how the other person feels about changing events, and we discuss the past.  What was the reality that we each knew growing up?

Have you ever had this kind of conversation about race?  Very few of us have.

One Saturday, I happened to be at a rummage sale where a woman learned that a family friend had been shot the night before by police. We spent a long time talking about what it’s like to be black in the US. As I helped her to her car, she said, “No white woman has ever talked with me about race.”

And that, my friends, needs to change, but changing it won’t be easy.

First, we need to listen because a dialogue cannot take place until the person whose voice is most often heard is quiet and listens. I’m sorry, I know this is going to upset some people but if you get freaked out by “Black Lives Matter,” you need to listen. Even if you don’t get freaked out, you still need to listen. It’s a good habit.

The people who protest carrying Black Lives Matter signs don’t feel like they are heard.  We can only change that by listening. And how do we show that we are listening? One way to do this is to ask questions. “Black Lives Matter” begs the question “What does it mean to matter?” You might not like the answer, but that’s okay.  Being made to feel like you don’t matter really isn’t particularly pleasant. Listening is step one in making them feel like they do matter.

What does this have to do with prayer and being a Christian? Christ said it in the Sermon on the Mount.  Blessed are the peacemakers. As peacemakers, we need to go out and look and listen.  We need to find those who are not being heard.

Once we find them, we need to listen. And as we listen, we need to lift them up into His Light.


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?

Not surprisingly, this week has been pretty prayerful.

Lori has already told you about my run-in with the media.  Last Sunday, FOX news did a piece that included my upcoming book, Black Lives Matter. They didn’t talk to me or my co-author Duchess Harris.  They didn’t see the book.  But they had firm, strong, negative opinions.  Various conservative media copied it from FOX. To those with hate-filled mouths, I have this to say — I hope Duchess’ mama doesn’t get ahold of you.

Between lack of sleep and way too much stomach acid, it became obvious that I needed to do all in my power to chill out before I suffered physically.  My prayer solution when angry and hurt when hate swirled around me?  The prayer of St. Francis.

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sew 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.


God brought this opportunity to me and I believe that he brought Duchess into my life.  I’m so sure that we’re already working on a second book together.  In the meanwhile, I’ll write and pray.  And for those of you who have never heard this amazing prayer sung, see below.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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