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The Old Courthouse, St. Louis, MO. Site of the Dred Scott Trials.

We were at the pool when the news came out about the Charleston shootings. I don’t bring a smart phone, a tablet or anything with a battery to the pool. It’s a tough call on whether the water or the pool deck has destroyed the larger number of devices. Because of this, social media was awash in opinions by the time I saw anything at all.

Ironically, my son missed two days of swim practice at a Pen or Pencil, a leadership in race symposium put on for high school students by the National Parks service. I showed him the various posts and asked for his reflections based on what he had learned.

Dialogue.  Actually listen and talk, but mostly listen.  You have to hear what the other person is saying to respond with any meaning.

Ask Questions.  A lot of the dialogue came about as the students would give their opinion and then one or more of the leaders would ask a question, challenging both the originally speaker and the other students to think about what various statements mean.  Protest don’t riot begs the question when does a protest become a riot?

Everyone deserves a voice.  You know how it goes with most discussions. One or two people are heard but they don’t let anyone else talk.  At Pen or Pencil, all of the students had a say.

Be constructive.  If you don’t like the way the world is, take your anger and channel it into something that will allow you to be heard and will make a difference.

All in all, he came out of the experience feeling a lot better about our community and his place in it. He had been heard.  He had heard the voices of others and knew that in truth they wanted the same things.  They all wanted the opportunity to improve their community and make something of themselves while helping others to do the same thing.

What does this have to do with being a Christian? Blessed are the peacemakers, my friends. It is time for us to quit talking about how picked on Christians are in this country and go out there and make some peace through thoughtful dialogue.


In her last post, Lori wrote about seeing God at work in our lives.

Sometimes it is easier than others. When my friend’s stage 4 cancer disappeared, we sang praises to God. My cousin just had a healthy, wonderful baby girl.  Thank you, Lord!

But there are other times that seeing God isn’t so easy.  My local community is again in turmoil.  After the City Planner and Police Chief resigned in the city of Ferguson, people again took to the streets in protest.  The night before I wrote this, two police officers were shot.

These officers weren’t arresting a robbery suspect.  They weren’t answering a domestic call.  They were standing in front of the police station to discourage whatever nonsense people might decide to get up to.  One of them was shot in the face.  The other in the shoulder.

At times like these, it is very hard to see God.

Just before the turmoil started up again, I got a message from my editor.  Would I be interested in writing about a headline topic?

Of course.

They need a book called “Black Lives Matter.”

Normally, when I work for this publisher, they give me a list.  “We need books on these ten topics. What are your top three choices?”  Not this time, this time they gave me a specific topic.  Not ebola.  Not GMO.  Not ISIS.  Black Lives Matter.

I e-mailed my editor.  “Do you know where I live?”

“No. Why?”

The truth of the matter is that I’ve been struggling to truly hear what everyone has to say. There is so much hate and so much anger that it is hard to listen.  I’d much rather pull into my shell.  I know that things won’t change unless we listen, but still. . .

I could have been assigned a book on any one of ten different topics.  I got “Black Lives Matter.”  Even when it makes me squirm, I will have to listen to both sides.  Even when I want to tell them both to hush and go away, I will have to listen.  But when I do, I will have the opportunity to put together a book to teach young readers.

Who but God could pull this off?


Make space for quiet and prayer in times of tragedy.

Make space for quiet and prayer in times of tragedy.

I’d love to say that I’ve filled my Advent thus far with meditation and contemplation about the coming of Christ.  Unfortunately, it isn’t true. Advent may be a time of waiting but I’ve just been waiting for things to calm down.

As I’ve said before, I live just outside of Ferguson.  As the district attorney announced that the police officer who shot and killed the young man in August would not be indicted, riots broke out.  No, not protests.  Riots.  Burning buildings, flipping over police cars, looting.  Riots.

Just as this calmed down, my father had the nerve to be admitted to the hospital through the ER. Waiting in the ER is one thing.  Waiting when the place is crawling with high-strung emergency workers is another thing altogether.

Not enough drama in my life at this point, I also had a book due. I know?  Couldn’t my publisher have planned better and given me a calmer, quieter deadline?

But in the middle of all of this insanity, I realized that this is the world that Christ came into.  Although we picture a quiet night with shepherds and angels, Christ came into a world full of tension between Roman and Jew. He came into a world where the haves feasted until they had to vomit so they could feast some more while the have nots combed through harvested fields looking for enough to feed their families.

Instead of waiting until things calm down to find Christ, I need to find him amid the furor. It is time to light a Christmas candle and snag a few quiet moments. I can’t expect more than a few but in those moments I can listen for the still small voice calling to me. That voice that is calling me to share his hope with those that have none, the voice that is whispering to me to share his joy with those who know only despair.  I am waiting to discover the details, but like Lori I know that they will come.


Alarming news abounds. Look at Ferguson. Look at the Middle East. The Children’s Defense Fund recently published a report that states the following horrifying facts: The United States, though first among industrialized nations in military spending and number of billionaires, ranks SECOND TO WORST in child poverty rates (only Romania is worse) and dead last — WORST — in protecting children against gun violence. How is this okay? (Answer: It’s not.) As usual, I turn to poetry to loosen my emotions. Please, everyone, treat each other with kindness. Okay?

There is ice here
and snow and sere
desert; there are children
(all colors) and guns,
explosives. The world
is cracking under the weight
of itself.

Lighter hearts can lift
(like helium) the gravity
of evil; open ears and arms
can hold the load so it
is never too heavy
for one person to bear.

We must approach
one another like hummingbirds,
gently avoiding the buzz of wings
and wait, abiding,
for the right instant
to offer nectar.

None of us has all the answers.

The Franciscan Blessing that I posted last week was more meaningful than I could possibly have imagined.  I live in a community that borders Ferguson, Missouri.  Our children go to the same schools.  We shop at the same stores.  Our kids swim on the same teams.  My sister lives in Ferguson.

Given this proximity, I’ve had if not a front seat at least a seat in the first tier. As I’ve listened to the media and read peoples’ comments I’ve been amazed at how quick we are to believe that we know the truth even if we are across the country or across the world.  Somehow, someway we know what happened and what was in peoples’ hearts.

I’ve got to tell you even if you’ve read every news story, you don’t know.  You don’t know because they don’t know.  How can they?  The police don’t know the truth.  The witnesses don’t know the truth.

We don’t know because everyone involved in this is deeply and brokenly biased.  They each have a belief.  They each have an agenda.  And everything they see and hear and speak is filtered through this bias.  As I’ve read and listened and watched, I’ve watched the truth bend and flex.

Sometimes the flexing isn’t in someone else’s reality but in my own. The other night as I skimmed headlines, I caught one that said that meditation had been ordered. What can I say? Every now and again, my dyslexia is not only amusing but right on the mark.  Mediation had been ordered (and, it turned out not to have anything to do with Ferguson).

It wasn’t court mandated but think about how much meditation and prayer would help.  People would have to be quiet, if only briefly.  Without all of the shouting and blaming, they would have a moment to turn to God, the source of Truth and Light.

If we listened to Him, what would we hear?  I suspect that for each of us, it would depend on our biases. I would most likely be reminded to respect authority (Romans 13:1-2).  Someone else might be reminded of His command to love and care for one another (John 13:34-35 and (Matthew 25:40).

Actually, no matter what your bias is I suspect that if you took the time to meditate and pray, you would be told to love and care.  It is in these most terrible moments that this call truly becomes important no matter whose broken truth you accept.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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