I confess my lack of faith, in God and in my fellow human.
I confess that I have turned up the noise and turned down the Spirit, intentionally fueling the rage.
I confess my anger.
I confess cursing under my breath and dreaming up twitter slams.
I confess my judgement at perceived stupidity, outright hypocrisy, and deliberate misleading. I confess rolling my eyes and slamming my head so many times a day it might lead to brain damage.
I confess my my own ignorance and naivete. I confess that while I have applauded those on the margins, I have not really listened to them. They told us. We should have listened.
I confess the known and unknown ways my daily life and actions contribute to systems of injustice.
I confess the known and unknown ways my daily life and actions contribute to the harm of our beloved planet.
I confess that I drink more and eat more than I should.
I confess that I have gladly and obliviously pledged my allegiance to the empire. I confess that I have believed our systems of government were good and true and would ultimately prevail. I confess that I wholly placed my trust in the wrong thing.
I confess that I struggle to find God in all the chaos and mess.
I confess that I have wished for power.
I confess that I haven’t been praying because I haven’t known how to pray. I confess that is a dumb excuse for not praying.
I confess that I will have to confess all of this again tomorrow.
Years ago during a meeting with my pastor I was shocked when he asked me if I was pro-life. I knew what he meant was are you anti-abortion so on that level I wasn’t really surprised. But the question really bothered me because I was a foster parent who spent much of my free time serving teen mothers, married to a man who’s recent journey with Jesus into Scripture had led him to take a pacifist stance. Wasn’t this pro-life activity in our lives revealing of a deeper pro-life ethic?
So yeah, if you are asking will I #marchforlife or protest abortion clinics or work to outlaw abortion, the answer is a firm and hearty NO. But if you are really asking am I pro-life, then YES. 100% as much as I know and can be YES. Here is what that fully pro-life ethic looks like for me:
I am pro refugee and immigrant. I am pro bridges and tables, anti walls and bans.
I am pro access to healthcare that is affordable especially for women, children, and vulnerable populations.
I am pro free and accessible birth control. I am pro teaching a healthy and holistic sexuality that doesn’t impose my Christian worldview on others. God is interested in all parts of our lives, including our sexuality, but our hearts must belong to God first.
I am pro supporting not demonizing women who chose to give birth. I am pro supporting and not demonizing women who chose abortion.
I am pro foster care. I am pro adoption. I am pro reunification.
I am pro inmate and anti death penalty.
I am pro environment. Our earth sustains our life. We are nothing without her.
I am pro LGBTQ and anti policies that increase suicides.
I am pro peace and anti war and anti torture.
I am pro women and anti rape culture.
I am pro social services and non profits and churches that work to give dignity and hope to the homeless, mentally ill, convict, immigrant, poor, lonely. I am pro life and economic empowerment and firmly anti poverty.
I am pro Black Lives Matter and pro justice work that seeks to educate and rectify the systems that perpetuate racism.
I am pro gun sense legislation.
I am pro freedom and anti trafficking.
I know that there is still work to do in me and I am grateful to the kindness and gentleness of the Holy Spirit revealing areas that my pro life ethic isn’t fully embraced. I am far from perfect or righteous and I get angry at the hypocrisy I see in a movement labeled “pro life” but that doesn’t seem to embrace that ethic outside the womb.
So today and every day I stand for LIFE. All life.
What about you? Do you have a pro life ethic that includes more than being anti-abortion? What pro life areas did I miss?
Note: This post first appeared on my personal blog May 2007.
A conversation between Darin and myself last night after I settled onto the couch:
Darin: How was work today? How was your staff meeting?
Me: Work was good. Staff meeting was pretty good. I kinda threw a bit of a temper tantrum though.
Darin: Oh yeah? Why?
Deanna: Well, Pastor Mike threw this huge project at us (involving collecting all the worship songs we sing from April-September) and with everything else on my to-do list before maternity leave I kinda freaked out about adding one more project.
Darin: Wow. Did you show everyone the scary face? It doesn’t come out very often, but it is pretty scary when it does.
Deanna: Probably. I really was throwing a temper tantrum. At one point I believe the words “You’ve got to be kidding me” came out of my mouth.
Darin: Yeah, that’s the scary face’s favorite phrase.
First off, a disclaimer: I am no expert. There are men and women who have been working and protesting and community organizing for many years and I am most certainly a newbie. So the thoughts and questions and conversations here are not polished and not really written from much experience. Rather, they are a humble offering to you as a result of searching for the words and stories to help educate my own two budding activists. In addition, these are words offered from a Christian faith and worldview that to our family is the foundation for all we do.
When plans for a women’s march in my local city were announced shortly after the 2016 Presidential Election, I knew I had to be there. Feeling naïve and frustrated and powerless and frankly scared, putting my feet and my voice to work seemed at least some small action I could take to voice my feelings. I wanted to bring my daughters with me, and my husband also asked if he could come and support the cause.
As we are now a week away from the event, I decided it was time to have some of the why conversations with my daughters. And also to prepare them for what they might see and experience along the march route. I went searching online for some resources, and came up pretty empty-handed. (If you have resources that I didn’t find, PLEASE leave them in a comment and I’ll include them in a list at the bottom of this post.)
As a family, our Christian faith deeply influences our choices. And it is from this perspective that I want to enter into a protest march as well. So here are a few conversation starters I put together to share as a family as we prepare to march. You do not have to be Christian to use this material. In addition, these are humbly offered as starters, if your children are anything like mine their questions and insights will lead the conversation to beautiful, challenging, and humbling places and may even offer you more opportunities to learn together.
A few notes before you dive in:
These conversation guides are written for my family, of which I have myself and my husband (both cisgender) and two school-aged daughters. Feel free to adjust the conversations and the questions for your family dynamic, these are simply a starting place. For example, if you have older children you could talk about sex trafficking or female genintal mutilation. You could also share this resource with your older children and encourage them to pick one and lead a family conversation.
These conversation guides are written specifically for the women’s march taking place January 21, 2017. But of course they can be adapted for any protest your family may be involved in.
You do not actually have to be taking your children to march with you to have a conversation with them. Actually, you should have a conversation with them if you are going, they need to know why this is important to you. And if you are unable to attend at all, these are still great conversations to have because this protest is a news-worthy event.
Ask: In what ways are girls/women treated unfairly here in America?
Ask: Have you ever felt treated unfairly because you are a girl? or Have you ever treated someone unfairly because she is a girl? or Have you ever witnessed a girl being treated unfairly because she is a girl?
Ask: What does the phrase you throw like a girl mean? Is it meant to be a compliment? Have you heard any other phrases that insult girls like that?
Ask: How do you think God feels about people being treated unfairly?
Study a Bible Passages: How Jesus treated Women (chose one or more)
Ask: Why is it important that boys and girls, men and women, everyone, is treated fairly?
Discuss: One of the reasons for marching is that when a large group of people get together, the leaders in charge learn what is really important to the people they serve. To us, it is important that women are treated fairly. That women are treated with justice here and throughout the world.
Ask: What specific message would you share with important leaders about how or why girls should be treated equally?
Make: Create posters together with the important messages your children want to share.
Or here are some suggestions for posters/signs with Bible verses about justice:
“Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like an never-failing stream.” Amos 5:24
“Hold fast to love and justice.” Hosea 12:6 (partial verse)
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:8
“Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly” from Micah 6:8
“Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.” Proverbs 22:8
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (As quoted by Hilary Clinton in her speech following the election results.)
Conversation #2: Signs and Symbols
Activity: Google search “Women’s March Poster Ideas.” Look at the images together. (You may want to pre-search and be prepared for what you’ll find. There are images of women’s bodies, including breasts and reproductive organs. There are posters with the word “pussy.” There are other terms they may not be familiar with. As your children will likely see posters of all types at the march, having conversations ahead of time will prepare you all.)
Ask: What images/messages appeal to you? What images/messages are confusing?
Discuss: You are in charge here with what you want to share with your children about the messages being promoted.
Note: There are likely march partners with views not shared by your family. How do your values influence how you should treat people with differing views? Can you still march together? Can you find common ground?
Conversation #3: Protest as Disruption
Ask: What do you know about the protests of the civil rights movement? What activities did they engage in? (Suggestions: marches, sit-ins, rallies, boycotts, etc. Overall, they were peaceful activities.) What do you know about the leaders of the civil rights movement?
Watch: this great video from Kid President about Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, I haven’t watched it but heard from a great source that this full length movie, The Watsons Go To Birmingham, is a great primer on the civil rights movement as well. If you have older children, Selma is an excellent movie to watch together.
Discuss: Martin Luther King Jr. is a famous leader of the civil rights movement. But he was also a Reverend, or a Pastor. Reverend King’s faith influenced everything he did, including the work he did to fight for civil rights. He had faith and prayed and preached about God’s love for everyone. His belief in non-violence to promote change was based in his Christian belief that we are to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us.
Ask: How should our faith influence us to work for change when we see things that are wrong?
Ask: Will it be easy to fight for change? (This would be a great time to remind your kids that they will likely face some challenges on march day, that they will be tired and hungry and that their feet will hurt. Ask them what they should do when they get tired and want to give up.)
Discuss: Fighting for change is hard work and takes a lot of time. And you may have people who disagree with you. Powerful people didn’t want the change that civil rights leaders were fighting for, and powerful people never like change because that means they will have to lose some of their power.
Ask: What does the phrase “speaking truth to power” mean to you? How does that describe protesting?
Discuss: Protest is about interruption. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable or angry because it interrupts their comfortable lives. Remember, we are gathering with a large group of people who have permission to shut down areas of a city and walk on the road. This will interrupt people who had plans to drive on that road! But God is no stranger to interruption: that’s what God did with Jesus. Jesus came to our earth to interrupt our comfortable lives and teach us how to love and serve him and one another.
Ask: How would you respond if someone argued with you that you shouldn’t be protesting?
Pray. Spend some time this week praying as a family. And pray as you head out for the protest. And then when you get home.
My prayer for you is that this sparks within you a hunger to learn and to grow and to engage in healthy dialogue around issues that matter to you and your family. May you have courage to invite your children into the journey with you.
The whole This American Life episode that includes this song is worth your time.
Let’s start with hope
I threw it in the middle like a skipping stone
The ripples won, son of a gun
Some would not have thought so
But I stand here Commander in Chief
And I take that seriously
But along the way
A rogue ripple turned tidal wave
In reaction to what I tried to do
A rebirth of a nation’s hatred
Red, white, and blue
Is black in there too?
Rewriting the book on bad behavior
Maybe cheats the neighbors
Feels he gets what they pay for
Pat him on the back and send him on through
No man’s ignorance will ever be his virtue
Is this the best we can be?
Let’s talk of fear
And why I don’t bring it in here
It’s a dangerous word, it spooks the herd
And we all bleed in the stampede
Fear makes a false friend indeed
And I take it seriously
So hear me now
Before the truth gets drowned out
By a demagogue flexing
A demagogue flexing
He’s history repeating
Am I angry?
You ask am I angry?
And I’m at a loss for words
After all we’ve done
Every battle hard won
Every hair gone gray
In the name of this place
In a history plagued
With incredible mistakes
Still I pledge my allegiance to these
United divided States
Let’s end with “why”?
It’s a question I
Want to ask of us as a populace
Why not take our time or the weight of this story
Sometime over Christmas break as I queued up the Hamilton music soundtrack for the 4,327th time, Daisy asks me how long ago the musical came out. Not thinking much of it, I casually suggest about a year as an answer. Daisy stares at me quite shocked and demands to know why in the world we are just listening to it now!
So yeah, I may be a bit behind in the Hamilton mania, but trust me, I have fully embraced it and am full-on fangirling 24/7 these days. While I’ve been aware of Hamilton’s existence for a while now (my sister played the soundtrack for us this summer on our camping/hiking trip this summer), it wasn’t until the Trump/Pence/Hamilton cast twitter controversy where I wanted to find out what this show was all about anyway. The first time I listened to the soundtrack of this show that details the life of founding father (and $10 bill guy) Alexander Hamilton, I fell hard. And I have drug my family into the mania too. Just last week on Christmas break, Daisy asked her Gran if she had heard of Hamilton and when was given a disappointing answer proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes (with a bit of help from me, I admit), telling Gran about the amazing music, storyline, actors, and history behind the phenomenon that is Hamilton.
It is at this point in my blogging today that I must urge you with all sincerity, to click away and listen to the wonder that is the Hamilton soundtrack. And I trust that at some point you’ll make your way back to finish this blog post, even if it is after listening 20 or so times, watching Hamilton YouTube videos 37 pages deep, pondering your own reading of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton biography that started it all, viewing the original White House presentation that led to the musical’s creation, reading the Wikipedia page of not only the musical but the historical characters presented within, gleaning whatever you can from the myriad of interviews with creator Lin Manuel-Miranda, swooning over the mixtape, and watching the incredible PBS documentary of the show at least three times. (Um…so yeah…this may have all been done by me. When I fan girl, I fan-girl hard.)
These few months following the election of Trump have been tough ones for me and I have been thankful for this piece of artwork that feels relevant and challenging and beautiful at the same time. There is a line in a song near the end of act one, following the battle of Yorktown where the cast stands on boxes, arms stretched wide, and boldly declares that the “world turned upside down.” Is there a better way to describe how the end of 2016 felt? Everything is upside down. I thought I understood our country, our systems, our safety nets, our press. I was so naive.
Coming to grips with this new understanding, I have wanted to return to this space to tell stories and share thoughts and maybe even laugh a little bit together. But everything has felt so disingenuous. How can I share a silly anecdote or a theological pondering when everything around me appears to be falling apart? When dear friends and unknown strangers are living in fear and grief, myself included?
At my best I remind myself that it is the local politics that matter, that my family and friends are healthy, that there are blessings of new life all around, that people are still good, and that God is still faithful. At my worst I lament a system that I put too much trust in and that I know is about to change drastically in ways I’m not sure I’m prepared for. I am learning where my grief and worry should turn inward—towards prayer and study and reflection and conversation that leads my heart to trust more fully in God than in empire; and where my grief and worry should turn outward—towards rallies and letters and conversations and real work. I am not laying down. I am not waiting to see how it all turns out. I am not seeking unity at the expense of justice. Instead, I am daily recommitting to walking humbly, loving mercy, and seeking justice.
So I’m not expecting to write some political post that goes viral anytime soon, but I know I’ve got a lot I need to say. So here I’ll be, striving to be honest about my real life in the midst of the everyday and the midst of the massive. I hope you’ll join me, the comments are always open.
I wrote and shared this devotion with a local MOMSNext group this December, pondering a bit on their theme of “wonder.” I thought I’d share it in this space as well. Merry Christmas friends.
by Jan L Richardson
“The season of Advent means there is
something on the horizon the likes of
which we have never seen before…
What is possible is to not see it, to miss it,
to turn just as it brushes past you.
And you begin to grasp what it was you
missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock,
watching God fade in the distance.
So stay, Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait.
There will be time enough for running.
For rushing. For worrying. For pushing.
For now, stay. Wait.
Something is on the horizon.”
Last week we were driving home from church when my daughter started asking me about where Jesus was born. She wants to play the part of the innkeeper in this year’s pageant so she is working to get all the details straightened out.
So we talked a bit about what the Bible tells us (that there was no room in the inn, and when Mary needed to set Jesus down she did so in a feeding trough) and what it doesn’t (exactly where Jesus was born—a cave, a stable, a lower level in a family member’s home, or who attended Mary’s delivery). At one point the conversation shifted to what it means that Jesus was born under such lowly circumstances, rather than in a palace or bustling metropolis.
“You know what my favorite part of the Christmas story is?” I asked my girls. When they shook their heads no I continued on, “the people to whom God chose to send his angels with the grandest birth announcement in the history of birth announcements. The shepherds were the nobodies back then. The worst, the stinkiest, the smelliest, the rudest, the ones who never got invited to a party.” As I asked my girls what jobs we might consider “lower than low” in our culture today, we pondered just who God might deliver his message of a savior’s birth to—garbage collectors, janitors, pig farmers. (But really, maybe it would be immigrants, or “thugs,” or the group of homeless guys who hang out downtown each night.) God wanted us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus came not for the high and mighty, the wealthy and the powerful, the knowledgeable and the professional. Jesus came for the everyday average you and me, and those we often leave out entirely—and the shepherds teach us that.
I love that “Wonder” is one of our theme words this year. And, of course, there is nothing like sitting under a summer night sky, filled with the incredible beauty of stars, for us to get a sense of that feeling of wonder.
Wonder is a difficult emotion to describe. Take a moment to think back at your last experience of wonder. How would you describe it?
David James Duncan writes that “Wonder is my second favorite condition to be in after love—and I sometimes wonder whether there’s even a difference: maybe love is just wonder aimed at a beloved. Wonder is like grace, in that it is not a condition we grasp: wonder grasps us.”
To me, wonder and nature go hand in hand. Wonder and music go hand in hand. Wonder and the laughter of a child. Wonder and grace. There is something to a lack of comprehension that brings about this feeling of wonder. We do not experience it when we are in an environment too busy with outside distractions. Wonder takes stopping.
There is something to this season of Christmas that can only be described as wonder. I don’t know about you, but sometime in June or July or August or September when I think forward to the Christmas season I just get this happy feeling in my belly. I think that is the wonder of the season.
This year I am particularly aware of the darkness surrounding us. Literally and figuratively, things in our world (at least to me) seem a bit darker these days. So there is something extra magical about the twinkling lights of my neighbor’s houses, the trees in their window, the fire in the fireplace…the light those bring. We don’t get a sky full of stars very often this time of year in the Northwest, but we are blessed everywhere we turn with moments of starry wonder in the form of twinkling LED.
I wonder about that night when Jesus was born. Was the sky full of the brightness from stars and a full moon? Or was it a bit dreary and cloud-filled, with the shepherds huddled around their source of warmth and light: the campfire? Scripture tells us it was night, and some were awake to keep watch while others were likely sleeping.
And suddenly an angel appeared and “God’s glory blazed around them.” They were terrified. But the angel made an announcement, and then was joined with a massive angelic choir singing God’s praises. I just don’t think we can quite comprehend what it must have been to witness such a scene.
When the angels returned to heaven we’re told the shepherds had a little conversation where they decided to go and check things out in Bethlehem. So they ran to find Mary and Joseph and the baby.
Can you imagine Mary? She is exhausted from giving birth. She is away from home, from her family, from her sisters and mother who would have helped her through her labor pains and celebrated with her the arrival of a healthy baby boy. And here suddenly a loud, rowdy, smelly, group of ruffian shepherds comes to greet her son. With what stories do they tell? Stories of angel armies singing of God’s glory, stories of a birth announcement and a hurry to see if things were true. What kind of welcome wagon was this?
When the shepherds depart, sharing the good news with everyone they meet, Mary ponders all that she has seen and heard. Her son is special. And she is not alone. These may not have been the visitors she wanted, but there they were. God may have a funny way of proving it, but Mary knows she is seen. She knows the song of Hagar, of El Roi—the God who sees me. She stores this knowledge in her heart. She ponders the impossibility of it all: the trip to Bethlehem, the pain of labor and delivery, the fear of being away from home, the cry of a healthy infant, the amazement at God’s provision that goes above and beyond. Mary has been seen by the God of the universe, visited by angels and by shepherds. She treasured up these things and pondered them in the deep places of her heart.
REVIEW: Previous week’s candles. Advent symbols. How we are feeling about the upcoming arrival of the king.
LIGHT THE CANDLES AND ASK: What makes you feel peaceful? (blanket, cup of warm milk, hug, snuggles)
SAY: Those things help me feel peaceful too. (If your children mentioned cuddles or blankets, snuggle on the couch under blankets for the story today.) But you know what? The Peace that Jesus gives is even greater than a blanket or a warm cup of milk. Jesus is called “The Prince of Peace” because he gives us peace that nothing on earth can give. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
ASK: The kings in this story had a lot to be afraid of. Like what? Why do you think they kept going?
ACTIVITY: Christmas is close. Are you feeling stressed or anxious? Take time this night to cuddle with your family. Have a special treat. Spend time together enjoying the Christmas lights. Feel the PEACE that Christ can bring.
REVIEW: Previous week’s candles. Advent symbols. Why we celebrate advent.
LIGHT THE HOPE and LOVE CANDLES, along with a PINK CANDLE AND ASK: What are you most excited about for Christmas? (This week’s candle is pink because we are over half-way through advent, there is great celebration to be had…Jesus is coming!)
SAY: That feeling of excitement is kind of like the feeling of happiness, kind of like joy. But joy and happiness are a little different. Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes because it depends on your circumstances: if someone is being nice, if you are doing something you like, if you got something cool. But joy is a feeling that is deeper, it is a feeling that comes from God. It is that always-there-never-goes-away happiness of knowing that you are loved by the Creator of the Universe. As I read today, I want you to listen for someone who might have felt joy.
ASK: Who did you hear about in this story who had joy? (Angels and Shepherds) What did they have to be joyful about?
ACTIVITY: There is great joy in giving someone a really cool gift that you think they’re going to love. Spend time together wrapping gifts and praying for people who will receive them. OR, go through the Christmas cards your family has received and pray for JOY for each family in the coming year.