When the heart bleeds sunset

I love sunsets. When I am at home and I notice the sun setting, I drop everything and sit outside and observe. I hear the sounds of nature, watch the birds swoop near the yard, and take in the of contrast of light and dark across trees, mountains, and land. I love sunsets.

But tonight I am thinking of all the children who have been separated from their parents at the border. And I am thinking of watching the horror on the news while knowing it is happening in my own backyard. And I am remembering all the children I have encountered who have made this difficult journey with their parents…the ones that came before the threat of separation. I can see their faces, smell their bodies, and see their sweet smiles that betray a hope that won’t die. They are lovable as all humans. Perhaps even more because of the journey they have survived…

And I wonder if all the rallies, press conferences, letters to politicians, marches, and blog posts will make a difference soon enough. We are doing everything we can today. We are crying out with all our breath, and protesting with every footstep. Tomorrow we will vote…but today is urgent and so we move and do what we can to change this horror of children being ripped away from their parents.

Sunset is coming soon. And for all it’s beauty, it has a dark edge. For us now, that darkness is the possibility of a tender little heart being broken beyond repair. Who will hear their cries? Who will bring them back to the only ones who can comfort them: mama and papa? Who will stop this madness of our political leaders?

Sunsets are beautiful. Unless it is setting on the God-given connection between a mother/father
and child. Then, sunsets are terror.

Lines at the Border

Yesterday the high in Ambos Nogales was 100 degrees. Its a dry heat, which means that you don’t have warning when you body has sweated out all its water, and dehydration sneaks up on you quickly. Especially if you don’t know survival skills in the desert. Especially if you are old and frail, or very young.

And on that 100 degree day I crossed the line at the Nogales border into Mexico with my friends, Maritza Aguilar and Genesis Velazquez. I wanted to see the waiting lines of people for myself. We had heard that they were unable to cross quickly while seeking asylum, and that some were waiting for 7 days at the border. These lines are filled with young children. When we arrived in the morning, we heard that the night before they moved families to local shelters, giving them a number so they could return to the border line. There were about 20-30 people in the line that were waiting (they hadn’t gone to a shelter because they were next). The children were listless, and the mom’s and dad’s were exhausted.

As we passed out UMCOR hygiene kits to them, we heard their grateful responses, and saw the look in their eyes. Their eyes begged the question, “Am I going to make it across, or will I die here at this border after all that we went through to get here?” My heart was moved as I heard their stories of struggle (la lucha) and their prayers for safety. It was hard to leave them. I wanted to just sit down and lay on the ground with them, and sing them a song of comfort.

But we left and went to two of the shelters, delivering more hygiene kits, and hearing of the needs. The people and churches in Nogales, Mexico are stepping up big time to care for these travelers who are stranded in their country. What amazed me is that the poorest of the poor are reaching out generously to care for others who are suffering even more. Their engagement brought me to my knees. We have much to learn from them.

Last night I had trouble sleeping. As I tossed in my nightmares…nightmares of children sleeping outside in the heat…I prayed…well it was more like soul-wailing…that we in this country could open our eyes, and our hearts, and our resources to help.

There ARE some ways to help. You can call your representatives in Congress and demand humane treatment. You can ask if they are removing children from their parents and require a stop to that barbaric behavior. You can donate to shelters in Nogales, Sonora. You can give to The Inn Project, or UMCOR, or any group you know is stepping up. Or you can send basic items to El Mesias United Methodist Church in Nogales, Arizona. They will be God’s hands and feet for you as they deliver diapers, baby formula, underwear of all sizes, and socks.

We all can give money and resources. But, what is needed most is for us to raise all holy hell and storm the gates to demand that we treat humans and children with the respect and dignity that is required of civilized societies. It is time to shout out when we read things like this: https://ryanbrinson.com/2018/05/29/where-is-your-jesus/ and say to the “powers-that-be,” STOP!!! Children seeking safety are turned away. Children are being ripped from their mother and father’s arms. Children are being sent to detention. These things require a response from all persons of faith, and all persons with a heart of compassion.

Today it is cooler on the border. The high will be 98 degrees. Its a dry heat.

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Room at The Inn Project

The Inn Project is nearing its one year anniversary on December 14th! We started last December when we received a call from ICE asking the question, “Can you house immigrants with children who are being released to go to their families?” It was Christmas time, the time when we remember that there was no room at the inn for Jesus. Where would we house these children and parents? Was there a church that would open their doors right away?

Two churches opened doors quickly: First United Methodist of Tucson, and later, Christ Church, UM. The first guest we received was a father, Jesús, and his children, from Honduras. Many people stepped up to volunteer, and UMCOR helped with starting funds. It was a harried, furiously-pulled-together plan, but somehow, it worked.

I remember that first December well. The families were tired and confused and hungry. They really wanted a shower, and then food, and then sleep. Some needed sleep first, so we watched their children so parents, weary from traveling across 2, 3, & 4 country borders, plus detention, could gets me much-needed sleep.

We heard their stories: the kindness of strangers in towns across their countries and Mexico; the scary times and the times of hunger; and the dangers they left in their own homes. Being migrant means moving because it is a matter of life and death, not because of any dreams for a richer life. It just happened…and in their stories you could hear the longing for home and for mama, and little brother…

Today I dropped by to see how The Inn Project was doing. There were seven families with many little children running around, and playing ball, and shyly saying hello. The parents were so glad and grateful for our hospitality. Deep facial creases and soulful eyes showed in their smiles.

Every time I visit, I get a sense of peace about my own life. They have suffered so much, and I have it so easy in comparison. And my heart opens up to their smiles, and their thanks, and their view of living. It’s Christmas time again, and The Inn Project is still housing guests who are seeking to connect with their families in the US. I’m wondering if you can help us keep our doors open for them? Perhaps there is a special Christmas offering or gift that can be directed their way? If so, send a check to The Desert Southwest Conference, with “The Inn Project” in the memo. I know the children, and their parents, would be so very grateful for whatever you can do.

Because it’s Christmastime. And we are trying to provide room at The Inn.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Jesus.
Jesus, Who?
Jesús, from Honduras…
(fade to dreams…)

March On.

Many people have spoken so courageously about standing up against the hatred shown in Charlottesville, Virginia by the KKK, White Supremacists, White Nationalists, and Alt-Right groups. I’ve been watching, while sharing the words of others on Facebook. My stomach has churned, my emotions roiled, and my heart is sad-yet-determined. As a child who watched the courage of the Civil Rights Movement on our Black and White TV, I have had flashbacks to those days. As a seminary student who studied the Nazi movement in Germany, and specifically the religious leaders part in it, I am experiencing a depth of horror. What I learned in that study is that many religious leaders failed to speak up when the politics of the day stepped on the crux of the gospel: to love our neighbor.

Pastors today are often told not to speak politics from the pulpit. When we do, we make people mad. We, of course, know how many people we anger on a regular basis. Though it is hard, it is a part of our role in society: to speak truth even when people don’t want to hear it, and even when it touches on politics. And so today, because we have come a ways and we must never go back, and because Truth must be told, I speak out with my brothers and sisters:

This evil called racism, hate, and bigotry must be shut down. The Church cannot be silent while the world is crying out. Pastors and church attenders must step out of our comfort zones, and pews, and move into the streets with gestures of protection, love, and with a stronghold of unity. Today is the time to BE the church IN the world. Don’t come to church to be comfortable. Come to be challenged, energized, and changed. And know that the first change might just start in you.

To the United Methodist Church: now is not the time to speak of division. Shame on us for planning schism while the world is fighting hatred. We must not be distracted by our “theologies” when there is blood in the streets. Let not this blood be on our hands, because we chose to fight internally, rather than to join the world in fighting a great evil. Do not be distracted by a Split, but rather come together to follow God into the streets where Jesus is truly crying alongside those who have faced the evil, or lost lives.

To the current President: You are walking on the wrong side of history. And to those who counsel him: Do what you can to shut down the evils of war, hate groups, and racism. You too, will be written up in history. Will you be a s/hero, or an embarrassment?

To the Clergy: March with me. Don your collars, your robes, your stoles with the courageous group shown above, and be ready to march. Get trained in non-violent resistance. Preach peace. Open your eyes and your heart to learn new things. Protect those who are most hurt. Preach like you’ve never preached before. For, we too, will have a place in history.

I’ve been moved in the depth of my soul by this picture. It changed me more than the pictures of violence. We are strong. We are together. We are ready to March On!

SlowTV

dscn1322I love listening to politics…up to a point. I found out that recently I reached my “point” of saturation. I could no longer listen fully to certain views or responses. So, for my sanity, I had to take a politics-break. Even though I feel passionately, and deeply care about this election, I was so done.
So I switched to Netflix and began watching Slow TV. Have you heard of it? Slow TV is the antidote to busyness and stress. On SlowTv you can watch, for example, 7 plus hours of the train ride from Bergen to Oslo, Norway…an unedited ride on the train. Or you can watch someone knitting, or salmon fishing, for hours on hours. It can be the backdrop to your life…a real-paced movement…that is different from the argumentative, high-volumed, volly of words that bring opposition but no understanding. SlowTV is like a reset to life in real time…and it is so amazingly calming. Check it out here: https://www.inverse.com/article/18775-netflix-august-2016-slow-tv
I’ll be somewhere on election day where I can celebrate/mourn with those who basically think like me…but until then, for the next 15 days, I’ll be taking many breaks to breathe.

She sang to me in Spanish…

13707606_1203614609673259_1642299643884555984_n (1)I just went through an amazing process as an episcopal candidate for the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. As a steady “2nd” in the voting process, I was able to talk to many people…delegates, those who were connected to caucus groups and those who were not, as well as those who were hanging on the sidelines. I heard more than I’ll be able to process in the coming months. For now, I’m soaking in all that I learned, all that was whispered, and all that was said both as pain and hope.
I went knowing that I could trust God’s Spirit to guide me. So I knew exactly the moment when I needed to step out and give my concession to the will of the Body and the move of the Spirit: to elect Bishop Karen Oliveto as our most qualified candidate. I had a moment to share with the greater Church a piece of my heart, and I am forever grateful for that moment. I am sure it was why I was there.
But after that speech, came something so beautiful: the hugs! People lined up to hug and love on and congratulate for a work well done. I’ll never forget those hugs. They felt like a dump-truck of love being poured out on my soul. I teared up for days just remembering…
In the middle of the Line of Hugs was an elder Latina woman who came up to me and began singing in Spanish. She wanted me to sing with her…she demanded it, really. So together we sang: “He decidido sequir a Christo…no vuelvo atras, no vuelvo atras…” (I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back…). It’s a song from my childhood, and we sang two verses…stopping the line to sing lustily, heartily, and with full voice as Wesley has instructed us. Two Latinas singing…a Latina mother figure bringing along another Latina into the moment of deep connection and deep joy for what God was doing in our midst.
She sang to me! She sang with me! We sang in our mother tongue. My soul is so very full. Gracias, Amiga Mia. Dios con nosotros…it is enough. It is vey well with my soul.

Happy Birthday, Me…I Wish For…

IMG_1539Happy Birthday, Me!  Today I’ve lived 59 years.  While it is a personal day of celebration, it is also a national day of mourning.  Too many deaths.  Too much hatred. Too much pain. But, well, I still have some wishes… Here are a few of them:

  1. I wish for young Black and Brown children to never have to be told how to “act” so they can live when stopped by the police. I wish for violence everywhere to cease.
  2. I wish for Police Officer’s main job to be Peace Officers…seeking avenues for peace, safety, and stability.  I wish for their safety too.
  3. I wish for immigrants near and refugees world-wide to find communities that will surround them in love.
  4. I wish for LGBTQ persons to be equally valued because they live and breathe.
  5. I wish for politician who stir up hatred to step down. And the same for media.
  6. I wish for the Church to flood the world with acts of kindness, generosity, and love that mirrors Christ’s love for us, and that changes us now.
  7. I wish for peace on earth, justice for all, and mercy unending.

Happy Birthday to me! May it be so. Amen.