Author: escofrank

An Incomplete Full Day

Last Saturday I lived an Incomplete Full day. When I got to the end of it, exhausted, happy, and full, I also recognized that it was incomplete.

It started out before the day began. The day before, our plane was delayed due to storms, and we got in to Phoenix much later than expected. So I stayed overnight, and planned to get up early to leave in time for the Tucson events.

But before leaving Phoenix, Jim and I had to run over to see our new grandson, Nolan. We held him for a few minutes, brought mama some coffee, and then left for Tucson. On the way down, the highway came to a crawl and added another hour onto our trip. Driving is relaxing, and I put the rest of the day out of my mind, and just enjoyed listening to different YouTube stations and to music.

Finally arriving in Tucson, I was late for the first event of the day: Catalina was marching in the Tucson Pride Parade for the first time. I got there at the end of the parade, took a picture with our Catalina banner, and then rushed back to my house to change for the next event.

It was a memorial service. A full house in celebration and mourning for a beautiful life well lived. Betty Barnes made a mark on the world, and it was evident in the stories that were told, and the honoring that flowed. We have a large sanctuary, and the sound failed just before we began, and then interrupted us with a loud screeching noise in the middle. That was embarrassing, but even that didn’t stop this beautiful family from paying honor and tribute to Betty.

Next, I rushed over to a Poetry Reading of a dear friend who is experiencing health difficulties. I was late for that. Missed the reading entirely. But I was able to chat with my dear Cynthia Kirk, and her family, and the friends gathered. I felt enveloped by love and the sacred moment of sharing life together in celebration, hope, & truth. I came away knowing that these moments together are life itself.

Driving back home to eat dinner, I thought I had a few hours to get to the next event: a 16th birthday celebration for Genesis Velazquez, ala-Quinciñera style. It was in my hometown, Nogales, which is at least an hour drive away. In my mind, it started at 7. So when I checked the invitation as I was getting into the car, I saw that it started at 6pm…just ten minutes from that moment. I decided not to go, but Jim encouraged me to go anyway, so we drove down, thinking we would at least be able to greet sweet, beautiful Genesis. We arrived just as the service ended, and hugged Genesis and her family as they were leaving to go to the party. We couldn’t go celebrate with them, because I can’t function on Sunday morning if I’m out on Saturday. Even so, the family was gracious to us and glad we were there even for a moment. Beloved friends and important moments.

What a full day!

What an incomplete day.

If I only could stretch that day out to three, it would have been a complete and fully-lived day.

Sometimes life gets crazy and we leave tired and full and wanting all at the same time. It was an Incomplete-Full day.

Don’t Dream It’s Over

There’s a song, Don’t Dream It’s Over, by Crowded House. The lyrics speak to me today while attending a conference in Leawood, Kansas on the future of the United Methodist Church. The words that strike a chord in my heart are:

    Hey now, hey now, Don’t dream it’s over 

    Hey now, hey now, When the world comes in

    They come, they come, To build a wall between us

    We know they won’t win.

The United Methodist Church is running to the precipice of a split over who we include, who we love, and how we legislate inclusion/exclusion. We are focusing on our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (+) siblings in Christ. And yet as I attend this conference on the future of the UMC, I am wondering who is not given voice in these matters of exclusion.

  • Will we center the voices of the LGBTQIA+ persons, or merely have              cisgender persons talk about their own experiences of transformation?
  • Will we expand inclusion of power to those who live on the edges of our church: the economically stressed, and people of color, to name a few?
  • Will we release the power of voice to those who live on the edges of our church in order to BE the church? Or must we clutch at the microphone of ME, instead of passing the mic to the voices that need to be heard in this moment?

Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner reminded me recently that real power is shared. If we really understand the power of living a life of Christ, we know that Voice is meant to be given away, to be shared, to be spread to the edges of society. And yet, the centered-powerful feast on loaves of our attention, while turning to us only for crumbs of our own understanding. As a Latina who grew up on the borderlands of Arizona and Mejico, I am wondering if all the power resides in one group: the insiders.

I don’t want to dream that our UMC is over. I’ve been one of those crying in the desert for unity. I also understand the need for inclusion. Period. I can’t imagine a church without the edge-dweller voices being heard and valued. And so, I dream it’s not over. The Church is differently beautiful in the full spectrum of all color, gender, and sexual expressions of God’s creation.

And so, today I remember that I live by a newly-built wall on the border of Mexico. And that wall separated my hometown into two. I know the pain of all that means. And so, I call for us to be a church that tears down walls of exclusion, walls of “mine-not-yours,” walls of “you-don’t-matter.” I call for us to be a Church that radically loves. 

If we legislate exclusion, “they” win.

But when we remember whose voices are not being heard; when we give them center space; when we love all God’s people, THEN we know they won’t win. Because then, Love wins all.

When Prison is Called Hospitality OR When Word Falls on Deaf Ears

Children watching video at The Inn

Pictures by migrant children at The Inn (church-housed care provided by The United Methodist Church) Note: The pictures children draw when not in lock-down facilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a couple of days.

When it was unveiled that the Catholic Church was going to accept an offer from Pima County to utilize an empty wing of a Juvenile Detention Center to house asylees who had just been released from detention, my skin just crawled. We all knew they had been looking for a facility, but none among us could have imagined they would take these vulnerable families just released from lock-down facilities onto a compound that is an operating detention center.

They spun a story: “It’s all we have. Nothing else could’ve worked. We can make it pretty. We have no options. The families will love it.” And, the most surprising one: “We are the only game in town that has been caring for families.”

The compound is in an industrial area that is apart from the life of the community: hidden from anyone who might not want to see migrants. It is surrounded by concrete, fencing, and guards. It is not hospitable.

It is a Prison.

Several community members spoke out and went into meetings to change the plan: to ask for a better plan than this one. But every word fell on deaf ears. The Catholic and County Powers had already made up their mind, and they were just going through the motions: the appearance of listening when words only fell on deaf ears. (In fact, they went from this meeting of “listening” to a prescheduled press conference to announce they will be moving into the detention complex.)

Even when a courageous young woman spoke out about what it is like to be in these lock-up facilities and how horrible it is for us to think about sending migrants to another such place for “care;” even when she reminded the powers-of-the-moment that they are complicit in causing more pain; even when she boldly called for a new solution…they didn’t hear. Instead, the Power tried to stop her from talking further. Powerful words are sometimes too hard for the powerful to hear.

There is a better solution…there are many. But sometimes a better way is not the goal. Sometimes the goal is too dark to say out loud. Whatever the end game, it is being “won” on the souls of little children and their parents.

And so my skin crawls and I am creeped out. And yet I still believe in hospitality of the best kind, and in purity of souls, and in the possibility of words bringing about a better way.

That didn’t happen these last few days. But there’s still today and tomorrow and the next day.

Crowdsourcing the New Thing

There are many ways to solve a problem; and many ways to dream a new thing into being. Typically, problems are solved by a few “experts” who determine the best solution and then train the wider group on new practices. But there is another way to solve problems: crowd (open) sourcing.

Crowd sourcing is an idea that involves taking problems out to the wider context (even beyond one’s company or corporation) so that many people can add input, and so that creativity and innovation can take a wide swath of possibilities.

We have been closed-sourcing the current state of The United Methodist Church. Before and after the Judicial Council ruling on General Conference 2019, small groups of people have been meeting in closed settings to begin to find solutions. Meanwhile, a wide berth of people are waiting to hear the results that seemed shrouded in the unknown.

But there are other ways to move forward. We can crowd source the possibility of a new church. To crowd source is to till a rich soil for thousands of seeds to be thrown into the wind as they seek the soft, brown earth. It creates a garden of possibility for our future. Who said the “experts” can figure this out better than the movement of the Spirit?

The beginning of the Methodist Movement happened because a ground-swell of people joined a new idea of grace, caring for the poor, and being methodical about spiritual growth. It was a movement that could not be stopped and was propelled by an Unknown Force.

So what if we begin a platform of small meetings, large gatherings, and video conference conversations for the whole world to join? In this way, we could see how the Spirit is moving us collectively, and not only focus on ways the delegations strategize to change the minds of GC2020. The work of the delegations is important, but it is a very small part of the solution.

Instead we need to be collectively dreaming the new church into existence. This is the time to be outwardly curious, and not inward-focused. Obviously we are no longer “United” Methodists. But what does this new movement of the Spirit and of the hearts of Methodists look like? Will you dream out loud with us? The invitation is open to all: much like Communion.

What does She look like?

 

What does she look like (this new life being born)?

She’s beautifully diverse.
She’s malleable.
She rides the wind of the Spirit.
She detests Robert’s Rules and Political Maneuvers.

She’s powerful and vulnerable.
She lives in buildings, cafes and bars and on the street.
She is fluid.
She refuses to exclude one soul.

She crosses borders with grace and strength.
She mixes up the order for the good of creativity.
She has the seed of Jesus, and the shoot of Wesley.
She will not suffer abuse anymore.

She is colorful, including all colors of the rainbow.
She gathers, encourages, creates, and sends.
She centers with the humble, poor, and left-out.
She lives not by law, but by grace.

She sits at table with strangers and loners and lost ones.
She loses herself in love.
She cares for the earth.
She will do no harm.

She is beautiful.

Entering the Darkness of Holy Week

So this is the week.

The week when we brave the entry into darkness. Every other week in the Christian calendar, we celebrate the possibility of life from death. But this week, we start with the sounds of a parade (bands, horns, crowds gathered, food shared, excitement in the air) and we end with the passion of Christ (betrayal, bullying, court proceedings, and crowds jeering at the One who claims Messiah). We quickly go from anticipation and exultation to dashed hopes and despair.

All in one week.

It’s like we understand that we are walking into the dark spaces of life. We go with hesitation but determination. We take faltering steps, with hands out to touch what we cannot see. We encounter our fear head on.

Jesus rode a donkey and ended up on a cross. We ride the joys of life and end up in the darkest and bleakest of holy spaces. Dark is an unknown, but a trusting space. We stop talking in the dark so we can hear the distance of our echoes. We go into the black because there is something we need there. We step into deep silence where our world is quiet but our soul hears God.

Welcome to the dark week. It feels scary, but it is sacred. God meets us here.

On Lenten Lane

The first week of Lent, our church gave up mirrors. We found out how much we check our exterior image and compare it to our interior reality.
The second week we gave up social media and emails. We found out how often we reach for our social apps and how much time we now had to have real face-to-face conversations.
This week we are giving up talking (as much as we can). On Sunday, Pastor Jamie gave a non-talking sermon (with the help of screens). The world seems very quiet…and this is just Day 1. I found myself singing, and thought, “Is that ok? Is it ok to sing?” I decided that, for me, singing was a good thing. On Day 1, I talked to my coworkers a few times, and two family members, and one friend. Some of it was necessary and some of it was habitual. Talking is a hard habit to break while living in the real world.
We are social beings living in a technological and material world. That’s not bad or wrong or evil. It just is our current state. What matters are the choices we make in this world of tools, habits, and sounds. Our life is shaped by the decisions we make to engage in things or connect with those near us. This is how we are formed.
We give up these things so that we can make space for God. Because sometimes we crowd out God with the things in our lives. And so, on this road called Lenten Lane, we wait. We listen. We hope.