Love you, #Orlando

011.jpg SocialOrlando suffered deeply this week.  On our holy day, Sunday, early in the morning, 49 dear souls were lost to us at the hands of yet another mass shooting. I keep hearing the strains of people saying that Love will win out every time, and that love conquers hate.  I believe that. I hope that. I dream that. I keep hearing about love…

All the while my heart is crying deep sobs in pain. Orlando has experienced tragedy  and horror, and now families are visiting mortuaries and hospitals…some praying and hoping for their loved one to return to them whole, while others are planning memorials for their young.

The pain is cut deeper by what a wise woman, Rev. Jennifer Yocum, said on her Facebook post. She wrote to her straight friends, reminding them that the tragedy in Orlando was more than a shooting in a bar.  Bars, she said, are places of sanctuary where people who have to hide go to be free in their own skin.  They are “communication centers, communications hubs, our reminder that we are not alone.” And Jennifer takes it deeper. She reminds us that “when churches would not let us cross their thresholds, the bars were where we held our memorial services and our weddings.” (Ouch, Church!).  And they are places where human rights are organized, where hope is born.

And then Jennifer states that in Orlando this week, an atrocity occurred against a group of Latino/Latina LGBTQ persons, who were doubly disavowed in culture.  And #Pulse was a place that served as a “double sanctuary” for them.

Her words cut deep. For I know that we have not been Church or Sanctuary to many, and especially to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I attended our #UMC General Conference, and I felt the agony of once again being unable to state out loud that “open hearts, open minds, open doors” applies to All.  Instead, it applies to those who are already “in,”  those who are self-proclaimed as “valuable.”

So now there are three emotions rolling around my soul:  Deep sadness/pain; revulsion…the feeling of throwing up; and hope for something different.  The pain and sadness are about the loss of life and the persistence of evil.  The revulsion is about my own United Methodist Church, that can’t decide to broaden the circle, and that forgot our central theological theme: Grace. It makes me sick to my stomach.  The hope is that somehow, someway this will change.  I don’t want change tomorrow.  I want change to happen Now. Today. Immediately. #ItsTime for Love to win out over evil.  There is no other way for us go forward.

Tears are flowing. God is crying with us. Today we mourn.  And today we work to Love everyone, an action that crushes evil, an action born out of the understanding that God is Love. May.It.Be.So. Love You, #Orlando! Every single one of you.


The last day of General Conference #gcumc #gc2016


It’s the last day of General Conference  (of The United Methodist Church) and there is a mood of celebration, and well…relief. It has been a time where we have gone deep with our emotions; where we have spent long days and nights together; where we have wailed in pain and found hope in love across boundaries; where we have connected with God and God’s people.  We have been surprised by the fact that there is something better than “winning” and “losing.”  There is the surprise of God’s Spirit creating a new way that encompasses All:  All means those we agree with and those we disagree with; those who look like us and those who don’t; those who experience the world similar to us and those who have vastly different ways of being in the world; those who we love easily and those who we hate easily. All means all.

What I know for sure is that it is not easy to be a global church.  To be global means we choose to stay in connection even though our worlds are vastly different.  It means we live with the tension of discomfort and unknowns.  It means we bring honor and kindness before critique and judgment.  It means we listen more than we speak.  It means we choose love and connection over hate and schism.  It is the hardest choice of all.  But it is the one that will make the most difference.  Imagine if we could show how to love each other by doing good without harm, and staying in love with God. Imagine if that was our witness to the world!

We are trying to be a global church, yet we don’t know how.  We don’t know how to navigate the complexities.  But we do know, innately and intuitively, how to love. We know this because we have been loved deeply by our God.  And that’s the core of what we need to know. It is a good starting place.  To love. To love.  To love.

It looks easy.  It is really hard. Yet, it is just the beginning of the path of Christ. May we love well today, and after we leave here…

Faith, hope, & love,


Packing for General Conference

UnknownSo, I’ve been sort of packing for General Conference in Portland. I don’t enjoy the packing experience, so the “sort of” is about thinking and procrastinating, yet knowing the time is coming soon when whatever I have in the suitcase will have to do. As I pack, I dream about being a minimalist, so that I could wear the same thing over and over and be okay with that. Also, it would make the packing experience simpler. Minimalists create open space we that we aren’t overcome with our stuff and have room for our experiences…
But I’m not a minimalist…yet. So, I am wondering what I will need for the Portland weather, and the Conference Center weather, and of course, there’s always the decision about shoes… It’s a little maddening. And confusing. And, it’s something I don’t really want to think about.
But I am going to General Conference as a Volunteer, and I will be helping to host many delegates and UMCers from all over the world. They didn’t know what to pack either. But it’s my job (along with many others) to provide an environment of hospitality and care. Having experienced extreme hospitality recently in India, I am aware of how beloved one can feel when we attend to the little things, and when we make room for new relationships.
Last General Conference (2012) I swore I’d never go to another General Conference again. I experienced some cool things, but I also experienced some hatefulness and encountered people who were hurting by the decisions and discussions that occurred. But here I am going again, even going with excitement. I guess hope never really dies, and I still dream that something will be different, and that love can win out. Even when we disagree. Even when we don’t understand. Even when our mind is made up.
I’m going to do my best to pack light this time…so that there is some space in my soul for the surprises that God can bring. I’ll bring my bandaids, just in case, but I’m confident that God created this Body of Christ to heal; and that God created this Body of Christ for love. I’ll be looking for the new Body called “United Methodists.” And the world will be looking too… May they see us simply as a people who know how to love. Simply as ones who can engage in justice and holiness with courage and kindness. Simply as ones who focus on Christ who loved us all well.

It is my prayer. It is my dream. It is my fervent hope.
Faith, hope, & love,

operation Streamline & Shackles

“take the shackles off my feet so i can dance… i just wanna praise You, i just wanna praise You.” Shackles, by MaryMary


The lyrics of this song invaded my soul as I sat for the first time in the DeConcini Federal Courthouse in Tucson this week.  I was invited to go with a group of women from First United Methodist Church in Tucson, and although it wasn’t on my calendar, it had been on my heart, so I just went.  I was thinking of all the other things I could do…but there I was riding the train to the courthouse.  It was a beautiful, sunny day in Arizona…

We entered the court room, and immediately, my senses were troubled.  At the front of the room were rows of pews, not unlike what we sit on in church, and a group of men and women were already there.  The number of people was in the 70’s by my unofficial count.  Two of them were women.  The rest were men.  Except for one or two, most were young: I’d guess they were mostly in their 20’s or 30’s, though I did wonder if a few of them were teens. The mass of young people waiting to receive prison sentences was destabilizing. I first smelled the odor of bodies that had not had access to a shower or clean clothes.  And then I heard this sound.  It was a quiet tinkling with no rhythm.  I looked closer to see where it was coming from, and I saw that their feet and hands were shackled with chains.  For the whole of the time we were there, we heard the chains clinking as groups of young adults were brought before the judge.

They were there because they crossed the border illegally.  In this court, they didn’t have any other crimes to contend with, save the “crime” of “illegal entry” or “re-entry after deportation.”  They were told by the Honorable Bernardo P. Velasco that they could either enter a plea of guilty to illegal entry/re-entry, or they could reject the plea agreement and have their case go to trial.  All of them, every single one of them, decided to take the plea agreement, which was between 30 – 180 days of prison before they were deported to their countries of origin.

This matters because now they are sentenced and become “criminals.”  This is how we criminalize the immigrants among us.  This is what we do in America with peoples who are migrants.  We may have a heart for the Syrian migrants “over there” and we may even criticize other countries for not welcoming those fleeing from horrible situations; but meanwhile, in our own backyard, we are not only unwelcoming, we throw those who are asking for help into prison, and we stamp them as “criminals.” We do this to young men and to young women, and we have not even shown mercy to the young children who cross the border unaccompanied by parents.  Well…

There is, of course, the matter of illegality.  They are breaking the law.  Yes. That is true.  But that fact speaks to the insanity of our “laws” and our lack of movement around immigration reform; and our refusal to see the dirt on our own faces as we pay “under the table” for cheap labor and then throw them in prison; and our privatization of prisons that profits off, and perpetuates crazy laws to make more profit, from those who are seeking sanctuary and safety and connection with their families.  Those who are suffering. These facts are also true.

On the bottom of the Statue of Liberty, the statue of a woman with the lamp of freedom, who is called “Mother of Exiles,” is the quote from the poem written in 1883:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,  The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I will lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

I guess we have stopped believing in receiving the tired, poor, huddled masses seeking freedom and family.  I guess we decided that slavery still is ok, and that sending people en masse to prisons is just fine, and that the history of Jews being sent away on trains can be replaced with a current story of Latinos and Latinas being shipped away on buses and planes.  I guess we don’t believe in freedom and love and kindness and care for our neighbor.

In our holy scriptures, in Leviticus 19:33-34, it says:

When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them.  Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were on of your citizens.  You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land if Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”

I guess we don’t believe in that either.  We cheat them out of due process, kindness, and family.  And we treat them as criminals instead of citizens.  We don’t really care that God requires love.

We got back on the train, and it was still sunny outside, but suddenly, the world seemed shadowed and cold and heartless.

“take the shackles off my feet so i can dance…i just wanna praise You…i just wanna praise You.”




Peace on Earth

images 5.12.47 PM“Peace on earth, goodwill to all humanity.”  It’s a saying we know well.  It’s a place we wish to dwell.  It’s a sacred thought, and a world-wide desire.  We all want peace.

But it seems that peace is illusive this season of Advent. We continue to see more mass shootings, and we continue to have our hearts stunned in shock and grief.  San Bernardino was the latest.  I had two family members (cousins) who were either close by in a lock-down, or could have been in that very building.  It hits close to home, and it makes me stop in my zapatos.

I remember that Joseph and Mary left their hometown and traveled across the lands to register for the census when their baby was about to be born.  It might have been a dangerous trip, but they were surrounded by other travelers who were also just trying to register and then get back home.  Our own nativity story is one of being displaced, of hiding from danger, and of finding some sort of peace and goodwill to all humans…in a manger.

It was just a moment of peace.  Not a month of peace, nor an era of peace, but it was just a moment.  Mary had her baby…they found some ratty shelter, and it was better than being outdoors.  And she survived the delivery.  And so did Joseph.  And the Babe was born:   the Babe-that-would-change-the-world was born.

You could call him Prince of Peace, though he lived in a time of turmoil and chaos.  You could call him King of Kings, though his reign was not of this world.

You might just call him Savior, or Jesus, Son of God.

He came to bring peace in the middle of turmoil.

And this season of the Nativity, I am praying for Peace most of all.  It’s what I want and work for.  It’s what I preach and pray for.  It’s what will make a difference in the world we live in.

Pray with me.  Hope with me.  Work with me.  For Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Everyone!

Faith, hope, & love,…and Peace,





I’ve thought a lot lately about my great-grandfather, Rev. George Strause, who was a Circuit Riding preacher in the Kansas and Oklahoma area back in the 1800’s.  He’s buried in Shawnee, Oklahoma, the town where my husband, Jim, grew up.  It was quite a coincidence to find out that his burial place was so close to my would-be husband’s home.  My grandma always told me that I should find a good man from Oklahoma when I went to college in Tulsa.  I used to balk at the idea….but look what happened!

I can imagine Grandpa George riding around on horseback, and then in one of the first automobiles with a rumble seat facing backwards for the kids to ride… Grandma told me some stories about the rumble seat, and how her dad preached on the “evils of the rumble seat,” where grandma and her friends were caught “making whoopee.”  Makes me smile.

Now that I’m serving as DS, I’m driving around my district and conference, and putting more miles on my car than ever before.  I’m seeing the land, and learning the town folklore stories, and seeing things from the ground up.  It is a great way to experience what is happening in the world and in the church.

I’ve noticed that the church has a central place in many locations.  And yet that center has shifted.  She is becoming the important historical marker, and the place to go for special family moments, as well as the gathering space to connect with people.  She still draws people to her sanctuaries as sacred gathering spaces.

Like at Christmas.  This time when we wait in Advent longing, for the birth of our hopes and dreams to come true,  people will gather in the sacred spaces.  The land and the people of the land all have hopes…  Hopes for peace.  Hopes for finding loved ones lost.  Hopes for meaningful work.  Hopes for any work.  Hopes for family and love and life….

I wish everyone could experience circuit-driving.  And peace on earth. And goodwill to All.  May your Advent-Christmas be the experience of dreams made real. And, oh, be careful of the rumble seat…



Oh, Ferguson, Ferguson…

The spot in the middle of the street...covered with teddy bears.

The spot in the middle of the street…covered with teddy bears. Ferguson, Mo.

by Cherie Martin

God Counts the Tears of Women                      by Cherie Martin

A few days ago I spent some time in Ferguson as they came upon the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown.  I walked the streets where Michael Brown laid for “4.5 hours.”   I saw the business district where buildings were burned and destroyed, some still showing the effects with boarded-up windows and fences, while other businesses were repaired and open to the public. I listened to the people and pastors tell their story. I heard what they experienced a year ago, how it affected them, and how hard they worked this year to make peace in their town.  The people of Ferguson have truly done good and difficult work to bring peace to their town.  And today, I am watching the news that Ferguson is reeling in pain again, and I’m thinking the people I met are praying for peace.

Jesus had a time of lament in Matthew 23.  He takes himself away from the crowds and cares of the world, and cries and agonizes over Jerusalem.  He grieves over their treatment of their prophets, over the hypocrites in the religious circles, and over the rule-keepers who forget the parts of the law that include justice, peace, and faith. And he cries out his wish to gather those who have lost their way under his wing, like a mother hen gathers her chicks.  This gathering under his wing is for a purpose:  to protect, shield, and reform… Jesus’ cry-out came from the depths of his love for Jerusalem, a town that mattered.

Ferguson matters too.  The people of Ferguson are valued and cherished in God’s eyes.  They are people of worth, with hopes and dreams, with children and grandchildren, and with an innate desire for peace.  When their town is in danger, they cry out too.

The picture above is titled, “God Counts the Tears of Women.”  My sister formed it with her strong hands and compassionate heart.  Psalm 56:8 says that God counts or collects our tears in a bottle.  There’s a whole lot I could say about that, but mainly the “bottle of tears” are signs of exteriorized love and pain.  And often the women cry out, wishing we could gather our loved ones under our wings to protect, shield, and reform…  It is intuitive in us…

Our collective hearts go out to the beloved and beautiful people of Ferguson today, and we do what we can:  tell the story, allow safe places for lament, and create avenues for peace.  And we pray.

And we hope. My hope is that all forms of racism and violence are removed from each and every person alive.  It is time for racism to die.  It is time for Love for All to win.  #weareallferguson Amen.