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.

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

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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,

Dottie