Day 8 #LintonReflections 2016

Some days you gotta let it go. If what you planned doesn’t fit, or you’ve run out of time, or you’re simply tired, I think it’s ok to say, “Tomorrow.”

Take a breath. Find some grace in the fact you’re alive.

The sunrise is an incredible reset button.

Day 7 #LintonReflections 2016

I’m not one who claims to know what’s going to happen when I die. As far as I know, it’s over. Done. All consciousness ceases, ends.

Having grown up with a religiously imposed imagination of the after life, this new acknowledgement is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. I don’t particularly like it; however, I’m not going to cheat this life banking on another one.

If a life after death happens, ok. If one doesn’t then at least I’m going to die alive. And it seems an unfortunate reality of the human experience that a lot of people don’t go out in such a way.

So far during this Lent, I’ve not allowed my thoughts to wander too far into my own mortality (though I get Ash Wednesday sort of asks us to do so). Still, I’m resistant.

Today I’ve waded up to my waist into, what are for me, poignantly unpleasant recognitions. I’m going to die. I understand that. I get it may be tomorrow or forty years from now. I can’t control when as much as I’d like to. It’s going to happen and there’s nothing I can do about it.

But what can I do? What can I control? Well, I have control over how I live. I have power over what I do with the breath I have left.

Death isn’t mine to manage. Life is enough.

Day 6 #LintonReflections 2016

Incredible the difference a day makes.

Yesterday I talked about seeing through people. Today I’m thinking, “yeah but there’s more to it.”

If you follow the NFL you’ll understand the references coming up. If you don’t, I’m not trying to exclude you from the conversation and apologize if I’ve already lost you. But I think the love/hate fascination with Cam Newton (NFL Quarterback for the Carolina Panthers) inundating the latest season offered a lot stuff to chew on about who is and isn’t seen and when it matters.

For example, Newton popularized a celebration dance known as the “Dab.”

dab dabbing nfl cam newton carolina panthers

Subsequently, he took a lot of media heat for showboating and was criticized for not being a good role model.

A lot of people see Cam Newton. Still, as a young black man, Cam Newton is seen differently. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a lot of people living at the margins aren’t seen at all and if they happen to disrupt the way we want to see reality privileged eyes tend to erase them from the scene. However, if folks like Cam Newton typically not seen or commonly seen-through show up in such a way people can’t avoid their presence, their disrupting image receives a different look than others normally seen and accepted as part of the normal line of site.

What the hell am I talking about? Well, look at this celebration:

nfl green bay packers aaron rodgers

Aaron Rodgers, an incredible quarterback but privileged with white skin, gets seen and yet doesn’t endure the same critical gaze as Cam Newton. He’s seen and not seen. Seen as a normal part of the scene. Not seen as doing anything out of the ordinary; not seen with the same judgment and suspicion as someone not typically seen at all. His touchdown celebration became a media sensation. He received a ton of money selling its charming effects to a prominent insurance company.

Reflecting through the Lenten journey, I’m faced with the difficult task of assessing my vision and deciding with what lenses I need to adjust it.

“Which celebration looks better? 1 or 2?”

“Doc, they look the same. It’s hard to tell the difference.”

But, of course, the eyes aren’t always as objective as we’d like to think.

#LintonReflections 2016 Day 5

Today I slow-rolled up to a stop sign, hit the gas and planned to keep on going until… I saw a mini-van in the intersection crossing in front of me. It wasn’t a close call. I saw it in plenty of time. No harm.

Once I actually stopped and carried on I thought to myself about how I did not see the van the first time I surveyed the other three stops, which is why I had decided to slow-roll through the stop in the first place. I didn’t see it. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

How many people do I see through on a daily basis? I’m not talking about people I can’t see. I’m talking about those folks right in front of me. How often do I see right through them because I have somewhere else to be or I’ve already determined my course of action and hit the go button?

One of the myths perpetuating much of the world’s injustices comforts us with the belief that if we can’t see people hurting, aching, and suffering under the weight of an imbalanced world then they’re not really there. And perhaps Lent is a quick flash of the sun reflecting off the minivan we’re about to run into reminding us that maybe our eyes aren’t always giving us the real picture.

#LintonReflections 2016 Day 4

Today I’m thinking about this verse from Walt Whitman:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

So many people run through me; the people I embody, the personalities. Some show up again and again. Some never come back. Some fight within me.

I contain multitudes.

And so do other people. Perhaps that’s the harder truth.

#LintonReflections 2016 Day 3

What can I do to give up more of what I posses (displace my privilege, power, etc.) in order for other people to occupy places of belonging in the world? Lent brings this and other questions into startling focus for me.

How am I taking up space? How might I better negotiate the way I move through this world? Is my way of walking through life harmful to others? Do I attempt to disentangle myself from systems of oppression or do I ignore my complicity in perpetuating them?

Although Lent comes across as overly self-reflective it’s quite uncanny the way it turns a person inside out. Lent’s rhythm keeps time with the beat of justice. It does us no good to learn a melody if we’re not going to ultimately sing along.

#LintonReflections 2016 Day 2

In the Christian tradition I was brought up in we didn’t celebrate Lent. The Bible mentions nothing of Lent specifically, so the logic went that observing this particular holy season was unauthorized and therefore wrong. I’m sure there are all kinds of holes you can poke in such thinking. I can too. It’s not the point. The point is Lent is new to me. I’m still learning what it’s all about besides being a cool way to make a pun with my last name.

I don’t know what to do with Lent most of the time so I’m trying to write my way through it. I’ve learned I’m certainly not comfortable walking around in public with ashes on my forehead, especially after reading during the Ash Wednesday service from Matthew’s gospel where Jesus basically said, “Don’t be a show-off with the holy stuff you do.” I get the point of the ashes. I do. But I think, for me, I would have been more comfortable having them imposed on my hand instead. And I’m not saying the rest of you who participated with ashes on your forehead are a bunch of holy show-offs. Or maybe I am. See what I mean? I’ve not quite dug deep enough into this stuff yet.

I’m learning. I’m still trying to discover what this season will uncover for me. I’ve got 38 days left and a long way to go.

#LintonReflections Day 1

Already on day 1, Lent has become an exercise for me in learning how to fail well. With two hours left, I’m near breaking my Lenten commitment to write a reflection all 40 days. And I don’t want to write anything; however, I’m forcing myself to at least write down that I don’t want to write. It’s a start although admittedly not a good one.

Lent seems to always get the last laugh with me. Every year. Fail.

Day 3. Fail.

Day 15. Fail.

Day 33. Fail.

On and on. What is it about these kinds of cycles that attract people like a candy bar on day 26? It’s weird, but New Year’s resolutions seem to be the same thing. Although, have you ever thought about how Lent comes at a perfect time for someone who may want to decide to give up their New Year’s resolution? Anyway, back to the point.

Failure, mistakes, not living up to expectations: incredible teachers. They make us better. It’s simple enough, right? So why are we so damn hard on ourselves for living in such a way that we make mistakes? I dare say life isn’t lived well if we don’t fail well; if we approach it with such caution we never make a mistake.

Lent, I suppose, is about that sort of living. If I’m failing, I’m trying and if I’m trying then life is about more than sitting still, growing stagnant, or not going anywhere. A life of trying is a life full of mistakes but a full life nonetheless.

So here’s to day 1 and to waking up tomorrow to try again.

White Demands for Peace: A Big STFU to People of Color?

“You know as well as I do that people who die bad don’t stay in the ground.” These are haunting words from Ella, a character in Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved. And they’ve stuck with me ever since I read them.

“People who die bad” as in die unjustly, untimely, in a way that doesn’t acknowledge their humanity—the Freddie Grays, the Michael Browns, the Eric Garners—they don’t let us forget, they won’t stay quiet. Their story will be told. And their stories won’t always fall on welcome ears. Some people don’t like to hear of bad deaths, especially if those deaths implicate them, disrupting their peace of mind.

Sometimes I wonder if the rally cry of peace isn’t much more than a request for silence. A request for quiet from the voices that won’t let us live in peace, won’t let us carry on like everything is ok. Some say, I’m for a response to Freddie Gray’s bad death as long as it’s peaceful. But what does that mean, I wonder? What does a peace mean in light of “bad deaths?”

What does this push for peace mean coming from those of us who live in society with white skin? What is peace for us at times like this? Is it mere quiet, peace of mind?

Does it mean we don’t want a world, a community, where all of the sudden those of us with white skin are in danger too? Well, of course, it means that. But are we willing to ask what it means when that’s the realization that all of the sudden prompts our recommendations of peace?

What does peace mean for white people in times like this? I think it’s easy to talk about peace…wish for peace…pray for peace. But what are we talking about when we talk about it? Whose peace are we talking about? Is peace a longing, a hope, for a world where bad deaths don’t occur? Is that it? Because, sometimes, it doesn’t seem like we’re aware, fully aware, of the need for peace until something bad happens and the subsequent conversations implicate us; then, and at times only then, we want to make sure everything is peaceful.

Is the peace that we whites sometimes want not much more than a silencing of the fact that, many times, a lack of peace isn’t an issue for us until our black neighbors who are constantly exposed, systemically predisposed, to “bad deaths” ask us why? Why are those with white skin not so exposed? And why is it that our answer is often: “Well, let’s talk about this but in a peaceful way…let’s make sure this doesn’t get out of control. Let’s make sure we all seek peace.” Then we light candles together, we pray for peace, and we leave glad that nobody got hurt.

But someone did get hurt. A bad death did happen. A lot of bad deaths have happened. And will continue to happen until the need for peace grows beyond the need to manage a conversation.

“You know as well as I do that people who die bad don’t stay in the ground.”

People who die badly… they don’t let us forget, they won’t stay quiet. Their story will be told. And the story of their bad death won’t always fall on welcome ears. Some people don’t like to talk of bad deaths, especially if those deaths implicate them, disrupt their peace of mind.

It’s here that I hope we come together in working for peace. It’s here, in the realizations that some of us haven’t been doing a fair or good job sharing the spaces we occupy with others, that we focus the work of peace; inciting a passion for wholeness, for the hard conversations of living together in better, more just ways…joining our longings of peace into efforts for a world where people don’t die bad.

U2Charist…a liturgy I wrote

[Below, is a communion service set to U2 music, a U2 chapelU2Charist, that I wrote not long ago for Chapel where I work. Feel free to adapt and use however you’d like.]

Opening liturgy

[This serves as the invitation to offering (addressing world hunger). There are a number of biblical texts such as Psalm 40 that can be read before the opening.]

Leader: It’s said love is a temple. It’s said all people can enter. But not everyone enters the same way. Some must crawl; some endure a welcome with conditions. For many, love is a temple under construction. The pain of oppression explodes in bodies protesting, raging, hurting, scared, tired, left-out, abandoned.

Cries of exhaustion, of exclusion, of isolation, of hunger echo throughout the world.

Do we hear them?

All: We hear.

Leader: For many people the world sucks. It is not working for everyone. This stark reality has gathered us in this space. What will we offer?

All: We can offer our ears and our voices.

Leader: The world is harder for some than for others and almost impossible for countless more. This is unacceptable! What can we offer?

All: We can carry each other…carry each other.

Leader: Yes, we can carry each other. May God help us.

At this time, you’re invited to also make a monetary offering if you’re moved to do so.

[Offering – with “One” – U2]

Invitation to table

Words of Institution…

Leader: A table is not built with walls.

All: Good! Walls divide us, walls create spaces for exclusion, for isolation…they leave people out.

Leader: Then let’s imagine the world as a table.

All: But the world is built with walls.

Leader: Then let’s tear them down.

All: Yes! Let’s tear them down.

Leader: Jesus’s table helps us imagine the world as God’s table. A world God created for all to have a place. A table where there are no reserved seats or places of honor, but instead enough space for all to pull up a chair and participate. A world where no person would see the need to begin building walls because belonging is not a thing to be earned or managed or constructed but a basic assumption. A table is not built with walls. The seats are not named as if to imply that some names don’t belong. The world as God’s table is not handed off to any group of people to manage. It is set. It is open.

In the Christian tradition, Jesus invites us to connect with this vision of God’s table when we gather around smaller tables like this one during our ritual expressions. The story is told that on the night before Jesus died he gathered his friends around a table for a meal. He talked of the symbolism of bread and wine. He wanted his friends to know that after he was gone they could still remember this moment and reflect on these symbols, keeping his vision of the world as table alive and going. And in this moment, we stoke the fire of love that we might set aflame the walls of exclusivity and division.

He took the bread, broke it and gave thanks for it. This is the bread of life, the bread of one world…signifying that all humans share the world’s sustaining gifts.

He took the cup, poured it, and gave thanks for it. This is the cup of love, a cup of one love…signifying the necessity of love for learning together how to live together. 

Prayer for bread and cup

God, we give thanks for the power surging through this ritual, for this bread and this cup. We are humbled and convicted while we eat and while we drink realizing that we are often satisfied with our small tables. We pray that our participation at this table awakens within us an awareness that we also sit at the table of human interdependency. In memory of the one who left us a story worth repeating, amen.

Communion Song – “Where the Streets Have No Name” – U2

Post Communion liturgy

Leader: These smaller tables are not meant to fill us. If we leave here satisfied, then we leave having missed the significance. This is not a table for us to get our fill. We come to this table to whet the appetite of our awareness and connect us with the hunger pangs of those who have been unjustly excluded from the table of the world. This table reminds us what we’re looking for; it’s not the place to find it.

All: Then we still haven’t found what we’re looking for.

Leader: Then by all means, keep looking! There are people at the table who are not seen, who are seen-through.

All: We are looking for God.

Leader: Yes, there are people at the table who are not seen, who are seen-through.

All: But where is God?

Leader: There are people at the table who are not seen, who are seen-through.

All: Then we should see them. Amen.

Closing Song – “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” –U2