Prayer for the Mothers of Nigeria

On Mother’s Day 2014

Spirit of Life and Love,

How can I celebrate being one of the lucky ones
With lapel pins of sequins, pasta necklaces and hand crafted cards
Made by the loving five year old and eight year old hands?

My child was not stolen from school
Or ripped away from homes
Used as a tactic of revolution

On this mother’s day
I grieve with the mothers of the world
Whose children have disappeared
I wail with the mothers of Nigeria
Who wait and wonder in agony
Praying for their the safe return of their daughters
276 of them — 276 too many
And we know elsewhere in the world
More mothers grieve their missing children
For them we whisper a silent, “We are with you”
We, too, carry your pain and outrage

We, alone, cannot fix this horror
But together we can be sure the world and your government does not forget
And we can hold you in our hearts and minds and prayers

For you and all that is hurting in our world
And for the paradox of beauty and love that surrounds us
For the shrieks of sibling rivalry that pierce my ears
For the hugs I will receive today
I am forever thankful and ever mindful
I am one of the lucky ones
May the beauty and love of this mother’s day fill our spirits and heal our souls
And may its light radiate out beyond our individual lives
touching all who are in need

In the name of all that is holy we pray. Amen.

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It’s Just Like Riding a Bike

I’ve been gone for a while. Clearly I am not going to win any blog prizes if I can only manage to write a post a year. My lack of posting should not be construed as a lack of parenting. Being in Seminary kind of takes it all out of me so that whenever I do have what might be known as “free time” (an oxymoron to any parent, let alone graduate student), all I can manage is to sit like a lump in front of my television catching up on my favorite recorded shows. Often I fall asleep before the show is over. It took me 3 nights to get through the last episode of Elementary (still a favorite Lucy Liu, don’t take it personally).

This weekend, however, I found my second wind–a burst of energy after finishing a major paper on the treatment of the poor and poverty in the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures–riveting, I KNOW. You’ll just have to reign in your excitement, I’ll tell you all about it some other time as I am now an expert on the subject after days buried in the library. But back to my free time second wind . . .

Not only did we do some cleaning out of the bike shop that had accumulated in our backyard and gave away 4 bikes to the Burbank Bike Angels, but I grabbed my 8 year old and his “new” bike (thank you to our dear friends with a 10 year old) and said, “C’mon, let’s go learn how to ride this thing without the training wheels.” Luckily he was game so off we went down the sidewalk fully equipped with helmet, elbow and knee pads (his idea).

I felt childhood flashbacks as I held on to the back of his seat rattling off all the motivational instructions I could manage while running alongside him. “You can do this, it’s all about balance, just like riding your scooter. Don’t worry about your feet, trust that they’ll know where to go. It is more important to look ahead of you and steer. You’re doing it! You’re doing great!” And after a momentary meltdown, “This is only the first day, don’t be so hard on yourself. This is fun! It takes practice, you’ll get the hang of it.” And of course the ever famous, “Once you learn how to ride a bike, you’ll never forget.” Hence the age old wisdom of picking up an old sport/hobby/activity or learning a new one, “It is just like riding a bike!” Ha! Easier said then done.

I have clear memories of riding a rented bike in Holland teetering all over the place and hopping off and nearly crashing every time I wanted to stop because my feet wouldn’t touch the ground. I had a few momentary meltdowns myself.

Once I got home and and recovered from the huffing and puffing of running alongside him all the way down the block and back (the most exercise I’ve had in months), I thought about my motivational, bike-riding sermon. Not bad advice. Advice to which a fourth-year seminarian about ready to graduate might want to listen. Pretty solid advice for anyone embarking on a new journey (or continuing on an old one) . . .

You can do this.

Trust that your feet will know where to go.

Focus on looking ahead and steering yourself where you want to go.

You’re doing great!

It takes practice, you’ll get the hang of it.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun.

It is just like riding a bike!

Breathe. May it be so.

just a quick shout out to my fellow seminarian, parent, blogger, Jordinn who inspired me to start this thing again! Check out her blog:
Raising faith

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Reflecting on Justice GA

GA is our annual assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. This year, for the first time, it was focused entirely on issues of Justice with special attention to immigration and supporting community partners and organizations in Arizona and across the country working to for immigrant rights.

It was a week of extraordinary workshops, worship and witness focused entirely on justice issues and especially those involving immigrant rights. I watched our 14 youth immerse themselves in the entire process from morning until night, going to plenary sessions, workshops on modern slavery and meditation and rousing worship services alongside thousands of other UU’s. GA offers the unique opportunity to experience Unitarian Universalism beyond our church walls and to get a real sense of connection to our wider faith and our national Association. When I heard comments from our youth like, “I felt so connected to Unitarian Universalism. That was the most amazing 5 days of my life,” and one who confided that Ministry might be a personal calling, I felt so proud that we were able to give them this experience—an experience that will likely bond them to our faith for life and nurture the seeds of justice work which I know they will continue in their own lives. This GA was about transformation and I know our youth have been transformed.

The business of GA, at which delegates representing churches across the country come together to vote on Congregational Study Action Issues, is like a microcosm of democracy. The youth actually caucus together to decide how they will vote on particular issues. Their voices are respected and their presence is praised by all involved. This year’s GA reported nearly 300 youth caucus participants, almost double than in years past. Several of our youth were Neighborhood Church delegates and represented our church so powerfully. Our youth would wake-up early to attend 7:45am plenary sessions and I heard more than one remark, “I like voting!” Junior Anna Hall spoke on behalf of the youth caucus’s support of Congregational Study Action Issue #5: Ending Slavery. She spoke passionately with grace and maturity and we commend her for taking such a leadership role at her very first GA! You can watch her two minute speech at http://www.uua.org/ga/2012/business/200224.shtml, fast forward to time stamp 1:37:00.

The most powerful event of the week was our National Day of Service and Witness. During the day hundreds of trained volunteers were bussed off-site to help people complete applications and paperwork for legal citizenship. Then, we ended the day with a public witness rally at the Maricopa County’s “tent city” jail. This detention facility houses a large number of immigrants who are awaiting deportation proceedings and is one of the most egregious offenders of human rights abuses documented in the 2012 report, A Culture of Cruelty, by the Tucson organization No More Deaths.

Thousands of us boarded buses and were driven out to tent city where we lit candles, sang songs and heard stories from representatives of local partner organizations like the National Day Laborer Association and Puente Arizona who regularly work for immigrant rights. At one point I looked over at our youth who were chanting “Shut it down, “and “Somos con ustedes-we are with you!” after hearing one of the speakers say, “They can hear you in tent city,” it occurred to me that this experience was probably a first for many of our youth—rallying with 2000 other people to take a stand in support of human dignity. How cool is that! Remember your first protest rally? Remember how amazing it felt to be with all those people who believed in the same things you did? Remember how it made you feel like change was really possible? Our youth have had a taste of that now and there is no going back.

Thanks to the UUA campaign, Standing on the Side of Love, the message of love permeated the speeches, songs and the crowd. Our presence wasn’t just about standing in opposition to Sherriff Joe Arpaio and the SB1070 and cruel immigration practices; it was about love—the love of our fellow human beings and the dignity they deserve regardless of status or any other societal label.

Our voices were heard that evening by more than just the inmates in the jail. Public witness on a massive scale also serves as a motivator, an energizer, a reminder that our work must continue and that we must make our voices heard. Making such a loud and prominent public statement of our faith and our values gives me hope that our few but committed voices can make a difference in this world.

The testament to our work was hearing from Carlos Garcia, a young representative of the National Day Laborers Association, during our Sunday morning worship. Nearly in tears with his voice cracking, he thanked us for our presence at the rally. He told us how it was overwhelming to watch the buses arrive, “You just kept coming!” he said. Well Carlos, we will continue to arrive, to speak out, to work for justice because you also reminded us, “Love always overcomes hate. Our numbers are on our side. The truth is on our side. With or without those in power, history is on our side. We just have to put our shoulders to the gears of history and push.”

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Packing for the Border

(Written March 13, 2012)
I am heading down to Tucson, AZ, (my hometown) to be part of a delegation touring the AZ/Mexico border with the non-profit organization, Borderlinks. I have spent some time on the border before, mostly in high school and delving into the nature of those excursions would not be wise in a public format.
Packing for any trip always causes me some mild anxiety and this trip is no different. While I have backpacked through Southeast Asia twice and Europe and hiked the Inca Trail to Mach Picchu, I always have that mild panic that I will forget something crucially important. So over the years I chant a little mantra to help stem the anxiety, “I can always buy it.” But this time, my little chant stops me cold. I am going on this trip to witness and experience life on the border, to delve into the challenges our militarized border and broken immigration system have set into motion. I think of the hundreds of people who cross the border every day, coming back to jobs in America, or searching for new jobs to begin a new life—to survive. These men, women and children cross through the desert suffering extreme conditions, lucky to reach their destination. Their packing anxiety is surely much greater than mine. If they forget something, they cannot buy it.

In fact, they often find themselves having to leave things along the trail, to lighten the load and be able to move faster or because they’ve been forced into muleing drugs and now must carry 50+ pounds of drugs leaving room for nothing else. My privilege is screaming at me right now, reminding me to count my blessings, reminding me that the freedom to “just buy it” comes at the expense of those who cannot even entertain that thought. I get to sleep in a warm sleeping bag–indoors. I’ve stuffed two pillows into my duffel bag. I packed two pair of jeans. I have good tennis shoes, makeup and a towel for the shower I will get to take every day if I choose. I have resisted packing the hair dryer, but I am beginning to regret it. Goodness, am I ever privileged. How will I use that privilege? I am on this trip to bring my place in the world and my calling to make a difference in the lives of others into sharp relief. I am on this trip to examine my privilege so that I may use it for justice and human dignity. If my place in life is benefited by those who suffer and struggle at the hands of a broken system, than perhaps I might use my privilege to allow others to stand on my shoulders for a while.

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An Almost Minister’s Welcome

The other night while I was out late for a study night (no euphemism here, I have to study at work because who can study at home with 2 kids), my husband was horsing around with our 6-year old before bed (ahhh the varying bedtime strategies between mom & dad). My son hit his mouth on my husband’s knee and his front tooth began to bleed. Hurt and likely scared, my son turned angry-man on dad, flailing and crying, blaming my husband for the injury. Seeing the lights in my car pulling up in the driveway, my husband attempted to soothe the wailing banshee by saying, “Maybe your mom can make you feel better.” My son shot back, “How?! She’s not even a minister yet!”

Ah 6-year old wisdom. He is correct; I am still a fledgling seminarian, a candidate for the ministry, according to my Unitarian Universalist (UU) denomination. So, what better time to start a blog, what with so much free time on my hands between my 30hr/week job at the church, graduate school, raising two young boys–oh and being a wife, that often gets forgotten on the list of “what we are”, doesn’t it? I know my fabulously supportive husband thinks so even though he tries very hard not to say it.

So, I write. Not because I am a great writer, but because when I get bogged down by Western Church History, The Theology of Pastoral Care & Church Governance (just to name a few), I have a place where I can kvetch about random stuff. And, as a mother, I do my fair share of preaching despite not yet being officially ordained. The most recent one went something like this:

We do not hit people! Hitting hurts. Do I hit you? No, because I love you. I would never hurt your body like that. We don’t hit, we use our words. It’s okay to be mad but you may not hit me, okay?

That was probably a bit too long winded for my fiery 3 year old, but it is a good message and it is one I’ve had to perfect.

I am an avid blog reader. I so enjoy reading others’ musings and observations of the world, their struggles and not-so-shining moments. It reminds me that I am not alone in this world, that the woes of life are not mine alone to bear and that the world does not revolve around me. I hope my own woes, insights and attempts at humor will do the same for you—whoever you are–even if just one reader finds it helpful (Mom, you can call me later).

Light and love with all that laundry . . .and put down the toilet seat!
Preacher Mom

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