What a cab driver from Kashmir taught me about hockey…

Jun 8, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) celebrates with center Andrew Shaw (65) after scoring the game-winning goal during the second overtime in game five of the Western Conference

Jun 8, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) celebrates with center Andrew Shaw (65) after scoring the game-winning goal during the second overtime in game five of the Western Conference

I got stuck in traffic on Lake Shore Drive Tuesday night, the first night of the Stanley Cup finals between the Bruins and the Blackhawks.  My cabbie was visibly frustrated as time passed with little movement.  He counts on multiple fares each hour to meet the cost of renting the cab each day, let alone make a profit.  Sitting for over an hour in traffic doesn’t bode well for his income for the day.  I caught him watching me in the rear view mirror. He’d been pretty quiet thus far in the trip.

I smiled and told him to put me on the clock, instead of charging me by the mile.  He smiled REAL big and said “You understand taxi drivers, yes?” I laughed and said, “Well, I understand what it is like to be struggling to make a living wage.  And I want to be fair with your time.”

We chatted about the usual ‘stuff’ then, the ice apparently broken by reliving his financial anxiety.  We talked about places we’d lived, and about the city of Chicago.  I asked him if he was a hockey fan (seeing that night’s traffic was due to the first game of the Stanley Cup finals).  He shook his head no, but then said “Wait.  That’s not fair. Let me explain…”

“I do not care for the violence, ma’am.  I have seen too much violence in my life.  But then, it is not any more violent than any other sport, is it?  At any rate, it is not a sport I grew up with. But I must confess that I rejoiced when Patrick Kane made that goal last week.  That goal paid a million people.”

I looked at him quizzically.  He smiled. “You see, he scored that goal, and hotel workers, airline workers, cab drivers, restaurants… all of Chicago benefited.  That goal set in motion (like a trigger or a catalyst) a series of events which will ensure that we have plenty of work, and good income. For that goal, I thank Allah.”

And I smiled, pondering the thought that it takes more than a village: it takes a hockey goal.

Paper strong…

My remarks here are written in response to this blog.

Several years ago after my Grandmother died, I was sorting through her things for the sale, and found, tucked in the piano bench along with her favorite hymnals, the aerogrammes I’d sent her from Papua New Guinea as a child. I sat on the floor next to the piano and read the ramblings and concerns and the joys of a little girl away at boarding school, trying to explain the world as I knew it in the jungle to someone on the farm in Ohio. Sprinkled throughout those letters are hints of homesickness coupled with fears of returning ‘home’: such tensions for a little girl to hold!

In a filing cabinet I found a bundle of the aerogrammes my Mother had sent her Mom. Many of them detail the same events or the same time period, but told instead from the perspective of a very young woman, trying her best to make good decisions for her children, and trying her best to serve the Lord in a very patriarchal, patronizing mission station. Her grief on so many levels was evident, even among the more heroic claims of faith.

The juxtaposition of the two sets of letters was very healing for me. And Grandma, bless her, managed to hold both close to her heart without betraying confidences. Those thin pages wielded a mighty balm!

The thinnest of paper bore the weight of the world.

The thinnest of paper bore the weight of the world.

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A first for my alma mater

I am delighted to hear that Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary has elected Dr. Lallene Rector to be President.  She will serve as the first woman and the first lay-person to do so.

Dr. Lallene Rector, first woman and layperson to be elected President of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL.

Dr. Lallene Rector

Good things are coming for the school, and for the Methodist Church!

She has personally been a friend and a mentor to me.  Raising a glass to you, Lallene!

See this link for the full announcement: Dr. Lallene Rector

Mother God

An excellent sermon by Steve Van Kuiken about our Mother God:  HERE

A wonderful reminder of our failed attempts to apprehend or comprehend the Divine–of the limits of our language, and the joy of understanding analogy and metaphor.

–Sermon originally delivered on May 12, 2013 at Lake Street Church of Evanston, Evanston, IL.

The political roots of Mother’s Day…

Mother’s Day had its origin in the United States soon after the Civil War. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe issued the original Mother’s Day Proclamation shown below.  This statement promoted disarmament, the promotion of peace, and the end of bloodshed. What a powerful proclamation!

There is no sentimental mention of cards, flowers, or jewelry.

Anna Jarvis actually founded Mother’s Day in honor of her mother Anna Reeves Jarvis who was an activist for health and sanitary conditions for children in the 1850’s and 60’s. She was led to this activism by way of her own personal tragedy of losing eight of her twelve children to diseases.

Anna Jarvis

Anna Jarvis

Anna Jarvis wanted a day to raise the appreciation for mothers and for what matters most to them, the health and safety of their children. She wound up so against the commercialization of Mother’s Day that she spent every last dime fighting against it.

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Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies;
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and
applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. ”
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. ”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of
counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

-Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe

Want to know what Depression is like?

Want to know what Depression is like?

The best description of depression I’ve ever seen.  Really.

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Coffee hour…

My cab driver today was from Ethiopia. We got to chatting about coffee and the changing significance coffee has had since the inception of Starbucks, and the effects on some of the plantation owners in Ethiopia. He then launched into a discussion of the traditional role of coffee culturally in Ethiopia: how “your door is always open, and people stop by–and you serve coffee.” He described how coffee is a form of hospitality there–and a truly social event.

Then he told me this story: My sister wanted to visit from Ethiopia. I sent for her and when she arrived, she spoke no English. I had to work, so she had to spend time alone in the apartment. She got quite lonely and bored. One morning, she decided to make a pot of coffee. After having made it, she realized she felt funny drinking it alone–in fact, she felt she couldn’t drink it alone.

So she went door to door down the hallways looking for someone to share her coffee with her.

Those oblivious Chicagoans didn’t know how to interpret this strangely dressed black woman gesticulating at their door, speaking a foreign language. They phoned the police, who came and picked her up. They held her at the police station, until her brother came and claimed her. He had to explain the reason she was going door to door. Culturally, there was no translating this form of hospitality.

Close-Up-of-Coffee-Beans--007

Excellent, thought-provoking piece.

Nü MethoFesto

cans

Food pantries seem to be the cause du jour of United Methodist Churches. Everywhere I go, I hear about feeding projects in our local congregations.

First, let me say that I am thrilled to hear this! This is one of the most practical ways that local churches can be in ministry in their communities. There are, of course, good and bad ways to run food pantries, but in general, I am always happy to hear about churches turning their focus outward.

But almost immediately, I am also overcome by another, more daunting thought. Why are food pantries suddenly necessary? Why are so many children going hungry in this country?

When we turn to these types of questions, we begin to engage Biblical justice issues.

Feeding people is a vital ministry of any faith community. We cannot ignore the physical and immediate needs of those around us. But these are fundamentally…

View original post 583 more words

First world problems…

A new found friend has taken up the mantle of victim advocate in Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the capital city of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.  She is wielding the weapons at her disposal against patriarchal traditions which are both native to her land and imposed from certain Western ideals.  As such, she is actively on the web setting up groups for discussion, message boards, etc. and is posting images of women who have suffered unimaginable brutality.  She’s emailed and discussed curriculum options for weekend seminars, and requested resources. She recently emailed me privately some photos: they are graphic and haunting–including fresh wounds from axes and bush knives, burns from hot irons, broken bones and bruises from beatings, amputations, and even images of a woman being burned to death and a beheading.

I am honored to be trusted with such images–honored and deeply humbled.

And traumatized.

Since receiving the photos I’ve not been able to sleep.  Days have passed and the images dog me, sneaking up when I least expect it. It isn’t that the level of violence is new to me: I witnessed ravages as such as a child growing up among the poor and prostitutes in the capital. I grew up not knowing that wounds weren’t normal–that amputations weren’t just a matter of course.  Rape was a real possibility (even if I’d gotten the logistics confused as a child).  I understood scars as women’s history written large on their bodies.    Yet as an adult, with feminist-educated eyes and a wealth of theological study behind me, the images sting anew: the status of women hasn’t changed much in 30 years.

And my initial response is silence.  I cannot bear the weight of these images alone, yet cannot share them–I don’t wish this sort of haunting upon anyone, especially those who for whom Western media has cushioned such blows (we don’t show dead bodies on TV or in our newspapers, they are censored out of our common news sources).  We witness domestic violence through movies–comforted that it is merely makeup we are viewing, and not real wounds.

I go talk to my therapist.  And I find I don’t care to introduce such atrocities to her psyche either.  I pour my heart out in frustration, but hold the pictures close to my proverbial chest.

I tell my best friend of them, and of the impossibility of sharing their burden.  He listens, pained at my frustration.  He allows me to hold them at a distance.  And finally, he offers to see them.  “I’m willing.”  And tears begin to flow freely.  And I consider it.

But I can’t help thinking back to my friend in PNG and the life-risking work she is doing on behalf of the women there.  How can I tell her that because of her pictures, I’ve been traumatized? That her emails have sent me to therapy?  That while she lives and breathes this atmosphere of violence, I spend $150 to talk to a therapist? That I fret because I’ve lost 3 nights of sleep? That I feel utterly inadequate and ridiculous?

Yet I live and work in this world: surrounded by high rises, wealth, and opulence.

Damn my first world problems and first world solutions. Damn them.

 

 

tears

When the distance is too great…

decades and continents separate us
your grip has never loosened
inescapable
enduring

I smell the dampness of the rainforest
the salt of the beach
the orchid mist of the mountains
the fecundity of mud between my toes

the sounds of exotic birds
indistinguishable from laughter
brown eyes smiling
open palms welcoming
singing for joy to a rhythm both strange and inviting

matched my heart beat.

and I ache for a place that was never really home
and a people who were never really mine.

The flag of Papua New Guinea.

The flag of Papua New Guinea.