Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Escape or Engage

On my Memorial Day I escaped to be with Mark Harmon. There was a marathon of NCIS on USA today and I watched alot of those shows. At the same time I have been reading an escapist book called "The Shooter" by WEB Griffin. And it is about a Special Ops team in South America.

It is all a way I get to escape my own life. They have male characters who are very disciplined and who work with a team to save people's lives and sometimes save the free world. In contrast, I am a female who is undisiciplined in too many ways and doing something that often seems trvial. In this other world view there is also a clear sense of right and wrong and good and bad people and in my world there is often paradox and the reality that I am always dealing with flawed people (myself included.) But I escaped for a while.

And now I am back in the real world of my life. And I am able. I start every day with "morning pages." This means that I get my coffee and go into my prayer room, light candles, put on music and write at least three pages in my journal. At the same time I am reading very slowly through the book "Everything Belongs" by Richard Rohr. It has really be a gift to me to have this book at this time. The last vew days I have been reading the chapter "cleansing the lens"

Here are some quotes from it:

"The most courageous thing we will ever do is bear humbly the mystery of our own reality."

"The Cherokee Chiefs said to their young braves, "Why do you spend your time in brooding?
Don't you know you are being driven by great winds across the sky?"

"The only people who grow in truth are those who are humble and honest."

"In reality our growth is hidden. It is accomplished by the release of our current defense postures, by the letting go of fear and our attachment to self image. Thus we grow by subtraction much more than by addition." It's not a matter of more and better information. The wisdom traditions say that information itself is not the key.
Once our defenses are out of the way and we are humble and poor, truth is allowed to show itself. It shows itself when we are free from ideology, fear, and anger."

"The great patterns are always the same. It's either fear or love. It's either illusion or love. It's either self protection or love. Healthy religion is all about love. All we can do is get out of the way."

And so...that is engagement. But that is so difficult. There is no loving people without suffering with and for them. I write this as I think about (and pray about) my sister Ellen who is living with lung cancer right now.

Anyway, these are my ruminations after my morning prayers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Visiting Shut Ins

Yesterday I decided to visit some of our shut ins in nursing homes.
I went to the first person who was not in his room. Instead he was in the activity room where someone was singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I found him asleep in his wheelchair.
And the dilemma - should I go in, wake him up and then take him out and talk to him.
No - I went back to his room and left my card. On the way to and from his room I heard a woman in another room quietly saying "Help me, Help me."

Then I went to a second nursing home to visit a woman. Again she was asleep and her bed was down low. Again the dilemma - do I go over, crouch down and try to wake her up for a little chat and a prayer. Again the decision - No - I will leave my card.

Finally the third nursing home and the man was in. We had a delightful conversation about his family and about politics and even the church.
He told me a story about going on an outing to the Franklin Conservatory to see the butterfly exhibit. They took two vans of people in wheelchairs. In the second van, one of his friends got a nosebleed and passed away in the van. It sounded awful to me. They had to call the ambulance and then the coronor.
He said usually they don't tell you when people have died - they are just gone.
I remember when my Dad talked about the fact that they were living in heaven's waiting room - they were not in a nursing hom - just in their 70's! This truly is exactly that.
As I left I went down the elevator and several residents joined on the way down. They were getting ready for dinner. Most everyone had a walker or a wheelchair. What struck me was the friendliness and affection with which they greeted one another.

If we live long enough we may end up in nursing homes. I wonder how that will be.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day 2008

I had a wonderful Mother's Day. Here is why:
1. I returned from a long trip to and from Chicago where I was in the company of 2 daughters and a granddaughter and I was blessed by their willingness to help out my sister and her family. It a gift to me to be with them.
2. On mother's day we went to Kacey's and got to chill out. No standing in line in restaurants for over priced meals.
3. On mother's day I got to be with Karen (Brett's Mom) and Mae (Breatt's grandma). Good women who have mothered and grandmothered a good man - Brett.
4. On mother's day we had our Pentecost worship and it was good. Different as we celebrated the vision of unity and diversity in the church and meaningful. And good.
5. On mother's day we had 40 people at our five o clock worship service. Charles preached and Deric played and it was good.
6. Last night - I had a good night's sleep. Eight hours. And let me tell you ....that's very good.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Going to Chicago

Well, we are going back to Chicago tomorrow to see my sister Ellen and help the family get ready to have her come home.
Two weeks ago she was flown by helicopter to the Rush Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago when they discovered the tumors in her brain and her neck. Since then she has had an emergency back surgery and 8 radiation treatments on her brain, neck, and throat. Two more to go.

Tonight my Bible study was about Jesus and disciples on the boat in the storm. He was asleep and they said "Don't you care that we are going to perish?" And then he rebuked the storm and said "Peace! Be Still" and the wind and the waves were in a dead calm.

Ellen and Tom are in a storm right now and it is scary. I pray for all of us that we will find peace in the midst of it.

Pray for safe travels. Pray for Ellen.

Monday, May 5, 2008

camp christian

Saturday I went to the Camp Christian Reunion. I drove through the rain in Columbus and when I got there the sun was shining and it was - as usual - a most beautiful place.

I went for many reasons. First, Kacey and Marnie were there with Alyse and Reagan and I wanted to be there with them. I also knew that the Garshaws who we knew from our years in Zanesville would be there. Holly and Jenny, two friends of Kacey's were there. It was so nice to watch the young women together and remember 20 years ago (20 years!) when they were friends together in Zanesville and went to camps together. I remembered going to Jennie's wedding and Holly's wedding. And then the realization that these girls lives intersected in Zanesville for only 3 years and they are still friends. What a gift that is.

Mary Wood was there doing childcare for my grandgirls. When I sought them out she was standing and telling the kids to throw water balloons at her and dodging them. She is so great with kids. And she has been my friend for over 15 years - my Baptist Minister friend - who is now a Disciple of Christ. And at Camp that I love.

And I went because I knew that they were honoring Martha and Ted. And it turns out all the past directors as well. I got to know Martha Everhart when we served together at Advance Conference. She stopped coming to Advance when she was 75 and after serving as counselor with both Chi rho and CYF Conference for years and years. She has touched the lives of so many youth with her spirit and her love. And of course, she has touched the lives of all of us lucky enough to know her and learn from her. Ted Faulkner, similarly, has served for years and years as Assistant Director at Chi Rho as well as Advance. He is also in his 70's now and eternally young. He is always interested in others and has a pixielike like spirit. I love him.

I stayed through the awards ceremonies and got to hear stories from over the years and become inspired again at all that has happened over the years at Camp. And feel so blessed to have had my life shaped by camp. As I look back, I bet I have spent at least 30 weeks of my life at camp - either as counselor or assistant director. That is over half a year. I love the interaction with the campers of course, but the greatest blessing has been working with the saints of the church.

One more thing about Saturday. I walked through the dining hall and ran into Jan Commers who I knew from when I was at "Camp Maumee." She said, "How's your sister?" I told her, but was confused by how she knew. And it turns out that Sam has let camp people know to pray for Ellen. It is a small world and a very caring one.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

One more post about Wright/Obama

I just read this article and thought it made a lot of sense about what has happened this week.

Wright Does Obama A Favor: Wright, the Sacrificial Lambby Rev. Graylan Hagler

Senator Barrack Obama severed his ties with Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, and quite possibly with the church, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois, after viewing news coverage and the C-Span broadcast of Rev. Wright's presentation at the National Press Club, and with mounting media questions, opponent attacks, and topsy-turviness in the polls, Senator Obama presented his perspective, angst, and emotional vulnerability publicly which completely and without a doubt severed his ties with his former Pastor. This all culminated after weeks of video loops where Rev. Wright was seen 'damning America,' and proclaiming 'the chickens have come home to roost' to a church filled with joyous, 'amening' and predominantly Black people. This scene frightened much of White America, giving pause because they were shocked by the statements and wondering whether Obama was like his pastor and the church. Obama's opponents, seeing an excellent opportunity to whittle away at the Obama campaign did so effectively raising a subtle and modified race card inferring "Is he really one of us?"

The sheer will of Obama's opponents kept the loops televised, as they dug to find new angles to a now old story every reporting day. These questions dogged the Obama campaign for weeks, nearly crippling it and diverting its attention from the campaign and the issues that the campaign needed to articulate.The tapes of Wright broke just after he began his Sabbatical and had gone away prior to his formal retirement from Trinity United Church of Christ later in 2008. Therefore there was a natural excuse for silence on the part of Rev. Wright that allowed the story to continue on. The 'story' lacked a voice on the other side, and therefore reporters and pundits kept finding sensation with which they could easily feed the public and water the seeds of greater doubts and frame questions that had no satisfying answers.As the story played, Senator Obama was forced to come out and make a statement. The pundits applauded his speech on 'Race.' They praised him for his poise, non-threatening tone, and in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding slavery, Jim Crow, and in general race in America. He assured White America that he understood their resentment because of Affirmative Action, reinforced his mixed heritage by citing his grandmother who sometimes said things that should not be repeated in racially mixed company, according to Obama. He said, "I cannot disown Rev. Wright as I cannot disown my own White grandmother" - which cemented into the public's consciousness that Wright was indeed a racist along with Obama's White grandmother. Whereupon one of my Black pastor friends who reside in Chicago asserted, "Wright and Obama's grandmother were thrown under the bus by Obama!"The Obama explanation on Wright and race were largely satisfying to his supporters and non-supporters alike. The White community was mostly reassured in that speech.

No matter how young, gifted and particularly Black he did not have the edge that many Whites perceive exists in Black people. They also felt that Obama with his refined tones would not come at them with civil rights, preference programs, calls for Reparations, and would not shout out the "R" word when in heated discussions between him and White people. Obama established that he was a new kind of Black person, not a relic from the past, as represented by Rev. Wright, or those other 'angry' Black men that we see on the streets everyday. He was safe and many Whites again felt that 'Maybe he is safe enough.'However the Wright tapes were still playing in the background. After all Rev. Wright was still out of "sound-bite" and therefore the 'story' was unable to be tilted one way or another. The tapes played as conservative talk show hosts and commentators continued to ask whether Obama was sincere or not with his understanding of race and of implied assurances to Whites.Onto the stage steps Rev. Wright. In his appearance on Bill Moyers, a fellow member of the United Church of Christ, Wright was able to offer a reasoned and mellowed response to the questions that the White nation had about his statements. On the Bill Moyers show Rev. Wright appeared calm, intellectual, and relatively reasonable. Two days later Rev. Wright brought the keynote address to the NAACP. His presentation and dramatics were stellar. He preached an old sermon teaching that "Different Does Not Mean Deficiency." The next morning he was to appear at the National Press Club. The event at the Press Club was sponsored by The Samuel D. Proctor Conference, a preaching and ministry seminar. Rev. Wright had been instrumental in the founding of the Proctor Conference. Indeed, many of the ministers that Rev. Wright had teaching influence over, and those who had come to know Rev. Wright through him preaching in their churches were present. It was a quite a crowd with intellectuals like Dr. Cornell West, and renowned pulpiteers like the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, former Pastor of The Riverside Church in New York City.Rev. Wright came onto the stage with his family, security and Dr. Barbara Reynolds, commentator, Hillary Clinton supporter and teacher at Howard University School of Divinity. After the consumption of breakfast Rev. Wright rose to speak. It was Rev. Wright's audience. Predominantly Black preachers and theologians gathered under the conference theme, "The Prophetic Witness in the African American Religious Experience," and there was no better example in the historical context than Wright. He was welcomed with a standing ovation, and he regaled in the welcome.

But who was also in the room were three rows of television cameras, and the balcony ringed with print reporters. They were mostly White, but the seated audience was predominantly Black. Rev. Wright again spoke about "Difference does not mean deficiency," critiqued the nation's foreign policy suggesting that terrorists attacks and estranged relationships is because we have not acted in the world justly and he cited the teaching of Jesus who calls that we "do unto others." He said that Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam is like "E.F. Hutton, when he speaks every Black person listens, even if they disagree." This was far more than the White reporters could deal with; particularly while a Black church audience cheered and "amen-ed" Rev. Wright on. The media wanted an apology for his perceived attacks on America, a lessening of the prophetic tone in Wright's speaking, and the expected political fare where Minister Farrakhan is denounced. If this was not frightening enough for a largely White media and television audience, the question and answer engagement was a complete public relations disaster for Wright. Wright irritated with questions became combative with the moderator. The moderator was a White woman reporter from USA Today.

Obama stated that Wright had crossed the line in his "performance." Wright was seen as being hostile and combative with a White woman thereby causing press and commentators to come to the defense of her honor. The nation saw what they perceived as an angry Black man, unbowed, unrepentant, interacting with the church audience in the traditional "call and response" of the Black church.

Many who attended the event and I spoke with after the news had played and the newspapers appeared reporting the Press Club event commented, "I was obviously at a different gathering."The images from the Press Club illustrated just how far the Black and White communities are separated. It demonstrated the chasm that exists between Black and White perceptions. It showed just how critical and unresolved are the issues of race within the culture and the nation. Whites are afraid of "angry" Black men, and the Black man is mandated to become emasculated in order to be heard and accepted by the White nation.Later that same day, the Proctor Conference resumed at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Theological students, preachers, and denominational leaders from the historical Black churches came forth to lift up "affirmations" for the long and extensive ministry of Wright. In worship that evening, after a powerful sermon by the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Father of the current pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Rev. Wright was called forward and the preachers formed a prayer circle for Wright that both celebrated his ministry, called upon God to gird him through this storm, and for protection. Though the participants called Wright forward for one purpose, it is now apparent to me that an invisible divine spirit overrode the claims of those prayers, and unbeknown to the participants Wright was being prepared as sacrificial lamb on the altar of race politics.Wright's presentation had started a media firestorm, and the talk shows were calling for Obama to do something and to do it firmly and unequivocally.

Obama had no choice if he was to remain a viable and considered candidate in the eyes of White America. Obama stood before the cameras and again addressed the Wright controversy, but this time with greater firmness, hurt in his voice, and pain in his eyes declared that the relationship has been seriously changed.It was about the time that Obama was to make his live televised declaration about the deep schism between him and Wright that Wright, his family, and publicist withdrew into a guarded room at Howard University School of Divinity, where the Proctor Conference had now moved, and in crisis mode huddled, but never returned to the conference after that. The sacrifice had been made and Rev. Wright was now flayed on the altar of race and politics.The separation of Obama and Wright signaled to White America that Obama was willing to sever relationships with aged concerns and suspicions harbored in the Black community. He therefore was able to declare in clear terms that he was not beholding to the Black community in his Presidency. This allayed fears that Obama would be a "Black" President and demonstrated to White America his trustworthiness to represent their issues. Wright in his response to the controversy surrounding him, by accident and because of unintended reaction to his responses, delivered to Obama a tremendous favor by allowing the candidate to separate himself and truly overcome race in the eyes of White America. Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright was unintentionally but certainly sacrificed on the altar of racial politics making space for Obama to state clearly and fervently 'I am safe, and I am really one of you.'After the separation between Obama and Wright there was a new energy to the Obama campaign, sympathy from mainline media was apparent because of his response to the Wright controversy, and there is now a new freshness that surrounds the campaign where White America is willing to hear Obama again.

In the aftermath of Rev. Wright it is now apparent, at least me, that Obama's chances of securing the nomination are greater than ever before, and his election as President is quite likely in the Fall. But this comes at the expense of another authentic leader being sacrificed on the altar of America's racial deniability. It is a pained process for the Black community to say the least, where hopes and dreams of generations of men and women ride, but also where the price for success is so high that one has to wonder what has really been achieved when the victory is said and done.

Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler,National President, Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice of the United Church of Christ and Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington , DC, Member of the National Advisory Board, the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) and columnist for Tikkun Magazine

Note from Margot - I at first thought that Wright had fallen on his sword - but maybe the sacrificial lamb is a better explanation. It is all very interesting

Beautiful Day

Today is my day off and I have had a beautiful day.
I decided that it is time I spent some $$ on myself and went to Charles Penzone and got a haircut - Kacey approved and said it looked "trendy" Hmmmm.
I wonder how long that will last!?!

I saw Kacey when I met her and Jackson at Innis Metro Park which is gorgeous in the spring.
I took a long walk in the woods and then met them at the park and walked around and got to see things through Jackson's eyes. He found a stick which was just the greatest plaything ever. He used it to hit pine cones and to dip in the water and to poke at frogs. I think he could have spent hours just digging up leaves in the swamp area there at the park.

Nothing could be better than this.

Except a big lunch afterwards with Chuck which we are about to do.

Quick note on Jeremiah Wright - glad that it is all over. Glad that he went "over the top" in further remarks and that hopefully Obama can get this behind him.

We just got our latest monthly "Buckeye Disciple" which advertises Jeremiah Wright as the featured speaker at our regional assembly in October. I have already had one parishioner wonder about that . It will be interesting how this all goes.