I cracked two paintbrushes tonight.

two paintbrushes against a tan tile floor, background includes wall with painters tape outline a freshly painted triam and molding.

I used to iron clothes.

In a profession that requires patience, expectancy, and hopefulness, many things are waited on for long amounts of time. We wait for things beyond our abilities to wait for them.

So the ability to iron clothes, vacuum floors, mow yards, install light fixtures––they become therapeutic.

At least they do for me.

To start and finish a task that allows me to back up from, look at, and see physical characteristics of its completeness… its finished-ness… it’s healing in a way. In a vocation that requires a long waiting for things unseen, and bearing a faith that pushes hoping for the ridiculous even farther, hope and wait, hoping and waiting, are the honored things.

But they are the things cursed under, and often not under at all, our breath.

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I cracked two paint brushes in half tonight.

In an effort to both gain satisfaction from crossing off a to-do list item from my list as well as to prevent my mind from ruminating on certain frustrating circumstances, I smothered my ears with these new headphones, cranked up Ludovico Einaudi, and got to work. Having repainted the walls of my kitchen a few months ago, I started carefully repainting the trim.

Crisp antique white.

Against the “water swirl” bluish-white of the kitchen, a Lowe’s knock-off from an $8 sample of a fancy shade from London’s Farrow & Ball, there’s not much contrast, but high gloss against flat paint should be quite striking.

Clean lines. Smart joints.

Between coats two and three, however, I cracked two plastic brushes in half. I chuckled at the first but slowed at the second breaking.

In an effort to calm my spirit and ease my mind, my anger and frustration and fear and anxiety managed to make their ways to my right hand and wrist where they released themselves in the crack of cheap paintbrush I was using to assuage my own anxieties.

And then in a second cheap paintbrush.

Finding clean lines and smart joints and perfect outcomes and positive news is a daunting task. The profession of social work leads one to find those things in places and things other people, students, or clients.

windowsill with blue painters tape separating light blue wall from antique white trim and moulding.

The search pushes itself into ironed shirts, swept floors, and painted molding.

The stress pushes itself into the cracked handles of two cheap paintbrushes and the profane-ridden mumbles of my midnight comments to two dogs and a poorly-informed and poorly-responding Alexa dot.

But the reality remains… when I’m ready for it as well as when I’m not. The world goes not well, but the kingdom comes. We do the things we know to do––successful or not––because we can’t not do them. We iron our shirts, paint our molding, break our brushes, and curse our innocent dogs.

But ultimately, we wait in hope.

The world goes not well, but the kingdom comes.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

not most hopeful

It’s been difficult to write.

I’ve not been hopeful.

And having experienced anything other than hopefulness, like wrestling with emotions and under the realities of frustration, anger, depression, sadness, isolation, grief, loss, and silence, there have been few honest words that could be defined as hopeful.

And to project a facade of hope is as offensive as the realities that attack hope itself.

So there has been and in many ways remains quite a season of silence. A season of either hopelessness or silent hopefulness.

Either way, a season of silence. On my end at least.

I’ve heard a great deal from the people in my world: from my history and my past and my world. They’ve been everything between furious and dismissive to piously, self-righteously, “prayerfully,” “worried” about me and my “soul.”

And yes, worried about my “eternity.”

When asked about the refugee, the immigrant, the oppressed, the poor, the person of color: they have no concern.

They’ve not been worried about the present-day life of the neighbor who doesn’t look like me (us), talk like me (us), explain religion like me (us), or… ultimately… the neighbor who is not white like me (us).

But I am a source of concern for these “brothers” and “sisters.”

It’s been difficult to write hopefully.

I wish I could wag a finger and wield a glare at myself for pushing beyond the truth to prove a point, but that luxury isn’t afforded anymore. When a president was elected to the highest office who began his campaign with racist, untrue, and hate-filled remarks about Mexicans, I was told to “chill out” about the response to this un-American position on diversity, human dignity, and individual initiative… I was told this only by those who identify as evangelicals.

When I spilled out concerns about a man who stated: “I hate the thought of black people counting my money” as well as “when you’re famous, you can do whatever you want; you can grab ’em by the pussy,” I was told to think about unborn babies. Told to think only about unborn babies. When I talked about babies born into poverty or what policies and practices actually reduce the occurrences of abortions, I was told it was “fake news” and the conversation had to move back to shopping or gossip.

When I struggled as Dr. Ben Carson was video/audio-taped saying that sometimes you have to put your faith and your Christian principles aside for the sake of politics, I was told I was being irreligious or simply lying.

When I said I could not stand or support or accept a man who celebrated sexual assault, proudly proclaimed his racism toward any human being created in the image of God whose skin wasn’t pasty white or bronze-tanned, or bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy,” I was told I could not possibly be a Christian.

To write hopefully, much less most hopefully, has felt impossible over the last many months.

And now in the last forty-eight hours, the President of the United States has suggested that we should only allow immigrants from predominantly-white, European countries to grace us with their presence in this country.

The President of these United States is suggesting that those who save us in emergency rooms, those who fight for us in the US military, those who rush into burning buildings and die rescuing our families, those who teach our children third grade math or senior-year Oncology and graduate school public health, and those who operate on our grandparents are from “huts” and “shithole countries.” And we don’t want any more of them here.

And then the decision to dig in to and spin these comments rather than confess the hateful, lymbic, ignorant shadows of them and beg for forgiveness. No need to beg for forgiveness; those who claim to follow the human being of table-turning and death-defying faith work hard at defending or excusing these realities. The more common response is a cloudy blend of eye-rolling, huffing, “waiting-for-proof” for the hundredth time, and pretending that obvious fact is a shadowy conspiracy.

The most common response is, “Well I don’t know about all that, I haven’t paid any attention, but I support him.”

These “shithole countries” are the same places I’ve been asked by Sunday School teachers and youth ministers to visit on ‘mission trips’ and to donate to for “missionary campaigns.” I grew up with photos of these––in the words of the President of the United States––I grew up with photos of these folks from “shithole countries” taped to my wall and fastened to my neighborhood lemonade stands as both an attempt at advocacy but more an attempt at guilt-driven capitalism (in the name of Jesus, of course).

The last I’ve heard from old Sunday School teachers and youth ministers was that the promoter of this hatefulness was the person their Jesus wanted and insisted that I vote for. Local and national evangelical, particularly southern baptist, Christian university professors and “theological” or “ethical” polymaths worked hard to find ways to excuse, explain, or defend standing with something and someone who more explicitly than almost ever before acted, spoke, and believed against most of the sermon-on-the-mount ways of Christ…sadly, or opportunistically…in the name of that very same Christ.

So yes, it’s been difficult to write hopefully, to write anything about hopefulness, much less to write with a sense of hopefulness above and beyond anything else. I cannot lie.

And of all the things I feel, I’m not most hopeful.

So what does it require to remain most hopeful when the loudest, self-proclaimed Christians blindly or apparently-blindly defend a sexual assaulter and racist xenophobe who says he is “Christian” and promises economic growth for the richest among us? What is there to do to hold out hope when old friends claim over late night beers around a fire that “blacks” should get out of the country or “everybody should get over it” when the highest office in the land spews racist and Christ-antithetical hatefulness toward anyone who can consider being “other” before heading back to an emotional worship service the next day?

Presidents of “Christian” universities waste no time in the courts, in the papers, or on social media outlining who is not accepted by the king of the heavenly kingdom for their loves or their politics, but have a hard, pressured, or “I don’t recall” time saying anything definitive about much less against the KKK, white supremacists, racism and classism, or those who teach, live into, and most dangerously love and therefore fear the blasphemy of a celebration of wealth, power, and accumulation rather than the hope of a doxology, generosity, and shared abundance.

I’ve wanted to, and have worked to find the ability to do it, but it’s continued to be difficult to write hopefully, much less hopefully more than heartbroken or harrowed.

Youth ministers have posted, spoken, and confirmed support for sexual assaulters and racist pedophiles.

Friends have let me know, via distance and disembodiment, that I can’t be a Christian.

Old family friends have pushed (privately and publicly) piously-decorated support for a human being who is, in all ways of both word and action, antithetical to the king and his coming kingdom. But my own religious ancestors-in-present of evangelicalism are the pale group who put him there, work to defend him, and spiritualize his hatefulness toward the least of these.

And they have all continued to push, or “prayerfully encourage” me to fall in line.
Or at least be calmer or quieter if I’m not in Orwellian-step with the rhetoric and propaganda.

Hopefulness has been a distant courtier; but hopefulness has been a persistent courtier.

And so to honor the best of my youth ministers, my Sunday School teachers, my old friends, I’m obligated to keep seeking Christ and his kingdom––the kingdom of the least of these and the last in line––I’m pushed, in honoring a memory of those relationships that are apparently no longer based on the same values, to believe what I was taught by those very folks at their best about a new way of living and being in the world.

The world does not go well, but the kingdom comes.

So for me, it’s for Christ and his kingdom. Hopeful or not, this is what I, at my best, am called to follow and working to lean into. Difficult or not, we bend the arc toward the beloved community.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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thickness of thin space

Three years ago. So much has changed, and so much is the same.

most hopeful

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Here I am in an empty church. In it, between the rows of pews, on the tile floor, under the silent cross, I walk along a boundary, a place in between heaven and earth. The Celts called it thin space….The church calendar calls into consciousness the existence of a world uninhabited by efficiency, a world filled with the excessiveness of saints, ashes, smoke, fire; it fills my heart with both dread and hope. It tells of journeys and mysteries, things “seen and unseen,” the world of the almost known. It dreams impossibilities: a sea divided in two, five thousand fed by a loaf and two fishes, a man raised from the dead. 

– Nora Gallagher
Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith

It seemed as though every few breaths had to be wrestled quietly to keep exhales from becoming tears. I don’t think tears of any kind of…

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this specific corner; that specific room

plates-after-dinner

It ordinarily ends in this specific corner of that specific room.
The very first evening ended in that space;
this one did too.
Time lies but this corner does not.
Suddenly new yet very familiar.
Children asleep,
dinner settling,
dessert in process
with a final matching mug or glass.

A chair is pulled up closer, but not too close,
even distance in inches matter.
A reachable circle for the conversation,
and the laughing,
and the impressions:

the toothless, tooth-brushing PSA.
the self, that one time in the middle of that one story.
that customer who opened with the confusing concern.
that student.
that voice.
that dynamic with those relatives.
that signature characteristic.

and the repeated jokes:
likely jokes not actually funny,
but jokes always grow into their own funny the later they emerge in the evening.

It is a treasure buried in the middle of a field, though;
true every single time.
Safe now, later in the evening,
smelling like people smell at the end of the 14 hours
when spare deodorant is actually not in the glovebox,
and the meeting sprawled too late to manage a swing by any corner store
on the way to this specific corner.

Safe now, later in the evening, after a perfect meal over which the melody of
perhaps some shared camaraderie,
perhaps some shared hilarity,
perhaps some disagreement,
perhaps some agreement of disagreement,
perhaps some thick and layered asking of what the hell we are doing,
perhaps some thick and layered asking of what the hell we are trying to do,
and what it is we are trying to chase after,
after all…

where were we?…

Safe now, later in the evening, after a perfect meal over which the perfect melody of
a treasure buried in the middle of the field.

Noticed now,
in this specific corner of that specific room.
Laughter and my own genes have left me sweating.
Food and beer have left me full.
Humanity and honesty,
Pretense prevented by exhaustion,
leave me speaking thanks out loud in between audible laughter
while driving home with a 14-hour smell that is not very funny.

After noticing that I’m sitting in this specific corner of that specific room,
the loud response in my cloudy thoughts is a refrain that continues to say,

Thanks be to God.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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until we know ourselves

A young boy in KKK robes sees his reflection in a riot shield held by an African-American state trooper. Taken in Gainesville, Ga., in 1992, this photo by Todd Robertson has resurfaced through social media. via Poynter.org Quote by Krista Tippett in Becoming Wise (2016), "...the human condition, in all its mess and glory, remains the ground on which all of our ambitions flourish or crash. The adage that "he who does not know history is doomed to repeat it" doesn't go far enough. History always repeats itself until we honestly and searchingly know ourselves.A young boy in KKK robes sees his reflection in a riot shield held by an African-American state trooper. Taken in Gainesville, Ga., in 1992, this photo by Todd Robertson via Poynter.org

the human condition, in all its mess and glory, remains the ground on which all of our ambitions flourish or crash. The adage that ‘he who does not know history is doomed to repeat it’ doesn’t go far enough. History always repeats itself until we honestly and searchingly know ourselves.

Krista Tippett, from Becoming Wise (2016). New York, NY: Penguin.

 

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we hail what heals

ART-CAN-SURVIVE-QUOTE

Photo: Donald G Jordan, Guggenheim, June 2017
Quote: Gwendolyn Brooks, from “In Montgomery”
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I don’t know how to tell you

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I don’t know how to tell you
why I’m so concerned about what is happening.
We are are both believers,
but I’m not sure if we thought we are
believing in the same thing.
We are both committed,
but I’m learning that perhaps we are not
committed to the same thing.

I don’t know how to tell you
that my friends are not celebrating.
We are both present day to day with the same news,
but many of my friends are being cursed, abused, or billed.
And many of my other friends,
those friends who look like we do,
are being celebrated, elevated, and paid.

I am trying my best to go back to what I thought we both believed.
I am trying to go back to questions about
the least of these
the stranger among us
the poor in our midsts
the meek
the humble
the generous
the innocent
the poor.

But it seems that while I thought these were the things
that aligned us on the same team,
you were saying,
sometimes threatening,
that these things don’t matter if the rich among us aren’t
privileged
reimbursed
taxed less
paid more
honored even when the poor are at their feet.

I don’t know how to tell you,
but I think we believed in
very different things this whole time.
I thought we agreed
Jesus was standing up for the least of these.

I don’t know how to tell you that perhaps
you call it politics, but I call it obedience;
you say it’s not logical, but I say we weren’t promised logic.

I don’t know how to tell you,
but I think we’ve forgotten—
you and me both—
that we are not the least of these.

They are. 

The “other” is the least of these. 

The other that everyone has become so afraid of.

I think our forgetfulness is costing all of our lives.

I think our forgetfulness is costing all of our souls.

But I don’t know how to tell you this.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

to be there with children

refugee-crisis-post-header

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be there with children.
Or even a single child.
When I fly I’m aware of everything I’m touching
everything my bag is touching
I’m aware of the food that costs four times what it’s worth.
I’m unsure of timeframes and unsure of connections and unsure of pickups.
But I’ve always been allowed in.
And I’ve always been allowed on.
They went through my bag one time,
me standing there embarrassed because my clothes were
thrown in and wadded-up and others were watching before we boarded the plane.
But I boarded the plane.
And I made it home to my home,
safe, neighbors I know, a language I know, a church I know.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be there now with children.
Or even a single child.
After running literally to save your child from
bombs
explosives
machetes
murder
sex-trafficking.
After running for God knows how long
(And believe me in this, God does know how long).
You follow the rules.
You do the paperwork.
You take the tests.
You pass the screenings.
You file everything you can with everyone they tell you to file it with
and then you wait
in a tent, or a classroom, or in hiding,
more than 24 months
104 weeks
730 days
17,545 hours
1,051,900 minutes
with children.
or even a single child
hoping that you’ve done everything you can to save their lives
or your only child’s life.

When my delays are over 45 minutes,
my insides begin erupting.

And then you hit our shores,
passing our lady of liberty promising you welcome as you’ve been
running,
literally,
for your children’s life
or even for your only child’s life.

But then we tell you,
Christian mother
Christian father
Muslim mother
Muslim father
Human mother
Human father
that we don’t understand you
or your children,
or even your only child,
because you aren’t from here.
So in our loud and uninformed anger
we feel better trapping you
and your children,
or even your only child,
in customs in our airport for an indefinite amount of time,
or in your tent, in your classroom, or in hiding,
until the death you’ve been running from
takes your life and the life of your children,
or even the life of your only child.

Pray for us.

Pray that God would shout at us
as we look around our comfortable rooms
at our children,
or even our only child,
and remind us that children, or a single child,
another human in the image of God,
or as Christ has said,
remind us that it is Jesus Christ himself
who remains trapped in the airport tonight,
or in the tent, or in a classroom, or in hiding.
That we have sentenced Christ to death again
from the comfort of our living rooms,
and under the auspices of protecting our own children,
or even our only child.

Pray for us.
We can’t imagine what it must be like
to be there with children,
or even our only child.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

“When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”
For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the [a]orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
You shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst. And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in…
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in…