Tag Archives: community

an open letter to my students

i-also-remember-this

An Open Letter to My Students on the Eve of the Orlando Shooting.

June 12, 2016

Dear Students,

You likely woke up today as I did: late. You may or may not have turned on the news as is my morning wake-up custom, coffee in hand and multiple snoozes later. Within moments it became clear that there was yet another mass shooting while we were sleeping. This morning’s shooting at a gay night club in Orlando. Over 100 dead and injured.

I remember thinking ‘My soon-to-be godson is to be baptized today. My responsibilities seem yet-again larger now.’

I’m late to the service by a few minutes this morning; I know you’re not surprised. I stood too long at the television in my bedroom, clenching the wooden ledge on top of the dresser left in the room by my great, great-aunts who were the unusual of their era; they were highly educated, remarkably fashionable, and unusually independent women from a time where that was not allowed. No doubt they were recipients of both celebration and judgment. The dresser left in the bedroom of this house they used which I now sleep in has new fingernail marks as of this morning, left accidentally as I should have been dressing for a baptismal service but was instead being washed again in the blood of others.

“I also remember this, and wish I did not,” as Didion once said. I remember that I was not surprised.

Yet another killing, this time the largest mass shooting in our states’ history and the largest terrorist attack on US soil since my freshmen year of college when I sat in a lecture hall of Blanchard at Wheaton and watched the towers fall before my eyes.

I remember this morning thinking that I was surprised that morning as an 18-year-old hopeful, but that I am not surprised now as a 32-year-old hopeful. And it is the hopefulness of my better wiring which has been wanting to talk to all of you all day long today, even though you’ve managed to sneak away from me for the summer. I’ve managed to talk to you in one of our random, side conversations all day long in my head regardless. Then I decided that I hope you might hear it.

Many of you value your faith deeply; I do as well. Because of this, those who believe differently from you are owed your love and honor. The faith you claim has told you so; the faith leaders you are bothered by have challenged this. Follow your faith.

Many of you think
public policy,
issues of social policy and social welfare,
wealth and poverty,
emails to your governors and senators and representatives
(unanswered as most of them go…which you will remember),
childhood development and influence,
family structure and complexity,
group norms and roles,
mob mentalities and social capacities,
and research formulas and findings
aren’t connected in any real way
to your deep desire to help those who are in need.

The crimes of today should remind you that these things are all connected.

The language and now law signed in by Governor Bill Haslam in Tennessee that allow therapists to legally hate and discriminate by refusing counseling to those of the LGBTQ community affected by today’s mass shooting is an issue of policy, welfare, wealth and poverty, legislators who listen and those who ignore (and are paid to do so, which you will remember), legislation and its [silent] funders, biological development and its influences, structure, complexity, norms, roles, mob mentalities and social capacities, research and its findings…

This language and this legislation and these legislators and these voices are the authors of the men and women who will come into your offices and onto your caseloads wounded, orphans of those killed by this morning’s violence, orphans of those who had parents who lived lives of silence or submission to a norm, or stood silently in the back of your sanctuaries on mornings like these as you went to church and thought it was a regular Sunday morning.

I felt the need all day long today, now pushing the clock to make it honest, to let you know that I expect the world of you.

I am pretty sure I have told you this. You will be the best.

I expect a whole other kind of world from you. I expect you to wake up on days like today with the news of the moment and the heart of a saint that is both willing to break the rules and willing to break the norms to dig your fingernails into the wooden ledge on top of the dresser and be late for something planned and appropriate because you decided you had to stand up and speak out for something possibly inappropriate because it puts all of our humanity at risk.

So in class, when I hound you and harass you and rap at you and sing at you and yell at you and take points from you and even when I feed you in an effort to buy you, please know this: I do all these things so that some day, some Sunday morning when someone is waking up and committing to go to church and pledge gratefully to be a godfather for a young man or young woman who has not yet learned to distrust the world…

I do all these things so that you will remember that it will never be okay for us to not be surprised at this kind of hateful news that greeted us this morning.

I’m counting on you.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

waiting to see

10_57

We can’t bare it anymore.
We are waiting to see what you do
and we are waiting to see how you move forward.
Your self-definitions based on hatred and bigotry and xenophobia
don’t resonate with us anymore
or maybe they never did, but we are telling you now.
They don’t resonate with us
because the people we live with and work with
are people harmed by your xenophobia and bigotry and hatred.
And we take that personally.
You taught us to take harm personally.

So now we are working and walking
slowly in the world,
hoping to find the place and the people
who can’t bare it anymore either.
Especially not in his name.
We are looking for the people who
just like us
find themselves captivated by a story
a little bigger,
a lot bigger
than a story of againstness
a lot bigger
than a story of notness.

We are working and walking and hoping and looking
for each other.
We are the people who are leaning into a
more kingdom-minded future.
A future where the gospel grows thick
in the soil of surprising gratitude
and hospitality
and willingness
and welcomeyness.

We don’t hate our neighbors.
We aren’t afraid of them.
We love them,
and we’re following a Christ who taught us to.

So we are waiting to see what you do.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

an end to preludes

boyond-preludes

There is a rumble of insistence for
an end to preludes without their symphonies.

Beyond announcements and proclamations,
beyond ceremonies and unveilings,
crowds of regular people gather
who are still working and sweating
to raise their families
to help their neighbors
to reimagine their surroundings
to dream their futures
and to build into their communities
into something a little more whole.

Beyond the prelude
the people are still waiting
for the movement to begin.

Beyond the prelude
we are waiting and clamoring,
we have become restless waiting and clamoring,
for the movement to begin.

There is no longer an acceptance of only preludes;
we’ve learned the movement is supposed to follow.

We don’t expect it to be played for us;
we’ve been learning to play for quite some time now.
We expect to add our own music to the work.
We don’t expect it to ring without error;
we’ve been learning from our errors for quite some time now.
We expect to mess up, tell the truth about it, and continue to play.
We don’t expect to hear it immediately;
we’ve been learning how long it takes for good music to be born.
We expect to see it both in small pieces and suddenly in finished products.

But let us be clear;
we will no longer accept the preludes without their symphonies.
If there is intent to impose again
an acceptance of the status quo
of all prelude and no movement
of all proclamation and no production
of all appeasing and no activity
of all explanation and no substance,
hear this:
We do not accept your offer.

We’ve waited.
We’ve traveled.
We’ve worked.
We’ve trained.
We’ve sweat.

You will not scare us into silence.
You will not threaten us into acceptance.
You will not bully us into appeasement.

We know that the prelude is only the prelude;
there’s music to be heard.
And we know that while terrifying,
it is the music of the kingdom.
And we will play it together.
And we will hear it together.

And whether or not you join us,
we will move beyond the preludes.
There’s music to be heard.

djordan
Chicago, IL

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

kingdom comes over hot chicken

10906123_10153007402159443_4467631661083573300_n

Several weeks ago it was at a greenhouse under the South African sun. It was with two friends, one from South Africa and one from England, both in Cape Town now chasing the kingdom hard and fast. One works to transform the way housing is addressed for those living in informal settlements by way of valuing inherent wisdom, skill and reality. The other is working to address issues of gang violence, trauma, and youth development not only in Cape Town but in the hearts and plans of those around the world.

A few weeks later, it was in Nashville, Tennessee. We were talking about whether hot chicken was hot enough or too hot as we prepared for a wedding a few hours later. Friends without the pretense of worry of doing it right or doing it fancy, it was a celebration of choosing to do it and do it together. Friends willing to push through the new uncertainty of what it means to be a community surrounding those who are choosing to do life together. Friends who will argue over the heat of Nashville’s hot chicken in the morning, pretend not to cry at a lifelong commitment in the afternoon, and dance like no one knows what dancing is supposed to look like in the evening.

And this week, like last week, and like the other weeks in between was at the altar rail at a little church on the north side of town. Hands out, breath held, eyes up, it all swelled together. I’ve heard my priest and favorite friend say before that when we kneel at the rail, we share in communion with those with us in that moment, those who are gather at Christ’s table around the globe, and those who have both joined the table in centuries past as well as those who will come after us with the same assurances and the same uncertainties as we knelt at the rail today.

This morning, hands out, I joined them. I joined my brothers and sisters in Cape Town. I joined my sisters and brothers over hot chicken in Nashville. I joined my own local church community, and all those who were at their own churches both in my own city and in cities around the globe and through the ages.

I’ll work toward justice tomorrow and push against institutional power and greed.
I’ll seek beauty and laughter and silliness tomorrow with adults who hate it and children who love it.
I’ll do paperwork and billing tomorrow and wonder what I’m doing and why I care.
I’ll push a few steps forward into and few steps back from the kingdom of God.

And I’ll only be able to do anything at all tomorrow by the mystery of
the power that somehow shakes the rail every time I kneel,
whether at a nursery in Cape Town
or over hot chicken in Nashville
or the altar at my little church.

His kingdom comes.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

prayer for a friend

Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 8.36.47 AM
So I give thanks
for something there’s no way I could have earned
for something there’s no way I could deserve
but something I realize I cannot do without
people who listen well
people who challenge well
people who feed well
and toast well
and laugh well
and cry well
and even make the space
to witness well
as we learn the truth about ourselves
in the comfort of their presence.
And in reflection,
we know we cannot make it without them.
And so we pray for them that they experience
sometimes from us and often from many others
the same kind of listening, challenging,
feeding, toasting, laughing and crying,
and even that they may find others who will be witness
to their learning the truth about themselves.
We know the great peace and security they bring to us
that is surely a kind of kingdom peace and security that is from you,
and so we wish all of that
and ten fold
for them.
Amen.
djordan
Pine Tree
a grateful prayer for a certain friend

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

from the archives: the last of our twenties

I’m reposting this post, from 364 days ago (wait, was there a leap year this year?). This is the last day to reflect from my twenties. Even the last year of the twenties has made this post from one year ago more true, not less. It’s been a good run so far, I’d say. I’ve been surrounded by good folks.

djordan
Pine Tree

VIEW THE ORIGINAL POST FROM AUGUST 12, 2012 HERE.

 THE LAST OF OUR TWENTIES

 

It is not uncommon to think we know exactly who matters and exactly who will shape the course of our future, or join us as it shapes. At the ripe age of 16, there were several folks who would be those people. They filled the shop for a surprise party that I was too dumb to figure out. Those people still remain friends, and fewer remain close. At 18, we headed to Memphis in a limo and made predictions about the future; we were right on with most of them. And now, at 29, we will head again to Memphis for the last birthday of the twenties. All that we did know, and all that we didn’t know, wrapped up like a gift for the opening.

I remember my high school English teacher, Mrs. Kee telling us once in class that we would never talk to the people we were friends with in high school after we graduated. She was right in most things, crazy in many, but wrong about that. Yet knowing how she worked, and how crazy she was, maybe that was a dare, a challenge, a kind of psychological game to make us make it work.

And now, looking at the last of the twenties, it has worked. The picture above was taken laying down Mom and Dad’s foyer rug on mine and Brooke’s 21st birthday. We will hop in a limo later this week to celebrate the 29th.

I suspect I can speak for all of us to say it’s a privilege to celebrate with old friends.

The privilege is likely greater, though, that the circle has grown.

When I was laying down on the carpet back then, I would never have imagined the role those folks would play in my life, but I would have expected it. What I never would have expected, h on owever, is the role that new friends who have entered the circle would play––how they would become crucial pieces in the story of who I am and who I am becoming.

There would have been no way to know.

Even 8 years ago, two years ago, I would not have guessed what people who crash into the circle would bring, how they would change my mind, broaden my understanding, invigorate my imagination, and strengthen my hope in the already-not yet kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

From West Texas to South Africa; from a desert meal in Israel to a client in a trailer in Lexington; from the front porch on Pine Tree to the valleys of Napa; from a group of those wrestling with grief to a classroom of those disciplining hope; from cheese and toast around the kitchen counter to hors’ doeuvres on white tablecloths under candlelight, from a rocking chair in Nicaragua to a hammock on Pleasant Plains; from a limo ride over ten years ago to a limo ride today, I am now more sure than ever:

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
+ Psalm 27:13

djordan
Pine Tree

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

the best of us and the worst of us

Light-and-Dark-1024x768

we act our best
when we know we need to 
and it’s not completely a lie
but rather an appearance that
only shows the things we are most proud of in ourselves. 
 
so at work
at events
in conversations
over coffee
over brews
sometimes over family dinners
we act our best
 
and then there are those other times where 
we act ourselves
which is not different from our best
but includes the rest of us
the jealous of us
the insecure of us
the intimidated of us
the petty of us
the bitter of us
and also the best of us. 
 
and every now and then
because God knows we need our sanity
we find those people who allow 
the best of us
and the worst of us
the jealous of us and
the humble of us
the insecure of us and
the confident of us
the intimidated of us and 
the empowered of us
the petty of us and
the courageous of us
the bitter of us and 
the reflective of us
 
the best of us and 
the worst of us. 
 
and it’s the people
that holy few people
who know us completely 
at our best and at our worst
that we rest in and
that we find ourselves in and
that we discover the courage
to seek first the kingdom with. 
 
at our best and our not best. 
 
djordan
Pine Tree Dr.
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

city legs and soundtracks

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 9.37.32 PM

She told me that it’s obvious to her who is from the city or lives in the city, and who is a tourist trying to pass as a local. I tried hard––quite hard I might say––to be a local. My fanny pack was left at home, I wasn’t looking up for the top of each building I walked past, and I pronounced the number nine like a good midwesterner rather than a good Tennesseean.

The giveaway, though, was that I didn’t have train legs.

She was in her seventies, groceries in tow, because that’s apparently what you do if you’re a local, and she was watching my knees buckle each time the L hit a bump, wiggle or stop in downtown Chicago. It was the ride back out from a weekend trip that was supposed to be with a friend who couldn’t come at the last minute, so I was a single dude spending a weekend in the city I thought of as home for two years in college.

My ride from Midway into town found me wearing my white earbuds plugged into my second generation iPod (you’re welcome) looking out the window of the Orange Line as we (me and all these strangers) made our way into the city. I don’t remember the song, and the fact that I remember the moment without the song makes it all the more important to me. Jostling into downtown, my legs apparently giving me away more than I realized, I found myself gazing out the window noticing that times like these are things of movies and soundtracks, people and lives and entire worlds passing by as the music plays to make sure that you know that every moment of what you are seeing is important for something that’s coming in the story, or for something that has just happened that you’re still chewing on.

It wasn’t until my trip out that I was informed that my legs gave me away as an outsider.

Now, in the small, rural West Tennessee town that holds my work and family and friends, I often forget that were I to add a soundtrack there is great importance to the transit, the one mile commute to work, the people standing on the side of the road, in front of me in line, in the waiting room at the office, on the other end of the phone. And my realizing that the soundtrack is––or at least should be playing––makes me more aware that I am using my non-city legs, perhaps my small, rural West Tennessee town legs, to navigate these waters in ways that hopefully do justice and love mercy and walk humbly in the town that is and has been home for quite some time.

It’s worth a soundtrack, I think. The people must be.
And we will spot your city legs. ha.

djordan
Pine Tree

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,