Tag Archives: faith

an open letter to my students

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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.

 

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you will go to church tomorrow

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About five years ago, I sat next to her the morning she was trying church again. I understand why she had quit trying altogether up until now…the threats and the punches from her husband, the need to stay in the marriage from her old church and pastor, the reality of how in hell to care for her children and protect herself at the same time. I couldn’t believe she showed up to begin with. And on that Sunday morning, the sermon itself was ultimately about how wives should keep doing the right thing even when their husbands’ don’t in hopes that their husbands will come around. God bless.

For people dealing with socks in the floor or toilet seats left up, perhaps this is not a problematic statement. But the reality that more than two thirds of christian women in violent relationships feel like it’s their duty to tolerate the violencemakes it a problem. The difficulty with knowing that nine out of ten church-going, christian women interviewed felt that their husbands used their religion and doctrine to support their abuse2 makes it even messier.

I worked at the church at that time, so I found myself on Monday morning wringing my hands while deciding whether or not to mention this difficulty to the preacher. When walking in that morning, one of the staff who worked there at the time asked if I had been at church the day before and what I thought about it. After playing dumb and answering with questions, it became clear that she was a survivor of domestic violence and left the sermon the day before feeling guilty for leaving the marriage. Another conversation with yet another church staffer made it clear that there were at least two women in the building who had been in “christian” marriages in the past where domestic violence was present. They had both pushed courageously through their church’s tradition that you have to stay, wait it out, and keep doing the right thing in hopes that your male “head of the christian marriage” will come around. The two of them before 9:30 in the morning made it clear that I had to mention this issue to the preacher in hopes that in the future he would be willing to make the caveat to avoid these silent sufferers leaving church thinking God is mad at them for their bravery in avoiding assault.

His response when I scheduled a meeting with him about the issue?

“You can caveat a sermon to death.”

A few days later, an additional response.

“It’s not your place to talk to me like you’re my teacher.”

I managed to leave my employment at that church too many months later after these interactions. I’ve learned in the meantime, now serving my second year as chair for an incredible nonprofit working to empower women and men in abusive relationships to get the hell out, the reality that many churches are afraid to address head on the issues of domestic violence out of fear that people are looking for excuses for divorce.

Please catch your breath with me.

Many churches and their male pastors, in this area at least, are afraid to address head on the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault out of fear that women are looking for excuses for divorce. Or, for the incredibly important reason that we can “caveat a sermon to death.”

To my friend that Sunday morning sitting next to me, leg and arm muscles tightening as you received word from the pastor that you should stick it out, I’m so sorry. I wan you I left. I moved on. And I wish I had never invited you. To church staff who pushed through the same issues, I’m so sorry. I left. I want you to know I moved on. And so did you. To the women who are still in church and still in marriages and still wondering whether or not God honors marriage more than your own safety and dignity, I have good news. He is for you.

This past Sunday, I watched as the Executive Director of WRAP, the nonprofit working to empower survivors of sexual and domestic violence, climbed the steps to the microphone at my church during the middle of the service. I felt my watery eyes turn on as she spoke gently and directly about the number of women who show up for services at WRAP and say that they were afraid to tell their churches because they were afraid they wouldn’t be believed. I watched the priest walk over to this woman as she was trying to make her way off the platform as he said, “please don’t go yet. If I can, I’d like to pray for you and the people your organization works with.” I watched him put his arms around her and say, “Thank you God for women like Daryl, and for places like WRAP, and for the work they do as a part of your church to let people know your heart if for marriages and families of mutual respect. You are a God who wants peace in families, and safety for all in the family. We know, God, that you are never for the abuse of your children. So we say today that we stand with you against domestic violence for all reasons.  Empower your servants to work with great power to free those in danger, and know that you are with them.”

You will go to church tomorrow. Is your church willing to honor peace over abusive marriage? Ask. Find out. Make it an issue, and make sure that your church will speak up. The people affected by these issues won’t cause problems in your congregations; they will go home and take another fist to the face. The burden is ours. The insistence is His.

djordan
Pine Tree

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced domestic or sexual violence, contact WRAP by visiting www.wraptn.org. 

Nash, S. T., Faulkner, C., & Abell, R. R. (2013). Abused conservative Christian wives: Treatment considerations for practitioners. Counseling and Values (58). October, pp. 205-220.
2. Nickmeyer, N., Levitt, H. & Horne, S. G. (2010). Putting on Sunday best: The silencing of battered women within Christian faith communities. Feminism and Psychology. (20)2. February, pp. 94-113.

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Lord willing, we won’t keep growing

Our Jackson Home posted a piece I wrote reflecting on this year’s Remember Me Walk for survivor’s of homicide loss. This group is astounding to me, and I’ve copied some of the post below with a link to read it in its entirety. And if you have not yet checked out Our Jackson Home, you should probably get on the ball.

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The crowd was larger this year than any crowd the past seven. The Carl Grant Events Center at Union University was filled with tables surrounded by people of all kinds, ages, colors, and worlds held together by the sad reality that someone they loved has been murdered—some of them fifty years ago and some five months ago. The reality that no one truly understands this grief is echoed in the camaraderie across the room. “Lord-willing,” they say, “we won’t keep growing. We don’t want other people to know what this feels like.”

Grief is breathtaking. All have experienced it, and we know the deep-down grumbling in our guts that must be an echo of the deep-down grumbling in our souls.

A life is lost. A story ends. …

Click here to keep reading on Our Jackson Home

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carry on, warrior

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“People hurt the things they fear,” has become for me one of the most haunting lines of Glennon Doyle Melton’s not-so-new book.

And I’ve tried about ten times now to type out how Carry On Warrior has made me exhale so strongly and peacefully over the last week as I’ve been reading it. Her words have been a kind of subversive undertone to everything else I’m seeing and reading as the news unfolds.

Something in me is pushing hard against the rhetoric of hatefulness and fear, of greed and warmongering I hear predominantly from Christians as each day breaks across the globe. Something in me is pushing hard against this fear of neighbor, fear of other, fear of different. Since when did Jesus say kill for my sake, hate for my sake, marginalize for my sake? Something in me is pushing hard through the psuedo-christian noise for voices that speak to something altogether clear, and noble, and lovely, and gracious, and simple and beautiful. I don’t feel the need to kill the person who threatens to kill me; I feel the need for peace. I don’t feel the need to hurt the person who has hurt me; I feel the need to forgive. And I need to know other people feel that need too. And I need to know how to move into that need.

I don’t know how, though.

And Melton doesn’t claim to know how either, but somehow her words in Carry on Warrior actually begin to do it. Honoring a kind of David-like offense to face the giants of anxiety and fear and terrified christian culture, she manages to walk to the middle dropping one piece of heavy armor after the next knowing that it might be her end.

But also knowing that it might be her only chance in hell at an actual beginning.

I’m envious, really. But hopeful. I’m working to lean in to the call to be honest and hospitable when it means standing with those the church is screaming at and setting targets on. I’m working to lean in to the challenge to show up and do my best to return justice for injustice, generosity for stinginess, and even openness for rigidity and fear. It’s infuriating, and then again completely freeing. Something as if from another world altogether.

People harm the things they fear, she says. I’m doing my damnedest to stop being afraid.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

To follow her blog, visit momastery.com, and click here to find “Carry On, Warrior.”

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waiting to see

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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

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just right, right now

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I have this great desire
to look you square in the eyes
in the way that looks
beyond and through your eyes

to those places where you are
asking questions
raising doubts
blaming yourself
doubting your capacity
questioning your integrity
and holding your own peace hostage

to the ideas that you,
and others for you,
have created about

what you are supposed to be by now
what your past really means about you
how you really should feel about this
what you really should do about that

I want to look you in the eyes
in the way that looks
beyond and through your eyes

to those places that hold the truth

and when you think all’s lost
because the truth is finally known
because you have to admit
that you aren’t who you want to be
that you aren’t who you hope to be
that you aren’t what you think you can be

it’s those moments;
that’s when I want to grab your arms
between your shoulders and your elbows
and shake you like your life depends on it
and shake you like my life depends on it

it’s those moments;
that’s when I want to grab your arms
between your shoulders and your elbows
and look you in the eyes
and beyond your eyes
so you know the truth about who we are is known
and it’s mutual.

And then,
I want to take a deep breath
and pause
and let you know

how incredibly proud God is of you
how incredibly pleased God is with you
how incredibly jealous God is for you, and
how incredibly restless God is because

you are still too afraid to say
the refrain he’s been waiting to hear you say
for quite some time now:
“I am just right. Right now.”

I have this great desire
that you can look yourself in the eyes
and say, “I am just right. Right now.”

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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the ways of the king and the kingdom

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He’s stressed about work and life and pressure
and as we pray for each other
he uses the words
“on the chopping block.”

I’m waking up in the middle of the night
thinking about what has to be done, finished, started, explained, reminded
trying to remember more than I stress that the work is good work
and the ends do not depend on my ability to think up the means
because the rules of the kingdom of heaven
don’t follow the rules

but I hold my breath
and I clench my teeth
and I hunker down
over computer
over printer
over keyboard
over paperwork

hoping that all works out
so that we can do the work we hope to do
because God knows even on our worst days we know
that those we serve deserve it.

The trick, though
is that on our worst days
we forget that it is the kingdom they long for
we forget that it is the king they are waiting for
and we take on the pressure of the kingdom and the king
when the only pressure waiting for us is
the pressure of getting caught up in
the ways of the king and his kingdom

So as I wake in the middle of the night
with him in mind
neck on chopping block
and with me in mind
sanity on chopping block,
I do my best to remember
that the kingdom comes.
period.
and my prayer is to be caught up in
the ways of the king and his kingdom.

djordan
Pine Tree

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the best of us and the worst of us

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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.
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beyond trayvon

beyond trayvon

beyond even the tragedy of a teenage life lost
which is tragedy enough all by itself
is the tragedy that we cannot have
a conversation about the place in which we find ourselves
that goes beyond Trayvon

we have a story on our hands that rocks the airwaves
and makes for good television, whether legal or talk or music or news
and the story gets stuck in the soundbites
ignorant and hollow and poorly polarized
that sell ads for laundry detergent and weight loss aids

and all the while
there’s an issue on our hands
much greater than Trayvon Martin
which is by itself the loss of a teenager walking down the street
and is a great loss all its own

we have an issue on our hands that makes it impossible
to have real and needed conversations with people of the “other”
we know by name, not our token “other friends”
about what it means to live
black
white
hispanic
asian
gay
rich
poor
single
mentally ill

and in the meeting of our differences
we might find the answers that could lead us
from violence and hip-shooting ignorant vigilantism
to the deep and horrifying and necessary conversation
about what it means to work toward
a day when everyone,
perfectly different,
becomes perfectly alike and different together
celebrating kingdom come.
toward justice.
toward compassion.
toward the ordered throwing of stones.

But, because we can’t think outside the lines
given us by the news that sells laundry detergents and weight-loss aids
we run the risk of being stuck in a conversation that ends
with more hatefulness, ignorance and racism.

But, because we know we are ultimately able to think outside the lines
we run the risk of asking questions that citizens of the kingdom ask
with more compassion, empathy, and christlikeness.

and the story changes depending on which risks we decide to take.

God give us courage to take good risks.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

OTHER POSTS ON RACE AND RISK AND COURAGE

it’s dark in here
failure to imagine
rosa parks
let us turn our thought today

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