Tag Archives: hopeful

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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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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a faint sound of something

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I could hear it
our shoes making a shoddy moon
on the fifteenth floor looking out over the city.

I can always hear the other
the sound of killing
shooting, the ringing of it
the sound of racism
silence, the subtlety of it
the sound of oppression
cash registers, the shininess of it
the sound of isolation
weeping, the breath-stealing nature of it

I can always hear the paranoia in the shadows of the other
I can always hear the anger in the panicky crisis
I can always hear the hopelessness in the news banner
flashing across the bottom of the screen

but there
moon-shaped shoes filled with
women and men now family and friend
the best and true of both
standing up and holding hands in prayer
as if holding hands kept us from blowing down
or blowing apart
or blowing away

thy kingdom come
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven

thy kingdom come
to the ringing
to the subtlety
to the shininess
to the breath-stealing

and make things whole
we asked.

And it was in that moment
over and above and beyond and inside and all around
I could hear the faint sound of something
a symphony of some kind
a little more melodious
a little more beautiful
a little more free

I could hear a faint sound of something
–a symphony of some kind–
and it sounded like hope.

djordan
Rosemary Beach

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I am alive.

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I’m not sure if it comes from my stomach, or maybe from my lungs, or if it actually originates in my throat itself. The language, though, is quite apt that it chokes me up suddenly. I may be speaking about something that feels important but only distantly related to me, and I feel it clench in my throat and somehow trigger the possibility of tears. I may be accidentally thinking of visiting someone who is no longer here to visit. I may be caught by surprise remembering rhythms that no longer exist. It may be the newness of new lives, new relationships, new opportunities, new challenges that do it.

Whatever it is, it comes seemingly out of nowhere and reminds me, ultimately, that I am alive.

I am alive.

If it’s singing at volumes and octaves that I would never sing in front of someone else, it’s the reminder of being alive. If it’s weeping suddenly because life is more confusing than anyone ever said it would be, it’s the reminder that I’m alive. If it’s a ten-second gap with a client where something happens and all of both of us comes crashing into a single pregnant and powerful moment and we sit in silence knowing that something beyond us has happened, it’s the reminder that I’m alive. A dance with the dogs. A drive with the windows down. A game with a child. Laughter with friends. Tears in startling places. Thin space with students or friends or clients or coworkers.

We are alive.

There’s the challenge, of course. Even when longing to freeze the moment because it feels like it’s perfect enough and true enough and thick enough to rest in it forever, I can’t because life doesn’t freeze that way. Even when longing to make the moment disappear because it feels like it’s too empty and ugly and sticky and deathly to be worth existing in, I can’t because life doesn’t erase that way.

But in the space between wanting to make something last forever and wanting to make something never have happened at all, I remember that I am alive. And being alive itself is worth savoring and leaning into with all the goodness and all the crap of it, trusting that in leaning into both the goodness and the crap, we lean more into our true selves.

And we are alive.

djordan
Pine Tree

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signs of the kingdom: returning to the courtroom

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There’s poetry of space. And poetry of context. And poetry of memory.

Sitting in the City’s courtroom, where one of my Drug Treatment Court clients reminded me is where the District Attorney’s table is usually placed, I sensed a strong push to remember that holiness shows up in the places we forget to look. And when it shows up, it reminds us that we often look for truth and good gospel news in places that, while religious, are dry and sterile and only shadows of the actual good news. And then there are these other places, where we anticipate the bad news and the emptiness, that we discover the thick and sticky good news that we couldn’t not notice even were that our intention from the beginning.

And in that poetry of space and context and memory, I sit eating a meal and celebrating process and progress with those at all stages of recovery from addiction. Recent drug dealer sitting next to the city mayor. New addition to the Drug Treatment Court program sitting next to the judge that made an offer to seek treatment in lieu of jail.

I find myself sitting next to program participants, grateful for their insight, their courage and the ways they push the truth of the church into my own heart and head through their recovery-minded honesty, acceptance and perseverance.

And the poetry of space and context and memory seems to be ringing louder and louder every time I scan the room. The poetry of people landing themselves in the courtroom after committing a crime in the wake of substance abuse. The poetry of other people, long on the road to recovery linking hands and holding out hope for a future of clarity that seems impossible at that dark time. The poetry of sitting in the very place where you were once sentenced and forced to stare, maybe for the first time, the ugly truth and lies of addiction and powerlessness and unmanageability in the face, now sitting in that very place to celebrate your sobriety and recovery with those ahead of you and those walking in the path left a little more believable in your wake.

And you breath it in deeply because it’s easy to forget when the music isn’t as loud and the poetry isn’t as bold. The day to day and the task to task and the decision to decision doesn’t feel like it’s actually saddling up next to transformation of whole persons with the whole of the good news. For the clients, for the families, for the therapists, for the attorneys, for the judge. The one step at a time mentality feels like it’s actually leading absolutely nowhere.

And then you sit in the room where people were once on trial, convicted of a crime, and watch them now celebrate their newfound strength and resilience, sharing a meal with the ones who made the arrest and the sentence as they cheer for each other.

It’s a sign of the kingdom, no doubt. A sign of the hard work and tested patience of transformation of whole people in communities with the church finding them rather than waiting for them to show up to  building. A reminder that we find Christ all over again when we do life with each other because we find him when we look the truths and the lies in the face.  The sign of the kingdom stands as a reminder that the presence of the church better be in every crack and cranny of every need in every community before we rest, because there are great opportunities and great stories to be told and great poetry to be created. In our own lives and the lives of those in the margins. Even in the courtroom.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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scarred by struggle, transformed by hope

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I received a book in the mail today from a friend I met through the blog.

Multiple conversations have been had via email, with time and oceans in between, about issues of faith and justice and loss and hope and hopelessness and holding on. When I recently had a time of near blog-silence, she checked in to see how things were. She immediately hit right on the nature of the issues adding to the silence, and gracefully wrote words that echoed like prayers of acceptance of creative silence, and requesting of hopeful imagination.

And today, after waking up to run, pour a slow cup of coffee and then get back to work at Area Relief Ministries for the first time since mid-December, I walked in to see a package on my desk. I opened it up and immediately knew who it was from, as this friend had referenced the book in an email during those dry days.

The following is an excerpt, and the book itself, sitting on my desk in its packaging waiting quietly like the sneaky gift it was is now a reminder, of how the kingdom community is broader and larger and more powerful than I remember on most days. It is ebbing and flowing in and out of our quiet and alive places, keeping us moving and pushing forward, even when we aren’t sure why it’s worth it.

So to this friend, and the other friends of which there are many brave and marginalized kingdom-souls, who are willing to tell the stories of struggle in an effort to sing the true songs of hope, I cannot say thank you enough.

djordan
108 S Church

“Hope is rooted in the past but believes in the future. God’s world is in God’s hands, hope says, and therefore cannot possibly be hopeless. Life, already fulfilled in God, is only the process of coming to realize that we have been given everything we need to come to fullness of life, both here and hereafter. The greater the hope, the greater the appreciation of life now, the greater the confidence in the future, whatever it is. 

But if struggle is the process of evolution from spiritual emptiness to spiritual wisdom, hope is a process as well. Hope, the response of the spiritual person to struggle, takes us from the risk of inner stagnation, of emotional despair, to a total transformation of life. … The spirituality of struggle gives birth to the spirituality of hope.” 

from “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope,” by J.D. Chittister

 

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sabbath tuesday mornings

the beauty of the sabbath
and the reminder of both
all we can accomplish
and all we can only hope for
in our work
is found in
the beauty of the sabbath

rest required
in small part because we need the break
in large part because we need the reminder
that we are joining in the work
not steering it
not guiding it
not forcing it
but joining it
but learning it
but trusting it

and so the sabbath
becomes the reminder
that we are invited
that we are needed
that we are a part,

and only a part
a humble
a grateful
a broken part,

of the magic of the work.
so there is always time to rest
even on sabbath Tuesday mornings.

djordan
Pine Tree

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lost and found in the margins

you may have chosen to go there
you may have wandered there on accident
you may have been pushed there by something horrible
you may have been led there by something wonderful

first there, it is all at once terrifying and
all at once invigorating
it is all at once filled with hope and
all at once filled with hopelessness

but however you got there
and whatever it felt like
you find yourself unable to leave
so you begin to make your home there

not because it all makes sense
and not because you know what to do
and not because you’ve been here before
but because you can’t imagine being anywhere else

but here.

and once you decide that you are willing to live there
you find others who moved in long ago
because they chose to go there
because they were wandered there
because they were pushed there
because they were led there

and they too, soon learned, they could not leave

so you join with them
and with the others
and begin to learn what it really means

to live there
to live here
in the margins.

djordan
Managua, Nicaragua

 

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closing the book | Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I cannot remember the last time I’ve fallen so deeply into a novel. I’ve said for many years that I’m not grown up enough to read fiction, so I mostly stick with memoirs and textbooks.

After finishing Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” I’m sticking to my guns and saying I’m not grown up enough for fiction,

but that it is surely time for me to start growing up.

A better summary can be found HERE, but in a single swipe of great injustice, I’ll try: it’s a story of a young boy whose father was killed in the 9/11 attacks. It is his parallel journeys through finding a lock that a mysterious key of his father’s opens, and through a child’s honest and sharp grief of losing a father on “the worst day ever.” I often found myself with tears about to break, just after a laugh would suddenly erupt. I felt more human while reading than I’ve felt in a very long time.

What I noticed the most were the dozen times that I would find myself shielding my eyes from the upcoming lines, often closing the book in the middle of a conversation, an argument in motion, a story in telling, a memory in recollection.

I knew I wasn’t ready for it.

I knew I couldn’t bear to go on. Yet.

So I shut the book; I looked around to wonder why no one else was as worried about the impending outcome as me. And then finally, after the not-knowing would outweigh the not-wanting-to-know, I would flip the book back open, hold my breath, and …

***

I read books and journal articles constantly about clinical and community work because I want to do justice with the beyond-generous people who offer me their beyond-personal stories as we look to do hopeful and honest work together in therapy.

But I’ve never closed a text on grief and grieving because I couldn’t bare to read what came next. My heart doesn’t bleed out onto the pages of an article about responses of communities to children who lost parents on September 11. A text can name and normalize complex emotions, but the voice in a well-written novel can make me feel it.

Make me feel it so much that I have to close the story and catch my breath.

And you can close the book and catch your breath until you know that you must find out what happens in a novel. And precisely in those closed-book moments, I think we are being honest with ourselves, and the teller of the story––and ourselves when we are the teller of the story––honest in that we simply can’t bare it anymore, and we must take a breather if we are to remain human. The thickness of our humanity is often more than even we can tell or hear or feel about.

Textbooks make it clean. Novels make it raw. Living voices make it true.

So we have to do whatever it takes to finish hearing the stories.

The stories of poverty.

Of abuse.

Of abused power.

Of arrogant leadership.

Of selfless givingship.

Of painful loss.

Of ridiculous loss.

Of silent suffering.

Of resilient sufferers.

Of global conflict.

Of über-local conflict.

Of the conversations and stories of the flesh-and-blood people who are acting in those roles as antagonist and protagonist and an(pro)tagonist.

If it takes closing the book for a few moments to catch our breath before we say, “Go on. If you have to tell, I have to know…”

***

I’m a better person for feeling what the book invited me to feel. I’m sure I’ll keep reading textbooks and articles, but it’s time for me to grow up into a deeper humanity and brave the world of fiction for all that it can help me see and feel. For all that it can help me hear. And then listen to.

It feels necessary as part of living and leaning into the kingdom.

Even if it takes closing the book multiple times over to catch my breath before losing it again.

djordan
Cape Town, South Africa

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