Tag Archives: peace

silence encourages the tormentor

elie-wiesel.we-must-always-take-sides

“Are you German?” he asked as three friends stood beside him; two stood to his left, one to his right.

“No. Of course I’m not,” I answered, realizing as the words came out of my mouth that being a white American to me meant I was only American; I was not German or English or Jewish or Irish or Scottish or Russian or French or Norwegian.

“No. I’m not,” I answered, realizing how blond-haired and blue-eyed I was when the question was asked, and realizing that I felt guilty because the color of my skin and the hue of my eyes and hair about five seconds after the question was thrown into the hallway as we sat waiting on others, now at the end of the Holocaust museum in Israel.

A profe soon rushed him and his buddies out of the museum hallway and through the exit doors moments afterward, I say now with a more red and more sweaty countenance waiting on the roughly eight dudes behind me in my group who were making their way through the horrifyingly real and terrifyingly factual Holocaust museum in Jerusalem over ten years ago. I rub my hands through my blonde, nappy hair.

We left the space soon after.
We ate dinner in New Jerusalem.
I sent a girl two tables over dessert for her birthday through our server who afterward informed me she was engaged “but appreciated the knafeh.”

I’ve gotten so old.

+++

Elie Wiesel died today.

+++

If I was reasonably intelligent and generally wise and not from West Tennessee, it would not have required the “Oprah Book Club” stamp several years ago on his book Night for me to have ever heard his name walking through Target looking for Coke Zero and classy toilet-bowl cleaner.

But I’m not reasonably intelligent and generally wise, and I am from West Tennessee, so here I was.

And here I am.

A white American male who has been told both it’s all my fault and also I must protect what I’ve “earned” at all costs. I’m left confused.

+++

I walked through the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis a few years ago with friends and coworkers from one of my employers and an organization that values my deepest insecurities and deepest hopes.

I wept.

We wept.

We debriefed later that evening, and I could only wonder, “Would I have been that one random white dude standing in a sea of black men and women demanding justice, respect, and equality.” I told our folks at dinner, black and brown and white and pale, “I hope I would be one who stood up against those plowed by horses, intimidated by canes, and hung by ropes in the days of my parents (not my grandparents).

I later learned, driving through Alabama to visit friends, these hangings were in my own day. They were not carefully removed to parents or grandparents; It was the right now.

But I could only hope that I would have been one of those few white folks in the crowd demanding justice, respect, and equality for the “other” in those days.

Those days which are these days.

Elie Wiesel died today.

And I am hoping in my less trustworthy but more important parts that I will lean into Wiesel’s character and spirit and honor.

+++

It may take me down, but I must stand up for those who are pushed under. I do have blonde hair and blue eyes. I benefitted from both slavery. But I need to answer “no” to the teenagers in the final hallway at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. And I need to answer “no” to my coworker. And I need to answer “no” to the person who checks me in to vote a few months from now where I’m held at ethical gunpoint and asked if I stand for nothing or if I’ll fall for anything.

Rest in peace, after such incredible chaos, brother Wiesel.

I cannot be neutral.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

on psalm 35 | what I want; what I want to ask for; what I need

psalm35a

What I want is to know you are for me,
which seems odd to ask;
that you over and in and of all things
might stand up for me and
fight for me and
stop attacks against me.

I know I need to hear from you,
though;
I need to hear that you are,
if not now then ultimately,
saving me and prepared to be saving me
from everything that fights against me
and inside me
and around me.

You see that I’ve been fighting for a while now?
You see that I’ve been asking for you for a while now?

I want to ask of you
I want a promise of you
that anyone
that any person
that any group
that any funder
that any fearer
who may be after me
who may be scared of me
anyone who gossips or finagles or whispers
in piety or privilege or petty or paranoia or peril or against me
would be put on the front page
under headlines of shame or confusion
under headlines of disaster or destruction.
I want to hope that whatever they hope happens to me
ultimately happens to them, but worse.
More public.
More noticed.
More shamed.

And I think<
were that to happen,
I might be happy, finally.
If those in other worlds of piety and paternalism,
if those in other worlds of arrogance and ambition,
might finally be put in their place,
I think I might,
then and then only,
sing a song of honest gratitude to you
giving thanks that things are well
and trusting finally that you are King
and trusting finally that I’m with those who win.
Trusting finally that I’m worth it;
that this is all worth it.
I would be such an incredible person
when they all get what they deserve.

I promise.

It feels granted, of course,
for me to wait for their demise.
Because when they struggled, I struggled.
Because when they defended, I defended.
Because when they were offended, I retreated.
Because when they were angry, I apologized.

And maybe I need to know
after all this time
that you are for me.

Because it feels like you
just watch.

Like you just do nothing.

I’m sorry for saying it, I guess,
that It feels, sometimes,
like I’m paying attention
and you just aren’t paying any attention.

How long do I have to ask for help?
How long do I have to wait for some kind of validation?

Do you refuse to help me?
Am I all wrong about all of this?
And I pushing away from what you are pushing toward?

I can’t believe it,
so if I’m all wrong,
fight me.

But if not,
will you stand up for me at least?
And if you won’t stand up for me at least,
will you let me know you’re for me?

I’ll give it back to you,
whatever that means.
whatever that costs.
I swear it.

I suppose, finally,
whether or not you decide to be for me,
I need to ask that you be for those,
no matter how big
no matter how small
no matter how wealthy
no matter how poor
no matter how crazyno matter how appropriate
no matter how irreverent
no matter how pious
no matter how marginalized
no matter how important
no matter how detested
no matter how esteemed
no matter how quiet
no matter how loud

I suppose, finally,
even though what I want to ask,
after all this nonsense and ridiculousness,
is that you be for me,
in a way that shows you are against them,

I need to ask less that you be for me
and more that you be for those
who seek
your peace
your shalom
your kingdom
your King.

And while I’m afraid to let you off the hook,
because I fear you might take advantage of it;
and while I’m losing some confidence in you,
because you aren’t doing what I’m hoping you will do

if I still tell myself the truth,
even then,
even if you don’t prove it to me,
or if I’m not convinced that you do ––
stand up for me that is ––
I have little choice
but to keep pushing forward
for your peace
for your shalom
for your kingdom
for our King.

I have seen and learned too much
to only stand with
the big
the wealthy
the appropriate
the pious
the esteemed
the loud.

I can’t stand with the men of standing.
They stand on those you are for.

So even if they win today,
kind of,
I’m working toward,
more than today:
all the days.
I’ll keep talking about
how you empower
peace, shalom, kingdom;
how you empower your King.
And for that,
no matter what I need to ask of you,
I’ll sing songs of hope and thanks about you.
And the crowds will,
finally,
sings songs of hope and thanks about you,
won’t they?

But seriously.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

image from The Ismar David Electronic Archive
Click here for Psalm 35 \ NRSV 
via BibleGateway

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

st francis prays again

francis

It’s a feeble attempt, really. If I weren’t sure of the willingness of God himself to accept my feeble attempts, which sometimes I am not actually, I wouldn’t attempt this. But, nevertheless, herein is my attempt at praying the Prayer of St. Francis (or whoever it should be attributed to) for myself. Again. (This post is about five attempts later.)

First, my own version; followed by the Prayer of St. Francis.

God help me, I am capable of making noise for many things
but I beg that you would help me make music toward your shalom.
Where people pour out ugliness and fury, help me be a gardener of acceptance and mutuality;
Where there is a history and presence of war and oppression, help me be a gardener of forgiveness and willing hospitality toward the other;
Where things are wrong and closed and tight, help me be a gardener of truth and honesty and humility;
Where there are darknesses and questions and fields of belieflessness, help me be a gardener of possibility and flowering questions;
Where there is hurt and damage and isolation, help me a gardener of healing and hope and communitas;
Where there is hopelessness and maps that speak only to the end of the road, help me be a  gardener of new roads and new paths and unseen forks in the road;
Where their is pain and illness and struggle, help me be a gardener of life and health and work;
God, where the things we feel in our darkest moments feel more real than anything we can touch, make the things of you touchable and bright and real enough for the moment.

Help me work less to feel more whole than to speak wholeness to others.
Help me work less to have the answers than to feel the questions of others.
Help me work less to know I am a part of the circle than to move the circle out so that all are included.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in becoming poor that we become rich.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in wiping the tears of others that our own tears are dried.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in letting go of all we hold on to that our shame is released.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in giving up that we find we have given nothing to gain everything. Forever.

God help me, I am capable of making noise for many things
but I beg you guide me to make music toward your shalom.

Amen.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-St. Francis, or whomever it was.

djordan
Chapel Hill, NC

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

us and them

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 8.37.22 PM

At the moment it becomes
“us” and “them”
we’ve lost.
we’ve thrown in the towel.
we’ve waived the white flag.
we’ve thrown the grenade.
we’ve waged the war.
we’ve fired the shot.
we’ve sold our sole.
we’ve eaten the fruit.

At the moment it becomes
“us” and “them”
we’ve allowed ourselves
the illusion that we aren’t all connected
the illusion that we aren’t all the same
the illusion that we aren’t all both Cain and Abel
the illusion that we aren’t all both perpetrator and victim
the illusion that we aren’t all,
ultimately,
the best and the worst of ourselves.

So at the moment that we choose
to buy into the lie
that it’s “us” and “them”
we buy into the lie
that we can treat others in ways
we would never allow our own to be treated.
that we can make choices for us that have consequences
we would never allow ourselves to be the recipient of.
that we can speak in ways that objectify others to an extent
we would never allow for those we love.

So at the moment that we choose
to buy into the lie
that it’s “us” and “them”
whether defined
by race
by income
by status
by guilt
by geography
by belief
by doctrine
by ideology
by education
by gender
by any of the other illusions of separateness that have
proven to be crutches since we
stabbed each other in the back when it all began
it is in that moment that
the very “us” we are hoping to protect
is lost to a state of
otherness that we thought
we were guarding against all the while.

At that moment,
we lose what we thought we were fighting for.

djordan
Pine Tree

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

deep heartbreak and deep hope

239

when we feel trapped between
the way things are and
the way we know things should be

between
the work we have and
the work we can actually accomplish

between
the hours in a single day and
the heartaches in a single day

between
the insolvable injustices and
the imperative to seek and to do justice

between
the eyes of those we publicly hold responsible and
the eyes of ourselves that we privately shield from responsibility

we ask for a deeper and more burdening reminder
that you are the one who has built us
to be unsettled and undone
until justice comes
until peace flows
until humanity looks like itself again
until humanity is an icon of you again

and in that deeper and more burdening reminder
we ask that you would give us
deep breaths
deep honesty
deep heartbreak and
deep hope

that kingdom comes and
that kingdom will come on earth as in heaven
finally.
and until the finally,
we work toward the impossible things we have no power to change
knowing the desire to work toward them
is a gift from the God who has a habit of doing impossible things

amen

djordan
Pine Tree

 

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

repost | of course it makes no sense at all

we try our best to talk about it as if it does
but we know good and well as we hear the words
falling from our mouths
or dancing in our brains
that of course it makes no sense at all

of course the weak lose to the strong
of course the meek lose to the proud
of course the poor answer to the rich
of course the cheerful are better off than the tearful
of course the peaceful lose to the first to strike

and even when the story ends..

TO READ THE REST OF THE ORIGINAL POST FROM SEPT 2, 2012, CLICK HERE.

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

when christmas is over, the work begins

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 4.01.13 PM

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

“The Work of Christmas”
Howard Thurman

 

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

before the end of this day

You are God of all our possibilities. You preside over all our comings and goings, all our wealth and all our poverty, all our sickness and all our health, all our despair and all our hope, all our living and all our dying.

And we are grateful.

You are God of all of our impossibilities. You have presided over the emancipations and hearings of our mothers and fathers; you have presided over the wondrous transformations in our own lives. You have and will preside over those parts of our lives that we imagine to be closed.

And we are grateful.

So be your true self, enacting the things impossible for us, that we might yet be whole among the blind who see and the dead who are raised; that we may yet witness your will for peace, your vision for justice, your vetoing all our killing fields.

At the outset of this day, we place our lives in your strong hands. Before the end of this day, do newness among us in the very places where we are tired in fear, we are exhausted in guilt, we are spent in anxiety.

Make all things new, we pray in the new-making name of Jesus.

 

+ W. Brueggeman, from “You beyond our weary selves” in Prayers for a Privileged People

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,