One day at a time.

One day at a time.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


It's easy to forget
the brave bruise as deeply as you.

It's easy to forget that
the story of one's soul
is woven

It's easy to forget that
life moves
deep in the ocean
past the scope of light and human eye.

It's easy to forget that
this sorrow
is not mine alone;

that love is not my own
or failure.

It's hard to remember compassion
even as daylight
filtered through the full-bodied emerald-dripping branches.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Absurd Times

There she was,
8.2 pounds of orange fluff
and soft white-tufted belly.

Zelda was happily in the arms of Beth who flew in from California
to be arrested the next day.

It is true we live in ridiculous times.

Absurd times;
When strangers
Connected only by social media and held by the symbol of a flaming chalice—
Which really sounds a little odd at this moment—

Like when you say the word
too many times
and you question the three letters to be used.

Absurd times are now;

When the winds of movement can weave us together
So that the minister with an apartment in Alexandria would text the key code to her home to Beth from California
Who after getting off the hot thick tarmac of a Virginia summer
Would travel to the house
Use the code
To open the door and
Cuddle Zelda.

Zelda had ample care with a babysitter,
But she slept alone.
Beth’s presence was a reminder
To Zelda that her mom would return from Canadian camping,
And would not abandon her for the socialized medicine and syrupy delights.

You really couldn’t write a story where a call to Canada on facetime with spotty reception
Would lead a minister to hop on a plane
And cuddle a stranger’s cat.

But there was the proof
Of our extraordinary grace and kindness
And absurdity

And it seemed enough
Even as the emails piled up
And the voicemails went answered
To let that soak in:

We can be gracious
And kind
We can sacrifice
Especially in absurd times.

And even that small act—
Holding Zelda—

Might carry more than a cat through to daybreak.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Did They Tell You?

Did they tell you in school
that movement
saves souls
and bodies too..

Not symphonies
or sub-atomic particles dancing
but the spiritual evolution 
the dismantling empire

Did they tell you in school
meant feeding one another

That a stranger would insist
you take that twenty dollar bill for dinner
that on the ride home
across the hills while your buddy turned the A/C full blast to keep you awake
and played every kind of hip hop, 80s rock, grunge and gospel
that dinner and the energy drink would keep you awake

Did they tell you in school 
meant dismantling Ceasar in your heart and home
that siblings would arise to hold your 
and remind you
it's okay 
to be gone

We are here.

It's okay to ask for help.
You are required to need people,
to let them love you.

Did they tell you in school 
meant a debt unplayable
while you packed into garbage cans
the broken truths 

while a new trust 
this sweet truth emerges amidst hot stench
and sweet grass
rolling straight over that stinky can

Did they tell you in school 
meant my hand holding yours 
even when 
we are taken away 
one another

Did they tell you?

Land of the Free- to Die Poor

On July 11th, I was arrested as an act of moral obedience, a day after the 200th birthday of Thoreau that rebel who dared to reimagine the power of civil disobedience in the context of abolition and war-mongering.

As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I've served in parish ministry for seven years, but before that ministry I served as a hospital chaplain. 
Hospitals are filled with complex decisions, and at times, medical teams disagree about the best course of treatment or action. But there is one thing we were always clear on:
Health care is a fundamental human right.
My faith is clear-to care for the body of a human to ensure that they can live is a fundamental moral obligation in a just society and a moral obligation commanded by our constitution.
Some things are complex - string theory and just war theory.
This is simple: we have a moral imperative.
Eroding and eradicating Medicaid is denying life to 22 million Americans. It may be done in the back room bargains of congressional offices instead of under the bright lights of an emergency room, but anyone who supports this -who supports the idea that care of the body is a privilege-has blood on their hands.
On my way here, I was stopped at the train station by a woman, Darlene, who asked me to pray for her because she is having back surgery to alleviate extraordinary pain. I'm here praying with my body and faithful witness that the only worry upon Darlene and millions of Americans will be recovery and healing not whether they have been deemed worthy by this congress to receive care.
Our constitution and moral consciousness is clear:
No one deserves to die because they couldn't afford medical care.
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Let America breathe, congress.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Arbitrary Lines and the Brutality of Borders

Day 5: On to Mexico
After driving for what seemed a day's journey, including an interesting interaction at the border that included a full sweep of our vans, we arrived at the Larry Acton Center.  We had beds.  Four nights of sleeping on the floor made us all quite excited for the beds that night.  Did I mention the beds?  A wonderful meal was followed with an orientation to our site in Mexico and some fun with a trip for ice cream.  Having traveled extensively in Guatemala, I remembered the streets and the concrete-construction homes.  Of course, there are significant differences; yet a common thread persists.  How many American policies on trade and production impacted local communities in Mexico like Rio Bravo creating the poverty and violence that so many were fleeing?
We met one man who was deported from Colorado.  Now living in Rio Bravo and helping at the center to assist with other immigrants who are displaced or have been deported, he seemed filled with a calling for this work.  While driving back from the ice cream place, he shared that his son was in the United States.  He had not seen him since he was a toddler.  There was a familiar tightness in my chest as I considered that I was missing my own kids after five days.  He had not seen his son in years.  He had not spoken to him in almost a year because they changed numbers and he could not find him.  Here, I traveled freely from one border across another simply by accident of my birth while a father was denied his son because of his birth.  Our policies must change when they tear families apart.  No one should be an exile because of a border made by human hands.  No child should be orphaned because of the arbitrary lines we've drawn.

Day 6: Returning

With one quick day of service, we concluded our time with a visit to a residential school being built for the children who are orphaned and left in Mexico.  Some of their parents have died because of violence from gangs, others because of a drug addiction, for some one parent may be in detention and the other died, and yet others find themselves caught in waiting for a relative from the United States to call.  This is the reality of borders.  All of our laws and policies are at some point in sufficient for the completion of justice.  True justice requires both mercy and compassion, not easily billed into law or courtroom.  Yet, here is a school grounded in compassion with people who have no incentive to teach and care for another's child beyond the truth that there are no other people's children, no other people's pain, no other people's problems.  We are one, for better or worse.  I close my time with a chilling humility of what it means to be American, to be able to freely cross these borders and to return to my children.  I close my time with an ache and a new awareness that I know will tug at me even as the plane lands in New Jersey.  You cannot journey on a pilgrimage without being changed.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

What Yes Can Mean..Day 3 and 4 of the Journey

Day 3: House of Hope

Posada Esperanza was not a large home.  You could easily have driven by without realizing that it was this place that offers shelter against the storm of political expediency that is immigration enforcement today.  That morning, we learned about the reality of release from the detention center.  You were dumped at a bus station.  No assistance, no instruction.  Welcome to the U.S.A.!  Without the advocacy groups who offered backpacks with humble supplies (granola bars, toothbrush, bus pass), survival was hard to imagine.  As it was, human traffickers had already scoped out the bus stations waiting for people to be released. Under the pretense of help, they would lure new immigrants into vans and cars.  Imagine after being released from a detention facility in a place you do not know at all, removed from your family for perhaps years at this point, and the first person who offers you help turns out to be kidnapping you.  We met with advocates who seemed to be drinking from a fire hose as they attempted to stop the pain and save lives.

And the government?  As we left the bus station to walk back to our vans, an officer said to me, "please use the pedestrian crosswalk. If you get hit by a car, that's a lot of paperwork for me."  There are good officers.  There are good people harmed by their responsibility to enforce unjust laws.  There are good people whose compassion is killed by the culture we are soaked in.  I did not feel anger at his words, just gratitude that I was still shocked by them, not normalized into such disregard for human life.  Yes indeed, sorry for the paperwork of human suffering.

Day 4: The Miracles in McAllen

Imagine you are the religious leader in a church.  You get asked to help provide some support services for immigrants being released from detention as well as those crossing the border.  You agree to a small corner in the social hall of your church.  At the end of a year one, 70,000 people come through your doors.  Such is the boldness of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen Texas.  A deep, abiding and sustaining yes.  Even as thousands came through their doors and the corner became the whole hall, and then out into tents and a chapel, and beyond their property, Sacred Heart continued to say "yes."  I left that day with a humble prayer upon my own heart.  Please let me move past my fears, my apathy, what can be normalized to say the "yes" I can say, and to mean it, even when it becomes difficult to do so.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Modern Saint Human- Marianella Pilgrimage Day 2

Day 2: Saint Marianella

I don't think she is really a saint, but there is a house named for the civil rights attorney who worked with Oscar Romero in El Salvador for basic civil liberties.  She was killed, like Romero, for her "progressive" ideas. Since when is human dignity and free speech progressive?  I had not heard of Marianella until I visited Casa Marianella, a home for those who are released from a detention center and seeking to put their lives back together after the trauma.  We met with some of the folks who have been touched by Casa Marianella.  Again and again, we heard stories about how the idea of such a place helped them get through the trauma of a detention center.  Just knowing that a place existed where Americans were trying to welcome immigrants helped ease the pain of being held in a place called the fridge, where temperatures could be as low as 40 degrees all day.   The idea of Casa Marianella helped some make it through detention centers that did not allow those being detained to have human touch.  Imagine not receiving a hug for a year in a windowless cage?

Across Casa Marianella were beautiful mosaics painted by refugees and immigrants who received care and compassion in that place.  Some were inspirational with leading figures while others depicted landscapes and yet others served as a memorial.  Not all were signed.  I imagined the idea of a place mattering as much as the place itself.  Imagined the work of these artists extending beyond anyone they would ever meet.

Sometimes, our work has impact that we never see on people we never meet.  It can move past all the walls, and locks and every measure of deprivation, because our humanity will struggle to survive like all life, the smallest piece of earth in concrete will sow seed.