Category Archives: Community

The Lenten Writings:  the long road

We are sitting with Desmond Tutu in the Mystic Activists this month.  His writings are mentoring us as we wrestle with the tough questions of reconciliation and forgiveness.  I find my heart stirring anew as I listen to this deeply humble man who lives what he speaks and writes.  

As the archbishop of the Anglican church in South Africa, Desmond Tutu chaired the truth and reconciliation commission, at the request of newly elected Nelson Mandela. This was a major change from how war crimes had been handled since World War II.  It allowed victims to tell their stories.  It invited perpetrators to tell their stories.  Truth is the only starting point to true reconciliation. 

Desmond Tutu says, “The problem with letting bygones be bygones is that they dont stay bygones.  They will return to haunt you…Forgive and forget says….What happened in your case either didn’t happen or it doesn’t matter” (D.T. On forgiveness)

It has been my experience that the road to healing is the road back.  Far from keeping me stuck in the past, it frees me more and more to live boldly today.  But deep courage is required to know, really know, my story.  It is only from that place of knowing that true forgiveness, or release from my right to revenge, can occur.  Its not a one time deal.  Thats why it is called the work of forgiveness.  

I wonder, where is the invitation for you today? I am wrestling it another layer deeper.  Because it matters.  

There can be no true reconciliation without it.  And we are desperately needing that in our community.  But even if reconciliation is not possible, if both sides are not willing to enter this work; it matters.  

It matters for my heart to be free.  

In the emptiest of places…

Politics aside, there is a dire need today to fight for justice for those who have no voice. A well kept secret is that God plays favorites. The immigrant, the poor, the stranger among us are mentioned more than 2000 times in Scripture. 

Folks are setting aside the next 24 hours to pray and fast. It’s not about whether you eat food or not. Isaiah 58 throws that idea in the mud.  I would invite you to sit with these ancient words today and see what stirs…

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!

    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!

Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,

    face my family Jacob with their sins!

They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,

    and love studying all about me.

To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—

    law-abiding, God-honoring.

They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’

    and love having me on their side.

But they also complain,

    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?

    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.

    You drive your employees much too hard.

You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.

    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do

    won’t get your prayers off the ground.

Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    a day to show off humility?

To put on a pious long face

    and parade around solemnly in black?

Do you call that fasting,

    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    to break the chains of injustice,

    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,

    free the oppressed,

    cancel debts.

What I’m interested in seeing you do is:

    sharing your food with the hungry,

    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,

    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,

    being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on,

    and your lives will turn around at once.

Your righteousness will pave your way.

    The God of glory will secure your passage.

Then when you pray, God will answer.

    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.”

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,

    quit blaming victims,

    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

If you are generous with the hungry

    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,

    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go.

    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—

    firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden,

    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,

    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,

    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,

    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath

    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,

If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,

    God’s holy day as a celebration,

If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’

    making money, running here and there—

Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!

    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.

I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”

    Yes! God says so!

The Message (MSG)

The Advent Writings:  may the carols come true 

Truly He taught us to love one another,   His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease. 

The lyrics from Oh holy night are my heart cry this year. For myself, in this home; and in our land. Never have I been so aware of a time where fear and hatred rule the day. 

I picked up tamales tonight from a dear one this afternoon and felt  the terror looming for the uncertainty of the change if power in January. And so we eat them, recognizing that this gift is as sacred as the breaking of the bread. These are our brothers and sisters who awake each day in fear. This is My Body, broken….

And so tonight we remember an immigrant family long ago would flee to Egypt the day after the baby was born. Not what I would recommend for one day postpartum as a midwife!

I am deeply aware as well of my own need this year. The car accident a year ago represented for me the fragility of life. And the shockwaves that continue to move out from that day keep it in front of me. 

And so for tonight, I will hold the goodness of the traditions that weave the years together. We are family, in the middle of.

And so, I will go to the airport and our nest will be full. And we will welcome the night with pajamas and the morning with cinnamon rolls, hot from the oven. 

We will eat our tamales, and give thanks, and cry for mercy. 

The Advent Writings: love and respect 

When you think about starting out a new relationship, Mary and Joseph sure got thrown in the deep end! 

Strict dating rules, a betrothal, a long distance relationship without cell phone service, a sudden return, scandal and gossip, breaking up, and a nighttime angelic visitor. What a beginning! 

And that doesn’t count a donkey ride in the middle of prodromal labor! Seriously?! Not one of my midwifery clients would sign up for that. 

I love how the Nativity movie portrays the growing love and respect between this young couple. It is inviting to consider this home that Jesus  grew up in. They needed that foundation! They were about to become immigrants, and just have each other;  perhaps in a land that did not want them.  Not so different from our precious immigrant families I get to do life with. 

This is a hard season for us in many ways. The holidays, always; my father-in-law died our first Christmas as a young couple. But this year has been a hard season on so many levels. 

I am so grateful for the love and respect in our marriage and home, which undergirds this unknown path. This young couple, married 29 years last August, got thrown in the deep end too. 

This Advent, may there be space to remember the journey. Theirs and ours….

The Advent Writings: the long goodbye

I said goodbye to a precious friend today. Not the long goodbye, as C.S. Lewis says; but a goodbye nonetheless. And goodbyes are full of grief. They hold the not knowing and the not yet together in equal measure. They weave longing and loneliness into a braid of beauty and pain.

I wonder what it was like for Mary, holding a baby that she knew would move beyond her. Was there an ache mixed with the joy of watching him play? And then he stayed around longer than expected perhaps… 30 years. He left home to go be with a bunch of friends, new friends really. They were going to go travel the country without a real plan. Rumors came back, bits and pieces of stories. They probably seemed much bigger than life. And in the middle of the wondering, always the ache. 

So much of the story is not told. Perhaps there is beauty in the mystery.

So for today, I choose to hold the not knowing. I will trust that the beauty will come as the story unfolds. And dare to hold the ache of goodbye. 

Photo Credit Kate Wilder

What brought you here?

Such a simple question to start a conference. Simple, yet profound. It is an invitation to story. 

The journey to community development work is always circuitous. Each person in the CCDA LA conference had a story. Community development is rooted in story. 

My story intersects with your story. Together, they create our story. Our stories together create the story of a neighborhood, of a city, of a region. There are stories reflective of our racial experience, including the gifts and wound. 

CCDA is all of that, and more. It is a space for renewal. It is a space for collective repentance. It is a space to remember that my tribe is part of a bigger people, a family. 

Would a are named, injustice exposed. I am deeply aware of ongoing fear and prejudice between white and Hispanic brothers and sisters in my town. Sisters have invited me to wrestle with wounds to my African American brothers and sisters. This was a place to listen more deeply to the Asian American experience, to the stories of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. 

It matters. Story matters. 

It is in the naming of story that healing occurs. It is in the receiving of story that compassion awakens and flows. 

And a story, a neighborhood, a city begins to heal. May it be so. 

Artist Quincy Clemons.Title:”fear less”

El Camino 

And so I am here. CCDA national convention, a gathering of folks doing community development in their own cities and neighborhoods. A gathering that creates safe spaces to wrestle with the intersectionality of faith and justice. More than 50 of us cane from Neighborhood Ministries in Phienix, plus 17 youth from the social justice team. My tribe. 

This was the view from our window at 2am. We were over a techno club, our beds rattling to the beat. We watched as people streamed out, laughter and shrieks punctuating the night air. 
CCDA is a space to listen to story. Stories up front, stories one on one. Delving into story for me means sitting in workshops on domestic violence, teen pregnancy, unaccompanied minors, LGBTQ issues,  immigration reform, border state challenges. These stories will haunt me and stir my heart to action. 

Missing from the conversation are conversations about human rights violations in birth in our culture. Where are the stories of women of all races, knit together by shared experiences of birth violence? As a midwife, the absence of these stories feels like a palpable presence. 

And so I will go back to my community, to my neighborhood, to my sphere of influence. Back to engage story, to invite change, to listen, to be present. 

What about you? 

If God loves me, why can’t I get my locker open?

an ode to a friend.

i was thirteen when i met you; well, one day shy. scared someone would ask, guess how young i was. too young for highschool, really. you were two doors down from me. lockers were arranged alohabetically, my “l-a” just two doors ahead of your “k-u”. you wove a strange humor into this new world: lunch in the kiva, essays about locker buddies, crashing each other’s baptist youth groups. we capsized a catamaran and hiked and jumped our way into a canyon. we helped eat a six foot long banana split and sported cigars in a hobo contest. we survived the sophomore year ghetto lockers, complete with cockroaches and black widows. we read “devotions” in a book by the title of this blog. mostly, you did the crazy things, some of which you didn’t own til our 25th reunion. i was too much a good girl, my only safety in a world of day child/night child.
and so this week, we “retreated”. a combo of work for you and silent space for me. and in the evenings, shared space. we turned the temperature down to 68 in our desert hacienda, and lit a roaring fire. we shared story and tears, and laughed over tea bag mishaps.
through it all weaves almost 4 decades of shared life. not quite; you are still older than ne. just like that first day of highschool so long ago.

What is a family?

We are on a branching family tree. Some little branches have been grafted in by adoption. We fostered and adopted within a sibling group with several other families. We have big kids and littles in our birth family. 

We have family of origin and family of choice. There are lots of ways to show up as family. We have family in this country and family in South America and Canada. We have family whose heritage is woven with the ancient people of Mexico. Family with African roots. Family looks lots of different ways. Some of the seedlings are starting family. Family that is rich and diverse. 


  It seems that my ideas of what it means to be family doesn’t  look the way I imagined many years ago. Gratefully. I am learning that family can be more diverse, more multicultural, more challenging, and more precious than anything I could have dreamed. More challenging, and more precious than anything I could have dreamed.

It takes a lot of work to grow family. Sometimes, the intensity is hard to hold. But we are family.