Saturday, June 16, 2012

To have a DREAM

There is a man I greatly admire, a man of some means who heard God ask him to buy a blighted trailer park near his home and restore it to what it ought to be.  A couple of years ago, I went out there to see the repaved roads and the neatly arranged trailers and the new sewer system and the new security lighting and all the other changes that he and the residents of the park had been making.

As we stood in the double-wide trailer that he has set up to house celebrations and meetings and educational opportunities, he showed me the computers for the students to work on and the materials for tutoring and the plans for new mentoring relationships to flourish.

He was so enthusiastic about all of this that it took me by surprise when his voice took a subdued tone.  "The problem is, of course, when the kids get to a certain age and realize that there's no future for them.  They love school and they love to learn until about tenth grade, when they realize that because their parents brought them here illegally, they will not be able to work when they graduate from high school.  Then it's really hard to keep them engaged."

As we talked further, he said, "You know, because they've been here all their lives, their English is much better than their Spanish.  We are considering teaching them professional Spanish in case they get deported, then maybe they would at least have a chance in their home country, even though they've never lived there and don't really know the language and customs.  It's hard, because mentally and emotionally, they're Americans all the way through."

This is just one of many reasons that I have passionately supported the DREAM act and have felt so discouraged by the refusal of our politicians to come up with any kind of meaningful, realistic immigration reform.  And this is why I was thrilled--absolutely thrilled--to see that the president has enacted an executive order to put in place a stop-gap measure (in his own words) to give hope to all the young people who live in this limbo, through no fault of their own.  By his own admission, it's not a path to citizenship, it's not meaningful immigration reform, but it's something and I, for one, rejoice.  (Seriously, ask C--I was rejoicing all over the place last night.  He said, "Honey, I don't think that everyone is going to be as excited about this as you are," and of course, he's right.  But I had lots of fun celebrating, as long as it lasted.)

Personally, I don't see what the downside of this is.  Young people, full of promise, will be able to serve in business, in the military, in education instead of living aimless lives with no way to contribute to society at large.  They will pay taxes, and more importantly, they will pay into Social Security, helping to support the disproportionate number of baby boomers in the system.  We will benefit from the education that we have provided them, no longer cutting off our noses to spite our faces.  In my opinion, the list of advantages goes on and on.

I know that many people are crying foul, and the main objection seems to be, "It's not fair!"  That's true--it's not. I really do get the frustration of those who point out that these kids are benefiting in spite of their parents' illegal actions.  I understand that we have the right and the responsibility to protect our borders and the integrity of the legal immigration process.  And yet, we also have to deal with this reality--that all those years that we turned a blind eye to undocumented immigrants because we needed to have our meat slaughtered and our crops picked and our houses cleaned and our condos built, we were also raising their children to be Americans.

So.  Like we all tell our kids, "life isn't fair."  For those of us who were born in this country, life has already been vastly unfair . . . in our favor.  As MLK used to say, it's easy to be born on third base and think you hit a triple.  I decided a long time ago that I don't really want to live in a fair world.  God isn't fair (thank God).  Grace isn't fair.  Neither is love.

The hard work is still ahead of us.  Real immigration reform is complex and difficult and will take lots of hard work and compromise, if it ever happens at all.  But this decision by the president is a breath of fresh air and I applaud it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I know, I know . . . you're supposed to post every other day or so if you want people to keep up with your blog.  But I was reading Rachel Held Evans' blog last week and it kinda started to be a full-time job.

Rachel's been posting every day about egalitarianism (also known as mutualism) and I got just a little obsessed.  If you didn't grow up in church and you don't know about the controversy between egalitarianism and complementarianism (also known as "soft patriarchy"), consider yourself blessed and don't go over there to check it out.  It will only make you cry.

But I grew up in a thick complementarian milieu, got called to ministry anyway, and have been firmly egalitarian all my adult life.  There was a time that I truly would have been obsessed with what's going on over at Rachel's blog--all the arguments and stories and theological gymnastics.  Even though it's really interesting, I'm really grateful that I don't feel compelled to do all that anymore.

Now, I just get to live the life God called me to and I rarely have to justify or defend what I'm doing.  What Rachel's blog stirred up in me this time was something different:  deep gratitude to various men in my life who have partnered with me in launching and sustaining my life in ministry.

At one point, Rachel's husband wrote in a guest blog, "I don't support Rachel like a piling supports a dock.  I support her like Saturn V supported Apollo 11."  That may be the best quote I have ever read about men and women together in ministry.  (And yes, it's a very "masculine" image . . . something all the complementarians can appreciate.)

So, first of all, of course, there was my dad, who really did believe that I could be whatever God called me to be and at the same time encouraged me be well-prepared educationally and professionally.  There were the guys at the Samaritan Counseling Center in Waco all those years ago who challenged me to embrace my pastoral identity even as a counselor.  There was Don, my supervisor in chaplain's training, who put up with my youth and silliness and taught me to claim that identity in my own unique way.

There was a group of male deacons (is there any other kind?) at a certain Baptist church who made it clear that they were not supportive of women in ministry and then courageously and unanimously recommended me for ordination anyway.  For that matter, there was Brother Billy, my pastor at the tiny church I served in college and who gave me total freedom in ministry and occasional pulpit experience, who insisted on licensing me to the ministry and then said, "Let's just go ahead and get you ordained," to which I foolishly and naively said, "No, thank you; I'll take that step after seminary."  *smacks forehead with palm of hand*

These days, it's the wonderful staff at Mission Houston, from whom I learn so much about servanthood and leadership, who affirm and support me and bless my life so richly.  And then, of course, there's C, who has been exactly what Rachel's husband described for 27 years now, even though it has often made his life more complicated.

All those years I was figuring it out, paying my dues, pushing frustratedly against the glass ceiling, he was listening and praying and wiping away tears and telling me that it would be okay.  He never even questioned that we would have a mutually submissive marriage (Eph. 5:21), never played the gender card, never insisted that his vote would be the one to break some supposedly inevitable tie.  Instead, he led the way as we cooperated instead of competing, listened instead of debating, compromised instead of coercing.

I'm grateful.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The latest on Mowgli

He called!  He has left Tibet and is in Nepal now. In Tibet, he spent time in Gyaltang and Liming, where he did some "steep cliff climbing" and hiked Tiger Leaping Gorge up to 6000 meters. He talked to his dad for a little while yesterday before heading out to trek through the mountains of Nepal for a little over three weeks.  He'll be visiting small villages (that he assumes are out there but doesn't know for sure), a couple of  monasteries he's heard of, and he's hoping to see nomads.  He's with a group of six other Guilford College grads (college friends) and they have (thank you, God) hired a guide.  He'll call again when he gets to India in four weeks.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shhhhh . . .

I'm in Greensboro again this weekend, working with First Friends Quaker Meeting.  One of the things I really enjoy and admire about the Quakers is their commitment to and comfort with silence.

Today I facilitated about 4 hours of learning and sharing along with an hour for lunch.  In that timeframe, we observed no less than 4 times of quiet reflection and prayer.  I really enjoy the rhythm of occasional silence that gives some depth and meaning to the rest of what is going on.

I wish I were better at quiet and silence in my daily life.  I've always been so easily distracted and my involvement with technology has made me a thousand times more so.  I've blamed some of that on being extroverted and my last spiritual director spent a lot of time helping me develop an extroverted spirituality.

Then, a month ago or so, my mom told me that I was an introverted child.  Me.  Introverted.  Huh.  She remembered me changing in high school, around the time (I think) when I made a promise to myself to figure out how to have more friends and fit in better.

Mom and I were talking about this because she and my dad are reading the book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.  Just last night, I ran across the author's TED talk on Brene Brown's blog and I really loved it.  I hope you do too.  In it, Susan Cain says, "There is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas."  As a talker, I need to hear that.  She also reminds us to go into silence and solitude from time to time and "have our own revelations."  And she wishes us the "courage to speak softly."  Amen.