a person of privilege and faith seeking appropriately relevant words to speak with integrity

I.

The real story is not the obvious story.

The real story is back story and context.

It’s history.

It’s the story some have tried, through the years,

to tell that’s been ignored.

The real story is below the surface

in the cross currents and rip-tides.

The real story—the deep story

is an ugly one

encompassing widely different educational options,

employment options,

the systemic injustice of our justice system,

and the myths we tell of equality and opportunity for all

when in fact, our country is a casino

advertising anyone can win

while the house takes it all to the bank.

God who hovered over the depths,

do not allow us to rest content on the surface.

II.

The media has not been a help in truth seeking.

You can find the truth in the media,

but you have to dig for it.

The media does not lead with it.

They lead with what fits the easy categories of the surface story.

Respect to those journalists and broadcasters

who resist that—

who dig.

But we, who read and watch, need to be ever vigilantly aware

that there is information; there is misinformation (information that’s wrong),

and there is disinformation (intentionally misleading information).

Our culture (which is synonymous with the privileged in our culture—

which is most of us—

though most of most of us don’t know that)

is invested in our having to sift through it all,

and not know—

assuming we will then give up

any quixotic seeking truth

and accept the apparent—the surface story.

III.

The system (which is again synonymous with the privileged—

us again)

is not invested in the whole

(despite any and all rhetoric to the contrary).

It is invested in those who rise to the top—who float on the surface.

It cares about what’s below the surface

only when the surface is disturbed.

and it is ruthless in maintaining a surface calm—

ruthless is suppressing (oppressing)

what rises from the depths.

IV.

Isn’t it interesting—disturbing—heart-breaking—

telling—revealing—

that the first story put out

was about the violence outside the baseball game—

about the bar patrons disturbed in their revelry by the thugs.

Only later did we begin to hear of those imbibing at the pubs

instigated chaos—inciting those marching.

The first story we heard was of the violence of the youth at the mall—

the destruction.

Only later, that the police had shut down the transportation system—

not allowing the youth to get from their school to their homes—

isolating youth not predisposed to trust police

and closing in on them in full riot gear.

The first story was of gangs making alliances to harm police,

and only subsequently did we hear that no such alliances were made.

It’s less heartbreaking though perhaps equally telling

that the first impulse is to laud the police.

And I am grateful for the good work of the police.

I tell my children that if they’re ever scared or lost or in trouble

that police men and women are good people who will help them.

I am grateful within privilege, I know.

And we have to—have to—question the almost $6,000,0000

paid out over four years, to settle grievances against the police.

We have to question our culture’s love affair with the myth

of redemptive violence—violence in the service of righteousness.

We have to question the assumption 

that the ends justify the means

when the ends are very much for some and not for all.

V.

The truth hard to hear

is that those who have spoken within the system—

worked within the system,

have been ignored by the system.

It is outside the acceptable channels of authority

that violence cannot be ignored

Does that excuse it?

No.

But neither should we focus on that violence

when the systemic injustice that spawned it

goes unaddressed and tacitly excused.

Blame is easiest to direct at the immediate

and the superficial,

not the deep.

The deep challenges too many taken for granteds.

If we’re going to get at the root—

if we’re going to get to the depths,

it’s not the violence of today.

It’s the violence of years gone by.

There are no true innocents when talking about systemic injustice.

Well, there are the children,

Yes. Always.

But no one else.

There is no quick fix.

Our truth was years and years in the making.

It will be years and years in the unmaking—the remaking—

the redeeming.

VI.

In these days of the social media,

in times of sudden turmoil,

there is the opportunity, the pressure, the temptation

of having the right thing to say—

and the opportunity, the pressure, the temptation

to speak to more than a local congregation—

to speak to a larger context—

to speak to the principalities and the powers—

the systems.

Some of that speaks to our immediate desire

manifest in the assumption:

surely there’s something to do to fix this.

I’ve always called this the male perspective.

Maybe it’s more truly the perspective of privilege.

But the deep truths are best seen in reflection …

or by those who have been in reflection.

Others should be silent

and commit to reflection and the living born of it.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart

be acceptable to You, my God.

VII.

Yet I do have something to say.

We will keep being the church—

believing what we have been doing is vital.

We will keep praying

not believing that what is dictates what is to be.

We will keep studying the word week in and week out—

telling the stories—the ones that that call into question

the privilege we take for granted,

the systems that bestow privilege

and that justify its lack—

stories of a whole that values and celebrates all parts of itself.

We will keep having the conversations

of honesty and vulnerability and confession and of hope.

We will keep changing—growing—into grace and love—

discerning how to hover over the depths with the Spirit of God—

how to be in reflection—

and so to be prepared to speak—

to speak a word still being made flesh—

to live the story we hear and tell.

We are seeking transformation—

committed to being a part of transformation—

a reconfiguration of the depths and the surface.

“Let there be truth. Let there be light.”

a Baltimore prayer

We live mostly on the surface of things—

suspended over the deep

on the thinnest veil of presuppositions, assumptions, and taken-for-granteds—

of habits, justifications, collusion.

I am not, in fact, sure we can do otherwise.

But we don’t have to live ignoring or denying that this is the case.

And too often, we do.

As if benefitting now—from now

is not a debt incurred—

payment to be marked due.

It would behoove us to pay greater attention

to the depths beneath us

and the currents within them—

comprised, at least in part,

by the truths we force below the surface of things—

below that thin veil of appearance—

the systemic injustices we don’t want to acknowledge,

the privileges of the few and the prejudices of the many,

the profound inequities

justified politically socially economically

philosophically theologically—

all the -ally’s—

allies.

God who hovered over the surface of the deep—

who separated the dry land from the waters,

hover again.

Call forth from the chaos of our time

the strong foundation

that will bear the weight of community.

Separate from the chaos—

and the rhetoric—

the work of justice and peace,

of righteousness and humility—

and, for many of us,

the work of confessing

that we assume such a solid foundation

would cost us more than that thin veil—

whose costs we don’t immediately see—

buried as they are in immediate benefits and gratifications.

God, may we who profess your story,

live it—

live its transformatively loving topsy-turviness

in more honest and vulnerable ways

than in what typically amounts to just subtle and blatant

approval of us.

mid-April prayer

Mid-April,

amidst expectations of spring warmth

and the reality of winter’s damp lingering chill,

we pray, deeming the weather metaphorically appropriate.

Amidst what is, that in so many ways feels like it shouldn’t be,

we long for change—

for reality to conform to our deepest hopes—

those hopes informed by our God and our faith.

And each day we awaken to a chill

penetrating our very bones,

we remind each other, that warmth will come—

not on our time frame maybe,

but it will come.

And so too, we believe in the promise and assurance of God,

and amidst fear and violence—

amidst profound injustice—

amidst terrible brokenness,

we anticipate peace—

we imagine justice—

we expect wholeness—

through grace and love incarnate—

not on our time frame,

but it is coming.

Amen and amen.

ordering prayer

We take a moment to pray—
to hush the noise,
to think not our thoughts,
to want not our wants,
to focus not on circumstance—
to rest, a time,
in the priority and presence of You, our God.
And then to name, first, wonder and gratitude,
to name, next, hope and trust,
and then,
to allow the noise—
the focus, the wants, and thoughts of the day,
to rush back,
but now,
into hope and trust.
With wonder and gratitude,
amen.

corporate prayer’s a tricky thing

Corporate praying’s a tricky thing, God.

Because some of us are weary,
and some of us don’t seem to stop.
Some of us hurt,
and some blissfully
take not hurting for granted.
Some of us grieve,
while some of us complain about the frustrations
of intimate relationships.
Some of us toss and turn at night,
some sleep like the proverbial babies.
Whatever some of us feel,
others don’t.

And so we pray—
together
(this the gift of corporate prayer, not private)—
we pray together,
and in hearing all our different prayers—
hearing the prayers of others joined to ours,
we know ourselves to be different,
and we come to know prayer
as not just for me
and we come to know God for all.

So we pray for what we want
and for others who want the opposite.
We pray for our frustrations and challenges,
knowing them to be another’s joys.

We pray together,
and God is bigger,
truth is bigger,
and we are drawn together more closely.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

roller coaster prayer

Sometimes, God, we talk about experiencing life
as a roller coaster.
And we tend not to mean exhilarating—
exciting,
fast and fun—
with our arms waving in the air to show how carefree we feel.
We tend to mean full of ups and downs—
twists and turns,
such that you hardly ever settle into what is
because you know what’s next will throw you for a loop.

Sometimes that is, in truth, what it’s like.
So sometimes, we pray as if on a roller coaster—
pray thinking I’m ready for this to be over.
I’m ready for some straightaway.
We pray with our arms wrapped around us
trying to hold ourselves together—
trying to hold life together—
trying not to let go of what’s important—
our assurances, our hope, our peace.
But the next hard turn
threatens to send it all flying.

Sometimes then, we pray
with no assurance, no hope, no peace—
saying, “You’re with us,”
but not really knowing what that means—
what difference that makes—
if any—
terrified we’re just about to throw up.

Sometimes,
to be real,
prayer can’t be pretty.