Can I Cage My Neighbor’s Daughter?

Can I Cage My Neighbor’s Daughter?

The believer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told this story.

A brown skinned man was sitting in front of his house when ICE appeared.

He was grabbed, separated from his family, put in overcrowded cages with unlivable conditions, and left. His wife and daughter were separated, likewise.

His young daughter was forced to sleep on concrete. Wondering, what no child should ever wonder, “Where are my parents?”

She cried out to God, “Please help me!”

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A prosperity gospel believer heard about this. But, he had to envision a better life for himself. He’d like to help. Maybe someday he would. He just couldn’t today.

A pro-life believer heard this news too. But, he had to be consistent with his beliefs.

“I have to defend the defenseless,” he thought. Once moral order is restored, surely, everyone will be ok. All they need to do is wake up and understand like he does.

So, he did what he always did because he knew best.

An orderly believer heard this news too. Surely, he would do something. He found these conditions most unacceptable. He even wanted to help.

“Still,” he thought, “There are good and bad people on both sides.”

He was taught to follow the rules; to work with people. He loved everyone.

So, he waited for the right time. Maybe others will see a better way in his example and change. It isn’t complacency, it is quiet witness.

Finally, there was one last person who heard these things too. A skeptic at best, an atheist at worst.

He wasn’t as together as the first three folks. He was sort of unkempt. He was brash and often joked with his friends, “If I came into church, the walls would fall down.”

Yet, he knew he couldn’t be quiet. People are dying!

He had a young daughter. He wept openly whenever he thought of her alone should he ever feel the need to flee whatever issues were so untenable. Things he couldn’t know or imagine about these other people’s lives but that didn’t matter so much when he looked into her eyes.

He just saw images of scared, abused, people. He saw children. Children like his daughter. So, he did what he could.

He spoke up. 
He refused to be complicit by his silence.
He even protested at great personal risk. 

Mostly, he vowed to fight for change with his voice, his vote, and his actions.

He’d do whatever it takes to stop these things and make sure they never happen again as long as he could help it.

Whatever his actions did or didn’t accomplish, ultimately, he’d do everything he could to protect, defend, and treat others as he would want to be treated.

“Which person do you think followed my commandment above all others to love God and neighbor?” Jesus asked, “Which person do you think followed me?”

“Go and do likewise.”

Love Always Includes Justice. 

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

Note: This story is based on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37.

Backlash!

Backlash!

“Fortune”
A Fortune of money is what you seek but a fortunate son is not someone like me.
A broken body, down on my luck, while you’re perched on top out of touch.
Running the business,
It’s always the same,
Making a fortune because you own the game

Heart with People

There’s always backlash.

Whenever an existing power structure feels threatened, you get backlash.

We see it in our world and, not surprisingly, we see it in the church.

It can be civil rights. It can be women. It can be the LGBTQIA+ community. Disability pride. It doesn’t matter.

In fact, it’s all of these things.

Wherever someone seeks equity and inclusion, you get backlash.

As we also often witness, you get cross sectional power players working together too. Think for a moment about how the powerful never seem to clamor for separation of church and state when they are colluding.

The power players all want to be in cahoots then.

It’s only when equity comes into play, such as when the church desired exclusion from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), do power players scream.

There are numerous examples here. Disability is my primary marginalizing experience but, it’s no different with regard to the other people mentioned initially.

You don’t have to go very far to notice the powerful orchestrating together.

I could name names, however, I suspect I don’t have to if you’ve read this far. They’ll even use us as tokens if we’re not careful.

Most of us won’t do this, of course, but it does happen and it only takes a couple for it to become some insulating justification for those in control. However, there is a better way forward.

When working within the existing power structure doesn’t work, and I believe that time is now, the rest of us need to build together too.

I’ve seen some of this, though, not nearly enough. In many cases, I’ve witnessed the opposite with divisions and factions.

The powerful know this and they’re happy to let it continue and even encourage it. If we minimize each other, they can continue their dominance over all of us.

We need to work across communities as allies for each other.

We need to lift up advocates in each their respective areas.

Whenever possible, we need to empower voices of those who are intersectionally marginalized. (Those who face more than one marginalizing identifier.)

I say this because I do believe you can be marginalized by one trait (as I am with my disability) while also being privileged in other ways (as I am as a white man.)

Yes, there will be times for me to speak. There will also be times for me to yield the floor.

There is time for both and too many times for all of us as it is today.

That’s the backlash to seeking equity. The truly powerful, the ones dominating our world today, will not go easily, quietly, or willingly. That’s where we are.

It’s also why it’s important for us to work together, building each other up. Because, they don’t have to tear us down if we do it for them.

Next time, I’ll look at how Jesus and his early disciples resisted the powerful in their time.

I hope you’ll check back because I believe this is an important lesson for us no matter if you believe exactly as I do or not. Solidarity.

Wherever you find yourself this day, thanks for journeying with me and remember in the world of Justice and Love, Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

A lot of self-righteous people are going around these days telling others what they should or shouldn’t be doing. In some cases, these hypocrites have legislative power which can be a very dangerous thing.

Moreover, the hypocritical legislators can be swayed by other hypocrites too. Watch out when that happens because, as much as I hate this type reasoning, it happens from both sides. I feel this keenly as a disabled person.

We witness this in many ways.

Reproductive rights, exclusion from full participation whether in church or society, healthcare, straw bans, the list seems endless. I am going to explore each of these areas in my next several posts.

(Shameless Plug: I write every Monday and Thursday.)

But, rather than dwell on any one of these topics today, I want to offer for consideration what I believe is the best way forward no matter the subject at hand. My hope is that this will provide our basis for deeper discussion in these sensitive areas.

Note: Please chime in. I already know what I think. Be open. Be respectful. Listen and I will too.

Anyway, here it is, though, if you’ve read any of my other posts this won’t come as a great shock.

(If you haven’t that’s ok. I still love you. Shameless plug #2, please start reading, comment, and share. See: I already know what I think.)

Love always expands the circle. Love is inclusive. Love seeks justice and equality. Most of all, Love meets you where you are, knows one size doesn’t fit all, and Love love’s you just as you are even when you fall short.

I think of my experience with my daughter, Hope, and each of us are far from perfect. From the moment I held her, I knew nothing could ever stop me from loving her no matter what. She could kill me and, even though whatever pain she projected onto me would bring me great sadness, I would still love her.

Love just is. Love lives beyond what can be easily understood in our humanity. When I, as a Jesus follower ask, “What would Jesus do?” I’m really trying to discern, “What would Love do?”

Love is true, no matter what you believe or don’t believe as a matter of faith, even when the answers aren’t so easy. Perhaps that’s why we’re told Jesus said, “Love is greater than any of the other rules.” (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28)

Love is a good starting point even for old hypocrites like me. Let’s try it.

Tell me, what do you think?

Let me know if you have other discussion topics too. As long as you’re willing to respectfully participate, I’m willing to discuss. There is no shortage of questions. Who knows? Call me an optimist but maybe the answers can be found in our sharing together.

Wherever you are this day, thanks for joining me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Bitterness: There’s a Better Way

Bitterness: There’s a Better Way

Bitterness

God help me lose this bitterness

That dwells inside of me

Teach me to release this pain

And in your love to see

May I break, put down these chains

And finding peace, may you sustain

Yes, in your restoration gain

 A way to love’s path be.

Lord help me lose this bitterness

That dwells inside of me

May you find a way to heal

And set this prisoner free

Last weekend, my wife, Jennelle, and I performed in the Festival of Shorts for Inclusive Theater on Western New York (ITOWNY) which you can read about here in my last blog post, Inclusive: Another Word for Love.

What I discovered in them is a group of wonderful kindred spirits whom I am lucky to now call my friends. I’m grateful. However, I discovered something far more troubling inside myself amidst this experience too.

I wasn’t supported by most of my longer term friends, especially after I have supported many of them for years while asking little in return, and it hurt. It hurt a lot.

Yes, a couple showed up. A few others expressed regret for not being able to attend. I appreciate them. Nevertheless, the stemming pain of the greater silence from others is still real.

I began to feel angry as this pain took hold of my soul. “How could they?” and “What should I…?” I thought. These words welling up from the recesses of my brain. Until it hit me.

Calm Love

This isn’t about them. It’s about me.

I shouldn’t do anything more than release these feelings. For my own benefit. Bitterness only harms me after all. Likewise, I am the only person over whom I have any control and, therefore, I have a choice.

I can choose to dwell in the negativity of the actions of others or I can lean into the shared love of the people around me.

Trust me when I tell you the second option is better.

Maybe you’ve held on to bitterness or anger resulting from past hurts too.

Sadly, we are surrounded by human brokenness often through no fault of our own.

I encourage you, let it go and maybe consider the following questions.

  1. What is the negative baggage weighing you down?
  2. What’s one thing you can do to help you release it and perhaps even find something more uplifting at the same time?

I’ll tell you this, replacing negative (people, thoughts, and actions) with positive is life giving. Maybe that’s why God tells us not to worry quite so much and to forgive. It’s for our benefit.

Please join me as we begin this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love, “Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

If You See Me: A Poem and Reflection

In my previous blog post, Bob and the Pharisees, I reimaged the biblical narrative in John 9 so we might focus on a better, more inclusive story for all of us. This post was inspired by my own disabilities and the voices of my sisters and brothers, especially those in the LGBTQIA community, since the exclusionary decisions of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in February 2019.

Below is a poem and a few questions to ask yourself based on these same events and experiences.

This week, as you reflect, please join me in asking,

  1. Who am I overlooking?

  2. What’s one measure I can take this week in working toward a better, more inclusive world for all people including those who find themselves on the margins of society?

Think of the power of doing just one thing brought about by these two simple questions. Powerful enough on its own. But, all our actions, joined together, could start a love revolution.

This is life as Jesus intended! So, spread the word and remember, “No matter what, when it comes to justice oriented inclusion, love accepts, no exceptions.”

This love includes you!

Pharisees

Poem: If You See Me.

It’s not my eyes but it is my legs.

If you see me

Think the one who begs

But not in the most biblical way

More like a prophet

With something to say

To be let in

One and all

That you include

The great and small

Just be the church

Who knowing the least

Remembers and shares with those like me

But more than me

Know everyone

And in this way

Reflect God’s Love

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

 

Bob and the Pharisees

This story is a reimaging of the biblical narrative in John 9 inspired by my own disabilities and the voices of my sisters and brothers, especially those in the LGBTQIA community, since the exclusionary decisions of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in February 2019.

Today, I want to tell you about a man I know named, Bob.

Bob was born blind. Yet, for years, Bob struggled for others to see him. Wherever Bob went, some people insisted on restricting poor Bob.

His sight wasn’t a problem for him. Bob could do everything he needed or at least Bob could do as much as those who placed themselves in charge of deciding who’s allowed to participate in community thought he should do.

You see, Bob’s problem wasn’t Bob’s problem at all. Bob being a problem to those in charge was Bob’s problem.

Funny how that works, isn’t it? Sometimes, people with truly limited vision, and even more limited hearts, want to exclude others. I’m sure you know the type. Religious leaders, politicians, and their cronies come to mind here.

I’d urge them to be careful though. Exclusion is tricky business. One day, you use it to exclude someone else. The next day someone else uses it to exclude you.

These religious exclusionists don’t want to hear from me or Bob of course, thinking they have it all figured out, but I wish they’d trust me. I’ve seen a thing or two. However, for now, let’s get back to my friend, Bob.

Bob was lucky. Bob met Jesus one day in his travels.

I know, I know, those exclusionist religious types claim to know Jesus too. Maybe it’s a different Jesus, I don’t know? Besides. I’m not here to debate that today. I’m here to tell you about Bob.

Yes, Bob knew Jesus. He walked right up to him. The story seems almost unbelievable but it’s true.

Bob encountered Jesus when his disciples, which is fancy talk for following students, wanted to know why Bob was blind and, even worse, they wanted to know who was at fault for Bob’s blindness.

Poor Bob couldn’t catch a break it seemed but Jesus was about to change that.

After Jesus explained Bob’s blindness was nobody’s fault and that God could use Bob exactly as he is, Jesus went the extra mile to help others include Bob as well. He’s known to do this. Only, this part seems a little strange to me too. Strange or not, though, it worked.

Jesus took some dirt and made it into mud by spitting in it. (I know, right? Wait, it gets better!)  Next, he took the mud and rubbed it on Bob’s eyes. (Imagine this scene. Was he kidding?)

Except, he wasn’t kidding. Jesus then sent Bob to a pool called Sent for him to wash off this muddy eye paste. Perhaps Jesus did this to demonstrate that both he, Bob, and each of us are sent by God to bring our fullest possible stories for our collective benefit. Whatever the case, Bob could see!

Again, unbelievable! Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that his neighbors couldn’t believe it either then. Whispers began, “Is that Bob?”

Well, word got around as it does. Now, the religious follower types who would side with those in charge wanted to know what was going on. Surely, they couldn’t let just anyone join their grand temples. They had to protect the institution. Anyone with authority would understand. So, they hauled Bob off to the super religious leaders, the tops of the tops, for further interrogation.

Bob recounted his story. Except Jesus, and thusly Bob, were religious rule breakers. Jesus healed Bob on a day when no healing was to take place. Bob still could not fully participate in religious life as such. It would never happen this way!

Things got worse for poor Bob after that. Can you imagine? Jesus says, “You have gifts. I’m going to make sure you can use them to their maximum.” Alas, religious leaders, always getting in the way.

They didn’t even believe poor Bob was poor Bob. “Surely, he must be some kind of imposter Bob just as he is impostering his gifts,” they thought. What’s next if we allow this? Others blind imposters may want to use their gifts too! This ends now!

Pharisees

An idea sprang up. As smart as they are, religious types are never lacking for ideas. They sent for his parents. They would know their son was unqualified just as they would know this man was an imposter, wannabe faker. They asked the blind man’s parents, “Is this your son?”

“Yes,” their answer came. Shocking, I know, both the question and the answer!

“How is it that now he can see?” the leaders asked. “Who know?” came the answer from Bob’s parents. “We only know he is our son, ask him if you want more information.

Bob trudged forward as these gatekeepers tell him, no longer asking questions, “Give glory to God by telling us the truth! We know he’s a sinner.” (As is Bob and sinners have no place here is the understood implication.)

Now, Bob, getting a little steamed says, “Look, I don’t have an answer to all of your questions. All I know is he recognized my full personhood and my gifts which is something you didn’t do then or now. Do you want to be a follower of Jesus too? You must want to follow Jesus since you’re asking all these questions. Well, if you do, that’s cool, things are better when we are all included.”

The ultra-religious still didn’t get this inclusive notion of course. Bob’s thinking is far too outrageous. To preserve the institution and rules they created, Bob was thrown out rather than included.  Better to be safe than sorry.

But, what a guy, my friend Bob, even at his most frustrated, he wants to include others.

Just imagine a world where we let everybody live freely without exclusion or restriction? Bob knew the power of this all along. The problem never was Bob at all. He never missed a chance to recognize the value of others in front of him.

Fortunately for the rest of us we still have the opportunity to join forces with this bigger, inclusive love that accepts even those overlooked without restriction. It does what love does.

No matter what, when it comes to justice oriented inclusion, love accepts, no exceptions.

Do You Even Care?

Hey Insider Churchy Type, Guess what?

The people outside your walls, the ones you show through your actions and inactions you don’t care about them, they don’t care about you either.

I know because I’m a churchy type too though I might think a little differently from some of you seemingly in control in this moment.

I’m a bit of an outside insider and every time you show your true colors by making sure someone else is left outside your version of love, I hear non-churchy types asking, “Why?” or “What?” or just rolling their eyes as they tell me, “This is why I gave up on church long ago.”

They wonder why I don’t leave your church along with them but, sincerely, I stay because I want to help. Despite everything I see, I still want to believe you’ve got a loving heart in there. It’s just buried under all the garbage that isn’t.

I know what you’re thinking, “The world has always rejected us.” Your smug elitist attitude shouts it out loudly, but have you ever considered you left the world, and the people in it, long before they left you?

You were so focused on heaven, you forgot that part Jesus tells you about loving your neighbor who is right in front of you.

Yes, your neighbor. Your neighbor not necessarily like you. Your brown neighbor, your LGBTQIA neighbor, your crippled neighbor like me, the outsiders, you left us behind. Were your raptured away? Did I miss something?

No, unfortunately for both of us, that’s not the case. You left us behind but we can still hear you. You know that, right?

We hear your cries of, “We love you but please stop sinning because it upsets our fragile sensitivities” Can you hear us telling you to “look in the mirror or at least look for the log in your own eye? What part of love your neighbor don’t you get?” (Paraphrase, that Jesus guy.)

By the way, love always seeks justice for those left out its circle. Jesus often cautioned the alpha religious in his day of this too.

Love Wins Wheelchair with Stole

I’m sorry if you need more time to comprehend. It’s only been 2,000 years, I know, but are you even trying? Seriously, read the words of that book you’ve fashioned into your own image, especially the red letters. They’re pretty important.

“Love us enough to accept us just as we are and not as you think we should be because none of us is as we should be.” (That’s a paraphrase from another ragamuffin type like me who considered the plight of the marginalized and its intersection with inclusive love during his earthy walk, Brennan Manning.)

I know, I know, “Love us too,” you say. …I think what you mean is, “Let us perpetuate our systemic exclusion.”

Sorry, I can’t do that. Again, love always seeks inclusion through justice. If you recall, Jesus turned your exclusionary world upside down. Besides, our demands are pretty simple. We set the bar low. Baby steps and all. I assure you, you’d still have most of the power and control.

Just love us enough to include sort of equally. Love us enough to speak out against the evils of racism, homophobia, gender bias, ableism, etc. We aren’t asking for much although I know this makes you a little uncomfortable. I can see you squirming in your seat. Again, baby steps.

Since I’m asking, however, from my perspective as a cripple, would it kill you to try and work a bit toward access too? I don’t mean to be pushy but the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law almost 30 years ago.

I know, you fought really hard to be excluded from that one also. Nobody will tell you who belongs inside! You won’t catch my crippleness, I promise.

It’s just that I think you missed something. The neighbor in the story Jesus told didn’t leave the other on the side of the road after he was beaten and left for dead.

Still, I get it. I know how you do things. All of us outsiders do.

We’ve watched for a while now so as we continue to turn away, don’t bother to wonder, “Why?”

Of course, it’s not too late. You could still repent and consider what the Kingdom of God is like. I think Jesus said something about that too…

I just have to ask, “Do you even care?”