Parkland One Year Later

On Valentine’s Day last year, I was in the hospital for knee surgery. It was a 15 minute procedure preceded by something like 2 ½ hours in pre-op and followed by a nap on the couch. As I struggled to climb out of the fog left by the anesthesia, I turned on the TV to the news of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. All of a sudden, the name of another town most of us didn’t know before that moment became synonymous with another mass shooting.

And I thought, “Here we go again.”

Because if nothing much changed after Sandy Hook, the likelihood of a change after Parkland was slim.

And yet.

The students of MSD High School stood firm and strong in their vow of “Never again.” The young people who are wise and brave and survivors of an event that has completed altered the course of their lives have pushed all of us to really do something to make it possible for them to be the last group of students to experience this type of tragedy.

It launched my own state into action around school safety. Thankfully, our state legislature recognized that school safety encompasses physical safety as well as emotional well-being. A House Committee was formed. Legislation was introduced. People really began working to ensure that all of our students had better access to mental health supports at school as well as enhanced safety measures for the buildings themselves. Earlier this week, three more bills were filed in the House that dealt with school safety in some way.

Because this time, things are different.

The atmosphere around policy and legislation and the questions lawmakers were asking around here was palpably different. Optimistically different. These issues were being taken on in ways they had not before. And still are one year later.

There are few words of comfort we can offer the family members and friends of those who died at MSD High School that day. They will forever mark time differently. Valentine’s Day will always carry a weight that most of us cannot understand. I am mindful of what this anniversary means for them.

And yet I remain hopeful that the work being done around school safety will continue so that we really can say, “Never again.” I am thankful for the leadership of the MSD High School students in pushing for change. Our future is brighter because of them. Even though they paid a high price to make it so.


17 Flames on an Altar


-An act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure

-An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy

Many would argue that worship is important in this “Judeo-Christian” nation. Likely, many people who value worship automatically connect the concept to what happens in churches and synagogues and mosques each week. While I agree that the gathering of the religious body is important and, often, where worship happens, I also would argue that worship can be a more subtle and sinister concept. Because worship in this country also happens outside of the gathering of a religious body.

Some of my more conservative brothers and sisters may view it through the lens of idolatry. Technically, the two are synonymous.

Regardless, where you find worship, you find sacrifice, where something of value is rendered for something considered to be more valuable, more important, more worthy. It could be time. It could be money. It could be some other gift of self.

It could be a life.

When we worship the availability of guns, including those that should never be in the hands of civilians, a sacrifice is required.

When we worship standards of masculinity that are impossible and toxic, a sacrifice is required.

When we worship funding systems and institutions that privilege corporations, diverting money that could otherwise be appropriated for services like quality and affordable mental health care, physical health care, housing and childcare–things from which we ALL would benefit, a sacrifice is required.

When we worship the stuff and the money required to fund it so much that we are not available to be with one another in quality, intentional time, a sacrifice is required.


And on the altar this morning, there were 17 flames–tea lights scattered between the pillar candles and in front of the Bible open to the day’s New Testament passage. The names of each victim in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day were read aloud inside the sanctuary and recorded in chalk on the sidewalk leading to it. Because as a nation, we. keep. putting. lambs. on. the. altar. 


The Year in Books

You know I’m back like I never left (thanks, Macklemore)…

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and I’m pretty sure I skipped last year’s annual year in review of books, but I’m here for it this year.

I had a goal of reading 25 books this year and surpassed it by three…with a few more still in process (hello, easy wins in 2018). I branched out this year and spent time reading young adult and middle grades fiction so I could connect in different ways with kids at work. I also started handing the microphone in my head to diverse voices in text, to hear from other voices that are not always clearly heard or represented in the mainstream. And yes, I still spent time with a couple of my favorite white male protagonists…because sometimes you just need a solid character kicking someone’s ass as a means of escape. Or is that just me? Sprinkle in a bit of general nonfiction as well as professional reading, and you’ve essentially got it covered. I’ve captured the list categorically below…and in no particular order…so without further adieu…


A Colony in a Nation

Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One)

Taking on Diversity: How We Can Move from Anxiety to Respect

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Motivational Interviewing in Schools

Forward: A Memoir 

Carry On, Warrior

Love Warrior

For the Love

Of Mess and Moxie

White Guys:*

The Affair

A Wanted Man


Make Me

The Secret Soldier

Death of a Spy


The Secret Servant**

The Moscow Rules**


The Hate U Give

Small Great Things

Dreamland Burning

Inside Out and Back Again


The Great American Whatever


90 Miles to Havana

Literary Classics/Required Reading: 

Mila 18


Hands down best book of the year: The Hate U Give

Runner up (tie): Small Great Things and A Colony in a Nation

Honorable Mention: Dreamland Burning

*So named because of the author and character and a new sounder on The Dan Le Batard Show (picture not related to the show)

**Separated somewhat from the White Guys category because, although they are written by a white man, the protagonist is Israeli

Brick by Brick

I left work Friday afternoon and headed to pick up my child from daycare. As I started down the hallway toward his classroom, another mother and her son, younger than mine, walked toward me on their way out. I was greeted with an exuberant “HI!” from the little guy, who oozes with a zest for life and other people. I smiled a big smile and returned the greeting.

As I passed this mother and son, my chest constricted and my heart ached, knowing that his sweet, innocent, lively presence will one day be diminished as his mama has to sit him down for The Talk. I ached for this mama who will fear for her son’s safety on a regular basis (in a way I will never have to) because we still live in a shoot first, ask questions later kind of world–especially when people of color are involved.

I felt it. Physically. Emotionally. I felt it.

I feel it often for my friends and their children. I feel it for the kids I encounter at work. I feel it for strangers I pass.

That feeling crescendoed this weekend as events unfolded in Charlottesville. Bigotry which had slumbered in hibernation awoke with a voracious appetite, ready for its first course. White supremacists with torches closed in on people gathered to speak truth to evil and love to hate. The most striking image for me, however, was the black officer standing at the rope line, his back to the rally that included white men carrying Confederate flags, wearing KKK garb, and raising their right hand in salute as the Nazis once did. The black officer looks down toward the left with a neutral expression on his face. But what thoughts must have raced through his mind?

This morning, I watched another black boy enter our shared space. This one was older, and he was accompanied by our youth pastor. The boy’s father was nearby, proudly recording his entry and lighting of the candles on the altar in our sanctuary. The schedule for which child would light those candles was made weeks ago, but this child’s role in lighting those flames TODAY was not lost on me. Not long after, my pastor stood to welcome the congregation as she does for nearly every service. She started by acknowledging that this morning was a difficult one. She named the sense of paralysis many white people feel. She named the the feeling among black people that once again their lives don’t matter. She called out the fact that 11:00 on Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour in America. The anthem sung later by the choir was Precious Lord, Take My Hand, a song favored among Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other members of the Civil Rights Movement. It was a song that was chosen weeks ago for this very morning. After the choir sat, my pastor went to work, speaking truth not only in love but to fear, challenging us to do this work–because there’s still plenty to be done.

I’ve struggled this weekend to put words to all of these things. What to say, what the hell difference it might make when we keep having to do the same kind of work. When the systems and hearts and minds of this country seem to take, at best, baby steps toward honoring the whole personhood of all who live here. I kept coming up short.

And then I read some words written by another of my ministers and I started to find my own.

He said, after proclaiming his love to our Black and Jewish and Latinx and Muslim brothers and sisters (and I would add our LGBTQ brothers and sisters), “I will continue to give my life dismantling white supremacy in the church I love and in the systems and hearts and minds of this country and world until we live in justice and peace or until I’m dead and gone or until Jesus comes back.”

Me too.

Brick by goddamned brick.

#SustainedOutrage #SubversiveLiving #RandomActs #BYOHashtag

I follow things on the Book of Face. Lots of things. One of them happens to be a page for feminist issues (shocker). The creator of that page has decided that her plan of action until Election Day 2020 is to do one positive or proactive thing each day. The hashtag attached to that action, which appears to be gaining some traction, is #SustainedOutrage. Some of you might not like that hashtag. It might be too aggressive or too…something. So change it up. Call it #SubversiveLiving or #RandomActs or some other hashtag of your choosing. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It only matters that you act daily for the next 1450 days.

Wait…how many days?

Yep. One thousand. four hundred. and fifty days.

Imagine what daily acts of positivity or kindness or action could lead to over the next 1450 days. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:

  • Donate money to a cause in which you believe.
  • Donate money more than once…because you probably believe in more than one thing.
  • Put the phone numbers of your elected officials in your phone.
  • Call them. Call them often. Make your voice heard.
  • Bring awareness to issues in a meaningful and respectful way.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Do something that shows care for another person.
  • Do something that shows care for the earth.
  • Read things that will expand your thinking or challenge your assumptions and ideas.
  • Have a conversation with someone different from you. (And if you need some help with that right now…because I sure do…and because some of you are dreading family gatherings at Thanksgiving, this TED Talk is uh. mazing. Complete with questions to include in the conversation.)

Do small things. Because it’s more sustainable. Because it’s less overwhelming. Because small things over time become bigger things. Because small steps change things.

How are the children?

It’s been said that when members of neighboring Masai tribes greet one another, they don’t do so with a “Hello” or “How are you?” They do it with the question, “How are the children?” It’s a little bit strange for that to be the leading question, but when you stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. When the children are doing well, we’re all doing well.

Wednesday morning, when I walked into work, it was clear that many of us were not doing well. A brief conversation with admin led to the counselor and I composing an email for staff on how to support our students’ potential range of emotions that day. It was the kind of email you put out the day after a major crisis event, which is telling in and of itself. I changed my plans for the day to make sure I was available if needed. All of the adults worked to make Wednesday a normal school day, but it wasn’t long before we were hearing about students who needed to talk to someone.

I spent the bulk of Wednesday talking to students, trying to provide comfort, safety, support, and hope. I sat with them as each one entrusted to me their stories, their fears, their anger, their tears, their outrage. I heard stories of parents who work multiple jobs to help their children and themselves have a better life. One student looked at me pleadingly as he said, “He calls my people murderers and rapists and now he is the president of the United States.” The unspoken question was, “HOW? How is that possible?” Another proclaimed the president-elect to be racist and sexist, feeling both of those things to be true given her identity and based on things said throughout the election cycle. Others shared their fears of being separated from family and friends based on the words of the president-elect. One simply seethed in rage over the whole thing.

Many of my students carry identities of multiple groups who have been diminished by the words of the president-elect. They feel targeted, as many do, because of their skin color, gender, or ethnicity. Many of my staff members feel the same way, in some cases adding in other identities. And all I could do was sit with each of them, letting them know they were heard and loved and safe at school. The hardest part was trying to find words of reassurance, because I just didn’t have any on Wednesday. And when I walked out of that building that day, I was wrung out.

Today, though, I’m starting to find words–starting to generate ideas for action. Because together we can do hard things. Because they are all my children. Because my people are hurting and feel unsafe. Because many of us are stunned by the messages we received loudly and clearly in the very early hours of Wednesday morning. Because I am an advocate and an ally. Because the children are not well.

Let Them Have Their King: A Short Meditation on this Election Day

When I was in seminary, I had an assignment to memorize a chunk of scripture (15 or so verses) and then deliver it in monologue fashion in front of my class. After an Old Testament class in a previous semester, I was fascinated by 1 Samuel 8. So that’s the passage I chose to memorize. And though it’s a narrative of a turning point in the history of Israel, I think it has implications for this historical election day. 

In the text, Israel had been led by Samuel, who was nearing the end of his life. None of his sons were favored to take his role, so the elders in Israel came to Samuel and asked for a king. It worked for other nations; surely it would work for them. A concerned Samuel takes it up with God.

God responds by telling Samuel to tell the Israelites what would happen if they had a king. The king “will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves.”

Samuel shared the message with the people who insisted that there should be a king so they could be like all the other nations and so the king “may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” He listened to the elders and took their message back to God, whose response essentially was, “Well then. Listen to them…and let them have their king.”

I woke up praying this morning that the majority of the people would not insist on having “their king” in this election. And yet, I fear that so many people want something so different in the worst way that they are asking for the person who has gone about being different in the worst possible way. On this election day, if you have not already done so, I encourage you to vote. And as you do, consider the implications of the choices you make when you fill in that ballot. Because sometimes what we think we want is exactly what we do not need.