Friday, January 29, 2010

Pro Life

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for only 37 minutes. - news today from Wichita, KS
Scott Roeder made it so easy.  He admitted he shot Dr. George Tiller in the forehead at point blank range.  He confessed he'd been stalking the doctor since 1999.  He said he felt relieved after the killing, and even stopped for pizza as he drove out of town. 

All of this from the witness stand earlier this week, at his murder trial in Wichita, Kansas.

Dr. Tiller had performed late term abortions - legally - in Kansas for 35 years.  Scott Roeder considered Dr. Tiller's work murder, and hoped a jury would agree that he was appropriately protecting the unborn when he killed Dr. Tiller at the back of his church on a Sunday morning last May. 

The jury did not agree.  In fact, the jury was clearly not a bit confused about its disagreement with Mr. Roeder. I'd say it appears members of the jury were unanimously pro-life.

As in prison.  Life in prison. 

Perhaps it's a good turn on the phrase...


Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Heartbeat for Hope

As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home. - President Obama, State of the Union last night it was a bit anticlimactic for we peaceniks who have been disheartened since last March, when the President announced his August 2010 plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq.  After all, he had promised an end to the war in Iraq within 16 months of the beginning of his term. August 2010 was 20 months. 

Plus, the distinction "combat troops" seemed like a bit of a fudge on the promise to bring all troops home.

But, oh, I did love the sound of "Make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home."  It gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes.  I couldn't suppress my own round of standing applause. 

And then I couldn't suppress my memory. 

I am still trying to forget the words of a different President, spoken quite dramatically in May of 2003: "In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." -George W. Bush

Oh, if only...

If, indeed, we had prevailed in Iraq by May of 2003, perhaps 4,000 young US men and women would still be walking this Earth.

If we had prevailed and stopped fighting in Iraq by May of 2003,  we'd have had 960-billion dollars in the national bank to keep our economy out of the depths of despair. 

So Barack Obama better not be blowing smoke up our pant legs. Because we all know how to calculate the cost of war.  

If only he had waved a magic "instant peace" wand last January:

The US would have 90-billion unspent war dollars sitting in the national treasury, and 149 US military troops might still be alive. 

"Make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home."

Make no mistake, Mr. President:  Our patience is ending in August.  Bring the troops home.

Until then, I choose to embrace the President's tone of resolve and be hopeful.  


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fighting Weak Resignation

This is the awkward, reluctant confession of a liberal...

Tomorrow night when the President stands before Congress and a worldwide television audience to summarize his opinions and his plans regarding the state of this great Union of ours, I'll be having dinner with friends.

I doubt we'll tune in.

Interestingly, these are the very same friends who gathered in my home last January, giddy with excitement, to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama.  We took the day off work, proudly waved flags, drank champagne at noon, and cried as we watched the President take his oath of office.

Tomorrow, I suspect we will ignore him.

What gives?

We are still intelligent, well-read, peace-loving, hard-working, outspoken people.  We still believe in democracy, free speech, liberty, equality, justice for all...but I bet we'll be drinking wine and talking about our new year's resolutions instead of listening to what the President has to tell us.

I fear we've given up.  We are one-quarter of the way through President Obama's term, and we seem to have decided it's too risky to cling to hope.  There is not peace, and no health care legislation.  There are no jobs, and no mortgage deals.  We have no CLOSED sign on Guantanamo, and no gays openly serving in the military.  What's more - like icing on our Cake of Woe - the Supreme Court has tossed out 100 years worth of wisdom about corporate campaign funding.

We have begun to think our small voices, which seemed so loud and beautiful last January, are about to be squelched forever.  After eight years of George W. Bush, and now one year of political in-fighting and hope strangling, we feel like we are living a Japanese proverb:

Fall down seven times.  Stand up eight.

And so we sit in our complacent ditches and tell everyone we're tired of caring.


This, my friends-of-like-mind, is how the other side wins.  No matter what the game..

Handball - we give up, we lose.  Learning piano - give up, lose.  Running, bicycling, dancing, growing vegetables, fighting cancer, educating children, loving your spouse, raising your kids, creating peace/health care/opportunity/fairness - we give up, we lose.

We sang a great hymn in church Sunday, then stood around after the service and talked about how tired we are of sorting through promises and politics and pundits to find our way to effective participation in this democracy.  In the middle of the conversation, my friend Carol picked up the hymnal and pointed to the first line of the last verse in the song we'd just sung:

Save us from weak resignation, 
To the evils we deplore. 

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage.  That's the refrain of the hymn... 

...for the facing of this hour. 
...for the living of these days. 
...lest we miss the kingdom's goal.

At 8 pm tomorrow night (CST) - I'm standing up again.  Because there is no moving forward if I stay in the ditch waving my flag of weak resignation.

Peace.  It's coming...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Afternoon in the ER

Most of my attention was focused on the rattling 6'5" frame that was my son in a world of pain.

But I couldn't help counting the number of people and kinds of test equipment coming in and out of the emergency room cubicle.  Simultaneously, it was hardly enough to take care of my baby, and way too much to pay for.  Each time the door opened, I was grateful we'd bought him a private health insurance policy. 

There was the doctor, two nurses, three technicians, another doctor, and one volunteer.  They delivered four injected medications, two bags of saline, tubes for body fluids, CT scan orders, and blankets (eventually).  We were there a little over four hours before they released my son with instructions for coping with kidney stones. 

What do you think that afternoon in the ER cost?

I can promise you this - if it was more than $100, my self-employed musician son could not afford it. 

The ER was full of people like my son last Tuesday.  Full.  I asked one of our nurses if the frenzied pace he was keeping was normal.

"It's always like this," he said.  "We prioritize on the run.  People dying come first.  People who might die if we don't hurry next.  People who can wait, wait." 

"How do you think it will be when everyone has access to health care?"  I asked him.

"Much better," he was quick to respond.  "People will go to their doctors when they're sick, and come to the ER when it's a real emergency."

Spend an afternoon in an ER waiting room if you don't believe we need health care reform in this country...

If you don't know someone who can't pay for a doctor when he's sick, then you don't get out enough.

If you can honestly look one of those uninsured/underinsured people (who I'm sure you know) in the eye and say, "Sorry you don't have health care like I do," then you're selfish.

If you can deny our systems are overloaded with people in medical crises who might have avoided a dire situation if they'd been able to afford a visit to a doctor, then I'm guessing you haven't looked up from your FOX News channel in quite a while.

And if you think Democrats are defeated by an election in Massachusetts, and are now going to their underground lairs to lick their wounds and play nice with the health reform naysayers, then you've swallowed a pill - which I hope you can pay for - and wandered into Never Never Land.

I pray, for your sake, there's a decent public health care system there.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The pastor said something last Sunday like, "Our hearts have broken this week as we've seen images from Haiti..."

So I began to check my heart.

To be sure I had experienced overwhelm as reports came in detailing the amount of devastation the 7.0 earthquake had caused.  Of course I felt horror when the number 50,000 was offered as an estimate of the dead in the small, poverty stricken island country.  And, yes, my heart stopped as I listened to radio stories of digging for survivors under tons of rubble, only to find the cries for help had stopped before help had arrived.

But if I was going to be honest, sitting in my comfortable, completely unruined chair in the suburbs of Austin last Sunday morning - there was no brokenness in my heart over Haiti.

People die in natural disasters. Heartbreak, for me, unfolds as political instability or bureaucratic bumbling or human ignorance gets in the way of efforts to relieve human suffering.  But that's not the story that was coming from Haiti last week.  It seemed, in fact, that humanity rallied for the people of Haiti.

Political ideologies were put aside for the higher calling to respond with common compassion.

Technology was used to its greatest good to ensure quick and efficient response to overwhelming need.

Heroes of the stage, screen, and sports arena stepped forward with open hearts, big checks, and inspiring messages to their fans.

My heart was actually soaring (once I got Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson out of my system).  I!  See what we can do in the world in the name of love and compassion when we tune out the voices of those who want to be richest and strongest and smartest and best, and listen simply to our own hearts?

Here's what I discovered was breaking my heart as I sat in church last Sunday:    
And this:  

And photos like these:

And I couldn't help wondering...

What if Presidents Bush and Clinton were called into service on behalf of peace in Afghanistan? 

What if "PEACE" texted to 90999 sent letters to Congress urging lawmakers to re-think all war funding?

What if Sandra Bullock wrote a $1 million check to Ayni Education International to help build schools in Afghanistan?

So, yes, my heart is breaking.  We know how to love all people.  We have resources that - shared - would make the world a very kind and gentle place.  We could - I believe - create peace if we wanted to.

We proved it last week.

Seek peace.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Religion Gone Wrong - Part 2

Pat Robertson on Haiti.  Oh, c'mon, Pat...

The Huffington Post on Pat Robertson (I could not say it better, so I didn't try)...

Go to Hell, Pat Robertson: Haiti Needs Help, Not Stupidity

What God-honoring people should be talking about, thinking about...

What You Can Do to Help in Haiti

Why waste our God-given resources on anything else?  Pat?


Monday, January 11, 2010

Religion Gone Wrong

Records and interviews with family and friends suggest (he) had a fanatical preoccupation...and used (religion) to support his beliefs.

...said he believed killing "is justifiable," 

...described him as self-righteous and someone who may be capable of murder.
...a highly religious individual who had very high moral convictions in order to carry out this act...

These words were not written about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Muslim Nigerian citizen who attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear in a Christmas Day terrorist attack on a Northwest Airlines flight.

The words above were written about a Christian man from Kansas whose murder trial opened this morning in Wichita.

Scott Roeder shot George Tiller in the head at point blank range last May, as Dr. Tiller stood in the back of his Lutheran church on a Sunday morning helping people find seats for worship.  Mr. Roeder has never denied he killed Dr. Tiller - he's counting on a "necessity defense" to absolve him of wrongdoing in the matter.

He killed Dr. Tiller, he said, in defense of innocent lives.  George Tiller, you see, had performed legal abortions in Kansas for 36 years.

Like the judge presiding over Scott Roeder's trial - I hope to avoid a conversation about the rightness or wrongness of abortion.  That's a matter clear-headed people should be taking up with presidents and congressfolk .. the people who seat judges on the Supreme Court, which allowed women the right to legal termination of pregnancy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1973.  

What I would like to encourage is a pause in the fervor of patriotic, God-fearing Americans who believe Muslims are to be feared.  I'd like to call us all to a moment of self-examination and sanity in which we realize violence and destruction lives in the wrong-headed religious fanaticism of every faith.

Even ours, Christians.

Who wants his/her faith evaluated on the basis of proclamations of righteousness from Scott Roeder and his supporters?  If you want to be afraid, click over to the Army of God website, where Scott Roeder is hailed an American hero, and verses from the Christian holy book are used to justify his actions.

Who's ready to cast the first stone at an entire faith based on a spin off group of radical thinkers or one verse taken from a holy text?  Not me.

I've cranked up Terri Hendrix' song Judgment Day (listen here, cut 1) this morning, and I'm singing along:

Everybody wants to use God when there's nobody but themselves to blame.  
Everybody wants to use God when they do the dirty deeds in his name.


Peace, all.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Never A Question?

I never question why things happen the way they do.

That's what Texas quarterback Colt McCoy said last night after an injury sidelined him in the BCS National Championship game during the first quarter of play.

If you follow football at the University of Texas, no doubt you've heard Colt McCoy "give God the glory" week after week, year after year. He walks from fist pumping and back slapping with his teammates after each game (he is the winningest QB in major college football history), meets the ESPN reporter at the sidelines, and opens with, "I just give God the glory."

He has done it every time. For four years.

He stuck to the script, mostly, last night after he watched his beloved Longhorns fizzle out on his college career ending field of dreams. He stood bravely facing the national TV audience, his throwing arm hanging limply at his side and said, "I always give God the glory. I never question why things happen the way they do."

Oh my. Colt McCoy has a lot of life yet to see.

I can appreciate Colt's determination to be faithful in all circumstances. I can honor a young person who lives all of life - including the part that involves throwing a ball - in awe of the Creator who put all of life in motion. I can even abide a naive world view that imagines a God who cares about which team wins a college football game.

But the comment, I never question why things happen the way they do erased believability from the strength of Colt McCoy's glories to God for me last night.  I couldn't suppress a cynical laugh and a bitter comment.

"Really, Colt?  Really?"  That's what I said to the TV.

Perhaps when the "things" that happen in life begin to ooze outside the confines of 100 yards of well-kept grass, Colt McCoy will have a question or two. Maybe when he has time to look up from impressive personal stats and game day clipboards, he'll find the millions of questions the rest of us are taking to our moments with God each day.

Why do the world's children die hungry while America dies fat?

Why is killing innocent people in Iraq...Afghanistan...Vietnam...Hiroshima not murder?

Why do healthy, creative young people suffer with illness/succumb to tragedy waaay before their time should end?

Why are people hated because of the color of their skin, the choice of their mate, or the preference of their religion?

Even the most faithful saints of all time have wondered, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Maybe Colt McCoy will discover, as I have, that trust in God is strengthened in those moments of deep longing for answers to life's painful questions.  I find no greater affirmation of my belief in God than I do when  I meet a grieving Creator who does not stand at the control panel dishing out tragedy to test the strength of my resolve to believe - but stands with open arms and a broken heart to say, "I'm sorry it hurts so much.  There is confusion and disappointment and evil in the world.  I am here to hold you." 

 So what's a God-fearing, heartbroken, high profile, NFL-bound quarterback to do when the nation turns its eyes and ears to him for a comment at the end of such a night?

Well...I was grateful he didn't cry.  And I was struck by his poise and the absence of bitterness in his voice. But I do wish he'd left God out of the conversation for once.  Talk about the team, the helplessness of the situation, the injury.  Sum up the interview with a smile and a wave and a God is still God if you must.

That's honest and believable.

Colt McCoy:  I never question why things happen the way they do. 


Teresa of Avila:  The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.


God is on the journey, too.  Sometimes it's just a puzzlingly bad trip.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hope Dancing

Peace did not prevail on Earth in 2009.
Justice did not roll down like waters in a mighty stream.
Barack Obama did not save the world in 11 months.

There was reason to cry everyday for people all over the world - in Gaza, Baghdad, Kabul, Killeen...

Children continued to die in Pakistan, Peru, Zimbabwe, and New York from hunger and hunger related diseases - one dead child in the world every 5 seconds.

We found no bottom to the economic downturn in this country, and no jobs for the many eager and unemployed people we all know.

We fanned smoldering fires of hope for most of the year and fought feelings of betrayal, disappointment, and utter despair.

I did not land the perfect job, unearth a new calling, publish a piece of important literature, or win the lottery.

The year was unremarkable, really - unfolding in the stillness of mornings, the mystery of moonlit evenings, and the wonder of thoughts emerging on the tips of fingers poised over this computer keyboard.

I attended more weddings than funerals, laughed more than cried, loved more than hated, held tight more than pushed away. I stood awestruck and teary at the edge of the Grand Canyon, held hands and dreamed dreams to the sound of the Pacific Ocean, passed soup to the homeless, coins to the jobless, and many glasses of wine across my kitchen counter to friends.

My sons fell in love - one with the creative, feast-or-famine life of a musician; one with a brilliant and beautiful girl.

My husband stayed in love. In spite of meltdowns, insecurities, flakiness, and general ADD behavior on my part, he stood with me - encouraging dreams, affirming milestones, kissing the hurts, reattaching the severed visions.

Most people I know still believe in God, still respect the wisdom of their elders, and continue to have faith in the ultimate goodness at the core of all that has been Created.

The dance of hope is tricky. The steps are complicated and the rhythm in the music is sometimes hard to find. The signals from our brains to our bodies so often miss the mark. We feel like fools, look like klutzes, and become so self-conscious that we forget to laugh at ourselves.

Stop today. Listen for the music playing in the background of life. See if you can find a groove. Look for a partner in the dance. Extend a hand. Move your feet. Stick with it. Hum the tune all day long. Write your own words.

That's hope you're nurturing, friends. Dance on.

2010 - bring it on.