Repeal, Replace: a not funny joke

Repeal, Replace: a not funny joke

Steven Wright was a dead-pan comedian. Never cracked a smile. Never altered his monotone delivery. And when each dry joke finished, you had to wonder why it was funny, or if.

“I woke up this morning… went downstairs… Someone had stolen all of my furniture… and replaced each piece with an exact duplicate of itself.”

This joke, which isn’t really funny, except for the delivery, reminds me of the current debate over health care.

Following a Higher Law

Following a Higher Law

Yes, we are a land of laws, and we should be – but following the letter of an immigration law that deports a grandmother who is a 20-year resident of the nation, the wife of a US citizen, a caring mother and attentive grandmother, an upstanding “citizen” in every regard except the paperwork – slavishly following that law will not make us free.

You Cannot Change the Definition of Compassion

You Cannot Change the Definition of Compassion

What I hear in this is, “Once you no longer need our compassion, once you are self-sufficient and successful, once you look more like us, then we’ll recognize you.” This may be one way to look at success, but it doesn’t reflect compassion as I understand that heart-felt, gut-wrenching emotion.

New

New

Is there a better word? New clothes… new car… new house… new job… new day… Don’t those three little letters, N-E-W, sum up all human hopes? 

The poor want a new way, a new hope. The affluent want a new challenge, a new adventure. The living want a new opportunity. The dying want a new reality.

It never ends. When we’re born, everything is new, and we die still seeking newness. Every age, every stage brings newness. Could we live without it? 

Is God is Calling You to be an Angel?

Is God is Calling You to be an Angel?

As this refugee crisis continues to speak to your heads, maybe God will speak to your heart, and you’ll help us respond as a church? Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13.2). 

A Different Set of Rules

A Different Set of Rules

I was away last week, taking some study leave to complete a couple writing projects. I’m holed up in a little farm house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My colleagues and I awoke the first morning to three inches of fresh snow. This fertile land was silenced in white, a gray steam rising off the Choptank River, which crawled underneath the lifeless cold a hundred feet away.

I March With Them

I March With Them

After a few people asked why I was going to participate in the Women’s March on Charlotte, and why was it called a "March for Women" as opposed to a "March for All", I decided that I needed to respond. So I have taken portions of emails I wrote in response to those questions and turned them into this blog post. I am very well aware that everyone that marched will answer the question differently. I can only tell my story.  -Amy

Worshipping Football

Worshipping Football

In the fall of 1976 I put on a pair of those silly men-in-tights pants, strapped on enough shoulder pads to double my body weight, fitted a helmet, melted a plastic mouthpiece to form-fit to my teeth, and for two years playing football for the Bell Street Middle School Wildcats was central to my identity.

Seen it on Facebook!

Seen it on Facebook!

Because he believed Hated Hillary was actually running a child sex ring, that somehow had not been detected, despite her being under unrelenting, continual surveillance, he took a loaded, automatic rifle to a public restaurant, and started shooting.

This unbelievable episode is now cause for a frantic discussion of “fake news” and potential cures for this new, dangerous social ill. Media and sociology and psychology experts from around the country are offering their erudite opinions on what we can do about this new, dangerous trend.

The Repair for Our Ills is Forward Only

The Repair for Our Ills is Forward Only

Last night I spoke to my congregation about having tried to remain mostly silent during this campaign, for fear my thoughts would be viewed as partisan.  But now that the election is over, I want to speak. 

I Must Be Present

I Must Be Present

It all went dark. 

My eyes instantly began burning and my throat felt like I swallowed a flame. I was able to open my eyes just long enough to see a hand reaching out for mine. Rachel, a young African American whom I befriended on my walk toward city center, had one hand covering her eyes and the other reaching out. I grabbed on tightly and assured her I was there.

Praying for Peace

Praying for Peace

Today is the International Day of Peace. 

And now chaos has come to our own Queen City here in Charlotte, NC. But it didn't just arrive 24 hours ago. It's been brewing here like it brews everywhere. Yesterday it just became clear and plain for all to see. 

And so, when we don't know what else to do, we gather. 

Matters of Character

Matters of Character

Just recently someone told me he had become a Republican after the 1976 election of Jimmy Carter, because the 39th president of the land had destroyed my friend’s life-long commitment to the other side of the aisle. 

You don’t have to remind me of mortgage rates in those days and the Panama Canal and the Iran hostage affair.  I was only in elementary school, but I remember the news and have read some history.  Still, it always hurts me to hear people disparage one of the best men who ever held the office. 

I didn’t say one of the savviest politicians, most conniving strategists, or best deal-makers. I said one of the best men to ever hold the office.
 
Funny thing, I think character actually matters for our national leaders.
 
It didn’t matter when I was a 5th grader that a Christian Sunday school teacher from Georgia was running for the highest office in the land as a Democrat. I probably could not have told you what party he represented, and I certainly had no idea what a party platform was. What I knew was that he was a man who loved God and cared for other people.
 
Funny thing, character was all that mattered to a naïve southern boy who loved Jesus and America.
 
Last night “the only man who has ever used the presidency as a stepping stone to greater things” spoke to an interracial gathering of pastors. I can’t remember who said that, but it’s a high compliment to the indefatigable 91 year-old, who is using his “golden years” to continue traveling the globe to eradicate guinea worms in Africa and advocate for peace with world leaders and write 29 books and lecture from Harvard to Emory and be a father and grandfather to 22 and build Habitat houses for poor Americans.  

And then come home most Sundays to still teach his Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church.
 
That character thing is actually not so funny, and maybe Americans ought to steadfastly demand it of our leaders – especially since “party” matters very little these days. Most Americans admit their vote is usually cast against one person, rather than for the other candidate. 

Maybe Americans are looking for character, not platforms.
 
In his brief message to the New Baptist Covenant the Democratic ex-president inspired me again –not by his partisan politics, but by the content of his character. I wish I had that experience more often when I hear leaders speak.
 
Carter reflected on four years in office, when no bombs were dropped from any US military plane.  He discussed the extension of a war in Afghanistan that now represents the longest military engagement in US history. He commented that most current political rhetoric seems resigned to admit a footing of perpetual war.
 
He talked of the oligarchy we have become, especially in the wake of the “stupid” SCOTUS ruling called Citizens’ United. Money is all that matters when “legal bribery” is the name of the game, not “liberty and justice for all.”
 
He remembered the 15-minute inaugural address he gave and the only two promises he made to the US people: a promise to keep the country at peace (which he did), and to pursue peace for people around the world, and a promise to strengthen civil rights (both of which he is still pursuing tirelessly). And he observed how inconceivable it would be in today’s environment for a candidate of any political affiliation to mention any of those words in a campaign.
 
They say some things never change. Unfortunately, some things do.
 
So, change your party if you’d like, or change back if you must, but stick with character. In the end, it’s all that matters.
 

A Letter to my 18-Year-Old Self

A Letter to my 18-Year-Old Self

Hi there.  This is weird, I know, but this is a letter from your 38-year-old self, written twenty years in the future.

I have timed this letter to arrive to you on August 14, 1996, which is a Wednesday during your first full week of classes at the University of Tennessee.  You have a roommate you’re still not sure you can trust, and suite mates you knew from high school that you’re glad to have.  Flip your expectations, buddy.  Let this be the first of many lessons not to judge before you have experience.