Sunday, March 5, 2017

Ash Wednesday Reflections

I have this weird cognitive dissonance in thinking about time post-Race, because I spent nearly a year organizing months based on location more than date. I have it in my head that Carnival/Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday happened in Ecuador last year, which means February, so I feel like it should still be very much February and not almost the second week of March. It's like I have to relive those memories in order and I'm two weeks behind and haven't made it to Peru yet.

(Bad team almost didn't make it to Lima because someone thought it would be fun to have a "squad race" and gave us a day or two to plan our travel. But we prayed some "level 100" prayers and got earlier bus tickets than everyone else and won, and then got rewarded with massages at Final Debrief, probably for all the stress it caused.)

But anyways, I've been thinking about the interesting comparison between my Ash Wednesday experience this year and last year.

(For starters, there are no kids running around the streets spraying everyone with silly-string/foam stuff and dumping water on us.)

I joined the choir at my church about a month ago, so I asked to come in an hour early to work so I could leave with enough time to Metro home, eat, sit for a second, and then make it to the choir call on time. So for starters, I was a part of the structure of worship as compared to last year when it was about as unstructured as you can get. (Maybe not for all my non-denominational teammates, but hey, I'm Presbyterian. We like our structure.)

There something beautiful in both of those settings though.

Ecuador, a small room, everyone sweltering because it's miserably humid but staying after our day's work to gather together. Simple Bible readings, songs, no pastors, just the ashes. My team leader did an amazing job at putting together this basically impromptu service. (Not that it wasn't well thought out, because it was, but we just used what we had on hand. I think the ashes were burnt paper scraps and we listened to music on an iPhone.)

I have lots of magical, mountaintop moments in my life that have come from quiet gatherings like this. Twelve people gathered for foot-washing at camp. Three people gathered to listen to music. Seven people gathered for the imposition of ashes.

The aesthetic appeal comes from the simplicity, the closeness. The thought that this was how the church started, not as an obligation or cultural practice but as something meaningful and personal. I wouldn't trade the "big church" opportunities I got growing up, like children's musicals and choir trips and handbells and youth group. But thanks be to God that we can still find time for the small moments too.

Washington, D.C., a stone-walled Sanctuary with stained glass, everyone complaining because it's 70 degrees in February, tired after a long day's work but gathered together. Choral chants, prayers and a short message, What Wondrous Love is This, ashes and Communion. The little ironic smiles shared when the choir stands up to sing and the pastor gives a long prayer.

As a history lover, as a story lover, what touches my soul the most about celebrating this service in a 100+ year old church is knowing how many people have done this exact thing in this exact space. Knowing that the words may change, the faces may change, but the heart is always there. The heart of love, the heart of God.

I love to be in spaces full of ghosts. Not that I think there are prank-pulling spirits roaming the halls, haunting old buildings, but the idea of people who once were and are gone. So many people have worshiped in this sanctuary, but now they are memories. Their bodies were here, but now they're gone. The important thing is, they were here. Their spirits are still here with us. It's astounding to think of all those who've gone before us.

And then I think about what Ash Wednesday means to me.

I say that my two favorite holidays are Christmas and Easter, but I think Easter has a little edge. I mostly am obsessed with the music, which makes it awesome to have a month of lead-up to sing before the actual day where we get to sing even more. But what Easter has that doesn't quite have the same punch in Christmas is the contrast. Sure, we're waiting in Advent. But waiting for a baby is happy, excited waiting.

Waiting for the cross is so different.

I love the contrast, the solemnity of Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday versus the big, loud joyfulness of Easter morning. It's a beautiful reflection of humanity.

And it is in the music of solemnity that I so often hear one of my favorite foreign words.


(We sing a lot in Latin in this choir, so lots of miserere.)

I don't think I had learned this word until I went to Spain, where I heard it plenty at mass. My first thought was, 'What does God have to do with misery and discord?'

But that's not what it means. Quite the opposite, in fact.



Jesus on the cross, the very picture of misery and discord, finishes both of them off.

Mercy wins.

Misery and discord are banished.

That's what is so compelling to me in this time of Lent. In our great, big, terrible, beautiful world, that mercy will still keep shining through.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On Surviving the Unloving


I'm tired, y'all.

Partially I was tired of dealing with winter up North-ish, but we've thankfully gotten a reprieve in the weather this past week.

I wish that were the case for our society.

I'm so tired of living in a place that thinks it's more important to keep transgender individuals out of a bathroom where they fit in than it is to keep cisgender, heterosexual male predators out of bathrooms...or locker rooms...or the highest offices of government.

I'm so tired of living in a place where people defend the Muslim ban with their fear of a fringe sect halfway around the world bent on destroying, well, everyone. Where Republican politicians mourn for made-up incidents while ignoring the hundreds upon thousands of innocent Muslim lives taken by ISIS across the globe.

[And somehow that 5 year old Syrian kid is going to like us better when he grows up in a refugee camp hearing that the U.S. abandoned him instead of providing shelter and helping him recover from the traumas of war...right.]

I'm so tired of living in a place where two darker-skinned men can be gunned down by a white man shouting racial slurs and it's no immediately condemned as a hate crime. Where crimes committed by white supremacists are pardoned and ignored but law-abiding communities are targets of police surveillance.

I'm so tired of hearing the comparison of, "Well, you lock your doors at night don't you? That's what we're trying to do for the country."

You know why we really have to lock our doors at night? Because we live in a capitalist society that thinks it's okay for rich politicians to take money away from educating the poor, feeding the poor, providing a basic right to life for the poor, just so they can buy a second yacht with their tax breaks. Because letting non-white people vote does not immediately erase CENTURIES of bigotry, systematic oppression, lack of opportunity, and violence done to their communities.

I'm so tired of living in a so-called "Christian nation" that has never had a state religion, not from its founding, for a good reason. The irony is, these leaders we have [and pardon the language here, but really] don't give a damn about good stewardship of the earth, loving their neighbors as themselves, feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, etc.

They have corrupted the beautiful gospel of PEACE to bring war on people who don't look like them.

They have corrupted the beautiful gospel of JOY to tear families apart because they weren't born in the right place and didn't know the right people.

They have corrupted the beautiful gospel of FELLOWSHIP to reject and disparage the refugees who want to come make this country great.

They have corrupted the beautiful gospel of HEALING to deny their fellow human beings the right to live a healthy, productive life.

They have corrupted the beautiful gospel of LOVE to bring hate and intolerance to God's rainbow array of children.

And if they don't have love...from my religious standpoint, they're just banging their drums and cymbals. They build up their earthly wealth and power, that rich man feasting while Lazarus starves outside. I know the God of Wonders can work a miracle with these people. I desperately hope and pray it will happen, for the sakes of all those who are suffering and will suffer under them. But I see the downward spiral they're on. I see the downward spiral this country is on.

Somehow, we've retained this idea that America = #1!!!!!!!!!

Number one in what, though?



Drug use?

Cost of higher education?

Infant mortality?

Bankruptcies brought on by medical costs?

Bloated defense spending?

Gun violence?

Y'all, I know there's a whole theology about the end times and Revelation and s*@$ hitting the fan, but...I don't want to see that in my lifetime. I don't want to give up the fight against evil. I don't want to lose hope for ending poverty, and domestic violence, and the school to prison pipeline. I don't want to stop dreaming that we'll end the refugee crisis, and welcome migrants, and love our neighbors.

I really hope y'all are dreaming and hoping and praying this with me. I hope you care. Because I have to believe that we can still turn this sinking ship around.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Tale of Two Men

I was going to write a follow-up to my Women's March post next, but this administration moves too quickly on to new targets and I felt it wasn't quite thematic with everything else going on in the world. So here is my take on the targeting of Muslim refugees:

I want to tell a couple of stories.

The first comes from the pastor at my new church up here in D.C. It was delivered the Sunday before the election, and it became a prayer, a hope to hold onto in the ensuing weeks.


There once was a wealthy man. He worked very diligently at his job because he felt it was performing a service for his country. (Unfortunately, he worked in an unpopular field which didn't win him any friends.) As he had no family to support, he gave away half of his money away each year - donating food, goods, and funds to people in need. He felt good about himself, but knew something was missing.

Then one day, he heard about a radical new preacher that was coming through town. This man spoke about community and belonging and forgiveness. 'That's the kind of man I want to meet,' the wealthy man thought, so he went to a rally. By the time he got there, all the good seats had been taken. The crowd was so large that the (rather short) rich man couldn't see any of what was happening. So he did the next best thing.

He climbed a tree.

The preacher noticed him up the tree and called him over. The crowd grudgingly parted so he could get to the preacher. "I'm going to come to your house for dinner tonight," the preacher said. The rich man was so excited to have a guest, he ran home and let his servants know to prepare a feast.

His life was changed.


Now, if you ever went to Sunday School, you may have some arguments about how I told this story. "That's Zacchaeus," you might be saying, "only Zacchaeus wasn't such a nice guy. He was a crooked tax collector!"

I know that version of the story well. But back in November, our pastor invited us to consider a different translation that turns the story upside down. This was a fascinating perspective on the difference one little word can make.

At the end of the story as we know it, Zacchaeus says contritely, "Lord, I will give half my possessions to the poor and anyone I have defrauded, I will pay back four times over."

But what if he's really saying: Lord, I give (as in, already give) half my possessions to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone, I will pay them back four times over.

What a difference that would make.

If Zacchaeus were running around, quietly helping his community and getting no thanks for it whatsoever. If they all thought he was the problem, and instead he was the solution.

Sadly, we have already seen that the country's new President is the first type of Zacchaeus, pre-Jesus. We know his charitable donations are a sham, we know his greed is more important to him than other people.

But wouldn't it be nice...

That became my prayer. That Trump would meet Jesus like Zacchaeus did, contritely, abundantly, enthusiastically. That all the billionaires he wants to have running the country would put Americans first, and not themselves. A prayer for generosity, selflessness, community.

I doubt it will ever happen. But with God, anything is possible. Even that.

This brings me to my second story. I think you'll recognize it as well.


There once was a king in a faraway land. His country had a historic population of foreigners - people with a different homeland and religion. In the past, they had been just a small fragment on the side of society. But they had begun to prosper, and the king was afraid.

He was afraid that they would steal jobs and resources from his citizens. He was afraid their differing religious traditions would detract from his people's beliefs. Frankly, he was afraid that they would become the majority and take all the benefits that he enjoyed away from him. He was afraid they would turn on him.

So first, he tried to take their prosperity. He refused to pay them what they were owed for their labor. He enacted laws that limited their opportunities for advancement. He enslaved them.

And it didn't work.

So then, he tried to isolate them. They were not allowed to move about as they pleased, they were forbidden to practice their religion.

And it didn't work.

So then, he tried to kill them.

And they rebelled.

A leader arose from amidst their suffering, a leader who had once been close to the king. He begged the king to see his people as the friends they were, not enemies. But the king was afraid, and he refused to budge. He clung to every last scrap of power, no matter the signs that went against him. And at last, he was defeated.

The people went free.


This is the story of the Pharaoh who ignored the ten plagues sent against Egypt in his blinding hatred of the Israelites. You might notice, xenophobia backfires on him. Pharaoh doesn't win in the end.

And neither will Trump.

Yes, he may cheat companies out of their hard-earned money and destroy small businesses so he can boost his own bottom line and fragile ego.

Yes, he may demonize refugee families because they have the wrong religion so that he can make America white again.

Yes, he may get people killed in hate crimes or by taking away their health care, so that institutional racism and no taxes for the wealthy can continue.

And I hate it. Don't get me wrong, I have not rolled over and died and accepted these terrible things. (At least, not on the good days.)


With every fiber of my being, I hate the racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and greed that is currently helming this country.


Even if he goes so far as to destroy our democracy in the short-term, we will come back from it. We will be stronger for it. We will be unified in our condemnation of hatred and oppression. Look at Germany - they had a similar situation begin 70ish years ago and now have a thriving democracy again.

I pray we don't go so far down this dark tunnel. I pray it desperately, that all these people will be safe. That no more babies will die in Syria, or escaping from it. That no more mamas will say goodbye to their children shot for being the wrong color. That no people will be attacked because their religious beliefs are the wrong offshoot of the same branch.

That no one will have to die because the minority picked a selfish, greedy, fearful guy to lead us.

So with that prayer, I want to offer hope. The next couple of years are going to majorly suck for a lot of people. There's no getting around that. We will have to be fighting against fascism 24/7, because there's always going to be something.

There's probably always going to be two things at once. (Please don't forget that the Joint Chiefs of Staff aren't as important for Trump to have as NATIONAL SECURITY advisers as his anti-Semitic, white nationalist chief of staff is.)

But history tells us that these weak men don't stay in power forever.

History tells us that fear is not a winning strategy.

First, they came for the Muslims, and we said NO FREAKING WAY.

There WILL be millions of people opposing Trump together, every day, until this is over.

Be one of them with me?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I March

I'm about to start blogging a lot, y'all.

Yesterday, as a still relatively new resident of the D.C. Metropolitan area, I had the great privilege to march with about 1 million of my fellow humans. (Plus a few dogs.) The whole day was full of positivity, empowerment, and unity.

A little old lady in a wheelchair got on our Metro train on the way to the rally, and the whole car cheered.

A little girl got separated from her family in the Metro station on the way back, and the whole station cheered when she was found and escorted down the escalator.

We walked together, we stood together, we laughed together, we cheered together.

Today, I saw a post shared on Facebook by a woman listing her reasons for not marching. This, in and of itself, is fine with me. I can appreciate diversity in thought, unlike some elected officials. I cannot represent every woman in America. But then she starting writing things that got my blood boiling. Things along the lines of "We have it better here than lots of people around the world" and "You can't be victims and victors."

Please, friends, don't miss the point so badly.

This march was not about whining. This march was not about painting ourselves as victims. This march was not about comparison. This march was not even about changing the minds of those power-hungry individuals who have just taken power.

Just because we have been victimized by institutional sexism, racism, etc., does not mean that we are victims. We are so much more than that.

Just because we have been victimized by individual acts of violence, hatred, etc., does not mean that we are victims. We are so much more than that.

I march because I am proud to be a Christian and a feminist.

I march because "better" does not equal "solved or "erased." I won't be satisfied with the system getting better. I want the status quo overturned. (We're all living the reaction to our progress - electing a black man as our President, and trying to elect a woman - the racist/sexist minority came out of the woodwork and stole away the Republican party.)

I march because I resist authoritarianism.

I march because no one in a developed country should die from a treatable disease.

I march because I believe black people should be treated as people. And immigrants. And people with disabilities. If you're human, I want you to be treated as a person.

I march because I want to decrease the number of abortions. However, I realize that the best way to do so is with education and birth control, not banning potentially life-saving procedures.

I march because Black Lives Matter.

I march because I believe education is a good thing. Ignorance is bad. (And I believe not having a college degree does not make you automatically ignorant. Bill Gates dropped out of college, right? Self-education is just as important as schooling.)

I march because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

I march because I want girls to be able to be scientists and I want boys to be able to be teachers. For girls to be ambitious and boys to be gentle. For girls and boys to have the same opportunities and self-esteem.

I march because transgender people are attacked for using a bathroom.

I march because corporations should not be more important than their workers.

I march because the homophobic agenda is killing people. (Compared to the gay agenda which results in more sinister things like weddings, hugs, and rainbows.)

I march because this country has got to stop violating Native Americans and their sacred lands.

I march because the school to prison pipeline disgusts me.

I march because this is not normal. If it becomes normal, then we have lost. Not democrats. If people like Trump win, democracy loses. (Have you noticed that Russia can't get Putin out of power now that he has it? Remember how Hitler did that? If we give an inch, they will take a mile.)

I march because I reject a policy of appeasement. I will not let the haters come for my LGBTQ, Muslim, Latino, black, differently abled neighbors. I won't wait for them to come for me before I act.

I march because I believe in community. The only time I have ever felt unsafe in my new neighborhood was walking home the night after the election. I kept checking over my shoulder for an emboldened, misogynist white supremacist. Thankfully, the next day I dropped by the White House at the end of an Immigrant's Rights rally and remembered that I live in a safe place, a place where people join together "sin miedo."

I march because I have so many friends who do have to deal with the white supremacists.

I march because a "great" America does not include Jim Crow laws, lynching, voter suppression, reduced opportunities for women, unsafe abortions, and people going bankrupt to pay medical bills.

I march because I care.

And no amount of fascism is going to make me stop caring. No amount of apathy is going to stop me.

So I continue to march.

Friday, July 8, 2016


I was going to begin this reentry to my old blog with a challenge to hope more, love better, and understand fuller. To envision a more positive future. To point out the ways that "Christian culture" in America could act a little more Christ-like.

But I can't do that today.

Today, I'm numb. I'm shocked. I'm tired.

I'm hopeless.

I haven't felt this hopeless in a long time. The memory of it had started to seep out of my bones, until I read the news last night. But I feel it settling in, pray that it will be abated tomorrow.

But will this senseless violence be abated tomorrow?

I doubt it.

And I wish, I wish, I wish that I could wave a magic wand and make it all go away. To erase the existence of racism. To bring back the lives that have been lost. To wipe away the tears shed by mothers, brothers, sons, girlfriends, too many to count. To eradicate prejudice and hate.

I wish.

But too many times in the month and a half that I've been home, I've woken up to a world where sound bites are more important than relationships. Where the fear of losing power makes people lash out rather than seek understanding. Where blame is shifted onto the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Enough is enough is enough.

And yet, I'm losing my capacity to hope that enough really is enough. That tragedy will spark preventative action. That rational minds will win out over fear-mongering lies. That our country will ever be the shining beacon it was envisioned to be - embracing the tired, the hungry, the poor. [Nowadays, embracing the gay, the Muslim refugee, the black.]

At this point, it feels like all the words have been spoken. All the stories shared. All the vigils prayed at. All the pleas for peace and gun control and fair treatment.

And yet.

49 names from Pulse in Orlando. Forty nine.

Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.

And 5 more names from Dallas. Brent Thompson, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens.

All I have left is one word. Listen.


Please listen.

If you are white, listen to the voices that have experienced police brutality, unequal education, racial profiling, and generations of oppression.

If you are heterosexual and cisgender, listen to the voices that have experienced name-calling, physical assaults, discriminatory legislation, and attempts to "pray the gay away."

If you are male or Christian or able-bodied or middle class or part of any other privileged group, listen to the voices that have negative experiences because they aren't like you.

Their stories are not about making you feel guilty. Their stories are not about comparing one group's pain to another's. 


Their stories are their stories, just as much as yours and mine.

Their stories are about affecting change in our society. 

Their stories are about making all of America better.

Right now, though, we just keep spinning around a merry-go-round cycle of violence and intolerance. We argue for stereotypes instead of against them. We treat the symptoms of societal ills instead of the root problem. We see a rise in hate speech, culminating in Donald Trump spreading slanderous lies about refugees, immigrants, minorities, women...and still having people willing to follow him.

Black people ask that it not be dangerous to walk/drive/exist while black. White people get offended and yell "We matter too!"

Gay people celebrate equal rights. Christians refuse to bake them cakes. 

Cop kills innocent driver. Sniper shoots innocent cop.

The only way we have a shot at changing that is if we quit going around on this endless merry-go-round. If we take just a minute to listen to the people who are different from us.



Because I don't see how we can take much more of this without all our hope bleeding out and evaporating on the ground. Our idealism mocked and beaten to the point of no recognition. Our spirits destroyed, just like the lives that violence takes.

They don't get to dream anymore, or love anymore, or rejoice anymore, or suffer anymore.

They don't get to feel anymore.

But can we?

Monday, February 23, 2015


I've been thinking a lot about this word today, with the ice keeping me home from work. It's interesting, how your mindset can change when you move from "applying" to "accepted." For me, the fear kicks in. I start to doubt. It's as if, during the application process, I've been daring the program not to accept me. Knowing that I'm good enough and expecting them to see. But once that little word changes, I begin to worry that I've made a mistake. They've made a mistake, after all.

A week before I left for Peru, I was on the verge of chickening out. (And ended up having the experience of a lifetime.)

As I finally got ready to leave for Spain, I wondered if all the visa headaches would be worth it. (They were.)

And now, I am happily announcing that I've been accepted into the World Race, my multi-country mission trip that I've been excited about for literally a year now. (Yay!)

But also: eeek!

I know that this is my calling, this is my passion, this is my route. And yet.

And yet.

I'm a little nervous. The doubts and questions start pouring in. I'm not the best at talking to new people, so am I really qualified to be a missionary? I don't have a ton of spiritual discipline, so am I really qualified to be a missionary? Etc, etc, etc.

How interesting, that we humans do this to ourselves, despite the mountains of evidence saying YES! Go for it! Reach for the stars! (Insert your preferred motivational phrase here.)

I'm sure in the next few weeks of preparation, this feeling will subside. I plan on keeping myself distracted by writing short travel story blog posts and sharing some of the pictures I've gotten onto Facebook on the blog as well. And of course, tending to a demanding class of 2 year olds :)

P.S. Further posts about the World Race can be found at:

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Just about this time last year, I was with my sister, scarfing down 12 grapes as the clock struck midnight in a jam-packed Madrid square.

And now, I sit alone at home, in front of the TV, and reflect.

Don't worry. This isn't a complaining post. Due to work and traveling and general Advent business, today I've had only my second get-things-done-at-home day of the entire month and that is cause for celebration.

Besides, there was no possible way I was going to top Nochevieja in the Plaza del Sol, so I didn't make any plans. It's kind of nice to give my introverted self a break from people this New Year's.

I started 2014 off with abounding optimism. I was traveling and hanging out with my family, two of my favorite things. I lived in Spain. I had a beautiful apartment, an easy job, and unlimited sightseeing potential.

My plans started to change pretty quickly, but it really wasn't until October that I lost that optimism. I think that's a new record.

You may know that I don't deal well with change, or with feeling a lack of control. I started working at a day care in August, a place with a fabulous Assistant Director and friendly teachers and a class I adored. And then, seven weeks into my new job, suddenly I was being moved to a different center. I was devastated. It's taken me this long to get over that [and I'm still not 100% there, to be honest].

So looking back, I'm glad for another "fresh" start. I've got some exciting traveling things to look forward to, further in the year. This new class of mine should be staying the same after this month. I have lots of good days and lots of things to be thankful for.

It's not the same as it was 12 months ago, but then again, I don't want the same. I don't want to be in grad school right now, or starting a career at a company I could see myself committing to forever. If I had wanted that, I probably would have had it already. And that, I think, is why I keep beating myself up about being a college graduate still living at home and working an hourly wage job, temporary as that all may be. That "American Dream" is still so prevalent that I have trouble seeing my own dreams underneath it.

[Okay, I'm going to complain a little bit here. Working 40 hours a week, plus 1 hour for lunch and 1 hour of driving each day, does not leave much down time for figuring out what, precisely, my own dreams are. There's not a lot of room for any kind of creative pursuits or higher-order thinking, really. Hence the no blog posts since August. How do people do this their entire adult lives?]

I don't really make New Year's resolutions, because I know myself well enough to know that I won't keep them, but I want to start 2015 off with a promise that I think I've made to myself, consciously or not, for quite some time: I promise to try a little harder to do things that are rewarding. To blog. To meet up with friends. To read. To go on walks. To travel. To create.

It's a New Year, y'all. Anything is possible.