A post-election poem

November 8, 2018

Oh,my dear ones.

I know you were hoping

For a once-and-done.

For an earthquake,

A tidal wave.

Hoping that if we gave it our all,

A single push would be enough.

That after this, we could


Back into complacency,

Back into the comfort of our privilege.

I confess, in the secret corners of my heart,

I wanted to believe it could be that easy

That justice would emerge as from an egg

Fully grown

Not with wet down and weak wings…

But beloveds,

We are chipping away at a mountain,

Not a boulder.

Calcified structures

Created to oppress,



2000 years of this stupid idea

That some are more worthy,

Some deserve power by virtue of who they are.

Erosion is slow work, sweethearts.

Celebrate the progress

The triumphs.

Celebrate also the heartbreaking almosts.


Rest for a time.

Then get up and turn again toward kindness,

Toward your neighbor in need,

Toward those who are still trapped in the stone.

Tell them, “I won’t give up.”

Tell them, “I am with you.”

Tell them, “For you, I will learn to eat rocks.”

“For you, I will keep chewing, keep grinding,

Until the mountain crumbles to dust.”

-Elizabeth Stevens

h/t N.K. Jemisin


Why would a person spend all day sitting on pavement trying to get arrested?  Across the country, over a thousand people have committed acts of civil disobedience in hopes of bringing attention to the Poor People’s Campaign.  Spearheaded by Rev. Dr. William Barber, II, who organized the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina, and building on the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this campaign seeks to build a movement that refocuses people’s attention on our nation’s moral crisis.

People are dying for want of adequate healthcare.  People are dying because of environmental degradation.  People are dying at the hands of racial extremists.  Children are dying in schools in shooting after shooting.  People are dying to increase profit margins for wealthy corporations.  If we are to retain our humanity, in the face of these deaths, we must respond with courage and determination.  Gun control, environmental regulation, human rights, and voter suppression should be understood as moral issues, not political footballs.

The campaign is non-partisan; I was arrested on Monday alongside proud conservatives.  It is interfaith; Christians, Muslims, Jews, Quakers, Buddhists, and Atheists are all working together.  It is led by poor people, people of color, and other folks who are suffering.  The goal is to center the narratives of those who are directly impacted.

On Monday, we heard from a young woman whose father died of cancer at the age of 32, poisoned by toxic waste at his workplace.  We heard from a father whose son committed suicide just days after discharge from the hospital when his insurance ran out, even though all of his providers knew he was still at risk.  We heard from a family that has to choose between paying rent or buying inhalers, and from a person who is houseless because of the increase in the cost of insulin.

I put my body on the line, along with fifteen other people from all walks of life, hoping that people would notice and pay attention and hear these stories.  Please take the time to learn more about the Poor People’s Campaign:  https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/.

One of our local hospitals is inviting public comment on whether or not one of their surgeons should be allowed to offer gender confirmation surgery.  Seriously?

Here is a link to the article:


Here is the letter I sent in response: 

Dear President Grantham,
I am writing in support of Dr. Geoff Stiller and his decision to get trained in gender reassignment surgery, though, to be honest, I am a little puzzled as to why you are inviting public comment. It seems to me that the decision to have any surgery is between the patient and their doctor, and that any treatment available locally would benefit both the hospital and any patients needing that procedure. Regardless, you have asked for input, and I am happy to offer some.

As a pastor, there is a question I use to guide my decision making. I ask myself, ‘What is the most loving and compassionate thing to do in this situation?’ When it comes to this surgery, the answer is clear.

Studies show that over 40% of transgender people will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Studies also show that well over 80% of transgender people who have surgery are significantly happier and more satisfied with their lives, while less than 4% had regrets. So to say that his surgery saves lives is no exaggeration.  

Given that transgender people also are more likely to struggle with unemployment and unfair compensation, I can testify that for many people, the need to travel to Seattle or another major city for gender confirmation surgery creates serious hardship. I am quite certain that having this surgery available locally will dramatically improve lives here on the Palouse. It may even save the life of a neighbor, a friend, a student, a child. Without a doubt, the most loving and compassionate response to this controversy is to move ahead with providing this essential service.

Physicians (and a hospitals) ought to be dedicated to promoting the wellbeing, physical and mental, of their patients. A person’s religious beliefs can rightly influence their personal ethical choices, but ought not interfere with professional, competent performance. It would be inappropriate and cruel to block this surgery based on a few dissenting voices.  

Thank you for taking the time to read through the public comments. I pray you will decide to make the right choice- the loving and compassionate choice.


Rev. Elizabeth Stevens

Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse

Note:  The parts in regular font are from UUCP members and/or friends.  The parts in italics are my answers/points of clarification.

I think the biggest problem many white people have in trying to treat black people fairly is their lack of exposure to them.  People form relationships with others when they feel a connection, a sense of something in common.  How can one feel that when neighborhoods, schools, work places, churches are segregated?

This is one place where the internet offers us real treasures.  I have learned so much from reading blog posts, watching YouTube videos, and following Twitter.  Also, one thing I wonder:  shouldn’t the burden to integrate be on those of us who are white?  Rather than expecting everyone to come to us (and conform to our cultural norms) perhaps we should expect ourselves to go outside our comfort zone to develop those relationships, which, I agree, are all-important.

What are some important ways that we as white people can benefit from African wisdom and culture?

First I want to acknowledge that we already benefit from African and African-American culture in a ton of important ways.  From music to fashion to mathematics and science, many contributions have been made by people of color, who, by necessity, are informed by their culture.  So a first step would be to focus on identifying those contributions and expressing gratitude and appreciation…that said, I think we as a church would benefit from hearing more diverse sources.  One church I know has a commitment to include at least one reading and at least one piece of music by a people of color or indigenous people.  That might be a good goal to work toward.

How can we help people of color(s), different cultures feel included?  What may I change in myself to embrace people of color, different cultures, help them feel safe?  What I see in “color”:  beauty, loving, power, courage, steadfastness.  Can I learn of courage, beauty and possibilities in myself?  Allowing differences, often so obvious, and some differences, subtle but important, also allows space for me to ask for correction and express apology.  I often feel like a guest in the presence of another culture.  I have been asked many times to share my culture and language.  Sharing humor, universal and idiomatic, has lightened ambiance.  We are universal seekers.

There’s a process of learning and growth that happens when we are willing to do the work…we accept correction with an open heart and without shame, we apologize as appropriate, and we try not to make the same mistake twice.  And yes- humor helps.  

Does my skin entitle me to something?  It is a mark of me.  But underneath there is a strand of the continuum that is one in our ongoing evolutionary journey.  The only entitlement that counts is the knowing that we all have a shared need to support one another and join hands and hearts.  Differences may in some way define us but all threads must be gathered and woven into the fabric of life.

And how boring would the tapestry be if all threads were exactly the same?  The fabric doesn’t hold if all the strands go in the same direction.  We need difference, and tension, just as we need points of intersection and overlap.

White privileged men in my life- several- are kicking against the whole idea of “white privilege, especially male,” “Black Lives Matter,” paternalism, affirmative action, etc., etc., etc.  One white male in my birth family even said that it was a shame that a white person had to be afraid to walk down the street in some neighborhoods.  (I immediately thought of our history of lynching– I was appalled at his statements.)

But I see that white people- conservative men especially- are hostile, and I think that fear is at the root of this.  Promulgated by Fox News!  I don’t really understand that fear.  But it’s important that I embrace empathy for them as well as for marginalized people.

I am uncomfortable, not knowing how to interact with POC’s without saying or doing something insensitive- not wanting to but screwing up anyway.  I am afraid of, threatened by, and hostile toward big typically urban tattooed men (black, white/Latino or Asian.)  I intensely dislike hip hop/rap because it’s profane and violent in my experience.  Is this racism?

I don’t like our congregation being criticized for not being diverse, when our community is not diverse.  How do we become welcoming when so few “different” people ever approach us?  Why would Arabs approach us, since most are Muslim and they want to worship with fellow Muslims?  Fellow Christians, etc., etc.  How can we be welcoming to political conservatives and still speak our own beliefs- how can they possibly want to be here?  Is that because we aren’t welcoming?  We’re accused of that.

There are so many good questions in these paragraphs.  I don’t have good answers, though.  I think we just have to hold the questions, and be as kind with ourselves and others as we can.  I will say- I don’t think our congregation has been criticized for not being diverse.  Rather, I think we would benefit from engaging and embracing different cultures.  Does that make sense?

The sermon today made me wonder what our UUA organization does to attract or welcome Native Americans to our faith.  In Portland we certainly recognized the Lummis, mainly as a result of the Bellingham Fellowship and the work of Beth Brownfield, resulting in the Indigenous Workshop sponsored by the UU College for Social Justice which I was able to attend.  In our own NW district we voted to recognize the native people in our district.  Nathan Foster wrote our resolution in support which our church adopted unanimously.  In Columbus, we voted to recognize Indigenous People’s Day- or at least examine it.  My question is, do we have any UUA staff working on including Native Americans into our faith?

Good question.  I don’t think we have anyone specifically focused on working with Indigenous tribes.  I wish we did!  

Misappropriate of another culture?

1)  We wouldn’t criticize adopting Thai food, the chanting of Buddhism, blessing/thanking a deer for giving its life to feed us, living more simply to some degree like the Amish, making soul music that comes from Black culture, or routinely playing a sport from another nationality.

Doing so doesn’t make you a master at being another culture, but we adopt things from other cultures. How does this become “misappropriating” vs. “sharing culture?

It’s easier to take an example like wearing a Mohawk & whooping it up at a football game to see it in a negative light. Where’s the line?

You might admire the mindfulness of the tea ceremony but have only limited knowledge about it. You might create some ritual around having tea yourself to capture something of the tea ceremony.  Or you might be seeking spiritual guidance and think in terms of a spiritual quest…nature will reveal some insights to you; perhaps as a modified vision quest.

No, you most likely are not spending years under a mentor learning the precision of an actual tea ceremony, nor spending days fasting with a shaman, but I see these adoptions as respectful and adding dimension to what do or seek. Don’t claim to know it all because you read about it or add some nuances to your personal rituals. I can see someone from another culture might object to a lack of depth and heritage, but we can learn and enhance our existence through other cultures. How could that be wrong?

To me, something qualifies as misappropriation if it is done without permission and/or if it reinforces stereotypes or oversimplifies or in some other way distorts another culture.  The line isn’t always clear; mostly, I think we have to trust our instincts.  If something feels off, don’t do it!  But then, we also have to listen- if someone from that culture tells us something is off, then we have a responsibility to listen.  For example, “Spirit Animal.”  I’ve heard from multiple Native Americans that it’s inappropriate for us to ‘adopt’ a spirit animal outside of their cultural tradition.  

If you move away from American capitalism toward more modest choices you’ve picked up from other cultures, is that a “critical orientation” toward your culture and an “uncritical view” of another you emulate? Reverse Polarity is harder for me to grasp.

I think this is more along the lines of rejecting all of one’s own culture as ‘bad’ while idealizing all of another culture as ‘good.’  The truth is always more complex.  One’s own culture has good and bad aspects; all other cultures have good and bad aspects.  Polarization is about making automatic judgments rather than engaging in an authentic way.

To disallow cross-over is to entrench exclusivity.

I’m not sure I understand what you mean here.  Cross-culture interactions are always a good thing!

A couple things this brought up for me was a book I read in the late 80’s that transformed my thoughts on society and racism, and my frustrations of both sides building walls.
I will try and keep this short, but the book I read  is titled ‘Speaker for the Dead’, a sequel to the book Enders Game (I enjoyed reading science fiction as a teenager, but do not read it much anymore).  The story takes place on the planet Lusitania where at the moment, the Starways congress has demanded a wall built but between human colony and all other species.  There are two reasons.  One, the species called “Piggies”have eviscerated one of the scientist bodies (they did this to the scientists father too), but with no tree in the body (earlier the scientist find a piggy body eviscerated with a sapling growing from the body).  The other reason is a virus called Descolada virus, which, while lethal to humans, appears to serve a beneficial purpose to native lifeforms.  Before the scientist were eviscerated, they had made an important discovery about the virus they confirmed with the Piggies but never had a chance to share with the humans. Ender, the Speaker for the Dead, is summoned and discovers that the “piggies” native connections is to trees.  When an elder Piggie is ready, they are eviscerated and a tree grows from the body.  Ender finds out the Piggies were giving the human counterparts the highest honor. The Humans thought they were murdered.  Ender’s discoveries has both species (piggies and humans) learn, discover and begin communicating.  They both repent and forgive and even though Starways congress demands no contact.  The humans forgave, the piggies repented, and they learn to coexist even with the virus present.  (there is a lot of other cool stuff Ender finds out about the piggies I find fascinating, like how the piggies communicate with the father and mother trees and how piggies are born)
A bit of a long story to make the point of how I feel about racism.  While we comprehend a physical wall between Mexico and the U.S., it is our emotional walls that keep us apart. Walls built internally by both sides. When I am walking and say ‘hi’ to someone, which I do a lot, an African American person most of the time says nothing, and sometimes may not even look my way. I feel I have no walls, but I feel they do.  This came up in the short writing of the person who talked about fears in their entire day, but his fear doesn’t mean all Caucasian people have a wall built and should be feared.  Sometimes I feel that this wall is as strong as ever, sometimes there have been a window or doors that have opened.  My main thought is that while there is a lot of history of racism and oppression, I would like to see the the walls come down from within in a lower lever. For I, not to be seen as something other that I am. I do not think of a person of color as anything but who they are. As individuals, maybe we can be like the people on Lusitania and not listen to the Starwary Congress (our Past) and live and share together without fear in the present.  I would hope people who are kind and accepting are the majority and not the minority, but our fears make it look like the other way around.
This makes some good points.  The most effective work I have seen in building bridges across difference has all been individual relational work…people listening and connecting heart to heart.   
That said, I do think it’s incumbent upon those of us with privilege to do our homework, which is to say- to read and learn and think things through so that we can minimize the number of accidental micro-agressions we commit.
I loved that book- the whole series, really- and one of the other lessons for me was the way people do harm unintentionally when they don’t take the time to listen and connect with those they don’t understand.  So we need to ‘seek more to understand than to be understood.’

To be continued as other responses come in…

East City Park, Feb. 4, 2017

Hello, friends!  It’s good to see familiar faces, and even better to see some new ones!  The people of the Palouse rise to resist hate and bigotry.  The people of the Palouse rise for justice, kindness, human rights, and each other.

When I was a little girl, my very favorite classroom job was the “Flag Leader.”  This job consisted of leading the pledge of allegiance and choosing which patriotic song we would sing together.  My little heart beat strong with love for my country.  I was and am deeply patriotic.  Seeing veterans march in their uniforms still brings me to tears.

As I’ve grown and matured, I’ve had to face the dark side of this country’s history- slavery, the genocide of indigenous peoples, Japanese internment camps.  I understand these important stories to be part of an epic battle between our highest ideals on one side, and fear and greed on the other.  For most of my life, I have hoped- and believed- that our ideals were winning.

And so this executive order that restricts travel and blocks the immigration of refugees hurts my patriotic heart.  I feel deeply, deeply ashamed.  This is not who we are as Americans.

We are a country that values fairness, and it just isn’t fair to block travel, keep families apart, and put children in handcuffs just because of where they come from…the color of their skin and their religion.

We are a country that is good, and it is evil to turn our backs on people trying to flee the war in Syria.  This is perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of our times, and by virtue of our foreign policy, we are complicit in it.

We are a country that is brave, and we should not and cannot let fear drive us to act in ways that violate our deepest principles and drive us apart.

The people who are impacted by this horrible executive order are innocent.  They are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, children, students, teachers, doctors…and they HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG.

After 9/11, we were asked to take our shoes off in the airport…we were willing to have our things x-rayed and picked through, willing to throw out drinks and toiletries, willing to wait in longer lines.  These are inconveniences.  But we are here today to say we ARE NOT WILLING to allow racial profiling and unjust treatment of immigrants.

I am also deeply troubled by the rise of Islamophobia and hate crimes in our nation.  The burning of the mosque in Bellevue…the shooting in the mosque in Quebec…these were tragic events, and they were the terrorist attacks we need to be working to prevent.

So I want my Muslim neighbors to hear and see and feel…here on the Palouse, you are welcome, and you are loved, and you are appreciated.  And if ever you feel endangered or need our help, just ask.  As a leader in the faith community, I promise you, we will be there for you.

As salaam alaikum…peace be upon you, today and all days.


I believe every abortion is a tragedy.  If I begin there, will you listen to the rest of what I have to say?  (Sen. Dan Foreman, I’m talking to you…)

I believe every abortion is a tragedy, but I also believe studies (such as the one published in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2012) that clearly show that the most effective way to reduce the abortion rate is to provide access to safe, convenient and affordable birth control, as well as comprehensive sex ed.

I believe every abortion is a tragedy, but I also believe in the right to bodily integrity.  Forcing a person to donate a kidney or bone marrow might save someone’s life, yet we understand intuitively that the donor must freely choose to do so.  Pregnancy carries serious health risk and leads to permanent changes in one’s body and should be freely chosen.

I believe every abortion is a tragedy, but I also believe that the power to choose in difficult situations belongs to the people most impacted by that decision, in this case, the woman and those who support her.  This complex and tragic choice cannot be reduced to something black and white.  Old men who write legislation should not be the ones in control of women’s bodies.

I was raped when I was fifteen.  Luckily, I didn’t become pregnant, but I can say with all honesty that if I had, any of the options open to me would have had tragic consequences.  So I refuse to judge women who choose abortion as the best of several bad options, and I remain whole-heartedly in favor of keeping abortion safe and legal.

Dearest dear ones,

Last night was a hard night.  Today is a confusing day.  The rhetoric in this election became so very intense that for many of us, the election felt like a referendum on basic human rights.  People of color, LGBTQ folks, differently abled folks, non-Christians and economically disadvantaged individuals are literally afraid for their lives.  I’m hearing that some people feel as traumatized as they did post 9/11.

First of all, take a deep breath.  Our nation does not belong to one person.  Our community is strong and resilient.  Love will bat last, to paraphrase Annie Lamott.  Your neighbors are still your neighbors.  Regardless of who they voted for, if you get sick, they will bring you soup.  That’s who we are.

The temptation to catastrophize is strong.  However, we don’t know for sure what happens next.  What we do know is that we will have work to do, regardless.  Let’s not waste precious energy worrying about things that are still uncertain.  Let’s marshal our spirits and fortify our hearts, so that when we ARE called into action to defend our values, we have the resources to do so with grace and generosity.

It has helped me to remember that the vast majority of people who voted for Donald Trump did so IN SPITE of the things that terrify me about his candidacy, not BECAUSE of them.  We must try not to demonize, blame, shame or further divide our country.

Perhaps not today, but eventually, we will need to acknowledge the pain and fear behind the pro-isolationist, anti-establishment votes.  We will need to listen, and let go of whatever arrogant assumptions we might hold.  Trump voters are not universally stupid, uneducated, bigoted, or unkind.  I have to believe that most of them are fundamentally good people with different perspectives and priorities than I have.  They have a variety of reasons for voting the way they did, and if we can’t hear those reasons, then our country won’t be able to heal.

Today, though, if you need to grieve, grieve.  If you need to process, I am here.  The Sanctuary will be open all afternoon, with prayer flags to decorate, candles to write, and someone to talk to. Reach out, and keep reaching out, especially to people who you know are feeling more vulnerable because of their identities.  Ask for what you need.  Go for walks.  Drink in the beauty of this beautiful place we call home.  Read things that are uplifting.  Sing.  Cook.  Eat.  Love, and love some more.

There will be a vigil at the church this evening at 5:30 pm.  Come be together; bring your friends, even the ones who aren’t ‘churchy.’  We need to be together right now…need to see how much love there is surrounding us.  Love trumps hate…even today…and ever more.

Yours in faith,



  • The woman that Brock Turner raped behind a dumpster in Palo Alto courageously published her story, and ignited a fire.  Woman after woman, sharing stories of sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment.  The ‘statistics’ say that one in four of us are survivors of assault.  My personal experience indicates that the true numbers are much higher than that.

There are a number of reasons that the statistics aren’t remotely accurate.  Sometimes, our brain shuts down and we don’t remember what happened.  Sometimes, we don’t realize that what happened to us was rape until long after the fact.  Sometimes, we know right away, but don’t tell anyone because we feel ashamed or embarrassed.  Sometimes, we tell people, but they don’t believe us, or urge us not to report.  Sometimes we tell people, they urge us to report, and the police decline to pursue the matter.  Sometimes, the police build a case, which feels like another violation, and it settles out of court.  Sometimes, we go to court, put up with our morals, clothing choices, and character being ripped to shreds, and the rapist gets off.  Sometimes, the rapist is found guilty, but is only given a slap on the wrist.  (I’m talking about you, Brock Turner.)

There are so few stories that have fair and just endings to them.  Sharing them would seem to only cause us more pain.  But this week, we’ve been shown, quite remarkably, that there is a point to speaking up.   While the two Swedish students are heroes, so is the woman who, without flinching, told her story from start to finish and shared it with the world. In the face of that kind of bravery, others of us are inspired to speak, and a feeling of solidarity starts to spread.  A righteous rage builds in the hearts of survivors, all women, and male allies.  We find the courage to rise up, to speak truth to patriarchy, to claim our power to DEMAND change.

We are not faceless, nameless statistics, we whose bodies have been violated.  We are human beings, facing irreversible consequences, and our lives and our stories matter.  I have read every account I’ve come across, opening my heart to the pain, the shame, the fury that results.  And I offer my story in solidarity.

I was raped at the age of 15 at a Unitarian Universalist youth conference.  I didn’t call it rape at first, because when I refused to have intercourse because he didn’t have birth control, he ‘allowed’ me (i.e. forced me) to perform oral sex instead.  When it was over, I wanted to die.  This was my introduction to sexuality, and it’s colored and limited every relationship I’ve had since.

Typically, when I tell people what happened to me, they tell their stories in return.  These stories, though buried deep, are often festering.  They burst out when it becomes clear that I am a survivor, too- and so won’t minimize, shame, or further harm the person I am listening to. Yet I’ve also been censured, admonished that it’s not appropriate to force people to face the ugliness of what I endured.  So many of us are so very attached to the illusion that the world is a safe place for women, who will be romanced and revered and respected.  I get it.  I want that world, too.

But the only way to create that world is to  let go of the illusion and forge the reality, with our rage and our tears and our deep, desperate hope that our daughters might not have to live through what we did.  We must teach our children about consent.  We must teach our children how to accept responsibility for their actions.  We must expose the rape culture to the light of day.

I’ve come to believe that Patriarchy rests at the core of many of the world’s most difficult challenges.  Patriarchy drives war.  Patriarchy enables environmental degradation, because it places ‘man’ above ‘nature.’  Patriarchy trains some human beings to see themselves as ‘better’ than other human beings, making them vulnerable to racism and heterosexism and trans-phobia and other forms of oppression.

If we want the world we are longing for, we have to shatter the patriarchy.  We women need to claim our stories and our power.  We need to claim our righteous rage and our deepest dreams.  We need to rise, together, hands joined, to say, “no more.”  Whether it’s ‘one in four’ or I am right and it’s far, far more, even one in four million would be one too many.


Dad’s Final Lessons

May 20, 2016

For the last month, my primary focus has been my Dad’s death.  He went onto Hospice at the end of April.  He died on May 14th.  I was his caregiver and next-of-kin, held his power of attorney, and had the responsibility for packing up his things.  Though I have supported many people- congregants, family members and friends- through this process, it was my first time moving through it personally.  I predicted that I would learn a great deal, and I have.  I understand that every person’s experience is unique, yet share some of the things I learned, hoping that there might be points of connection or possibilities for conversation.

The first and most lovely lesson I received revolves around the outpouring of love and support, from the congregation I serve and from my wider community.  There were the congregational leaders who looked at me as if I were nuts when I suggested I might need to negotiate some unpaid leave, saying simply, “Do what you need to do, and let us know how to support you.” There were the folks who stepped up and stepped in, giving me the time I needed to be with Dad.  There were the cards and the emails and the calls and the Facebook messages and the thoughts and the prayers.  There were the caregivers at the assisted living facility who took such gentle care of Dad.  There were the amazing hospice workers and volunteers who responded to every phone call with kindness and competence.  Words can’t adequately express my gratitude for all of it. I felt held, ever so tenderly, by a great and broad network woven of love and generosity.  I am so very blessed.

Another lesson I learned centers on forgiveness.  It’s no secret that my Dad struggled in his life and in his relationships.  Alcoholism eroded him over time, carving away his physical, emotional and spiritual health little by little.   His inner core of self-loathing led him to lash out at the people who loved him most.  All of his children bear emotional scars from his abuse, and some of us carry physical scars as well.  One path to forgiveness involves the one who caused harm accepting responsibility for their actions.  That path wasn’t open to us with Dad.  He never admitted he was an alcoholic.  He never apologized.  However, in recent months, I discovered a different path to forgiveness.  It might not have worked if I hadn’t spent a fair amount of time in therapy, but somehow, seeing him vulnerable and afraid as he neared the end of his life woke up a deep compassion that allowed me to forgive him unconditionally.  I understood that the pain he caused grew out of his own scars.  I came to believe that he did the best he could.  My heart broke for him, enabling deep healing.

Just a few days before Dad went on hospice, I remember saying as part of a conversation about end-of-life issues that when my own death approached, I would take matters into my own hands and either swim out into the ocean and not turn around or lie down and go to sleep in the snow.  I was afraid of being helpless and undignified.  I agreed with those who said, “I’m not afraid of death, but I AM afraid of dying.”  The third lesson came as a true gift, then.  Watching Dad die, I realized that dying is an important and holy part of the human experience, one I want for myself.  Meanwhile, caring for him was just as important and holy, an experience I want to offer my children (or whoever winds up caring for me at the end.)  My fear of dying melted away.  Whatever fate waits for me at the end of my own life, I think I will be able to meet it with acceptance and curiosity, all because Dad trusted me to be with him at the end of his.

I loved my Dad.  I love him still.  I am profoundly grateful for these final lessons.  I am profoundly grateful for the love and the lessons he’s offered me over the course of my entire life.  I know I am still near the beginning of the grief process, and I believe more lessons may be forthcoming.  May I remain ever open and willing to learn.  May I remain ever open and willing to love.

Ugh. Politics.

March 17, 2016

I have voted in every election I have been eligible for my entire adult life.  I vote even when there is nothing on the ballot I am particularly passionate about, and even when, statistically, I know my vote won’t make a difference.    I consider it a sacred responsibility.

I’m not at all shy about sharing my perspective, and as a result, people generally can guess where I fall on the political spectrum.   However, as a minister, I have an obligation to protect my church’s non-profit status.  That means I can talk about issues, but not candidates, at least from the pulpit.  I interpret the rules a little more strictly than some of my colleagues, and refrain from sharing my personal preferences, attending fundraisers or rallies where I know congregants will be present, or posting on social media in support of or opposition to any particular candidate.

I do talk about my deep commitment to civil discourse and cooperation.  The partisan divide in our nation breaks my heart.  I long for a time when statesmen look for middle ground, for the compromise that is the best possible fit for a diverse nation.

Needless to say, that time is not now.  Am I the only one who feels overwhelmed by the manipulation and fear mongering on both sides of the aisle?  Some of this comes from the media, but some of it comes from us, from the citizens who understandably feel that the stakes are very high in this presidential election.  There’s an intensity to people’s defense of their candidate and their rejection of other candidates that I find disconcerting.

The intensity is familiar.  I am still terrified by the moment, twelve years ago, when I almost yielded to the temptation to rear-end a truck with a political bumper sticker I found offensive.  That is not who I am or who I want to be in the world.  My faith teaches me to respect the inherent worth and dignity of everyone…no exceptions.


So here are a few truths I will be holding on to:

  • Voting is a complex decision, based on many different factors.
  • People have multiple perspectives, opinions, and priorities.
  • What seems true and obvious to me depends on my personal experience.
  • Multiple points of view are healthy and necessary.
  • We don’t have to think alike OR vote alike to love alike.
  • We can disagree without denigrating or dismissing one another.
  • The intensity, on all sides, comes out of a deep sense of patriotism.
  • Our government is set up with checks and balances.
  • Anyone who is over the age of 40 has already survived at least 8 years of living under the opposing regime.
  • The requirements of citizenship don’t stop at the voting box.  Rather, that’s where they begin.

The caucus for Idaho Democrats is less than a week away.  I find myself feeling caught between a rock and a hard place.  There is no way to avoid having congregants see which candidate I prefer.  I can’t deny that there’s a tightness in my chest.

I will breathe through that tightness.  I will trust my good folks to be accepting and to manage their anxiety.  I will manage my own anxiety.  I will beam love and compassion across the room.  I will remember the most important truth of all:  we are all in this together.