Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 20, 2009 & Beyond

Ok, my family is jinxed when it comes to trips to DC recently (last one canceled as Mom ended up in ICU due to a Flu bug’s effects no less) or I jinxed myself with the note (on Facebook the day before) about even if we don’t make it to the Mall comment. If you didn’t get it from my whinny, pathetic status updates on Facebook, we didn’t make it to the actual swearing in. We had great tickets, a hotel with access to the Metro system, great plans on leaving early, bundling up, back ups, warming areas, post speech shelter, etc.

The only problem was we didn’t have contingencies for Kurt waking up at 3 AM, instead of 5 AM, with the stomach flu. I will not go into any sicker details than to say I dare not be more than 15 feet from a bathroom for the next 48 hours after that wake up call, and kept nothing down in the next 3 days save a baked potato (on the evening of day 3), 3 saltine crackers, water and Gator-aide. I totally kidded myself and Cheri from 5 AM until 5:30 AM with the idea I was still going though, to the point of dressing. But, finally, Jamie said he wasn’t going and the six year old and I were staying at the hotel.

So, Cheri and Becca bravely set out from the hotel. Despite the fact that as they left, we all watched Barbara Starr of CNN report that she was at our Metro stop, the end of the line in Virginia , and the trains were arriving full and she wasn’t making it in. Despite the traffic being so bad to get to the Metro that the hotel shuttle had given up, they pressed on. Despite the freezing temps they walked the mile plus to the Metro station. Despite the full parking deck, busloads trying to unload still, and lines as far as the eye can see, they pressed on. Finally, though, as the line didn’t move in forever, they too packed it in, and thankfully rejoined us. Jamie was better equipped to take care of me than I him. So, like many of you, we watched the actual day on TV.

And actually, probably not a bad thing to have failed there and been left in comfort, with the resources of several networks, etc. Local DC TV news was packed with stories of the system breaking down. A woman was knocked onto the tracks, and almost killed, in a Metro station we would have been in. Many families with tickets in our section being turned away as security machines broke down in the screening area, etc.

Cheri and the kids did go in the next day, hit all the sights they could do including standing where MLK did to give a pretty important speech. However, it gets worse too. Becca came back to the way too expensive hotel, ate dinner and then joined me in the gross stomach flu ward. About 5 hours later, Cheri, our last hope, joined us. So, there we are, in DC, 8+ hour drive from home, no way to check out, a hotel charging us an arm and a leg, three sick people, and 12 hearings in the next 48 hours. Thankfully, my staff is incredible as are the staff with our administrative court system, and my friends and the client’s issues were continued or covered by others. Cheri did the correct level or research/whining and our hotel bill was lowered to a reasonable level (still in light of the economy, the costs, etc, our last vacation trip of the year), a friend got our dog out of the kennel with my mother in law. And finally, mercifully, with me partially packing the night before, Cheri packing the day of (using all she had in her), and me driving 10 hours (8 for those without sons who need breaks every 60-75 minutes), we made it home Friday night. By the way, based upon the trip home, I will travel with these kids is my phrase, not the I won’t.

Despite all that, a trip of a lifetime. Becca and Jamie both talk of serving their country now as a possible career. Although I don’t know how Becca fits a run for the Presidency in saving dogs and training horses, living in the country life (she thinks cities are too crazy, but we keep telling her judging cities based upon DC the week of January 20th is no way to plan a life) ;nor James in inventing hi tech stuff, creating video games and business and running for Congress, but that’s their issue. They have the bug of doing something to make the Country better and no longer say “What the Point” about Independence Hall. So, contrary to what the phrase has become thanks to the 43rd President, Mission Accomplished!

We’ve all heard the pretty speeches; and despite the flub by the Chief Justice (Cheri said “give him a break, it’s tough to remember”, until on the verge of saying take me to the ER for fluids and fever, I repeated the words to the Oath properly from memory), Obama is the President. What’s next? (with great respect to Aaron Sorkin, and Jeb Bartlett, who I still wish had taken the oath in January 2001 not W). Even with the brightest kid in the class running the place, what are we going to do?

Thanks to TiVo, I just watched the Daily Show from January 21, 2009. David Sanger was the guest, a writer for the New York Times. His new book is called The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power. If you want to get a terminal case of insomnia, per Jon Stewart, read this book. It’s 400+ pages on the mess we have in this country right now, as the author put it when Stewart joked “I wish your book was a pamphlet”, “it was pretty well done before the economic crisis, so I really have more” (YIKES). I’m gonna wait a bit. With an undergrad degree with half it’s political science credits in international defense and policy issues and the other half in running a government politically issues, I know what were up against.

This is our time as a generation. We cusp Boomers/Gen Xer’s (Current age about 35-50, I won’t point fingers), aka the Survivors (what did I survive again, until this came up) the demographics people call us, have to shed our reputation of being a bunch of couch potato, slackers. Now, those who truly know Gen X, know that isn’t true. If you look at the folks who ran to danger on 9/11/01, the folks at the Pentagon who ran to the fire, the rescue people who ran into the Twin Towers (and yes, they knew they were going to at least partially collapse, even I sitting in Toledo, Ohio knew that) and the folks who ran towards the cockpit on Flight 93, the bulk of them were Gen X. The same is true for the former and new folks who ran to the recruiting centers for both the military, the Red Cross and Americorps afterwards.

Gen X is not a generation of slackers. If you show us a cause is just, we’ll run into the burning tower, we know is going to collapse, to try to save that one more person. But, if you don’t convince us your cause is just, we’ll watch it from the couch while drinking our energy drink and surfing or blogging on the net.

My hope is that each of you reading this finds your calling now. Cause it’s gonna take all of us, not just the new occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to fix this mess. But, if you want a little video hope in the face of what could be hopelessness, and hey it’s got an African American, articulate, although older, fictional president in it, watch the end of Deep Impact. Yes, it’s cheesy, but Morgan Freeman, after a tsunami, created by an comet impact, has wiped out the East Coast of the US and the Americas, West Coast of Africa and Europe, giving a great speech, including “let the work begin”, I bet you’ll forget the cheese factor and imagine picking up something to do.

And in case that work for you might include the possibility of helping start a church that restores that word and Christian as well, to something not to be avoided, come check out what we’re doing with The Village here. Our little bit is going to be creating a church that is a force for progressive political values, because we are followers of this Community Organizer by the name of Jesus, a guy who cared about the poor, the disabled, the environment, veterans, etc. Along the way, I hope to teach a few Democratic politicians, and maybe a few Republicans too, how to truly apply that Bible thing to politics. You know, take care of those without a voice or power appears a few thousand times, take care of the planet a few hundred. Those passages about gays and arguably abortion. Well, you can count them on your fingers and toes.

How about we fight about those last two, after we fix the first two?

So say we all?

January 20, 2009, Finding HOPE Again

Kurt and I and our children had the privilege of being in DC this past week for the inauguration of President Obama. Even though we did not make it to the mall on the actual day (we were there the day before and the day after – and watched the Inauguration on TV with the rest of the world), we soaked up the jubilation that was in the air. It was one big week-long party in our nation’s capitol. People who had felt a sense of separation before, perhaps due to race or class, or some other invisible wall, were suddenly brought together by our joy that Barack Obama had been elected President. After many years of despair, we found hope again.

The experience took me back to election night. You probably remember where you were. I was down at Wesley’s Bar on Adams street celebrating with Kurt and friends, new ones and old ones. A visitor from DC, who had been here working with Kurt on the campaign, turned to me, as we were watching the results on TV and said, “What do you think?” I paused for a moment, and tried to let the weight of the moment sink in, and I said, “I think the whole world just changed.”

And here is what changed that night, Nov, 4, 2008: we found HOPE again. Like little children, we marveled at a miracle – that an obscure young man with a funny name, descended from those who were once enslaved in this country, was to be our President. If Barack Obama can become President in 2009, anything can happen.

But here’s what I really like about Obama – he is very clear – every time he speaks. “Friends,” he says, “this is not about me, it’s about YOU.” Barack Obama cannot change the world. He can’t fix all the problems in our country. But he calls all of us to come together – to work together – to use our collective wisdom and resources – to make the world a better place for all of us. He calls us to be our best selves – and to put the good of the community ahead of our self-interests. He calls us to sit down with our enemies and listen and to try to make peace. He calls us to show some self-restraint and to show some compassion and generosity toward our neighbors who are hurting. And he calls us to work together – as any good community organizer would do.

Yes, his message is quite familiar to me. I am not at all surprised to know that he is a follower of Jesus, raised up in the tradition of the black church, with a message of justice and mercy for all. I am clear that Barack Obama is not our savior. He is a follower of Jesus. And he is a strong leader who is using his God-given gifts to make our world a better place for all.

And now, our leader, whom we elected, is calling upon us to serve, to do our part, each in our own corner of the world. For me, and for The Village Church, the question is this: how will we change the world – in NW Ohio? How will we embody HOPE? How will we use our gifts and our resources to show compassion to persons who are hurting – in our community and beyond? And how will we, as followers of Jesus – share God’s message of love to a world that so desperately needs to experience God’s love? These are the questions for us to ponder, as we do the work of planting this church called The Village.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Eve of Obama's Inauguration

Being in DC as we all join in the party to celebrate the most amazing election in history, I am having such a great time watching the effect this event has on my children Rebecca (age 9) and Jamie (age 6). Jamie is more interested now in being President than he has ever expressed before (previously he wanted to be a video game designer). Now his ambitions have been widened, by soaking up the events of inauguration week.
The many of colors and hues, and wrinkles and rosy cheeked faces that filled the streets of DC today, truly represented the diversity of the USA. It is truly amazing.
Friends keep asking for pictures and we will post some. We expect to be about 1000 feet from Obama tomorrow (Kurt somehow calculated that on the CNN web site), standing just beyond the Capitol and the reflecting pool. Kurt will be wearing his Bengals jacket and hat (orange, black, and white) so look for us.
I feel very humbled to be here with my husband (who worked very hard on the campaign) and my two children. Just as Barack Obama dreams of a country where all children have the opportunities that his children have -- I have that same dream. This is one of the big reasons, why I am planting The Village Church. But that's another topic for another day.
January 20, 2009 will be a great day in our country -- the day everything changed.
I am praying for Barack Obama, and for his family. I hope you are praying too.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Road to January 20, 2009

So, in less than 72 hours, my family and I will watch the 44th person become President of these United States. I'm sitting in a room in Philadelphia now, unable to sleep, blocks away from what the National Parks Service Tour Guide today described as the "Labor and Delivery Room" of our country & modern democracy (Independence Hall - where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both created) and I am still in awe of where we as a nation are and where we are about to go.

233 years ago from today, we were a colony of the then most powerful nation on Earth, chaffing at the way mother country was treating us. On the streets I got to walk today, people wandered around wondering was war and independence the way to go, or loyalty and trust. I listened today as 4 actors read from the journals of 14-20 year old kids from then as they grappled with that. Thankfully, we picked the unknown and dangerous path, as we always seem to do.

As we, picked that path, a large bell, known properly as The Pennsylvania State House bell, rang out. Today, I saw that bell, having been melted down twice and cracked twice. I read how another group, besides our founders, used that bell to call for liberty, but the second time for the people who got to only be 3/5 of a person under the documents signed here. I saw another exhibit how that same bell was a symbol used again for liberty by a gender who waited until less than a hundred years ago to get the voice & vote I was given on day 1. And then I rounded another corner to see a young preacher from Georgia's picture by that same bell, and I watched a video of one his most famous speeches in time to hear him say "Free at last, Free at Last. Thank God Almighty We're Free at Last".

I have almost cried three times in the last 3 months. Once was on November 4th as a group of us who worked on the Obama Campaign for countless hours were dancing and whooping it up in a bar on election night. We had just watched John McCain's graceful and grace filled concession speech and Obama's hopeful acceptance/victory speech. A middle aged African American man, who was just passing by on the street, saw us going crazy, and stopped to investigate and discovered who we were. Before I knew it, he had hugged several dozen of us, simply uttering the words, "Thank You" to many of us.

The second time, was standing, in Zero Degree weather, with my daughter, in Pennsylvania, looking over what had been on September 10, 2001 a field in the middle of nowhere. Now is is yet another testament to the fact that Freedom's continuation isn't free. It has to be rented every so often, with a very high renewal price. And we passed dozens of such reminders (signs for Gettysburg, Valley Forge, etc) on this trip.

Today, it was standing there in Philadelphia, looking at that silly old bell, which now we all call the Liberty Bell (thank you anti-slavery folks), framed in the background by the former Pennsylvania Statehouse, now known as Independence Hall, and listening to the words of that Preacher, Martin Luther King , Jr. and thinking, we'll be closer than ever soon. And, while I never thought I'd live to see it, I'll watch it a 1,000 or so feet away. If I don't cry then, it'll only be because I don't want frozen tears on my face all day.

Truly, I sit here tonight, in awe of where we have been and where we go next. God Bless everyone who made this journey possible and God protect this fragile little experiment we call America and her new leader.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

God's Dream: No Outsiders

"With God there are no outsiders." Eugene Peterson offers this simple and profound statement in his introduction to the book of Luke in The Message translation of the Bible. "With God there are no outsiders." He goes on to write: "As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn't felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.

Hmmm. A story that opens the doors wide open -- and invites us to connect with God, who created us and who is still creating. No outsiders. Everyone inside -- so that the invisible walls of "outside" and "inside" simply vanish.

When I dream about what Jesus wants for his followers -- something different than what most of us know as "organized religion" or "the church," I dream of spaces where we find ourselves in the presence of the mystery of God -- and spaces where there are no outsiders. All are welcome. All are included. All experience God's healing love. A space where the doors are wide open, and everyone experiences what it is to be beloved by God -- that's my dream for the community we are calling "The Village Church."

God's dream: no outsiders.

What's your dream?