BEFORE: a poem

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Last week I spent a few days in Nashville at the Convergence Music Project conference– a group of church leaders coming together to figure out how to lead in a different way that reflects inclusive grace in our worship spaces.

I expected to go to this conference and sit and listen. I expected to meet one or two people, to keep my head down, to take notes and be still. I expected to keep my Native American self a little behind my worship leading self, to learn things that I could take home and apply in my own life and in the life of my church.

But what I expected, of course, was different than my graciously given reality.

There were only a few people of color at this conference, and it was pointed out in numerous ways, at numerous times. We all lamented that our group was not more diverse, and posed questions throughout the conference asking how this can change in the future. Convergence honors the voice of people of color, and I’m so grateful for that.

Still, I kept my head down and my voice hushed. I listened. But then, I was asked to speak. Then who I am– as a whole– came to the surface of my speaking and my listening and my interactions, and I realized again that I cannot separate who I am, not even for a minute. I cannot say that in this space I’ll be worship leader and in that space I’ll be native and in another space I’ll be mom and wife and friend. I am all of these things in all of these spaces, and they make me whole.

So, by the third day of the conference, I’d understood. The day before, Brian McLaren had taken us in an unexpected direction in a conversation about the Doctrine of Discovery.

The conference had taken a turn toward acknowledging the church’s complicity in the abuse of native peoples and African peoples, and throughout our time there the theme kept coming back up, kept making its way to the forefront– if we are to worship in our churches, something must change, be acknowledged, be reckoned with. 

It is a subject we can no longer ignore.

On Friday morning, we gathered for our own church service, our minds and hearts reeling and ready and engaged from three days of sharing and brainstorming a few new ways forward.

And when my friend Brian Sirchio stood at the front of the room and once more acknowledged what happened to my ancestors, and acknowledged why it is wrong that in my native skin I don’t know how to fit into the white church, I fell apart (again).

We listened to a man play two native flutes and we processed together. My shoulders heaved with both the pain of our history and with a great swell of hope– if the people in this room can see me, can see my African American brothers and sisters, we can see that a new way forward is at least possible– we can see that the world is literally shifting all around us, and we must be ready to hold onto each other in all of our cultural and skin colored differences.

That morning as the flutes played, I wrote. A poem poured out of me and my hand could hardly keep up with my heart. I stopped every few seconds to wipe tears, and I thought in that moment this is it. A piece of Kingdom.

I stood after the music was over and read the poem, and I felt a release. I felt a release inside of my own chest to find a way to be who I am, without the need to  compartmentalize. I felt a release to be who I am without dualistic ties, without categorizing my identity into neat boxes.

In these words, I released into all of us the permission to say that who we are today is a chance to move forward to who we want to be tomorrow, as individuals and as the church.

That is the greatest release I can imagine.

Before you knew me, you knew my story–

the story of humanity,

the story of breath in lungs,

eyes and hearts,

longing and desire,

the known and unknown parts.

Before I knew you, I knew your story–

the labor to grow,

the roots of your love,

the culturedness that

brings your being to life.

Before we knew God,

we were held in something,

a sacred womb

that does not let us go,

still,

a table that continues 

to get bigger,

more and more chairs

for a larger and larger feast.

This means that we were never alone,

you and me.

We were never broken before,

never 

stolen or battered,

maimed or abused.

In the Before, we were

held in eternal

Shalom.

In the After,

today,

you, me, 

our stories,

our table–

it grows bigger, still.

 

Amen.

 

7 GRATITUDES: a bullet poem

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For a little while now, I’m joining some friends to celebrate gratitude every Friday.

Today, a bullet poem:

 


At the end of this string of weekdays, I breathe hello to Friday and remember gratefulness.

Some say that it’s the thing that holds us together, this practice of looking at the world and saying we’re glad to be a part of it.

So I gather my seven gratitudes, seven expressions of hope.

  • I count two little heads that sleep beneath covers at night, the two boys that I get to spend my days learning beside. They illuminate every darkness.
  • The redwing blackbirds visit, daily placing their silhouettes against our bright blue skies, surprising us with their always-togetherness. Family.
  • Dreams, the kind that entertain- Obama singing along with Mumford at an awards show- Dreams, the kind that prophesy and teach, remind and restore.
  • Worship, the breathing room kind that meets outside religion’s walls, that calls me back to God in the middle of everything that is life. Worship is a beckoning, and we would be wise to let her otherness bring us together, especially in these weary days.
  • In that moment just last week, I said to a friend that I don’t read the Bible much– spoken word– a prayer issued to God, a bible brought to my mailbox yesterday from a far-off friend, accompanied by a bar of dark chocolate. This far-off friend, who once kissed me on the forehead and called me loved. A Bible and a bar of dark chocolate commissioned with the words, “We long for your company with the love of God.”
  • In process of good work, we as what good work means. Does it mean to breathe without worry, to look in another’s eyes without conflict, to practice empathy in every way? Progress in book writing and song writing, worship leading and teaching, learning and re-learning; a real-life book in the works with a real-life deadline and a real-life release date, and I think that this good work is what I’m made of for now.
  • Grateful that the future belongs to the enduring space of shalom? Absolutely.

 

Absolutely grateful.

 

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4 TOXINS OF THE SPIRIT: # 1, racism & othering

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Hemlock and aconite, also known by many as Wolfs bane, are just two of multiple poisons that have been known to exist in the natural world. These two toxins, among others, are unique in that they work slowly in the body, causing slow paralysis and shut down of the systems before death occurs.

Just as it is with the body, there are toxins of the spirit that we injest every day without recognizing them. They are the slow and steady poisons that work their way through us, eventually causing harm. When I was young, I sat in a pew every Sunday morning and evening and heard stories about the dreadful things that would become of someone who drank or smoked or had sex too young and out of wedlock. Mixed in were the warnings of flirting or spending time with the unchurched, fears of being lost to a dark and sinful world.

But now I believe, along with people like Richard Rohr and Barbara Brown Taylor, that this place we inhabit is a benevolently beautiful one, in which creation began not as a horrible mistake but a chance for something cosmically good to take place.

Some of the things I was warned of as a child have the ability destroy the body, but this series is about four things that I’ve found destroy the soul when they slowly work their way into our lives, things we may not even be aware of— things we may be blatantly ignoring as they grow inside of us. These are things I see every day, especially if I scan my Facebook feeds for long enough.

The first toxin is that of racism and othering, which have come to the surface in social media, but have always been a constant trouble to the soul. We see story after story– an unarmed black man shot by a white police officer; a Muslim woman harassed in the street; three young black men torturing a white man with disabilities; a woman threatening a Latina worker in a grocery store, all flashing across our Facebook and Twitter feeds in the course of a week. This is without mentioning atrocities that happen all over the world, like the killing of civilians in Aleppo.

If we are to admit it, these are not just products of a society or a system, but go straight to the heart of who we are, killing us slowly every day that they work their way through us.

Brian McLaren says in his new book, The Great Spiritual Migration, that “the word ‘we,’ as it turns out, can be pretty dangerous, because it can otherize and dehumanize those who aren’t like us.”

If we are honest about our own history’s past, about humanity’s past, we must be honest about the long-standing legacy of racism and prejudice that have maimed and broken so many throughout the centuries.

So what are we to do about it? And who do we answer to when we find these toxins inside of ourselves?

Is fasting from Facebook feeds and untruthful news enough to root out these toxins?

Why are these questions coming up again, and what is the church (and every other religious or spiritual community) to do about it?

After a series of shootings of African American men in the United States, a group of people met at a picnic table under the tall oak trees in my church’s front yard—all of us from different backgrounds, of differing races and beliefs, gathered for an awkward, terrifying, and necessary meeting to seek peace.

The white people under that tree admitted that they didn’t know what to do, apologized for what had been done, apologized for the fact that they could never understand.

But the most powerful statement was the one that said, “I have this racism. I feel afraid, and I know it’s been inside of me for a long time, and I don’t even understand it.” Reaching out with this realization was the first step taken towards true healing, towards a relationship of soul-to-soul responsibility and honesty about what’s been done and left undone. This must be the first step toward rooting out the toxins of racism and othering– a terrifying and humbling acknowledgement that it exists, and we must follow that with a long and steady lament.

Mark Charles speaks on this lament, especially within the walls of the church. If we have played a part in the rise of racism in this world, it is necessary we lament and begin again, because this is where the power of these toxins take root and grow, as they often have  in the United States and across the world.

Perhaps having faith in something helps protect us from racist othering. Perhaps having faith in Jesus, who sought out those that were othered, will actually create in us the opposite effect of what we’ve been giving ourselves over to — an effect in which we stop the poisons of racism, prejudice, and othering from rooting themselves in us, and we actually begin to find a voice to fight them openly, with persistent compassion and an undying, protestful spirit.

We look to the healers of our time and the times before us. We look to the voices and the spirits that give fresh life to others through their kind and steadfast compassion.

The way of a healer is not just to root out the toxin, but to tell us how to avoid being poisoned again- and so, as our leader-healer, Jesus tells us stories. He relates to our bodies in his own body, our souls in his own soul. He draws us close to the earth and tells us to care for it, to care for each other. He tells us to take logs out of our eyes and to shake hands instead of slapping faces.

So we voice our concerns, not just for the people of our own race or kind, but for all humanity. We voice our concerns in protest for those that are othered today, and you do not have to look far to find them. We face quite a challenge, not only in our world, but right here with the neighbor next door, with the other political party or the lower class or the other ethnic mix, with the religious belief that differs drastically from our own.

Jesus knew that rooting toxins like prejudice out of ourselves does not mean that we lose ourselves, but it means that we gain the ability to be empathetic again, to honor the fact that our journey is not the only one in the world, and true justice is setting right every wrong on the terms of grace and reconciliation. And we meet at the table, under the oak tree, in the church yard, in our own living rooms. We meet wherever we can and we tell the really, really difficult truth.

If we are to root out these toxins, we take the charge seriously, and then we pass on those same stories and hopes to the generations after us, to the world outside of us. We too, can be healthy and whole toward our brothers and sisters, toward creation, toward God, toward ourselves. We can learn daily what it means to stop racism and othering, and replace them with care and compassion for all others.

But before we begin, we must admit that they’re there in the first place, which may be the most difficult part of all– but most necessary.

 

 

ROOM AT THE TABLE: the church & Native American spirituality 

“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.” –Wendell Berry

daffodils

Every Sunday for four weeks in January, I spent an hour in a sunday school class on the third floor of my church building with a beautiful group of people who call themselves pilgrims, unfinished.

They invited me to share my journey with them, particularly the more recent journey of learning about and living into my own native culture and spirituality and how they fit into the church as I see and experience it today.

I began by telling them my story– born in Oklahoma, Potawatomi Citizen Band and Chickasaw on my father’s side and Cherokee on my mother’s side.

I told them about my father, who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the sever with native culture I experienced at age nine when my parents divorced and I spent my youth in a small, predominantly white, conservative Christian town. I explained that I’m coming back around to myself again, learning things I never knew were inside of me, experiencing the grace of God in ways I didn’t think possible.

We studied the medicine wheel together, a tool used to understand different seasons and spaces in the life journey.

We discussed Standing Rock and listened to John Trudell’s poem Crazy Horse. When asked about things I couldn’t answer, I had the humbling freedom to say, “I’m not sure, but I’m still learning.”

They were gentle and steady listeners, and we found by week four we’d become comfortable with each other in that story-telling space, a gift recognized in many cultures who pass it along from generation to generation.

We asked again and again, in different ways, how the church could possibly bridge the gap that has been broken with native peoples for so long.

Some spaces within Christianity have done it, but there is still too much misunderstanding and disconnect, and the deeper I lean into who I am as an indigenous woman and worship leader,  the more I need to find spaces where conversations are shaped around this difficult but necessary topic.

Through these four weeks, I’ve learned that it’s possible.

I’ve learned that it’s possible when I spend time listening to the voices of Brian McLaren, Barbara Brown Taylor, Winona LaDuke, Richard Rohr, Randy Woodley, Kent Nerburn and so many others.

Brian McLaren and a few of his colleagues have publicly jumped into the conversation, where it is uncomfortable and painful, but where healing begins.

I found a piece of that healing one afternoon, sitting in a monastery front office with a monk who told me that as painful as my journey will be, I must keep going, because it’s important.

Every one of those moments within the last year have felt like earth-shifting moments, like the people of the world are not only gathering around native peoples at Standing Rock, but they are gathering around me, too, and my brothers and sisters.

They are gathering around creation with a renewed heart and energy to do good to this world that we inhabit.

And in these gathering spaces, it’s not just what they’ve learned listening to me. I’ve answered my own questions in that space. I’ve learned that it is dangerous to tell anyone that experiencing God can only happen within a particular cultural lens. But when we see glimpses of God through different eyes, we realize that the umbrella of God’s love, under which we reside, is a wide and bountiful net that reaches every culture and connects every spirit.

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In this progressive Cooperative Baptist Church where I lead worship, I’ve found support for my journey, encouragement in the difficult task of de-colonizing myself, and I’m so grateful.

But what about the rest of the church? What about the conservative spaces in which I grew up that never speak of native culture, or churches that hold racism as a divine gift?

Can I say for sure that the church is ready to embrace someone like me? Yes and no.

Can I say that I’m ready to engage the church in my own native skin? Yes and no.

And so, the future is held in our ability to be patient with one another, while pushing each other deeply into the reality of the Kingdom.

I dream of walking beside my white brothers and sisters as we learn together what has been forgotten and ignored, and what must be admitted for healing to begin. These are the things I see through both lenses of my life– through my native skin and my white skin, and because of both, I will ask them to kindly hold me steady in the love of Jesus– not the version of Jesus we see as a western religious man, but as he always has been in his ability to love me in my own cultural identity and everyone else in theirs, because he holds it all together under his care.

There in that space of conversation and learning, I believe we see another glimpse into the full otherness that has always been God, Spirit, Life-giver.

There, in those glimpses, we are reminded that we belong, not only to the love of Christ, but to each other, in conversations and around tables with humble and quiet spirits to listen and share, to walk beside, to be a companion, to not be afraid.

In a discussion with a few friends one Wednesday night in that same building, we discussed what “color-blindness” can do to culture in the way of ignoring race altogether, or pretending that prejudice doesn’t exist.

If the church is to get anywhere with people of color, it must learn to embrace color, to learn from it, engage it, and be honest with it.

Like the clergy who came to Standing Rock and denounced the Doctrine of Discovery, we begin conversations around the American table, even around the global table, even on the open plain or by the river.

When we begin those conversations, as I dream of doing, we will find no space to other someone else out of fear, to say that God represents only one culture, or that it’s too late for the church to find and restore what has been lost.

It may start in a Sunday school classroom. It may start with a documentary, or in a coffee shop, or at a protest or in a living room. Wherever it happens, however it begins, I pray the steps forward are brave ones.

When we begin rebuilding what has been broken for so long, I believe the healing will shift the foundations of this benevolently created world, every culture and created thing included in a slow and steady bloom.

 

 

DEAR PRESIDENT TRUMP: the immigrant at your table

Dear President Trump,

Last Thanksgiving, we had a dear friend over for lunch.

She’d never been to an American Thanksgiving before, but she said yes, because she loves my boys.

She’s a florist in our city, and when we began buying flowers from her, she formed a bond with these two boys who hugged her and knew her name and cared.

She is Muslim, but spent what I’m sure was a slightly uncomfortable few hours in our noisy home and ended up playing hide and seek in the front yard with our oldest son.

Don’t you see the beauty in this?

A Native American, her best friend who is white, a Muslim, a man of German-European descent, and two toddlers gathered in our dining room to celebrate an America-created holiday.

These are the moments you are threatening. 

These are the moments you are trying to steal from us with executive orders.

But perhaps the real spirit of America, the one I see in my own people and indigenous brothers and sisters, the one I see in the immigrants and refugees who are planted here, is that we keep going.

We keep telling our stories and gathering at the table and we keep sharing our lives, because we refuse to live in fear and we refuse to act out on our hatred’s behalf.

So it is in this second letter to you that I ask you to remember the people you grew up around.

Remember the ones who gathered at your table, friends of your mother and father, friends who knew your story, knew their stories, cried and laughed because humanity was that important.

Remember those people who gathered at your table, and ask yourself how we make room for more of those kinds of experiences today, outside the bounds of national security interests.

Remember, President Trump.

With Watching Eyes & Steady Hand,

Kaitlin Curtice

 

HE OVERTURNED TABLES: Jesus’ Teaching on Responsibility and Blame

Diffusion of Responsibility: simply put, when a task is placed before a group of people, there’s a strong tendency for each individual to assume someone else will take responsibility for it—so no one does. {psychology today}

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Diffusion of responsibility is based on the phenomenon that if something urgent must be done in a situation, the more people there are present, the more likely someone else will assume that the other people will step up and take action. It usually ends with blame—“YOU should have done something!” “YOU should have known better.”

We are pretty good at this blaming game, especially in our political and religious circles. But blame is a dirty and vicious cycle, and I don’t believe it leads anywhere. As of last weekend, the DNA of the leadership in our country shifted, and along with it, a heightened awareness of what needs to be done in the future of our nation and in the future of the church. This must be handled without pointing fingers at everyone else who should be doing something but with a check in ourselves to pay attention to what WE are or aren’t doing.

Countering diffusion of responsibility is personally acting to take on the least of these, the othered, the outsiders, and calling them back in again. We’ve seen it this week, in a rising up to care for immigrants and refugees, for Native American brothers and sisters, for the earth.

To those who have been ignored, or who are now being singled out for who they are or what they stand for, there is a dire need for care and support. For the next four years, countering diffusion of responsibility doesn’t mean blaming republicans or democrats for what they did, but moving forward to make sure that what we do as individuals counters hatred, racism and neglect.

People thronged to Standing Rock throughout 2016, some who had never journeyed to North Dakota before, especially to live with native peoples for weeks or months on end. Instead of diffusing their responsibility, people showed up with support and encouragement, and a movement between native and non-native peoples began, one that continues to grow and challenge the world to care for the earth today.

But with every new member of Donald Trump’s cabinet, I am heartbroken again at the lack of care for the least of these—the economically downcast, people of color, immigrants and refugees, my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, women, and the working class.

And with every new person added to the target, something grows inside of me, a deep-seated realization that with the prayers I pray and the words I write, with the compassion I choose to stretch into every corner of my daily life, I answer a call.

Jesus didn’t say, “Democrats, care for the Muslims. Republicans, you handle the Native Americans.”

He said, with every breath that he breathed, that the way forward is with care and compassion, no matter what, toward whoever was in need.

Remember the tables that he overturned in the city? He wasn’t blaming. He was calling out a hideous diffusion of responsibility that had filled the house of prayer with thieves, and had ostracized the crippled and poor. He threw tables over to demand an end to the bickering, calling for justice to become the sole responsibility of the leaders again.

The Savior didn’t waste his moments blaming. He held up responsibility to the light and called people to walk in it, and that included a harsh reality: we’re all capable of debilitating or encouraging others through the things we say and do.

So what are we doing today? What is our fight, and what is coming out of us to make sure that the cycle of blame is broken?

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Photo by Suzanne Vinson Art

I fight it when I write, when I teach my boys what immigration is, what a refugee is, what the word for “heart” is in Potawatomi, or why birds fly south for the winter. I will use the power of learning to fight, while my dear friends use their own creativity to engage the world, to bring justice, to create healing like my friend Suzanne does.

My best friend does it as she cares for kiddos in her art programs, and as she raises money for Preemptive Love Coalition through selling t-shirts. 

And Rachel does it through her story, through sharing the power of slowing down and listening, especially to the ones who are nearest to us. Through active listening and engaging, we empower each other to act and believe in our own passions.

You do it when you make eye contact with a refugee in your city, when your write your Congressman a letter, when you recycle to care for the earth, when you sit down to coffee with someone from the other political party.

We’ve tasked our two boys with challenges for their lives, based on both their personalities and the things that make them happy: one makes the world more beautiful, and the other takes what is wrong and makes it right.

Both boys, in drastically different ways, are charged to take who they are and what they care about to create spaces that lift up others. And we pray that every day as they grow, they see with clear eyes who has need, and they choose to respond no matter how many others are around.

Last night they joined thousands at the airport in our city to welcome in refugees and immigrants. With a sign that said, “My wife is Potawatomi Citizen Band, Cherokee, and Chickasaw! My great-great grandfather a German immigrant from Russia. Our Children are America,” these two along with my husband broke the cycles of blame and diffusion.

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Our youngest pictured Gotham City around him, himself as Batman, working to protect and provide for everyone in need. And my oldest, with every chant, knew that he was making space for love and creativity to come into the world.

Social media is a window through which we see everything, as ghastly as it sometimes is. And the last things we need to see are pointing fingers and lack of action through that window. To move past blame is to move forward to justice, to take whoever feels vulnerable and help them feel safe, to take uncared for places and make them beautiful again, and to take whatever it is that is wrong and make it right.

This is fighting diffusion of responsibility and ending blame.

This is reconciliation, and the way of Christ’s shalom.

And everything in us knows, we need it.

7 GRATITUDES at the end of the week

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There are plenty of aspects to this week that left me tired and fretful, but this morning I remembered this beautiful act of resistance, started by my dear friend, Leanna. For a year, every Friday, she’s resisting by engaging gratitude, seven gratitudes for seven days of the week.

Let me tell you a little about this woman. She will speak and she won’t be silenced, and her voice, I believe, can move mountains. She is the friend that sat with me on our black couch as I unpacked the fresh news that I was going to really, truly, write a book, and she took it and held it and walked the journey with me with courage and grace.

So I follow her lead today, naming seven gratitudes of this week, and we ask you to join us, here in the comments or on Facebook or wherever your social community is, using #sevengratitudes — so what are you grateful for?

Here is what I find:

  1. VOICE. I’ve heard my toddlers protest with thousands of people and that’s no small act. It’s taught me that even the tiniest may speak, whether they are heard or not. Voice transcends boundaries of age, race, sex, religion– it is a powerful tool needed in this world. I’m writing a letter to Donald Trump every week, and this week I used my voice with pen on paper to send a message. It was one of the most powerful moments to put that in the mailbox and send it straight to him, a promise that my voice will not be silenced. fullsizerender-6
  2. THE FLASH. At night, we are tired, and we’re watching this superhero drama The Flash– and what gets to us is the powerful connection between a son and his father, who is wrongfully in prison, and their relationship with the dear friend who raised the boy from childhood. It speaks to relationships, and we could always use more of that, right?
  3. THE RESILIENCE OF MY PEOPLE. Despite everything that’s happened with memorandums or decrees or executive orders relating to pipelines, Standing Rock natives remain strong and peaceful, and I couldn’t be more proud of their prayerful resistance. I’ve never felt more connected, not just to my Potawatomi/Chickasaw/Cherokee people, but to native peoples and non-natives who genuinely care for this earth and her future.tipi
  4. OUR DINING ROOM TABLE. Yesterday, I asked the boys what they wanted to do, anything at all (besides watching cartoons). My oldest chose to color and play with Legos, and my youngest chose the same. We spent the morning at the dining room table, mostly quiet, mostly in our own worlds, but thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. I read to them from Little Men while they played on the living room floor. I watched them again last night at dinner, watched them as they named imaginary superheroes names like “Witch Toot,” laughing their little heads off while my world spun like mad inside me. They had raw and high strung emotions yesterday, because they’ve felt it and seen it on our faces this week. They know what a protest is, they know what is right and wrong, what hurts and heals. I’ve had to explain to them why we might be on our phones/computers more lately, that we’re trying to pay attention to some of the news of this week. They were raw yesterday because we’ve been raw. But that table is a sacred space, a safe space for all of us. I see fire inside of them, the same fire that’s been lit in me. They create the world every single day that they breathe and ask all those questions. They create the world because they are the world, and this old table reminds me of that. fire
  5. MY HUSKY’S HOWL. Any time I hear a siren, no matter where I am in my city, I hear my old husky howl. As small a thing as this is, he is our kind constant, an old, stoic Siberian who watches our world and protects us in it, a kind and gracious comforter.
  6. CANDLE FLAME. I lit candles in my house one morning, sort of holding a vigil of prayer and quiet for this week.  Today we are cleaning, cleaning out what’s old, clearing dishes away, celebrating my husband’s birthday, making space to breathe. And I’ll light my candles and their tiny flames will remind me that light is meant to be kept and shone, and it cannot be put out. fullsizerender-5
  7. MARY. I grew up watching Nick at Night. If you’ve watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show, you’ll understand the significance of my sister naming one of her daughters Rhoda. The Dick Van Dyke ShowI Love Lucy, and others, for some reason, kept me safe in this womb of nostalgia that I couldn’t understand. I watched an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show yesterday afternoon, remembering those moments as a child when everything was breaking around me– I was safe with these women in their homes. As a beautiful soul from this world has gone, so we make way for more beauty to come forth from her legacy.

There now, that was therapeutic for me. So what about you?

Finally, I leave you with a Wendell Berry poem, and pray that you close out your week with less grief and more joy, with less boxed in stress and more of the great outdoors and what she can teach you:

“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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AN ATHEIST & A CHRISTIAN WALK INTO A BAR…

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ACTUALLY, it was a social work classroom. She had a shaved head and I had some sort of pixie cut, and we slowly began sitting together, working together, answering questions in class, passionate about the people and stories we studied.

After a few years of being in the social work program together, we knew that we were called to the same spaces, in the same ways, to care for those that have been broken and abused, to take up the cause of the weary.

We sat through lectures on LGBTQ rights, even in my naivety of knowing nothing about sexual orientation; we worked on projects together, talked about family and communities and how to make them better. She was patient with me as I fell out of my conservative bubble, and as I learned, we learned together.

She was a friend who celebrated my first pregnancy with me, expectantly waited for my first little boy to enter into our world.

We were a part of each other’s realms in so many ways, and yet, we were different.

She calls herself an atheist, and I call myself a Christ-follower. She may say I’m kind, and I might say I see Jesus in the passionate things she says & does.

These days, our dividing lines keep us from understanding that there is a thread of humanity that holds us– it’s a sacred thread, and because we belong to each other, we belong to the great conversation, based on care and compassion and justice.

When I was pregnant with my second son a few years later, we’d swapped places. I had a buzzed head and she had the full locks. Somehow, we’d meshed into each other, and learned in the midst of it that there are spaces in humanity, in friendships, that hold us steadily in line with each other.

Pelagius said it like this:

There are some who call themselves Christian, and who attend worship regularly, yet perform no Christian actions in their daily lives. There are others who do not call themselves Christian, and who never attend worship, yet perform many Christian actions in their daily lives. Which of these two groups are the better disciples of Christ? Some would say that believing in Christ and worshipping him is what matters for salvation. But this is not what Jesus himself said. His teaching was almost entirely concerned with action, and with the motives that inspire action. He affirmed goodness of behavior in whoever he found, whether the person was a Jew or Roman, male or female. And he condemned those who kept all the religious requirements, yet were greedy and cruel. Jesus does not invite people to become his disciples for his own benefit, but to teach and guide them in the ways of goodness. And if a person can walk along that way without ever knowing the earthly Jesus, then we may say that he [she] is following the spirit of Christ in his [her] heart.

 

It is a dangerous space we inhabit in today’s America. We are polarized and splintered, and it is more unbearable than I’d ever imagined.

But this story, it is not just about the Christian and the atheist. It’s not about the bar or social work classroom where they sit down next to each other and talk.

It’s about the people who know these two together, the onlookers and the bystanders. It’s about recognizing the organic relationship between people that leads to a life centered around care and justice for anyone who is marginalized.

Do you know why my relationship with my dear friend is so important to me?

Because it happens outside the walls of the church. We meet at a coffee shop on a warm afternoon, and we look at each other and cry with each other and know that on either side of salvation, we are working ourselves to the bone to love and care for whoever is around us.

And Jesus is in those spaces for me.

And humanity is in those spaces for us.

We remember again that we are not alone.

So what the world needs now is for dividing lines to be seen but stepped over, to be recognized but not given power, so that on either side of everything, we understand who we are to be–

people to other people;

friends to enemies;

lovers in the midst of hate;

warriors of peace;

creators of resistance;

lifelong learners;

prophets who speak truth;

creatures longing to be whole.

An atheist and a Christian walk into a bar–

or a social work classroom–

or a community event–

or a synagogue–

or a protest rally–

or a home–

and what they create together makes this reality sure:

that the world is never the same again.

DEAR PRESIDENT TRUMP: a promise for your coming inauguration & presidency

 

Dear President Trump,

As a new era begins in your life, so it begins in mine. About a year and a half ago, I began culturally engaging my Potawatomi Citizen Band/Chickasaw/Cherokee heritage along with my husband and two sons.

It has transformed my life in every way, coming back to something inside of me that has asked to be paid attention to. In a way, I’ve promised myself that I’ll never be the same again, never go back to “before.”

And so it is with you. Today you begin a new life as our president, and you cannot go back even one day. You take the past that has made you and move forward with it, with a steady promise to our nation and world that you’ll justly care for it.

But I’ve got another promise to make to you.

As a child, I wrote President Clinton a letter. I’ve written to President Obama numerous times as an adult, and my five-year-old son has written to him as well. We’re told to write to our leaders, to let them know that we see them, hear them, hold them up to the light.

So I’ll be writing to you, President Trump.

Weekly, you’ll receive a letter from me.

I’ll update you on the education of my two boys; I’ll describe our life to you so you can understand what it’s like to live in our space.

I’ll tell you that I pray for you, and I’ll ask you to make better decisions if I see something wrong.

Justice is a beautiful thing, because it holds us– not the other way around. So I’ll write to you my own thoughts on justice, this nation, my perspective as a lower-class native american work-from-home mother and writer.

I promise to write to you as a Christ-follower, to check my own heart against political views, and I promise to write to you on the premise of grace.

As our President, you’ll know me. You’ll know my handwriting and my voice, my distant presence at your office door every week when the time comes.

If you’d like to think of it this way, I will haunt you, a less-knowing reminder than the good spirits who visited Ebenezer Scrooge throughout the night to remind him of who he was meant to be.

I promise to be your reminder, President Trump, to send my voice to your door, to show you our world so that every day of your presidency you cannot truthfully say that you didn’t know.

This is my promise to you.

Welcome to the Presidency.

With watching eyes & steady hand,

 

Kaitlin Curtice

DON’T FORGET 2016: when mourning leads to action

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I’ve read a lot of posts giving us permission to put 2016 behind us and move forward with hope.

Maybe we’re grieving the death of a part of us, or someone that we left in that year.

And when 2017 rolled around, we said good-bye to everything and everyone to begin again.

But the problem with leaving “the past in the past” is that we miss who we are because of it. I’ve watched people I love mourn those that they lost. They didn’t wish to forget them after the mourning period was over; they hoped to live into the legacy of that person, to walk in the light they left, to learn something from them, even after death.

So what did we leave behind in 2016? What died and what took its place?

The grief of those memories carry themselves in us, quiet and steady, often painful.

But the mourning process is out loud, our speaking and writing and making public that we are hurting and are asked to get better, to heal a little, to find comfort, to do something.

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Today I woke up mourning.

I do not mourn that Obama is leaving and Trump’s time begins.

I do not mourn for a political party or the threat of another authoritarian era.

I don’t mourn that we are a bullying nation, but that we began as one.

I mourn what I wake up to: a world slivered by hate and oppression, a world of people that ask what they can do to further their own causes before anyone else’s.

I mourn every day that my boys have to learn protest because hate exists, and that they have to find a fire inside their bones too awakened to be ignored.

I mourn the lies that we build nations and systems upon for the sake of the powerful.

I mourn a world in which refugees are the outcast, everything utterly backward and unjust.

We mourn things because they affect us. They do not let go of us— the memories, the spirit, the life that we lost.

And so we mourn what we left in 2016, but we do not forget it.

And we let our mourning and our grief lead us into action, into what is healthy, into what makes us whole.

In Native culture, we do not neglect the past, but use it to usher us forward.

Whether 2016 was the worst or best year of your life, carry its memory with you, use it to make 2017 what it should be, to inspire you toward hope and a fuller version of yourself.

Do anything but forget, and engage anything but inaction.