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.

 

 

 

 

My ONE WORD for 2017

I stood at my sister’s kitchen sink the other night, after we’d had a post-Christmas meal together. My family was there for one day, and we knew our time was limited. My mom put away the leftovers while I washed what I could, looked out the window, thought about what this new year might bring with it for us.

In the middle of the washing, the word outside popped into my head. I was looking out the window at the starred, cold-dark night, and I thought, this is it.

The #oneword365 movement is a beautiful one, because it’s not just about resolutions and starting over. It’s about choosing a namesake to re-define the next 365 days, to pour something of our souls into our daily lives in an intentional way, and Lord knows, we need it right now.

While we were home for that short holiday trip, we spent a lot of time with friends who value what it means to be outside– our friends who live on a farm with acres and acres of land showed us that a slow and steady, hard-working life brings a load of peace and quiet. I watched the yellowing grass in their pasture move in the breeze, and I knew that I wanted it for myself one day.

In 2017, I plan to go outside, as in, the noun, and I plan to be outside, as in, the adjective.

My dear friend Lindi reminded me that day at her farm of the Wendell Berry quote that says, “When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.”

So that’s what I’ll do everyday– go outside, to the trees, to the land, to that hammock in my front yard, to find what it means to live a little outside my own boundaries, to find fresh life and the Spirit and the sacred good.

But for now, we finish our years of schooling and working, continuing to fight for sacred spaces in our living and breathing. And in this stretch we make goals and sometimes reach them, and we keep processing and hoping and praying, because living on the outside of an everyday existence is to live fully alive to ourselves and the people around us.

For 2017, I hold on to the word outside and ask it to be a sort of namesake for me.

In 2016 I saw scales fall off of myself, and I stepped into places I didn’t think possible for who I am. But in those spaces, a unique otherness was found.

I find myself outside the boundaries of the conservative church I grew up a part of, and I discover daily that I am outside the bounds of white America as I become more intentional about living into my Potawatomi and Chickasaw ancestry and culture.

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As my latest Enneagram test tells me, I’m someone who’s always stood a little outside the lines, defying what popular culture suggests of me. So for 2017, I’m asking how to faithfully walk a little on the outside of what I’ve known and been.

It will mean fighting fears and overcoming obstacles.

It may mean some awkward conversations and some late night prayers, and a whole lot of coffee.

But I trust it will propel me into deeper things and new experiences that grow me and change me and teach me that shifting, while it can be painful, is beautifully necessary.

So here’s to 2017 and to my #oneword.

…What’s yours?

 

 

O, Creator: a prayer for the last week of Advent

O Creator,

This name is one of the most beautiful we can give you, because it speaks such pure truth-

You create and recreate us–and the hope of every being–day after day.

In our earliest beginnings, you crafted something sacred into us, insignificant breaths chosen for something larger, something more.

And further back to the first beginning, wherever and whenever it was, everything had a curated purpose under your watchful eye and gentle hand.

And so today and everyday, we look out and about to you, and then we return with the good gift of creation in ourselves.

Because the world still aches, because we live in an extended Advent season of waiting, we need to remember now, more than ever, that you create for us and in us, a constant motion of grace.

And while you send your creative love into us, forgive us for the creative spaces we have destroyed. Forgive us for taking the holy spaces of your craft or the people you created in tender love, and calling them dirt beneath our feet, because we could not see what you saw, could not understand what you call sacred.

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Soon, we will begin those winter months of hibernation, so many creatures resting their bodies in the darkest caves and under the dirt to store their strength up for the spring, when work begins again.

How we wait for the spring and long for new life.

How the aching world begs of it from the smallest ant to the stampeding buffalo– we all beg for a better-healed world.

O Creator,

Take these prayers and create something with them.

Gather them into your hands and pull them to your chest and whisper them back out to the air, let the atmosphere carry them to the corners of the earth, our prayers for all the advent things– for love, for hope, for joy, for peace, for everything you are.

We pray that we may know you.

We pray that in knowing you, we know how to live.

O Creator, hear this Advent prayer and create in us, yet again.

Amen.

To My Dearest Peace…

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Peace, Dearest,

I searched for you today. I was in Aleppo, and I held a dying child as she searched my eyes for your presence and I searched hers for the same.

Dearest Peace,

I sought you out in the middle of the protest, each one a fight for people to become more human to each other, each one a battle in your very name.

I listened for your voice when the news shouted vulgar lies at the world, one side against another side for the loudest noise. But I wasn’t sure what your voice sounded like anymore, so I was afraid.

Peace,

I looked for you in the busy, over-crowded streets, among the consumers who bought what they didn’t want for the deal of the century.

I looked for you and you weren’t there.

A long time ago, as the story goes, some old and weary shepherds followed a star and found you, birthed in a dirty and dark place, nothing out of the ordinary for the very foundations of the world to shake.

So maybe we find you in those same, unexpected places.

A long time ago, the five tribes buried their weapons under a great tree and began a New Way for the world , following in the steps of the Peacemaker who was born of a virgin.

So maybe we can find you in those same, sacred spaces.

You were there in Aleppo. You held that light in her eyes steady as our world let go of her and you carried her on.

You held the center of the protests steady, kept the heartbeat of prayer while violence made vile threats across dividing lines.

It is you, the voice of every still thing when the news is loudest, you, in the chirping of the birds and the stretching limbs of the tree, in the way the wind rustles the cold across our skin and down to our bones.

You are the thing that draws us back to center and tells us the story once again, the one that unmasks our consumer sickness.

You, Dear One, have always been there, and I was unaware.

You, Dearest Peace, have held the world steadily in orbit from the beginning and even before that, it seems, your heart fully aware of what you’d have to take on one day in this world we think we own.

Peace, my friend.

You hold us, still.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace.

Advent as Anti-Society

{LOVE.}

I’ve written before that we have slow mornings at home. We play and read, we sit on the couch and look out the windows for a while, and there is no rush.

And the more I practice this, the more I need and treasure it, and the more I mourn for our society in which so many people are pushed out their front doors before they’re even awake in the mornings.

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Advent is a slow and steady thing.

It’s a day after day, year after year reminder–

we are the people of waiting.

Steady and strong.

And what of Jesus? What do we learn from him in this season?

He was ironically part of his society and a protestor against it, all in one.

We certainly have something to learn from that, and in this advent/Christmas season, we have space if we really need it– we have those trees in our backyard, that river down the road, that book that sits dusty by the bed waiting for us to read it.

To be Anti-Society is to fight the holiday madness with cookie baking and story time and meditation.

And to be Anti-Society this advent is to also acknowledge that as we wait for the Christ child to return, we live in him, in his love.

We walk and breathe and see the holidays as something alive and good, too, even in the difficult wait.

We rest and respond.

We take our moments slow.

And we acknowledge that we are beautifully alive.

In Potawatomi culture, any inanimate object used in ceremony takes on animacy in that setting. So a pipe, a pair of moccasins, tobacco, cedar, or sage come to life.

These things come alive because they are infused with prayer, with living, with sacredness in the presence of Jesus.

And so it is with our advent days.

May we walk them in ceremony, in prayer, in sacred steps.

May we believe that we ignite the world around us with the love of this second advent week, because we are never alone.

Christ was born into a society, grew into a man within it, died because he was bound by their rules.

But then again, he knew better.

He worked hard and slow, went to the mountains to pray, broke bread with his friends and family.

And he made the cave of his birth come to life, the padding used for his bed sacred and real, the gifts given to him at his birth suddenly more meaningful than could have been imagined. He made the cross he died upon come to life, a tool used for death suddenly a symbol of resurrection life and love. Even the cloth he was wrapped in, that cloth that was infused with spices and oils, became an active thing when it was found in the empty tomb.

You see, Advent is about seeing LIFE around us infused with the LOVE of Christ.

Advent is the waiting, but it is waiting with anticipation because we know that a life truly alive is so worth living. We hold onto that, and we fight societal pressures that make us think anything different.

It’s the week of love, friends.

Love your life and watch it come alive as you wait.

Amen.

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Advent 2016: hope, grief, and Jesus unimagined

Years and years ago, advent came as a long season, generations of waiting and hoping for someone to rescue and repair brokenness.

But in those long and hard years, I imagine there was some anger and some grief, a little hope lost along the way but still held onto in the end.

This Advent feels different for me, as I watch the world, even the world of the church I’ve always known, show itself through different hues. I take the stories I’ve learned as a child mixed with the beautiful stories of my ancestors and other indigenous, stories of who Jesus has always been.

So I see the trajectory of the Christ-child, but the one who is for all people in all places, and not just the one we’ve revered in the white western church.

And I feel the dissonance of our political climate, something I know is foreign to the hope I hold.

So this Advent, I need Jesus to be everything that he is and nothing that I’ve always imagined him to be.

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The miracle of Christ is that he was born once and died once only to live again, and in his living there is always new grace, fresh shalom, a constant journeying into the spirit and heart of God and of God-Made-Flesh-and-Bone.

All those years of waiting had to be painful, but they were needed.

And today, we wait again, and it’s painful, and it’s needed. Our reality must be met with hope, met with peace and love and joy and grace, or the journey becomes blurred or forsaken altogether.

Our world hurts, from the dug up rivers and their protectors to the children of Syria to the oppressed in every corner, even those in our backyard. So Advent becomes an aching and painful grasp onto the chance at things being made new.

If Jesus has the capacity to create renewals of everything in our reality, isn’t it fitting for us to find renewal in our daily journeys?

Let this Advent season mean something different for your journey, and if that means finding the Christ child through your own child eyes, by all means do so.

No journey is wasted, and Advent is all about the long journey to the Christ child and all the journeying after.

But in the meantime, we can’t let our anger or grief dissipate into nothingness, nor do we bury it so deep that it eats away or seeds itself in us as revenge or bitterness.

No.

We take those human feelings and we let them work their way out of us in shalom-ways, in the way of hope, in the way of every good work. That is the way of the peaceful protestor, the way of the rock that stands still and stoic after years and years of rubble around him.

This is the way of Jesus, if the stories ring true, if shalom really is what he intended for it to be.

That is what we hold onto, what Advent gives us as we re-see the Savior child and re-imagine our own journeys of beginning and waiting again.

Shalom: her magnetic heart

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You and I are “other” to each other,
foreign creatures,
locked in our independent skin.

You and I, we’re unnerved
when we’re together,
we’re fractured, disconnected,
thin as moth-wing.

And yet, the same stuff
that tears us from each other
gravitates us to each other,
and all along,
the earth keeps spinning
to help us shake the
regret-dust from
our shoulders.

I cannot assume you,
and you cannot assume me.

And yet, we began in the same
womb of thought,
the same dream of beginning.

We started and we will end,
and in between we can
detonate bombs
or
unmake them;

We can tighten the noose
or
make climbing ropes;

We can pull triggers
or
bury our weapons
beneath the trees
in our city parks
and let our
oneness
grow out of their
metal mouths.

You and I are “other” to each other,
but desperate enough to invade
these spaces–

desperate enough to fill up the
missing places,

patch up the broken links,

re-engage where we’ve
abandoned.

Shalom– She is a sacred word,
an everlasting act.

Shalom– She is an enduring
vision on the
darkest night,

and that magnet-force that keeps
fighting against our
pulling
and
tugging,
because she puts us
always back
where we were before–

hand in hand by the fire.

Shalom– She knows us better.

Shalom– She binds together the
blistered souls,

and we quiet ourselves,

eyes locked,

all “otherness” dissipated
in a stream of
perfect light.

We Can Still Be Grateful: a thanksgiving Jesus would approve of

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At church this last Sunday, Peter, our guest speaker, asked us to take a moment of silence and think of the things we are grateful for. It had been a while for me, a while since I’d made a list like this. But I wrote for a few short minutes:

I’m thankful for…

Goosebumps.

Worship.

My boys.

Community.

My husband.

This church space.

The Spirit of God.

Usually around this time of year, people on Facebook start their thankfulness campaigns, each day naming something they are grateful to have in their life. But this year, I haven’t seen anything like that, because we are surrounded, bombarded, distracted.

Now, I have my own thoughts about Thanksgiving, about colonists or pilgrims, about the Native Americans they encountered and the ways they treated them throughout those encounters.

But for this moment, I am focusing on the other things I know to be true–  the people, the spaces, the realities that I can be absolutely grateful for, whatever surrounds me.

For some of us, the holidays are going to be excruciating, no matter what side you’re on. So let’s re-shape things, let’s re-imagine those scenarios. Have your difficult conversations, stake your claims and understand each other, but then move on. Refocus.

We have so much to be thankful for, after all.

I wrote this on my Facebook wall last week:

Today I drank coffee out of my Hillary mug for the first time since election night. I also sat at my computer and watched leaves fall and birds chirp out my window. I also worked on my Potawatomi language class, offered by my Native American tribe. 

I drank the coffee, I thanked the beauty outside my window for her presence and I dug into the rich heritage of my ancestors.

This is how I fight back. This will be my daily bread.

Remember your gifts, your passions. Drink out of your favorite coffee mug and give yourself space to breathe, always learning. Then give yourself away to be the good.

And we will make it.

The feedback I got from these few words was overwhelming, words from other men and women who are seeking space. We’re all seeking these moments right now, no matter who we voted for, what our story is, whether we attend a church or a mosque or a temple or nothing at all. Whether we’re Native American or descendants of a colonist and French trader, we can still celebrate the depth of our gratefulness this week.

We ache for the quiet, we ache for the things that remind us of who we are, for the things that challenge us to become who we need to be. So with every breath of thanksgiving, we release something into ourselves, into our families, into the people we love AND those we don’t. We release something into the world around us, because gratefulness produces good and sacred fruit, and it is fruit of healing.

And if the church does its job, we are pointed back to the centrality of shalom, of Jesus, who gives us space to find ourselves, to bask in moments of complete thanksgiving.

So find those moments this week, dear friends.

Have the hard conversations, engage the world around you, and then sit back, gather at the fire, read the right book, drink the strong coffee, sip the glass of wine and remember where all the good that surrounds you comes from.

And moment by moment, our strength will be built up in that remembrance, and we will lean into the world outside with brave hearts.

I lay in bed watching live feed after live feed of a protest in North Dakota, watched police spraying indigenous water protectors with cold water in freezing weather. I asked what it means to be grateful in that moment, and realized that I will wither away if I cannot look around and find something good to hold on to.

When we stockpile ourselves with gratefulness, we are ready to pray. We are ready to engage and act and believe, because we are full.

We can pray for Syria.

We can pray for indigenous peoples in North America.

We can pray for our country’s leaders.

We can pray for our enemies and our friends.

We can pray for ourselves.

And we can invite the outsider to our table. We can acknowledge the wrongful genocide of indigenous peoples at the table, and lament, even in our gratefulness.

With gratitude we continue the pattern, to accept the work of being grateful and letting it transform us, especially this Thanksgiving week. That is what the holidays are about, a space that will keep us tethered to what is good and will keep us strong for those tough days that inevitably come to visit.

 

An Open Letter to Donald Trump: the day after the election

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Dear President-Elect:

This morning, I lay in bed beside my three year old as my husband explained to my five year old in the next room that you will be our next president.

Our oldest son has watched you closely these past months. He has called you a bully, a man with a hateful attitude.

But here we are, and congratulations to you.

Please know that a fire has been lit.

It has been lit by children who refuse to be bullied and parents who want to see a healthy world for their little ones, a world where minorities and females and the poor can also rise to the leadership positions and change things.

I am a worship leader at an LGBT-affirming church; I am a Native American; I am an author, a homeschooling mother, a wife of a PhD student.

And a fire has been lit in me.

This morning I lay with my oldest son in my bed. We cuddled before we started the day and I reminded him of the power of a phone call.

We’ve called Obama a few times these last few weeks to ask him to stop the pipeline in North Dakota, and my boy’s voice was recorded and his words sent on to a listening president.

Now I’m asking you to be that listening ear in the coming years, because Mr. Trump, if things go awry, he will be calling you.

And if things are all as they should be, he will still be calling, because he is a citizen of a country that is held steady by its future– the children.

Mr. Trump, listen to the children.

Start now.

And know that we will be praying for you.

We will be praying that every morning when you rise from your bed and every night when you go to sleep and all the moments in between, you’ll be seeking shalom in your leadership.

I don’t want to see you at my church, or at a pulpit with a bible in your hand. I don’t want to hear you proclaiming God’s good will in sending you to our great nation as a prophet-leader.

I want to see you doing the things that Jesus did.

Eating with the outcast.

Caring for the poor, widowed, orphaned.

Embracing all the other.

Creating equal rights.

Becoming a peacemaker.

Mr. Trump, that fire was lit under Jesus, too.

It’s a fire of justice, grace, and Kingdom, and I’m praying you find it in your early days of leadership and carry it as a humble torch through the next four years.

And please remember who’s watching.

And keep your phone line open.

 

Sincerely,

A citizen who stands for many of things you’ve spoken against.