Weeping and Wailing: a lament litany

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Maybe the stars went black that day because there was nothing else to get their attention, the people gathered around the crosses with dice in their hands and grins on their mouths, a few others hiding, stopping to stifle their quiet sobs.

After all, thieves hung on crosses every day, proclamations of miracles and resurrection on their lips now and again.

Maybe the stars went black because the sound of the nail through skin made them, finally, too tired to shine.

Maybe they just closed their eyes for a minute to weep, while the thunderclouds wailed around them.

Maybe then it only lasted a few moments, but maybe every night while we sleep, the stars go black for a second, and the thunderclouds rumble a low lament– a weep and a wail lasting centuries in this world.


 

Weeping and Wailing.

For every innocent body executed by the state—

Weeping and Wailing.

For every murdered indigenous person whose killer goes free–

Weeping and Wailing.

For every abused child–

Weeping and Wailing.

For the poor, who are told to pull themselves up or else–

Weeping and Wailing.

For young women, who believe their voices don’t matter in the church–

Weeping and Wailing.

For the tired widows–

Weeping and Wailing.

For young men incarcerated and abused by the system–

Weeping and Wailing. 

For the descendants of the oppressed, who live generational trauma in their bones–

Weeping and Wailing.

For the Empires, who for centuries have oppressed in God’s name–

Weeping and Wailing.

For too many tombs filled with those killed by police brutality–

Weeping and Wailing.

For institutional sins of ableism, sexism, religious bigotry, toxic masculinity, white supremacy and racism–

Weeping and Wailing. 

For a world that has been abused herself, beaten year after year because we say that we are called to “subdue” her–

Weeping and Wailing. 


 

The stars went black because they had no other choice.

Because if the world went black for a moment or two, maybe the people would gather to one another and make peace.

Maybe they would remember that they belong to each other and the world they inhabit, there in the darkness, there with the thunder calling their names.

Maybe the darkness puts us in the tomb, too.

Maybe we go there to weep and wail ourselves, for injustice, a longing to be whole again.

Weeping and Wailing.

Weeping and Wailing.

Weeping and Wailing.

Until the stars shine on us again.


To My Sisters Who Mourn on Mother’s Day

Sister,

I wish you could have been with us in that room, four walls surrounding a Hannah Service to acknowledge the grief of children lost, never born, sometimes not even named. We gathered because someone said she did not want to leave you out of this Mother’s Day experience, because you may very well be more deeply affected by it than others.

Sister, I lamented with you, for you, because I have not known what it is like to lose a child, to lose a baby or a pregnancy, to struggle in this way. I cannot understand it, so I hold the silence with you and for you.

I was there to lead worship; I was there to sing a few songs about the faithfulness of God in seasons that are so raw.

Someone said, “I don’t want a hope that will make me deny my grief,” and I thought that so many people should hear this message.

It is universal. It would calm so many hearts and ease so much pain, just a little, if we were allowed to out-loud-grieve and wail and try to make sense of what doesn’t make sense– together.

I cried for you in that space. I grieved with you in ways I didn’t know how, but still, I tried.

We remembered Hannah, who was not afraid to come to God and demand to be heard. We remembered her courage, and I thought of you, of all of you who have been courageous.

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We lit candles to mark our lament. There were only a few of us, but we lit more candles than I’d imagined, because I realized there that you are hurting with more than one kind of hurt today. We counted our grief and I so wish I could sit with you and count yours, so that you know you are not alone.

We remembered how our grief burns like fire, how we carry heavy loads as women. So we demanded there that God hear us, and we turned to trusting that God does.

We had three strings to braid together to remember that grief, hope and trust are often intertwined in our lives. As I braided it, not for my own grief or loss, but for yours, I challenged the church to be better to you and for you.

I challenged myself to remember, to not forget, to hold silent space, to learn what it looks like to lament beside others who lament.

I prayed for everyone who may not know what it’s like to hold their own child, let alone two, like I do.

I thought of women in my life who have fostered and cared for children in their homes, who have tried to adopt and it has fallen through; I thought of you, how loss comes and comes again and it hurts.

We ended the evening with hope, but we asked what hope looks like.

Is hope the realized dream of a baby of your own?

Is hope finding that the pain hurts a little less?

Is hope that Mother’s Day will one day feel different than it does now?

We sang, “You make me new, you are making me new,” over and over again as a proclamation– not that we know the answer to what newness looks like, but that we trust in a waiting God who hears the lament, the cry of grief brought from the people.

This Mother’s Day, I pray that the church does better by you, sister.

I pray the church sees you, I pray that the church is quiet and humble enough to understand that we can’t possibly understand, but walk beside you.

Nevertheless, we are here.

You are not alone.

Daily my work is to try to make the church better, to see things she didn’t see before, to notice the things she’s been missing.

I believe the church has work to do to get closer to the call of Jesus, and wrapped up somewhere inside of this call is the challenge to better learn how to grieve with each other.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we believe politically or religiously, how our views of God are different.

We literally set it aside and we wade into grief together, unashamed, unafraid, to let it do its slow and steady work.

And along the way, we pray for hope and trust to settle in somewhere, to make a home among our grief, to commune with our grief so that we know that we are not alone.

This Mother’s Day, I’m leaning in with you, sister.

I’m holding space that I don’t understand toward a God who holds space far better than I ever could.

For you.

 

I AM WOMAN. HEAR ME MOURN.

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It is no secret that as women, we carry our babies for nine months. We create and nurture and grow life in a womb of water until birth, when we care for them as our newborns and on into childhood.

Some of us, who cannot have children, care for and love the children that are in our lives, the children that become a part of us, whether it’s through a bloodline or not.

Some of us have lost our babies, or we’ve given up children, or we’ve carried some other kind of motherly burden. Some of us have been abandoned by or lost our own mothers, and it bears heavy on us throughout our lives.

We are made to carry heavy loads, and today, we are out-loud-mourning.

Sunday is Easter, and while I’m aware that to many people in this world that is just another Sunday, I gravitate toward the life of Jesus as he speaks into the world we inhabit at this moment in time.

And I think about the woman who bore him.

I think about Mary, who knew from before his birth that Jesus would live an extraordinary life, one that might prove to be difficult. She carried the weight of love for her son, who was also called to be so much more than that.

She watched that son that she bore and carried in her arms and cooked with in her kitchen. She watched him drag a cross through the city and watched as he was nailed to it. She watched as he sighed his last sigh, his last prayer wafted to every corner of heaven around them.

She bore the weight. She mourned.

In the last year, we’ve seen care for the earth and the conversation of climate control come to the surface yet again in our communities, in our nation, in our world. Indigenous peoples’ voices have been heard as we proclaim that it is our honor and sacred duty to care for Mother Earth– her spirit as our very life.

So, I think about the women of Standing Rock, the young woman who began the march for her people, the young woman who said that it was enough, too many indigenous people dying, too many giving up. So they stood and they prayed and they sang for clean water, begging and teaching the world that care for Mother Earth is the greatest honor. And a heavy weight. 

I think of the woman who gave birth in that camp, who named her daughter Mni Wiconi, meaning Water is Life. She says in the video, “I firmly believe our men need our women to stand up and be strong.”

And part of that strength is our ability to speak out of our brokenness.

We share the things we carry. We lament and mourn, and we make way for future generations to do the same.

As women, we carry our mourning, because our bodies and our souls have been taught to carry the lives inside and around us.

We mourn in a world that feels heavy today.

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In the last few months of the presidential election and beginning of Trump’s time in office, I’ve seen women torn from one another in battles over who they voted for and what sect of Christianity teaches them to believe in a certain way.

And I’ve seen other women who quietly hold their faith close to their chest, the ones who are steady and strong, the ones who know that there is life outside of this, outside of our fights and our tantrums.

As women, we carry our churches and our faith places, because we care for the people. We hold them inside our hearts, we work toward wholeness and we pray.

Glennon Doyle Melton recently said in a speech, “The generals of justice have always been and will always be the women of color.”

She pointed out to a room full of mostly white women that to do what is right and needs to be done, the best course of action is to see what women of color have been carrying for centuries and follow them.

This is Sojourner Truth.

This is Maya Angelou.

This is Mary Magdalene.

This is Cleopatra.

This is Hildegard of Bingen.

Her words moved me, because in recent months, I’ve been given a platform for my own voice– for my voice of color, for my voice as a woman. I can speak what I believe and I can call you to meet me here in this space.

But many women do not have that opportunity.

So I mourn that we are not there yet.

I mourn for a world that does not recognize the voices of the women as they should be recognized.

I mourn for the fights that happen over the body of a female, over having choices for what that body should look like and act like and seem like.

I mourn for young indigenous women who disappear, who are raped and attacked because of their culture and skin.

I mourn for the women around the world who have lost their children to war, to starvation, to lack of attention from countries like ours that could have done something better.

I mourn because I am a woman.

I mourn because I carry the world.

I mourn because the rivers run with oil and our children are afraid of the places where they live.

I mourn that we do not understand Jesus as a kind and gentle healer who seems to still turn this world upside down.

I mourn that we do not appreciate the hard and steady work of slowing down and listening.

I mourn.

And yet, I hold myself steady in the reality that I live in the beautiful lineage of all the women who came before me and fought in their mourning.

I live in the long-time shadow of my ancestors, those women who walked the Trail of Death and did not give up along the way; those women who nursed their babies without stopping to rest and who built a life out of nothing.

I live to honor the lives of the women who have placed their trust in me, who have shared their stories with me in hopes that together we build a better future for ourselves and for our children.

For those women, I mourn that we are not there yet, but I hope that one day we will be.

 

 

DEAR SYRIA: the worst apology

 

Dear Syria,

I admit that growing up as an everyday American, I did not learn your history. I have to look online to educate myself, to learn the things I need to know to remember that you’re there and I am here.

But there’s another reality to all of this. Something I don’t need to search in google to understand.

You are a country made up of humans. Of mothers and daughters, of fathers and cousins and grandfathers and aunts.

You are a people full of life — joy and sorrow, human beings that experience sacredness in everyday moments. You are also a people who have had those moments ripped away from you.

I do not undersatnd the politics of any of this, of you and of us, of all the countries involved.

But what I do understand is that whatever we claim we are doing, it’s not enough.

I am paralyzed when I see your faces on my laptop screen.

I am disgusted with myself that all I know to do is give money to an organization that might have a few arms there by your side.

This. is. not. enough.

Where I might have some sort of apology, there is only lament.

Like the stories of my own indigenous ancestors, your stories are being swept under the giant rug of authoritarian politics and blame games, and it is everything but humane.

I could try to apologize, but these are the moments in which I claw at my own heart, scratching past the surfaces to try to summon up any sort of prayer to any sort of God who sees this as the tragedy that it is.

Because you are more than a news story, and therefore, our apologies are more than not enough.

I tend to light candles when there is tragedy or death.

I light a candle and I say a prayer. I burn sage and I remember.

But what do I do for all of your lives?

What do I do for all of the babies that could have been my own, had I been born on your shores?

My dear, dear Syria, we say that we have not forgotten, but sometimes we have.

We say that we are with you, but we aren’t.

We say that we will make amends, but we can’t.

We are simply here.

You are simply there.

So, what is left for me is the act of lament. Remembering that I began in ashes and to ashes I will return.

What is left is to seek a deep forgiveness from you and the God who sees you, a deep forgivenss from the very core of my being.

I have no loved you as I should love you, and I do not know how.

So I will attempt to lean into your pain in the knowledge that I cannot understand it, and I will lean into my own selfishness with the knowledge of its devastating reality.

I will practice empathy.

I will stop my day to remember you.

I will store up your stories in my memories so that I cannot say I didn’t know.

It will hurt.

As it should.

If only I begin the process of almost, maybe one day, coming closer to the apology that you deserve.

Today, though, that is simply not enough.

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

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.

One of The Church’s Greatest Mistakes: to those for whom there is no room

There’s a story about a laboring woman and the baby inside of her, a story about how far they journeyed together to find a safe place to rest, a suitable place for a birth.

They travelled and travelled and finally the innkeeper said to them, “Sorry, no room,” and they found their way alone.

And today, a lot of people– a lot of churches, a lot of Christians– have taken up the mantle of telling the “other” the same thing.

No room, no room.

No room for the woman who seems impoverished, waiting for her daughter in the church building;

No room for the socially awkward or outcast to find community;

No room for those who have made mistakes and wish to be redeemed;

No room for the Native Americans to keep their own land and find God in it;

No room for the women to lead;

No room for the curious, for the people who ask questions and admit that they seek God outside the church walls;

No room for the children to be children, their little voices heard and considered.

No room. 

And as the privileged voices become louder and the marginalized become quieter, they say, “Speak up, we can’t hear you….No room, no room inside of me for you.”

Maybe those marginalized voices have been speaking, reaching, trying to break glass ceilings and enter the in-crowd for decades.

But still, no room.

And Jesus said, “Those who have hears, let them hear…”

But maybe today He says, “Those who have always had ears and means but haven’t really been listening to anyone but their own…close your mouths for a second.”

And then He looks us in the eyes and says, “Because someone told my mama once, ‘no room, ma’am,’ and she birthed me in a cave.”

And so today, new voices shout from the street corners and church parking lots, “No room! No room for displacement, prejudice, hatred.

No room for xenophobic social circles and secret gossip clubs.

There is no room for the one-person agenda,

No room for the top-down scheme.”

And with every breath of Kingdom, that man who was born in a cave says, “Room…there is room at this table and plenty to eat…

…Come with your questions and let us journey together. Let us make room.

And there, the new church is born.

 

Hallelujah and Amen.

At The End of a Long Week: a Friday Prayer

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All I can say at the end of a long week is that I hope Your will was done.

I hope good came from bad,

holy from evil,

life from brokenness.

I hope somewhere that someone felt the sunlight sink deep into their bones,

that those same rays of sun bolted back out of them

and blessed their every neighbor.

I hope that when Kingdom came this week,

someone was paying attention,

someone engaged with their humanity

and Your perfection.

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It’s the end of a long week,

and I hope that we’re learning to rest better by now.

I hope our deep breaths are deeper

and our hunched shoulders are lowered

and our voices are less strained.

I hope we fill the spaces of the coming weekend

with that kind of Sabbath rest that only Kingdom

can teach us.

All I can say at the end of a long week is

Kingdom, come.

I hope that even where I feel empty, I am full;

I hope that where I feel full, I will be emptied back out;

and I hope all things will be leveled and brought to a good kind of justice,

because at the end of a long week,

the world is both terribly frightening

and

breath-takingly beautiful.

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At the end of a long week,

I hope that our daily bread was given,

that our debts were shackled off of us,

and that our hearts of stone were broken to meet the work of forgiveness.

At the end of a long week,

I hope that we stepped out of our realm and

into Yours,

and realized that they aren’t so far apart after all.

 

So at the end of a long week, I keep praying to the King of Tenderness:

God to enfold me,                                                                                                                                             

God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.

God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.

God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul,
God in mine eternity.

–Ancient Celtic Prayer, The Carmina Gadelica 

Amen.