When Mother’s Day is difficult for you ….

It is for me.   I managed to avoid preaching on Mother’s Day for several years until this year. This link will take you to the video of what I had to say.   Maybe the day would be better served if we made it about children of mothers and listened to Small Voices.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist.

Posted in Activism, Children, Ending Gun Violence, God Before Guns, Grandparents, Grief, gun violence, LGBTQ, Loss of Child, Mothers Day, Pastoral Ministry, Racism, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Show me where love and hope and faith are needed, and use me to bring them to those places.

How to be people of faith who trust in and live as peacemakers in a violent world is difficult at best. I pray daily for the strength and focus I need to continue doing this work.   I’ve shared with you this week just a portion of the work that Christian mainline denominations are doing.  It’s not just Christians who are concerned activists against violence.  For more, click on this link.

From the Islamic Society of America:

The Quaran (5:23) says that the killing of one innocent person is tantamount to killing the whole human race.  This is exactly what we experience when scenes of massacres in Newtown, Boston, Aurora, and other cities in America are shown on television.  The deadening numbness that these horrific scenes have on all of us – individually and collectively – represents what this verse of the Quaran tells us.

From the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism

The Talmud teaches us that “he who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).  The carelessness with which human life is taken by guns stands in direct violation of these affirmations of our tradition.

Buddhist Perspective from Thubten Chodron, Sravasti Abbey

In accordance with avoiding all wrong, the first precept the Buddha set forth is not to harm other physically, especially to take their lives.  Harming others physically is neither an appropriate nor a satisfactory way of dealing with conflict or threat.  Clearly guns are made to do this, so their proliferation makes it easier to transgress this precept when someone’s mind is overwhelmed by fear, anger, or misery (in the case of suicide).  Harming others also harms ourselves, since we are all interrelated.  Compassion can be a powerful force to resolve conflict and prevent violence.  Compassion is not wimpy or sentimental.  A mind with compassion is strong and can deal with difficult situations effectively because it isn’t clouded with fear and anger.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read what has been on my heart and mind during Advent Peace Week.  I close our time together with this prayer:

O Lord,

               Open my eyes that I may see the needs of others;

               Open my ears that I may hear their cries;

               Open my heart so that they need not be without succor:

Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong.

Nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.

Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,

And use me to bring them to those places.

And so open my eyes and my ears

That I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.  Amen.

Alan Paton, Life Prayers: Affirmations to Celebrate

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Today’s prayer of non-violence

An early influence for us in the work we do was Rev. James Atwood, a retired Presbyterian pastor.  Rev. Atwood, an avid hunter and gun owner, devoted thirty-six years as a Presbyterian pastor to fighting against the easy access to firearms, after a gun ended the life of one of his dear friends.  His book, America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, was important to us when we first began this work.  Rev. Atwood says that preventing gun violence is a spiritual mandate from God, as ..

  • Each of us is created in the image of God.
  • Each of us is a child of God
  • Each of us is a brother or sister in God’s family.
  • Each of us is a neighbor whom we are commanded to love as we love ourselves.
  • The New Testament declares that our very bodies are “the temples of the Living God.”
  • We cannot love our neighbor, brother/sister, without caring deeply about that which hurts of kills them.

Prayer:  Gracious and merciful God.  We pray for the wisdom, compassion, and mercy to live our lives in the love and example of Jesus to:

Strive for peace within ourselves and to be peacemakers in our daily life;

Accept suffering in the struggle for justice rather than acting it.

Refuse to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;

Persevere in nonviolence of tongue and heart;

Live conscientiously and simply so that we do not deprive others of the means to live.

We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Adopted from Pax Christi, USA, “Renewal of the Vow of Nonviolence”

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Turning swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks …

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.  (Micah 4:3)

Today’s words come from Dr. Walter Brueggeman (From The collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann 2011) who says this about the Prophet Micah’s words:

“The image is of people willingly dismantling their weapons, not only dismantling but transforming them into useful tools of agricultural productivity.  The abandonment of weapons is not forced, but is done willingly.  And if done willingly, the poem surely suggests that in times to come there will be enough of trust, effective communication, and solidarity that old enemies can be a new community together.

Thus the key mark of God’s future is disarmament, the transformation of the economy from a war footing to an economy of food production.  Such disarmament means, every time, the capacity to yield one’s fear and aggressiveness and ambition and anxiety to a larger assurance, a guarantee that we need not position ourselves for hostility because our hostility is contained in the larger intention of God for peace, justice, and well-being.”

For today, think on the next words from the Prophet Micah.  They are not as familiar, but they describe a world for which we must pray:

they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid… (Micah 4:4)


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Our work continues …

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say in these post-presidential election days, it’s been difficult to push myself to get out there to do the work to which I feel called.   With the holidays approaching, it would be a good cocooning season.  But here in Ohio, we’ve not had that luxury, as a dangerous piece of legislation that we call The Guns Everywhere bill is being argued and pushed for passage in the Lame Duck session of the Legislature.  Also, I was asked by my church to write a week’s worth of Advent devotionals that began last Sunday with the lighting of the Peace Candle on the Advent wreath.  I’m writing about what fills my heart,  what challenges my mind when I’d rather cocoon, and what keeps my hands and feet moving to do God’s work — namely, what are we doing and what are we going to do to end the scourge of gun violence in our country.  Here’s my first post:

As we await once more the birth of the Prince of Peace, I’m remembering that Jesus was born into a violent world filled with political unrest.  So I feel called to write from the perspective of the chilling amount of violence in our country and will be drawing upon resources from across denominations that I have discovered in my work in the area of gun violence.

I see gun violence as a deeply spiritual issue because it involves human suffering and injustice that will only be alleviated through compassion and the involvement from people of faith who speak out in their churches and in the public arena.  It is not merely a political issue, though much of the work to reduce deaths and injuries draws us into the political arena.  As Christians we look to the bible for guidance about how we are to live.  The bible has much to say about our personal morality, but we must also acknowledge that the bible says even more about our public morality.  Our witness for Christ is to be a public witness.

Throughout the week, I will be using scripture, statements of non-violence from across denominations and faiths, and prayer to help guide us through the weekdays that follow the lighting of the Peace Candle on the Advent Wreath.

For today, I share the scripture that brought us to the name of the organization I lead, God Before Guns.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them.  (Exodus 20:4-5)

Prayer:  Lord, for the times that I have put any possession above you.  For violent thoughts or actions that have caused me to stray from you.  For silence and inaction when I have witnessed or been aware of violence.  God forgive me, and come, Lord Jesus, come.  Amen.


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I’m quite content being retired.  Perhaps I should say semi-retired, as I still have my hand in ministry at Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland and I am the Executive Director of God Before Guns.  That said, it’s not like anyone was counting on my wisdom or words of comfort or creating safe space yesterday, as people would have been if I was still a senior pastor.  I’m OK with that every day.  But I was especially grateful for it yesterday, as I felt more powerless than wise, had precious little to say to anyone, and I wanted no one else in my personal safe space.  David and I are comfortable together in silence, and there was alot of that.  I cried with my daughter, the mother of our two grandsons, on the phone.   It was enough to shower, get dressed, and had I not known about a neighborhood church openings its doors as safe space, I might not have left my house.

It feels like 9/11 all over again, I’ve seen people write.  It does, except this time the enemy has come from within.  It does, except I never really believed that our country was in daily mortal danger then, and yesterday I began thinking that we are.  As a pastor during 9/11, I could with confidence, counsel people that things will be OK.  Yesterday, those words haunted me because they seem not true anymore.  We are not OK, and we won’t be for a long while.  I was tempted yesterday in my paralysis to give it all up.  My work as an activist in gun violence prevention, my progressive Christian ministry work — done, over.  Everything I believe in had been voted down and everything I fear will be taking office in January.   The vision for our country that is articulated by God Before Guns says:  We envision a nation in which our faith in God and each other elevates the sanctity of life above the fears that lead to a society armed against itself. Yesterday, my gut said that vision died a premature death, and I would not be the one to work to resurrect it.I slept better last night.

I feel a little stronger this morning.  I’m no less angry and I still wish I could wake up from this horrible nightmare.  I’m working to find my own words, having found comfort in the words of so many other more talented (and expedient) writers.  Any personal recovery seems fragile at best, best assuaged by staying in my comfortable and warm house, walking my dog in our autumn-splendored neighborhood, reading a novel, and cooking in my small but surprisingly productive kitchen.  Bread is rising, cookies are in the oven, and soup is on the stove.  I could stay here forever.  As long as the shocked stock market doesn’t crash our retirement savings, we can survive this.

It’s just that’s not enough.  I know it.  I’ve preached it.  I must continue to live it.  I have my thick skin (a necessity for any woman pastor) to protect my own hurt feelings, insecurities, and vulnerabilities.  I have a strong heart mended from heartbreaks through the years which I know will be healthier the more I use it to its capacity.  I answered a call from God years ago, and there was not an expiration date.

So, today, I vow to (in no particular order):

continue my activism and advocacy in gun violence prevention.  Children deserve safe streets, schools, homes — free from the violence that comes from unrestricted access to guns for which the 2nd Amendment was never intended.  

practice, preach, teach, model with every step and breath a life of following Jesus, knowing that I”ll not be perfect at it, but knowing that too many others are making a dangerous mockery of being Christian so I must work harder at it.

advocate for the world in which I want my children and grandchildren to live, but not only for them, but for all children and other people’s grandchildren, no matter their color, ethnicity, country of origin, etc. 

continue to be an ally for LGBTQ equality, supportive of women’s reproductive choices and respect, equal pay for equal work, a voice as a child of an immigrant for immigrant welcome and rights, ….. to love, serve and work for every category of person who has been demeaned, verbally and physically abused, and threatened by the bullies who will now lead our government and those who voted for them.  

I refuse to live in fear.  And I promise to do all within my power so others do not fear for their safety either.

I’ve got time and I’ve got some resources.  I can do this, admittedly some days better than others, and so can you.  It’s not like the world needs my particular skills any more than anyone else’s, but it’s very much like voting.  Every.  Single.  One.  Counts.

Join me in recovery?

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist. 

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Putting one foot in front of the other …

It was sage advice when it was offered.  It was at a time when life seemed to be spinning out of control.  When there were days when it seemed easier to just stay in bed rather than face the sunshine that seemed to be shining only on other people.  It was cloudy and murky where I stood.  Situational depression, my doctor surmised. That feeling has returned through the years.  Not often, thank you God.  But no one lives an entire lifetime without loss or grief or sadness and some emotional paralysis.

Some days you just have to put one foot in front of the other …

But I didn’t sit down to write today about being sad.  I’m not.  It’s my birthday.  It’one of those significant ones (ending with a 5 or a 0), but that’s not dampening my spirits.  In truth, it’s because of/in spite of this birthday that I’m deliberately NOT sad.  Yes, my first birthday card was not of the Hallmark variety, rather it was my very own img_06861personal Medicare card.  And even though it seems like I should be carrying this card for my mother (which I did for many years as her caregiver), I realize it is mine.  I look forward to NOT using it much for now, as I’m quite healthy.   Oh, to be sure, there are more wrinkles on my face, gray in my hair, and a few too many pounds in places I won’t mention.  But I take no medications.  My blood pressure is so low that doctors always take it twice, just to make sure. At my physical last month, my new doctor pronounced me fantastic — and no, she’s not connected in any way to Donald Trump’s doctor!  I sleep well for 8 hours every night. I’m having great fun learning how to eat healthier (I highly recommend a farm share from Fresh Fork Market).  We’re still working on portion size.   My still-focused mind,  my bifocaled eyes, and free time that comes with retirement have put me on track to read 100 books this year.  Thank you Goodreads for keeping track.  If you haven’t signed up for this free app … Do.  It.  Now.  I can still beat David at Scrabble about  half of the time.  Just doing what we can to stave off dementia.

All is well, and still those words are coming to mind.  Some days you just have to put one foot in front of the other. 

It’s because they have been important for me in more ways than I can count.  Often I call them to mind because I have this tendency to want to move too fast through a situation.  I’m a results person — not so much interested in the process.  I like the big picture and am not always as aware as I ought to be of the smaller details that help make the big picture happen.  My mother used to say, …. Kristine Ellen, if you would just slow down.  Cue the eye-rolling — who appreciates their mother’s advice at the time.  But I find myself saying it to myself now that I’m older, wiser.  Putting one foot in front of the other reminds me that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Sure I could hurry through, but that’s not the point.  It not only won’t hurt me to take my time, it will help me to be healthier/happier/more thorough and infinitely more thoughtful in the long run.

Of course, sometimes putting one foot in front of the other can lead to a stumble.  Maybe even a fall.  That happened just days ago.  Out for my morning 3 miles with my faithful dog by my side — or rather a leash-length ahead of me — I misjudged a ridge in the sidewalk/slipped on mud/tripped over my own feet.  Who knows?  I have fallen before, but not like this.  With time suspended for those few seconds it takes to fall, I could see it coming.  Helpless as my face hit the concrete hard enough to bounce up and back down again.  I could feel/taste the blood immediately, soon mingling with my tears.  Indy loyally stood by me.  Helpful.  But not quite as helpful as Lassie who would have known exactly where to run to get help for Timmy.  But Lassie lived before the age of the ubiquitous cell phone, which I rarely leave home without.  All David had to do was answer and come to my rescue just blocks from home.  He did.  I have a difficult time saying I was lucky this time because the bloody-red scrapes and lumpy bruises were right there on my face for all to see.  And the sidewalk whiplash in my neck and shoulders is just beginning to subside.  But of course it could have been worse.  No broken bones. No stitches.  No concussion.   It was a big stumble, but I’ll heal.  I am healing.  I’m nearly there and whole again.

Wow, that’ll preach.  When we go through life putting one foot in front of the other,  of course we will stumble. We’re human.  We mess up.  We get distracted and sidetracked.  We fail.  We get hurt or we hurt someone else who just happened to be in the way.  Sometimes we catch ourselves in time.  Other times, we just go down.  Flat.  Down for the count…but we get back up.  We start to heal.  And, God with us, we are whole, even before our bodies start to mend.

Putting one foot in front of the other is also a reminder to me that as long as we’re living breathing children of God, we’re supposed to be moving forward.  God’s Spirit blows as it will, and it is all the power we need to take those steps.  As we get older, the steps get slower and often they’re aided by canes, walkers, and wheels. I’m not there yet, but I’m not foolish enough to think that I will not be one day.  Slowing down is a given, but for followers of Jesus, we don’t stop.  For there is a dynamic in the gospels — dynamic as in characterized by constant change, activity, or progress.  In telling the story of Jesus and his disciples on the move, the ancient gospel writers urge us forward in our 21st century lives.  We are accepted and loved for who we are right where we stand, and then challenged, led, loved, and empowered to see more/do more/be more.  With the Holy Spirit right there with us as we put one foot in front of the other.

430152_3452992687584_1048280957_nSo, happy birthday to me.  Not just older, still learning how to be better.  At life.  And love.  And trusting that God still needs me to put one foot in front of the other and make a difference in the world.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist.  And birthday girl. 


headshotP.S.  With all the uproar lately about Hillary Clinton’s health, I must say that when I get to be 68, I hope to be half as healthy, strong, courageous, and determined as our next President who just keeps putting one foot in front of the other and leading.


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Is this your neighborhood, Grandma?

It was a question asked by our 2 1/2 year old grandson when we told him we were getting off the highway and were almost to our house.  This came approximately 6 hours after we’d left his neighborhood in suburban Indianapolis.  No, we’re not quite to our neighborhood, Walt — as we drove past Beachwood Mall and Legacy Village.  But as the paved parking lots and retail shops faded in our rear view mirror, a neighborhood began to take shape before his eyes.  Big trees.  People walking dogs.  Modest but well-kept updated inner-ring suburbs housing circa the 1940’s.  Yes, Walt, this is our neighborhood. 

It was not his first visit to Cleveland, but it was his first without his Mommy and Daddy.  Though he’s a veteran of in-town grandparent sleepovers, we were a little nervous that being 330 miles away from home would be different.  But as his wise Mommy said, he has no idea how far away he is! True enough.

IMG_0495Walt’s visit was a huge success.  He ate well.  Slept well.  Got along well with our dog Indy.  Had fun in new places and thoroughly enjoyed how raptly attentive Grandpa David and Grandma Kris were to any and all conversation.  No matter the topic.  Hummingbirds.  Cicadas.  18-Wheelers.  Teeth brushing.  Dinosaurs.  The Peace Sign that hangs on the side of our house.

If you asked Walt how far away Cleveland is from his neighborhood, he might say that it’s a car ride that takes a BIG stack of library books to read multiple times, a stop for lunch, and a Netflix video of Land Before Time.  If you asked him what people do in Cleveland, he might answer that we eat outside every meal (we did), there’s a great playground, and we walk to the library.  He’ll be in for a surprise when he visits at Thanksgiving!

Now that he’s safely reunited with Mommy, Daddy, and his little brother Cal, he’s got me thinking more and more about my neighborhood.  I love the mature trees and walkability.  My house is my favorite of any I’ve lived in.  It suits us.  But I’m also thinking neighborhood in a larger context.  Northeast Ohio.  Cuyahoga County.  Cleveland’s Eastside where last night a 2 year old little girl was shot in the head and arm in a drive-by.  After hours of surgery, she remains in the ICU and in unstable condition.  Downtown Cleveland where we are just a day away from playing host to the Republican National Convention. Hate groups are arriving.  Open Carry gun activists are openly carrying.  Media is everywhere.  The Hope Memorial Bridge where tomorrow we will stand with hundreds (could there even be thousands?) of Clevelanders holding hands and keeping silence for 30 minutes as we Circle the City with Love.   Old Stone Church on Public Square that will have its545725_422691637759611_2093299221_n doors open wide in welcome as a witness to God’s love for all people.  They do, however, have an emergency plan to close those doors if necessary in the event of violence.

There is that threat of course.  From the NY Times to the Washington Post to Fox News, CNN, IMG_0578and MSNBC and bloggers everywhere, much is being made of the craziness of this particular RNC, the instability of Trump supporters and the candidate himself, the anger of protestors, and questions about the readiness of the Cleveland Police Department.  We were already somewhat on edge and then … Alton Sterling.  Philando Castile.  5 Dallas Police Officers.  Nice, France. 

We’d talked about being out of town this week to avoid the chaos but we never got around to making plans. Rather than procrastination, I think now the delay was prophetic.  I don’t


Children playing in the new Splash Pad in Public Square

want to be anywhere else this week other than right here.  I’m praying for Cleveland to shine — many have worked hard to be ready and welcoming.  I’m praying for peaceful to be the word of the hour — every hour, all week long.  I’m praying that delegates and demonstrators keep their guns at home — though Ohio law says they can openly carry if they want to.  I’m praying that the writers of the 2016 Republican Platform will have a change of heart or that delegates will demand it — especially where it denies the rights of LGBTQ persons.  Lord, bend your ear.  Please!

2 1/2 year old Walt wouldn’t understand, but all of the above is in my neighborhood.  One day — but not yet — I’ll tell him that it’s because of him and his little brother and the little girl who fights for her life in ICU and all the children I’ve served in my years of ministry — all children — that my neighborhood is large.  Soon it will expand to include Washington DC on August 13 when we Rally in Washington to Disarm Hate. I cannot and will not cocoon in my comfortable little house when there is so much work to do in our neighborhoods.

I’ve chosen to focus my work on ending gun violence.  There’s not a neighborhood in America that has not been affected.  If you want to join me in that work, just let me know.  But there are plenty of other issues affecting neighborhoods and I urge you to pick one.  Expand your concept of neighborhood and get busy.  Somewhere.  Soon.  Today. 

Walt’s Mommy says neighborhood is Walt’s newest favorite word.  He lives in a lovely new one with lots of children.  We sent him home after his visit to our much older IMG_0590neighborhood knowing a new thing.  He already knew how to high-five and fist-bump — now he knows the Peace Sign.


Pastor.  (Grand) Parent.  Activist. 

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A safe space for all those with heavy hearts …..

Those were the words inviting us to a Prayer Vigil for Orlando at our neighborhood church, South Euclid United Church of Christ.  It was a quiet and reflective time to be together in our shock and grief and outrage over the tragedy that unfolded at Pulse nightclub on what began as a festive and fun Saturday night.  We read together a Litany of Life and Death, we listened (and cried) as the names of the deceased were read — who were for the most part the ages of our adult children.  A prayer was offered for the IMG_1973LGBTQ community by Rev. Dr. Todd Davidson, and I was asked to pray for an end to gun violence and for violence reform.  Before I prayed, I presented Rev. Courtney with an orange stole hand-made by Rev. Rosalind Hughes who has made it her mission to clothe 50+ clergy in orange in the last month.  Rev. Courtney’s ministry goes deep into my neighborhood and much more of Cuyahoga County.  No doubt — and sadly — she will have occasion to wear orange which has become the color for gun violence remembrance and activism

 Here are the words of my prayer:

God – by whatever name we call you.  Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.  God of love and grace.  By whatever name we call you, You call each of us by name.  God – however we choose to worship You — we are blessed to live in a country in which we enjoy religious freedom to do so.  Our faith in You must unite us rather than separate us.

God of peace and justice, light and life.  You are present with us in the world as it is.  And You are the One who challenges us to be agents of change for we know the world is not as you intended it to be.

You are our God who cries over these 50 lives lost to a senseless act of evil and hate.  We find much needed comfort that your tears fall together with our own.  Tears for the dead.  Tears for the injured.  Tears for countless ripples of effect among friends and family who grieve this unspeakable loss.  Tears for those who stand by in hospital ICU’s praying for miracles of healing.

We come in prayer tonight for this most recent of gun massacres in our country.  This time the place is in Orlando in a nightclub named Pulse.  This time it is 50 LGBTQ lives ended by an assault rifle (AR15) fired rapidly and over the course of several tortuous hours.  The day before, it was a young aspiring singer, Christina Grimmie, gunned down in the same city.  Yesterday here in Cleveland it was at the corner of 93rd & Harvard where a man and a woman were gunned down.  Killed at a gas station.  Any day, God – every day God – we could be praying over 90 people who will die at the wrong end of a gun.  Tonight we are standing in a church sanctuary, but we could be standing in an elementary school classroom.  Or a movie theater.  At a mall.  At a church like Mother Immanuel Church in Charleston, SC.  Or a workplace in San Bernardino.  We could stand with victims of domestic violence whose abusers still can own a gun.  With children who find an unsecured gun in their home.  We could stand at gravesides for babies caught in the crossfire on our streets.

God, where shall we go to flee from the violence?  And You answer, that is not your call.  You say to us as people of faith, your call is to stand right where you are. To stand for the world God intends this to be, to unite as people of peace – followers of Jesus, lifting our voices to say Enough.  Not One More. Not one more child.  Not one more adult.  Not one more preventable accident.  Not one more hate crime.  Our call is to say our love for you, God, must come before our love for guns.  Our obedience must be to the Commandment —  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  And we shall not kill.  Our example must be Jesus who told Peter to put his weapon away, knowing he would then face death on a cross.

God, we pray for your forgiveness for all the times when we have shed tears over a gun death only to go about our daily lives, for the many times we have considered only ourselves and our safety or sport and have not involved ourselves when we could have and should have, and more lives have been lost.  Now, God, hear our prayers for guidance for our next steps –  there have to be next steps.  There must be movement forward on this issue.  We pray for our commitment to ending gun violence to be strong and for our voices to be loud and passionate for people’s right to life.  It will be difficult to be heard above the strident opposition, and we do not expect this to be easy.  If we say that we love all of humanity, we must not stand idly by and allow haters their will.  We must not stand idly by and let our lawmakers stand idly by, let off the hook once again for their callous inaction.

You have promised to wipe away our tears, God.  You have promised there will be a day when death will be no more, when mourning and crying and pain will cease.  But today is not that day.  Today is the day to act, to speak out as people of faith, to act as citizens in voting for change and to put an end to the violence.  We must ask what would Jesus do, and then with the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we must do it.  

In Christ’s name, Amen.

Rev. Kris Eggert

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist


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Today it’s personal …

I haven’t posted on this blog for months now.  Writing has been limited to a few sermons and gun violence presentations.  But yesterday I had the privilege of giving a brief eulogy for a very dear friend.  She was a 3 year survivor of pancreatic cancer.  The progression of the disease kept her from a 4th year of celebration.  And she loved an excuse for a party!  There was so much I could have said, but I had a 3-minute time limit that I needed to respect.   What follows is the best I could do, given my sadness and fear that once I started talking about our friendship, I might never want to stop.

Gail Haverdill was my very good friend. We did all the things you’d expect in friendship — meeting for lunch, going out to dinner, talking about our grown-up children, and sharing photos of our grandchildren.  But there was more to our friendship than even that.  Twice in the last 9 years, we went on week-long mission trips together.   One to New Orleans and another to Cedar Rapids.  Doing clean-up, demolition, and rebuilding work to homes damaged by flooding.  The trip to New Orleans was the more memorable of the two.  David and I had been 2 other times post-Hurricane Katrina and knew a little of what to expect.  For Gail, this was her first time.  As you might expect, she took to it immediately.

216274_1044483396357_1879_n (2)Gail worked as hard that week as anyone, probably harder.   Gail already had a good skill-set for the work — she was certainly more skilled than I.  But even if she didn’t already know how to do something, she was more than willing to give it a try.  The only thing she didn’t do well was to pace herself.   She worked herself to the point of exhaustion and dehydration on more than one occasion.

But through it all, as you would expect from Gail, she was smiling and laughing, being social and encouraging everyone else.  Until Friday – the last day of work before we’d head back home when she was really out of sorts.  On Friday, she was not herself.  So much so that you sorta didn’t want to be around her, especially if she had a power tool in her hand!  Now at this point in a week of mission work, everyone is tired.  Everyone wants to be home and sleeping in their own bed.  But this sort of mood was unusual for Gail.

I was her pastor and the leader of the mission trip, and so it was up to me to say something.  To try to draw out what was really going on with her.  I approached her gently– she was in no mood to be messed with.  But you know Gail — it didn’t take a minute for her to let it all out.

Simply put.  She wasn’t finished. And she didn’t want to go home until she was.  Gail was a bright woman — intellectually she knew these 15 amateurs weren’t going to finish a house in a week.  But as David reminded me, I also had to remember that Gail was an artist.  Even in putting up drywall and laying floors, she was an artist.  Artists complete their work.  Her frustration in not being finished was boiling over and causing this foul mood that was so unlike her.

So, I did what pastors do.  I talked to her about how a complete job is not what we expect of ourselves.  That we have to look at our efforts as part of the total effort.  Someone had started the job when we came arrived – and someone will follow after us, and someone after them, etc.  It’s good counsel for pastors and congregations in any sort of church work!

Gail and I have talked about this several times since.  Because situations come up all the time when whatever it is we do, we know there’s more to be done.

But I’m no longer Gail’s pastor.   I no longer have to be pastorally correct.  And I know that there’s just not another Gail out there to pick up where our Gail left off.   In New Orleans, I doubt seriously that the next mission-tripper gave the effort that she did or put as much heart as she gave.  Back here at home in the church that she so loved, we know there’s just not another Gail who will replace the Gail we relied on.  She was beloved by her family and among her friends who know there’s no one who’s going to come along to replace her.

We’re not going to know another Gail Haverdill in our lives. 

That doesn’t mean my earlier pastoral advice was wrong.  We should pick up Gail’s mantle and carry on the work she started.  We shouldn’t just admire her strength and resilience, we should try to be that ourselves.  We should do more than be amazed by her capacity for giving and loving, we should emulate it.

I’m gonna work on all that because I know that Gail wasn’t finished yet. With me or anyone else she loved. She had more to do, more to learn, more people to meet, more friends to make, and more love to give.   Her body just couldn’t keep up with her spirit, and she had to go home.  Of this I am sure.  There will never be another Gail.

Usually I sign off as Pastor.  Parent.  Activist.   IMG_1932 (2)


Today I sign as Friend.

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