Home Rule in Ohio? We’ve got our work cut out for us!

What follows are my brief remarks from yesterday’s press conference at the State House when PG Sittenfeld, candidate for US Senate, announced a new initiative for a Constitutional Amendment to restore home rule for gun laws. Or you can watch This video of Toby Hoover’s and my remarks.      

You can read more about the Amendment at a variety of news sources.  Here’s one link.

 

January 28, 2016
Good morning. My name is Rev. Kristine Eggert and I’m here to support this effort for a Constitutional Amendment to restore home-rule for gun related laws. I am the co-founder of a Northeast Ohio based organization, God Before Guns. But I’m here today as a mother. Grandmother. Pastor. Ordained clergyperson in a denomination that has made Gun Violence Prevention a priority in its churches.

I began my involvement on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. The day of the Chardon High School shootings. I had to — for the Chardon families who were members of my church. For the youth I pastored – students in Cleveland, Euclid, Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights schools – all of whom have experienced lock-down in their schools because of guns. Children all over northeast Ohio not only know the drill, they know a threat is real. The killing of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook came soon after, and my activism deepened. I will continue this work until it is no longer the case in our country that 90 people will die by a gun. Every single day. I will do this work until 8 children no longer die every day. I am a faith leader and a Cleveland resident who still grieves the senseless killings of Ramon Burnett, Major Howard, and Avielle Wakefield. A 5 year old, 3 year old, and a 5 month old baby – all shot dead in the crossfire in their Cleveland neighborhood.

I supported Mayor Frank Jackson by giving testimony in favor of stricter gun ordinances. I applaud Cleveland’s City Council for approving these new laws last year that do not violate the rights of lawful gun owners, but promote responsible gun ownership. They passed these laws knowing that a lawsuit by gun rights advocates would soon follow. Of course Cleveland is no stranger to state pre-emption, as its assault weapons ban was struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2010.

I’m here also for smaller communities in northeast Ohio like Oberlin. A city that has been sued for having a law that bans guns in its parks. I was there the day that out of town gun rights advocates arrived to take over the small park playground that sits in the middle of town. They openly carried their weapons in defiance of the wishes of Oberlin. I watched as family after family left the park, frightened to push their children on the swings next to a man with a gun.

I believe Oberlin should be able to decide for itself that parks are off limits for guns. And the same for Cleveland. Oberlin and Cleveland are very different communities. Their common ground is that local voters should decide what is best. That’s why I am part of this effort to amend Ohio’s constitution to bring gun laws back home where they belong. I believe we will find the public’s blessing in gathering the necessary signatures, and I’m eager to get started.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist. 

 

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About to be in a new place …

Work in the gun violence movement can be a series of starts and stops. Times of exciting momentum and stretches of what can seem like standing still.    GVP activists often say that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  Trite?  oh, but it is true.  And yet, it’s life and death.  Every single day.

Tomorrow morning, an initiative will be announced.  Right here in Ohio.  I’ve been asked to be a part of it.  It was an invitation I absolutely completely passionately could NOT have said no to.  Yes, of course, I’m in.

I’ll admit to a few jitters, but I have my brief remarks prepared.  I’m ready, and most certainly I’m not alone. Others with greater skills than mine will be there.   Prayers are appreciated — I’m praying my own and would love to feel some of yours.

In the meantime, here are some words from poet, Carl Sandburg, written decades ago, but inspiring me tonight to get out there and do something about it:

Here is a revolver.

It has an amazing language all its own.

It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.

It is the last word.

A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.

Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.

It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful.

it is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.

it is more rapid than any judge or court of law.

It is less subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten.

When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of execution in and interfere with the original purpose.

And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.

May God be with all who do this important work.  It’s not always poetic nor does it move at lightning speed.  But it is the work of many of us all the same.

A Pastor.  Parent.  Activist. 

Posted in Activism, Ending Gun Violence, God Before Guns, gun safety, gun violence, Loss of Child, Moms Demand Action, open carry guns, Racism, Sandy Hook Elementary, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Orange Walk December 2015 Opening Prayer

God – 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 freedoms.
God who unites us rather than separates us, you are a God of peace and justice, light, life, and love. You are a God who is present with us in the world as it is, and you are a God who challenges us to be agents of positive change in that world.

In that spirit, we know that you shed tears that fall together with our tears11234855_554210608065831_1933053990212498204_n as we pray for all gun violence victims, for their families, friends, and communities who grieve. We pray especially today as we remember 3 years ago those 20 first-graders and their teachers and principal at Sandy Hook School whose lives were filled with such promise until in just 5 minutes of gunfire, everything changed. We changed. But it didn’t end there for we come in prayer with our grief still fresh from the deaths of 14 more people in San Bernadino. God, be with those families. For the stolen years that they cannot ever bring back. And Lord, hear our prayers for the 90 people who will die today by a gun, and for the 90 more who will die tomorrow, and the day after …

But, Lord, our prayers do not stop there. We pray for forgiveness for all the times when we have simply gone about our daily lives, for the many times we have considered only ourselves and our safety and have not involved ourselves when we could have and should have. Now, God, hear our prayers of action, for guidance for our next steps, for our commitment to ending gun violence to be strong and lasting, for our voices to be loud and filled with passion in order to be heard above our opposition, and for our love for all of humanity to be expressed through our activism.

We ask for your blessing upon our gathering today. May it be peaceful and powerful. Amen.

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Really? this is what we’re talking about?

The following is a Letter to the Editor published in the Sunday Plain Dealer.  The title is theirs — “Keep guns out of day-card centers”.  After the initial good feeling that my letter was published, I had this knot in my stomach.  Really?  This is what we’re arguing about?  Guns in so many places already that we’re now debating the wisdom of allowing parents to carry loaded guns when they’re dropping off their children?  …and please limit your letter to 200 words or under!  There was much more I could have said on the ridiculousness to even consider that arrival and dismissal time needs to be made even crazier  by adding loaded weapons into the mix.  But it’s close to being law in our state and so it’s a serious (critical) issue.

Before I was a pastor, I directed a preschool at my church.  The program grew to 300 families and cared for children 18 months old through kindergarten.  It was from that experience that I answered a call to seminary and ordained ministry.  And it was the years serving in local congregations that ultimately led me to speaking out about gun violence.

Here’s the letter (200 words exactly).

The Republican-controlled Ohio House voted overwhelmingly to allow concealed loaded guns in daycares. Recently I testified against this based on my experience as a preschool director. Rep. Ron Maag, Chair of the House State Government Committee, replied CCW carryholders should not be inconvenienced by not being allowed to carry their guns when dropping off their children. Any responsible parent knows it’s often difficult enough to deliver squirming and sometimes reluctant toddlers into the hands of caregivers without putting a lethal weapon into the mix.  A loaded gun increases the danger not only to the child of the person carrying the gun but to all children within range.

Interestingly, the Statehouse is adding metal detectors and banning backpacks not because of any specific threat, but as part of their ongoing process of trying to keep the Statehouse as secure as possible. Does this make sense to anyone that children do not receive the same protection as legislators? This is far too dangerous to dismiss as irony. It is hypocrisy. Safety is not a privilege only for those who can vote to put others’ lives in jeopardy.

The Ohio Senate must realize this injustice and remedy it by voting HB 48 down.

Rev. Kristine Eggert

http://blog.cleveland.com/letters/2015/12/hb48_letter_to_the_editor.html

 

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Gun Violence: It’s a simple math problem.

Source: Gun Violence: It’s a simple math problem.

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Stolen Years. Part 2

It was not even six weeks ago, I posted in this blog an entry I titled, Stolen Years.  Click on the link to read it (again). I wrote it on August 26 when two young journalists were killed live and on-air that morning in Roanoke, VA.  I’m right there again.  Still.   In the post I call attention to a website that calculates “stolen years” of people who have died by gun   I’m reminded of that graph again today in the midst of the horror of the killings in Roseburg, Oregon.   Look at it for yourself this morning.   Trust me, it’s an effective visual.  Gets me every time.

Then think about these latest victims of our country’s inability and unwillingness to do anything about guns stealing life from us.

Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18

Treven Taylor Anspach, 20

Sarena Dawn Moore, 44

Lawrence Levine, 67

Jason Dale Johnson, 33

Lucas Eibel, 18

Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59

Quinn Glen Cooper, 18

Lucero Alcaraz, 19

By my own rough estimate, our country lost at least 350 years of life in an hour last Thursday. What their families lost is incalculable.   Mothers and fathers — proud of their sons and daughters who recently graduated high school.  A mother whose son was making her proud after getting clean from drugs and being her first child to go to college.   Quadruplets who now number only 3.

Pray for them.  Of course, pray.  Just don’t stop there this time.  Do something.  If you’re unsure where to start, I’m here to help you take that first step.  If you’re already an activist, don’t stop now.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist. 

Posted in Activism, Concealed Carry Guns, God Before Guns, Grief, gun safety, gun violence, Loss of Child, Moms Demand Action, open carry guns | Tagged | Leave a comment

On any given day …. making a difference

This is not my first on any given day blog post.  It’s likely not my last.  On Any Given Day is the title I’ve given to several sermons themed around gun violence and our response as people of faith.  This past Sunday, I was the guest preacher at a church in a small town in Ohio.  It’s a town that has been touched by gun violence.  It is also known to be gun-country.  It could have been a less-than-friendly congregation to hear this message.

I say could have been because I really didn’t know how my message would be heard and received. I never do really.  I can say that the hospitality shown to me when I arrived was as good as it gets.  I can also say that no one walked out!  Afterwards, no one seemed reluctant to shake my hand, though not everyone gave me the opportunity.  Thankfully, there were a few who wanted to ask more questions about God Before Guns.  A couple who were interested enough to ask for our brochures and to be put on our mailing list.  Many others said nothing.  Several said noncommittally  thank you for coming today.  That’s all pretty typical of any Sunday morning in any church no matter the sermon topic!  The preacher might be the last person to know how people really felt.  Good or bad.

Sometimes preachers are given the gift of knowing.  And it is a gift.  To know that our words touched someone.  To hear the words, that was exactly what I needed this morning.  You were talking directly to me.  How did you know I needed to hear that?  It’s always refreshing to know and it most  definitely helps the spirit when sermon writing comes around again the next week and the next, and the next.  Soothes the ego and encourages us to put ourselves out there again.

But an even bigger question preachers struggle to know the answer to is:  will anything I say make a difference?  The answer to that has nothing to do with personal ego.  That’s about something happening between our mouths and the listener’s ear.  That’s the Holy Spirit at work.

That happened on Sunday.

It began with the children.  This church is blessed with 15-20 young children who came forward for Children’s Moment with the Pastor.  I read them a book.  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.  I’ve used this book as illustration in several other gun violence sermons saying:  these are the things that should define a child’s bad day!   A child’s worst day should have nothing in it that has to do with a gun.  These children loved it — as did their parents and grandparents in the congregation.  Reading the book leads to questions like:  What makes it a bad day for you?  Who helps you when those things happen?  Where is God on a bad day?  We say a prayer together and they’re off to Sunday School.  Two brothers dressed identically in bright safety green t-shirts were sitting right in front of me.  They warmed to me right way.  They started joining in on every other page with their sweet voices:  it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Sweet-faced and yet a little mischievous — I know the look well from my own two sons when they were small.

Then at the door after worship, near the end of the line of parishioners, a 30-something woman said to me:  I’m sorry but I cried during most of your sermon.

No apology necessary, the sermon must have touched you in some way. 

May I have one of those Gun Safety Cards you talked about?

She was talking about the cards that God Before Guns is distributing to day cares, churches, pediatrician waiting rooms, etc. here in Cleveland.  I’d held one up during my sermon. We work together with other organizations in getting these cards out in the community.  We’re always looking for more organizations to partner with us.   I take some with me wherever I go.   Of course, here’s one for you.  And then she said:

I want to give one to my ex-husband.  She said through more tears.

And then I looked down and saw those same two little boys in their neon green shirts standing with her.   I can’t stop thinking about these two little boys.  They are now part of my daily prayers, together with their mother.  And their father.  For these little boys to grow up safe — for nothing worse to happen to them than what happened to Alexander.  They deserve that.  And they have the right to expect that adults will give every effort to make sure that happens.

Sometimes God shows up.   Sometimes we’re in the right place at the right time with the right message.  Sometimes we can make a difference.

It can happen.  On any given day …

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist. 

Posted in Activism, Church Transformation, God Before Guns, Grandparents, gun safety, gun violence, Moms Demand Action | Leave a comment

When I’m 64 …

When I’m 64 was released as a track on the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album in 1967, but it was actually written long before that.  It is credited to the songwriting team of Lennon/McCartney, but Paul wrote it by himself when he was just 16 years old.  The song was not particularly popular as it sounded like it was written for older people than most Beatles fans, so it was used solely as a back-up acoustic number in case the power went out in the middle of a concert.  The song was resurrected for the album in 1966 when Paul’s father was in fact turning 64.

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

Did Paul McCartney at 16 when he wrote this (or even at 24 when he recorded it) have any idea what his life would be like when he turned 64?  Did he have any idea what would happen in the years leading up to that day?  I’m sure he did not.

But this blogpost isn’t about Paul, it’s about me.  I’m 64 today.  It’s not a particularly significant milestone, as we put more emphasis on birthdays that end in 0’s and next year’s 65th birthday will make me officially a senior citizen.  Yikes!  This could be just another birthday but for this song that makes me feel as if it was intended for me — even though I was only 7 at the time it was written!

Would I have had any idea of the twists and turns, turmoils and triumphs that would bring me to this day when I was 16 or 24?  Of course I did not.  ATHSAt 16, I was 462084_3466717590698_2031766769_o3/4 of the way through what was a wonderful high school experience on the campus of Arsenal Tech HS in Indianapolis.  Loving both the academics and the extra-curriculars, who was thinking about the future?  Certainly I was not thinking past college.  And at 24, I was married and expecting my first child.  Who could think beyond that all-consuming event?  Not I!

For however we imagine our futures — or not — the only certainty is that our future will be vastly different than what we pictured.  I happen to believe that’s a very good thing.  For it is the unexpected and unimagined that shape and give meaning to our lives.

Would I have imagined that …

I would marry young (at 21) and divorce after 25+ years of marriage?  Never.

I would go back to school at age 45?  Yes, maybe.  I loved school and was an excellent student.  But seminary?  Not on your life!  Apparently, God had a plan for mine.

Would I be able to go back to school after 24 years — full time for 4 years — while also working as an associate minister full-time, newly single, and raising 3 teen-agers?  To keep my GPA up to satisfy the requirements of my full-ride scholarship? I did, but it nearly killed me (a slight exaggeration upon reflection) and when people ask me how I did it, my answer is:  I don’t have to know how I did because I never have to do it again!

11215761_10207029133390794_7510965145239918170_n(1)Would I have then imagined the enormous and positive changes in my life when I was ordained into ministry at age 49?  Back when I was home with toddlers on a tough day of spit-up and tantrums, I would imagine myself off somewhere being rich and glamorous.  I never got there or even close.  But it’s been a lifetime since I even thought either would be important.  A really good lifetime.

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Would I have imagined that I’d be writing this while sharing 1252home office space with that tall, quiet red-headed kid who was my friend in 5th grade?  That tall former-redhead who is the love of my life?  Who knew?  Who could possibly have known?   Apparently only David’s mother, who when I saw her again after 40+ years said, I always knew the two of you were meant for each other.  No, Mary Jane, not really — we were 10 and David used to flip staples into my thick head David Kris currentof naturally curly hair to see if they’d stick here.  They did.   It’s a stretch to call that love.  I’m pretty sure it was the early stages of Alzheimer’s talking, but I loved her sentiment.  I do know that he loves me now, even though the curls are getting grayer every day.

Would I have imagined my 3 children?  Oh, I thought I would have children, but who hasLast photo of 3 kids the slightest idea of the people they will be? From those first days home from the hospital to these adults they have become?  Any dream would pale in comparison.  Could I have known how much love I could give and how much more I would  be given in return? No mother knows.  It just happens and lasts forever.

Would I have imagined that I would out-live my eldest child?  No.  If only that was a bad dream that I could wake up from.  Sadly, it is not.   I am grateful that life is no longer difficult for him, that his struggles are over, and he is at peace.  I will always miss him and long for the years that did not happen for him.

Could I have known that two bright and handsome young men would come into my life when David and I got married?  One is recently graduated — a dentist.  The other making his way (quite successfully) through med school.  We don’t talk about being step-anythings,310806_10201130083558235_228371545_n it’s more about knowing you have enough love in your heart to share it with the next person who comes into your family’s life.  Add a son and daughter-in-law, and the family widens and deepens. Vice-President Joe Biden recently said that his mother always told him that the best thing that can happen as a parent is for your children to grow to be better people than you were.  David and I are watching that happen.

And then there are grandchildren.  One of God’s most precious gifts.  We are blessed to 10171234_10204865655985211_2252856148164830271_nhave two darling orange-headed boys who bring a smile to my face just thinking about them.  On this day of my 64th birthday, my oldest grandson will turn 2.  Sharing his birthday will make every one of mine more special.  Believe everything you’ve ever heard about the sheer joy of being a grandparent.  Believe it all and more because words are inadequate in trying to describe it.

I don’t know what I thought 64 would look like.  What it would feel like.  It’s been said that my generation — Baby Boomers — think we’re the first people to give it serious thought.  It’s also been said that we think we will revolutionize retirement.  That we don’t see ourselves on the beach or in a rocking chair living out our days.  We want to be purposeful.  Relevant.  And now that I have more leisure time than since I was playing with my dolls, I do think about that.  6 months into retirement, I kick back more than I’ve allowed myself in decades.  David and I are blessed to both have pensions, and though we live modestly and have made adjustments to our new level of income, we are more than comfortable.  I’m healthy, take no medications, and my blood pressure is low enough that nurses always take it at least twice to make sure my blood’s pumping.  Give me an entire day to be creative in my small but serviceable kitchen, and I’m happy.   Give me Indy Walkgood enough weather to take a long walk with our dog, Indy, and time to read a book, and everybody’s happy.

But there’s got to be more out there, doesn’t there?  I’m 64, but I’m also only 64.  Paul McCartney imagined his days played out in this way:

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

Silly man.  We know he’s still rocking it to adoring fans all over the world.  But this is about me and where I need to be.  Where is that place God calls me?  Frederick Buechner calls it the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.  For now, it’s working for peace and justice in our country.  It’s about workingDSC_6584ED1 copy to give victims of violence a voice and reclaiming the values Jesus taught us in loving even our enemies and of putting down our weapons.  I’m grateful that my partner in life joins me in this work.  And for as much as the work means to us both, we will be happy to give it up and move on — on that glorious day when gun violence is no longer the cause of 88 deaths every day.  When children no longer endure lockdown drills and drive-by shootings and live to be the ripe old age of 64 like me.  Don’t get me started.  Another blog post for another day.

 I thank God for my life to this point.  For what I imagined that came true and grace for what did not.  For all the unexpected twists and turns, turmoils and triumphs.  I thank God for being with me every step of the way and for the many people who have been part of these 64 years loving, encouraging, and challenging me.  I’m grateful for how I have loved, how I have been loved, and how I will enlarge that love to include another of God’s children.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist.  And forever a child of God. 

Posted in Ending Gun Violence, Grandparents, Loss of Child | 3 Comments

Remembering Hurricane Katrina …

It’s the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating hit on the city of New Orleans.  531I can remember when I first heard the news, and I remember the news kept getting worse and worse as the days wore on.  I was safely at home in Indianapolis where it’s tornadoes that cause destruction.  What did I know about hurricanes?

All we knew to do at the time at church was to pray, and we did.  But soon after that, we began learning about our denomination’s efforts to get volunteers there to help in the relief effort.  The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) called first responders in those early weeks, and then the DOC began establishing mission stations in local churches for an even greater and sustained effort.

At first I couldn’t imagine that my church could participate.  We were small and (mostly) old and still working through issues left behind because  of bad behavior by their former pastor.  The congregation was doing its best just to look out for themselves.   They were just getting to know me as their new pastor.

On a personal note,  David and I were just getting to know each other.  We were in the very early days of a relationship that led to marriage in 2007.  But at the time it was a relationship that required a commute of over 450 miles.  We saw each other every other weekend, if that.  After Katrina hit, David’s employer, New York State United Teachers, offered its employees a week of leave time to go to New Orleans to do relief work.  He wanted to go.

657In writing this I can see where this is going.  But at the time I didn’t have a clue.  Many things had to fall into place.  First, the DOC effort was very conducive to smaller churches forming mission teams.  And so, one Sunday morning, I stood in the pulpit and said:  I want to go to New Orleans to do clean-up work, and I know a way to do that.  Anybody want to come with me?

15 people did.  15 was a HUGE number for a527 church our size and state of mind.  No one had ever been on a mission trip before.  We had no idea what to expect.  I’ll admit now how nervous I was.  But we went anyway.  We were there in January, 5 months post-hurricane on the first week people (even the homeowners) had been allowed back in to the lower 9th Ward.

588Our instructions were simple.  Just clear everything out and put it on the curb.  And whatever you do — DO NOT OPEN THE REFRIGERATOR!  Advice well taken.  We worked all day clearing out a house that belonged to a 90 year old woman named Miss Winnie.  She’d lived there with her invalid husband until he died just weeks before.  One of the most difficult tasks of the day was breaking down the hospital bed that 528was in the living room.  It was a tiny pink house with bars on the windows and paper snowflakes on the front window made by neighborhood school children who used to come over to Miss Winnie’s house after school.   A skillet was still on the stove containing what would have been dinner that night had the storm not hit.  The walls were covered with active mold, still wet to the touch.  We found one wall where the marks were still visible showing how tall Miss Winnie’s children and grandchildren were every year.   On that cold wet first day, Miss Winnie arrived for her first time back home since the storm hit.  We wondered what she would think of these 15 strangers trashing everything she owned and carrying it to the curb.

One of the best pieces of advice I received before I made this trip — given by a much more experienced mission tripper — was this:  The work you go to do is important.  But the most important thing you will do is to listen to people’s stories.  When people want to talk, 540put down your tools, and listen.  Miss Winnie wanted to talk.  She told of her harrowing experience of being rescued from her home, being rushed onto a helicopter at Tulane Medical Center, and of how God was with her every step, even with her legs as old as they were.  As for how she felt about us tearing out her home, she gathered a few of her returning neighbors on the corner, and they held hands and prayed for us, thanking God for bringing us to Lizardi Street in the Lower 9th Ward that day.

I’d never been so dirty and I’ve not been that tired since. Even an air mattress with a slow leak and the sounds of 15 people snoring throughout the church could not not interfere with my sleep. 

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To this this day I remain extraordinarily touched by the hospitality shown to us at Grace Christian.  Housing us.  Allowing us their kitchen.  Even coming and having dinner with us.   And these folks had their own problems — their homes and jobs and schools had been affected too.  And yet they were still able to reach out to us.  That’s church at its finest.

David and I went back on two more trips, and each one had its own set of memories from the work that we did and the people we met and those who worked alongside us.  I’m grateful for this 10th anniversary that is bringing those memories back in a rush.  I’m grateful for the progress, for the rebuilding and resettling, but I’m also praying for those who are still without homes or jobs.  For those who left and are struggling in new places that still don’t feel like home.

519One more personal note.  Even in those first days  and not being together often enough to suit us, David and I knew that we were extraordinarily blessed to have found each other again.  (The first time was in 5th grade, and now it’s 40+ years later.)  It wasn’t easy to figure out how to get that 450+ mile commute down to a manageable size.  It took us a long while and it took me moving to Cleveland.  But those are just details and we worked them out.  We made a commitment to each other in those very early days that we would always do something that was beyond ourselves.  It wasn’t enough that we were together, there was a big world out there.  Our first venture into that big world together was New Orleans.  We did what we could, and others — thousands of others — followed and kept the work going.

It’s really true what they say.  For all that we were able to do, we received far more in return.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist.

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Stolen Years …

It’s a sad day in America.  It’s another sad day in America.  On any given day, it’s a sad day in America.

Take your pick.

On this particular day, we are reeling from the live, on-air, real time execution of a local news reporter and her cameraman.  They were reporting not from a war zone, but from a water park in Roanoke, VA.  The subject of this first-thing-in-the-morning report?  Tourism and an interview with the Executive Director of the local Chamber of Commerce.  Alison Parker, 24 years old, is dead.  Adam Ward, 27 years old, is dead.  Vicki Gardner underwent emergency surgery for wounds she sustained.  The gunman is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Have you had enough?

On this week when school children all across America are back in class, already a 14 year old held his entire class and teacher hostage at gun-point.  Mercifully, his teacher was able to talk him down before anyone was shot.  An 8 year old accidentally shot another 8 year old on the first day of class — while playing with a gun in his desk.

Have you had enough yet?

This morning the shooter convicted of killing 12 people and injuring another 70 when he opened fire in a crowded theater in Aurora, CO, was sentenced to 12 life sentences without possibility of parole.  12 families will never see their loved ones again.  70 more families will deal with the aftermath for the rest of their lives.

Have you had enough yet?

Most often when I write a blog entry, I’ve planned out what I’m going to say.  I”ll post a sermon I’ve preached.  And though I’m passionate about gun violence any day of the week or hour of the day, I may not be actively angry when I write.

Today is different.  I’ve had enough.  I’m angry.  I want to forget the times in my activism when I’ve said that I respect the 2nd Amendment.  Despite the times I’ve said I don’t want to take away your guns.  Today I would do exactly that.  In the midst of the endless the back and forth about what the bible says about protecting ourselves.  Or about whether the 6th Commandment is translated do not murder vs. do not kill.  Or about how Jesus wanted his disciples to carry swords.  Or a debate about turning the other cheek is just about a reaction to a verbal insult but it has nothing to do with shooting someone you decide is threatening.  I don’t want to hear it. Any of it.

I’ve had enough. 

I’ve given testimony in many places since 2012 when I started my gun violence activism saying I do this work for children.  For the children I pastored in my church, who not only know how to do a lockdown drill, they’ve known real lockdown.  Every single child.  This is their reality.  Because I’m a Christian and because I’m a Christian leader, it can’t just be about the children I know and love.   I must do this work for all children.  So they will grow up.  So they can thrive in a learning environment without the threat of guns.

What I’ve not been as vocal about are children who are all-grown up.  In their 20’s.  30’s.  Finishing their educations.  Starting their careers.  Living their lives.  The ages of my children.  Through a mother’s eye, I can still see them on their first day of kindergarten, even though I know that was years ago.  From my mother’s heart, I know to encourage their steps out into the world, while also wishing sometimes that I could take those steps with them. And so I do this work also for:   The 32 Virginia Tech students killed in class one horrible day.  The young adults taking in a midnight showing of a Batman movie in Aurora, CO.  A young reporter and a cameraman just doing their jobs on a Wednesday morning.  Any one of those young adults could have been my child.  Or your child.  At what age do they stop being our children?

I’ve had enough.  Have you?

A gun death is tragic no matter the person’s age.  And 88 gun deaths every single day in our country is a number that is ever before me.  But today I am especially saddened by the vastness of stolen years.  Years that will never happen for the 20 first-graders in Newtown, for 12 year old Tamir Rice, or 17 year old Jordan Davis, or 24 year old Alison Parker.  Sadly, I could name so many more.   Whether it was their parents’ dreams for them or the ones they had for themselves, those dreams are lost forever.  Stolen by a gun.

IMG_1812There’s a website I’ve looked at a few times.  I’d not thought of it for awhile until today.  It takes the number of gun deaths in a year and calculates how many years were yet to be lived.  Stolen years.   Today I looked at it and cried.  I saw in a glimpse where there will be no careers.  No midnight movies.  No engagements.  Or parenthood.   I invite you to take a look for yourselves.  Give it a minute to get up to speed, and then watch in amazement at all the life that is being taken from us.  While you’re watching the stolen years climb, put your cursor at any point on the curve and see a real name of a real person who died because we can’t figure out how to enact even common sense gun regulations in our country.

I hope it brings a reaction whether it be tears or prayer or shaking your fist and yelling at the top of your lungs.  At anyone close enough to hear.  Or at God.   I hope you’ve had enough that you’ll decide to do something.

Let me know if you do.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist. 

Posted in Activism, Ending Gun Violence, God Before Guns, Grief, Loss of Child | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments