Thursday, November 27, 2008

Prayer for Mumbai

Lord of heaven and Lord of earth, your heart is grieved at terror and violence. Watch over the city of Mumbai at this hour. Protect, we pray, those lives still at risk. We pray that captives be released, that those seeking to do further violence be restrained, and the lives even of the authors of violence be held safe from harm. Nurture and cherish those many lives affected by these attacks: especially those of the victims and those close to them, witnesses, and responders. And in a city with great wealth, let us remember the poor, that the shalom of the city which we seek be not simply the end of violence, but renewed health and hope for all who shelter there. In Jesus name, we pray for deliverance and for peace, trusting in thy great mercy. Amen.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving wishes

One of my peak spiritual experiences came when I volunteered with United for Peace and Justice to work at a big anti-war march. It was planned before the Iraq invasion but took place just after the armed conflict began. Through the random (or Spirit-led) workings of their fairly-anarchic organization, I got assigned to the security detail. About twenty people stationed on Broadway in the lower 20s with plastic tubs and sacks, and one guy with a bullhorn asking for donations to support the work and the next march.

Surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, there was little need for actual security to guard the money, what I mostly did was thanked people. "Thank you for coming out today!" "You folks are awesome!" shouted a few hundred times, to some subset of the 250,000+ people who filed by.

I can scarcely tell you how good I felt doing that.

At the closing of what is probably his earliest letter in the Bible, St. Paul urges his friends "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

He does not say we should be thankful for everything. There is not much rejoicing to be found because of illness, job loss, or the many other things we go through which are cause for struggle. However - in every situation, if we look with the eyes of faith, we will find signs of grace. Even the realization that "things could be worse" is an opportunity for thanksgiving.

This year we have much to be thankful for, and I hope you will be able to remember and lift up some of those things in the midst of your holiday observance.

May God bless and keep you. May God see you safe through every storm. And may, at the end, you find welcome, and peace, and homecoming - reasons to give thanks.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change I can believe in

"In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope." -- Barack Obama, Nashua, New Hampshire, January 8, 2008

There are a great many things that can be said today, and people all over this nation and the world are saying them. IT'S BEAUTIFUL!

There's a woman I know who has spent most of her life in Jersey City in Ward F - you know, the part of town that Martin Luther King Drive runs through. Janice has raised kids and grandkids, often without much to go on. She is ecstatic. She, like me, has had a crazy smile on her face all day! She told me how, last night she didn't want to leave the TV even to go to the bathroom, and when she finally ran out and came back, Obama had gone from 100-something to 200-something and she knew she was about to witness something big.

She talked about the people crowded into Grant Park and Times Square, how they were black and white and every color. She stayed up until 3am, crying and laughing and shouting and dancing. On Election Day her daughter woke her up at 5am, saying she had to come with her to vote. They got to the school when the polls opened at 6am, and there was a line - A LINE! A line of people waiting to vote. "It was beautiful!"

Then she thanked me. She thanked me! For pushing her to register. For giving her the registration form and insisting she had to get it done. For helping her overcome a lifetime of "Well, let's see what they do this time..." This time, Janice voted, and Barack Obama will soon be our President.

It turns out that Janice also got her children and grandchildren registered, and they voted too. And you know that there are thousands upon thousands of Janices out there.

That's change I can believe in.

And there is one thing I most want to say, particularly to the unlikely collection of Obama-supporters and volunteers. Thank you. Thank YOU. THANK YOU!

Thank you to the beautiful volunteers who helped us take a step to reclaiming the promise of America. You encouraged me. Sometimes you flattered me, sometimes you frustrated me, you challenged me, and so many times you helped me. Sometimes it was enough just to know you were out there, working and hoping like me, picking up the pieces, keepin' on when I needed some down time. Again and again, you were and you ARE the hope that Barack has talked about.

Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for your good spirits. Thank you for your eagerness. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for your poetry and your music and your art. Thank you for the miles you put on your car, the minutes you put on your phone, the money you invested in this campaign, the smiles, the tears, and finally - thank you for the shouts of joy!

You are what made this experience special. You are what makes this country special. You are what continues to give me hope that we can do even greater things.

God bless you. And again, always, THANK YOU!

P.S. Ward F voted 97%-plus for Barack Obama, helping Jersey City to 70% voter turnout and 83% for our next President. Way to go, Janice!

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's always been about hope

I've spent the past few weekends in Pennsylvania, along with other volunteers from NJ (and elsewhere). It has been a heartening and moving experience.

I've heard remarkable things. The woman in East Stroudsburg who was laid off in June. Her husband's salary is not enough to make their mortgage payments. I met older people concerned about health care and Social Security and younger people in college concerned about whether they will have jobs and how hard they'll have to work to pay off debts (personal from college loans and national from Bush's deficits). In the Poconos I talked to a "typical redneck" who's convinced we need a change so badly he's ready to try "that guy" - Obama.

There was the working class guy at the Chinese restaurant in Allentown. "I'm a Republican," he said, "but we can't take any more of this." He asked for an Obama button and went out wearing it. I met a pregnant woman whose husband is a Major in Iraq. He had just found out the Army had screwed up his entire units' absentee ballots, so their votes would not be counted. She said most of the guys were for Obama, and she's so convinced we need a change that she is volunteering for Obama this Election Day.

A woman in Tobyhanna came past her husband, kids, and dogs. Stepping out onto the porch she closed the door behind her and, "I'm so glad you came. I can't talk about this around here. A lot of folks are racist, you know." Dozens of folks living on both the right and wrong sides of the tracks say it's time for a change.

If you listen, again and again, you hear that this election has always been about hope.

Tuesday we'll hear millions of ordinary Americans speak in the voting booth. As a people, we will speak clearly and convincingly. And that will make the difference in this election, and in our nation.