Monthly Archives: November 2016

Welcome to My Table

This holiday season, in the midst of continued national divisiveness, I am feeling especially drawn to invite all my brothers and sisters to my table, those who may hold very different views about the presidential election than I, as well as those who hold similar views to my own. I invite all my brothers and sisters from both sides because, in the end, we are all children of God.

I invite the mother whose daughter died of a drug overdose. I grieve with you and now better understand your concerns about boarder control and illegal immigration. I invite the man who lost his job and then, like dominoes, his house and, finally, his health. I stand with you and can now better relate to your anger about global trade deals that have impacted you so personally. I invite all my evangelical brothers and sisters who feel as though our nation has lost its way through the narrow gate to life. While I have a different view, I am grateful to join with you in joyful song praising our Lord. And, to all others who have experienced disenfranchisement, I gladly offer you my listening heart.

In addition, I invite all my disabled brothers and sisters. Alongside my grandson who has Autism, you will be celebrated for your wonderful uniqueness and beauty. I invite all young girls and women. You will be held up and affirmed as valued contributors to our common good. I invite my Muslim brothers and sisters. You will be respected as lovers of God and keepers of the faith. I invite my brothers and sisters of color. You will be honored and appreciated for your ongoing struggle for true equality. I invite all immigrants who now fear deportation and separation from family members. Know you are safe at my table.

To my white brothers and sisters, yes, brothers and sisters, believing in white supremacy ideology, know two things. First, as children of God, I would gladly feed you if you were hungry, take you in and care for you if you were outcast, pray with you if you were overcome by life’s challenges. But, know also, at my table, we recognize that we are all equal in God’s sight so we strive to see one another the same. Any contrary intention, hateful or inflammatory rhetoric, simply will not be tolerated. You see, we stand strong, together, for the dignity of all God’s children and believe, first and foremost, in the power of love, the greatest on earth, to transform the human heart. So, you are welcome to join – but at your own risk – the risk of losing what separates you and, graciously, finding what joins you to all of us.

And so, this holiday season, I invite all my brothers and sisters to my table where we can, particularly in today’s climate, celebrate the words of the Prophet Muhammad who reminded us, “None of you are true believers until you love for your brother what you love for yourself” and, together, fulfill the great Commandment of Jesus to, “Love one another as I have loved you.”


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The Caller

This past weekend my husband and I drove down to the World Alliance of Interfaith Clergy conference in Marriottsville, MD. On the way, we found ourselves listening to a talk show which was inviting callers to share their feelings regarding the recent election of Donald Trump. I was struck at the level of anger on both sides. One caller, a strong Trump supporter, was particularly angry leveling much venom at those who were now protesting his election. After a follow-up question, she suddenly launched into what could only be called a full-blown, unstoppable, tirade.

Frankly, I found myself becoming more and more irritated. I felt quite sure that had she been in my physical view I would have leveled back in defense. And then, somewhere, tucked in the middle of the tirade, I heard a short phrase (they usually are) that stopped me cold. She said, “My daughter died…” and a little later, “from a drug overdose.” Suddenly, I could hear all of her complaints about the lack of border control, illegal immigrants, health care challenges, financial strain, in a whole new light. And, most of all, I remembered: behind every anger is a hurt.

And then, Grace stepped in. When the caller finally stopped talking, one of the hosts, a woman, said simply and softly, “First of all, I just want to say how very sorry I am about your daughter. I just can’t imagine how painful that must have been for you. I can’t even imagine.” And, it was clear the host’s words were heartfelt. No more follow-up questions. No commentary. No slickly spun analysis. No defense. Then, there was a slight pause of silence that could have been an eternity. When the caller finally spoke, her voice had changed completely. Quieter. Softer. And, soon, she politely ended the conversation.

Behind every anger is a hurt. On some level, the host knew this and simply provided a space for the caller to be heard. And, what did the caller most want heard? Not her political opinions or even her good reasons for voting one way or another. What she wanted heard was her grieving heart. But it took someone to hear beyond the accusatory rant, closed opinions and gritty insults – a someone who could respond, not react, from the depth of the human heart instead of from the customary socioeconomic commentary or intellectual analyses.

I am convinced that political opinions are much like religious opinions. We all have them and, though they can be similar, are rarely identical to others. Why? Because we each have a unique life story that has helped shape our beliefs. Know the story and you understand the beliefs and consequential behaviors. For example, the caller had not been derailed by Trump’s egregious rhetoric, as I, because his message had been as a balm to her wounds. Did that suddenly make his rhetoric okay? Absolutely not. But, it did help me to understand the caller better and, I suspect, others in a movement of those who have felt left behind, unacknowledged and unheard.

And, perhaps, it is here where our work resides. While it is our job to stand clear, strong and true in creating the world we would like to see, it is also equally important that we are able to listen deeply to those with whom we disagree. For, it is only in this way that we can find understanding in place of judgement, unity beyond uniformity with our sisters and brothers, and, as Grace allows, that love everlasting.

Today, I feel somehow deeply connected with the caller though I no longer remember her name or where she lives. And, it no longer matters to me for whom she voted.

She touched my heart that day…and I am grateful.


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