Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Sweet Spot of Rachel Held Evans

I argued with a church leader and teacher a few months back about Rachel Held Evans, best-selling author who died tragically last weekend at the age of 37.  I’d recently read her book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again, and I suggested it as a book study for our church’s Adult Education Hour.

The church leader, who, like me, is a former evangelical, actually snorted.  “You need to move past evangelical writers.  Some of her work is just silly.  I left those people behind when I was 19.  She needs to get a good therapist and do the same.” Continue reading The Sweet Spot of Rachel Held Evans

Dreams, Visions, and Politics

Somewhere near the end of our cross-country drive to visit some of the most beautiful sites in America, my husband and I picked up a strange passenger. We didn’t have room for him in the blue BMW. A sports car isn’t the most practical vehicle for a month-long cross-country trek, but my husband loves the vroom and the heated steering wheel.

Our children and our sheltie occupied what passes for a back seat in the car. But we couldn’t just leave the passenger behind, so we had him sit on the emergency brake between us.

It worked, though I worried what would happen to him if I crashed. He was small—a child-sized version of a former president. He climbed into the car when it was my turn to drive, and I was thrilled to be sitting next to him.

I was vaguely aware that it might be inappropriate for my right arm to be pressed up against his left, and I tried to make myself a little smaller to give him room.

I had no idea what to call him as we made conversation on the drive back to D.C. “Mr. President” didn’t seem fitting for a little man who had hitched a ride.

I started tentatively, trying and failing to achieve the coolness I hoped for. “Hey, Barack…hey, Barry…hey, Mr. B.”

He grinned widely at my discomfort, just as I awoke.

Yes, the political climate has officially made its way into my dreams. I rarely have a dream of such clarity, and I usually have only a vague notion of what led to the dream.

This one is easy, though. Feeling vaguely uncomfortable with a man who was not my husband? Believing that I had no choice but to take a chance on driving him back to Washington?

Taking my turn behind the wheel? My husband says that alone told him it was a dream, since I hate driving. But I was in control of the President of the United States.

I’m not alone in feeling helpless and having my psyche affected by the current political climate. Shortly after the January inauguration, therapists started to report an uptick in patients seeking help for anxiety. In the months since, experts have written numerous articles offering ways to deal with the stress of the current political climate.

Some positive things have come out of this ugliness, though. While it’s disheartening to know the magnitude of sexual harassment and assault in this country, it’s good to know that so many victims are seeing their attackers finally held to account.

Reputable researchers are also beginning to study ways to increase young people’s civic knowledge and involvement. The efforts are nonpartisan, and they seek to understand the beliefs of young people under the age of 30.

In addition, churches are reporting that progressives are reconnecting with their faith communities. Perhaps this will mean that we will finally stop ceding the conversation about Christ to fundamentalists who behave in distinctly un-Christlike ways.

Experts who offer advice about dealing with stress all emphasize the importance of holding on to hope. Psychology Today ends its advice column with this reminder:

Personal and national growth typically follow struggles with anxiety. Nervousness forces us to reevaluate what is most important and what we most want for ourselves, our loved ones, and our fellow citizens. From careful reevaluation emerges a course of meaningful behavior based on our deepest values.

Right now, I’m grateful for an occasional dream that offers me hope and reminds me of what is important.

Isn’t it interesting that I didn’t for a second in that dream consider kicking out my children, my husband, or even our beloved pet so that President Obama would have a place to sit?

I can’t control the current president, but I most assuredly can keep my family close and take hold of the wheel when an opportunity presents itself.

Tug-of-War and Remembrance

As a teenager, I hated no activity at the summer church camps that followed Memorial Day weekend more than the tug-of-war. I was almost always the smallest person in the group, chosen last and put at the end of the rope where my efforts to pull backwards had the least effect on the outcome. When my team lost, I inevitably scraped my knees as all of us were pulled forward into the dust. Even when my team won, I landed on my butt in the dirt, and someone usually fell on top of me.

In even the best of those summer games, I didn’t like competition. But I abhorred the tug-of-war, where humiliation seemed to be the end result for almost everyone except for the big guys at the front of the line on the winning team, who crowed and jeered at the losers in a most un-Christlike way.

It seems to me that our politics have become just such a game. Continue reading Tug-of-War and Remembrance

Images of Beautiful Babies in Syria and at Home

“Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” said Donald Trump in his remarks announcing the U.S. military strike in Syria.

I’ve never agreed with him more, though I question the wisdom of basing foreign policy decisions on an emotional reaction to horrific images of victims of what he now calls “our very troubled world.” Continue reading Images of Beautiful Babies in Syria and at Home

How Can We Change Gerrymandered Districts?

Gerrymandered Districts

For as long as I can remember, I have believed in democracy. I remember really paying close attention for the first time when I was in eighth grade. My West Virginia History class was studying how our representatives were elected, and the girls in our class questioned why there were no women among our elected officials. My teacher, Mr. Cozort, seemed a bit surprised by our questions, but he allowed us to ask them. He even allowed a group of us girls to write up a Declaration of Women’s Rights for his classroom, and he signed it, trying to look serious in spite of the grin that played at one corner of his mouth.

Continue reading How Can We Change Gerrymandered Districts?

Invoking Jesus to Defend Racial Insensitivity? Please!

Creche

Of all the defenses of Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.), the new House majority whip, in the wake of revelations that he spoke at a gathering of white supremacists in 2002, I find Congressman Steve King’s (R-Iowa), reported in today’s Washington Post, the most outrageous:

“Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners,” King said. “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, it’s the sick. Given that piece of Scripture, and understanding that Scalise probably wasn’t staffed thoroughly, I could understand how something like this happened. But I know his heart, I’ve painted houses with him post-Katrina, and I know he is a good man.”

I’m sorry, Congressman King, but you can’t have it both ways. Continue reading Invoking Jesus to Defend Racial Insensitivity? Please!

An Open Letter to Working Class Conservatives

Dear Fellow Americans,

You love this country. You’re frustrated. I love this country. I am frustrated. We share that, if little else.

Though my political beliefs are distinctly different from yours, we both want the same thing: a country in which the American Dream is still possible for us and for our children. We have been taught—and we are teaching our own children—that we live in a place where dedication and hard work result in success and financial stability. Yet we both see that slipping away, and we take turns being angry with our leaders, particularly those in the opposing party, when Congress makes decisions that affect the people we care about. Continue reading An Open Letter to Working Class Conservatives

Are Truth and Love Stronger than Race?

King Quotation

Inscription on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial

Our nation is lining up on either side of a fault line that threatens to shake the foundations of our nation. I can’t help fearing that the Big One is coming—the racial earthquake that could destroy us. I’m frightened for our future. I’m frightened for our children. But I also have hope. Continue reading Are Truth and Love Stronger than Race?

Missing Mom?

Mom's Crocheting

Mom’s Beautiful, Crocheted Gifts to Me

I remember the first time I really missed my mother.  A freshman in college, I had the flu.  My roommate moved down the hall to a room that was unoccupied after another freshman fled for home earlier in the semester.  The dorm’s resident assistant came to the door to ask if I needed anything but spoke to me from across the room, reluctant to breathe in the air of a sick room.

I longed for my mother’s soothing hand stroking my hair, for the damp washcloth she always folded in thirds until it was just the right size for my fevered forehead.  Instead, I lay on the clammy sheets and pulled the blanket up over my own shoulder in a gesture that couldn’t possibly emulate the way my mother had tucked me in when I was sick.

Gleeful at being free from a mother I viewed as a sad martyr, I had packed my things and scurried away from her arms two months before.  She had done such a good job of stressing to me that I should be sure to get an education and have a life different from hers that I saw nothing in her life that I wanted to emulate.

To me, Mom seemed a slave to her children and her husband.  She spent her day cleaning a tiny house inhabited by seven people.  She did laundry nearly every day, and I came home from school to see her standing behind an ironing board with a heavy black and silver iron in hand.  Or I found her crocheting, indulging in her one pleasurable hobby as she watched soap operas, her hands working swiftly with scarcely a look down.

I muttered a greeting and hurried past her to my bedroom, dropping my textbooks and picking up a novel.  I escaped to a world of classics where characters like Pip and Jane Eyre were lucky enough to escape lives like mine and my mother’s.

When I had left for college, I found nothing in my mother’s home to miss.  But in that moment of illness, as I lay on my bed, I knew that my mother was the single person in my world who loved me enough to risk her health to enfold me in her arms.  And over the years of my young adulthood, she became the first person I wanted to call when something made me sad or joyful or triumphant.  I knew I could count on her comfort, her pride, her love.

It would be many more years before I saw my mother as a person in her own right—separate from husband or children or home.  Once her five children were grown, she went back to class and earned a GED, she learned to drive and bought her first car, she got her first job outside the home as a clerk in a department store.  And I remember feeling a little insulted when she chattered enthusiastically about how much she enjoyed the job, gesturing animatedly in a way I’d never heard her talk about her work as a housewife and mother.

In those years, too, she made her first friend who wasn’t a relative or a neighbor.  My dad complained to me about how Mom and Karen “kept the roads hot” while he continued to work in the coal mines during those years before he retired.

I belly-laughed when Mom told me the story of a shopping excursion with the woman who became her best friend.  The nearest mall was an hour away from my hometown, and Mom and Karen had left early in the morning on a day when snow was forecast for the harrowing Bolt Mountain, over which they would have to travel.

My mom told the story this way:  Karen dropped her off at home, and she entered the front door, weighed down by shopping bags full of Christmas gifts, to find Dad fuming in his favorite recliner by the door.  Dad made no move to help Mom with the packages.  She would find out later that he had called Karen’s husband, worried that they might have had an accident in the snow on the mountain.  But he wasn’t about to admit to fearing for her safety.  His only comment, Mom told me with a laugh, was to say, “Thirteen hours!  You all have been gone thirteen hours!  How in the hell could you shop for thirteen hours?”

The mom I knew in my childhood would have cowered in the face of Dad’s anger.  But she laughed as Karen came in behind her with more packages and said, “Oh, Roy, get over it.”

I had completely forgotten that story until Karen reminded me as we mourned the loss of my mother together.  Karen, who became a Presbyterian lay pastor after my mother moved away to be nearer to her children, officiated my mother’s memorial service.  But more than that, Karen told me stories that reminded me that my mother enjoyed her life after children.

Even now, I see my mother through the haze of my own need and loss.  I’m not sure it’s even possible to see her in any other way.  But I do love hearing the stories of those who knew her as Naomi Prichard Williamson—a woman of strength and spunk and humor.  And I’ll miss both Mom and the Naomi I only glimpsed more than I can possibly say.

So tell me your stories* of your own mother—your mom and the woman you see through a glass darkly.

*Add your stories by clicking on the Add Comment button below this blog on the main blog page.