Reconciliation and American Politics

As our nation seems to be falling apart before our very eyes, more and more, I see people calling for us to “move forward” and proclaiming that now is the time for “unity, not division.”  In almost every case, the person making the declaration is not talking about their side moving to the middle – but instead, calling on the other side to agree with them, to not take issue with their position, to move in their direction, etc.  In other words, they want to lower the temperature, but only if it means the other side changes, while they maintain their self-declared moral high ground.  And I just keep thinking to myself, “that is not how this works.”

By coincidence, I was also recently thumbing through a whole bunch of old notes in a notebook that I have at various times used for devotions, sermon notes, and thoughts on topics that I wanted to write about, either in this blog or the book I have always claimed to want to write. As I was thumbing through, I realized that unity, forgiveness and reconciliation are common themes (something I probably need to understand better).

These themes have been on my mind a lot in the last week and less significantly in recent months as our political climate has heated up. The idea that keeps sticking with me recently is that we Christians are really missing the mark when it comes to how we view our political opponents — the villainized “other side”. I’ve been thinking about the concepts of unity, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation in the context of what is happening in our world.   What does reconciliation look like in this context, and what does it mean in the context of my faith? To help with that question, I turned to Google and found some quotes that resonated.

 “Differing from forgiveness, reconciliation is often conditioned on the attitude and actions of the offender. While its aim is restoration of a broken relationship, those who commit significant and repeated offenses must be willing to recognize that reconciliation is a process. If they’re genuinely repentant, they will recognize and accept that the harm they’ve caused takes time to heal.”

“Reconciliation involves forgiveness. But it goes beyond forgiveness. When I forgive someone, there is no guarantee that we will have a restored relationship. It may well be that even after I have forgiven someone that we remain estranged. Reconciliation, however, restores the relationship.

Forgiveness may be one-sided. But reconciliation requires both parties to be willing to participate in restoring the relationship. It is always possible, and expected, for me to forgive. But reconciliation will not be possible if the other party is not willing to participate.”

Even these snippets imply that reconciliation is dependent on someone else changing. And although it is true that true reconciliation requires both parties to want it, I fear that we will never get here if our first focus is continues to point outward.

As Christians, we are always expected to forgive.  Over and over, the Bible is clear on that.  We must forgive when the offending party has repented, and when they haven’t.  We must forgive when they have changed their behavior and when they haven’t.  We must forgive even in the midst of the harm the offender my still be causing.  That forgiveness is as much for ourselves as it is for the person we are forgiving.  But what about reconciliation?  Is that something we must do even in the midst of harm?  Must we attempt to reconcile no matter what? Reconciliation requires both parties to examine their behavior and turn away from what is harmful.  We like to point at the other side and talk about what they need to do in order for reconciliation to occur, but rarely are we willing to examine ourselves in the same way.  In American politics, we seem to be entirely unwilling or unable to participate in honest self-examination. I would argue that this characteristic in ourselves and our elected representatives is the biggest issue facing our country right now.  In the midst of our differences, if people of faith could commit to self-examination rather than recrimination of others, perhaps we could truly create the world we want to live in. That collective commitment feels like a big impossible scenario. But what is possible is change is for each person to focus on just one person to start and they simply need to look into the closest mirror to find them. We must look inward first. We must each lead by example. Before we expect another to cross the divide, we must be willing to cross it ourselves.

I have reached the point that my expectations for elected officials is stunningly low.  I no longer expect or believe it is possible for them to do the type of honest self-reflection that is necessary for reconciliation.  I believe that self-reflection is almost always lost in a quest for power.  Further, I think the everyday American, those of us who are not in a position of authority or power, are on the brink of passing that threshold as well.  We have assigned blame exclusively on the other side while refusing to acknowledge any of the damaging behaviors on our own side, regardless of how they compare in size and scope to the wrongdoing we assign to the “other.”  We could argue all day about who is more guilty, who needs to go first and who is the bigger hypocrite.  But that is a losing conversation, and does nothing to move us closer to the path that we are called to as Christians. In American politics, I see Christians everyday who have made idols out of symbols and people, and even the Constitution.  We declare our rightness in the name of a God who has been completely forgotten in our quest for being right, attaining power and having the last word.  We have forgotten where our salvation comes from and in our quest to save our nation from the evils of the other side, we have forgotten the admonition of Jesus in the sermon on the Mount. He taught us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek and do not keep records of wrongdoing. And we have certainly forgotten what He called the greatest commandment — to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength, and to LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES.

Reconciliation will require that we first turn away from our idols and turn our hearts toward a greater truth, one that requires more of us, all of us.  I know this is an area that requires work.  I am appealing to my friends on both sides to join me in this work, because unless there are visible signs that we are unified in our commitment to a more peaceful future, I fear that neither side will bend.  “You go first” will never get us there.  Moving forward together in reconciliation is the only thing that will.  And yes, that means you have to accept that I WILL NOT see the issues the same way you do.  I will not concede to being a communist who wants to turn us into Venezuela any more than you will concede to being a fascist racist.  See how that works?  We both need to lay down those swords, even if we think they will protect us, and even if we believe they hold truth.

What is happening now is not Christian, and it isn’t American.  As long as we believe that the only way to survive is to destroy the other side, we will be lost…lost as Christians and lost as Americans pursuing a common ideal. 

My prediction is that nobody is going to like this piece.  Those on my side will believe that I am asking them to ignore the wrongs of people who have done great harm. They will accuse me of both sides-ism. Those on the other side will think I am asking them to ignore the damage that my side has done and will do, and that I am pointing a finger and casting blame.  Neither of those things is my intent, but both may be true. I know that all of these words are meaningless if I am not wiling to start with me. And believe me, I feel the same resistance to bending as I’m sure many others will feel when reading this.  I am not asking any of us to throw away our values in the pursuit of peace. Reconciliation does not mean an absence of accountability or justice.  Reconciliation means that we agree to look forward together, even in the midst of the current conflict.  It means that we agree to hold our own sides accountable in the same way we demand accountability in the other side.  Are we capable of that? Am I?

I admit that MANY times in the last week, I have shouted in frustration at what I consider a “too little, too late” tone or statement made by officials who I think should have known better all along.  I point my finger and accuse them of softening their rhetoric out of political calculus rather than true accountability.  I see a grappling for power and the resulting speechmaking rankles me and sets my teeth on edge.  If I allow myself to pause, I ask myself how that aligns with the behavior and attitudes that I am called to.  Does God look at my stubbornness and wrongs in the same way?  Does He look at me when I am FINALLY expressing remorse and say, “too little, too late”?  I know the answer.  And I know I need to do better.

Remember that when God forgives, He wipes the slate clean, and when he invites us into a process of reconciliation with Him, He doesn’t first assign blame and a severity scale for our wrongdoing. But He does ask us to repent of OUR OWN wrongdoing.  In repenting, we are turning away from our own behavior that caused the hurt or the wrong.  The resulting reconciliation is the end of estrangement and represents wholeness.  And it always starts with an inward, rather than an outward view.

I don’t believe that God is interested in American politics.  I think He is interested in the hearts of Americans.  I’m sure He is grieved by all that he sees because he sees how our collective actions are poisoning our hearts.  I don’t think He chooses a candidate.  I think He chooses US.    Are we choosing Him in return?

Today’s Advice to My Amazing Daughters: Sometimes you have to take church on the road

Today, God ran a 10K with me…

This morning was the original date for the Wonder Woman 10K that I was registered for in Atlanta. In March, the entire race series was cancelled and those who had registered received their packets (including the medal we would have earned) in the mail. My rules for earning a medal for a virtual race are that I have to plan the date and I have to run it like I would on raceday. I have had my swag for a month, but didn’t take it out of the bag till this morning, my raceday. (It felt right to run it on the day it would have been.)

So after online church this morning, I donned the gear, including my race bib because why not?

Me, looking all Wonder Woman-y.

Right away, I knew it would be a good run, but I didn’t know it would be a spiritually good run.

At the halfway point, It was really raining pretty good and I switched from the book I was listening too (kinda depressing) and put on praise and worship music. I began to pray for the sick and the caregivers, those who are hungry and vulnerable and lonely and scared. I praised God for my health and my strong body, that I am fed and sheltered and fortunate enough to stay safely at home while I continue to earn my regular income. The combination of the music and the rain washed so much negativity out. It was so cleansing as I felt stress and uncertainty washing away. (Sometimes – perspective is good. In this moment, I realized that my worries are pretty superficial compared to the real trauma that others are experiencing.)

As my route on the bike path passed through Clay High School property, I heard Saint Ignatious church bells ring just as my the song I was listening to said “I Surrender All”. And in that moment, I did surrender. I surrendered expectations and frustrations. I gave up fear and uncertainty and felt in my bones that God was telling me that what we have is NOW. The church bells reminded me that even when the world around us is full of unknowns, God shows up all the time, and even when we aren’t together, His Church is alive. The timing of the church bells just as I passed by the one area of that 6 miles where I could have heard them was pretty amazing. I could also go on about how perfect that playlist turned out to be, but that moment is the one I want to remember.

As I rounded the corner onto my street, my little cheering squad was there. Mark and my mom came out to be my finish line. My real life super hero put the medal around my neck and it was perfect.

Sometimes church is in a building. Sometimes it is online. And sometimes church happens on the road, in the rain in the heart of a runner.

At the turning point, when I decided turn my run into church, I also decided to run my heart out. I ran my fastest ever 10K. It won’t be logged as an offficial PR, but it sure will be tough to beat in just about every way.

I was reminded in “church” this morning that I am very fortunate. I can run in the rain on uncrowded streets without fear. I return to a warm house with ample nourishment and family members who are in good health. I don’t like everything that I see in the world right now, but I am comforted that God uses his people to restore things for good. We need to look for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus. A revelation on a run means nothing if I don’t find a way to do something for others, to be God’s solution, rather than contributing to brokenness.

Today I encourage you to hit the road and find your church – the place where things are put into perspective and worries are washed away. Go for a run in the rain. God just might join you.

5 Years Later

Yesterday morning, I read this post.  It is the message I had for you on the day of your high school graduation.

I knew then that if you focused your determination on a goal, that you would succeed, even if there were missteps and setbacks along the way.  Most of all, I just wanted you to know where home was.  I wanted you to know that no matter what happened, I would be there cheering, crying, encouraging and helping to pick up the pieces when necessary.

What I didn’t say then was how terrified I was.  I was afraid I would lose you.  I was afraid that it might be too hard and that you would give up.  I was afraid that I hadn’t prepared you well enough for life away from home, that I couldn’t control the outcome and that there just wasn’t enough time.  Like so many other times, I didn’t trust my own advice and I didn’t believe that I had been enough.

5 years later, I have learned that you are stronger than I ever imagined.  I have learned that when you set your mind on a goal, you will get there, not by the shortest or easiest route…but you WILL arrive.  I have learned that you have the ability to brush yourself off after a failure, learn from it and find a new way forward.  I have learned that it was even harder to let go than I feared, but the letting go was the only way you could grow.  I have learned that I could find my new normal, and that our relationship would be different but perfectly so.

Yesterday, the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance had new meaning.  And yes, I cried.  Throughout the day, I thought about the last 5 years and what you have overcome, the friendships you have found and lost, the hard work, the tears, the triumphs.  I thought about the fact that sometimes it wasn’t your first or second choice that ended up being the right choice, and that sometimes, you had to fail so that the right door could open.  I thought about your perseverance and how time and pressure have refined it into your most valuable asset.  I thought about how you used that asset to succeed.

Most of all, I thought about how proud I am.  I am proud of how far you have come, proud of all that you achieved and proud of all you will be.  You did it baby girl.  IMG_6300[1]





Today, as my daughters start challenging semesters at two colleges, I find myself thinking about strength and where it comes from, how we instill it in our kids, how it can elude us at times.

I’m a little sad. I’m sad that the house is quiet and that my girls are all grown up. I’m sad that it isn’t so easy to kiss away the bumps and bruises anymore.

I’m proud. I’m proud that I have raised young women who are learning how to stand on their own, finding ways to persevere when it isn’t easy (is it ever easy??), learning to rely on me less as they find their footing and replace my strength with theirs.

I’m worried. Do we EVER stop worrying (rhetorical question…I know the answer)? As they have gotten older, I’ve learned that despite all of my best efforts and my sheer determination that they would not have to struggle or make mistakes or fail, that my efforts were foolish and misguided. I’ve learned that struggles and mistakes and failures are the building blocks of strength. As I have watched them overcome, I see uncertainty being replaced with determination, insecurity replaced by new truths. I look back on my own life and understand that the best parts of who I am were born from failure. The fires of my biggest trials refined me. My mistakes made me more compassionate. Giving up taught me the most important lessons about patience. All of my past struggles better prepared me to help them through theirs.

Today I give them my love and my blessing. May they know the truth of who they are, may they silence the negative lies that they sometimes tell themselves. May they give each day the best that they have to give. May they give themselves permission to feel authentically even the bad stuff. May they have the strength to move forward when feeling overwhelmed, even if it is just one step. May they offer their unique brands of light into the world and to those who surround them, whether briefest acquaintance or most bonded friend. May they allow themselves to savor every triumph, no matter how small or big. May they see all the possibility ahead. May they see the beacon in the darkness when times are tough, so they can always find their way home. May they know that no matter how close or far away, my heart is bound tightly to theirs, a bridge that no distance is too far to cross.

May they have peace and know that they are exactly where they are supposed to be. May they have wisdom to see what is next and faith in themselves to see the infinite possibility that awaits them.

May they use moments of quiet to make sense of the world.

May they know how deeply and infinitely they are loved.

11/28/13 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: It’s ok to cry.

For most of my life, I have tried not to cry.

Somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that crying was a sign of weakness or manipulation and the idea of “don’t’ ever let ‘em see you sweat” took on a broader meaning.  I thought I needed to choke it back, push it down, stifle it so that everyone could see that I was strong.  When I was 15, I stopped eating because emotion has to be dealt with.  If I couldn’t cry, something had to give.  And it gave.  I lost weight until my mom was frantic.  And then slowly, I recovered enough from the emotions that plagued me and I got back to normal, without having to spend time in an eating disorder clinic.  My “strength” took a toll.

As I have gotten older, I have turned into a total sap. I can cry at just about anything, happy or sad.  I have shed more tears over internet videos than I ever have for myself, my own pain, my own joys and sorrows.  Crying for others highs and lows is so much easier than crying for me.

When I cry, I cry alone…in hotel rooms or when everyone is gone, or in the dark when everyone is asleep.  I still can’t release with others, even though I can release for others.  Every once in a while, I cry in church, and hope nobody notices.

Even though I know that tears are healing, I think I will always struggle to embrace them. This is not a good thing.

So for you and for me…it’s ok to cry.  It. Is. Ok. To. Cry.

There are times when the enormity of a place, a moment, a time will overwhelm you.   Whatever emotion that brings is healthy and good.  It often will reveal your humanity, your compassionate heart, your love.  When you cry for others, you love.  When you cry in front of others, you allow them to love.

This week, I visited the 9/11 Memorial with 120 high school students.  One of those students was overcome with the enormity of the place.  She cried.  Her tears revealed her compassionate soul, her care for the world that was forever changed when she was just 4 years old.  She cried for people she had never met, and all that grieved because of  that day.  And as her friends tried to distract her and cheer her with hugs and words that would make her smile, I thought to myself, “Cry.” In her tears on that day, I saw her heart in a new way and I saw her friends have the opportunity to love her and it was good. Her tears revealed her humanity and the humanity of those who care about her.

Sometimes it takes a kid to teach us something.  In this case, it reminded me that the thing I have spent a lifetime stifling is the thing that heals, that shows love, that is good.

It is ok to cry.  With your help, I will try to remember that.



We all have our special skills; our gifts, if you will.  I, for instance, am remarkably good at sucking it up.  It has recently come to my attention that my kids some people think that sucking it up is a skill that they cannot learn, that only superwomen like me have it.  They think that people like me are just hardcore, badass, incredibly tough people.  They could not be more wrong!  At heart, I am a big old whiny baby.  I have aches and pains and I just want to lie in bed sometimes.  Yet, I routinely fall down, then pick myself up and go to work.  I have miserable back pain more often than not, and most people don’t know about it.  I once broke my thumb on my way to work, then got an ice pack at the office and avoided writing that day.  (Mostly because I was…

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7/3/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Don’t Judge

Don’t judge the people who judge.

Doesn’t that sound crazy?  But think about it.  How many times do we talk about those terrible people who are so intolerant, who say horrible things, who just don’t get it?  How many times do we describe someone else’s indignation and follow it by a comment, like, “REALLY?!??”  or “Get a life!”  We pass judgment on their judgment and somehow we think we are better than them.

When you see people carrying their Anti-Whatever banners and yelling in the street about a cause you don’t agree with, stop and think about it.  If you judge them,  if you scoff, or call them crazy, or get upset about how very wrong they are…how are you any different than them?  Does being right make you right?  Is your indignation more righteous than theirs?  Does your opinion matter more than theirs?  Are your values more important to you than theirs are to them?

So before you judge, stop.  What would happen if you stopped for a minute and asked them a question?  I’m not talking about the kind of question that has judgement attached like, “How can you THINK that?”  but the kind of quesiton that really seeks to understand like, “Tell me why this is important to you.”  Maybe by your question, you will get a question back.  Instead of a righteous battle of wills and voices, you can create a dialog.  And maybe that dialog will lead to an understanding that we are mostly the same.  Maybe that understanding will lead to a more courteous exchange of ideas where compromise is born.


But first you have to stop with the judging the judgmental, stop hating the haters, stop yelling at the yellers.  Stop.

Do you think you can do it?

How about now?

Or now?

Or now?