Clouds moving through mountains, sunlight streaking across yellow autumn trees, and grazing elks breathed their magic on us at the Cross+Gen Conference held at the YMCA of the Rockies on October 1-4. My husband, Dyke, and I went with our pastor, Chris Deines, to figure out where our congregation was heading after a year of trying the Cross+Gen approach in our rural Missouri church.
The conference grows from the brain child – the faith child – of Dr. Rich Melheim, and his dream of stirring fresh energy into people of faith and their churches. So many children who grow up going to Sunday School find no place for church in their lives as adults. As a young Lutheran pastor, Rich searched for ways to surround his own children with the gift of Christ’s enduring love.
Over the years, he developed a process for both home and church, “. . . not a way of doing Sunday School. It’s a way of doing life.” Drop a Bible reading “onto a table with costumes and food and glow sticks and food and paint and food. . . . Watch both people and the text come alive.”
Hearing steady rain outside, I woke this morning from a dream of stiff, yellow weeds leaning across the sidewalk to my door. How our green, mowed lawn morphed into parched, unruly growth puzzled me.
Now I’m thinking about two novels, set in different places, both stories agonizing over a mother worrying about a lost child. In Persons Unknown Susie Steiner’s Manon, a pregnant police detective in Cambridge, U.K., has moved away from London for the sake of her adopted black son, Fly. In this murder mystery things don’t go well for Fly in Cambridge, and Manon is torn between her feelings for the unborn child inside of her and for the boy she first loved as her son.
Susan Straight built her novel, Highwire Moon, in the fluid worlds of drug culture on one side and of undocumented immigrant workers on the other. Three-year-old Elvia, found in a car abandoned at a church, was put in California’s foster care system. Nine years later her American father got custody of her, determined to do what he could to care for his child. Here, my prejudice kicks in.
A young woman went to court in California to re-claim her children from foster care after she spent 5 years in prison for drugs. In the courtroom her eyes opened to the damning truth when her youngest said “Mom” to his foster mother. The young woman’s head told her that her own babies were no longer hers. She signed away her parental rights, so that her children would not be separated from their loving foster parents.
She did what needed to be done for her children, but she couldn’t face the horror of having abandoned them and used drugs to dull the nightmare of her heart ache. Eleven years later, she found herself in a shelter for abused women in a small Missouri town. The shelter staff helped her learn to care about herself, get into recovery, and reach a point where she now lives on her own.
This week the director of that shelter said to me, “People don’t realize how thin the line is between them and the broken person they pass by on the street.” Some of those who abandoned their homes to flee Hurricane Florence are about to see that line dissolve when they return to find little they can salvage of the life they have known.
Nate Boyer said this:
Personally, I do not endorse Kaepernick’s method of protest but I absolutely support his right to do so. That is an unpopular place to stand these days, in the radical middle, defending someone you somewhat disagree with.
Sep 6, 2018 https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/colin-kaepernick-national-anthem-america-how-military-service-influenced-my-ncna906956
Reminded me of something that I thought Patrick Henry said in the 1700’s: I disagree with what you say but will defend your right to say it to the death. Maybe he didn’t say it, but someone else did when describing him. I recall that phrase as a bedrock of America coming into being as a nation – before the Constitution was written, before the Pledge of Allegiance was spoken, and before our National Anthem was first sung. About the same time as Betsy Ross sewed 13 stars on our flag.
Here in rural Missouri my friends – those who glow with pride when speaking of President Trump and those who went to the Women’s March (Kansas City, Jan. 21, 2017) – greet me with warm handshakes and friendly hugs. We compare rain gauge readings (now ½ inch; oops, it’s pouring again), complain about the small number of eating places in this town, and compare notes on books, movies and shows.
I can just imagine Toni Morrison’s reaction to a white presuming to write black. As a long-time fan of Tony Hillerman, I remember feeling shocked on learning that he was no more Navaho than me. And now I’m reading Highwire Moon by Susan Straight, who apparently wasn’t born into a family like her Mexican and Native characters. And I’m happy to see Sherman Alexie, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks and Dan Brown sitting alphabetically together on my shelf, along with some dead white men.
The question of a white writing black hit me nearly a year ago when I was working on an assignment for an online fiction course from GrubStreet. Nathan Oates had asked us to write a story in which a character returns to a place and encounters someone unexpected. I wrote “Axe and Blaze” about a woman going to a deserted house that had been in her family since before the Civil War, and she encounters a man whose ancestors had been slaves owned by her ancestors.