Why I Write

I write because I am alive. Not because I feel alive, or I need to feel alive, but because I am. Alive.
I see writing as a duty. I see literacy as a privilege. I see education, knowledge, setting seeing eyes to paper as privilege. So writing becomes a natural response born of a grateful heart.
I have never believed that words don’t hurt. Words do far greater damage than sticks and stones. They kick the crap out of people everyday.
But words… words can also elevate. They can encourage, edify, strengthen, affirm. They can set free…
Freedom. We are free to choose our words carefully or not. We can choose to speak of love not hate.
compassion not oppression.
peace not war.
justice not the status quo.
So I write. Everyday I write.



A Broken Letter

Dear Israel,

I love you. I always have. I grew up listening to stories about you. I read all about you. How God formed you; how God rescued you; how God loved you; how God was always about redeeming you. You were for me creation, adventure, war and peace, community, love, scandal. That was your story. Kings, queens, sorcerers, dark magic. And as in all good stories love romances and wins and the Prince rides in to save His bride. That was your story. I found myself in your story no matter what chapter my own story was in.

But Israel, I grew up. And long before my story began, you grew up too. You had new stories to tell. Tales of genocide and diaspora, of oppression and the bitterness and need for vindication that grows out of such horrific and defining events. Your story turned into tragedy and before long I was weeping for you, heart broken for you. I longed to come to you. I longed to walk your streets and touch your walls. I wanted to drink all of you in. Your beauty, your holiness. I wanted, Israel, to be part of your story. I almost was...

Israel, I didn't know you had me fooled. Your new story that was taking shape had a twist I wasn't ready for. It was loaded with secrets and lies on every page. Israel, you betrayed me. I was weeping once more not for you, but because of you. My heart was broken once more not for you, but because of you. What happened? Had you been so beaten down and hurt that victim was the only role you knew how to play? Did you not know you, too, were capable of the same injustices committed against you?

Out of my broken heart I ripped my pages from yours, convinced I could never love you again. The pain was so deep. You were God's chosen people, but surely God did not choose this. How could I ever love someone capable of such awful things? You told me you loved me, that you wanted me. You had me convinced you were right and that I needed you. But it was the old story you were selling. The one with the Prince and His bride...

You manipulated me, Israel. You were not beautiful. I had never seen such ugliness. I could hardly bear to look. You were not holy. At best you were human. I could not be invested.

But even our Author recognized these things about us both. And he is always working at redeeming us both. What will he write next?

Come, Israel, take my hand. Let us learn of grace and mercy together. Let us humble ourselves. Let us tear down the wall together. It need not be like this. But I fear you have become a ghost. Too far dead to remember what life was like, walking steadily away from heaven. So I must go, for I have another letter to write...

Dear Palestine,
I love you too.



This is What I Read

I read a book called A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken. I haven’t been able to read anything since because I suspect that no book will speak directly to my soul as A Severe Mercy. It is rare to come across a book of that depth. The book is the story of the love Sheldon shares with his wife, Davy. This is not a spoiler as any book review will disclose this, but Davy dies, and it is C.S. Lewis who tells Sheldon that her death was “a severe mercy.”

In the introduction to the book, Vanauken writes, “A severe mercy – the phrase haunted him: a mercy that was as severe as death, a death that was as merciful as love. For it had been death in love, not death of love. Love can die in many ways, most of them far more terrible than physical death; and if all natural love must die in one way or another, Davy’s death – he and she in love – was the death that hinted at springtime and rebirth.”

Read it. Please.

Before A Severe Mercy I read a book called Illegal, by Terry Greene Sterling. It was brilliant. If you want an honest look at the immigration “problem” in Phoenix, I found this to be informative and even somewhat emotional. She tells the stories of real people, not some text book explanation of an issue that many of us view from a distance.

Lastly, because A Severe Mercy cannot keep me from reading forever, I have been flipping through some of my favorite poets to quench my thirst for literature: Tennyson mostly and Emily – we are on a first name basis. She gets me. I’ll pick something else up to read pretty soon here. Oh, and I nearly forgot I am reading Radical, by David Platt in my small group. Still not sure what I think about it…



Peace is the product of justice

It is snowing outside and I am holed up in my house. The only thing that's remotely motivating me to get out is the fact that our heater is out of commission for the time being and the space heater is becoming insufficient. Days like this are perfect for reading. I have this book called Kingdom Ethics, by Glen Stassen and David Gushee that I picked up at The Archives Bookshop while on a "field trip" for my Studying and Teaching the Bible class at APU. I've never read it front to back, but I pick it up when I think it might have useful insight to whatever I am mulling over in my head.

I picked it up for some other reason, but I got stuck on the chapter entitled "Just War, Nonviolence and Just Peacemaking". It addresses each of these ethics as they pertain to war and violence. I think we can all agree that war is bad. It just is. I would be interested to hear someone's argument for war being good. (I'm not talking about intention behind a war being "good" or "just", but war itself.)

I consider myself to be a way-of-life pacifist which the authors define as: "The way-of-life pacifist is committed not only to avoiding violence but to practicing peacemaking in a positive way in all relationships." (The other type of pacifist is committed to nonviolence as a rule.) The authors outline that as Christians we should first be committed to the way of peacemaking as Jesus clearly exemplified it in the gospels. Then they explain that just war theorists need to make sure that when they claim a war to be "just" they are using the guidelines that must be practiced before you can say a war is "just". Otherwise they risk crying "Just war!" simply to rationalize the desire for war or the fact that our nation (whatever nation one may live in) has declared war. I won't get into all the specifics of what makes a war just, but if you're interested I'll happily lend you the book so you can read the chapter. I found it incredibly informative.

The chapter finally ends with the authors suggesting that just war theorists and pacifists alike need to be committed to just peacemaking for which they give ten practices:
1. Support nonviolent direct action (as exemplified by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.).
2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat.
3. Use cooperative conflict resolution. ( "Jesus said that when there is anger between us and another, we must drop everything, go to the other, and make peace. It is a command, not an option." Matthew 5:23)
4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice; seek repentance and forgiveness.
5. Promote democracy, human rights and religious liberty. ("Spreading peace is done by networks of persons willing to work together to gain public attention for protection against human rights violations.")
6. Foster just and sustainable economic development.
7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system.
8. Strengthen the United Nations and international organizations.
9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade.
10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations.

They end with: "Therefore, we urge you not to say, 'I support just peacemaking theory. It is better than both pacifism and just war theory, and I support it and not them.' We do urge you to support just peacemaking theory for what it actually contributes, and to teach it in your church and to demand its practices of your government. We urge you also to discuss both pacifism and just war theory carefully, in your Christian community, and seek in prayer and community to discern which is your calling. Then when all else fails, and the government is about to declare war, you can make a clear witness."