Sunday, July 31, 2016

Under the weeds

Earlier this afternoon I went to work on the weed patch along the north side of my house. I live on a corner, so the three-foot-tall whatever-weeds-they-were were out there for all the neighbors to see as they walk dogs past my house or trail children on their way to the park. I take walks around my town and in observing other north sides of houses, I've learned that most people have something a bit more intentional going on in their greenspace. More to the point, this exuberance of wild greenery is what I see when I come home from work and park at the curb--an example of my failure as a homeowner. So despite the other even more exuberant patches of weeds on the south side of the house, this is what I worked on today.

Weeds didn't used to grow here. Nothing much grew here between the forsythia and the pink almond bushes. It was a dark, cold patch of grown. But the tree in the parkway that shaded everything, leaving the soil cold even while tulips bloomed ten feet away--this tree became ill. The first summer just a few big branches were dead, the next summer two-thirds of the tree failed to leaf out. Lucky for me, it was on the parkway, so it was the village government's responsibility to remove it. It was replaced with a new tree, a plucky, spiky little thing, that in its third summer looks like it's here to stay. But it won't be shading much of anything for many years.

The weeds have been celebrating, growing thick and tall and spindly like they could not do before. There are woody stems and sprouts of volunteer trees and shoots everywhere from the forsythia bush. I decided today that I wanted to be master of this patch, that it should look organized, intentional, as if there were a devoted happy homeowner. on the scene.

Actually I cleared out the weeds last May, in a previous effort to be master of the landscape. The weeds weren't so tall back then. The Lily of the Valley was spreading. It looked like there was hope for something in the nature of a garden here. I went to my sister Linda's house where ferns grow tall and thick next to the foundation. Linda brought these ferns here from the yard at my mother's old house, where we grew up, and they've thrived. They look like a prehistoric landscape where you'd find tiny dinosaurs skittering through the leaves. I dug some up and planted them next to my house, along with a wild geranium. My friend Tara contributed a big fern from her yard as well.

I had tried transplanting ferns before--ones from the garden at my mom's house. All that survived was one small-ish frond that came up faithfully every spring but never became something more--it did not spread to cover the bare ground under the old tree, nor did it lead a takeover against the weeds where the sun came to the area.

Within a week of transplanting the new ferns began to dry, curl and turn brown. Stressed by being moved from one garden to another? Probably. Giving up leaves while building stronger root systems? That would be the optimist's view. Just not going to make it? I can accept failure.

Today as I cleared out weeds and clipped the last of the brown, dried fronds, I discovered ferns that just might make it. There were tiny new still-curled fronds at the center of one plant, more developed growth on three more. They're weren't very tall, but I cleared out the dandelions  and Queen Anne's Lace around them and gave them room to grow. Maybe, I thought, I'll have a nice, thick easy-to-care-for patch of ferns here after all.

It was 12:45 p.m. The sun was bright, and high enough in the sky that the house provided no shade. It as hot. The sun beat down. These ferns which had staged a comeback while tall weeds were around to shade them are now going to be exposed to the hot summer sun every day.

What have I done? Will they make it? Were they better off as they were?

And what kind of metaphor is this for life?

Shelter me, O God, even under the weeds and Slippery Elm of my life.
Do not leave me in the sun, the bright, hot summer heat.
Let me grow in small ways, in moist places, not meddled with.
But if it must be, give me water in proportion to light, coolness rising from the ground.
Save me with your dark and soothing presence.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A woman for president

I was not a Hillary Clinton voter in 2008. I was a Barack Obama fan. I saw his convention speech in 2004 and remember well the Saturday in 2007 when he announced his candidacy for the presidency from the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield. It was audacious--an African-American male choosing to stand on the steps of the building where Lincoln gave his "House Divided" speech to begin a campaign to be the president of all America.

Eight years later we're a long way from a post-racial America, and the taunts and lies that have been directed at the extraordinary family living in the White House have shown how ugly and raw and unthinking racism is, even in a country whose founding document says "all men are created equal."

But there it is--"all men." We can't go back and rewrite a historical document, but who would dare use that language today? Women got the vote--eventually. Now it's men and women who are created equal, whose individual talents are recognized, and whose gendered ways of being in the world are beginning to be celebrated in ways that don't deprive women of power.

So yes, I cast my vote for Hillary in the primary and I'll vote for her again in November. I think she's got the right stuff for the job. I think being a centrist and a deal-maker and a listener is what we need right now. The way some Bernie voters are still doing the "my way or the highway" thing scares me. We don't need people staking out positions from which they will not move. We've got enough of that strongman thinking over in the Republican party. So I'm not for Hillary because she's a woman. I'm for Hillary because I think she's right for the time.

But what I'm finding this week is that tears rise in my eyes and there's a lump in my throat when speakers declare that Hillary Clinton will be "the first woman president of the United States of America." I feel tenderness and pride and validation for a feminine way of being in the world.

And when Bill Clinton, in that sly and charming manner he surely used on his mother at the age of 9, painted a picture last night of a young law student, an ambitious career woman, someone whose water broke, who worked for the good of children and mothers, who fussed in her daughter's dorm room until it was time to leave her behind, who just keeps doing the next thing--I don't know if this humanized Hillary for the rest of America, but it sure did for me. Maybe it's because we're close in age. I'm sure when that bio video for her plays on Thursday night, I'll see not only the person and the accomplishments, but also the dresses and the suits that we wore in the 70's and 80's and 90's and 'aughts, along with the life stages of a mother and a working woman.

Twitter and the commentariat went a little nuts last night about Bill's presumption in talking about their marriage without confessing to its troubles, which is to say, his own unfaithfulness. I choose to give her credit for soldiering on, for sticking with the partnership, for working with imperfection.

I've read interesting analyses of Hillary's political and leadership style that cite gender differences in her leadership style and the way gender expectations affect how she is perceived. Some of these have even been written by men. I think she'll be a very capable president, though unlikely to get tons of recognition for the good job she will do. There are many in our bitterly partisan politics who despise her and make cheap fun of her, who don't give her the same room as a man--room in which she can be fully human with faults and misjudgments. But she's got skills, she collaborates, she listens. I think she's what we need now.

I'll still be choking up in November when the election comes around, and I hope in January (she's all that stands between us and Trump!) on Inauguration Day--choking up with hope for a more perfect union in America, led by a woman.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Geek show

So I am not actually watching the Republican National Convention, minute by minute on cable TV or even just the hour of prime-time on the broadcast networks. Can't do it. It's not just that I can't listen to so much rhetoric that I disagree with. The ignorance behind the rhetoric makes me crazy and depressed.

But that doesn't stop me from following the convention, in blogs and on Twitter. It's like the pull of a soap opera. I followed "All My Children" with giddy but ironic embarrassment through high school and college. What delicious, outrageous thing would happen next, spun out slowly from Monday through Thursday, with a cliffhanger on Friday to bring you back again after the weekend. 

Nowadays there's reality TV, also spinning out stories for weeks at a time, stories that regardless of the appearance of spontaneity are arranged and even provoked by producers.  I'm not hooked on any of those, which might have as much to do with being too disorganized to remember to watch as it does with revulsion at the values and obsessions of the people on these shows. 

Politics is the spectacle I follow, though it worries me that political news is more about the story than the policies, more about who's winning and losing than about government serving real people. But all my college-educated high-mindedness still leaves me unable to take my eyes off the geek show that is the Republican presidential nomination process.

I don't use the term geek show lightly. My sainted husband, Lon Grahnke, often reminded people that originally the word geek referred to a sideshow performer who chased and caught chickens and bit their heads off. A geek was the lowest form of carnival performer, despised by other performers, who themselves lived outside the boundaries of polite society. 

Lon's knowledge of geek shows would come up in the context of discussions of professional wrestling. Lon was a journalist and a lifelong pro wrestling fan. If he were alive right now, I'm sure he'd be pitching a piece to his editors comparing Donald Trump and his campaign to a pro wrestling narrative.

Lon reported on pro wrestling in the late 1980s, in a way that earned him the trust of both wrestlers and readers. Was it all fake? He never put that question to the guys he interviewed, because, hey, everybody knew it was a, um, heightened version of reality. Lon's stories did not appear in the sports section but in the Chicago Sun Times' entertainment pages. Wrestling was more like live theatre than baseball, performance art for the masses, circus acts on steroids, with narratives punctuated by body slams and blood in the ring, bluster and the accumulation of crass wealth backstage.

The shared public value was dominance--winning. Also, humiliating the opponent. 

And so we arrive at the Republican National Convention, where the phrase "winning the nomination" seems to me to be heard far more often than "nominated for the office of President of the United States." We're watching a celebration of the contest, not a consideration of the responsibility ahead. The RNC and the Republican presidential contest and debates that preceded it have had much more in common with the wrestling ring than with, say, the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Not that those 19th-century guys didn't play to the crowd--they did. They were politicians. But they also relied on reason and logic at a time when the nation's ideals were in serious question. The crowds listened, for hours under the hot summer sun.

Trump's message is about winning, vanquishing foes, making fun of losers. He appeals to the downtrodden by conning them with the dazzle of wealth or the promise of the freedom to say whatever you feel, offend whom you may, rather than with actual policy or plans. It's a geek show. He runs this way and that, catches the chicken and then outrageously bites its head off. He body slams opponents by making fun of them. His surrogates incite chants of "lock her up" against his Democratic opponent. You can't help watching to see what he does next, and this week of screw-up after screw-up, badly handled, has not failed to disappoint.

And then, in a turn of events worthy of the wrestling ring, Ted Cruz, the mortal enemy, takes the stage, seems to be making up with Donald, but in a surprising cynical twist, refuses to endorse him, uses the word conscience, and is booed off the stage. 

How can you not watch? 

When Lon reported on professional wrestling he was always respectful of its fans and his readers. The wrestlers he interviewed were also mindful of fans--after all, they bought the tickets and the merchandise. Pundits and analysts have been busy this year figuring out who the Trump voters are and pointing out that the "Make America great again" slogan appeals to people who are fearful of the future in a world that is changing. They point out that the policies of the elite leadership of the Republican party ignored the realities of its ordinary voters. 

Trump's life history shows that he's perfectly willing to use his brand to dupe fans, with schemes like Trump University or simply by not paying the contractors and small businesses who work on his projects. He's done serious damage to social norms in America and it's hard to imagine how the divisiveness he encourages for his own narcissistic ends can be repaired in the months ahead.

Trump's overblown messaging, his theatricality and spontaneity, are entertaining, mesmerizing even, though he's no more qualified to be president than Hulk Hogan. And he has a lot less heart.

Monday, July 18, 2016


I keep waiting for the moment when Donald Trump is revealed as the two-bit sham that he is, and people's eyes are opened and there's some big realization that what he's selling is not just snake oil, it's toxins. And everyone holds up just short of going over the cliff, like in a cartoon.

But it doesn't seem to be happening. Demographics, math, polls say he will lose in November, but how does anyone walk back the hateful rhetoric being spooled out in Cleveland tonight? How can anyone think this leads to good government?

I can't watch.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Open hearts

Yet another day of following breaking news about violence against police officers, this time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Another lone gunman walking around with an assault rifle--how could that happen again? How will it not happen again?

I read comments from leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement who condemned the violence--condemned all violence--but did not back down from nor became defensive about peaceful protest against racism. I feel good about their wisdom.

Our only hope is in sharing one another's suffering. It seems a feeble hope, though there is so much suffering to share. Opening our hearts to grief and sadness--well, who wants that? The news cycle has been crummy enough that one could get angry and want to get a sense of control back--might be inspired by a blustering promise to "make America great again."

But that is a call to power. It is not a call to enlightenment, or wisdom, or the way of the cross.

Thinking on these things .... Listening to Thich Nhat Hanh over at

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Summer Saturday

As the blogging (almost) every day till my birthday project continues, can I just say that I have nothing to blog about tonight?

Yesterday's attempted coup in Turkey is beyond me. No shocking news today. There was a Black Lives Matter protest here in Oak Park, but I didn't go. The house is a tiny bit tidier than it was yesterday and the overdue library book has been returned. The gas tank is full, and there's gluten-free bread in the refrigerator again. (But I forgot to buy the wheat bread for the rest of us.) There are fresh raspberries and peaches from the farmer's market and three kinds of beans for three-bean salad. I'll have clean clothes to wear this week, and my mother's phone is back on the hook at her condo.

I'd describe all this as quotidian, but that's a pretty fancy word for everyday, day-to-day stuff.

Which is not to say that you can get fresh Michigan raspberries every day--you can't. I love raspberries pretty much however and wherever I find them, but they're never better than when you eat them by the handful from a pressed paper box warmed by the sun at the Farmers' Market.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Grace made perfect

Duct tape, says my son Kris, over at Gronks Finding Grace. He's making choices about duct tape repairs for his ALS. What does he want patched up, patched over, at least for a while? Duct tape repairs are all that modern medicine has to offer these days for ALS.

It's kind of a downer to read about. I sat in the chair waiting to see the eye doctor this afternoon praying over this, but with no words for it.

I'm his mother. I think he's perfect. I always have, from the first moment his scraggly red newborn self was lifted into my tired but surprised embrace. It was a long labor. I'd forgotten the reason for it, but oh my! His four-month-old round-headed smile was perfect. His goofy butt-scoot crawling was perfect. His love for his six-year-old buddies was exemplary. (Is it any wonder there's a whole Gronks Grace team fighting ALS with him?)  His struggle with baseball was perfect. His choice of a special education career was so right for someone so intuitive about quirky kids. His love for his family--his father, his mother, his siblings--makes us all happier, better people.

Praying in words would be mere duct tape--fix this, send that, trying to specify where and how God should make repairs. Duct-taping things together is what the team of specialists at the ALS clinic do, and their work is important to Kris's well-being. Prayer asks for grace, for mercy, for holy presence, for healing and wholeness of the soul. "The Grace catches up to me later," says Kris.

Thank God, still perfect.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bastille Day, 2016

In moments when my mind is considering all the possible things that can happen, I sometimes think about how so many of the things we do every day require that we trust one another. And by one another, I mean trust our fellow citizens, the ones who are complete strangers.

We're driving cars at 70 miles an hour. Some of us are carrying lethal weapons. We all have it in our power to hurt others, to be completely selfish. And yet we queue up at the grocery store with 15 items or less in our carts. We don't talk during the movie (mostly). We don't spit in the salad bar. We don't push one another over the rails of bridges or onto the subway rail. We stay in our lanes. We try not to lash out in irrational anger against people we don't know. (People we're close to--that's a more complicated story.)

When driving, we don't drive up onto the sidewalk. We don't run into one another with our vehicles.

But now there's Nice.

Seventy people dead in a truck attack. (WTF is a truck attack?) People who were kicking back and watching fireworks and celebrating Bastille Day in a popular vacation spot.

That's a big failure of the social contract.

I was in a crowd similar to that in Nice last Saturday evening, watching people young and old enjoy Latin music and Latin dancing. The outdoor dance floor was packed. Couples on the sidewalk were showing off some fancy steps. My friends and I sat on a blanket with food and drink all around us. We took up a lot of space, but nobody stepped on the corners of our bright orange blanket. Nobody came crashing through the middle, knocking over the pasta salad. Everyone around us seemed to be having fun, and everyone had space in which to enjoy the rhythm and the music and the beautiful summer evening.

"So many people," my Aunt Clara used to wonder. "Where do they all come from?" Think about it that way and it's hard to imagine that all these strangers can coexist together in a big city, reasonably trusting one another.

Until terrorism undermines that trust. That--not the deaths--is the goal, to put everyone on edge, to allow no one to feel safe, to force everyone to deal from fear.

Snipers shooting at police officers also undermine that trust. Racism is a huge blot upon that trust. Inequality and greed threaten trust.

But other things pull us together--suffering, tears, joy, music, what we want for our children, the tenderness we feel toward newborns, the awe we feel when confronting death. These are experiences we share as human beings, and humanity is a very big thing to have in common. It's powerful--look how far we've come. Look how many hearts will reach out to the families in France, to the families of  Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, to the families of the police officers killed in Dallas, to all who wait or watch or pray tonight.

God bless our shared humanity, the humanity Christ has redeemed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Obama in Dallas

You gotta love a president who starts a speech by quoting St. Paul:
Scripture tells us that in our sufferings, there is glory, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Sometimes the truths of these words are hard to see. Right now, those words test us because the people of Dallas, people across the country are suffering.
Especially if you're a Lutheran, and a Lutheran blogger who spent some time with that passage (Romans 5:3-5) on Trinity Sunday, May 22.

What suffering can do was a theme of President Obama's speech today in Dallas, at the memorial for the five police officers killed on Thursday night at the Black Lives Matter protest. The President talked about suffering and sharing suffering, acknowledging one another's griefs and hardships, how this can lead us to see one another's truth. (Read or watch the speech here.)

He returned to Romans in the middle of the speech:
I understand. I understand how Americans are feeling. But Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds.
I know we’ll make because of what I’ve experienced in my own life; what I’ve seen of this country and its people, their goodness and decency, as president of the United States. And I know it because of what we’ve seen here in Dallas, how all of you out of great suffering have shown us the meaning of perseverance and character and hope.
And at the end:
We also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. For all of us, life presents challenges and suffering. Accidents, illnesses, the loss of loved ones; there are times when we are overwhelmed by sudden calamity, natural or man-made. All of us, we make mistakes, and at times we are lost.
And as we get older, we learn we don’t always have control of things, not even a president does. But we do have control over how we respond to the world. We do have control or how we treat one another....

It turns out we do not persevere alone. Our character is not found in isolation. Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down, it is found by lifting others up.
Gotta run--but I can't add anything to this. Gonna miss this president.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Nothing like distance to heighten one's sense of the ridiculous. 

I coined that little saying yesterday and was rather proud of myself for doing so. It sounded great at the moment, but as I think about it, it's really not all that smart. It's a simple tautology, a statement that is repetitive and circular in its logic. Absolutely you have to take that step back and create or acknowledge some distance in order to see the contradictions that make something funny. At the same time, taking the step back makes a break in how you view something and the step all by itself calls forth laughter. 

It's the WTF moment. Or the one where your dog is looking at you and tilts his head about 30 degrees to the left. Yeah? Really? Ya' think?

Please know that there's an inner smile growing in the part of my brain that is watching the part that is writing this stuff. If I analyze this much longer I will have to laugh at myself and then I will lose all faith in the writing of this blog post. 

What I really wished to write about was how distance and a sense of the ridiculous lighten social situations. Chatting, talking, giving, receiving, but not being trapped or defined by that moment. Is his a start on what  a Buddhist might mean by non-attachment? Which is, at the same time, mindful? You see, you engage, you're there in the moment, but others do not define you. You are someone, something else. And you are laughing with joy.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


In upbeat times, I'm often cynical. In agonizing times, I look for hope.

It's what you would expect of someone blogging as The Perverse Lutheran. It may be that one of my foundational beliefs is that things have to get really bad to start getting better, so if they're pretty awful, hope can't be far away.

Or maybe I just believe that things are never quite as they seem.

After the grief and sorrow of this week, with the deaths of two black men at the hands of police officers and the mass killing of five police officers by an angry black military veteran, I found hope in a couple of places yesterday. My Saturdays are often spent in and out of the car, so thanks be to NPR for bringing me the world as I drive.

The first place was in President Obama's news conference and how he did not hesitate to describe both problems with policing in the African-American community and the problems faced by police, including how guns complicate interactions and endanger both citizens and law enforcement officials.  No politics--yeah, yeah, I know opponents, especially of gun safety would argue--but really, he described the world as it is, in all its complications, nuance, hardship and sorrow. But Obama's rational, thoughtful manner made me believe there are solutions and that talking about the problem, naming it on every side, can make space for understanding and working together.

The other thing I heard on the car radio was a segment on the TED Radio Hour titled "Do Animals Have Morals?" They do--or at least they have the basic emotions that lead to moral behavior. (Listen or read the transcript here.) Frans de Waal, the researcher who was interviewed, and colleagues have designed experiment in which primates show fairness, empathy, cooperation. Chimps reconcile after fights. They console those who are upset. Humans face more complicated choices, but still, morality comes from emotions that are wired into us, not from reasoning, philosophy, or religion. How can we harness those things?

I know there's also research that shows how tribal humans are, that our best impulses may not quite extend to those outside of the group of people who, for whatever reasons, we count as our own. Jesus, after all, made the hero of the parable a Samaritan, going against the expectation of his listeners in order to teach that empathy and care for someone in need were more important to God than clannishness or purity.

But still--we were created to live together in cooperation, sharing one's another's joys and sorrows, puzzling—and protesting—when things go wrong, like the monkeys do in the cucumber-and-grapes experiment show in Dr. de Waal's  TED Talk.

That's something to build on as we talk about how people in our diverse American society can create a better future for all. Lord have mercy, and show us your way.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

New every day

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

So said Henry James. But today I'm thinking it's summer mornings that are most beautiful. There's a breeze this morning and the sound of air, of breath, moving through maple trees. The leaves on the grapevine in my backyard are all a-quiver as they shade and nourish the hard green grapes underneath. There are birds, and even the sound of distant sirens headed for the hospital ER does not disrupt the beauty and the peace of this morning.

The patch of grass in my backyard is overrun with Queen Anne's lace. A week ago I tried to cut the stalks down, to make my weeds conform--if you were looking from far enough away--to the concept of "lawn." But they're back, tenfold! Solid lush green grass would perhaps be more restful on the eyes, certainly closer to the suburban well-kept ideal, but I'm good with a little wilderness meadow next to my cracked cement patio. I'm good.

And now there's a tiny rabbit, too--an infant with delicate ears, no taller than the grass. I'm glad he/she is safe in my backyard. (If I still had a dog, I'd be writing a different story.)

We've had a rough week here in the U. S., confronting fear and injustice, hate, vengeance, helplessness. It can't be wrong to stop for a while, to contemplate the clouds, listen to the pneuma, the spirit, the breath of God moving over all creation--its tender rabbits, its hard urban edges, its people who carry God's own image, though all too often unaware of this image in themselves and others.

The tiny rabbit in the weeds is quietly eating breakfast, alert but trusting, curious. The world is new every day.

Friday, July 08, 2016

July 8, 2016

How are we ever going to sort this all out?

Two days, two police shootings of innocent black men, with horrifying video on social media. And then a night when six policemen protecting a peaceful protest are killed by snipers.


This isn't Syria. This isn't war. But it is America, where the original sin was slavery, where the rhetoric of "all men are created equal" in the founding document did not include men of African ancestry (and did not grant full personhood to any women at all).

Statesmen knew this was going to be a problem. Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia:
Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a context.
Abraham Lincoln, in his Second Inaugural Address:
The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
The discussion about justice is shifting in 2016. We're not talking slavery any more, or flagrant Jim Crow laws, we're talking Black Lives Matter. We're beginning to recognize institutional racism, how the system is built on assumptions about white privilege, how laws and history have created systems that are hard to escape but are no less unjust.

I live in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb whose eastern border is Chicago's west side. Back in the 1960s, as racial change and destructive housing practices crept westward through the city towards Oak Park, the village made a deliberate and largely successful effort to avoid resegregation and to integrate its schools and neighborhoods. Good for us!—or is that white privilege using its power to preserve its own property values? There's still an "achievement gap" between black and white students at the high school and racial disparities there in discipline and suspensions. We talk about these things in our local newspaper and in local elections, but there's a lot more hand-wringing than there are answers.

Racism has surfaced in our national politics in the "Make America great again" candidacy of Donald Trump. Most news media pundits are appalled, but a significant portion of them explain the Donald's appeal as the response of the economically disenfranchised, these are voters reacting to the disappearance of well-paying manufacturing jobs for those without a college education. But others cite polls that suggest Trump supporters are reacting to "the browning of America," to demographic change that threatens white control. There's a black man in the White House who's a powerful symbol of that change and a target for hateful responses.

Maybe the good news for America about Trump's candidacy is that it's brought racial hatred out in the open, where it can be named and disavowed, if not outright rejected. But the knee-jerk anger, the spite, the hatred are frightening. (See "Hang Hillary" in The New Republic.)

And there is anger on the other side. A comment about one of the snipers in Dallas, from the New York Times at 8:25am this morning:
The Dallas police chief, David O. Brown, said the gunman who was killed had “said he was upset at Black Lives Matter, said he was upset about the recent police shootings.” 
Chief Brown said, “The suspect said he was upset at white people; the suspect said he wanted to kill white people.” He was especially upset at white police officers, said Chief Brown. 
“This must stop, this divisiveness between police and citizens,” said Chief Brown said, who is black.
How will we stop it--not just the divisiveness between police and citizens, but between black and white, between those unaware of their privilege and those victimized by it, between the haves and the have-nots, between those who hold tightly to their place in society and those who know that America has always regarded them as "other" and not entitled to full freedom?

We've seen so much violence in the last 48 hours, in the last month, the sudden and fatal violence of gunshots, followed by arterial blood seeping through the shirts of victims. As Christians we worship a God revealed in Jesus, who died a violent. tortured death on the cross but then was resurrected. Will this heal a broken world? Fast enough? We wait.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 
 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:22ff)
The news from Dallas was appearing on my phone as I went to bed last night. On Facebook I posted a statement of prayer "for all in the valley of the shadow of death." It seemed feeble. I added an exclamation point for emotion and it looked even sillier, even more hopeless.

Grief and lament--I'll hand that off to the Spirit today. I'll begin to look for my role in sorting this all out.  Because we must.