Seeking a New Thanksgiving

I remember the moment so clearly. I sat on the steps of the chancel in our church sanctuary, surrounded by the children of our congregation. It was Thanksgiving Sunday and it was time for Children’s Moment.

It was at that moment that I made a mistake. I didn’t realize it was a mistake until decades later, but it was a mistake.

downloadI looked at those children and I told them the tale of my 10th great-grandpa and how he came over on the Mayflower. I told them of how he later gathered with the Wampanoag people, who had helped him and his people survive those first harsh years here in the new land. I said that, together, they all celebrated life and friendship.

Continue reading

An Animal Rights Activist’s Day at the Racetrack

IMG_1795I want to save the whales. And the orcas. The orangutans and the chimpanzees. I want to get the beagles and the rats out of laboratories and the pigs and the cows out of  CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). I am a staunch supporter of the American Humane Society. And PETA. As well as other nonprofits that work to break down the systemic abuse and exploitation of animals. I have long advocated for the end of pet stores, puppy mills, circuses, zoos, rodeos, and all forms of animal entertainment venues. (Sea World, that means you!) And, yet, just a few weeks ago, I found myself happily, indeed, excitedly, seated in Millionaire’s Row at Churchill Downs.

Why? you might ask.

I have asked myself the same question multiple times. Before and since. And my answers are questionable.

IMG_1785I looked at it as an educational experience, telling myself that I can’t truly criticize something without fully understanding it. I wanted to go to be with family and friends, as we celebrated with my daughter and her fellow graduates from a local Louisville University. I wanted to be in a place that has an interesting history. And, of course, I wanted to see pretty horses. Up close and personal, I truly wanted to see the horses, whether they were the gazillion dollar race horses or the companion ponies.

IMG_1793It was an educational experience. I learned things about myself, such as: it’s really fun to pretend to be part of the 1%! I learned things about Churchill Downs and about horse racing and that I can’t pick a winning horse to save my life. Yep. I not only lost the $6 I did bet, I picked the last place horse in 4 other consecutive races. Hmm, if you pick them because of their cool names, it means nothing. Go figure.

But, I learned more than that. I learned that the people involved in horse racing are not all immoral and money grubbing who care nothing for their animals, looking at them only as commodities. Many of them truly love their animals. Immensely.

Unfortunately, my previously conceived notions were correct in that it is still a money making industry and it involves serious competition. So, the horses and their well-being must suffer. And die. As evidenced recently and most horrifically at the Santa Anita Racetrack, these horses will give their all for their owners and for the races. They will run themselves to death, having heart attacks on the track. They will run until their legs break. They will run into precarious situations, becoming so injured they must be put down. A good source  on the horses that have been lost in recent years can be found at Race Horse Death Watch.

IMG_1990After my sojourn into the horse racing world, I found that, for the well-being of my soul, I needed to visit some of the more free-living equines. Since I’m unaware of any wild horses in Kentucky, I had my spouse pull over by one of the horse farms near Lexington.

There, I learned that watching horses run freely in fields is a greater joy than watching them be coerced into doing something they would never do naturally, something that puts them at risk for harm.

I also learned that having a herd of horses suddenly walk towards you out of natural curiosity is profoundly delightful. And having a foal try to eat your clothes and nibble on your hands is somehow a more honest thrill than sitting in Millionaires Row and pretending to be the elite.

I did make a local human resident a bit nervous with my visit to the horses, however. As my ever patient spouse noted, he had driven up behind our car, stopped, and watched me. Very. Closely.

IMG_1993I would like to think that all horses could live wild and free. It’s a lovely concept. However, knowing how so many of our wild horses are suffering from the ill effects of nature and human encroachment, that no longer seems possible.

I don’t know what the future holds for the horses of this world, but I know one thing. We must do better by them. We must stop using them for our entertainment. We must stop abusing them, simply because we are able. And we must learn to respect them for the beautiful, sensitive, sentient beings that they are.


Hippie Freak Jesus, the ACA, and Sacrilege

IMG_0908My family has experienced many health crises, over the years. As a teenager, I learned to clean massive amounts of blood out of white shag carpet and to dress wounds; to stay calm in an emergency and to tend to those in need. In my family, we know life, for better or worse. We know hospitals and doctors, emergency rooms and even funeral homes all too well. We also know that if you have good healthcare, you live and, when you don’t, you die. And when that happens, there is unimaginable pain and the ramifications last for decades. And for generations. Continue reading

Here, With the Grace of God, We Go

original“There, but for the grace of God, go I.” The words are uttered under our breath whenever misfortune strikes another person. Our boundless gratitude is barely contained as we realize we have been spared by some strange twist of fate. Or, as our words infer, God’s grace. And yet, as we look at history, we know that the lack of God’s grace has nothing to do with misfortune or disaster, tragedy or violence.

Today we enter a new era. For too many people, these are bleak and uncertain times. These are the days in which we would look upon others in similar circumstances and think, “There, but for the grace of God…”

But, here we are. Stuck in a situation in which we never imagined we would find ourselves. Imagining, fearing the worst. We find ourselves looking backward at times we’d sooner forget. And we are left wondering how we can prevail upon our better selves, how we can overcome, how we can never let history repeat itself.

Even as others are rejoicing and giving God thanks for what has come to pass, we may wonder: where is God’s grace in all this mess? How could God let this happen?

But God’s grace is not a magic elixir or spell used to protect only the blessed and chosen few. God’s grace is given to all, a gift to carry with us throughout our days even in the darkest of times.

No one knows what these next four years will bring. But what we do know is that God will be with us as surely as God has been with all people thought history when evil strikes. God’s grace will be with us bringing a balm for our wounds; peace to rest our weary, aching souls; strength to face our tomorrows; inspiration to act justly, decisively, unceasingly; wisdom to make right choices and seek and speak truth.

May God bless each of us on this day and throughout what will no doubt be a difficult journey. And may God’s grace carry us forward, keeping us ever in God’s ways as we go.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

One Last Bone


The last treat

A few days ago, I went through my morning routine, grabbed my church survival kit (computer, coffee, keys, cell phone, purse), and prepared to leave the house. My last stop was to the kitchen to grab a bone for our dog. Because that’s what I do every morning. I give her a treat prior to our departure and assure her that we’ll be back.

But, we don’t have our dog, anymore. The previous morning, we had said good-bye to her. So on this morning, as I stood in the kitchen, clutching the doggie bone in my hands, tears running down my cheeks, I wondered what to do with that last bone. Continue reading

Making a Choice

washington-state-voter-registration-formI’m not voting blue no matter who. I thought I was. Then, I thought a bit more.

I don’t just vote the party line because I’m stubborn. I don’t just vote Democrat because I’m a died in the wool Democrat. I still listen to the candidates, pay attention to how they vote, watch how they interact with people. I still study the issues and vote for the person I think will best represent, not only the American people, but the world beyond. Because the person who sits in that oval office has a lot of power. And that both inspires and frightens me. I want to be able to trust that person. So I weigh my vote carefully. Continue reading

A Preacher Walks into a Gay Bar


Me, at a protest. A typical thing. Just reminding people of a seemingly oft-forgotten fact.

The first time I walked into a gay bar, I was hungry, thirsty, and in need of sustenance. A group of college friends and I were enjoying a California spring break adventure. This particular stop took place in San Francisco. We walked in, took a cursory look around, found a table, and sat down. Taking a closer look, once we were seated, we noticed a little something different. To say that we, with our sheltered little Bible college world, were a bit unaccustomed to such things, might be an understatement. To say that we handled it well, well, I leave that to you to judge.

I remember glancing around wondering if anyone would think we were gay. Wondering if they would flirt with us. Wondering, oh, my! What if someone tried to pick up one of us? After all, Brent was rather beautiful. It could happen.

As I say, we were unaccustomed to such things. Continue reading

Why I Will Never Be Politically Correct (Again!)

Getting rid of political correctness and returning to basic, human decency

I will admit that they had me. For a little while, at least. With their political correctness and the need to say and do everything in just the proper manner. Say this, but not that. Never, ever do this. Always do this, instead.

Yes, I listened intently. And then I stopped. And I really listened. And I watched. And I began to I notice that something ugly was taking place throughout our world. Continue reading

A Child Sleeps on the Sand: How People of Faith Respond to a Global Crisis

Illustration by Azaam Daaboul

Illustration by Azaam Daaboul in memory of Aylan Kurdi. Used with permission.

A child lies on the sand, his body washed up by the surf. He should be running, jumping, playing in those waves. Giggling and wiggling his toes into the sand. But the only movement is that caused by the shifting of those tiny sand particles. The ceaseless flow of the water.

He looks as if he is sleeping. Peaceful. At rest. As if he should be curled up on a blanket, nestled in the loving arms of his mama. But she, too, was consumed by the unforgiving, merciless waves. As were his brother and so many others. Continue reading

Dear Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee’s 2015 publication

Dear Harper Lee (and all your editors and publishers, both past and present),

Thank you for your brilliance. Thank your for sharing your insights, experiences and observations of southern life, and a troubled period of our nation’s history, in a way that brings us in with unsettling, heartbreaking honesty, but also with tenderness, humor, and profound grace.

Thank you for To Kill a Mockingbird, a book which touched my young and developing soul and helped shape my character, my life. A book which has shaped generations and will continue to hold a mirror before our eyes, forcing us to see who we are and who we would be.

And thank you for Go Set a Watchman. Your reluctance to share it with the world is understandable. First drafts, second drafts, third, fifth, tenth. They are wrenching, painful works in progress. Continue reading