Advent is for Ferguson


During the Dirty War, the children of Argentina went missing.

In homes, parents awoke to find empty beds; in market squares, they felt small hands slip swiftly out of theirs, out of sight, gone.


The military had been snatching children of political dissidents. They dropped them into the disappearing holes of adoption agencies or tortured and killed them, leaving them in the nearest ditch, all in an effort to intimidate those that opposed the powers that be. All in an effort to silence.


But the grieving mothers of these boys and girls would not be silenced.


They took to the streets, marching straight to heart of the state: the Presidential Palace. As they moved, swift like a storm, they sang a song that reflected both their broken hearts and their righteous rage, their demands for justice, for fairness, for a world where their children were still in it. They sang Mary’s song. The Magnificat.

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,


    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,


for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;


for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

    and holy is his name.


And his mercy is for those who fear him

    from generation to generation.


He has shown strength with his arm;

    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;


he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

    and exalted those of humble estate;


he has filled the hungry with good things,

    and the rich he has sent away empty.


He has helped his servant Israel,

    in remembrance of his mercy,


as he spoke to our fathers,

    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)


Mary’s words, drawn from the depths of her defiant soul towards the hard road before her, have long been an ominous threat to those in power.


In India, the song was banned from being sung, even in church, because the Brits saw it as an act of aggression. The same happened in impoverished Guatemala the government of which feared the idea of a lower class with hope. Mary was seen a symbol of insurrection. A threat.


I, along with everyone else with a TV or internet connection, have watched as the national camera has moved from the injustice done to Michael Brown and his family to the violent anger of it’s inhabitants. It has become the story that has dominated the headlines, giving ammunition to all of our conservative facebook friends who have posted things about the “savagery” and “recklessness” of these “militants.”


I too grieve for the owners and employees who watched their livelihoods literally burn to the ground. I grieve for the Public Library, all those books, now in a heap of ash. Looting should make us grieve. Pain is pain.


But I am careful to watch how the anger moves from loss of life to loss of property and how the general public gives greater weight to the latter.


I am careful to remember the way the camera zooms in on the burning buildings and away from the candle lit vigils and the crowd chanting for reform and those doing the difficult work of drafting petitions, defiantly seeking out avenues of change in a system that is dead set against them.


The God Mary sings to is one who wishes to bring down the powers that accept the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, the imprisonment of Marissa Alexander, so they might bolster the system that will do it again and again. It’s the God you will find in the Ferguson masses, chanting along in their weariness and their frustration. Shouting something that shouldn’t have to be said: Black Lives Matter. Standing through tear gas and intimidation, refusing to go down. Holding out hope for a country where they don’t have to defend their right to exist.


Advent is for Ferguson, for the Magnificat, for the mother’s of Michael and Trayvon and countless others, for the oppressed longing for Kingdom come. It’s for all of us to stand in solidarity, to be silent no more.

Faith in a Dark World


I see the sun for about twenty seconds on a given weekday. I fall in its’ path as I pull up on the rising freeway on my way to work. I watch it pour and sparkle across the snow shrouded homes and rows of trees until it comes on my face as I stare longingly into it. It gets dark very early now, so I know I won’t see the sun until this time tomorrow.


I’m in a darkness I do not understand. Winter, for me, always arrives in different degrees of intensity. Some seasons are very hard, then others, I can manage. Consistently, though, the darkness seems to play into some inner angst: I come swimming into the winter, working my way toward wellness, and I am at once hit by wave after wave of bitter cold wind and shorter and sharper days, but this winter is somehow different.


This winter, I know who I am and I love myself. All things inside are chirping away happily. All things considered, I have a clean bill of emotional health.


So maybe I should count it a blessing that this winter, I am not so inwardly focused. I am staring out. Eyes are wide open. Maybe I would, maybe I could, count blessings, if I wasn’t pinned on my back by the dark of the world.  It is a fallen wall on top me. The whole world is groaning. I hear it, I see it and I cannot stop.


I felt it first in the force of a six-year-olds’ anger: a small boy who tells me he likes to hurt people, whispers death threats on his teachers, and says red is favorite color because of blood. No matter how much I affirm him as good and kind inside, his haunting words keep coming out. And I can’t help, but wonder if God is asleep at the wheel with this boy.


The dark floods in again with the News and my inbox, suddenly filled with real stories of sexual abuse. And it is such heavy dark.


Two people stood on the church stage the other night, both recovering addicts, both telling their stories of failed suicide attempts. For one, the rope broke. For the other, the gun jammed. We stood in applause at the God that surely intervened, shoving them away from the abyss, but I couldn’t stop thinking about those for whom the rope held strong, the gun didn’t jam. Those in violent neighborhoods with bullets flying into their house. The family in Syria there, then gone. The unpredictable dark that keeps torpedoing all around us, and we’re so selective in how we question it.


It’s enough to make faith feel foolish.


It doesn’t help me when I hear one pastor (just the other night) launch into an exhortation about how “if you’re praying to Allah, you’re in trouble. If you’re praying to Buddha, you’re in trouble. We all have to bow down to the one true King.” There are other less toxic expressions, like God is God, and I am limited, and He’s Got a Purpose, but all in all, it’s the same rug covering of the hard questions no one wants to ask.


Because what about the Muslims? The Buddhists? Those raised to believe in something else entirely? What about those non-believers departed in successful suicides? What about the abused? The refugees crawling toward the border? The very old one suffering endlessly in a nursing home, ready for this all to be done?


What about the six-year-old boy becoming one with the darkness?


I am confused. I am looking up, like Sarah Bessey, asking, “where are you? Wake up! Take over! Heal! Be!


I am looking still.


I am waiting in the grief of longing. Of wanting my faith to fit in this world that is densely dark. I am letting Advent come to me, try and prove me wrong. I am hanging on to the early sight of sun. I am clutching my pouch of mustard seeds. I am trying and waiting and hoping, not in the impossible answers to arrive, but in some kind of real peace. The one that isn’t trite, that isn’t phony, that is not a rug. The one that sails this faith into the deep of the darkness and remains unaffected, floating, strong.