Thursday, December 18, 2014

In My Father's House There are Many Mansions...

In John 14:2, the Christian Bible reads "My Father's house has many rooms." This verse, actually a prooftext for Trinitarian Christianity, is not one you'll hear often in UU selections from the New Testament. And, actually, upon study of the Greek, a closer reading would be, My father's house has many mansions...

How can a house have mansions? The writer, alleged to be John, was trying to express an idea of the afterlife, where all souls would be compensated for their earthly faithfulness. When I read this passage, I hear a loving Jesus taking words from the Hebrew texts to comfort his followers about his imminent demise. I am going to be with our Father, and soon we will be together again.

Unitarians and Universalists don't focus upon the afterlife, so I'm going to take these words a bit differently. I've been living in my own father's house since August, the one he bought in about 1950 when he and his brother were both bachelors.

Let me just say that in this house there are many mansions with many, many rooms full of memories both wonderful and dreadful, and that all of them have been swirling about me in these past months, living here again after forty years of living in other places.

This is my room.. it used to to be my older brother's room. He read, a lot, and now he's an English professor. I won't talk about his memories, because they are his own, but I will say that my mother died in this room when my twin sister and I were 5 and our brother was 7.

This screened porch is the place where I read so many books as a young girl. There's a wisteria outside that my dad planted. I sometimes slept out on this porch in summer.

Nearby is a park now. I walk there frequently, and think about things. I marvel about getting older, time passing, and how different it would have been if that park were there when I was young. A place to go with my thoughts and dreams and wonderings.
Places: New Jersey has its own culture, and I never even realized this until I was away. Diners, drive-ins, fresh seafood, real pizza, lots of authentic Italian food, a certain attitude, the way people drive, a great directness and loyalty about the people. I never even knew how much I missed it. Part of me never wants to leave again.

This is my home. 

Most of all, these are my people.

There's even a Jazzercise less than 2 miles from my father's house! Remarkably, the house and our 4 acres is pretty much the same, but the surrounding community has grown, so I can access almost anything I want. Still, it feels pretty rural, and within a short drive, I'm back in the Pinelands.

Make new friends, but keep the old. This is Julie, I LOVE her! She's just the greatest woman I've met in Kentucky, and I've lived there fifteen years. 
Julie reminds me of the friends I had when I was a young mom, and had to move away from.. so smart & wise and thoughtful and authentic. So interested in ideas and not what she has or how she looks (although se is very lovely anyway :)


Back in New Jersey, I'm getting to spend time with some of my oldest and most wonderful friends. This is Linda, and no, were were not at Downton Abbey,  just at an exhibit in Delaware. I don't know whether it was me, or Kentucky, but I never had woman friends that I just hung out with and did things with. Here I've been out to breakfast and dinner and the movies, making cookies, and lots more with my old friends. And I'm looking forward to connecting with more of them. I asked myself what all of my most beloved friends had in common. Absolutely, all of them are people who love to learn, are interested in life and people, and who don't judge, who are genuine and whose hearts and  intentions are sincere. I have been so blessed to have such friends!

This Thanksgiving, we were all here at my father's house. All except my oldest son Casey. I've had a chance to reconnect with my stepmom as she struggles with early dementia, and with my younger sister. I've been closer to my daughter who is in Massachusetts. 

Best of all. I've had the space and the time to wander through the many mansions in my father's house. There are locked doors, long, dusty corridors, beautiful courtyards, quiet nooks, and disturbing haints. It's a good time to do this wandering, and wondering, and the mansions are vast.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


I don't know.

I thought it was me. I spent one whole day reading everything. I trolled Facebook and read all the recommended articles (granted, my friend list has pretty much narrowed itself down to liberals and progressives). I even watched TV (msnbc).  I listened to NPR as I drove to and from my interim ministry an hour away. I read comments and online conversations of colleagues in ministry. I lay around contemplating and wondering, praying and just trying to absorb it all, just letting my heart expand to take it in. I couldn't stop watching, and reading, and listening. I cried.

What I didn't do was have conversations with any actual live people. 

I think I just didn't feel that I could take it if they said something awful, or disparaging about Ferguson, or about the protesters. I didn't expect anyone in my congregation to do this. I believe, in fact I know, that they have done and are doing the work. They are actively working to become anti-racist. I feel confident that I can speak to them this Sunday without fear or anxiety. That is not how all my colleagues, even in our very liberal Unitarian Universalist churches, feel about this issue. Many have already been questioned, maligned, and verbally assaulted for speaking out and speaking up. So I know that I am blessed and that I have been blessed in the congregations I have served. And: I take some credit as well. I don't ever let racism go un-addressed.

That's Melissa Harris-Perry. You know that. I saw her in Lexington, KY last year with my daughter. I'm holding her book, Sister Citizen.  Until this week, I hadn't read it. It was up at Smith College with Marjorie. She tackles every topic related to women of color, power, politics, and black motherhood... a fabulous piece of work. She writes at length about Michelle Obama, some complimentary, some not so much.

This is a bit off track, but simply the fact that this very week someone had the nerve to criticize his teenage daughters for what they wore and their expressions as if they were somehow common trashy people... just shows the way that people have treated the Obama family from day One. It amazes me that the President and Mrs. Obama have endured it with so much grace and elan.

But Melissa H-P is writing about women, and how they respond to racism, both personal and institutional. As I read her words, it came to me that I would address the Brown decision (and then, as I wrote my homily, the Garner case hit the news) through the lens of a mother's eyes.. a white mother who has evolved slowly to feel deeply the pain and suffering of women and mothers of color. I would talk about my own decades long journey, one I am still on.

So, interestingly, the first live person with whom I discussed the events of the past few weeks, other than my kids, was my dear friend of 40 years, Brenda. We have known each other through marriages and divorce (mine), 7 kids and one grandchild, illness and health, and across the miles have remained close. That is all because she is such a wonderful person.

I am not a great one for keeping in touch! Funny that I'm a writer, because I'm "one poor correspondent," as the song says. She, on the other hand, is faithful and always thoughtful... never forgets an occasion or fails to make time for a visit when I'm in town if she is at home.

There are so many examples of synchronicity in our friendship. Even the way we met, working at a restaurant at the shore, then met up again when our husbands were in a wedding together, and then, after many more decades, ran into one another at STONEHENGE (see picture) when neither of us even knew the other was traveling to the UK... in fact, we were on the same very small tour of 6 people who went out to Stonehenge together.

After Eric and I adopted Seth, Brenda was so supportive. She'd always sent Marjorie little gift packages at holidays and now Marj was grown, but she resumed doing so with Seth. She has an Autistic nephew, so she knew just how to please him and make him feel welcomed and relaxed when ever we visited New Jersey. During the years that we went through his "I want to be a girl" phase, she even gave him a Barbie doll. So... wonderful friend.

Our religious beliefs are somewhat different, as she is more of an orthodox Christian, but I could see as years went by that she became more and more open to understanding and accepting all the different ways people had of approaching God and of being in touch with what they understood to be holy. I recall that once she told me she'd gone to Buddhist meditation at a nearby monastery. 

So, really, I should have been prepared for what she told me today.

I hadn't seen her since I've returned to New Jersey, so we had breakfast and talked for two hours! At that, we could have talked longer. But it was she who brought up Ferguson. She said that it was just weighing upon her so heavily and that she and her husband had been discussing it. She spoke about her sister, who has been a police officer in Texas for decades, and how she had just been thinking so much about all of it and all the way back to slavery.

And then she said, I just feel that we have to pay Black people. We have to make reparation for slavery. Just like what was done for victims of the Holocaust. For Vietnam. It will never begin to be right until we go back and get that right.

I was just flummoxed. Here I am, reading Facebook posts from UU ministers who have people in their congregations who don't even agree that we should be saying #blacklivesmatter and my beautiful, loving, compassionate friend, whom I thought was a little bit conservative, is talking about the MOST radical idea, thank you very much: reparations.

We talked some more. I shared with her my ideas for my sermon: how I had come to see that even though my early years were very much passively racist in that there was no exposure to persons of color until I went to high school, and my father especially made it clear that African American people were unwelcome in our home. I told her how it was literature that first opened my eyes and heart. In fact, it was a short story by Eudora Welty called A Worn Path. There came a huge shift in my consciousness that day.

She then shared with me that when she was in college, she made a collage of happy faces. A Black woman sitting next to her asked her why there weren't any black faces in her collage. She replied that she guessed there weren't any in the magazines she read. She went on to ruminate about this. For both of us, these were moments which shattered the white world we had walked in. I suspect they are given to every white person. The difference is that some of us allow them to awaken us. This moment, as we shared these memories, was so profound. I pray that every Caucasian person have such a conversation.

I went to Trader Joe's. I went to Shop Rite. I took my stepmom to the bank. I saw Black people and I felt like I could look them in the eye. I felt so much love, such an open, open heart. It was real.

And so the world spins on. Don't count anyone out. We're all marching toward love. We're going to get there. Let's keep pulling one another along, however we can. 

Monday, November 24, 2014


Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a Food Bank in Atlantic City.

The irony of it all was not lost upon me as I drove the few short miles from the congregation I am serving in Galloway, NJ across the causeway to the home of huge casinos, ticky-tacky shops, and block upon block of urban poverty. There are probably few places where affluence and need rub elbows so conspicuously. The last time I was in AC was decades ago. I barely remember the evening, but I know it was during my first marriage, and we drove in to see a show and then left.

So, my work that day may have helped a few people, but it had the biggest impact on me.

This relatively modest food bank, housed at St. Andrews Lutheran Church, had prepared almost 200 sets of bags to give away. As I arrived at eight AM, I had to walk past a line of several dozen folks waiting patiently for thee doors to open... at TEN AM. Yes. People arrived and stood outside for more than two hours, a very cold morning, to be sure they got two grocery bags of canned and packaged food, and a small portion of eggs, meat and produce.

At the very front of the line sat an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair, who caught my attention as I passed the folks, most of whom greeted me with a "Good Morning." He held out an empty water bottle and asked whether I could fill it for him. I asked him to wait a moment, and upon entering, I introduced myself to the pastor who was already in the front office, and repeated the request. "Normally the answer would be no. But just do it so everyone doesn't see, or we'll have to get water for everybody." The man was so grateful. All I did was fill a small bottle with water.

For the next six hours, we worked steadily to fill and distribute bags. I counted food items, passed bags to the front, took IDs and helped folks adjust the bags for transport. Many of the clients had carts for carrying the bags, a few said they had a ride or a vehicle, but some had nothing except their own two arms to carry away two very heavy bags filled with cans of beans, bags of rice, frozen meat, and produce. Those in wheelchairs had to somehow attach the bags to the chair so they could maneuver the food back home. Not everyone took the frozen meat. Hundreds of AC's casino workers live in run-down hotels where they have nothing except a microwave to prepare food.

Our clients were amazingly cheerful and courteous. It was clear that they were accustomed to the drill: wait for hours and then go through a screening to make sure you are who you say you are (people have to be registered, and can only do so by showing ID, household bills, etc), then show your ID again as you pick up the food. For anyone who still thinks the poor are lazy, this would be a wonderful antidote. It seemed to me much more challenging and demeaning than any job.

Still, I loved being there. The volunteers were instructed to treat each guest kindly and to welcome them warmly, and we did. Even a shred of respect and dignity seems to brighten the day for these folks. That evening, a sea of faces swam before me as I drove home. I couldn't easily dismiss the images of indigence I had encountered. I understood the headlines now. Atlantic City casinos have closed down in swift succession this fall, each time leaving thousands of people without work. The situation of AC's poor has worsened dramatically, as more and more folks compete for scarce relief. Hence, the long lines at this, and I assume, all food banks.

There are hundreds of food banks in New Jersey. Hundreds of thousands of people do not have enough to eat. This includes children and the elderly and infirm. The need is appalling when set beside the affluence that is the world of the casinos and wealthy patrons.

I spent some time looking at food bank activity in my home state, Kentucky.The  church I served in Lexington always gave money and food donations to God's Pantry. 

Still, I had never visited their website, nor had I made an effort to find out who the hungry are. Our church was located in a suburban part of town, and it didn't occur to me to do so. Most of the poorest and neediest folks in Kentucky live in the eastern counties, in Appalachia. It's entirely possible to navigate life without encountering these folks. And, many of us do. One has to make an intentional effort to meet them. And there is no single profile.... the poor in KY are mostly white, while at least 90% of those I served on Thursday were people of color: African American and Hispanic. Appalachia has always been poor, but the closing of mines in past decades, combined with the elimination of federal and state programs, has spurred a situation of dire need.

People of faith are commanded to help the poor:

Christian texts and Hebrew alike call for giving to the poor. Sadly, many have used the quote from the gospels ("The poor will always be with you..") to justify a complacency: If there will always be poverty, why try to fix it? But the original text, which Jesus referenced, is clear. In Deuteronomy, Moses gives the command of God thus:
You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.11"For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'

Plenty of us feel we've done our part by donating money or food. Can we do more? Of course. Others (and I've heard this plenty from liberals) use the phrase "a hand up, not a hand out."

But just one day at a food bank will convince you that the "hand up" approach will never reach everyone. Circumstances of birth, mental illness, chronic ailments, and so many other factors combine to keep millions from being able to even take that hand. Meanwhile, we are called upon to feed them.

I think we must  make caring and compassion a priority, regardless of our faith or beliefs. 
We can start by examining how much food we waste and our own consumption.

Absolutely, we must work to change the system to minimize hunger.

But accepting that there will always be those who are poor must  never lead to complacency. The Buddhist teachings include a command to "sustain the gaze." This means to not look away when confronted with suffering. I believe many, many, otherwise compassionate and generous folks do not volunteer at food banks and missions because they care  and hence are unable to simply give to some without feeling guilty or compelled to fix everything. For me, sustaining the gaze means making an intentional effort to be in contact and solidarity with those who are in need, suffering, or otherwise afflicted. I also feel impelled to make sure my children learn this, and aren't sheltered from the need. It ought to be a part of their spiritual upbringing.

Do I do so? Not nearly often enough. So what I have written is for me as well as you. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Story of My Life in One Airplane Flight

 I got on the plane to return to New Jersey, already exhausted and fragile after barely recovering from a full-blown migraine that started at six AM. An injection of imitrex stopped the vomiting, and another dose taken with half a Coke at the airport got me through security and onto the plane. So let's
just say I didn't find it charming when a fellow passenger boarded the plane with a female who may have been his sister (my best guess) and practically fell into my lap. "Sorry, bro," he mumbled.

"Did you call me bro?" I laughed.

"Oh, sorry." He turned toward me as he tried to get into his seat across the aisle from me,and I got a full blast of the alcohol oozing from every pore of his body. Wow.

Maybe he'll just. Fall. Asleep.

"That's okay. I've been called worse."

But two minutes later, as the announcements were finishing up and the plane was taxiing toward the runway, the man's cell phone rang, and he fished it out of his pocket and loudly started telling whomever was on the end that it was too late for him to get off the plane, it was about to take off. Obviously, he was being taken somewhere to sober up, dry out, or something equally unpleasant.

I did not want the flight to be delayed because someone was ignoring the rules, so I whispered, "You're supposed to turn that off."

Quickly his sister/friend/chaperon grabbed it from him and turned it off.

Time passed. We got our drinks, and blessedly, they weren't selling alcohol on the short flight from Lexington to Detroit. 

At one point, the man turned to me, tapped me on the arm (you never tap me on the arm, ever!)  and said, "If you would just relax, everything would be fine."



It is such a miracle that I did not stand up and go Bridesmaids on him right then and there. He SO picked the wrong person to say that to. No, Mr. Reeking of Alcohol, everything will NOT be fine if I relax. People like YOU will make sure it's never fine. People like Y-O-U have been ruining my day since 1955; in fact, very likely even earlier than that. Your mistakes, your messy lives, your sad excuses, your wasted miserable days, and your whole exhausting routine have made 101% certain that things are FAR FROM FINE. EVER. Thank you very much.

But I didn't do that.

I looked at Mr. Reeking of Alcohol, and his one eye was completely bloodshot, and I felt so much sadness and compassion for him.  I knew that like some people very close to me he was trapped in a place he could not get out of and didn't need my scorn and anger.

So when he suggested I relax, instead of launching into aforementioned rant, I smiled at him.

"I'm trying, bro." I said.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


I was waiting at the Philly airport a few weeks ago after returning from my first trip home to Kentucky. I'll be doing a lot of this. It was a pleasant evening, and the safety officer was jovial and conversant.

Suddenly, a burst of noisy engines signaled the arrival of several souped up motorcycles. The riders parked, hopped off, and left the bikes at the curb. A bit indignant, but curious, I wondered, what next? 

The friendly officer strode over and offered explanation to me and the elderly woman sitting next to me: "These are the only people we allow to break the rules. They're veterans, and they come to welcome families who have lost a loved one in service."

I turned around and saw saw the four men and one women, variously clad in leather, denim, chains, and Harley insignia, encircle, embrace, and generally envelope an arriving family.

Clearly, they had a purpose. 

My younger sister, with whom I live while working here in New Jersey, rescues Great Danes. She can't say no, especially to the old ones and the ones with special needs. The guy on the bed above is L.J. He's not that old, but has kidney failure, and is probably only going to be with us a few more days. She's had him for 5 years. Right now there are four dogs, counting the Jack Russell, and three horses! 

The animals take a lot of care, time, money, and energy. But she never seems to get upset -- at least not at the ones who are sick or needy. This is her purpose.

Do we find our purpose or does it find us?

About five years ago, it became clear that my husband Eric and I were going to become parents again in midlife, to a four year old with special needs! (later diagnosed with high-functioning Autism) Seth is my sister's grandson, but needed consistent parenting and a stable home. We have been  Mom & Dad since then. I would never have imagined or named this as my purpose for this chapter of my life... but there you have it.

It's been frustrating, challenging, hilarious, touching, infuriating, and very rewarding.

Here's Seth with a few of his cousins.

Twenty years ago, upon entering the ministry, I thought my purpose was to be a stellar UU minister, to do amazing social justice work, to help eliminate racism, to end child abuse... I had so many dreams! I had to scale back my big ideas one after one. I'm satisfied now with the work I've done, and I'm at a turning point as I enter a new decade and a new form of ministry. Now I'm a little more willing to let my purpose find me, and to be willing to listen when it does.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

CALVARY: Going To the Cross for Childhood Sexual Abuse.

At first, I skipped the listing for this film. The actor in the promotional photo, who played a priest, looked like a military officer, and I thought it was a movie about the Civil war. But when I read that it had been filmed in Sligo, Ireland, I was in. It had good ratings and promised scenery from my favorite part of Ireland, the stomping grounds of Yeats, Ben Bulben and Innisfree and the rugged northwest coast. What could be better on a rainy Sunday?

I’m still befuddled as to how this film could be listed as a comedy. Dark humor does enhance its storyline, but the subject matter is not funny. A priest in a small village is warned in confessional that he will be killed within the week, not because of anything he’s done, but because the erstwhile killer seeks revenge for having been serially raped by another priest as a young boy, a man who is now deceased.

This is an absolutely beautiful and also devastating film. I could not move for several minutes after it ended. Other critics have written about how the movie endeavors to show both the futility of religion and the necessity of the priesthood at the same time. Yes. I think most clergypersons would get that immediately. Although the majority of the characters were either doubters or atheists, the human need for ministry and even for the professional ministry rang clear and true.
In the simple love and loyalty of the priest for all of his people, from the most heinous sinner to the most pious churchgoer, the viewer sees that there is God come to earth. When he tells another priest that he has no integrity, he adds, that is only the worst thing I could say about you. This is a man of integrity, and the title is accurate, for he is set up as a type of modern-day Jesus, going to the cross for sins he didn’t commit. I think critics, and especially theologians, are going to find flaws in this, but I want to speak to it from a more personal angle.

As someone who has lived with the knowledge of childhood sexual abuse committed by a family member, as well as a clergywoman who has listened to countless stories of childhood victimization, I am deeply aware of the toll of this transgression upon the victims. I actually understand the rage that could be so all consuming it could make an otherwise peaceful person resort to violence.

People who sexually abuse children are pretty horrendous. Most of us would agree that they are sick. This is actually a very difficult condition to treat, and these people probably ought to be pitied. But that’s difficult, because they also tend to be deceptive, manipulative, and often charming and successful.  They fool people who then enable them to get away with their crimes for decades while dozens of children are added to the list of the walking wounded.

In our family’s case, the perpetrator is now in his sixties, and, as far as I know, no one but me has confronted or made accusations toward him.  Since he was not yet an adult when the crimes I know about occurred, we don’t have legal recourse. All we have are suspicions and the silence of those who won’t speak up.

The world is full of so much terror and grief. I hate war but I understand how it happens. I loathe terrorism but I can see how it gets started. Gangs and drugs and even robbery all make sense at some level, although I wish they didn’t happen. But sexual abuse of children? It’s just so incomprehensible. 

Viewers will walk away from this movie wondering how this protagonist could give his life for sins committed in the past, by others. What I ask now is that some of us, victims and allies, commit acts of courage to save the lives and the futures of children from sins that have yet to be committed. We all have to tell what we know, to someone safe, now. Please.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Everything that Dies Someday Comes Back... and then it goes the other way, too, Boss.

Remember the Springsteen song, Atlantic City? When it came out, it was a resurrection song, a good one too.

That wasn't too long before I left New Jersey for seminary, the ministry, and pursuits that took me to places hither and yon. I paid very little attention to what was happening in A.C.

But I hadn't paid much attention before I left, either. Casino gambling arrived whilst I was in my early twenties, and my first husband and I went to the casinos a total of two times. We saw Frank Sinatra, who was paunchy and testy and sang about four songs before setting down his glass and walking offstage. Still. What an amazing thing to think about now!

I have never gambled. At least, not with money. Never bought a lottery ticket, not once. What can I say? I am so utterly opposed to a system that lures people who can ill afford it to place their hopes on some pie in the sky day when they will be happy just because they hit it rich. I believe so strongly that we must endeavor to be content in this moment with what we do or do not have that I can't endorse or take part in gambling. 

I've supported efforts to keep Kentucky from having legalized gambling. We do have horse racing, but so far, no casinos.

So... strangely enough, here I am, serving a congregation just a few miles from what was the Casino mecca of the east coast!

Before I knew I'd be back here, so close to home, Hurricane Sandy had me riveted to the news, as it did most of the nation. I saw with great relief that my beloved Long Beach Island as well as A.C. was spared the worst of her wrath.

Nonetheless, I find that other forces have conspired to lay the once burgeoning resort low. Casinos have been suffering, it seems, for quite some time. Plans have fallen through, competition has arisen in neighboring states, and major investors have pulled out. Most recently, three casinos have closed or are about to close, leaving hundreds unemployed.

This is alarming. Perhaps to those who have lived in its midst, it does not seem shocking. You've had twenty years to watch the demise of the patient. All that's left is to sit back and see what the collective wisdom will come up with to make the place work.. or not, going forth. 

I am so delighted that the UU Congregation of the South Jersey Shore has already signed on to take part in an interfaith initiative to house families who are displaced or homeless. This will go a long way toward a hands on involvement. I suspect there is more we can do, as well. These outreach efforts are not just charity. They help us learn about the "other," those who get squeezed between the forces of exploitation, greed, and convenience and who are merely trying to meet their day-to-day needs. They help us develop compassion, wisdom, and soul.

Everything that comes back, and everyone, still dies. In the in between, let us grow in understanding and faith. Amen

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ferguson: I Get It.

I am filled with emotion and suspense at what is happening in Ferguson. Not the killing of yet another Black male…. Sadly, that does not surprise me. But the sustained anger, the focused rage that has built into a national outcry, gathering strength and credence, poetically claiming forever now the image of upraised hands, a beautifully symbolic gesture that once meant submission and now signals defiance.

Unlike our President and so many others, I do not pray for an end to the protests in Ferguson and for peace at all costs. Not if peace means people have gone back to sleep. Let them stand up, even with anger if that is what it takes, and let this rage spread as far as it must, for ignoring this situation has not made it better, only worse.

There is a silent genocide in this country. Perhaps you disagree with me and that is fine. But I have studied and contemplated for almost 20 years the effects of institutionalized and systemic racism upon our society, and I cannot but conclude that the prison industrial complex, many aspects of our criminal justice system, much of our educational system, as well as corporate America….. practically every organized aspect of our collective life with the notable exception of the military… is arranged to sustain and to keep in power those already in power: white, mostly male Euro-Americans.

I think most people of color know this. They also know that white people must realize it and do nothing to change it.

If you were a Black American today, would you really like white people? Would you trust them? Believe them?

I wouldn’t .

I am a white American. Fifteen years ago a young black woman was shot to death in her car In Riverside, CA when police thought she was reaching for a gun. I marched with Jesse Jackson and invited him to speak in my congregation to seek justice for Tyisha Miller’s death. I made a decision that day that this cause was important enough to me to risk my life for. Anyone who has stood and marched next to Rev. Jackson knows they do just that.

Along the way a very elderly black woman got out of a car to see us pass. Her eyes met mine. I will treasure that moment always. I know I cannot possibly imagine the indignities she may have suffered, but I rejoice that she saw a colleague of Dr. King, as well as many clergy, both black and white, marching through the city to support a young black girl.

It’s been fifteen long years and the death of Michael Brown feels identical. The difference is that the marchers are angrier, the media is staying with the story, the outrage has grown because there has been Trayvon Martin and so many others. And we now have Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

I was welcomed to the marches and rallies for Tyisha as a white clergywoman. Rev. Jackson reminded us that Dr. King encouraged whites and blacks to work together for justice.

I’ll just be frank here.

In the fifteen years since that event, I have been told outright that I am no longer needed. White liberals aren’t trusted, and white people in general are just not welcome at table. This may not be true everywhere, but it's true enough that those of us who care deeply, fervently, and who believe with Dr. King that we will achieve justice by working together, are befuddled and impotent. And, I get it. I really do.

We can pray, send money, post things online. But can we show up, link arms with you, get arrested, come back to the table? Soon? I hope so.