Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#metoo

I am a white man. And I am troubled. I’m troubled by the number of times I hear other white men say things like: “I stand with my black brothers and sisters in the fight against racism but I’m personally not aware of any time I’ve treated people of color disrespectfully.”

or

“I can’t think of any time I’ve ever treated women in demeaning ways and I want to go on record that sexual harassment is wrong.”

If you are a white man and you are reading this, I can assure you that your lack of awareness does not mean you haven’t treated others in prejudicial, discriminatory or demeaning ways. It just means you aren’t aware that you’ve done it.

When thousands of black people cry out about injustice, it’s unlikely the source of oppression only comes from “those other white people.”

“I’m not one of those, am I?”  Surely not!

When thousands of women say #metoo and #notOK, reason dictates there are more than a few “other” men who have put them down. If the cause of the problem were only “those other people” we wouldn’t have a problem because when we hear outcries like #metoo EVERYONE thinks it’s because of “those other people.”

I want to share with you now a few stories about how I've contributed to the problem. It's not easy for me to do this, but I feel it's the right thing to do so I'm going to do it anyway. As I share, I want to invite other white men to join me in this confession. The only way we will make progress in this is if we all are willing to own that we are part of the problem. If we keep denying it, nothing will change. 

I am sorry to say that I’m guilty of putting people of color in my “less than” box sometimes. I see a black man on the street and I instantly think he might be up to no good. I wonder about my Muslim neighbors and fail to say something when I hear someone speak jokingly about my Jewish neighbors. I fail to consider that my Asian friends are subject to stereotypes and I am ignorant of basic cultural differences between my Japanese, Korean and Chinese friends.

These are my friends, mind you. You can see: I need to be a better friend. I’m part of the problem, I have to admit.

Another story: some months ago, I worked with a group of older adults in a series of “listening sessions.” They wanted to engage in a process of group discernment and I facilitated some collaborative exercises to help them do that. As it turned out, the two leaders were both women and there was only one other man in the group.

As time went on, the two leaders of this group and I spoke about next steps for the group. One of the ideas we talked about was the possibility of having the group be part of a ministry I lead.

I was so thrilled at the possibility of partnering with this group of wonderful people that the next time we met, I acted as if it was a done deal. I’m ashamed to say I played my “man card” by assertively leading the group down a particular path without making space for the whole group to have their voices heard.

(I’ve done this many other times, too, and I have to admit it is an abuse of the inherent power I have as a man, however subtle it might be.)  

Thankfully, all the women in that group were strong and confident; they put me in my place—and it was humiliating at first. One of them said, “I don’t want another man telling me what I need to do.”

Ouch!

But true.

What could I do but just listen and ask forgiveness? Thankfully, they forgave me. See how strong these women were? I'm still humbled by it even as I write this.

As it turns out, the group has continued without me and they are doing really well, I’m happy to say. But I’m saddened that I was the cause of those moments of (needless) friction. The irony is: I was meeting with the group to empower the two women who had a vision to bless many people and, because of my presumption, I hurt them by asserting my male power and privilege. I’m glad they would have none of that nonsense.

Men (especially white men), I want to say something. We are part of the problem, all of us. No progress will be made if we keep saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever hurt anyone that way.”

You have. Trust me. The most dangerous thing in this instance is to be unaware of it and to do nothing to change it in yourself. It’s easy for white men to ignore it because…after all, we have the power.

Intrinsic to power is an interesting irony. There is nothing quite so invigorating as power and, at the same time, there is nothing quite so numbing as power.

It’s invigorating when you feel the power but it’s numbing because, pretty soon, people with power get used to it and take it for granted. Eventually, we forget we have the power...so when someone treats us like we are abusing our power we think, “Who me?”

White men: If you’re in doubt, let me clear it up for you.

You have the power.

The fact that you don’t have to think about it means you also have privilege. Think of privilege as a foundation of the best soil to grow the strongest trees. The tree has nothing to do with the quality of the soil, but it benefits from it immensely. The same tree planted in poor soil will languish by comparison—not because the tree itself is defective but because the soil in which the tree is planted puts that particular tree (or group of trees) at a profound disadvantage.

Now, watch how the trees planted in the good soil say to the trees planted in the poor soil, “Just look at us and learn from us! We’ll show you how to flourish like we do! See all the fruit we bear. Aren’t we just so wonderful?”

But the trees planted in the poor soil, try as they might, cannot flourish like the trees in the good soil. So then the trees in the good soil say, “What’s wrong with you? You have all the same opportunities we do but just look at you…you’re getting nowhere fast! Look: you have sun and rain just like we do. How come our fruit is so much better than yours?”

And the trees in the poor soil say, “It’s because of the soil. We can’t help it. We’re trying our hardest, honest. Can’t you see?”

But the trees in the good soil just say: “Nonsense. You have just as good a place to grow as we do. You just don’t take advantage of all the special opportunities you have. What’s wrong with you? Stop complaining! You’re just making us miserable.”

The trees in the good soil can’t understand because they are not planted in the poor soil. They can’t even imagine what it is like to be one of those “other” trees. And they take for granted the good soil that supports them.

But the trees who have been denied access to the rich land have grown weary of the inequity. They are so weary they are angry and they can’t help but cry out, “Wake up! Look at us! We will not go down without a fight! We will not be silent and accept our ‘lot’ in life anymore! We will speak up, we will rise up and with God’s help we will overcome.”

White men: can’t you hear the cry? What if, instead of turning a deaf ear to the cry, we used our power to minister healing?

What if the NFL owners led the way and asked EVERYONE on their team to kneel solemnly when the national anthem is played? The players could bow their heads and put their hands over their hearts—all of them!—to show respect for the ideals represented in the flag but also to mourn and pay attention to the fact that we do not always live up to those ideals. Kneeling could be a sign that we all want the situation to change. Just think: if people of every color knelt we would all be kneeling together, in solidarity.

Can’t you see? Because of the courage of the men who have been kneeling we have the opportunity not to divide but to join them in their protest? What would there be to divide us anymore? 

If white men would kneel, they would be saying to their fellow men of color: “We see you and we will not leave you in this agony. We see you in the midst of the battlefield; we see that you have been wounded and we will rush to your side to carry you to a place where you can live life to the fullest. We’ve got your back, brothers.”

What if our leaders (both political and organizational) paid attention to the outcry and said, “Let’s join them. Let’s listen.” Would that be so hard? What do we think will happen?

Too often I hear people saying, “I could get on board with this if I just knew what it was the ‘kneelers’ wanted.”

But in order to know what “they” want, you have to get close enough to "them" to find out. You have to kneel with them and then listen. Ask them. Work with them. And if it seems fuzzy, stay with them. Remember: they’ve been wounded. They might not make sense to you, but that doesn’t mean that what they have to say isn’t worth hearing. It just means we need to listen that much harder.

Men: when women say #metoo and you say: “Golly, I can’t think of anything I’ve done to hurt women”—that hurts. It hurts—even if you say in the same breath: “Amen, sister! I’m with you in this protest!”

It’s not enough to say Amen when you are oblivious to the ways you’ve contributed to the problem. It’s hypocrisy and it’s time to take responsibility for the culture of fear we’ve created. We’ve all done it. Not just “those other guys.” We’ve ALL done it; that’s why there are so many crying out. If you don’t know that you’ve done it, ask for light to see, because…trust me, you’ve done it.

Now it’s time to do a different doing. Now it’s time to change. 

Pray for humility and strength. You'll need it.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

the One Who is Smeared

The One Who is Smeared
a prayer by Troy Cady

.....................

Lord Jesus, I bless You;
I proclaim you as Christ, the Anointed One,
the blessed One, the chosen King.
I bless You because the tears that cover my face
run down to touch Your feet
and You welcome them.

I cry at Your feet
because You carry in Your very self
the oil of gladness
and I have nowhere else to turn.
I have smeared You with my tears
because You, Christ, are smeared with healing oil.
You wash away the salt of my sorrow
and cover me with the fragrant perfume of Your joy.

I bless You, Lord,
and I call You Christ,
the Anointed One.

I give you my life as an expression of my gratitude
for all that You are and all that You have done.

Now loosen my tongue by the power of Your Spirit.
Loosen my tongue to tell others about You,
Jesus, the Christ, the One covered in love,
the One whose whole Being is smeared
thick with gladness, Blessing without end.
And cover my hands in Your healing oil,
to Bless, to restore the beauty of a sin-smeared world
by the generous anointing of Your grace.

I pray this in the Name of the Jesus,
the Christ, the Blessed One.
Amen.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

the God who sees, hears and touches

Father, 
Thank you for sending your Son
so we could see you with no veil between us,
hear you through no interpreter,
and touch you with no fear.

Thank you for sending your Son
who assures us that
you see us in love,
you hear us when we cry out,
and your touch is our healing.

How can we ever repay you for so great a gift?
Take our hearts, take our lives, take everything;
you have won us by your grace.

And I pray in faith
that you would fill us
with the power of the Holy Spirit
to make us more like Jesus,
to see everyone the way you see them, in love;
to listen in empathy
without adding empty platitudes;
to come close to those we pass every week,
to come so close to them that we will
be able to touch them with your touch
which changes everything,
to embrace them with your love
which makes us whole.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

restore to us the gift of gentleness

Restore to us the gift of gentleness,
no strength but love,
wisdom borne by listening,
and action without haste.

May my words be filled with grace
as you fill my heart with joy.

Let my mind provide no harbor
for harsh judgement.
Gentleness, wash over me
when I consider the mistakes of the past,
when anxiety seems ever-present,
and when fear holds captive the future.
Gentleness, wash over me.
Help me be gentle with myself;
help me be gentle with others.

Restore to us the gift of gentleness,
no strength but love,
wisdom borne by listening,
and action without haste.

Amen.


......................

Restore to Us the Gift of Gentleness
by Troy Cady


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

pinning angels

Pinning Angels
by Troy Cady

My research concludes that
angels have lost their ability to fly;
their wings are now too small and weak
in proportion to their total body mass.
This applies across all breeds.
Just compare my specimens.
In trials of angels
aged three to six months
I found they are able to sustain flight for
an average of only 10.4 seconds
until they plummet to their death.
In my autopsy report I found
consistent bone deformation
due to premature overexertion.
Sociological surveys demonstrate
that most angels now die in adolescence;
the leading theory
is that teenage angels try to fly on their own
despite warnings to the contrary
by elder angels
who have learned that
all angels are now destined to a grounded existence.
If an angel happens to age beyond a thousand years
(which hasn’t occurred since
the dawn of modernity)
their wings become brittle
such that the least bit of flapping
can easily cause irreparable shattering,
commencing in the extremities
and spreading, tragically, to the very core
of their skeletal structure.
This was discovered
in a series of tests dubbed
The Excitability Index.
In brief, raising the hopes
of an Ancient causes them to implode.
See my study in connection
with last year’s Christmas season
for a more detailed analysis.
Regarding treatment,
there is no scientific consensus
beyond that of Aquinas
who links vocalization exercises
with longevity of life.
In this regard, isolation therapy
is now considered an obsolete technique
as multiple observers have demonstrated
the limited efficacy of angelic vocalization
absent a human recipient
(much like the phenomenon
that occurs when a tree falls in the woods
without human observation).
Upon further vocalization exercises
in densely populated urban centers
we have also discovered
limited angelic potency
despite proximity to human subjects;
I have dubbed my working hypothesis
the Aural Obstruction Theory.
Confirmation of this is pending
contingent upon further experimentation.
We are also consulting God
in this study and have filed a petition
to overturn the Angels Unawares Mandate,
since our understanding of angels
would be greatly enhanced
if we could more readily tell them apart
from the common human.
Despite several petitions, God hasn’t budged
and we have yet to find any loopholes in the law.
We are now running projections
to determine how long
humanity will survive
once angels become extinct;
current estimates predict
global destruction on par with
the Greenhouse Effect.
We will destroy ourselves
as we destroy our planet.
More research pending;
education is the best policy. 



Thursday, July 20, 2017

reflections on grief



I know several people who are experiencing some gut-wrenching grief these days. I’m trying to give them the gift of just paying attention to their grief—validating it and being with them in it…not trying to “fix” it. I’m not sure I’m doing such a good job at it, but as I pray for them, I’m trying to keep in mind what they appear to be feeling and thinking at various points. Their thoughts and feelings appear to me to change from day-to-day, hour-to-hour, even minute-to-minute. Confusion is the word that comes to mind. Existential chaos. As I try to put myself in their shoes (which I can’t) this is what I hear, if imperfectly:  

Something cherished and irreplaceable has been lost. How could life betray us so? How to make sense of the violent chaos of existence? How can the world at one time hold so much promise, hope—joy like the rhythm of the tide, a not unexpected ebb and flow—suddenly bring this tidal wave, a sea change of heartbreak whose tears could fill an ocean basin to overflowing? Who could have predicted the earthquake, this tragedy, this ground shifting under our feet?

Did you know, God? Did you know this would happen? If you did, where were you—and WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP IT!?

Blind-sided. That’s what we were. Blind-sided. And now we’re just…blind with tears.

My mother has lost her memory of me. She’s no longer home. Two months only. My father may pass any day now. He only has…maybe a few hours of lucidity left…and then at most a few days of just breathing...and we a few days of just praying the pain keeps at bay. My love isn’t herself anymore. I don’t know what I did. Did I do something to bring this on? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure of anything anymore. Was it all a lie? What do I do? Where do I turn? Do I remember happiness rightly? Was I ever happy? I feel dead, numb. I feel angry. I’m afraid. I feel betrayed, duped. I don’t want to be fooled again, but how can I ever be sure of anything anymore? Who can I trust? What should I do now? My son, my brother, my friend is gone. Just like that. No parent should outlive their child. So much promise! So much life! Gone. Just…gone. Let me collapse. Just let me fall. I can’t stand it. How is it I feel I can’t breathe? My stomach has risen to my throat and my heart sank to my gut. Why am I breathing like this? God, help me breathe. Fill these shallow lungs. Where is the wind now?

You left a hole that will never be filled—wait: Who am I talking to? You’re gone. Can I talk to a hole? I don’t think so. But I want to. Oh, my God, I want to talk to you. I want to hold you and smell your hair again. I want to hear you laugh again. I want to stroke your hand, listen to your voice.

Please say you are in these tears. So many tears, on my face, in my soul, so many tears. Please say you are there. I miss you. I hurt for you. I love you.

………………….


Father, I offer you these many griefs on behalf those I love who have lost so much. I have nothing to add but: Hear them! Carry them! Bear them on your shoulders, in your heart. Hear the cries they cannot put into words. And surround them with friends who can be with them in their pain as much as is possible. Do not leave them abandoned.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

burying peters-son

burying peters-son
by troy cady

what if resurrection
hinges on loving the dead

what if God gives free lessons
on kissing corpses
like learning mouth to mouth
with mummies

what if all we needed to practice
was the art of the
open kiss of opened lips,
a face full of ground’s gravel

whose side would i take?
the living or the dead?

“disgusting!” the critics would say.
“unbiblical!” the christian.

they’d call me in for an interview.
“whose side are you on?” they’d ask.

“the Hurting,” i’d say.
“the hurting? they’re not hurting.
they’re dead,” they’d say.

they’d strike me
and, hearing no prophecy,
would begin to prophesy
on my behalf.

“crucify!” they’d shout.
“he’s good with words
but he never tells us plainly
what he thinks
and when he does,
it’s heresy.”

they’re at my side
with a spear,
thrusting epithets.

so here i am now
slain in the grave
on the side
of the dead
who will rise
like brides
full of passion
for their Beloved,
king of the grave,
king of the crucified.