Kujichaguila & Wansalwara


WANSALWARA is a dance, literally and metaphorically.  It’s about the fact that we all live in One Salt Water. Wansalwara is a way they call this living planet, in Melanesian hip-hop terms.

Today is a day that self-determination is celebrated by people of African descent, during the festival of Kwanzaa. I’m reminded of my trip to the Pacific, where people of African/Aboriginal heritage are struggling for autonomy in the face of intense repression. By coming alongside them in the movement, I didn’t think I’d learn so much about how I want to self-determine in the world, but I sure did get two clues. One was through birth and birth justice work, and the other through continuing to support self-determination movements throughout the world. Write me if you want to see some great video footage from people rising up and doing nonviolent direct action there for justice. (I would link the  youtube vids into the blog, but that would mainly help those who are hired to cyber-attack and trace international activists working with grassroots leaders to change the oppressive systems).

And from Abbey of the Arts:

Looking ahead, February 1 will be the Celtic feast of Imbolc which means “in the belly.” It marks the first herald of spring when the earth begins to stir with the new life deep below the frozen ground.  In Christianity we’ve just celebrated what emerged from Mother Mary, consciousness birthed. To remember the significance of birth we keep coming back to it each year. What’s coming from you in this new year?

Take a few minutes to pay special attention to what God might be causing to stir within you.  Quiet your mind and focus on the blossoming within yourself.  Notice colors and the fragrance.  Imagine a blossom sprouting deep inside yourself.  Listen to the invitation calling you to new growth.

And, just as Mary shared her experience with her cousin Elizabeth, do share what’s stirring within you, with someone you love and trust.  Mary’s experience of victimization and survivorship inspired her to sing-out for a deep revolution: political, economic, and moral. How you sing-out is related to your kujichaguila (self-determination).


12/31/2016 Update: On the last day of Kwanzaa, I went to a Watchnight service curated by Repairers of the Breach and the Poor People’s Campaign revivers. Valerie Kaur, of Groundswell, said this there, and I wanted to share the encouragement, as it relates to the interplay of light and darkness, individual and collective self-determination, and a labor and birth that contains the revolution: “the darkness we are in may not be a tomb of American democracy, but a womb of American democracy. What if all that we’ve experienced up until this point are the labor pains of the America that we might birth?!”  It would be a healthier country, connected with the rest of the planet by the one salt water.

And now, from Standing Rock


I appreciate Pancho’s article because it contains many links. Stitch by stitch, you can begin to quilt together a picture from the frontlines by following any thread, click by click.

This is it!

Video from KarmaTube

From Dallas Goldtooth: “A lot of folks know the Ponca leader Casey Camp. She stood in defiance, in peaceful prayer, in front of an armored personnel carrier, because she loved the land and wanted to protect the Missouri River, not just for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, but for all nations and all people and the millions of people who depend on the Missouri River for drinking water. So this movement is not founded out of hate for the police officers or for the workers themselves, but out of love for the land and for all of us as human beings. That’s why we’re there. That’s not—our enemy is not the worker. Our enemy is not the police. It’s the corporations that are hell-bent on poisoning Mother Earth and disconnecting ourselves even further from the sacred integrity of the land and the water.”

Get Pancho’s first impressions word-quilt block here: Strong Blessings from the Water Protectors at Standing Rock! #NoDAPL



This poem for the end of Yom Kippur observances (Ne’ilah Yizkor service) was written by Tzedek Chicago’s rabbinical intern Jay Stanton. Original post and more of Jay’s musings here. He does a great job molding people willing to stand at the intersections of “intimacy and intimidation” into community.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

#OccupyHeaven: A Poem for Ne’ilah 5777

United not by common language or experience

but by action, by clapping, using our hands

to give voice to our rising power

transcendent heartbeat of our collective will, we say


petaj lanu sha’ar b’et ne’ilat sha’ar ki fanah yom

hayom yifneh hashemesh yavo veyifneh navoah sh’arekha

Keep the gate open for us when the day turns to night!

As surely as the closing bell sounds, we will rush the gates!

The word ne’ilah means closing time, buildings locked, gates bolted, alarms set

so no intruders can infringe on God’s spare time He spends like spare change

Ne’ilah means our time is up, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here

If God didn’t get to you today, you should have showed up earlier

Forced to participate in this frustrating process of penitence

God’s yearly performance review of humankind

all denied food and water for the last twenty-four hours

some denied food and water each and every twenty-four hours

we convene today for protest’s sake

as the sun sets on this Day of Atonement

The Day of Judgment

when even the Hosts of Heaven are judged

God thinks if management has to do this too that we won’t notice

the glorified injustice of the pinnacle of our calendar year

So we’re here ready to make some noise – our voices will be heard

We will make God listen; that’s what we’re here to do, to insist on

to insist on not being ignored, to insist on disrupting God’s dinner party

“No humans allowed” except the help; be sure to use the service entrance

If you are a veteran of actions like these, great.  If this is your first, even better.

Let’s start with refreshing our memory at why we’re here

God says He seeks our repentance, not perfection

God says this is all He desires, as soon was we repent, He will forgive

Adonai adonai el rajum vejanun

erech apayim verav jesed ve-emet

notzer jesed la-alafim

nose avon vafesha  vejata-a venakeh

My Lord, My Lord, God is merciful and gracious

endlessly patient overflowing with kindness and truth
bestowing kindness to the thousandth generation,

forgiving wrongdoing, sins of commission and omission and granting pardon

What a load of –

oh right, no cursing – there are children present – yeah, right

You may not know yet but we have the full text of that quote about God’s kindness

it’s taken out of context and when you play the tape all the way to the end

He’s actually talking about how He won’t forgive

and instead He’ll punish people to the third and fourth generation – at least

God and His cronies don’t want us to know He seeks revenge and calls it justice

God and His cronies don’t want us to know the Messiah is ready to come tomorrow

if police lay down their weapons and superintendents reopen closed schools

if we tear down separation walls and throw welcome home parties for refugees

as they come back to the properties whose deeds they have safeguarded for generations

if we abolish prisons and establish a justice system that respects even the cockroach

and one that never treats humans like roaches – but that would destroy God’s master plan

Hypocrite on High – we see through Your empty rhetoric

this was the year that God increased, not decreased, extrajudicial execution of Black boys

this was the year that dancing in your queer Brown body became punishable by death on Shavuot

that going to mosque in Queens became a capital crime for Imam Alauddin Akonjee

On Tisha B’av.  This was the year God further punished poverty

and humiliated and killed transgender women of Color

this was the year God sanctioned the scapegoating of Muslims for violence

even though God gave us violence millenia before the life of the Prophet

that’s why we’re here to #occupyHeaven, here for the immigrant, for the beggar, for the refugee

for the orphan and the child soldier, for the domestic workers, the sex workers, and ourselves

here to negotiate a new covenant, here to strike if needed

God and His cronies don’t want us to know we can throw off their yoke

But now is the time

we #occupyHeaven

Now is the time

we deem God an unsuitable negotiation partner

Now is the time

we hold out for a better offer
Now is the time!

Now is the time

               we say no más to deportation

Now is the time

we make the sun stand still over Jericho and Silwan and Susiya

declaring #existenceisresistance against God’s weaponized bulldozers

until Jacob and Esau once again embrace

This is the year, the poet says, this is the year the squatters evict landlords

the year we refuse to go home until everyone has housing

the year we refuse to be satisfied with forgiveness until all are forgiven

the year we tell God not to make foolish promises, the year we abolish not only prisons but sin

The sun hasn’t set yet, the gates are still open.  So here’s what we’ll do

even the worst sinners and those whose guilt weighs heavily though they are blameless

we’re going to join hands and enter the open gates. Our chant starts simply:

Hear our voices!  Hear our voices!  Hear our voices! Hear our voices!


Read Jay’s Rosh Hashanah remarks. And then Rabbi Brant’s sermon from the next day. Our congregation is dedicated to Judaism and social justice. It is neither assimilationist nor Zionist. We seek to block oppression, build solutions, and be present to  what arises. My remarks (beginning at 1:20:03) here.

The Passionate Observer


Many desire objectivity and to be a “dispassionate observer.”

Advice given to me by a woman who was in her late 70s as she remembered her feeble husband who had a sensitive stomach and was easily bothered by light and loud noises. She told me, “When you ask God for a sensitive husband, specify what kind of sensitivity you’d like!”

Being a passionate observer simply helps me name my subjectivity, and speak my specificity!

I cannot and will not pretend that objectivity is possible or that I don’t have a subjectivity.  My favorite books are ones in which the author is self-aware enough to name their vantage po20161223_165546int. Audre Lorde was amazing at this. I’m pictured here with Hilary Scarsella, a writer, thinker, and friend who epitomizes the ability to think deeply, carefully, and non-ideologically about something, but also NOT succumb to the paralysis of analysis. Over at the important blog “Our Stories Untold,” she and other faith-related folks lift up the stories of survivors of sexual violence, share trauma theory, and articulate the impacts of silence in the church and broader society about sexualized violence.

Being a passionate observer means that reading the news about Thomas Garcia (assassinated by Honduran soldiers on July 15, 2016) doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other, but in my ears and eyes and heart and soul.  Another indigenous activist leader murdered! There is a sharp rise in violence directed at environmental activists. They are the targets of threats, intimidation, and assassination because they dare to protect the vital natural resources (relations) of their community from the global economy based on extraction.

Here’s more of Tomas’ story: According to eyewitnesses, a soldier who had been firing into the air lowered his M-16 and fired multiple shots directly at Tomas.  Tomas had recently arrived at the company’s installations as one of those who was at the front of the delegation; the whole group had not even had time to arrive and many were still walking down the hill that leads to the offices. As one woman from the community explained, “We didn’t even have a conversation with them, they didn’t say anything to us. They didn’t even wait for us to say why we there, they didn’t wait for us to say what we had to say. We saw Tomas fall, he fell from shots, including to his head.” Three other villagers were also seriously injured and required hospitalization.

Then the military blamed the violence on the grassroots leaders of COPINH, and spread that lie all over the media!!! If we are dispassionate observers, we’d get the wrong information. We’d become too scared or confused to get up the courage to participate alongside our neighbors.

We always need to consider the source, and our relationship to the source and the people in the story. Read the rest of this story here, and please, take action! Call for an end to US military aid to Honduras and on the Honduran authorities to respect the rights of the Indigenous Lenca people of Rio Blanco.

Unleash your passion and your observation skills. We need you, passionate observer.

What a Ramadan!


Well, it was quite a month for all of us worldwide. Here is a mosaic of images from my experience of Ramadan, in Spain, Morocco, Greece, and Germany. I think the captions will show if you scroll over them.  Eid mubarak!

Big Days in Greece


It’s a profound day today.

The celebration of Juneteeneth (when Africans enslaved in the United States learned of their freedom, declared by the Emancipation Proclamation almost two years earlier).

The one year anniversary of the massacre of the church at Mother Bethel AME folks in Charleston, SC.

The one week anniversary of the Pulse Orlando club shooting.

It’s also Father’s Day, so blessings to the Dads out there…especially those redefining traditional masculinity and providing open-minded and gentle ways of nurturing children (or ideas!) into wholeness.

Tomorrow continues the meaningful days (of course every day we’re alive it’s meaningful!) It’s solstice, and the middle of Ramadan. It only comes around in the summer every 33 years.  Given global weirding, this is a hot one!
It’s also World Refugee Day. Being here, working with refugees…this day now means more to me than ever before.  I knew theoretically the difficulty of being a refugee: the bureaucracy of paperwork and sometimes arbitrariness of official decisions, long lines, inadequate resources, the fast friendships, the cramped camps, the waiting, oh the waiting.


Our Christian Peacemaker Team is accompanying refugees in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. As Executive Director I have a chance to do a two week team visit. I sat across the table from a man from Afghanistan yesterday. Neither he nor I are from Greece or speak Greek. I don’t speak Dari yet, and he just began the English classes offered to refugees. We don’t know each other’s names and yet we are deeply and violently connected. My village paid for his village to be bombed (through the US led war in Afghanistan).

We kind of smile at each other to acknowledge a greeting, but neither of us are happy about the situation so we exchange a glance of agreement that there is no use pretending we are. I can hope that through our work he and I can feel that there is another way to connect as well, through nonviolent interaction. But if it ends there it is not enough, in a way. I want to exchange the real smile that comes after a day of joint action to bring change to global functioning. Tomorrow is World Refugee Day and we will do a public witness action that reminds the public that refugees are not invisible, and mourns the loss of over 1,600 people that have died in crossing by boat from Turkey to Greece. We will thank the Lesbians for being so welcoming to those who made it, and together with them brainstorm ways to insure safe passage for all and challenge EU and US and local policies that lead to so many people being frighteningly expelled from their homes.

We spend time in autonomous efforts organized by those accompanying refugees, such as Lesbos Solidarity, and supporting co-existence efforts led by those most impacted by colonialism, and compiling first hand human rights documentation in some of the camps, which are like detention centerswhich are like detention centers. There was a branch of the Orthodox Church that was very active as well.

Okay, I’m exhausted and will head to bed. Thanks for reading.


For All Our Mothers


Bluffton University Commencement, May 8, 2016

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
This is indeed a special day. I’d like to thank Bluffton faculty and commencement committee for the invitation. I’m so happy to celebrate with YOU, the illustrious class of 2016!

This is a day of celebration of all the hard work that you’ve done and what you’ve learned. This is the day that celebrates your perseverance through the ups and downs of the college or graduate work experience, your labor of learning. Whether you are a commuter students that had that up front parking…or a residential student who managed to keep your car from being hit by a foul ball for four years, you’ve made it to this finish line, and we rejoice and are glad in this day with you!

Today is a special day because it is Mother’s Day. To state the obvious, none of us would be here without our mothers. (Thanks Mom!). Our many mothers.  There is the female person that birthed you. And there are those people in your life who mother-ed you, raised you up. Some of them are here today.  You may have chosen mothers or mentors in your your neighborhood who encouraged you.  There may be grandmothers in your faith community who made it possible for you to attend Bluffton in the first place. So let’s give a round of applause for all our mothers!

Some of you may have a broken relationship, or a distant relationship with your mother. You may have lost your mother, or never met the woman who birthed you. This is a day where we celebrate your journey as well.  You have found ways that to mother yourself, we see and honor how you’ve built community, and how you continue to weave together the financial, emotional, and spiritual basis for your wellbeing, and the wellbeing of those around you. We honor you too.

Regardless of the situation in relationship to the person or people you call your mother up until this point, we all have some mothers in common: God, the Earth, and Bluffton. And as you cherish and honor the people close to you, I invite you, class of 2016 to cherish and honor these mothers as well.

Jesus once described himself as a mother hen, gathering her chicks under her wings. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God as “cry[ing] out like a woman in labor” with gasps and pants as God brings forth new life into a community that was plagued with violence.  Later the prophet goes on to remind us that those who seek God will be comforted “As a mother comforts her child.”  The Bible does not shy away from female imagery to describe God, but most of current Christian tradition does not use it as much as we could. Many of you have taken religion classes and reclaimed some of the lost richness of the biblical texts, and delved into the mystery of a life of faith through attending chapel and other activities throughout your time at Bluffton. This has enriched and expanded your perspective. It has generated new questions. God our Mother is not afraid of your questions, your emotions, your doubts.  As you return to your homes or move to new places, share with your faith communities what you’ve learned, and what questions you wrestle with at this point in your life. Do not hold back in sharing your faith, that is sharing your deepest truths and values, with others.  Share as much as you are willing to listen deeply to others, in the spirit of Bluffton’s values of mutual discovery and respect. Those who are religious these days are being blamed for many of the globe’s political problems. Make Mother God proud and be a part of the healing instead of aggravating these conflicts. Do this by paying attention to whose voices are heard more than others, asking yourself whose voices are missing in a conversation, and who benefits by the outcome?  When I was here in January the Romans 12 challenge was just beginning.  That was beautiful, to see the wide range of students that participated in the combination of physical and spiritual strength-building.  That is exactly what you’ll need for your future as you seek peace and justice for all of God’s creation.

We live on a wonderful planet. Full of diverse ecosystems…And though it will be hard to shake the memory of what it was like to walk across campus when it’s freezing outside, some of our best memories relate to being outside and in contact with the natural world…some speculate that Maypole dancing, now a Bluffton tradition, has roots in a recognition of the sacredness and importance of trees on this planet.  Indeed, on Earth we need each other, not only humans, but without trees where would the oxygen come from? And how would the carbon dioxide be digested?  But the balance is out of whack, we know there is too much CO2 bouncing around in the atmosphere! So, what will your Masters or Bachelors do in a world that is rapidly deforesting? An Earth that is hot with rising oceans, and scarred by advertisements to get you to buy more plastic? How will you use your degree to respond?

This is Mother Earth. She is powerful, but she is not well.  Where are the accounting majors? Sports management? Social work? Psychology and Criminal Justice? Where are the organizational management folks? History and Exercise Science? Where are my Early Childhood education majors? Art? The collaborative MBAs? We are humans so most of our is focused on ourselves, but if we do not also expand our focus to understand this ecological moment, we must realize the potential that life on Earth will end as we know it.  (And I know you didn’t pay all this money for school to not have a chance to use it here.  I want a return on your investment). Therefore, you need to address pollution and poverty at the same time.  As Van Jones, the founder of GreenJobs would say, “we are in an era of mass extinction and mass incarceration. An era of ecological instability and economic inequality.” And we are looking to you, class of 2016 to address the dire conditions of your Mother, Earth. During your matriculation here, some of you have tried experiments in sustainable living, maybe you learned something about how to live simply during your cross-cultural experience. You’ve worked on building safe space for one another, for racial healing, for gender equality. Keep up the efforts you’ve begun, because we still do not have equal pay for equal work in this country or around the world. We are still producing exponential amounts of waste.  On practical and policy levels determine what is important to you in helping to nurture healthy and equitable life on this planet, put that at the center of your life and the rest of life will come into place around it.  We will be here to cheer you on as you applying your learning here out in the world.  We will hold you accountable to the pledge that your green ribbon symbolizes. Thank you for taking that stand!

Note: The green ribbons that some graduates wore indicated a commitment “to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve those aspects of any organization for which I work.”

Bluffton is birthing you into the world! Bluffton is your mother as well.  Universities are called your alma mater for a reason. Alma mater means nourishing/kind mother. And just as you would never forget to honor, support, help, and show up for the mothers in your life, give back to your university.  Honor what you’ve experienced here.  Your relationship to this place is changing today, just as your relationship with your mother changes throughout your life. This type of change is something you can embrace because Bluffton has prepared you. And if it hasn’t, come back and tell her.

Support Bluffton in creative ways such as returning to speak in classes in a few years as young alum.  Give back financially, so that others may have the special opportunity that you have.  Give every year, perhaps on Mother’s Day.  So when you get a card for the special person or people in your life, remember to send a contribution to your alma mater as well…Because here at Bluffton the show must go on, and it cannot do that without your support!

How beautiful it is that you are graduating on a day that was originally dedicated to peace.  A quick lesson in history…I knew you thought classes were done, but one little one yet: Mother’s Day in the US started in 1870s, when abolitionist Julia Ward Howe established a celebration to eradicate war. She said, “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” She continued, “From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.”  How perfect for you to graduate on this day, from a place whose early founders and early teachers turned swords into plowshares, from a place that has a Lion and Lamb center.

Today’s commercialized celebration of candy, flowers, gift certificates, bears little resemblance to Howe’s original idea. But let us rededicate ourselves to peace this day.  May you, the class of 2016 and your supporters, be so tender to classes of 2016 everywhere on the globe, that we will not use our education to bolster a society that will injure theirs.  Rather, commit your education to be a balm rather than a bomb, for all the mothers of the world. Mothers whose immense labor and creative work is often unrecognized, underpaid, and under-appreciated.

And some of you may be mothers in the future, you may be a parent, if you feel called to do so. Each of you today can mother; we will all birth ideas into being.  Craft the world that you want children to grow up in, not so much focused on things but on relationships of integrity. In this tender post-college time take care of yourself, your most important relationship.  We have a lot of athletes in the group. Keep up some kind of training routine. If you’ve been neglecting your body during college or grad school here, begin a training routine. In addition to minding what you eat, examine your cultural and spiritual diet.  If you are thinking about moving to a new community, search first for a spiritual community, then look for a place to live. Look for a place near to where you worship, prepare to inhabit there. In that way you’ll be making respectful choices related to Mother Earth, you’ll get to know the mothers of the neighborhood and their concerns, and be nourished by people of God, all in the same vicinity. Then bring your Mom to visit! I brought mine to visit today!

Like siblings from this mother Bluffton, stay connected to each other, so you can ask what someone else is doing in another sector. Stay connected to God, so you can ask what is yours to do in any given situation. Stay connected to the poor, to those without the opportunity to be here. Stay connected to a particular staff person or professor or administrator.

This is the Day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. When I was a little girl, my mother used to stand at the end of the hallway and sing that song to wake us up.  Usually I woke up near the beginning of the song and made my way slowly down the hall to her hug.  But on one particular morning I became alert and realized she was nearing the end of the song.  I panicked, believing that my whole world would be shattered if I didn’t arrive by the end of the song! I threw the covers off, jumped out of bed and in a full sprint headed down the hall. At full 4 year old speed I slammed right into her hug as she hit the last note.  Whew! I felt so much relief!

You have pushed through to the finish line, through many sleepy mornings, likely some panic, and you have arrived at the last note, bodyslamming into the finish line and the embrace of this community. Feel the relief. Rest!  Bluffton University class of 2016, you are charged to live for all our mothers!  I look forward to how our paths will cross in the future. Congratulations!


Commencement addresses from women still number much less than those given by men. Here are some examples of awesome speeches this year given by women!