I can’t believe it’s been a year since the tragic murder of George Floyd.
I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma—and this weekend also marks the 100th anniversary of one of the nation’s worst race riots in our country’s history. Maybe the very worst as it turns out now with the recent discovery of a massive, unmarked gravesite in Tulsa.
Memorial Day weekend in Tulsa, 1921. May 31-June 1.
A young black man, Dick Rowland, is falsely accused of assaulting a young white girl, Sarah Page, an elevator operator in the Drexel office building. Rumors of his arrest and threat of lynching spark the riot. Hundreds of angry white people, many of whom deputized and armed by the local police, descend upon the Greenwood District, also known at the time as the Black Wall Street.
No one really knows how many people died, but it is hundreds. 10,000 black people are left homeless. Businesses looted and destroyed. The Oklahoma National Guard declares martial law at noon on June 1—the massacre is ended.
And the silence begins. For decades.
This entire event is buried from local and state historical accounts. It is not in the history curriculum of the Tulsa Public Schools, not even when I come through in the 70’s. Every attempt is made not just to cover it up, but to ignore it, to hide it.
I am fortunate enough to have Eddie Faye Gates as my high school history teacher. Mrs. Gates is Black and has dedicated most of her life to collecting, writing, and teaching about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. She was able to collect the oral histories of a number of victims of the riot before they died. She has been nominated for a Pulitzer writing several volumes about the riot. Mrs. Gates turns 87 this year and she taught us everything she could about the riots and the black experience in the United States.
It all comes flooding back to me every time there is violence against any person of color other than white.
“What hurts one, hurts us all.” This is a quote true of all people of color, and it is true of white folks, too. What hurts one, hurts us all. All of us. All children of God.
Please don’t say to yourself “this is not who we are” because this is exactly who we are.
George Floyd’s murder may prove to be a significant tipping point in the story of racism in America. The conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Dereck Chauvin on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter may not be justice, but it is accountability. Finally.
I am ashamed that there are so many other names before George Floyd and after him, too. So many victims and families whose attackers—perpetrators who have not been, nor will be held accountable. So many other names that get forgotten, dismissed, shuffled through the news cycle. Add to them the names of the victims and families of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders—glaring recent witnesses to the depth and breadth of our problems.
We have normalized this and I pray that George Floyd’s legacy be the beginning of the end of this normalcy. I pray that we stop congratulating ourselves about how far we’ve come since the Civil Rights Movement and start owning our systemic racist issues and do our part to root them out. Each one of us.
I pray that George Floyd’s legacy and the legacy of each and every one of these victims and families falls on you and me. It’s only been a year, but what have we done about it?
Seriously, what would Jesus do?
Love God. Love your neighbor.
It’s on us to think globally and act locally. It’s on us to be good actors, locally, in our neighborhoods, municipalities, boroughs, and country hollows.
The beginning of the end can only start here. Right here. Right now. With you and me.
Do you remember when you learned to swim? Were you afraid of the water? Afraid of deep water?
I wasn’t. Not a bit. What an idiot!
I think I was about 8. Summer of ’69. Some kid at the neighborhood wading pool teaches me to swim underwater in 3 feet of water and I think I’m on top of the world! I can do anything now! Swimming? I’ve got this!
Fast forward, I go visit my grandma in another town and she drops me off at their neighborhood pool (you could do that back in the day). This pool was the bomb! Diving boards, and even a HIGH dive. I was on fire!
As soon as she drives away, of course I make a beeline for the high dive. I don’t even bother to get wet first. Just up the steps and here we go! I’ve always loved this pool! And now, I’m the master of the domain from high atop the HIGH DIVE!
I’m sure you sniffed this out. I hit the water in a pretty loud bellyflop and my underwater swimming skill set isn’t going to do much good with the wind knocked out of the me. The lifeguard pulls me out and while my name is Scotty, he doesn’t look anything like Wendy Peffercorn! You’re killing me, Smalls!
At least they are cool about it and don’t kick me out of the pool. I spend the rest of the day working on that underwater thing in the shallow end. And everything turns out okay. Grandma picks me up, “So? How’d it go?” I lie, of course. She would never let me go back!
I got grounded. Not by Grandma, not that kind of grounded, but I got grounded, for sure.
I hope we all have a yearning for the deep end. For the challenge. For adventure.
But I also wonder if we look to God to guide us there. Do we wait for the Spirit to show up? Do we wait for Jesus to lead us?
Or do we just head for the high dive in the deep end?
I’m reminded of all of this from one little line in a prayer by John Philip Newell that I read yesterday morning. It’s not even really directly related, but it sent my mind spinning off…yes, maybe into what is deepest.
For everything that emerges from the earth thanks be to you, O God. Holy Root of being Sacred Sap that rises Full-bodied Fragrance of earth’s unfolding form. May we know that we are of You may we know that we are in You may we know that we are on with You Together one. Guide us as nations to what is deepest Open us as peoples to what is first Lead us as a world to what is dearest that we may know the holiness of wholeness that we may learn the strength of humility that together we may live close to the earth and grow in grounded glory.
--J. Philip Newell in Praying with the Earth
If you’re interested, I’m happy to loan you my copy of the book. Mask up, and stop by the office any time.
Welcome to end of the high Holy Month of Ramadan. I’ll never forget my first Ramadan Iftar. I was invited to the breaking of the fast with a friend from college and his Muslim community at Oklahoma State back in the day. So much fun! And great food! Good times!
Wednesday (May 12) at sunset, the Holy Month of Ramadan ends. The holiday in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Like our Easter and Lent, the date moves around because their calendar is 11 days shorter than ours.
It’s similar in a lot of ways to Lent but their traditions are stricter than ours. For example, for our fast we “give up something for Lent” to be reminded of Jesus’ fasting in the desert for his 40 days.
The Islamic fast is every day, and no food or drink of any kind from sunrise to sunset for the 29 or 30 days of Ramadan. Every day! The symbolism of the fast allows them to understand the suffering of others. They spend their time (just as we might in Lent) focused on Spiritual reflection, prayer, good deeds, time with family and friends, and reading the Qur’an.
They wake with the “Suhoor” or morning meal before sunrise. Then, fast all day and break the fast after sunset with the “Iftar” meal. Two meals a day for a month. Typically, the Iftar is a time to celebrate with friends and family and community which they often do during the holiday.
There are exemptions to the fasting ritual. It’s obligatory but there’s slack for children and the elderly, those who are sick, women who are pregnant or nursing babies, and if you’re traveling a long distance. If you’re sick during Ramadan, you’re obligated to make up the fasting at later time.
Just like our Lent, Ramadan is a time for Muslims to commit themselves to their faith and more to God.
The end of the holiday comes at first sight of the new moon in the sky—just like Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring Equinox. And, Muslims all over the world observe the end of Ramadan with a big festival called Eid al-Ritr—“The Breaking of the Fast.” Family and friends gather to thank Allah (God) for the blessing, support, and strength during the month of fasting. The custom is to give alms at Eid, that is: donate to the poor and those in the margins.
If you have any Muslim friends, wish them a happy break to the fast. It’s been a tough, long month for them. They get up early to eat before first light, they skip lunch every day, and no dinner until after sunset. It’s way more intense than Lent, for sure!
Cinco de Mayo is one of those holidays blown up by beer companies to sell Mexican beer and food. It’s not like a big national holiday in Mexico. It’s not like Mexican independence from Spain which comes on September 16, 1810. 16 de Septiembre is as big of a day for Mexico as the 4th of July for the USA.
Almost 20 years ago, I worked at a Mexican radio station selling advertising and I learned a lot more about the culture than I did in Spanish class back in school. The 5th of May is the anniversary of the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces during a skirmish in 1862 in the state of Puebla. The holiday is still celebrated in Mexico, but mostly in Puebla—not so much everywhere else. My Mexican co-workers were happy to tell me that Cinco de Mayo in the USA is all about selling beer and food to the blancos.
I can’t believe all that time has passed.
Time flies! Even in COVID-19, the time has passed so fast! Last year at this time we were in full-on lockdown! We weren’t even worshipping in person anymore. The bars and restaurants were closed except for take-out. You couldn’t find toilet paper anywhere. We were making our own masks. The virus was raging! People were dying. So much loss and little did we understand, there was so much more to come.
Yet here we are, a year later, looking at opening the Sanctuary again for church this weekend and celebrating another holiday created by American business—nevertheless, a nice holiday to recognize—Mother’s Day! And maybe with the declining COVID numbers and increased vaccinations, we’re going to be celebrating Mother’s Day more like we usually do. Bring it on!
I read something this week in one of my ham radio publications that was buried in the midst of a technical article on the electronics of a piece of gear. But the author (who is a retired minister from the UK it turns out…) talks about the Greek two-fold understanding of time.
Chronos, or chronology, which is a basic linear sequential understanding of time: one thing happens, and then the next, and the next, and so on as time passes.
Kairos, on the other hand, is the opportune nature of time. Think of kairos like good timing for action, or the sense of time we lose track of when we’re caught up in the moments. We’re having a good time, or having a good conversation, or into a book or movies or series we’re binge-watching. That is when we lose track of time.
So, I love to write, I love to read, and I especially love to read good writing. And when I read good writing, I notice that I feel the Kairos sense of time. Time flies. I get lost in the moments. I lose track of time.
No doubt, even as the moments of COVID lock-down kept dragging by through the tragedies of our losses, missed birthdays, family holiday traditions interrupted, hugs not given—as horrible as all that is—even as we’ve lost track of the time—I pray that we can remember the chronology.
I pray that we remember what it feels like in the moments. Grief, sorrow, frustration, anger, little victories like finding hand wipes on the shelf, recognition of all the things we take for granted. Yes, time flies. And we get lost in the moments. We lose track of time. And I pray that we remember the chronology even in the Kairos.
Whatever it feels like.
Reminds me of the Counting Crows song, “Long December:”
…It's been a long December and there's reason to believe Maybe this year will be better than the last I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself To hold on to these moments as they pass.
This Sunday feels like a new beginning. A new marker. The beginning of the end.
I’m excited for another Cinco de Mayo, another Mother’s Day, another Sunday. And another, and another, and another.
Let’s hold on to these moments as they pass because there’s reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last.