Recipe for Gratitude

Many congregations, including the one that I am working with right now as a consultant, care for their members by putting in the mail cards full of love and support when someone has fallen ill or is bereaved.

Some congregations have a committee that keeps a stock of stationary for this very purpose. Once a month, they gather for fellowship and write cards together.

Other churches have created a culture where the members know that any name listed on the prayer list on Sunday can be found in the church directory and that those prayers on Sunday morning reach right on into the week with a flurry of stamped envelopes sent to that dear person who needs a boost in the midst of the chaos of life.

When I was serving as a solo pastor in Washington state, it was my own practice. I asked the administrator of the church to order me special stationary with the church logo and each week, I’d conclude my week by writing five thank you notes. I’d make notes of my gratitude over the week. I’d notice on Sunday that a new acolyte had lit the candles in worship and send that child a note to say what a great job he did. I’d attend a meeting and notice the skill that a member of the church had exhibited in leading a tough conversation. I’d notice that two people stay after Bible Study to talk about something that one of them had shared. I’d send a note to both of them to thank them for reminding me (again) how much the community of Jesus Christ makes a difference in this world. I’d send notes to staff members and musicians just to say I’m so grateful for sharing in this awesome work together.

Since I left that church, I’ve had two big events in my life that have required me to keep a spreadsheet of names, addresses and gifts. I’ve restocked my stationary supply twice now. First, it was for my wedding and I’m still pretty sure that I missed some words of thanks. And at this very moment, I am surrounded by pink stationary with words of thanks in a childish font to send to dear ones that have already showered our baby with love. (She is due in October, by the way.) I have to admit that I love writing these notes. I love getting the chance to take a moment to focus my words on gratitude for the love that has been showed to me.  It’s something I think that we need more of in the world. We need more gratitude and opportunities and praise. It is for this reason that I offer you this recipe for gratitude.

This particular recipe is not focused on churches — though it certainly could be. It is instead a prayer practice I invite you to share with me.

RECIPE FOR MINISTRY (2)

Don’t worry about how many cards you might send. At first, just start with one and just wait and see how it changes how you pay attention to the world around you.

 

 

 

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Leaving the East Coast

Today I said goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean. I dip my toes in the cold water on this dreary day and hoped that I might get to come back soon.

It was only last year that we moved to the East Coast. It was a return for me and Nigel knew it. He knew how much I wanted to come back home so that when he was given moving orders he figured out how he could get me home. We weren’t married yet and it would be ages before he proposed but he wanted me move with him. He was determined, so determined that he was going to make sure that I would go.

Dipping my toes in the surf this morning, I couldn’t help but remember Nigel’s excited face illuminated through the magic of my iPhone. He was overseas doing that military thing he does and we were not planning on moving. We had only just begun the “this is forever” talk between the two of us. In an instant, we moved. We settled into the East Coast.

I had high hopes of spending summer hours in the sand under my umbrella reading books as I spent so many days while I was pastoring in Maine. Our home was only an hour from the shore. It seemed like it was possible, like it could happen but it never did. My sister planned my bachelorette party by the ocean and it rained that weekend. We managed to get our toes in the sand but the wind and the rain chased us off the beach sooner than I would have hoped. Same thing happened yesterday. I had planned one last silly night with my cousin in the ridiculousness of Atlantic City with the hopes of spending some time on the beach, but it rained. This time, it rained quite hard.

Tomorrow, after worship is over and some cake is shared, I’ll get in my car headed to the middle of America. Nigel has already settled there and eagerly awaiting my arrival and I’m eager to get there too. It’s been a long summer with too few beach days. It wasn’t the weather. It was me. I didn’t make the time. I made excuses about the traffic and the other things I should be doing. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy this thing that I love so much. Why do I do this to myself?

The beach is a place where my soul is restored. I am calmed by the sound of the waves. The silky pink sand of the East Coast is so familiar after having spent so many summers with my grandparents. It is a place of happy memories. It is place where my family still gathers so that even when I cannot be with them, it is a homecoming. I didn’t enjoy it enough. I wish I had because there is no ocean where I am moving. There may be a lake or two, but there are surely no oceans in the middle of America. I don’t know when we will move back to the East Coast or any coast, but I’d like to think that next time I’ll allow myself to enjoy this place that I love so much.

Premonitions of Grief

Yesterday, another United Church of Christ pastor dared to ask a group of her colleagues and friends if we share in her experience of receiving premonitions. Stories bubbled up from within this trusted circle as much as they bubbled up in me.

I have had writer’s block. I have struggled every day this week to try to get words down on the page. Nothing has come. Or, at least, nothing has come easily. Last week, I turned my attention to this particular memory from my young adulthood. It is a story of a premonition.

The details are sketchy but I remember the feeling. I always remember the feeling. I’m sitting on my bed. I’m doing my homework. There are mounds of books and looseleaf binders surrounding me so much so that I can’t really see the pink bedspread I know lies beneath. I am tired and I really want to shake the books and binders off the bed and crawl into bed. But, I have a math test. (Or maybe that’s a detail I’m making up. Maybe it’s just because I always did my homework. I tried so hard to be the good student.) It’s not late. I shouldn’t be so tired or bored, but I am. I think I am.

The phone rings. But, ever the good girl, I do not rush down the hall. I don’t go answer the phone. I follow the rules and wait until someone calls up the stairs to say it’s for me. Of course, I know it is for me. I’m certain of it. I have no words for it but I know exactly who it was. I know it’s for me.

Finally, the call comes up the stairs confirming what I already know. My feet pad down the hall bouncing off the plush carpet. I pick up the receiver and I hear her say, “Hi!”

It is Lauren. She has some question about math, something she thinks I can help answer but I can’t say anything. I’m gasping for air. I’m sputtering tears until Lauren asks, “Elsa, what’s the matter?… Elsa, are you there?”

“I thought you were my mom. I thought my mom was calling.”

She is quiet as my sobs only get louder. “Do you need to go?” she asks.

I apologize. I say I’ll talk to her tomorrow. I say something about how stupid it is to think that my mom would be calling. She’d died ten years before. Of course, she could not call. She would not call but it felt so clear. I was so certain.

It wouldn’t be long before the phone would ring again. That same familiar feeling would wake me up from my slumber. It is Good Friday. The red numbers on my alarm clock indicate that it is very early. It is still dark. Still, the phone rings.

I hear the gruff barking of my Dad down the hall. He does not say much, grunts more than speaks. Maybe because he is so tired. Maybe because he does not know what to say. It is finished. I hear the phone return to its receiver. The hall light flashes on and I hear Dad’s heavy steps weigh down the plush carpet in the hall.

I know what he will say even before he opens the door. It had been in my dreams. She had died. Gam had died. It didn’t matter how long she’d battled cancer or how weak she had become. I wouldn’t be able to tell those signs for many years. But before Dad opened the door to whisper the news, before light flooded my bedroom, I knew Gam had died.

There’s probably a third story in there somewhere. Probably a fourth and fifth too, but these are the first premonitions of my grief. The first phone call marked a moment in time. When I retreated under my pink bedspread, it was then that I realized that I wouldn’t even recognize the sound of her voice. It had been ten years since I had heard her or seen her. It had been ten years since I had taken in her smell. I had forgotten her and I still don’t know how to make sense of that.

I don’t know how to talk about the shift that happened in the moment. How much I tried to find her. How I searched for those cassette tapes of bedtimes stories she had recorded while she was in the hospital. How I lamented ever doing laundry so that her clothes now smelled more like me than her. How much I couldn’t stand the stories that were told to me about my mom. I had forgotten her and no one else could fill in the blanks. I still missed her. I still wished for another ending, for any alternative to cancer’s victory. But, I no longer grieved her but the idea of her. I don’t want that to be true. I’m trying to write some thing else but it seems like this is the truth.

Still, there’s something strange there. It’s what my colleague in ministry wondered yesterday. We get these premonitions that someone is sick or someone needs a visit. We send notes in the mail and through cyberspace to say we’re just thinking of you. It’s something that love does. I don’t mean for it to sound trite. It’s why I am struggling to type the words into my manuscript. It’s sounds like drivel, except that I don’t believe that it is. There’s something about that connection we share that extends beyond the grave. Something about love changes us. It puts us into greater communion. It orients us toward each other’s wants and needs. It connects us even when it doesn’t make any logical sense.

Worship with Fire

This is a tough week. The words from the Revised Common Lectionary that will inspire our worship this Sunday are hard. It is hard not to feel like a finger is being pointed directly at you. It’s hard not to feel judged. It’s difficult to feel like there is any bit of grace, but there is. There always is.

So, let’s start there and acknowledge that there is grace. Even when we don’t feel it, even when we don’t deserve it, there is grace. Let that be the first ingredient that we add to our worship planning. Let there be a heap of grace thrown in first. Make sure there’s enough for you, for me and anyone that might show up to worship on Sunday. Throw in an extra dash for those that you don’t really like. Or the people that have made you doubt grace. Say, for example, internet trolls. Or maybe politicians. I won’t suggest which ones though you may well know where my alliance lie by now. Ahem.

When I think of grace, especially having read the gospel for this week, I can’t help but think of baptism. It sounds a bit like Penecost. There is a new spirit in these words that comes with the fire and water that John foretold in the beginning of this gospel. Each and every one of these readings picks up on fire. There’s the raging fire in Hebrews, Jeremiah’s word that is like fire and the vines that have burned and cut down in the Psalm. Fire is the stuff of passion. It’s the stuff of hope. These prayers hope to cook with such fire from the Spirit.

*Call to Worship (Responsive)

One: Kindle the fire of love today.

All: Ignite the hope we need this day.

One: Burn our pessimism into a fine mist.

All: Spark our imaginations with signs of peace.

One:Let embers glow in all our words.

All: May our hearts no more be divided. 

Prayer for Confession (Unison)

Restore us, O God, from the destruction we bring upon ourselves. You entrusted this world to us. You asked us to tend and keep it but instead of caring for this earth, we have burned it with fire. We have cut it down. We have ripped it apart. We have caused the seasons to shift in our carelessness. The scorching heat only causes us to bellow your name, O God, demanding you to clean up our act. Restore our love for all creation. Allow us to be as gentle with ourselves as we might be with this earth. For, we know, you love us both. You call all your creation good. Help us to hear that blessing in this present time as we seek your forgiveness.

Affirmation of God’s Grace (Responsive)

One: In this present time, even as fires still rage, God’s word breaks our hearts into pieces. God makes a way for peace where there was none by saying, again and again:

All: In Christ we are forgiven. Alleluia! Amen.

Prayer of Dedication (Unison)

Let us not divide these offerings like lots. Let us use these gifts to radiate the love of Jesus Christ in all of our ministry. May all that we offer in your name, O God, spark hope for our broken world. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. 

Check back for more Ingredients for Worship next Tuesday and don’t forget to share what you’ve cooked up in the comments below!

After Orlando

I don’t want to point fingers or try to provide rationale. I don’t have any words to make sense of how someone could walk into a nightclub and open fire shattering the lights and the music and 50 lives in any town, but it happened in Orlando on Saturday night. Others will do that. Others will use their words to offer explanation for what cannot be understood.

Let them speak. Let them say what they will in their opinion pieces and on their platforms. But, don’t let those voices be the loudest.

Last night, across the country, people gathered in silence to hold candles and lament — not because of the power of hate but because of the deafening power of love. At times like these the power of love has to be be specific. We cannot speak of love all people but have to be particular. Because we haven’t been particular about who we dare to call beloved.

We have been too silent and we haven’t said this enough to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer family. Clearly, we have not said this enough. We have let others speak or maybe it was just assumed. But, we should have said it more. So, I want to say it now.

425859_10100298444791095_1279984301_n

It’s really simple.

All I want to say is I love you.

I love you as an image of God. I love you because you remind me that God is more than my own image. I love you as my sister and my brother. I love you because you cannot be defined within a gender binary. God has a bit of that in them too. And so, let me say it again: I love you. To every blessed transgender soul, I love you. I loved you before the bathroom debacle and I love you even more now. I love you not because you are gay or lesbian or even bisexual, I love you because you’re just like me.

You’re a child of God even if you don’t believe in God. For you see, I am a Christian and I can’t help but see everyone as related. Maybe at you once sat through a wedding and heard those familiar words we like to use about love. The bit about where love is patient and kind and never arrogant or rude. Maybe you chuckled at the irony because you have seen more arrogance and rudeness from Christians than anyone else. I hear you and I love you for noticing that too. That same passage in 1 Corinthians 13 says that we are nothing without love. Even more, love never ends. That’s what I want to say. That’s all I know how to say. While others point fingers, I will say this. I love you and my love for you will never, ever end.

You are beloved.

 

Please add your words of love and affirmation in the comments. Because we need more love. We always need more love.

 

A Failure of Imagination

On the same day when my article appeared on New Sacred about how a progressive faith isn’t defined by issues, Susan Jacoby was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air.

It was in fact just yesterday. Just yesterday, on my way home from the gym, I caught the end of Terry Gross’s interview with Jacoby. She’s the author of the new book Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion which I’d only heard of because I read an article she’d recently written for the New York Times but it wasn’t the article or even her book publicity that grabbed my attention. It was when she said this on the radio:

I can’t imagine falling in love with a devoutly religious person. Now, that I will fully acknowledge, many could call that a failure of imagination on my part. But, it is important to me. To me, it would be like falling in love with someone who thinks a woman’s place is in the home. <She laughs.> And I know that women have fallen in love with men like that but it’s something fundamental to me. Human rights. That people are equal under law simply because they are human beings.

Jacoby had been asked if she could ever possibly fall in love with someone who just so happened to be a person of faith. This was her response. She couldn’t imagine it.

It’s something that Jacoby had repeated earlier in the conversation. She could never imagine raising children or sharing a life together with someone who didn’t agree with her on the issues. It seems that human rights is at the heart of those issues that concern Jacoby most and that obviously a person of faith wouldn’t share this perspective.

I have feared the same thing. I have wondered if it could or would ever be possible to share a life with a man who didn’t share my progressive Christian faith, but then I fell in love.

I fell in love with an atheist.

I’m a progressive Christian and I fell in love with an atheist.

It was a failure of my own imagination, to borrow Jacoby’s words, to believe that we had to agree on every single issue. We agree on human rights. We agree that my place isn’t in the kitchen but we don’t agree on everything. I would love to meet the couple that does. I don’t believe it’s possible. And it is makes it more interesting.

How boring to love someone who agrees with everything you believe to be important! Where’s the challenge? Where’s the learning? Where’s the opportunity to grow and change within that loving relationship?

No thank you.

I would prefer the struggle. I’ll complain about it. I’ll bemoan that it’s hard especially when it comes to raising children together but love is more powerful than when or how that child gets baptized. It’s bigger than how we choose to tell our children that Mommy and Daddy believe different things, but you’re still going to church. (That was a deal breaker for me.) He doesn’t have to agree. He certainly doesn’t have to convert but he does have to be supportive of me and what’s important to me just as much as I have to listen to what’s important to him.

We both need to support each other. That’s what’s important, not the tenets of faith. Not the issues which we bring to the ballot box. It is the support that we give each other that changes things. It changes everything. That’s what I could never really imagine. I never really believed it was possible.

I was too strong willed, too hotheaded, too opinionated. I wasn’t going to balk and I sure as hell wasn’t going to change, but I met my match.

It was my own failure of imagination to assume that wasn’t possible.

 

My Grief Has A New Name

wedding-322034_1280My grief has a new name and its name is wedding planning.

Way back when in July, I said yes before the fireworks. We had talked about it for so long — or what felt like so, so, so long — that I’d already started to daydream about our wedding. I’d already imagined the guests, the location and the colors. It was fun and exciting, if not a little bit silly.

Now, just a few months later, we have a venue, a caterer, a photographer and a cakemaker. It is real.

It is so real that I keep bumping into my old ball and chain, my grief. It’s how I know this is really happening. It’s not just that friends and family are booking hotel rooms and airline tickets. It’s that I can’t quite shake the overwhelming awareness that my mother won’t be there. Nor will my grandparents given to me by blood. They’ve all died. There isn’t one left before my family tree started new branches. I miss my grandparents and I wish they could be there. I’m pondering taking the dress that my grandmother wore to my father’s second wedding and using it to make bowties for the guys or maybe just wrap around the bouquets. It’s hot pink. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that color even though I love the idea of my grandmother being present on that day. But, it’s not so hard to imagine this day without my grandparents. It’s much harder to imagine this day without my mother.

She wasn’t there when I graduated high school. She didn’t get to see me earn my master’s degree or preach from the pulpit for the very first time. I’ve missed her each and every time. I’ve shed a tear for each family member that whispered in my ear, “your mother would be so proud of you.” But, I never thought that I would miss her as much as when it came time to plan my wedding.

It’s been twenty-eight years since my mother died, but my brain can’t quite process that she won’t go with me to look at dresses or plan brunches or whatever the hell brides do with their mothers. I feel pulled back into the cycles of grief where I’m not quite at anger but surely claiming some of my heart in denial. I can’t believe my mother isn’t here. Hello denial.

It hit me last night while I was running. Because I’m aware of this void and I know that I have do something to create a space for my mother on my wedding day. There are a lot of cheesy ways to do this that I am loathe to include on my wedding day. Running last night, I got to thinking about the details of making this thing I am imagining come to life. There are some things that I need to gather and prepare. I was making that list in my head as I ran until my mind flashed to the actual moment of what it would look like on my wedding day. I imagined the photographers clicking away as this happened until I realized I was sobbing. Fresh, hot tears streaked down my cheeks.

I wish that I could “get over it” as I’ve been advised so many times, but I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to detach from this loss because in removing my heart from that pain, it means losing my mom. I don’t want to lose her. I don’t want to give up on loving her which means that my grief has so many different names. It appears each and every time something big and wonderful happens, and the feeling never, ever goes away: I just want to tell my mom about it.

Before the Fireworks

IMG_0184It was in August of last year that my beloved called from Kuwait to ask if I would move across the country with him. Only a few hours later, after I grappled with all that it would mean to leave my church and follow my heart, I said yes. I would go with him. I would move all the way across the country — back home — to make a life with him.

It was a few months after that that I sent him a link to the ring I had chosen for myself. Because we had already spoken about getting married. And we knew it was something we both wanted. It was about that time that he bought that ring.

It was in March that we packed our bags and moved. We settled into our new home together and I watched him freak out one night because he couldn’t find the ring that he had stupidly packed up with the movers. I knew it was in the house. I never went looking for it. But, I knew it was in the house.

I had told my love before we moved that I expected a proposal soon. I gave him a deadline. I never imagined that I would be the kind of girl that gave a deadline. But I also never imagined myself to be the kind of girl that would follow a man across the country. I never thought I would make that choice. So I gave him a deadline. He needed to propose by the end of June.

It was in the beginning of June that I started to freak out. Because we had reached the month for which the deadline had been set and nothing seemed to have changed. He was still telling me the same thing. There are steps, Elsa. There are steps, he would say. So I freaked out. I freaked out to my dearest friends. They heard me cry and wail. And yes, there really was some wailing.

It was about three weeks ago that my beloved and I decided we would spend the Fourth of July in New York City. We bought a Groupon for a fancy hotel. We made plans to see the Macy’s Fireworks and that’s when he said, “Oh. Fireworks would be romantic.” That’s when I knew that it would be that weekend. It would be that weekend that he would finally ask me to marry him. But, it didn’t happen under the fireworks. It happened before in a wine bar down by the South Street Seaport. It happened there over a bottle of wine — something we both love — that he told me he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. It was there that he gave me the the ring and I said yes.

Yes, of course I will marry you.

Because everything really does work out in the end.

Preaching Without a Community Text

For the first time in months, I’ve spent Monday morning studying. I haven’t been in the pulpit for nearly three months but on Sunday I will preach. I will preach at a church I’ve visited just once. It’s a church that I know very little about other than what I saw on that one Sunday morning. I’ll care for this congregation during worship while the pastor is away — but it’s the first time that I have ever really preached without a community text.

This is a problem.

There are many that quote Karl Barth saying that we must “do theology with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.” That’s all well and good. But, that’s not the refrain that repeats in my head over and over again. Instead, I hear my preaching professor in seminary asking: What is the community text? Because the answer to this question is where the Scripture text meets the reality of the experience of this group of people. It’s how the good news becomes activated. As she explained to Ministry Matters:

the sermon is a meeting place between the Scripture text and the community text. Each text has a unique voice. Both the Scripture text and the community text must be exegeted with attentiveness and care, not in order to be “relevant” but in order to hear God’s living word in its depth and particularity.

I’ve done my exegesis of the Scripture. I’ve immersed myself in the amazing good news in 1 John 4:7-21. It’s one of my very favorite passages. I could say so many things about this good news. That’s what scares me. That’s why my cursor is blinking. That’s why no words are coming.

say-anything-1-435x580I could say anything — anything I wanted.

I could say anything.

This wasn’t a bad thing for Lloyd Dobler. With his boom box and even with his pen, he wasn’t afraid to use his words. Or the words of Peter Gabriel to prove a point. But, he didn’t say anything. He knew what he needed to say and he said it. He loved Diane Court. There was nothing that was ever going to stop him from loving Diane Court. So he made it known. That’s why it’s such an amazing romantic gesture that every girl my age secretly wishes would happen to her. (That was not a hint.) Because he knew what he needed to say. And he said it.

1 John 4:7-21 isn’t about romantic love and my sermon will probably not reference Lloyd Dobler. Probably. But, it’s about love. If there is a one word definition of what being a Christian is all about, it’s love. Love is from God. Let’s love each other. It should be an easy sermon to preach but I have so many questions about the community text. I want to know how this particular body of Christ experiences love. Are they one of those churches that relishes in their time together? Or is this a stumbling block because they haven’t yet created that sense of community? I want to know what they love and how do they love. Because I really don’t want to say anything. I want to know what needs to be said and say that. Then again, that will probably come from God. Not from me.

Bridging the Civilian-Military Divide

bridge-600510_1280Just recently, Time Magazine published an article entitled Bridging the Civilian-Military Divide With Stories. I love stories thought as I eagerly clicked on the article. Because I want — more than anything — to figure out how to bridge this divide.

For so many years, I’ve been a pacifist. That fact hasn’t changed. I’m still a pacifist. But, I fell in love with a soldier. I fell in love with a man who sees the world differently than I do. In the end, we want the same thing. We want peace. We want to believe it’s possible — but we see it coming about differently. I want to engage in conversation. I want to believe that war isn’t necessary, that are other ways for peace to come.

I fell in love with a man that has seen and done things that he struggles to share with me. Perhaps because this bridge is so far and wide. He sees peace differently so that sometimes this bridge seems so long and wide.

So, eagerly clicked on this article in Time Magazine to find a new old friend, Thomas E. Ricks. Ricks has written many articles for Foreign Policy Magazine that I’ve eagerly shared. But, this article — this article in Time Magazine — only posed questions. Questions I want answers to but this article refused to answer. I was not satisfied. So, I sent Ricks an email.

Because the article concluded in such a way that it made me believe that he had more to say.  I was right. He wrote back almost immediately. I was shocked. I was shocked that he wrote back. I was shocked he would entertain such questions from silly preacher. I was even more shocked by his answer. His answer was simply to ask questions. Ask lots of questions because there is so much that we can’t possibly understand about the soldier’s experience. I came to an even deeper understanding of this after reading Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like To Go To War. There are things that I knew. Things that I even thought I understood but it wasn’t until reading this book and asking questions of my love that I came to understand what he was afraid of telling me. There are things that I thought I was supposed to say to honor my love’s dedication but I didn’t really get it. I was too far on the other side of the bridge.

It was one thing to read about the perspective of two theologians in Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War  but only a service member can really explain the breadth and depth of moral injury. Only a member of the military can really explain what it’s like. It took falling in love for me to learn this. It took getting over my own ideas about pacifism and military action and let’s be honest some really bad theology to understand that there is more to this story. As much as we want to talk about post-traumatic stress, it’s much, much more than a solider returning from war that lashes out and drinks excessively. It’s way more than American Sniper. But, apparently, looks something more like Restrepo. (It’s streaming on Netflix. You should watch it.) This was assigned to me by my love. If I was going to understand this, I needed to watch this film. Stupidly, I did so while he was still deployed. Bad move. It is incredibly hard to watch but you should see it if you are like me. If you want to figure out how to bridge this divide between the civilian world and the military world, it requires becoming uncomfortable enough to watch something so brutal. Because — as my soldier has told me — it’s one of the only films that shows how it really was. Or really is.

This is the hardest part for me. It’s the reality that these stories didn’t end with Vietnam, the Gulf War or even Iraq. These stories are ongoing. And for whatever reason, especially post-9/11, civilians aren’t pay attention. We can’t grasp these stories. We haven’t even listened. I’m certainly at fault. I never thought it was my fight. I just wanted peace — but love is teaching me that peace comes from every side of the story. It doesn’t come from insisting that military spending be decreased or demanding that our troops be sent home. Some of that peace has to come from crossing that divide by uncomfortably asking questions you’re not sure if you really want to hear the answer. Some of it has to come from understanding what it’s like to serve a member of the military right now.

The best way to do this — according to both my love and Ricks — is to watch and to read. I now have a long list of books and movies to work my way through as I try to cross this divide toward peace.