Monday, September 11, 2017

My letter to friends sent on Sept. 11, 2001 after returning home from the WTC attacks

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working for Lehman Brothers in the World Financial Center Building #3, across the street from World Trade Center Tower #1 (the north tower), the first one hit by terrorists. After a long walk home (I lived on 139th St., so that was about 8-9 miles), during which I stopped at Union Seminary for a few hours to be in a holy place, and spending time in Riverside Park for another kind of holy place, I sent this email to many friends and family. Our landline phones were out in the apartment, and cell coverage was really spotty, but the DSL was still working so I at least had Internet and email was the only way I had to get news to a lot of people. There was no Facebook yet!

here it is, with all the typos and mistakes:

Evening of Sept. 11, 2001: Letter to friends and family and the world

To all my friends who have inquired already, and those who might be wondering about the events in NYC this terrible day, I send this note.

I thank you for the many messages and phone calls you have offered to me and to my sister and to Yuki to find out if I was safe. Coming home from the World Trade Center and finding so many emails and phone messages was a real delight, although as we know, the circumstances were not good. But rest assured, I did escape without injury. I had always wondered just how long it would take to walk between work and 139th street where I live, and now I know: about 4 hours. Work is *not* within walking distance.

I began work as normal this morning about 8:00 am in World Financial Center Building 3, which is across the street from the World Trade Center Tower 2, the first building to be hit by terrorists.

As we watched from our office window the flames and smoke pour out from that first strike in Tower 2, our thought was simply that a very unfortunate - but possible - accident had taken place. Fairly unworried, we sort of went back to be about our work, though many of us continued to watch CNBC on the many monitors that are placed around the trading floor, and which some poeple have on their TVs on their desks. After the second plane hit, we realized it was intentional, and called for the evacuation of our building. Though we could see the damage fairly well through our windows, we still did not have a good sense of just how terrible it was.

I left our building and headed north a block or two. As I was walking through a group people watching the towers, I heard the sudden intake of breath and horrified gasps. I turned around, and witnessed a person - a fellow human being - jumping out of a window from near the top of the tower. That was just the first jumper I was to see. It was a sickening feeling, knowing that for those people, jumping was probably the most painless and hopeful way to die, as they were certainly trapped at the top with no hope of getting out. I think of those people's families, and shudder and recoil at this senseless murdering. I do not wish to ever be witness to such a thing again. I soon came across Claire, a woman with whom I work, who needed to take the ferry across the river to get to New Jersey. We walked back to the Ferry, which is located on the other side of the building I work in, and has a full - and close - view of both towers. Thankfully, she managed to get onto the ferry and it left the dock just as the first building collapsed. It was an incredible sight - though it is diffuclt to describe something which is, ultimately, such a horrible thing. It was loud, it was scary, and created a cloud of debris and dust that went much higher than the 45 story building I work in. The crowd who were gathered there, including me, once we realized what was happening, ran like hell, and I don't mind saying that to you all.

I followed the advice of the police who were shouting constantly "Don't look, just go North!!!!!" I went North, and didn't look back, until I hit about 20th street. Being more than a mile away, I felt safe turning around to look. After a few seconds I was witness to the destruction of the second tower. That tower came down in two parts - first the top slid down, and when the dust cleared just enough to see an angled portion of the tower left, broken beams and metal sticking up like a building you might see in an "end of the world" movie, the angled part also slid down, with a mighty roar and another fantastic plume of smoke. I continued walking north, and did not rest too easy until I was north of the Empire State Building. Beginning at about 50th street (or as we New Yorkers would say, beginning in the 50s), life around me became more normal. People were gathered in parks, mothers and fathers were pushing their children in strollers, people ate at outside cafes. Of course, it only makes sense, but after coming from the chaos of the World Trade Center, it was surreal. As I walked through the 60s and then the 70s, the amount of "normal life" increased, until perhaps about the high 70s, when one would have no idea, in watching people, that something had happened, though many people carried radios with them, and did have stunned looks about them. But there was no panic, no running, no crying, no police officials like I had been immersed in earlier in the morning. Still shaken, and occasioanlly realizing that I had just watched two buildings be destroyed, I moved into Riverside Park, to enjoy some quiet and some nature along the river.

It was a horrible thing what happened today, and though I wasn't totally at ground zero, and managed to avoid any of the smoke and dust, watching those magnificent towers, those giant, tall, admittedly eye-stain-ugly late-60s architecture towers go down was stunning. Not stunning like a diamond, but stunning as in "I was stunned". I still am stunned. I can barely comprehend these towers, which I have linked with NYC for so many years, are gone. And not just gone, but actually attacked with intent to destroy by people who have no value for life. To think of the loss of life, which must be in the thousands between the innocents on the airplanes, the innocents in the towers, and the fireman who were in the buildings trying to help people out when they collapsed.

I am not quite sure what to think of this event, or how to feel about it. It is one thing to watch disaster strike from afar; quite another to be in it, and to realize that it happened here in the US, where such things have not happened before. Random bombing and exloding is something for Isreal or Palestine, or London, Afghanistan, Africa or Europe. But not here. Not in the US. And certainly not in my workplace.

I am confused and still in shock, and have finally turned off the radio, as I couldn't take listening to the news any more.

My prayers go out to those who were trapped in the buildings, and trapped in the airplanes. My prayers go out to their families. My prayers also go out to those who did this, and those who would like to have done this. Though their act was evil incarnate, and they must be brought to justice swiftly and surely, and though we must do what is necessary to guarantee to the best of our ability that this not happen again, still our prayers must be with them, and especially with the rest of their cabal. Jesus certainly taught us to pray for our enemies and those who would do us harm. Pray for them, that they might come to know truth and peace. And of course I pray for all of us, those of us who will spend much time wondering if we are safe, wherever we are. Always wondering. I pray that you are all angry about this, but I pray that our anger be the anger of good toward evil, the anger that serves as our energy to drive us into constructive action, and not the senseless anger that cries merely for revenge and offers no real solution. Let us be angry! I'm angry as hell - they almost killed me, and they did kill a lot of innocents! Senselessly, brutally, for no reason that any human could comprehend. let us be outraged! Let us be righteously shocked! let us call for our leaders to swiftly destroy this evil wherever it is, and to eliminate it forever. But let us also do so with hearts and mind open, and not be a mob that does not reflect on its actions, and that quashes evil with only more evil in the name of "good". Be a force for good, and pray for us and for our country that our actions will be done in mindfulness, with full understanding of what we are about to do, and not out of the mindlessness of a berserker who simply smashes and hacks at anything that gets in his way.

I do not know when I will be able to return to work. I do not even know how much, if any, damage my building suffered, though I imagine it lost the windows and is filled with with a thick coating of dust at the least. I heard on the radio that later this afternoon another building went down, though I doubt it was mine, since the Towers, if you look at one of the good cnn.com maps, has numerous smaller buildings immediately next to them. But who knows how much collateral damage might still happen in the next couple days.

I am praying for you all, and for us, and for this country, and for our world at this time. Let us give thanks for what we have, and for those who escaped the clutches of violence. I am grateful - very grateful - that I was led out of the violence unhurt and unscathed. And let us pray for God's presence to heal and to strengthen us, to unite us, and to bind us together in love and peace like the children of God that we all are, that war may no longer be known by any child or adult.

I leave you all with a fitting quote from a good friend of mine that my random quote generator popped up when I opened this email.

"In a land where ignorance is a virtue, the blind man is king" - Joe Raposo, Statesman and composer, August 27, 2001


Blessings to you all,

David

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How to protect yourself when using email

I posted this on my Facebook page already, and *then* had the thought that it would make a good blog post.

So, here it is, and apologies if you are reading this for the sOn protecting yourself from stupid scammers, phishers, and hijackers, I offer these words inspired by the current crop of people getting emails about sharing a google doc.

If I may offer some unsolicited - but darn-near-expert advice - not only do I never open any files or click on any links in emails from people I don't know, I will never (and this is a warning to my friends) click a link or open a file that is sent to me by someone that I *do* know if there is no coherent or sensible note in the email about why I am receiving such a link or a file. I'm sure I've deleted things I shouldn't have, but if you want me to read/look at something, tell me why, and sign your name at the end, and hopefully use my name at the beginning. And if you call me Dave I'll know you don't know me and will be even more likely to ignore it.

I do, sadly, have some emailing friends who will just forward a link with text like "Wow, this is cool!" or include a video (or even more terrifying, a powerpoint!) saying something nebulous like "Look at what this church did!" I delete those. Boom, straight to trash, and likely I won't even open the email - straight to trash, unread. Like I said, if you want me to click it, tell me - David, specifically - why you want me to see it and what it's about.

Sorry, not gonna look, no matter how much I love ya.

To also protect yourself, always hover your mouse over a link and see what the browser or email program shows you about where the link is actually aimed at - lots of spoofers will make the text look like a legitimate website "Ooh, it's going to espn.com! It's safe!" but in reality it will take you to dangerousrussianvirussite.ru. Be safe - never click a link until you are sure it's actually taking you where it says it's taking you.

And for the love of God, never open a file that ends in .exe or .js or .script or any other executable file that comes to you unsolicited. You will never, ever win that.

Also, neither UPS nor FedEx nor USPS nor the IRS will ever send you an email about a package and include a zip file. Delete. No, the cops won't show up.

Also Also, turn off the HTML on whatever program you use to view your email. 1) It will keep you from having to read emails sent in comic sans or some godforsaken color scheme or large-ass font or nausea-inducing haphazard melange of fonts. 2) It will protect you from the nasties that are very easily hidden in HTML email. 3) It'll save you some bandwidth from those emails that feel like they need a thousand photos to get their point across.

And lastly, make restore points regularly (if you're a Windows user) so that just in case you do something you shouldn't have done, you can restore your computer to a time before you did the thing, whatever the thing is.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

6 questions for setting intentions for 2017

I started writing this after Christmas, and then totally forgot about it. So I finished it today!

6 questions for setting intentions for 2017, which I have modified into 7 questions. The original 6 came in a blog post over at Medium, from Jessica Semaan, Lebanese poetess who "writes about love, life and what we are scared to talk about. Always unfiltered. Always from the <3"

I like her approach because it's so much making resolutions, which so often fail and then we feel or get depressed about the failure. These questions feel to me to be much more well-rounded to our humanity, our spirit, and our grounding by looking at experiences, relationships, growth, self-care, and approach to the world. On new year's day, which was a Sunday in 2017, my sermon was about looking toward 2017 and no so much making resolutions (see my previous danger statement on those), but to face it as a new slate in which one can strive to be better. It's an ambiguous term, "better", but I like it more than trying to achieve some specific, and perhaps far too ambitious, goal. Instead of "I'm going on a diet!" say, "I'll eat better." Instead of, "I'll exercise every day!" say, "I'll be better at taking time to exercise." Or instead of, "I'll get the novel written!" say, "I'll be better about fanatically protecting my writing time." And as the preacher, my suggestion was to be better at being Jesus' disciple.

I also offered the 1% rule. This is something I first came across last year in some reading of a blog post somewhere, and then started seeing in more places. The idea of the 1% rule is that we don't set the goal to be perfect, but to be 1% at the end of today than I was this morning at whatever skill one wants to improve. I'll be 1% better at being a disciple today than I was yesterday. I'll be 1% at writing at the end of today. I'll be 1% better at being a dad or a mom or a lover or a salesperson or a caregiver or a sibling or a mail carrier or a grocery clerk... I'll be 1% better at being generous, compassionate, merciful, hopeful... I'll be 1% better at not being sarcastic, caustic, ridiculing, bullying, greedy...

See the difference?

Here are the suggestions:


1) What are 1–3 experiences you want to have in 2017 [maybe: skydiving, travel to another state, go to a rally/protest, swim in the ocean, eat at a fancy restaurant, help someone learn English...]

2) What are 1–3 relationships you want to focus on deepening in 2017 [maybe: mother, father, aunt, boss, someone you knew as a kid but have lost touch with, a neighbor, or maybe even yourself]

3) What are 1–3 ways I'd like to get out of my comfort zone in 2017? [maybe: stay away from Facebook, move to a new city, do something you dread (attend a funeral; visit someone in a nursing home; speak publicly, learn to drive a stick shift), finish that book or short story that you haven't finished because you fear what it would be like to complete it; hang out with people not like you (maybe you need to go hang out a dive bar with working class folks; or maybe you need to go hang out at the bar that the Wall Street or educated professorial class are at]

4) What are 1–3 ways I want to show care and love to myself in 2017? [maybe: take all the vacation I am allowed at work; not check work email outside of work time; start riding a bike; upgrade those clothes that you don't like but feel like you don't deserve to spend the money to replace (you do deserve it - go for it!), turn the phone off for a night or a day or a whole weekend, eat better, take up something you've always wanted to do and don't feel guilty for spending the time or money doing it, saying "no" to things that you aren't interested in or don't really have the time to do]

5) How do I want to be feeling exactly a year from now? [maybe: happier, more centered, more at peace with myself and the world, more energetic]

6) What is the word or phrase for my year in 2017? [this is a tough one! What will guide you through the year? I don't even want to offer suggestions here for fear of contaminating your creativity and your deepest need]

I will also add a seventh one, something else I came across last year as a way to frame positively a negative, and a way to stay on target for the year.

7) What will I say "I don't do that" about in 2017? [Maybe: I don't re-schedule time with my family; I don't skip my exercise dates; I don't work overtime if I've made plans with friends; I don't eat fried foods; I don't check work email when I'm on vacation; I don't disappoint my lover by failing to show up; I don't say "no" and then feel guilty about it (or maybe "I don't say "yes" to everything that is requested from me")]

So instead of saying, "I will exercise every day", schedule your times and then say, "I don't skip my exercise times." Or reframe it as "I'm the kind of person who doesn't skip their exercise time."

Saying, "I don't do that..." is a way to keep focused, and make sure that you get the experiences, work on the relationships, do the self-care, find ways out of your comfort zone ("I don't let fear keep me from trying"!), to feel the way you want to feel next year.

Best wishes and all blessings to you in 2017!
David

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wonderful article on the Tenderloin District in SF, the tech companies that have moved in, and Glide Church

So far in this blog I think I've only featured my own writing, but this time I am point you toward an article from Wired Magazine, which in the past few years has re-found its journalistic voice that made it so wonderful in the 90s.

This article is about the Tenderloin district in SF, and Rev. Williams of Glide Church that has been serving the homeless and poor and addicts for 50+ years, and the tech industry (Google, Zendesk, Twitter, etc.) that has moved into the neighborhood. It's a complex issue there, and the writer of this article embraces the complexity without seeking simple solutions or soundbite interpretations of what's happening.

It has moved me because a) it's just plain well-written. Exciting to see a piece of journalism that shows curiosity and openness and a willingness to take the time to make something special. And b) it's an issue that touches my heart: I'm a fan of tech and what the tech industry has brought to humanity, while also understanding that it has had some costs; and I'm concerned about gentrification and pushing poor people out of neighborhoods even while acknowledging that we can't let areas turn into blight and unsafe spaces, either - there's a tension around that which we are seeing here in Eau Claire, as well, as our downtown revitalizes and becomes a destination for business, tourism, and locals; and of course, the theological component that comes up in this article of the ministry of Glide Church and its pastor and volunteers and their commitment to meet the needs of people without judgment and a radical inclusive generosity.

This is good writing and good reporting - looking at a situation from many angles, just as the people involved in it are looking from many angles. This is longer than most articles, but oh so worth the read.

"For Williams, though, embracing tech isn’t just about money. “I’ve discovered a brokenness in the tech community. It has to do with self-definition. They’re not always good at creating humanity,” he tells me. The companies aren’t just benefactors, in other words; in a sense they’re also clients. 
If you belong to the tech world and feel an objection welling up, know that brokenness is not a crime in Williams’ book. On the contrary, it’s the channel on which we all relate. ... [Williams' wife Mirikatani said...] “I believe we’re more connected by our wounds than our comfort zones,” she says. “If a CEO is wounded by something, a connection to that would be stronger than money.” Put another way, the tech world’s C-suites could need salvation more than stock options.

Read the article

Monday, February 6, 2017

The American Action Network wants something better than the ACA (Obamacare)

First, let me just remind people, in case you don't know, that the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is the same thing as Obamacare. The term Obamacare was first offered as a pejorative against the ACA from those on the right who opposed the ACA, and the term stuck.

And now, to the reason for this post.

I just saw an ad on WEAU during the evening news that begins "Rising premiums and deductibles! Washington, D.C. intruding between doctors and patients! Expensive mandates that destroy jobs! Ron Kind voted FOR Obamacare and Wisconsin families are paying the price!"

My first thought was, "Oh, God, please don't let this be already an ad from someone running against Ron Kind in 2018! My brain/heart/body/soul can't take it if the campaign season is beginning now!"

And then, the ad continues: "We deserve better! We need patient-centered care with more choices and lower costs; peace of mind for people with pre-existing conditions; tax credits to help families buy insurance; and a stronger medicare."

At this point I was thinking, "What the heck? This can't be a campaign ad. What's their point? Is this anti-Kind or pro-Kind? I can't tell!

Then the ad finishes: "Tell Congressman Kind to replace Obamacare with the better healthcare we deserve."

End of the commercial (except for the very last line that comes in the commercial - wait for it, I post it further into this blog post). First thought at this point is - "You seem to be against ACA/Obamacare, except unlike the usual right-wing/tea-party official line, you're against it because it isn't socialist enough? You begin your ad by accusing Kind of voting for Obamacare, which any sensible person would take to mean that you are opposed, therefore, to any kind of national health care... but then you end the commercial with a plea to call Ron Kind and ask him not to repeal it, or kill it, or get rid of it because it's evil - you want us to call him because you don't think it covers enough people, at a low enough cost, with enough protection for the consumers?!"

Well, okay, maybe this a kind of stealth ad being put up by Bernie supporters or similar.

But no, the final line of the ad appears on the screen: "Paid for by American Action Network".

The American Action Network is a center-right organization.

Here is their own self-description from their website: "The American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) ‘action tank’ that will create, encourage and promote center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong national security.  The American Action Network’s primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy."

There's a head-scratcher. Seems like they ought to be opposed to any kind of national healthcare; and ought to be against coverage for pre-existing conditions; ought to be against expansion of medicare; ought to be against tax credits.

All of this post here to say: just because someone (or some organization) places themselves in a certain political/social bucket, doesn't mean that they can't go outside that bucket on some issues. All of us have inconsistencies and areas of hypocrisy. Whatever ideological or theological or epistemological or political ground into which someone may have so self-righteously jammed their tribal flag, there are likely places in which that person does not abide by the doctrine and can in which can find some common ground for dialogue.

What this organization is asking for is very much similar to what Obama and others on the left wanted in the first place! But they decided to tone it down and only offer what Republicans had already come up with, out of fear that the Republicans would vote against anything more "radical".

Humans. We're rarely rational or consistent. :D

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Prayer at Interfaith Prayer Service Jan 11, 2017

I was part of the Interfaith Prayer Service tonight at Trinity Lutheran in Eau Claire, with participants representing Methodists, Lutherans, Buddhism, B'Hai, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and The Center. Please note, in the hymn that I quoted, I changed the refrain at the very end of my prayer.

Here is the prayer that I offered:

In 1974, one of our ministers, Al Carmines, wrote a hymn with affirmations of diversity, understood - at long last - as a beautiful gift from God. There are those, in our political leadership and even in some worshiping communities, that sees fear in the ideas of peace, unity in diversity, and difference, and not as holy gifts as this hymn does.

The hymn, by the way, is ecumenical: it was commissioned by the United Methodist Women for their general assembly. So I offer to you the hymn that Carmines wrote more than four decades ago, and will extend that into a somewhat longer prayer of proclamation, lament, and confession - because there can be no peace without confession.

The hymn is called “Many Gifts, One Spirit”

"God of change and glory, God of time and space,
When we fear the future, give to us your grace.
In the midst of changing ways give us still the grace to praise.
Many gifts, one Spirit, one love known in many ways.
In our difference is blessing, from diversity we praise:
One Giver, one Word, one Spirit, one God,
Known in many ways, hallowing our days.
For the Giver, for the gifts -- Praise, Praise, Praise!"

God of many colors, God of many signs,
You have made us different, blessing many kinds.
As the old ways disappear, let your love cast out our fear.

God of many colors, God of many names and signs and holy appearances and scriptures - I pray for a spirit of humility and reverence among our political and spiritual leaders; I pray for a spirit of wisdom and measurement among all people who claim belief in a higher power or a connection to the rest of the world; I pray for a spirit of tolerance and inclusion for all; I pray for a spirit of confession for your Church, which has and is too often afraid of the rich diversity you have designed, too often timid in its proclamation of your love for all people before the rulers and powers of this world, too often hurtful and divisive and far too happy to condemn others to hell without lifting them out of the hells they are in or looking to confront our own evils, too intolerant of other faiths and too afraid of the holiness of other expressions, too often so eager to join the powers that be that we invent gospel-denying theological excuses to support our eagerness for war, for walls, for wealth, for winning… make us whole, holy One, in unity, in spirit, in body, in purpose.

Freshness of the morning, newness of each night,
You are still creating endless love and light.
This we see, as shadows part, many gifts from one great heart.

Many gifts, one Spirit, one love known in many ways.
In our difference is blessing, from diversity we praise:
One Giver, one Word, one Spirit, one God,
Known in many ways, hallowing our days.
For the Giver, for the gifts -- Peace, Peace, Peace!" we pray,

Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Waiting and Anticipating", article from Leader Telegram Dec. 17, 2016

It's been a while since I posted something to this blog. The past few months have been busy - my church's building burned down in late September, so we've been in the process of recovery and dealing with that which has kept me busy, and there has also been the grief, sadness, and mourning of the process as well. The weeks have been too busy to find the time to transcribe my sermons and post them here, but at some point, I will post them. I was asked by the local newspaper, the Leader Telegram, to write an article for their "Faith Walk" supplement, so I did that - and here it is. They had too much material for the supplement, so my article was in today's newspaper. It is not available on-line, so I post it here:


Christians the world over are in a time of waiting and anticipation that we call Advent. Advent is four-weeks of staying awake for the possibilities that lie ahead, and staying alert to the present things that God is doing. Advent symbolizes the numerous period of waiting that God’s people went through. The hundreds of years of slavery, waiting for emancipation. The 40 years of wilderness wandering after their freedom. The long period between the promises made of a coming savior and the coming of that savior after Israel was conquered and sent into exile and the temple, God’s home, was destroyed. Each time, God sent prophets to bring a healing balm of hope to a people who were deep in existential angst and despair for their future. “Do we have a future?” the people lamented in psalms and songs. Against their despair, the prophets spoke words of hope that Israel’s pain and suffering would come to an end.

The congregation that I am blessed to serve, Plymouth United Church of Christ, is in a time of waiting for an additional reason: fire destroyed our building in September. Like the Israelites of old, we are in exile. Our place of exile at Grace ELCA church, however, is very welcoming, comfortable, homey, and has allowed us a space in which to heal and consider our future as God’s ministers in the Chippewa Valley.

As I write this, the burnt shell of our building remains, with no roof, its windows blown out, completely missing desks and books and paraments and artwork because it all burned up. While we wait for demolition day it sits there, a taunting Christmas angel announcing not a miraculous birth but a wordless physical manifestation of the abstraction of time reminding us we, too, are impermanent and that the universe runs at its own pace.

There has been a lot of waiting in this process. Insurance is slow, permits are slow, the fire inspections were slow. But that slowness is a teacher. We first-worlders have made unholy idols out of productivity and speed, and we must learn to slow down. We who demand grieving family members be back at work a few days after a funeral need to stop fearing the healing power of grief and mourning. “Take a sabbath,” God says. Our busy-ness, our rush for resolution, is so often an attempt to claim God’s power, but in its constricting claws we have no space to breathe God in and connect with the holy.

Our slow in-between time gives us space for mourning, grief, sharing stories, for holding one another in love, and allowing ourselves to be held in love. Many congregations here and around the world have sent messages and prayed for us. We received lovely support from Temple Shalom and the Islamic Society Of Northern Wisconsin Altoona Masjid, our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters reaching out in love to their neighbors to offer us space for worship and gathering. Those invitations are very special blessings, especially in this time of anti-Muslim rhetoric by the fear-mongers who say we should not live together or cooperate.

Our quilters have received copious donations. Sister churches have sent us replacement hymnals. Local organizations, churches, and individuals have donated money. Local media, like WEAU, WQOW, and the Leader-Telegram have been incredibly supportive. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church stepped up right away to offer space for “Stand in the Light”, the choir for people with dementia. The outpouring of support has been truly uplifting and healing.

The tremendous ecumenical and interfaith reaching out to neighbors in need shows the best of the Chippewa Valley,and is a prophetic witness against those who preach a gospel of fear and enemy-making. What the Christmas story is all about is to end our fear and start loving one another. “Fear not!” the angels constantly say. That’s what Christmas is all about. It’s not about how Starbucks designs its holiday cups, or if clerks say “happy holidays,” or if cities display nativities downtown. Who cares? These poutrages are irrelevant to Jesus’ message and a distraction from the vocation of love to which we are called. We have seen such love in the support we have received from a number of churches, the temple, and the mosque, and from secular organizations.

So we are in the in-between time, and that’s okay. We know that it will end, that we will have a new building (it will be our fifth in our 132 year history!), and our ministry continues in the present and will do so in the future, so long as there are people who need to experience the Good News of healing, being fed, being clothed, who need to lifted up, who demand justice, and who need to know that they are loved.