Monthly Archives: February 2014

Tonight I wept

There are places I remember all my life

Lennon and McCartney got that right.

But there are also people I remember. And moments.

Moments I will remember as long as memory lasts. Moments that not only fill my mind as memories. Moments that fill my soul and spirit as the sights, sounds, feelings wash over me as though the moment had never ended.

The births of my sons.

The death of my father.

The murders of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy.

The fall of the Berlin Wall.

The release of Nelson Mandela.

And more.

Tonight I wept as I relieved such a moment.

I finally watched Lee Daniels’ The Butler. I had not seen it in the theater, but I added it to my Netflix list and it arrived this week.

The film provides much to ponder. Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan? Seriously?

The scene that touched me came near the end.

Cecil Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker, has retired from his position as a butler at the White House. He has reconciled with his son, Louis, played by David Oyelowo. His wife, Gloria, played by Oprah Winfrey, has died.

Cecil and Louis are in his house on November 4, 2008. The votes in the Presidential election are being counted. As the moment nears when the media will declare a winner, Cecil calls his son to come to the living room and watch. Louis arrives in time to see history happen.

As the newscaster in the film announces  Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States of America, I found myself transported back to the night it happened. And I wept.

I wept in joy at Barack Obama’s victory. At progress made. At hopes realized. At the possibilities before us then and now.

I wept in sorrow at how much work remains to achieve racial justice. At the oppression, discrimination, and injustices my sisters and brothers endure.

I wept in frustration at shortcomings and failings of President Obama’s administration to meet the expectations of the moment. At potential unfulfilled.

Merdine T MorrisBut most of all, I wept remembering my friend Merdine T. Morris. Shortly after the media announced Barack Obama’s election, I called Merdine T. Together we laughed and cried and prayed.

The film scene transported me through space and time and as I heard again the joy and hope and pride and concern Merdine T. expressed that night.

Merdine T. recognized the historic significance of President Obama’s election. She also understood the arduous work that lay ahead for him and for our country as we continue to come to terms with the racism and other systems of oppression and discrimination dividing us. Merdine T. knew first-hand racism’s bitter sting and enduring power. She knew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. personally as our mutual friend Carol reminded me. She knew hopes shattered and dreams, not only deferred, but devastated. She knew the tears that water and the blood that mark the road to justice.

But Merdine T. Morris never gave up. She held to faith. She held to hope. She held to love.

And so I wept tonight because Merdine T. and her husband Luke trusted me and were my friends, because Merdine T. and Luke welcomed me with grace, because Merdine T. and Luke accompany me in the Communion of Saints, because, to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, writing about another unforgettable moment:
Her strength gives me strength
Her faith gives me faith
Her hope gives me hope
Her love gives me love

Tonight I wept in gratitude. And my tears were good.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Friends, Movie

Chihuly Garden and Glass, purple not flowers 2

IMG_1999

Standing guard
in line
as though someone had
planted rows of flowers.

22 February 2014
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Seattle, Washington

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Again

No fanfare
No ticker tape
No press conference
No advertising
No email blast
But with this simple,
Not so subtle,
Announcement
Yet again,
I begin
Again

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Exercise, Food

Purple flowers, Republic of Korea 3

Gimhae Traditional House 26 March 2013 (1024x683)

 

A stew of purple beauty
greets visitors to the
Traditional Korean House Gimhae.

26 March 2013
Gimhae, Republic of Korea

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Chihuly Gardens and Glass, purple not flowers

IMG_1970

Not flowers,
but they evoke something floral

22 February 2014
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Seattle, Washington

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Japanese-American Remembrance Day

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which set in motion the forced evacuation and incarceration of many thousands of loyal United States citizens solely by reason of their Japanese ancestry.

I have read about the internment of Japanese-Americans. I have seen films and videos. I look forward to Allegiance: A New American Musical.

Yet as Japanese-American Remembrance Day draws to a close, I am reminded that nothing carries the power of speaking with people who experienced internment.

I give thanks for the grace and courage of the Rev. Dan Ogata, Alice Nishi, and Dave Sugiuchi who shared their stories with me. I give thanks for the grace and courage of the people I never met who endured imprisonment in their own land.

I pray my memories will move me to honor the ideals on which the United States is founded and to work for human rights for all people.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Human Rights

Never, Merdine T., never

Some messages should be delivered in person and not left in a voice mail box or sent by email.

Some times we have no choice but to leave such messages.

Tricia left one for me today.

I think I said farewell“Sorry to have to leave a voice mail. I need to leave. But I just got an email that Merdine T. died last night. And I wanted you to know.”

Some realities cannot be expressed adequately in words. They simply have too much meaning.

My relationship with Merdine T. Morris is such a reality. She was one of the most significant people in my life outside of my family. She helped make me who I am today – at least any part of me that is good and kind and faithful. I take full responsibility for my failings and shortcomings.

While I have been gone from Cleveland for almost 14 years, while the times that Merdine T. and I saw each other on a regular basis occurred long ago, while her health has declined and I knew this moment was coming, while I am a great believer in the Communion of Saints, I have to confess my heart bears a ragged hole this evening. I miss Merdine T. immensely. And I probably always will.

Merdine T. and I were friends for more than 20 years. Friend really does not do our relationship justice, she is my mentor, teacher, challenger, comforter, disturber of my peace, guide, anchor . . . the list goes on. She and her husband Luke played  and will play significant roles in my life. Luke passed away some 12 years ago, not too long after I left Cleveland.

Merdine T. and I have shared some amazing moments . . . conversations . . . experiences . . . times of learning and growth . . . disappointments . . . violations . . . injustices . . . ordinations . . . presbytery meetings (incredible to say, I know) . . . graduations . . . transitions . . . acts of justice . . . moments of witness.

If you want to hear some amazing stories about a child of grace and a faithful follower of Jesus, buy me a Jameson and ask me about Merdine T. some time.

Merdine T.’s health began to fail some years back. As she became increasingly fragile, I began to wonder each time I saw her if that time would be the last time.

And finally it was.

IMG_3763This past December, our mutual friend Nan Dorer celebrated her 90th birthday today with a party at Noble Road Presbyterian Church. Tricia and I took Merdine T. to the party.

The day was wonderful. Friends old and young, long-time and new, greeted Merdine T. warmly. Her presence meant the world to Nan. We stayed for the children’s program and carol singing. Merdine T. beamed. When we returned to the Fairmount Health Center, staff members commented on the joy that filled her face. A wonderful day.

In her room, as Tricia and I were leaving, Merdine T. reached up from her chair and hugged me. Tears filled her eyes.  And she said the words. The words she said to me every time we said goodbye over the past five or six years.

“Mark. Never forget me.”

Tonight, through my tears, I reply as I always did.

“Never, Merdine T. Never.”

As I grieve my loss, I give thanks that I had the privilege of sharing life with God’s beloved child, Merdine T. Morris.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Cleveland Heights, Friends

Dick Wherley: choices made, choices lived

“We are going to walk across the country as part of a witness for nuclear disarmament.”

I am sure those were not the first words that Dick or Cathie Wherley said to me. They are among the first I remember.

Tricia and I arrived at Noble Road Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights as co-pastors in the fall of 1985. Dick and Cathie served on the Session – the church governing board.

Sometime that winter, they announced their resignations so that they could take part in the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.

Their faith led them to work for peace in many ways and many places. Seeking racial justice in Cleveland Heights. Working to end gun violence in Cleveland. Advocating for sanctuary for their sisters and brothers fleeing war in Central America. Calling for an end to U.S. arms sales.

Now their faith called them to make another witness for life, the life of the planet. With about 1,200 people they set out from Los Angeles for Washington, DC around March 1. About two weeks into the march, the marchers learned that the supporting organization had declared bankruptcy. The marchers gathered, pondered, thought, dreamed, and planned. On March 28, a smaller group, including Dick and Cathie, started out again.

Dick often drove a support vehicle because of his health. But he and Cathie and the GPM made it to DC. When the march came through Cleveland, about 30 Noble Road members marched with them. A dozen of us went to Washington for the end of the march.

Upon returning to Cleveland Dick and Cathie plunged back into the life of the congregation, the community, and the peace and justice movement. Transitional housing and the inclusion of our LGBT sisters and brothers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) became two areas of particular concern.

The simple reality though, was if people in Cleveland gathered to act in compassion, pursue peace, and do justice, Dick and Cathie were present more often than not.

Dick’s health continue to falter through the years. He appeared in person less often and in the spirit more regularly. His spirit remained strong and true.

This week, Dick died peacefully in his sleep.

My prayers are with Cathie and her children, Joanne, Rick, Tom, and Sandy and their partners and children. May their memories be blessed; may they find comfort in their grief; may the rejoice in love shared and love that binds them together still.

Frodo Baggins, in The Fellowship of the Ring, expresses a wish to have been born at another time, a gentler, kinder, less-troubled time.

Gandalf reminds him that none of us choose the times in which we live. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” the wizard gently says.

Dick Wherley decided what to do with the time he had. Dick chose life. He chose faith. He chose love, peace, and justice. And he lived his choices well.

Thanks be to God.

See you along the Trail.

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Purple flowers, Republic of Korea 2

Seotal Oreum Massacre Site 23 March 2013 (2) (1024x683)

Purple flowers, unplanted, mark
the site of the
Seotal Oreum Massacre:

In 1950, after the Korean war broke out,
the Korean government issued orders
of “preventative detention”
of suspected communists and communist sympathizers.
Of the 344 people the Moseulpo Police detained,
210 were illegally massacred in two mass killings at the base of Seotal Oreum.

The people
and the flowers
remember.

23 March 2013
Seotal Oreum, Jeju Island, Republic of Korea

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Pray for South Sudan

Tomorrow – February 16 – join in prayer for our brothers and sisters in South Sudan. The Episcopal Church, the Reformed Church in America, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are among those calling for prayer.

From the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s call by Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Linda Bryant Valentine, Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency; and Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012);

The ceasefire that went into effect in South Sudan on January 23 provides a sign of hope,” noted Parsons. “Our brothers and sisters need our prayer and support as they seek to move into a future of justice and peace.”

South Sudan achieved independence in 2011. Violence erupted in the new nation in December 2013 after a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar.

The conflict resulted in many deaths and a severe humanitarian crisis. More than half a million South Sudanese have been forced from their homes. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that, as of January 31, some 770,000 people have been displaced—646,400 within the country and 123,400 outside.

The call provides a sample prayer and ideas for action:

Gracious God, we lift before you the people of South Sudan who seek to create a new future after a period of violence. Three years ago, we rejoiced with our sisters and brothers as they voted for independence and became the world’s newest nation. Over the past months, our hearts were heavy as a deep conflict threatened to destroy all for which they have strived. We mourned with those who lost loved ones in this unrest, with the children and adults who have become traumatized again and again, with those who are injured, imprisoned, and hiding, and with those driven from their homes. We give thanks for the ceasefire, but we pray for our brothers and sisters as they face the tasks of building a future together. God of reconciliation, we ask you to send your Spirit of unity and peace to guide the people and the leaders of South Sudan from violence and into the paths of peace and justice. We pray for our partners in the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, the South Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church, RECONCILE, the South Sudan Council of Churches and Across; may they feel your presence with them. Strengthen them with the power of your Holy Spirit as they witness to the strong love of Christ, advocating for peace and justice in a situation that is only hopeful because we follow a resurrected Christ. In whose name we pray, Amen.

In addition to prayer, we encourage Presbyterians to:

May the people of South Sudan soon know justice and peace.

See you along the Trail

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Filed under Current Events, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, Worship