Archive for January, 2014

Seeding the Light

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Matthew 4:12-17, Isaiah 9:1-2
January 26, 2014
Mary Hammond

Advent has always been my favorite season of the Church Year. But this year, for many reasons, Epiphany is captivating my heart. I find myself drawn toward deep meditation of Light and Darkness. That is probably because I’m coming out of an extended Night Journey since our daughter Sarah’s breakdown in 2010. I’m again entering the Light in a new place, in a new way.

I had another sermon in process, going a completely different direction, but I scrapped it. I could preach that sermon anytime, but I could not preach this one until now.

Before I get into the heart of my reflections, I have to make a qualifying statement. There is a difference between the Darkness of the Soul Journey, which comes to all of us sooner or later, and the darkness that people with mental illness can suffer. Many biological conditions create a darkness that, while treatable to some extent, can at times lack sufficient relief. This is a harsh reality of a different kind of darkness than the one I am speaking about today.

In these moments, we are reflecting on a darkness that, after long waiting–in this life–gives way to the dawn.

“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.”

Some people see that great light while others do not. Matthew speaks of the Light; John the Baptizer bears witness to the Light; Jesus comes, announcing the Light and, in his Being, bearing Light. Some see and respond. Others observe from a distance. Some are indifferent or otherwise occupied. There are those who are threatened by the Light. Yet Matthew quotes the Hebrew prophet, Isaiah, declaring,

“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.”

It occurred to me recently that we are often taught, whether actively or passively, to view Darkness as “bad” and Light as “good.” But we could see Darkness and Light in a starkly different way. We could understand Darkness as gestating, seeding, and preparing. We could envision Light as birthing, flowering, and revealing. What a difference it makes if we view Darkness and Light this way!

People who sit in darkness, unless they are paralyzed by depression, are generally not passively just “sitting” there. Instead, they are yearning, hoping, waiting, and believing. They are longing for the Light. They are dreaming of the Light. Miracle of miracles, they are often reflecting the Light in the Darkness, even when they do not know it. Others see it, although the Light Bearers rarely recognize its width and breadth.

Something else happens in the Darkness as it seeds the Light. That is growth. We don’t see that inner transformation anymore than we see a seed underground starting to open up in the cool, moist earth. The darkness is seeding the Light.

When the seed turns to flower and bursts from the ground, or when the Light shines at long last, we finally see. Our hearts are leaning toward Life, toward Light. We are longing for its presence. Yet the Night Journey can become the womb where Light slowly gestates and is painstakingly born.

As the people of Jesus’ day “sat in darkness,” they were living under the thumb of Roman oppression, poverty, and a host of other ills. And yet, as they watched and waited, as they lived and dreamed, the Darkness heaved its way into the Light, and the two connected in some cosmic way I cannot explain.

Sometimes we are called to be prophets, sages, and witnesses, proclaiming “No more!” to the world about its own twisted, tortured modes of Darkness. Sometimes we are called to simply walk the journey in front of us and bring as much Light as we can to the Darkness that surrounds us.

When our daughter, Sarah, came home to live with us after her breakdown in 2010, her darkness was deep and utterly impenetrable. It hung like a heavy cloak over her entire being and filled the house with her pain. She hardly left the house for months except to exercise and go to church. What could I do? How could I help her? The brutal lesson for me was that I could not lift her darkness. I could let her Darkness overtake me. It would be so easy to do that. But I chose a better path. Every morning, when I got up, the first thing I said to myself was this, “Today, Mary Hammond, you will be Light in this house. Today you will shine Light on Sarah’s darkness.”

Sometimes that is the only shining we can do, but even that Darkness seeds the dawn, if only in us. We cannot know its impact and gift to others, and I would suspect that it is usually greater than we can imagine.

There are also those remarkable, transforming moments when Darkness gives way to the Dawn, and new life presents itself before our eyes. Like Job after God speaks and offers him new vision after new vision, we are humbled. We are astounded. We are changed.

Darkness can gestate the dawn in our own lives if we are open to that difficult and challenging journey. It forces us to face things we might rather leave undisturbed. We have to be honest with ourselves about ourselves, and about our stories. We can’t hide in our many defenses, or we will never do the soul work required of us.

Through various hard times in my life, I have learned that the Darkness eventually yields its own inscrutable wisdom. Darkness is rough. Darkness can be debilitating. Darkness is not fun. Yet, if we characterize Darkness as bad, and Light as good, the whole goal of Darkness is then to get into the Light as fast as we can. I get that. It is absolutely natural to feel that way. But there are no shortcuts through the Darkness–at least not through the Night Journey of the Soul.

The lessons and gifts of the Darkness in my life more often reveal themselves as the Light begins shining again. For years, I looked back at 1989-92, the first time we fought so hard to keep Sarah alive, as some kind of initiation into a more rugged and durable spirituality. Gone were all the simplistic answers. Gone was the belief that heartfelt prayer could change anything. Stripped down to the radical core of unconditional love, my life changed dramatically both on the inside and outside. But it took getting out of the Darkness a little way for me to begin to see.

We are given the opportunity in this life to let the Darkness seed the Light. Don’t be afraid of what is inside. The rugged Soul Work that we do can become both our own healing and our gift to the world for its continued redemption. Really. We keep doing the work of Jesus and bearing the Light of Jesus, everyday.

That Light shines a thousand times brighter after we sit in the Womb of Darkness for a long time. If we are yearning, hoping, and waiting–if we are open to the lessons of the Night Journey–when the Light begins to shine, we will be the first to run toward its Warmth and Welcome. Amen.

The Lamb of God?

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

John 1:29-42
January 19, 2014
Steve Hammond

Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him! No. A cross is too good for him. Let him hang there naked until the crows are done with him. He’s a blasphemer. He’s a traitor. He’s scum. He’ll rot in hell.

Those are the kinds of things people were shouting ab when Jesus was killed. Do you think God joined them, that God was there with mob? Do you think God watched in delight as they arrested and tortured Jesus, as they drove the nails though his hands, and then wrenched his body off the cross and carried to his tomb?

Didn’t John the Baptist say that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? And hasn’t there been a long belief by many in the church that what John was saying is that God sent Jesus to us to be the sacrifice for our sins? Haven’t we said that God had Jesus killed so we could be saved?

If that’s what John meant by Jesus being the Lamb of God then God, indeed, was a part of that mob that day. The plan was working. With every lash that Jesus received, with every stab of pain from Jesus felt from that crown of thrones, God had to be delighted.

I suppose people argue that God took no delight in the torture and murder of Jesus, but it was just something that had to be done. That’s actually what most murderers and torturers say. They had no other choice. The only way God could save us was by torturing and murdering Jesus. And if it had to happen that way, then it ultimately had to be pleasing to God, because it served the greater good.

It could be, of course, that John had something else in mind when he told his followers that Jesus was the Lamb of God. After all they were all good Jewish boys and they would have known, at least, that lambs were never used as a sin offering. The goats got that privilege. Every year the high priests would find a goat and symbolically load all the sins of the people onto that goat and send the goat off into the wilderness. That’s where the term scapegoat comes from. The goat took the blame. If John was thinking about Jesus being a sin offering, you would think he would have said, “Hey guys, look over there. The goat of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Then there are things like what we read in Psalm 40. “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,…Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.” Or from the beginning of Isaiah, “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.” I’m pretty sure that John the Baptist was familiar with all of that, too. Why would God suddenly become so interested in burnt offerings and sin offerings when Jesus shows up?

And at the risk of even sounding a bit pickier than this, there’s that thing about Jesus taking away the sin of the world. John didn’t say anything to his followers about Jesus taking away their sins, or Jesus dying because of our sins. He said Jesus takes away the sin of the world. I suspect that’s important to note, and I may talk more about that in a couple of minutes. But, at the very least, I think it is safe to say that we have built this traditional notion of the atonement as Jesus being beaten, tortured, and murdered and offered as a human sacrifice to God, because of our naughtiness, on a pretty shaky foundation.

I think it could be argued that it is a bit cheeky of me, and there are many other of course, to challenge the assumptions of centuries worth of theologians who have said that Jesus precisely was a sacrificial offering to God so we could be saved from our sins. But I think it’s, at least, fair to just ask some questions about all of that. I don’t think we are trying to take something away from the death of Jesus and all that it means, but to add something that has been sorely missing.

One of the things, I think, that has been missing is that we have gotten so concerned about the death of Jesus that we have not paid enough attention to his life. But John tells his own followers, “Look, I know this guy. I’ve been telling you that the God-Revealer is coming. That’s him.”

Remember last week how Mary talked about the story from Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus was baptized by John and this voice from heaven said, “This is my son with whom I am well pleased.”

Well John is telling his own followers that he was there. He saw that dove descending on Jesus, the Spirit resting on him. And he knew that Jesus was the One God promised was coming.

So some of John’s followers decided to go talk to Jesus and they asked him where his was staying. There’s kind of a funny translation thing going on because they wanted to do more than just get a tour of his apartment. They wanted to know what Jesus was about. Why is it that John, whose movement they had become a part of, was so taken by Jesus? Jesus simply said, “why don’t you just come along and find out?” So all it took was a day with Jesus and they realized that it wasn’t John they wanted to throw in with but Jesus. And that was okay with John. Brett Younger who teaches at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, writes this about these followers of John who find themselves with Jesus. “They have no idea what they are getting themselves into. They don’t know that they will end up leaving behind their nets, boats, homes, friends, work, and retirements. They will end up changing their ideas about almost everything.”(http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/article/entry/4600/come-and-see)

Along the way, in the months and years they were with Jesus, Andrew and Peter, and the other men and women found out, I think, what John was talking about when he said Jesus was the Lamb of God who was going to take away the sin of the world.

We get concerned about our own sins, or more frequently the sins of others. Are people drinking too much, or too young? Are they having sex before they are allowed to? We have to be careful about all of that but, frankly, Jesus had much bigger fish to fry.

The sin of this world, I think in part any way, is this system that destroys people. It brings death instead of life. It divides cultures and nations and races and religions and genders. It crushes the powerless on behalf of the powerful. It thrives on violence and indifference to the pain and need of others. It is nurtured by war and greed. It determines who are the insiders and the worthy and who are the outsiders and unworthy.

Those men and women who followed Jesus watch him take on the sin of the world and saw the logical conclusion. They killed him. God didn’t demand his sacrifice. This system did. Don’t’ fall into that trap of believing you killed Jesus. You didn’t. The system behind the sin of this world wants you to put the blame on yourself, and not think about what was really happening. Sure we contribute to this system that demanded the death of Jesus, but it’s a lot more than us. And Jesus knew that. And so does the system.

John points his own followers to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And Jesus says to them, “Come and see.” Brett Younger writes, “Come and see” is the invitation to explore, discover, and travel without knowing exactly where we are going, but to know that if we catch a glimpse of God, we will also catch a glimpse of who we can be. Come and see. Come and look for places where we’ve never been. Come and see what it means to hope, believe, and follow.”

Those women and men who went and saw, also watched as the system, the sin of this world, took it’s best shot at Jesus and failed. You see it’s not the death of Jesus that redeems us but the life of Jesus. Jesus was so alive, so caught up in the life of God, that not even death could kill him. It’s that life, what Jesus revealed about God that saves us. And we follow Jesus, not toward death, but toward life.

Epiphanies for the Hard Journey

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

January 12, 2014
Matthew 3:13-17, Isaiah 42:1-9
Mary Hammond

There are numerous ways to explore a biblical passage. We can “read” the Gospel text responsively, as we just did. Or we can dig deeper and speak slower, with more pauses and silence. We can also attempt to “move into” the text and “be present” within it. Let’s reflect on this Gospel story of Jesus’ baptism in another way during the next few moments.

Jesus and John were cousins. Think about your own cousins for a moment. Some may be very close, others distant. Some of you may not have known your cousins or you may not even have had any. Raised by his grandma who had 17 other kids, Steve has a boatload of cousins. I had just three. One died young, and the others I see only rarely.

In ancient times, however, families were larger than today and more connected than they often are in our society. The mothers of Jesus and John were close, as we witness in the early chapters of Luke’s Gospel. They were even pregnant at the same time. That experience bonds two women in the same family in a special way. Further, both children were marked by God before birth for unique callings. Both families had received signs from God about their sons before their boys were born. Mary and Joseph, and Elizabeth and Zachariah, had a lot in common, despite their differences in age and circumstance. Both families faced a lot of adjustments and life changes because of their sons.

The Gospels do not share a lot about Jesus’ childhood, but it is not unreasonable to imagine that Jesus and John saw each other often throughout their young years. As the boys grew to adulthood, they were each conscious of their special callings–John’s to prepare the way for Jesus, Jesus’ to show and be the way of God.

As we come to our text, John is now an adult. He is preaching in the desert. People are traveling various distances to hear him. He warns of impending judgment, of the cataclysmic arrival of God’s Reign. He baptizes those who heed his call to repent of their sins and make a life-change.

Along comes Jesus, who asks his cousin to baptize him, too. John is incredulous. “What?” he exclaims. “You should be baptizing me, I should not be baptizing you!” he protests.

Yet Jesus insists, and John complies. Down in the water Jesus goes. Up he rises, just like the countless others John has baptized. Almost.

This time, something different happens. The heavens open up and the Spirit, like a dove, descends upon Jesus. A voice calls out, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,” as the older translations report.

Matthew doesn’t tell us whether other people there saw the Spirit or heard the voice. He simply reports these events. Jesus is drenched not only in the waters of the River Jordan, but also in the Spirit of the Living God. There is no commissioning to specific tasks at this moment. Instead, there is just this outpouring of the Spirit and this affirmation of Jesus’ relationship to the Holy God.

Epiphany literally means “showing.” It is a time of revelation, of light penetrating the darkness. It is a time for un-peeling the layers of reality and uncovering the truth that shines beneath the surface. For me, the baptism of Jesus demonstrates how completely he identifies with each and every one of us. John’s protest is basically, “If anyone does not need to get baptized, Jesus, it is you.”

And yet Jesus chooses to be baptized. He releases himself to the waters and rises up to meet the freshness and holy surprise of God’s presence in Spirit and voice.

The first year after our daughter Sarah died, I had many moments where the veil between this world and the next was briefly lifted. One of those experiences occurred while walking by the Conservatory on W. College Street in September, 2012. I was preparing for cancer surgery and thinking about my last bout of cancer in 1994. “I did this before; I can do this again,” I naively calculated.

I anticipated a repeat experience of 1994 and the years of recovery thereafter. A voice spoke to my heart out of the blue, “I’m fighting with you, Momma.”

I was by myself at the time, and I was surprised, of course. I wasn’t expecting this. It had to be Sarah–who else could it be? But she usually called me “mom,” not “momma.” Rachel sometimes called me “momma,” but not Sarah.

As often was the case, I stewed about this for a couple days. Was I making this up? Did I want it to be Sarah? Then, why the “momma,” not the “mom”? Finally, I believed. It had to be Sarah. Rachel could call me on the phone and say this. She didn’t have to speak to my heart while I was walking on West College Street.

In the next months, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the word “with”–“I’m fighting with you, momma.” Not “for you,” not on behalf of you, but alongside you, from the other side of the veil. It was an incredible gift.

I had my first biopsy September 18, 2012. Fool that I was, nothing was similar to 1994. Everything turned out much more complicated, difficult, and debilitating. Curve balls abounded.

“I am fighting with you, momma,” became a balm for my soul. It constantly reminded me that both love and life never end. I am surrounded by the Communion of Saints, the community of the church, the fellowship of the Spirit, the presence of the Holy One, and so much more. I am far from alone.

Some pastors use the story of Jesus’ baptism to remind their parishioners of the importance of being baptized, the need to make a public testimony of a desired life-change through entering these waters. We do not talk enough about baptism here at PCC, I think. Yet the power of this story for me today is in its direct connection to Epiphany. Jesus’ surrender to this moment led to the manifestation of the Holy One through the descent of the Spirit and the voice from heaven. I doubt that Jesus predicted that anymore than I predicted hearing from Sarah that day near the Conservatory.

I needed my family in the rough road before me–Sarah, too. And Jesus needed affirmation for the next leg of his journey. Immediately the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness to endure 40 days of temptation and testing. Surely that experience at his baptism was a strength and comfort to him during that time.

Cherish the times when the veil between this world and the next opens up, and you see what you previously have not seen. Epiphany moments come rarely, yet they are precious, even life-changing. Like Jesus and like me, you will need these experiences in the days ahead.

May each of us enter this Gospel story deeply. May it speak to our hearts in the ways that only our Creator knows we need. Amen.

Who’s Missing from the Christmas Pageant?

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Matthew 2
January 5, 2014
Steve Hammond

We’ve talked about the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for the past couple of years. I just read that little book again over Christmas, and continue to recommend it to all of you. It’s the story of the Herdman kids, who were not your typical church family. Here us how the book starts.

“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s old broken-down tool shed.” Then in the last paragraph of the first chapter we read this. “We figured they were going straight to hell by way of the state penitentiary…until they got themselves mixed up with church, and my mother, and the Christmas pageant.”

What happened was one of the Herdman kids heard that there were snacks at Sunday School, and they were quick to respond to the exaggerated claims as to how often and how amazing the snacks were. And on the Sunday they showed up to check out the snacks, there was talk about how rehearsals for the Christmas pageant would start the following week. Imogene, the oldest of the Herdman daughters, had never heard of a pageant before. But when she was told it’s kind of like a play, she became very interested. The Herdman kids always sneaked into movies, so she thought this sounded kind of like a movie.

So all the Herdman kids showed up for the first Christmas pageant rehearsal the next Sunday. And there they heard something they never had heard before; the Christmas story. They were captivated by the story. They were also determined they were going to be in the pageant no matter what kind of physical or psychological threats they would have to make to insure no one challenged them for the parts they wanted.

Leroy wanted to know who was going to play Herod. When he was told that Herod wasn’t included in Christmas pageants, all the Herdmans were disappointed. Not because they wanted to play Herod. They wanted to beat him up. And it also encouraged them to go to the library and get library cards. People thought it was because they wanted to get their hands on the dirty books. But they wanted to find out more about Jesus and the Christmas story, particularly what happened to Herod. They were sorely disappointed to learn that there wasn’t much to find out. Nothing about him being beaten up or punished in anyway. They figured he maybe just died of the flu when he got old.

I think the Herdmans were right about their assumption that Herod would be a part of the pageant. He was a big part of the story. And you don’t really understand the story without him. It would be nice if the story were just about wisemen and shepherds, angels, a baby, a sweet young woman and her devoted and understanding husband. But it that’s all there were to the story, then you really wouldn’t need it in the first place.

“The light came into the world,” we read in John’s gospel, “and the darkness could not overcome it.” But it’s not that the darkness isn’t trying. People have been victims of the Herods of this world since long before Jesus was born, up until this very day. It feels like sometimes the forces of darkness are doing quite well. Just read the newspaper. Do you know how many kids are dying in places like Syria? How many children have been killed in U.S. drone strikes? Do you think their parents weep any less than they did in Ramah that day when the soldiers came?

I just saw the second part of The Hobbit this week, and there is a scene where Gandalf is doing battle with the Necromancer. The Necromancer literally tries to snuff out the light from Gandalf’s staff with a cloud of darkness and cries out that the light can never defeat the darkness. That’s what they think, Herod and all those Necromancer’s like him. And they do not take challenge to their power lightly, even if it’s got something to do with a baby in a backwater village.

The travelers were confused, I think, when they got to Jerusalem and nobody seemed to know what they were talking about. How could the birth of this new Jewish king go unnoticed amongst the people of Jerusalem, when these Zoroastrians had figured it out? They didn’t pick up on Herod’s fear, fear for his power. Maybe they were a bit naive. But no matter what happened in Jerusalem, they kept following the light.

I guess that’s the only way we can deal with the darkness. Follow the light. And it’s tricky because there are plenty of people like Herod who are trying to convince us they are following the light, too, but actually all there is to them is darkness. Hopefully, we will be able to figure things out, like the travelers did, before we come close to messing up everything.

Fortunately the story didn’t end at some house in Bethlehem, with Jesus nearly two years old, and his parents watching the travelers head back home. Jesus spent his life showing us the light. And like with the travelers, we end up in some unexpected places, with people having no idea why we are there. But it’s all because we have seen the star, and the light draws us to new and unexpected places.

Do you know who else is not in the story? The soldiers who were sent out to kill the babies. Can you imagine what it was like to receive those orders? To mount up on their horses, knowing that their next stop would be in Bethlehem where they were expected to slaughter those children? They heard the screams of the parents as they ripped their children out of their arms. They watched those babies die at the end of their swords. How do you go home to your own children after that? I’m sure they were told it was for the sake of the nation. And some of them probably tried to believe it. They had to find some way to escape from that dark place. And we still order soldiers to kill children for the sake of the nation. And we still try to convince ourselves we had no other choice.

Here’s the thing about light, though. It shows us that we have other choices. The word epiphany means revealing. The light reveals new paths and new possibilities. We can choose the way of Jesus. We can, as the singer Bruce Cockburn assures us, “kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight.”

The pageant ends with Imogene Herdman, in the role of Mary, in tears. She is overwhelmed by the story. It’s light, it’s darkness, and ultimately, her place in it. It turns out that there are way more people in the story than we realize, including ourselves. And we all have to go back home a different way, because once you have been to Bethlehem, things are never the same. And we spend the rest of our lives, no longer following stars, but following Jesus, walking toward the light.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” That sounds like walking toward the light to me.

“You should seek first the Realm of God and God’s righteousness, then all these things shall be added to you.” Sounds like walking toward the light to me.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Sounds like walking toward the light to me.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your God who is in heaven.” Sounds like walking toward the light to me.

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” Sounds like walking toward the light to me.

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Sounds like walking toward the light to me.

“And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me.’” Sounds like walking toward the light to me.

Antoinette and the Gunman: A Forgotten Epic

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

[Here is a poem written by Al Carroll about how one woman was able to talk to a school shooter and get him to put down his gun before he hurt anyone]

Antoinette was afraid,
Ms Tuff was downright scared.
The young man had
an AK-47 assault rifle,
that has killed more people
than any other gun
— likely more than the atom bomb.
They would later find
in his back pack
five hundred bullets.
Not quite enough
for all of the eight hundred
elementary students
starting the school year
at the Ronald E. McNair
Discovery Learning Academy
in Decatur Georgia,
but sufficient to make a
record number of deaths
resulting from
senseless shootings
at schools
such as
Columbine,
Virginia Tech,
Nickel Mines
Sandy Hook
and with more to come.

“BANG!”
Michael Brandon Hill,
age twenty,
fired a shot into the ground
just to let Antoinette
and everyone know
the gun was real and loaded.
Then he announced
In a desperate but
matter-of-fact way,
“I’m going to die today.”

It is not in the job description
of middle-age
black bookkeepers
to stand their ground
in the path of wild-eyed
young, white men.
But she did.

She did this thing
by herself.
But not quite alone;
for her uncle, the pastor
at The Way,
The Truth
and The Life
Christian Center
had taught her
to “pray on the inside”
when she’s anxious.
Whether you are
a believer or not
you can’t deny that
her faith sustained her
throughout this ordeal.

Antoinette did not
want to die,
but she knew she might.
She had known
The darkness of
her soul, when her
husband left,
and she had to care
for her disabled son
by herself.
So she knew
the pain of this disturbed
young man who felt
worthless and
unloved.

On the tense tape
of a 911 recording*
one can hear
Antoinette Tuff say,
““I’m gonna sit right here
so they’ll see that you didn’t try to harm me …
It’s gonna be alright sweetie,
I want you to know that I love you,
it’s a good thing that you did giving up.
Don’t worry about it,
we all go through something in life.
You’re gonna be OK.”

It made the news,
of the New York Times;
on page 13.
Even Obama called
to say how brave she was.

A week later,
The world little noted
And nearly forgot
what had happened
in Decatur, Georgia.
How, in love,
Antoinette
had stood her ground

Why?
Was it the threat
of nonviolence?

*you can link to the 911 call at www.youtube.com/watch?V=qltcso_e1lw