Saturday, February 11, 2012


It wasn't just the voice.

It was the light we saw in her eyes when she sang.

She looked like she was tapping into a well of creativity and talent that was continually replenished to overflowing by the Creator Himself.

I think that’s exactly the way it happened.

She sang songs from her heart

and they touched ours 

leaving an indelible mark on a generation.

Memories of millions of lifetimes are wrapped up in the lyrics of her songs

making us feel young again whenever they’re played.

I pray that what we’ll remember most about her is

her smile that could light up the world

her eyes that sparkled with a secret only her song could reveal

and that voice….

That voice.

Thank you, Whitney, for sharing your gift with us.

Go with God and rest in peace.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


I just watched an excellent program about the Freedom Riders on PBS's American Experience. I confess I don't remember a lot about 1961 - I was just shy of my third birthday when all this took place - so I was glad to learn more about it and glad my daughter was watching with me.

This program was riveting for both my daughter and for me as we watched the story play out, day by day, told by the Freedom Riders and others involved. They shared their memories as black and white films and photos of the actual events were shown, taking us step by step through the whole story of these brave young people who helped to change a country.

We saw white officials in the South explaining that segregation of the races was the best thing for everyone and how it was wrong for these agitators to interfere and try to make trouble for everybody. Their basic message was, "If you want to mix the races in your state that's your business but we don't do things that way around here. It's against the natural order of things. Down here, everybody knows their place. It's best to leave well enough alone."

But of course, the Freedom Riders didn't leave well enough alone.

Because they knew people were just people, regardless of the color of their skin.

And the Constitution says people have rights.

Southern whites expounding on the natural order of the races as a great universal truth did not speak for all white people. The plan of the Freedom Riders was for white people and black people to travel together. They all knew that they were likely to be hurt, perhaps even killed for defying the Jim Crow laws of the South.

They also knew that nothing would change if they did nothing.

I understand that the Southern segregationists were afraid of change. They were afraid that they would no longer be able to control their society and that their status in their communities would be lost. They were fighting for their way of life.

But their way of life was wrong.

Because people are just people.

And the Constitution says people have rights.

After watching this program I saw that some of my friends on Twitter had been having a heated discussion about same sex marriage with a person who called herself Christian. This person said "I am a Christian so I know marriage is between a man and a woman."

My first thought was, I am a Christian and that person does not speak for me.

How many different Christian denominations can you name? How many different types of churches do you pass every day in your city? Some worship on Sundays, some on Saturday. Some dress up to go to church, some come as they are. Some allow women to preach and teach and some do not. Some welcome gays and lesbians and allow them to serve in any capacity while others close their doors to them.

There are many different types of Christians.

When I was growing up, everyone in my extended family was a Baptist minister or married to one. Every Sunday when I went to church I learned that "God is love".  I heard my mother sing hymns as she went about her housework when no one else was looking. And at bedtime my family gathered on the big bed I shared with my sister and read the Bible and prayed together.

The Truth that God is love was everywhere in my world.

I am white and I am Christian. Those who call themselves Christian who speak with words of hate do not speak for me any more than white segregationists do.

I know some who oppose same sex marriage will say they don't hate gay people. So what is it called when you see someone as less valuable, their relationships less meaningful, their families less legitimate than your own? Why can't they enjoy the same protection under the law that heterosexual couples do? Why do they have to jump through legal hoops to protect their rights as parents? Why is their relationship not recognized by the law even though they've been committed to each other for decades, raising children together, while others are allowed to marry and divorce as often as the seasons change?

It doesn't matter if your religious beliefs say that their relationship is sinful. There are those who believe it is sinful for women to wear make-up or pants. Should that change their status under the law? Whatever your religious beliefs are you can find someone who doesn't believe the way you do. Your religious beliefs are your own but the law is for everyone.

Barbara Jordan, black Congresswoman from Texas, made a statement to the House Judiciary Committee in 1974  and she spoke of the Constitution:

"Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States: 'We, the people.' It's a very eloquent beginning. But when that document was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787, I was not included in that 'We, the people.' I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in 'We, the people.'"

There was a time when slavery was legal in America.
But we learned and the law was changed.

There was a time when racial segregation was legal in America.
But we learned and the law was changed.

There was a time when inter-racial marriage was illegal in America.
But we learned and the law was changed.

Each time the laws were changed opponents were dragged kicking and screaming into the future that we know now. But no matter how hard they fought it, change was inevitable.

I believe there will come a day when we will tell a new generation about the struggle to legalize same sex marriage. And they will shake their heads in disbelief that people once opposed it just as my children couldn't understand why anyone would want racial segregation.

Maya Angelou said "When you know better you do better."

It's time for us to do better.

Sunday, February 05, 2012


I've had a busy evening of chatting with a few friends online. OK, more than just a few. This evening I took part in a "Deck-date" with Crystal Chappell on Twitter. She calls it that because, like many of us, she uses Tweetdeck. She sets a time and lets everybody know she will be on Twitter and ready to chat. I can only imagine how fast the tweets must fly by as hundreds of fans start typing all at once. And she replies to as many as she can, answering whatever questions are thrown at her. I love that she wants to connect directly to her fans.

I signed into Facebook briefly this evening - I think I've been avoiding it, afraid I'll see the dreaded new Timeline format I haven't bothered to learn about yet. But I like to check and see what's new with family and friends whether I take the time to post something new myself or not. Tonight I was surprised to see that Jill Lorie Hurst was on Facebook, too, so we had a quick chat. She held me accountable for my comment on my previous blog about writing something new every day and asked if I'd posted a new blog yet. So here I am. She is a wonderfully effective encourager and her belief in me has had a much greater impact on me than she realizes. And yes, Jill, I will write that book. Eventually.

Jill and I connected on Twitter and Facebook long before we met in person when my husband and I took our daughter to New York City for her 18th birthday and Jill spent the day with us. Today I was on Twitter discussing plans for another trip to NYC. Again I'll be meeting people I've been chatting with daily for at least a year or two. I'm always amazed at the way these friendships develop with people from all over the world.

It's been over two years since I blogged about the importance of these online friendships when I wrote about Cathie Wagner. During a time of grief friends who had never met face to face could offer each other support and comfort any time of the day or night on Twitter. Just a quick comment or two and the knowledge that someone else is there to help carry our load can help us feel a little less alone in our struggles and give us a little hope.

Tonight, I saw this play out on Twitter again. I noticed that one of my friends hadn't shown up in our usual Saturday night chat for Crystal Chappell's fan club and after the chat was over I found out why. My friend's father had passed away today. As soon as she shared the news I saw our friends, one after another, offering their condolences, prayers and words of comfort. I prayed that she would feel all the love and know that we're here for her if there's anything we can do. I'm sure she has friends and family in her life to support her, as I did when my mother passed away. But how well I recall every word of encouragement I received from my online friends during my own time of grief. 

I know some people think that connecting through social media actually makes us more disconnected from real life relationships. But I think it's like any long distance communication. It is what we make it. 

During the last couple of years of my mother's life I called her frequently. We wouldn't have a long conversation because it tired her to talk and made her start coughing. But I could talk with her a little about things we both enjoyed on TV or ask her a question or two about things only she remembered. I tried to always give her a little laugh or at least make her smile since I couldn't be there to give her a hug. 

In these conversations with my mother we said what we really wanted to say, which we didn't always do in person. My mother had always a very busy lady. If I wanted to talk to her about something I often had to follow her around the house while she was doing some chore or other and we were frequently interrupted, either by someone else or by our own random thoughts. We talked about what to have for supper and the latest sale at the mall and whether or not the plants needed watering instead of saying "I've missed you", "You look beautiful today", "I'm proud of you". But when I called her during those last couple of years, I said what I wanted to say and she focused on what I was saying and we connected in a different way. We made it count.

Twitter and Facebook are just tools of communication. It's up to us to decide how to use them.

I hope I always use them to really connect to my world. 

I hope I make a difference.

Friday, February 03, 2012


I recently considered trying to write a new blog every day. It shouldn't be too hard since I used to keep a daily journal. I can always think of something to say. I could just write about one of the hundreds of stray thoughts that zip through my head on any given day or pick one of the several projects I'm working on to write about. The more I thought about it the more I thought, "Who would read that stuff? There's nothing interesting about my day."

Take today, for instance. I slept late, because I don't have a 9 to 5 job to check into and because I've been fighting a cough the past few days and thought the extra rest might do me some good. It did. And now I plan to spend the rest of the day sewing a teddy bear for a customer while I put my feet up and watch TV. That's about it. Nothing earth shattering here today.

Oh, and I'm on Twitter off and on throughout the day. I confess I do a lot of retweeting, particularly about issues that are important to me. This week I've posted and retweeted about gay marriage, matters of faith and soap operas, among other things. 

The past couple of days I tweeted and retweeted a lot about the Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to pull their funding from Planned Parenthood. I thought about the way so many people see Planned Parenthood as the bad guys. I guess my perspective on this issue is a little different than some people's because I like to look at the history behind an issue. Where did it come from? What was it all about in the beginning and how has it changed, in perception and in reality?

When Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in America women could not vote or sign contracts. They couldn't open their own bank accounts or divorce their abusive husbands. Contraception was illegal and information about family planning was considered "obscene". After 18 pregnancies and 11 children Sanger's own mother died when she was only 40 years old. 

At its foundation, the organization that became Planned Parenthood was in the business of providing information to women, empowering them to make good choices for themselves and their families and saving their lives.  That's what it continues to do today.

That sounds to me like they're the good guys.  

There are those who are opposed to the things Planned Parenthood stands for on moral or political grounds. I understand that they are very passionate about what they believe. I certanly don't expect everyone to agree with me on everything. There are those who think it is wrong for me, a woman, to wear pants or cut my hair. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

But if an organization is able to help those who cannot help themselves, providing life-saving services they could never afford, I don't understand the logic that says all support should be removed because of a difference of opinion about one or two things.

When did we start to expect complete agreement on all things? If that's your expectation, you will always be disappointed. When this country was founded there was much disagreement about how it should be established, what form it should take and how it would be governed. It was understood that when Congress convened there would be a great deal of impassioned discussion on the issues before a workable compromise could be reached and laws could be enacted for the common good. Compromise is not always a dirty word. It's how government works when it works. And it's often why it doesn't work when it doesn't. Nobody gets everything they want all the time. 

We are a country of many different types of people. I believe it must be a safe place for all of us - even those I disagree with - or it's not a safe place for any of us.

Today, when I read that the Komen Foundation had reversed it's decision to defund Planned Parenthood I felt like I had made a difference just by being part of the discussion on Twitter. I helped spread the word, explained the issues to some who didn't understand what was at stake and I was part of the great outcry that forced them to reconsider their policy.  

I guess I did something interesting after all.