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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Emotions Stirring on Election Day 2016

Yesterday was very busy by my standards.  I was doing communications work for church and community organizing most of the morning.  I had a meeting that lasted an hour and one-half at noon.  Then I had to drive to Raleigh for another meeting at Shaw.  I stayed in my office after that to do some email catching up and get some preparation work done for the faculty retreat.  The next thing I knew, it was after 5:00 pm, dark outside, and the security officer was locking up the building now that all classes were over for the day.

I went on to the car and started the drive home.  The traffic fates had mercy on me, and there were only a few slowdowns with red brake lights shining, so I made good progress.  It's always tempting just to pick a restaurant and buy dinner on the way home, but nobody can afford that all the time.  On the other hand, going to a restaurant by myself gets pretty old.  I had made a plan for supper, and I knew Naomi would need to eat, too.  So I went straight home and started getting dinner on the table:  baked potatoes with Brown & Brummel's yogurt/butter spread and cheese, fresh snow peas, and corn on the cob.  I have to admit, we needed another potato to fill out the meal, so before long I was turning to the "Little Debbie food group" to reach complete satiety.

On that drive home I found myself in a roller coaster of emotions.  Listening to music or listening to news, everything was setting my thoughts off into deep reflections.  Suddenly, without any clear reason, tears welled up, and sent my investigative mind searching for "why?"  Rather than hiding, buried down deep as usual, my feelings stayed thick in my consciousness all the rest of the evening.  I did some more work on a project I'm trying to finish.  I read more up-to-the-minute analysis at the FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics websites.  I listened to the song I am supposed to sing lead on this Sunday at Mt. Level.  I read and meditated on lectionary texts from the past few weeks, especially the Prophets.  I chatted with a friend who helps hold me up.  I got a report of one of Everly's cousins' having passed away in hospice.  I listened to more music, finally getting back to one of my fall back artists, Bruce Cockburn.  And this morning, the mood remains.

Identifying why moods come and go is never as easy as I would wish.  If I could find the simple cause and effect, I guess I imagine that I could take charge of this embodied self and put me back on an even keel.  Hanging around long enough, knowing Everly for so long and her far greater familiarity with the stirrings and proddings of emotion, has taught me enough that I don't tend to react with an overwhelming effort to suppress.  My upbringing taught me to own the feelings as mine and stop looking for ways to blame them on something or someone outside of me, and I think I do a fair job of avoiding that.

A situation like this one really comes with a complex set of events and changes going on.  Naomi is in the final lap of finishing her dual masters degrees, and I feel the pressure she is under.  I'm at that point of the semester when all my unfinished work is piling up on me, with deadlines I hope I can meet.  As has often been the case, I puzzle in such times about whether what I am doing now is the best I could be doing for my calling to follow Jesus.  Naomi will be job hunting, and she may soon need to move out of the house we share to take up her calling.  W.D. is living far from all of us in Salado, and I wish there were a simple solution to his not being isolated.  It's quite a few things, and not any one of them.

The uncertainty, volatility, and hatefulness of the election season also takes a toll on me, and I can't help being afraid of what some results might lead to.  I have no delusions of American exceptionalism or divine destiny being fulfilled as the USA becomes the Kingdom of God.  I believe the opposite.  The sins of this nation, piled up, reach to the sky like a tower of Babel.  Trust in false gods of violence and wealth, oppression on every side while most of us enjoy such ease--"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion."  Almost all of the hope I can muster looks to the local possibilities of working for the common good.  At the national and state level, it too often seems like our work is defending people from the worst that leaders can do, holding off the extremes of greed, violence, and indifference.  I've cast my vote toward not stepping deeper into a cesspool of hatred for so many whom God loves, regardless of where they were born or how they pray.  One election can't transform this world into something it has no desire to be, and comparing options for least bad outcomes takes a toll on our hearts if we long for justice and beloved community.  That's my discouragement talking today.

As I write, I realize that four years ago, Everly was able to vote in the election, there in Salado, Texas.  So much has changed since then, and as months pass, the cumulative effects continue to unfold.  My beautiful David, Naomi, and Lydia keep progressing through their adult lives, passing through challenges and victories, and I wish she could touch them and tell them how proud she is and give them little trinkets of her affection.  She can't do that, and she couldn't go to her cousin's bedside, as he did for her in 2013.  His classically Southern name, Ben Tom, to distinguish him from uncles named Ben and Tom and another cousin named Ben, matched perfectly with a gentle, loving Southern way of caring for and encouraging others.  May God receive him in glory and love, and may the family know the presence of God in these days.  I am a witness--God will never leave you or forsake you!

Election days, if we can get ourselves out of the boxing ring and the horse race long enough, are days on which we think about the world that is coming: weeks, months, years ahead.  How do our choices, made in anger and rage or in lust and greed, shape the future lives of child workers in Bangladesh, fast-food workers who have to apply for welfare, and young men and women who will be sent to die for someone's profit margin and vacation home?  May we face this day with appropriate sobriety, and may our hope rest somewhere beyond the battle of Demicans and Republicrats whose record of caring for the poor and outcast, the marginalized and the worker, has been dismal at best.  May those elected catch a glimpse of the grace in which they stand, and may their endurance produce character, and may character give rise to a hope that does not disappoint.  Is it too much to ask?

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