Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent: The Wondering

photo by Holly Hayes / flickr

She came home with a smile and a little smirk. "Guess what?" she said. "I'm pregnant. We're pregnant." I don't know what I said--but it took my breath away. Pregnant. What did it mean? What does it mean? We were, together, moving into unchartered waters. I know it sounds dramatic to you seasoned ones who had forgotten when you first got your news. But for us newcomers--well--it was joyous and scary and we did not know what lay ahead. And the waiting. Nine months. Why that is almost a year! Will my wife be all right? Will the baby be all right? We don't have much money. And what does this total change in everything--really mean? We were moving, slowly--ever so slowly--into unchartered waters--and we just did not know.

And once upon a time the book says that this little girl--maybe not even sixteen--was told she was pregnant. The word came not from the doctor but, for God's sake, from an angel. Angel? She had never even thought about an angel--and that strange day--the angel came bearing this news. And she, too like us was moving into unchartered waters. And like us she did not know what it meant. Her worries were many. What would her parents say? We were never told. What would Joseph, her betrothed say? What would the neighbors say?

The angel said two things. "You are not to be afraid." And your cousin who has prayed for a child so long--she too is pregnant. And then the angel said this second thing."With God all things are possible." Mary thought it was a miracle that Cousin Elizabeth was expecting after all her barren years. Maybe all things really were possible. Even, she thought, even if you have not been with a man. Surely these were unchartered waters.

And so after all these years we come back to the story that never grows old. It is star-filled. It is wonder-filled. It is downright unbelievable because it goes against everything we know. Little girls do not get pregnant by themselves. Old women, too old for a baby--found prayers she left off long ago-- now answered! Impossible.

What does it mean as we still move into unchartered waters. This baby of Mary's turned the world upside down--or maybe right side up. Into a world of hate and poverty and unimaginable cruelty--two babies--Mary's and Elizabeth's came. Does it say anything to us? Dear God, I hope so. If God places down on our doorstep this promise of new life and new hope and star-filled, wonder-filled news--could he still turn things upside down or right side up? Sounds really crazy.

We, after all these years, need to remember two things the angel said. We are not to be afraid. And with God all things are possible. Help us to place all our fears and shames and worries before this Christ-child. Let us reaffirm the truth we have often disbelieved: with God all things are possible.

So much is so complicated in our time. Personally, nationally--internationally. Let us hold on to these two promises beside our troubled lives and time. Let us know, deep in our hearts, the One who never leaves and never forsakes comes to this time and to our time. If it is really true--Advent says there is a whole lot more in store for us than we can even imagine. Also we put aside all these worries about us and our country and our world. We put aside all the headlines and heart-breaks that are real. We will not deny them or evade them. We will work even harder for peace and justice. But we will also put all these things all down beside this good, good news which the angel still brings.  And despite incredible odds--deep in our hearts we will believe.

"Do not be afraid."
"With God all things are possible."

photo by Cinzia Bazzanelle/ flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Christmas Meditation: "What's this Advent Thing?"

photo by Gil Garcia / flickr

Like most card-carrying-bonfide-Southern Baptists I came to Advent late. After all--I grew up in a church where ceremony of any kind was suspect. Kat-lick--we would say. No robes--no candles except for weddings--and we hoped most brides would keep them to a minimum. The closest we ever got to the celebration of Christmas in that mill village was when the mill officials came down from Olympus and handed out fruit baskets. Santa Claus--or a sorta reasonable facsimile-- would waddle in and the Christmas celebration would begin. By the next day--most of the fruit and the candy and that handful of nuts would have disappeared. Maybe we sang a few Christmas songs on Sunday--but we would keep our Church celebrations to a minimum.

Meanwhile back at home my Mother had already sent our "colored woman" to the liquor store (after dark to get the whiskey for the Fruit cake. At night because everybody knew who this black lady worked for--and they would spread the rumor that the Lovette's were lushes--which Baptists supposedly were not. We got out the silver and gold spray paints and sprayed leaves and branches for the mantle. We dragged in a huge Christmas tree for our little house--decorated usually with blue lights. I can't remember why except we thought that was very cool. Meanwhile in the kitchen Mama and our maid were busy baking cake after cake. We bought two hams--one fresh and one cured--a big fat chicken--my Mama said old turkeys don't make good dressing. And the presents began to pile up. We had no idea what this Advent was. But the whiskey bottle was empty.

I think the first time I heard the word, Advent I said, "E-vent?" And the response: "No--Advent!" "What does that mean?" Piously someone said: "It means you are spiritually getting ready for Christmas and it takes four weeks to get there. "Four weeks!" I said. "Yes" was the answer.

Well, I grew up some and went off to college and somewhere along the line I visited a church when somebody walked down the aisle and lit some candles while the choir sang softly. It moved me terribly. So when I finally became Pastor of that little church on a side highway in western Kentucky I tried to introduce Advent to my congregation. Something new--of course they were suspicious. But since they didn't want to hurt the new Pastor's feelings--at least at that point--they said, "Well--go ahead." I don't remember much about that except the first Sunday our head usher, Miles came forward as the choir tried to sing--and lit all five candles! I don't know how we backed out of that fiasco--but the church lived ("the gates of ha-il will not prevail!!") and so did the green Pastor and even the Christmas season.

Well since I have cashed in my Union card and when people say: "You--you are a Baptist!" I say: "Not that kind of Baptist." So somewhere along the line I learned more about the meaning of the season. You can't just get up on Christmas morning, open your presents and then somewhere in the day maybe, maybe think of the Lord Jesus asleep in the hay. But not often. Advent is expectation. Advent is getting ready. Advent means: Prepare ye..." Advent means pondering the mystery so great that it just washes over you in wonder, love and praise.

So--occasionally I have donned a robe. We finally taught those that lighted the wreath which candle comes when. We added a little later a Chrismon tree and put wreaths and candles in the windows--and just before Christmas Eve we lined the pews with candlelight. And for those four weeks every heart, one way or another was trying as best we could to prepare the way and hopefully hear heaven and nature sing.

With all the hoopla around us and all this despair-celebration over the Trump victory--we need in Advent. To tell each other the story of a poor couple who traveled a long way--with doors slammed shut along the way--wound up in as cow stable--because there was no room in the inn. Hmm. Sounds familiar doesn't it.

My favorite Advent memory was that year when it was Christmas Eve and the Staff and Choir were up in the balcony. Out of the darkness a little boy, holding a candle came down the aisle softly singing: "This little light of mine." And, with tears in my eyes, I whispered: "Yes." And Christmas came.

So I look forward now to "Come O Come Emmanuel."  I love the Processions and the robes and the candles and the recurring memory of the tiny Jesus asleep in the hay. And when I hear the Advent words: "The word became flesh and dwelt among us...and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out" I know why there is an Advent. Through the years it has carried me through warring churches and denominational squabbles and assassinations and Watergates and Viet Nam and saying goodbye to parents and friends and too many boys and girls still coming home in  boxes. And Advent tells me what it has told people through the ages--that politics does not have the last word but underneath it all there is something we cannot see and sometimes even fathom. Nothing, folks, no-thing will separate us from the love of God. And that's why this year I'll once again show up, dab my eyes, feel a lump in my throat and once again, I hope, say: "Yes."

--Roger Lovette /

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Building Bridges--Not Walls

photo courtesy of MarineCorps NewYork/ flickr
"Troops become citizens on Liberty Island"

One of the charges we all have is to make sure that we live up to our name: United States of America. As we know every generation must hammer this dream out for themselves until it becomes a reality. Remember the pledge of allegiance: "with liberty and justice for all." 

There have always been forces in our country that would divide instead of unite. We must all make sure that we are part of the all-ness that our forebears dreamed of. 

Wise theologian Walter Brueggemann throws out this challenge in his book, Journey to the Common Good.

"The great crisis among us is the crisis of 'the common good,' the sense of community solidarity that binds all in a common destiny--haves and have-nots, the rich and the poor. We face a crisis about the common good because there are powerful forces at work among us to resist the common good, to violate community solidarity, and to deny a common destiny. Mature people, at their best, are people who are committed to the common good that reaches beyond private interests, transcends sectarian commitments, and offers human solidarity."

photo by Celso Flores / flickr

--Roger Lovette /


The poet, Wendell Berry has stabbed me awake this Thanksgiving-time. He writes "Come to the window, look out, and see..." God knows I need to look out my window. For months I have been obsessed, worried, happy--depressed over this election. And now that this interminable hoop-la is over my heart almost stops when I read of some of the possible appointments by our new Commander in Chief. But it's Thanksgiving--and what do I have to be thankful about? Stupid question.

Wendell Berry gets my attention. Look out the window. And when I do this: "Oh-God-how-did-we- ever-get-to-this-place" doesn't really go away but makes make look at some things I have forgotten lately. Maybe a long time. I look out my window this Thanksgiving and what do I see.

"I see as blood-red tree in front of my house that has not lost its leaves. I see a house across the street with an American flag waving in the breeze. And from inside this widow comes out with her dog, carefully walking down the steps, holding on--because the arthritis never goes away. I see a crape myrtle with its yellow leaves and purple berries where blooms used to be. I see a tiny Indian woman holding a even-more tiny baby. She walks by every day and the love I see in her face is something to behold. Out my window a student runs by. And an old couple, holding hands shuffle up my street. If I squint my eyes and look to the left I see new houses going up. And Hispanics--mostly climbing ladders, nailing boards in place--manning a concrete truck. I see grass turning a brown color but covered today in those leaves that have lost some of their color. I hear the birds outside my window--chirping loudly since nobody is walking down their street. Trucks go back carrying supplies. The people that cut our grass and bushes rake and blow the leaves--and I wonder who they left back home--kids, wives? 

Two houses from
photo by Jack / flickr
me is a whole painting crew I got to know when they painted my house. Rough cigarette-smoking men, some missing more than a few teeth--but yet laughing and making the house they paint look great. My flowers have not yet faded--geraniums, even a few vincas and impatiens. My stone rabbit in the center of these plants--looks out and I wonder what he could be thinking. Down on the porch I saw a chipmunk today sitting on the bannister. Never saw that before. Taking in the sunshine--looking out. Wonder what he can see? The sky is blue gray today but sunshine and shadows bathe it all in glorious light.

This is Thanksgiving-time. I forget often that first Thanksgiving. Outside the camp were the mounded graves of those that did not make it. If legend holds there were Puritans and Indians and even maybe a skeptic or two at that gathering. But despite their hard days they sat down as if they were one and bowed their heads and gave thanks for the tiny bowls on that first table.

I put aside all this Trump-talk aside at least for a while. Sucking on that poison does no good at all. So I look out my window and try to pay attention. God knows I don't have too many years left and how can I fritter them away with the madness that has come and gone through the decades. They're not outside the window but their pictures are close by. My wife without whom I could not make it. Two kids that brought a multitude of joys this year. Two granddaughters--now grown--that grace me again and again.

That window makes me remember my friends some close and some far away. I call to mind all that laughter and craziness and just being together. I could bore you with a list that is seemingly endless. I won't do that. But Buechner says when we take down your own album and show someone your pictures--hopefully they will take down their own albums and remember.

Forget Trump's triumph or Hillary's defeat. Forget the shoulder that hurts. Worries about money and ailing friends and too many birthdays. Look out your window and open your eyes and your heart. I'll bet your cup will be filled and running over which I think is Thanksgiving.

So peering out the window is remembering time. Dostoevsky said it so beautifully: " And even if use are occupied with important things, even if we attain honor or fall into misfortunes, still let us remember how good it was once here when we were all together, united by a good and kind feeling which made us better perhaps than we are."

It's time to look out the window. I guarantee if you peer out there long enough you will be glad. 

photo by Liz / flickr

Roger Lovette /

Friday, November 18, 2016

Preacher Leonard Cohen

photo by Kevin Williams / flickr

Leonard Cohen has opened some doors and windows in my life that were stuck. Isn't that always the task of a good preacher?I know, I know how flawed this man was in as great many ways. And he would have laughed his fool head off if somebody called him a preacher.

Leonard Cohen died a few days ago but he left us words and music that will be with us for a long time.  My favorite comes from his moving words in "Anthem." They have helped me many times. Listen. Listen closely.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in."

We bounce along and things seem sometimes mighty fine. And then...all hell breaks loose. Divorce...sickness...She/He lose a job...or faith...or a friend...or you hate what you have done...or you lose an election...or maybe you win one and it is not what you thought it would be at all. 

Maybe Cohen is right...maybe it really is in the cracks and fissures that the light really gets in. It has happened to me over and over through the years. Something unexpected or terrible occurs and looking back I learned something I could have never known any other way. 

The troubled preacher Leslie Weatherhead lived through the blitz in London. His daughter never got over that awful time. He was subject to great depression often. Yet he was a great preacher and writer. He wrote somewhere about those words from Isaiah: "I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places." (Isaiah 45.3a) That phrase : "the treasures of the darkness" came straight from his heart. I think he would have loved Leonard Cohen. 

Leonard Cohen's song, "Hallelujah " has been recorded over 300 times. If you have heard it you can understand why it means so much to so many. 

"There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah."

We will miss Preacher Cohen. He let the light shine through his own brokenness and taught us a mighty lesson.

photo by Frank T / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

A Prayer After the Election

"Prayer Station" photo by Robin / flickr

(After the election many of us have been dumbstruck and in grief. We must remember that ours is a long journey and that one victory which we feel is terribly misguided is not the end of the road by a long shot. We still believe--sometimes. We still have faith--sometimes. And so I offer you this prayer by a very fine and gifted colleague. She reminds me--and I hope a lot of us--that our task is still "to pick up the pieces where we left off." Words worth pondering.) --RL

Nancy Hastings Sehested
Sunday 6 November 2016

Thank you God, for the shaping from the saints in our lives…for the foolish and the wise ones, the serious and the silly ones, the reserve and the overbearing ones, the mischievous and the obedient ones…lives whose presence have broadened and enriched our own.

Free us from regrets by your grace. Strengthen us by the witness of your hope-bearing and love-embracing saints before us. May these days make saints of all of us in perseverance in the struggles, in resistance to evil, in reliance on your Spirit.

After Tuesday, may we pick up where we never left off…feeding the hungry, teaching and tending the children, listening to the lonely, comforting the broken-hearted, healing the sick, raising all those who are dead and disheartened in spirit.

After Tuesday, may we be found among that countless number who still practice the politics of praise for your creation, and who have always made art of your divine deal of reconciliation.

After Tuesday, may we be counted among that number who still lives for your great dreams for humanity again and again and again…bolstered by the resolve that we are stronger together when we sacrifice together for the common wealth, the common good, the common cause of justice and peace.

After Tuesday, may you still find us with Jesus, walking unafraid, unfaltering…undone only by your Spirit swirling in and around us all.

After Tuesday, may we be convinced more deeply than ever that nothing, neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from your love.

Through the Christ of love, we pray and pray and pray. Amen.

©nancy hastings sehested @

"Catriona's Prayer" photo by Ewan McIntosh / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Wise Words About Post-Election Days

photo by Alan Levine / flickr

Guy Sayles preached this sermon the Sunday after the election. He was the fine Pastor of the First Baptist Church,  Asheville, NC until his retirement because of a diagnosis with cancer. But he continues to fight and to dream and to work. I applaud this good man and the good, good work he continues to do.  - RL

I've not known what to say in response to the election; but the challenge and gift of preaching on Sunday, November 13, at All Souls' Episcopal Cathedral resulted in this sermon. Rather than try to edit it for a blog post, I am simply posting the entire manuscript. The lectionary gospel of the day, which is the text for the sermon, is Luke 21:5-19.

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, gave his life to care for the developmentally disabled, and he once offered a benediction which began with these jarring words:
May all your expectations be frustrated.
May all your plans be thwarted.
May all your desires be withered into nothingness.
Vanier’s odd benediction reminds me of the well-known and ironic Irish blessing which says:
May those who love us, love us. 
And those who don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if he doesn’t turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles
So we will know them by their limping.
If Vanier had only said, “May all your expectations be frustrated, may all your plans be thwarted, and may all your desires be withered into nothingness,” there would be no blessing in his words. But he added: “That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God.”

We all know about thwarted plans and frustrated expectations; they are part of life. They’ve certainly been part of many people’s experience since late this past Tuesday night. The results of the election were more shocking than the Cubs’ winning the World Series.

The longshot won. Statistical genius Nate Silver, the bookies in Vegas, and almost every opinion poll thought that the odds were good that Secretary Clinton would become our first female president. It’s as if Donald Trump kicked a forty yard field goal in the last seconds of the game to win it in an upset.  
Wednesday morning, part of the frustration—and anger and grief—that Clinton’s supporters felt was that their stunned realization that about half of the people in their country weren’t frustrated at all. They didn’t want to believe that their fellow citizens had put a man they see as a racist and a misogynist in the White House.
Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, couldn’t understand how anyone could have wanted to elect someone they see as dishonest, too-scripted, and beholden to special interests. 

We can all see that we live in a bitterly divided nation, and the division isn’t simply into two different worlds but into multiple ones.And, I think we all share fear in common. Fear voted and fear takes to the streets. Duke theologian Stanley Hauerwas claims that, “If there is any mood that characterizes American culture, it is the mood of fear. The most powerful nation in the world runs on fear” (Approaching the End, p. 89). 
Our children feel it. On Wednesday, a 5 year old boy in a Buncombe County school said to his young friend, an immigrant from Mexico: “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you. I won’t let them send you back.”

All of us—left, right, center; red, blue, and purple—feel gripped by powers and realities we can’t comprehend or control and which diminish and demean us. The fear we have in common is the greatest threat to the love we could have for each other. Fear keeps us from singing and dancing together as beloved children of God.

Near the end of his life, Jesus was teaching in the Jerusalem Temple; and, for the Jewish people, it was the safest and holiest place on earth. God had pledged always to meet them there. The ark of God’s promises resided at its heart. There, the people prayed and praised, admitted their sins and received God’s mercy, remembered who they were and recommitted themselves to faithfulness. They could not imagine themselves or their faith apart from the Temple.

As Jesus was teaching, some people talked about how magnificent and beautiful it was, and Jesus unsettled them when he said: “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” That was unthinkable: it would be the end of the world as they knew it.They asked Jesus: “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” He said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.”  When the Temple is destroyed (which happened in 70 CE), Jesus said, people will announce that everything is unraveling, winding down, and giving-out. Fear will take to the airwaves and to social media to say: “Civilization is collapsing. Catastrophe is on the horizon. The earth is slipping off its foundations.”

Jesus used the rich and disturbing imagery of apocalyptic—earthquakes, wars, famines, plagues, portents in the sky, and persecution—to describe how dangerous, uncertain, and fearful the world would feel when the Romans reduced the Temple to rubble.  And, astonishingly, he said: the end of the world as you know it is not the same thing as the actual end of the world. “Do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”

The Temple, for all its beauty and significance, was a human construction. There’s nothing transcendent or permanent about any of our religious or national institutions. To look to them as ultimate, as essential to our identity, is to make idols of them. They cannot bear the weight of our expectations. All things human, even the things we most trust, can falter, fail, and fall.  When they do, Jesus said, it will feel like the end, but it isn’t.

Even, he said, persecution is an “opportunity to testify”—to bear witness to the abiding realities of faith, hope, and love in the face of anxiety, despair, and fear. Don’t, he urged his followers, live your lives thinking about what you will say and do when the trouble comes: “Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” If you focus on what might happen, then the dread of it will run and ruin you. Live in the present, not in your anxieties about what the collapse of once-dependable things might mean.

Richard Rohr recently said that Jesus offers us the “AAAAA recovery program”: Be alert, alive, awake, attentive and aware (Richard Rohr, The Naked Now, p. 134). The world has not come to an end, there are signs of God’s presence hiding in plain sight.
The challenge and invitation for us is not to surrender to our fears, but, instead, to renew our confidence in Jesus’ way of self-giving love.

He calls us to love our neighbors and our enemies, even when we’re startled to discover that our neighbors and enemies are sometimes the same people.Jesus’ way is not na├»ve: when we love our enemies, we still recognize that they are enemies. When we live by mercy in conditions of brokenness, we don’t minimize the brokenness. When we seek peace, it is because we know we don’t have it. 

Rather than “do unto others as they have done unto you,” Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you base you behavior on the actions of others, you will live your whole life in reaction to your pain. Be proactive for peace. Take the initiative to listen. Be first with grace.

Build a future of peace, a tomorrow of joy, instead of living in the rubble of resentment.  Open your heart to what can be rather than nursing the wounds of what should have been and what might have been.

Historian Jeffery Burton Russell, after his massive study of the figure of Satan and all of the human evil it symbolizes, reached this conclusion:
Love is the remedy for evil.  We are called to fight evil, but we are also called to know how to fight it. Evil is not effectively resisted with hatred and with guns. Evil cannot be defeated with evil, negation with negation, terror with terror, missile with missile. The process of negation must be reversed . . .   The only response to evil that has ever worked is the response of Jesus . . . That means what it has always meant: visiting the sick, giving to the poor, helping those who need help  . . .  Above all, it means fostering children, loving them, not harming them, so that future generations may be less twisted. . . . The prescription is the same as it has always been; it remains only to follow it at last (The Prince of Darkness, conclusion).

We can live Jesus’ way of love, because he loves us first, always, and without limit or condition.  He sees us and knows us for who we really are. He knows why we are like we are, how we’re wired-up, our wounds and strengths, and the sources of our hopes and fears. Seeing it all, he loves us. He joins us in our struggles, grieves with us, and weeps with us. He inspires our resolve to seek wholeness and gives us courage to confront the shadows within. Jesus loves us.

And he loves everyone else. He understands the people we find impossible to understand. He knows why the people we find most offensive are like they are. He cares as much for their flourishing as he cares about ours. He is as tender and forgiving with the people who anger us as he is with us. He cherishes the children of our enemies as much as he cherishes ours. 

According to Annie Dillard:
Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav noticed that if dancers could persuade a melancholy person to join them, his sadness would lift. And if you are that melancholy person, he taught, persuade yourself to dance, for it is “an achievement to struggle and pursue that sadness, bringing it into joy.” In 1903 [a year in which Russia passed a number of laws “hobbling Jews”], this same Rabbi Nachman said, “I have danced a lot this year.”

Sometimes, we have to, we get to, dance before we feel like dancing and let the feeling catch up.  I know it’s a difficult thing to do, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Frederick Nietzsche said: “Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”Because God is still God and the world has not ended, the rhythms of rejoicing, the cadences of confidence, the harmonies of hope, and the lyrics of love are still sounding everywhere—even here, even now.

Sing and dance, child of God, sing and dance.

(You might want to check out Guy Sayles' blog. Excellent. 

--Roger Lovette /

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Some Reactions to Mr. Trump's Victory

photo by Cliff / flickr

My first taste of Donald Trump was when he spoke outside Pendleton, South Carolina one very cold night maybe eight months ago. After walking in the cold for about thirty minutes--when I got to the rally he had already spoken and left. Walking back to the car there was a man selling Tee-Shirts. Emblazoned on the front was: Donald Trump will kick the s... out of ISIS!  Kinda scary to hear those words from a Trump follower. But I reasoned every politician have fans that get carried away. But then the months went on. Mr. Trump's remarks scared me.

Attacks on Mexicans...Immigrants of all kinds...Women...the Disabled...Gold Star parents like the Khan's who had lost a son in Afghanistan...the whole unending Birther myth...and his sneers at poor black neighborhoods...and good decent Muslims. This is not the end of the list. And the hate and anger and rage from so many of his followers throughout this campaign scared me. This was unnerving. I was afraid this venom and hatred would spread.

Well, people all over are letting their fury out on all kinds of people of color and people that are different. I was afraid this might happen. The genie is out of the bottle.

You might want to tap into Sean O'Kane's words that come from the lips and actions of some of Mr. Trump's followers the first day after his election.

My hope is that Mr. Trump will speak strongly against these incidents. When David Duke came out in support of Mr. Trump he denounced him and I was glad. I still hope he will take the lead from what John McCain said when some woman told him: "Obama is not a real American." John McCain assured her strongly that she was wrong and Mr. Obama was a citizen and a good person.

As President of all the people--my great hope is that Mr. Trump will speak out against the hatred that is out there because if he does not it will grow.

What can we do? We can be kind to one another. And includes all the other folk that did not vote our way. We can treat Mr. Trump and his followers with respect. We can let Muslims and Immigrants--legal or illegal--and many others in the minority know that most of the people in this country--including most of Trump's followers--value them and are glad they are here. Many people are hurting today. My best advice is to reach out to them. And when we sit around the Thanksgiving table--it is not time for a political food fight. It is to treasure the ties that bind us to one another. And I say the same thing to those who now wonder if they have much to be thankful for after this election. Oh, but they do.

My other advice is: Mr. Trump is the new President of the United States in January. We must remind him continually that he is a pubic servant and he works for us. We do not work for him.

It will be hard to corral all the venom and hate that is out there--but this is the job of our new President, his staff and all of us.

--Roger Lovette /

Friday, November 11, 2016

Losing an Election Hurts!

photo by Steven Spinks / flickr

I had my article half-written before the election congratulating Hillary Clinton for winning the Presidency. Donald Trump would lose, of course. So—my semi-prepared speech was directed to Donald and his followers. Don’t protest this election, I intoned. It wasn’t rigged. Don’t continue your vituperative diatribe on how the country will fall apart and we’ll find ourselves on the ash heap of history if Hillary Clinton wins. I kept going. Cancel all the investigations up your sleeve on our President elect. And for goodness’ sake don’t pull a Mitch McConnell and say that we have to be sure she is only a one-term failed President. And Mr. Trump please don’t miss the Inaugural balls because you and your tribe will meet secretly to plot the demise of Hillary Clinton’s presidency. There is too much at stake to do this.

I wanted to continue to write Mr. Trump—we’ve had gridlock and meanness and racism the last eight years. Nothing consequential has gotten done. Bridges and roads are crumbling. Schools need serious attention. The Supreme Court cannot fill a much-needed slot. So many out there are still jobless or homeless. The veteran suicide rate is tragic. Mr. Trump, lead a movement even though you lost to help bind up the nation's wounds, the way Abraham Lincoln talked in another divided time. 

Guess what? The election messed up my article. And Democrat that I am I have had to sit down and lick my wounds and have an enormous pity party. Ok. Times up. Will I take my own medicine that I was too dish out to the supposed losers? Taking your own medicine is hard to do. Will I dig my heels in and say no way will I do anything but despise this new President who did not even win the popular vote. I can fantacize that in his first day in office we let him know loud and clear that we will do all we can to defeat his Presidency. 

But wait. Maybe I need to remember there are bigger fish to fry than my grief and anger over  a lost election. We’ve got to get things done. We’ve all got to put down our weapons of choice and try to work together. Somebody has got to try to heal our divisions.

That does not mean forgetting our Muslim-Hispanic brothers and sisters. It does not mean ignoring the promises of Trump's wall. It does mean asking over and over: OK, if we erase the health care of 20 million people what do you put in its place? 

But we have got find ways to make this  country work for everyone. So—I’ll closed my eyes and swallow hard and take my own medicine. This is very difficult for a Preacher who has been telling others what to do for 40 years. You—me--us—we’ve got to make this United States the country it can still be. I do believe the charge is: Liberty and justice for all. No exceptions.

I tell couples getting ready to get married winning and losing is not an option in marriage. When you play that game somebody winds up mad and somebody thinks they have the power. Not so. Everybody loses. Compromise, listening, respecting one another, give and take—that is the work of marriage and nation-building. Hmm—I can’t believe I wrote this. But it takes more than a little sugar for the medicine to go down.

(This blog piece was printed in The Greenville News (SC) Op Ed section November 17, 2016)

photo by Quinn Dombrowski / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Kristallnacht--Today is the 78th Anniversary of that Awful Time.

photo by David Skinner / flickr
Maybe I'm being too dramatic--but in the aftermath of yesterday's Presidential election--I have thought about Germany and the Hitler days. On November 9-10, 1938 this became known of the "Night of the Breaking Glass." Kristallnacht. Today is the 78th anniversary of the beginning of a terrible chapter in German history.  Before that night most of the hatred against German Jews was nonviolent. But Kristallnacht changed all that. Paramilitary forces began to attack Jewish homes, hospitals and schools. Jewish buildings were smashed by sledgehammers. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged. Authorities watched on and did nothing. 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. This was the beginning of one of the darkest periods in German history. This was the beginning of the murder of over 6 million Jews. 

I have been reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It tells the story of that dark time in our own history of slavery. The savagery and violence perpetrated against all those black folks we kidnapped from Africa and brought here as slaves is hard to ponder. Black women were sterilized so they would not produce more black children. Many had no idea what doctors were doing to their bodies. Black men, women and children were put on the auction block and sold like cattle. Children were separated from their parents. Black couples were sent to different plantations. Black women were used sexually by their owners over and over. Black men became studs to impegnate black women so the plantations could have more workers. Some were burned alive as other slaves were forced to watch.

Runaways were punished terribly. Some had their tongues cut out. Some were hanged and left as a reminder to those who also thought about escaping. Others had hands or feet cut off for punishment. The Underground Railroad provided escape for many. 

My daughter teaches at a Title One school in Atlanta. Each child gets free breakfasts and lunches. She told me that only this morning one of her little black boys asked her who won the election. She said, "You  know." He said, "We gonna be slaves again." "No you're not," she assured him. She also told me that all her Hispanic students were scared. She said they had picked up the anxiety from their parents over Mr. Trump's comments. 

On this day I remember what happened in our own tragic history. And I remember that terrible time in Germany 78 years ago. I am not saying that Mr. Trump is some sort of Hitler figure. I am saying that this is America and every child and adult should live in this country without fear. On this Anniversary of Kristallnacht--and the day after our Presidential election--these are my troubled thoughts. 

UKBERRI.NET / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

After Election Meditation

photo by S J Pinkney / flickr
My son called this morning asking "What are we gonna do?" 

My daughter called saying: "I woke up at 4 and could not believe it. Felt physically ill. "

My wife said at breakfast, "It's terrible." 

And turning on the TV they all mutter, "How did this happen?" As usual, they think they know.

And they spin their spins. 
Too many lies.
 Being a woman. 
Being a Clinton. 
Too distant. 
Too sure. 
Class warfare.
Over confidence.
Voter discrimination. 

 I have little joy this morning but we have been through some dark days before and we will go through some dark days again. And after the grieving is over and life settles down one way or the other--we must not let this be the last word.

Wendell Berry helps me here.

"Shall we do without hope? Some days
there will be none. But now 
to the dry dead woods floor 
they come again, the first
flowers of the year, the assembly 
of the faithful, the beautiful, wholly given to being. 
And in this long season
of machines and mechanical will
there halve been small human acts
of compassion, acts of care, work
flowerlike in selfless loveliness.
Leaving hope to the dark
and to a better day, 
receive these beauties freely
given, and give thanks."*

                +                +               +                +              +            +

"I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.

I have no love
except it come from Thee.

Help me,  please, to carry 
this candle against the wind."**

* Wendell Berry, Leavings,  p. 85
**Wendell Berry, Leavings,  p.33

photo by Jeff Nesanelis / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Charles Chandler--Parachute Maker

November 3rd in Richmond, Virginia there was a special occasion when Charles Chandler, Founder  and Leader of an organization that has helped a multitude of ministers is retiring. Ministry to Ministers is over 22 years old. Charles went through a painful church experience at age 58 and was without work. He had been successful all of his ministry. Written books, served as a Denominational leader, an author of a multitude of articles. But this organization he founded 22 years ago has helped many, many ministers going through a vocational crisis. He has helped save countless lives.

His organization would bring not more than 12 people in for a five-day retreat. All of these had suffered pain in churches. Some had been dismissed. Many had no job. The pain that them and their families endured was most difficult. In a retreat setting of five days counselors, vocational consultants, sometimes a psychiatrist helped there that come find hope and help for their difficult situations.

There was no charge for those retreats. Most had little money or resources to draw on. Some could not even afford transportation and this would be provided. Living on a shoestring--this splendid organization have sponsored over 132 Wellness Retreats. Over 1200 men and women have participated in these retreats. This does not count the phone calls, referrals and personal conferences that have reached out to help many ministers in need.

Charles Chandler was honored Thursday night for his great work to help so many.

I could not be there for the meeting--but this is the letter that I sent to be read that evening. Those of us who have known and worked with Charles Chandler have received many blessings because of his friendship and work. 

Dear Charles—

I am sorry that I cannot be with you and the group tonight for your well-deserved—er, what shall we call it: roasting, kicking you out, putting you out to pasture, surely not your funeral. All kidding aside—tonight’s tribute is the least we could do for one who has given and given to the hurting and those in need.

I remember back to 1993 or 1994 when you know knocked on my study door in Birmingham and said, “I want to talk to you.” He knew I had been through a difficult church experience just two years before. 55 years old and no church and wondering what I would do for the rest of my ministerial life. And in my office sat Charles a friend whose ties went all the way back to Birmingham and college days. He was 58 years old and had also been through a difficult church experience in Virginia. 

Anybody that knows Charles knows that when he says: “I want to talk” he means it. And so he told me about his dream of maybe beginning some kind of ministry to ministers who, like me and like himself had faced a difficult time in ministry. And so that afternoon he began to share with me his dreams about MTM. He had no idea what the future of this dream would take but he was willing to try.

And try he did. Now, looking back over 1,287 women and men in the ministry had found help and hope in these 22 years. This does not include the countless phone calls and personal conferences he had with so many. Once a woman went to talk to the great preacher, Harry Emerson Fosdick. As she left she told his Secretary, “He helped put the stars back in my sky.” Men and women of a multitude of denominations have found the stars once more because of the hard work of Charles Chandler. Out there in the trenches many serving church, but not all—some maybe do not even remember Charles’ name—never mind—they remember and follow the Lord Jesus still with hope because of Charles Chandler and MTM.

William Stafford, a great American poet said, “I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” At age 58 dear Charles began to weave a parachute out of the broken  things of his life. Not only vocation—but personal loss in a son—and the disappointments and headaches that we all face. Charles was unselfish with his parachute. He shared his pain and wisdom with so many through these years. And out there across out country so many have woven their own parachutes thanks to Charles and MTM. 

So Charles, even though I am not present with you in person I am with you and Betty in spirit. As I think back to that day in my study in Birmingham over 20 years ago I am glad you shared your dream and I am glad for the tiny part I have played in this incredible ministry of stars and parachutes. 

You have blessed us all. And we thank you for all you have done.

In gratitude,  Roger Lovette