Tuesday, January 31


I just love movie-theatre popcorn. There's something so digustingly tasty about it ...


C.o.S. and I saw "Brokeback Mountain" this afternoon. First of all, I must know why there were so many people in the theatre for a 1:00 p.m. showing. Doesn't anyone work?


No one back home wanted to see "Brokeback Mountain" with me, for a myriad of reasons, all of which I understand but none of which I fully accept. I come up here and C.o.S. tells no one here wanted to see it with her either, for similarly understandable but unacceptable reasons. Then she waggles her eyebrows at me. Well, of course we're going to see it together, duh.

It was JUST. SO. SAD. From the moment the first shot opened, my heart sank into my belly and stayed there for the entire film. It was beautifully shot ... in a very sad way. It was nicely acted ... in a very sad way. It was well-written ... in a very sad way. So sad.

The only thing that occasionally distracted me from my sadness was the fact that Michelle Williams used to play Jen on "Dawson's Creek" ... and that she received an Oscar nomination for her VERY NOMINAL and not-that-interesting role in this film. Slim pickins for female actresses in 2005, I guess ...

(P.S.: the soundtrack -- the instrumental parts of it -- is gorgeous. Check it out; I already did.)


It's snowing here. It's cold. New York seems like the Deep South to me now.


After spending two-and-a-quarter hours devoting our brains to high-brow art, it was time to turn them off. Tonight, as promised, we turned into boys and watched "Kicking and Screaming," starring our very favorite Will Ferrell, and "Wedding Crashers," starring our very favorite Vince Vaughn. Then we scratched ourselves and went to bed.

Actually, we did neatly avoid Shrub's voice. We were sort of fascinated by the entry of the Cabinet and all the glad-handing that was going on in the chamber of the House. I am always extremely moved when I see this gathering on television. It is rare and unnatural, I think, for a government's political 'enemies' to gather in one place at one time, paste smiles on their faces, shake each others' hands, and sit for almost an hour in civility and respect (if not agreement) listening to their leader speak about things with which they do or do not agree or disagree, with varying levels of conviction and vehemence. After all, politicians in the various former Soviet republics are constantly throwing chairs at each other during their meetings. We here in the States ... we don't have it half-bad. Still, my main concern: "I wonder if they like each other or are they really that fakey-fakey? SURELY some of them must be friends. SURELY." I just don't know why it's so important to me that the members of Congress be friends with each other.

We were also exceedingly charmed by how frazzled and awed and exhausted Sam Alito looked in his new robe. Come to think of it, the robe sort of didn't fit right; poor guy probably didn't have his fitting yet, even. It was adorable -- as far as Supreme Court Justices can be adorable -- to see him tilt his head as far back as it would go and gaze about the chamber with his mouth slightly agape, seemingly disbelieving still that he was there, that he had been confirmed, that he was now a United States Supreme Court Justice, that he -- from wherever he came -- was now in the chamber of the United States House of Representatives, witnessing a presidential State of the Union address. It sort of made me think that perhaps, despite his years of training and hobnobbing and politicking and advocating ... perhaps he was still able to be awed and to be in awe of his life and his career. Perhaps there was a touch of innocence still left in him ... I think that might bode well for the rest of his tenure on the High Court. But of course, my main concern still: "I wonder what Sandra Day is doing right now."

When the chamber door opened up and Shrub started to walk in, C.o.S. and I started shrieking at her husband: "Don't let him open his mouth! Put in the DVD! DO. NOT. LET. HIM. OPEN. HIS. MOUTH." Poor SC. "Kicking and Screaming" went right in, and I was SO ready to be charmed anew by Will Ferrell ... but he just didn't do it for me tonight. The film was nearly unwatchable. So we didn't. "Wedding Crashers" went right in; it was mildly enjoyed, although the foremost question on our minds was, "how many uppers is Vince Vaughn on exactly?"

Bonus: Will Ferrell appears at the end of "Wedding Crashers."


Life with the L.O.L.'s -- all of them or one of them or any combination thereof -- is immensely comfortable. If you are an L.O.L., you can eat whatever you want, sit wherever you want, drink wherever you want, read whatever you want, say whatever you want, do whatever you want. And when you vacation with the L.O.L.'s -- all of them or one of them or any combination thereof -- you are also immensely comfortable, because everything is predictable in the best, most ideal and sweetest sort of way. You're going to eat a lot. You're going to have a serious discussion or two. You're going to laugh quite a bit and roll your eyes at the silliness of everything around you (not including yourselves, natch). You're going to go grocery shopping and rustle up something to eat. You're going to keep on eating. And then you're going to smoosh into a couch (or bed, if you're on vacation at Hershey Spa & Hotel) and watch it's-so-bad-it's-good television or a DVD.

Life is grand.


C.o.S. told me the other day that she loves her job because she gets to do what she knows that she's good at doing.

Huh. I never thought of it that way. I always believed that I should love my job, whatever I do, because I would work hard at it and it would be "fulfilling" and "meaningful" and would result from me applying my training and education. It never occurred to me to just do what I know I'm good at, and love my work because of that. It makes so much sense -- the satisfaction, the confidence, the comfort of doing what you are good at must be incredibly rewarding.

Talking about my upcoming interview, she told me that she suspects I will be good at advocacy-oriented work. I never thought of myself in that way ... but I am increasingly thinking that she is right. And I think that fortunately, my skill sets would happen to mesh with me being good at advocacy. So that got me to thinking ... what else am I good at? Here is the grand master list:

    * cooking healthy and hearty meals for large groups of people in a short amount of time
    * baking
    * organizing (although the state of my study right now would not testify convincingly to that)
    * planning events, parties and get-togethers
    * reading
    * taking care of people
    * grocery shopping
    * making coffee
    * intuiting how people are feeling and what they are needing
    * giving massages (I am merely assuming this because I have yet to receive absolutely negative feedback)
    * finding and encouraging potential in others
    * doing things on the Web (finding unimportant factoids on Google is a particular specialty)
    * taking notes
    * giving loved ones what they want without them asking
    * driving
    * walking (yes, despite the fact that I often trip over nothing)
    * multi-tasking
    * washing dishes
    * remembering
    * packing
    * purchasing appropriate and meaningful gifts
    * purchasing significant and educational children's books
    * following current events
    * being defensive
    * purchasing things at The Container Store, Williams-Sonoma, Borders Bookstore, J.Crew and Whole Foods Market
    * thinking and mulling
    * writing emails
    * holding grudges
    * keeping a musical beat
    * snuggling

There are more things, I hope, but I just can't think of them right now. I don't know how this list is going to guide me in my ever-continuing growth as an attorney. This could turn out to be very, very interesting ...

Monday, January 30


Whoever thought I would ever "vacation" in Boston? It gives me the heebedy-bejebeedies just to acknowledge the fact that I came north into Enemy Territory for R & R. Bizarre.

Being at C.o.S.'s home, though, I sort of feel like we are two hidden operatives. A couple of Yanks stashed away in the crevices of the greater Boston area, in order to infiltrate the as-yet-unenlightened and promote New Yorkism across the globe. It's a very noble, though fake, calling. And the feeling of being a spy is totally ridiculous ... but true ... and fun.


This morning in New York ... was there ever a more glorious January morn? I drove a friend to the airport, and on the way, we couldn't help but oft admire the sun, its warmth, the warm breeze, the way that everything was alive in a different sort of way than it had been the day before. On the way back from the airport, I actually rolled down the windows. All four of them. With David Crowder blasting from Herb, and sunglasses perched on my nose, I felt like it was summer come early. It is good to have these very visceral, visual, tangible, un-ignorable reminders of God's warmth and sovereignty -- living proof of the breadth and greatness of Creation.

Of course, dang Enemy Territory. It was like that scene in "The Lord of the Rings" (and probably every other fantasy or sci-fi movie ever made) where they rode from The Good (read: sunshine and balmy breezes flowing through lush grasses) into The Bad (read: cold, dark, grey and lifeless, with the only breeze being a chilly and evil one that shrivels everything it touches). As I proceeded norther and norther on I-84, the skies became greyer and greyer, the air coming in through GG's vents became chillier and chillier, the foggy condensation on my windshield became more and more crystallized. By the time I rolled into Boston proper, it was stinkin' 34-degrees outside and rainy. Talk about a let-down. I mean, I know God created rain and snow, too, but ... must it be so cold?


I saw KTM and STM for the first time in eight years. EIGHT YEARS. I am shocked that so much time passed so quickly, and astounded that we reconnected after so many years.

They are the same. In their very unique quirks and standards and speech patterns and life philosophies, and yes, even their looks, they are the same. Of course, they now have three incredibly adorable and precocious children, each of whom tugged at my heart for different reasons. I have to wax poetic about the youngest one, though: RTM, their boy, five years old. The face of an angel. A voice as soft as Cha-Cha-Cha-Charmin three-ply quilted toilet paper. A tousled head of thick and wavy brown hair. The opaque hazel eyes that are so very particular to Amerasian children. An easy smile and most endearing of all, an easy and free-giving hug. Package all this, add a dash of preternatural manhood and flair, and shove it into a set of flannel footsie-pajamas, and you just have one little bundle of five-year-old sweetness.

And he totally glommed onto me. I have to interrupt myself here to note one strange phenomenon I have noticed: little boys glom onto me. (And by little, I do mean little ... like under the age of five. Don't get any sordid ideas; I'm not like that.) CA is my goddaughter and my love for her is without bounds, but it's her brother MJ who runs to me to be wrapped up in my arms and never withholds his forehead for me to smooch. At S's wedding on Saturday night, the ring bearer, some random kid I HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE IN MY LIFE, spent the entire evening flirting with me, and ultimately shouting at me to "GO! AWAY!" before running after me to poke me in the back when I did go away. And tonight, RTM, wrapping his arms around me every chance he got and sitting on my lap, holding both my hands to his cheeks and rubbing my fingers with his own as I chatted with his parents.

So adorable. So sweet. So innocent and smart and open and trusting and warm and frank and embracing and cuddly and infectiously happy. I hope he grows into the same kind of man ...


C.o.S. and I, while so different in so many ways, are also so alike in really the most important ones. We believe in one God, one Jesus, one Church. We believe in friendship, and order, and justice, and reason, and a nice refreshing mug of beer. We believe in honesty and kindly blunt speaking. We believe in ice cream and snacks and vegging out on a bad-weather day.

And on that bad-weather day, we believe in turning into a couple of boys and watching movies just because Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell appear in them. If she weren't pregnant, I'd pop her a beer; if I wasn't grossed out by them, I'd ask her to buy me a bag of pork rinds.

But that is indeed our plan for tomorrow, for another thing that bonds us together is our utter and complete incapability of listening to Shrub speak. One State of the Union down tomorrow, two more to go. It's bad enough that I can hear his voice in my head when I read the text of the speech the next day; I don't need to see his goofy face at the same time.

Will Ferrell's goofy face, on the other hand = eminently enjoyable.


Random thought: methinks that sometimes, getting no sleep at night is TOTALLY. WORTH. IT.


It's strange, being back here. Boston was my home for three years; three very signficant and meaningful years. And though I hated it here almost every minute of those three years, when I left, I missed it. Sort of. Coming back ... does not at all feel like any sort of homecoming. I don't feel like a visitor, necessarily, although enough has changed that I am a bit disoriented and confused and feeling like a relic from the past. But ... well, I don't really know what I feel like. My feelings on this do not require this much thought -- though people I love live here, I need not concern myself otherwise with this town. Still ... it's always interesting to glance backwards and see the shape of the path I've walked so far ...

Sunday, January 29


It has finally happened. After months of putting it off -- I just didn't have the time -- I think I finally got sick.

Of course, I have to be better by tomorrow morning so that I don't infect C.o.S. and KTM and Ems, and I'm sure I will be.

But I'm so mad that my body succumbed. Sooooo non-compliant.


I don't know why, but I am still surprised when major news organizations like The New York Times includes features like this, a Magazine cover article about a missionary family in Kenya. I guess I think that the world doesn't care about Christians or God or God's work on this earth. I guess I think that the 'damn liberal media' (I'm being facetious -- I adore the Times) would never take the time or energy (or near-objectivity) to report on Christians or God or God's work on this earth. I guess I think that society would never care to read about Christians or God or God's work on this earth.

But I like being surprised in this way. The article is mostly well-written, and the missionary family is only very slightly depicted as a set of freaks. I am grateful for those small bonuses. And even more grateful that this article reminded me that God is bigger than me, The New York Times, society and the world.


She said it.

Mabel said that she would go to Vancouver with me this summer to take classes at Regent College.

So you know what? Screw it. Whether I'm employed or not, I'm doing it -- I'm going to grab Mabel whether she's pregnant or not, and we're going to put our money where our mouths are, and we're going to Vancouver.

Right, Mabel?


If I were a researcher, the first thing I would research is the Pee-Poo-Pee phenomenon. The Girls and I had a lengthy (yes, I said lengthy) discussion about this at two in the morning (of course it was at two in the morning -- one doesn't have conversations like this in the daytime) at the Women's Retreat.

The basic premise is that when one has to go to the bathroom to poo, one usually pees first. Then one poos. THEN -- and this is really the most interesting part -- one pees again. Thus, the Pee-Poo-Pee.

Why is this? Is it a self-cleansing mechanism? Is it that the initial pee was aborted in order to make room for the poo? (I don't think this last theory stands, because I have discovered that it IS anatomically possible for both men and women to pee and poo at the same time, although I personally choose not to because the sensation is ... not that enjoyable, although I appreciate the efficiency of it.) Is it an internal pressure thing?

Well, anyway. If I were a researcher, that would be the first thing I would research. And I'm sure, then, I would promptly lose all my government funding.

I really hate Queens. Sorry, Jimbo and Jaime, but I really do. It just ain't me. And it's just not car- or direction-friendly. And there are lots of smelly trucks there. Pretty much the only thing that is cool about Queens is that Chinese dim-sum place that Dr.K took us to, and the fact that it has two airports. I love airports.


The wedding was fun, actually. It was good to spend time with Boms and coach her piano accompaniment of the wedding ceremony. (More minor chords, Boms, always more minor chords.) It was good to see Flacon in satiny sage green, and frankly, if the non-chagrined look on his face was any indication, I think he rather enjoyed his short foray into the world of color. (The fake-tie concept, in particular, was eye-opening.) It was good to see S happy and receiving all he deserves. (The white three-piece tuxedo in the humongous photo that greeted guests was ... blinding.) It was good to be able to giggle incessantly with friends as we waggled our eyebrows at just about everything that transpired during the reception. (Sooooo many notes-to-self, I need to buy a whole new notebook.) It was good to be the last ones to leave the party. (I don't know what it is about us New Hopers. We sure do like to linger.)


Little Jess was a mess at the end of the ceremony, all tears and waving hands and drama. And yes, she actually said, "it was just too beautiful to handle!" Is it her (she's, like SEVEN YEARS OLD or something) or is it me? I think I just don't view weddings the way some women (or girls) do. The wedding itself holds no real appeal to me, when I think of the potential of my own. Heck, I don't even want a diamond engagement ring (Mabel just fell off her chair in horror). No, I'd rather just hitch up in my parents' back yard, and then fire up the grills for all our friends and family and dance away the afternoon in warm autumn sunshine. Preferably in jeans, but my mother and Mabel would kill me. Actually, if I did something like this, Mabel, Soybean, Charlie, Ha, Nance and Banana would all take turns killing me anyway because there would be nothing for them to do and that would drive them up a wall, I think. But when I think about marriage, that's what I think about: marriage. It is the prospect of building a life with someone, living through the day-to-day, solving each day's problems and receiving each morning's blessings, figuring out what to eat for dinner and what bills to pay when and which car to purchase and which bank to set up a mortgage with, resolving who's going to change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night and how to set ground rules for punishment and deciding the depth of our involvement in our church community, learning about each other every day and growing in love because of these things, walking faithfully with the Lord in building a family and community until the day I die ... these are the things that actually excite me and make me look forward to getting married. The wedding day itself (and the diamond on my finger) ... I can do without. Even if it is just too beautiful to handle.


What happens when you put two girls, all dressed up, in a car and send them on their way up the Sprain Brook Parkway? They get pulled over by the State Police.

Duly noted that:

1. State police cars' high-beamed headlights are really, really bright.

2. The flashlight that troopers shine into the driver's side window when they ask for "license and registration, please" is also really, really bright.

3. A proper response to "you were swerving in your lane and I just wanted to make sure you were alright to drive" is most likely not, "oh, she was telling me a story."

4. Nor is it likely to be, "oh, we were at a wedding" because then the next question IS going to be, "were you drinking?" and then any answer akin to "no" just sounds like a big fat lie.

5. Goofily adding "don't worry, it was a church-wedding, totally dry" probably does not help to bolster the "no."

6. I hate to say it but I think it's true: being a diminutive and young-looking Asian woman with makeup on helps in situations like this. Urgh. Makes me nauseous to say it but I think I speak truth. Rock on, Boms. Always an adventure.


I spent thirty minutes of the reception on the phone with DYC, NHF's pseudo-personal attorney, listening to lawyer-talk and pretending to give lawyer-talk back of my own. It was strange, doing "business" during a major social event -- I felt like some character on television. You know, the one who gets beeped during her daughter's wedding and just HAS to take the call. It was even stranger to have other NHF officials be making eye contact with me while I was on the phone, waggling their eyebrows, pointing at themselves wondering if DYC wanted to talk to them (which of course, he did), pointing at each other as if to pawn off responsibility, rolling their eyes at me and DYC making a big deal of something which actually sort of IS a big deal but no one else seems to care that it is, and throwing pieces of paper my way whenever the scrap I was taking notes on ran out of room. It was the most A.D.D. and spastic business meeting I have ever been a part of, with Billy Joel and Amy Grant crooning in the background. Bizarre.


Oh you know it.
There was an ice sculpture.
And you KNOW I had to take a picture.
With my tongue on it.
I just had to.

Saturday, January 28

23 MINUTES . . .

I have twenty-three minutes before I have to jump in the shower and prepare for the rest of my afternoon and evening (read: struggle with feeling beautiful in a dress I haven't worn in over a year and wrestle with unruly hair that only looks good when I don't need it to). I just realized that saying "I have twenty-three minutes before I have to jump in the shower" sounds really ... anal. But that's me. When I wake in the morning, I plan my day, sometimes, yes, down to the minute. I don't always stick to this schedule, but knowing that I could if I had to soothes my soul.

I have to spew. There is so much going on up there that I have to let some out so I can make room for new thoughts.

... Mabel is heading up NHF's new Women's Ministry Team. I am her lackey, and gladly so. There is a strange sense of non-condescending pride that I feel towards Mabel and Charlie lately. Charlie first busted out onto the NHF W/M scene by humbly agreeing (I prefer not to think that we strong-armed her in any way, but who knows) to lead a small group at the women's retreat a couple of weekends ago. I felt like I could SEE with my EYES the movement of God's spirit over and in her. Every time I glanced around to make sure she was doing alright ... she was. Mabel has always been a leader at NHF in one official capacity or another, but for some reason, this go-around, I feel like she is my leader as well, and it warms me to be able to look up to her in this way. I often wonder how she feels, being about three-four years younger than most of The Girls, and I have the gut sense that as leader of the W/M, she can really step into her own in leadership, growing and stretching in all the ways God would grow and stretch her, and learning all the ins and outs of leading a team of people. Given my own experiences, I would imagine that there will be lots of humbling, lots of blessing, and lots of falling down and struggling to get back up again. But isn't that the joy of service and growing? And will she not have me and The Girls about her to hold her up when her knees buckle? Let the games begin ...

... There are lots of things that are beginning, most especially at NHF. We have certainly been revitalized in a major way since PEK came along. He calls this his junior year, in a sense. Personally, I would view the coming year as the post-high-school-young-adult years of our church body: still young enough to be changed and molded and influenced and energized. But old enough to know better about what is right and wrong, what must be done and what must not be allowed to fall by the wayside in the advancement of the Kingdom. There's no excuse anymore for complacency, ignorance, non-involvement, childishness and immaturity. But there is plenty of room to fall and get up again, to study and study some more, to learn and to pool our boundless energies and talents in application of God's Word ...

... The W/M is only a small part of this new beginning, but for me, a particularly special one. This time last year, I remember so clearly, that all of us ladies were merely getting to know each other. Isn't it bizarre that I can remember this stage of our collective life? I could count maybe six or seven women friends at NHF ... and now, things are so different, for me, and I hope for all of the women. Life is full and busy for us, and maintaining friendship is ... hard. But how can we not see and understand the extent of God's blessings upon us over the course of the last year? How we have been galvanized into action of different kinds, to rally around one sister or another, to serve the church and each other, to support each other's families, to carry the burdens of major life changes as if they were our own. Today, to be in a position where a W/M can be established ... it's overwhelming in the best sense ...

... I am not overworked, not yet. But I am already looking back and wondering if I have been too busy for my own good. Ems and Ha will attest to my workhorse tendencies. I wonder if I use busy-ness as a crutch? Yes, I probably do. Still, I have no easy remedy for this. I work because I love what I do, especially at NHF. To take a week's break from the Praise Team -- although I know I need it to refresh my body and soul (and voice) -- is like slowly tearing a limb from my torso, and then sprinkling salt on the wound every five seconds, and then repeatedly poking the rest of my body with a pitchfork. No, really. I can't even imagine not working with Roberto and Mabel on our respective teams -- how else would I put my passion where my heart is? I have come up with only one solution to ease my overworked-ness. Someone's just going to have to pay for me to go to Vancouver this summer to study at Regent for a week ... and my stopover in the Bahamas on the way back. Thanks. ...

... I was telling Flacon a while back: I really envy those who understand and accept the concept -- no, the actuality -- of God's unfailing love. Praying through the Psalms lately, "unfailing love" crops up ALL. THE. TIME. And each time I see it, my heart squeezes in a million different places for a million different reasons. "How wonderful it must be to receive His unfailing love!" "How great it would be to be able to pray unfailing love back to Him." "Does everyone get this unfailing love except for me?" "What the heck is unfailing love?" Humans don't give unfailing love. We try, we really do, and I have particular friends with whom this concept is almost made complete; for them, I am ever thankful and am often rendered to tears to think of them. But even so, we will never really succeed at unfailing love, nor do I believe we will ever really know what it is. And still, there are those around me who receive God's unfailing love, with open hands and soft hearts and a complete ability to understand it as it comes from Him. I can't do that, and I am beginning to despise myself for it. I am so envious and wish so much that I, too, could be just as open and just as soft, and receive from Him what is impossible to receive from human beings ...

One minute left. Maybe I'll hit the shower early ... let the steam nourish more thoughts ...

Every once in a while, I receive a compliment on my perfume of choice. I wonder what they'll say today.

In about four hours, I'll be arriving at S's wedding. I'm mildly excited for it now, because of all the people I know, S deserves this happiness and blessing the most, and I couldn't be more thrilled and honored to spend this special evening with him and his wife-to-be. Plus, there's the added bonus of seeing Flacon in a green-checkered tuxedo vest and tie -- two items that never existed even in the horrible depths of his imagination before this wedding rolled around. "What happened to simple black tie?" he keeps asking.

But more importantly and horrifically ... my hands smell like freshly-minced garlic and spicy andouille sausage.


I mean, you just don't get between a girl and her craving for a hearty pasta lunch, you know? But already, even though the pasta is merely boiling on the stove, I am experiencing some regret over my choice of meal. It's bad enough that I'm feeling slightly flabby despite a return to my regular workout routine -- what the additional salt and spice might do to me, I have no idea. It's bad enough that I'm looking in the mirror and asking myself, "do I really look that dull-complexioned?" It's bad enough that I'm wondering exactly how pale I'll look in the black dress and shoes I'm planning on wearing this evening. It's bad enough that the dress doesn't really allow for all that much pasta-related bloating. It's bad enough that my hair is in that awkward stage where I can't leave it down and I can't put it up, so I have no idea what I'm going to do with it tonight in order to not have to think about it.

But now. Now, my body shall smell like garlic and andouille sausge.

I know there will be some who will catch a whiff of me and think, "oh yum, pasta." But I mostly dread the occasional whiffer who will think, "what happened to HER?!"

Oh well. Pasta's done. Gotta eat.

(Update: I ate the pasta. It was good. Really good. So good you're wanting some. But now my breath smells like garlic and sausage too. That's NOT good.)

Friday, January 27


The human condition -- what an insanely crazy thing. One day, I'm sitting here wanting "it" all, and wondering when "it" is all going to fall into my lap (if ever, although the optimist and faithful in me insists "it" will). The next day, when all the "it"'s start dropping from the sky, all I want to do is grab a huge golf umbrella, preferably made of aircraft-grade aluminum, and hold it over my head until the deluge stops.

I have a job interview next Friday, at the Women's Justice Center. If I do well, if I pass all the stages, if I decide that this is a position I would want to take for the two years that it is federally funded, then I'd be embarking on a totally new road. Where once I thought I'd be a litigator, I'd be going the road of advocacy -- something I've always said I would remain open to. I'd be committing myself to my physical community -- something I've always said I would do -- and I'd be establishing myself in a very particular world, a very particular segment of the legal world. I'd be helping people -- something I've always said I wanted to do. I'd be working with a team of very dedicated and singularly-minded folks -- something I've always said I valued in a workplace environment. I feel like my character, my words, my professed commitments are being tested. Do I stick to my guns (and a potential $30,000 pay-cut)? Stay tuned ...

While thinking about this new road upon which I might embark, it's interesting to think back over the last few years, where I've been since graduating with what is essentially a vocational degree, the work I've done, any impact I've made (if at all) in the lives of the people around me, the cases that I dealt with. I was incredibly blessed and I know it still. The work was always interesting, if aggravating at times. The people I worked with were vastly easy to love and care for. To live my faith in the workplace was never an issue, for I was surrounded by understanding, openness, curiosity and a commitment to diversity. Where I go from now ... the unknown is, actually, scary. I can pray and hope that the people I will work with in the future will be just as lovable and just as open to accepting who I am and Who I believe, that the cases will be as interesting and thought-provoking, that my time will be valued and I will be able to live my life. But if these things don't come to fruition, then what? Then what will come of my beliefs, the things I stand for, my personality?

And then ... I had lunch with an interesting lady the other day. We talked about all sorts of things, including the role of Christians in the workplace, in the marketplace, in the "real world." We talked about singleness and marriage and why both are great and why both suck. We talked about friends we have in common and why they are great. And then ... and then, I had a most unique experience. I felt like she spoke into my life, spoke truth into my heart, without even saying so outright. The questions she was asking me about myself, the stories she was telling me about herself ... so innocuous on the surface, but so deep and thought-provoking and heart-pulling just below that. I haven't been able to stop thinking and ruminating and crying and wrestling and laughing since ...

And then ... I discovered that two of the top guys from IJM will be teaching a short course at Regent College this summer. What I would give to take this course (and a handful of others that are just too, too tantalizing to pass up without a fight) ... Do I seek employment now, knowing that I probably won't have the luxury of taking a week's vacation this summer? Or do I live in poverty for a touch longer, just so I can indulge myself in Vancouver for a couple of weeks? (And speaking of travel, do I kidnap Charlie and make her go to London with me this summer, too?)

And then ... I spent a late night and an early morning with a good friend. Every time I thank him for kindness, or patience, or understanding, or generosity, or wise words, his response is the same: "it's not like that." Like what? And what is it like, then? There are things I am constantly learning about friendship, about friendship between two people who profess to place Christ and all of the ensuing grace and mercy and compassion and care in their midst. What does it mean for there to be unconditional love between two fallible individuals? What does it mean for politeness and forbearance to have no place in a friendship, and for every care that flows out to be a natural outpouring of the heart, instead of what norms demand? What does it mean for one to never get sick of the other, and for one to be able to receive from the other words that are always purported to be spoken in truth and clarity?

I have a quiet week coming up. Only two places I need to be: C.o.S.'s townhouse in Newton and Ems's apartment in Jamaica Plain. Then home to an uncharacteristically still home to end off a week that will be off the normal routine. That's fine ... I need time and space to think, anyway.

Monday, January 23


Tests of character crop up in the most unusual places. Having to offer patience in a demanding situation ... exhibiting forbearance towards a particularly annoying person ... feeling compassion for someone less fortunate or more hurting ... these are tests I can see coming and can prepare myself for. I can take the time to examine myself, the motives behind my (hopefully good) behaviours, and make sure that I tap into the best parts of myself to give to others.

But what does one do, what is the morally correct thing to do, in a situation where I merely have to choose between two social events?

One, is a wedding I should attend. An acquaintance from my college days turned team co-leader at NHF is having a small, intimate church ceremony this weekend. SMALL and INTIMATE. Which means the fact that I was invited alone means I should attend if at all possible. And yes, it is possible for me. A church full of people I don't know, an evening of schmoozing and being on my best behavior with a kind smile frozen on my face as I meet new folks, a long drive into an area that gets me lost every time. But, I confess ... I don't particularly have the greatest of urges to go (she says in a meek, chagrined whisper).

Second, is a fun night of madcap hilarity and bonding with my closest and dearest that I want to attend. Most of my girls and a new girl and a new guy and two hilariously precocious kids and a Scrabble board except we don't use the board. Night-long munchies, perhaps some wine, and definitely good, fun, deep, satisfying conversation with people who already know my soul and to whom I need present no walls, no barriers, no pretensions; they accept me for who I am and love me anyway. I confess ... I really want to go here.




I already responded affirmatively to the first. And I should, I really should, attend the wedding. I have to. It just wouldn't be right if I didn't, not after the invitation has been so kindly extended to me. I could say he won't miss me ... but he will, and then I'd feel badly.

So. I know the right thing to do. I know how to most clearly show the best of my character. Expressing my real inclinations aloud hasn't changed what I know is right. Sigh.

(On the other hand ... I get to dress up and look pretty. I hope.)
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Friday, January 20

MURSE . . .

I'm in a different Starbucks today, writing tomes and tomes to some far-flung friends. How I miss them. Waiting for Mabel to be released from the dark confines of her student-less classroom (really, why would you make teachers sit in the dark for six hours, if there are no students to teach?!), I have opportunity to observe a whole different demographic.

The local high school is having their senior play this weekend; opening night is tonight. The girl working behind the counter seems to be some sort of drama club den mother -- every teenager that walks in wearing the show's t-shirt gives her a great big hug and asks for stage make-up advice. She flits about throwing out accents here and there, mostly of the British variety, and air-kissing everyone in sight. I envy her freedom and flair.

A teenage boy walks in, wearing sunglasses and carrying a purse. Yes, a purse. It's black patent leater, with white fur pompoms adorning its corners. He flits about the store, air-kissing the den mother, and heartily greeting the other staff behind the counter. He pays for his beverage with a shiny patent-leather wallet pulled from his pompom-ed purse, then flits out, throwing palm-kisses behind him.

I admire his freedom and flair, too. It is good to see young people able to express themselves, to not be shy, to be accepted by their friends. I wonder that this was not the case when I was in high school, and I am strangely proud of society for opening its heart to those formerly shunned and ostracized. But still, I am strangely disturbed ... for that was one ugly purse.


NOT C.I.A. . . .

But close enough ... do I dare attempt the State Department's Foreign Service Workers' Exam again? 10% national pass rate, y'all ....

Thursday, January 19

IT'S ALIVE! . . .

Gurgle gurgle gurgle.

After one and a half days of near-suffocation, I am breathing the Internet life again from the comfort of my own home. Sad. I wish, I really do, that I wasn't so reliant upon the Internet. Damn the cable company. Hooch is right -- they are evil, and they toy with my emotions and my mental health. Gurgle gurgle gurgle.

On the other hand, there was a sick sense of adventure to be had in gallivanting all over the lower part of the state trying to find a WiFi hotspot. I'll be damned if some Starbucks outlets are letting their connections slide. Don't they know we are in a state of unconnected emergency?!?!

And as always, in a time of crisis (and don't laugh -- if this happened to you, you would consider it a crisis too and you know it), New Yorkers pull together and have a good laugh. Thanks to all of you who shared your power outlets and fun blackout stories with me while we commiserated about the severity of our Internet-withdrawal shakes. I hope your food hasn't rotted too much.

Wednesday, January 18


This has never happened before: I walk into my Starbucks on a weekday afternoon ... and there is not a single open seat in sight. And not only that, but with the exception of three seats, every single seatholder is using a laptop computer. Granted, they are all inferior machines, as anything other than a Mac is, as a matter of course. But still. Amazing. I sort of felt like I had strolled into a futuristic alterna-verse. Except that something had gone horribly wrong -- I was all frumped out in sneakers and a bright red ski parka. Totally not cool. Thankfully, Bob redeems me.


Doesn't anyone order a straight-up coffee anymore?


When did eleven-year-old girls start wearing dark black eyeliner, and when did their moms start taking them to Starbucks and buying them coffee drinks? "Stunted growth and your daughter looks like a hoochie-mama," anyone?


The jockeying for The Best Seats at my Starbucks is near-comical. For loungers, the oversized sofa-chairs by the gas fireplace are ideal. But alas, there are only four. And sometimes, workers like myself like to pretend to be loungers and plop on those chairs ... and promptly fall asleep with our laptops open on our laps. For workers, the table in the corner, right next to the power outlet and facing the window onto the main drag through town, is perfection. Everyone else gets stuck along the periphery. It's immensely interesting and amusing to watch people half-read, half-work, half-converse ... and half-keep their eyes on The Best Seats. When one opens up, there is a civilized vulture-like circling, as people start to lean, pack up their belongings and move in for the kill. Sometimes, entire tables will circle the perimeter of the store, as The Best Seat is given up, so the table next to it moves over, and so on and so on and so on. It's a very well-oiled machine, actually. Civility is astounding at times.


I'm sitting with my back to the window. This is freaking me out only mildly, because really, who would be standing behind me, reading over my shoulder? There is no one in this world who would be that interested in what I'm doing, and only a couple of people who would read over my shoulder for the sole purpose of tormenting me, and neither of them are in the area right now. I hope.


There are a kid and his mom sitting at the next table over. The kid is playing a prodigiously annoying hand-held video game. It is requiring EVERY. SINGLE. OUNCE. of forbearance and Christian goodness within me to not snatch the game out of his hands and throw it against the wall in a rage, then stomp on its remains until they are pulverized into dust.



Mabel's and my three-week sojourn into the land of musicianship has created an addict: I can't go a day without strumming around on the guitar now. I never knew -- I wish I had known -- how much a bit of music would enhance my day, my quiet times, my personal Bible studies. I suck, I totally do, and my range of strumming is pathetically small. And for someone who has a decent sense of rhythm and tempo ... it's like I've had a rhythmical lobotomy.

But the guitar is still so enjoyable. And I admit, I feel great pride when rubbing at my callouses. Oh yes. I have callouses. And they're peeling.

Unfortunately, my new-found guitar enthusiasm has served to create a monster in Flacon. He wavers between relentlessly begging me to play for him -- as IF -- and asking to drive me to a music store so he can help me buy one -- as IF.

Flacon: You should just buy a guitar.
Me: I don't have the money to buy a guitar.
Flacon: How much do you think guitars cost?
Me: I dunno ... a couple hundred bucks?
Flacon: Uhhh ... try a couple THOUSAND bucks.
Me: Once again, I don't have the money to buy a guitar.
Flacon: You should buy one anyway.
Me: I don't need to buy one. I have Kwon's. We have joint custody of this one.
Flacon: That's just sad. A guitar shouldn't have to spend weekdays with one parent and weekends with another. He will think you don't love him.
Me: First of all, the guitar is a SHE. Second of all, SHE knows I love HER. I love HER more than Kwon ever could. I even NAMED her.
Flacon: What did you name her?
Me: I'm not telling. That's between her and me.
Flacon: You are extremely strange.
Me: No, I'm not. It's just that she and I have a special relationship that she'll never have with her father.
Flacon: I just don't think it's right that you're sharing custody of a guitar. You should have your own.
Me: Then tell the church to buy me one.

And this is about the point where Flacon rolls his eyes and throws his hands in the air, and the conversation-with-no-end-and-no-logic comes to an abrupt and exasperated finish.

But wouldn't you agree? The church should definitely buy me a guitar. All the better to sustain my decidedly disgusting (yet strangely awesome) callouses ....



I didn't know there were power outages in the area today. That explains the glut of people in Starbucks, and all the digruntled moms with their restless children: schools were let out early today because of the lack of power.

I'm afraid to go home now. Isn't that terrible -- that I am so tied to electricity and the Internet, that the prospect of an evening at home with neither makes me nervous? I mean, I suppose I could make myself some lukewarm tea and read by candlelight, but ... then however would I blog about it?!?!



An entire family of four just walked in. The dad, the mom and the two daughters are each holding a laptop computer. They look like technological refugees.

Hilarious ... welcome to the 21st century, huh?


Finished: "The Glass Castle," by Jeannette Walls
Next up: "The Jane Austen Book Club," by Karen Joy Fowler

Monday, January 16


It's long, but still among the most worthiest reads in existence ...



AUTHOR'S NOTE: This response to a published statement by eight fellow clergymen from Alabama (Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter, Bishop Joseph A. Durick, Rabbi Hilton L. Grafman, Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop Holan B. Harmon, the Reverend George M. Murray. the Reverend Edward V. Ramage and the Reverend Earl Stallings) was composed under somewhat constricting circumstance. Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly Negro trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me. Although the text remains in substance unaltered, I have indulged in the author's prerogative of polishing it for publication.

April 16, 1963


While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I. compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place In Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through an these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants --- for example, to remove the stores humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.

As in so many past experiences, our hopes bad been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves : "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic with with-drawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run-oat we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run-off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct-action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may won ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distort the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression 'of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to ace the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "An Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this 'hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to 6e solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some-such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who 'has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; an too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Walleye gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it vi lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, ham and all over the nation, because the goal of America k freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if .you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handing the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in pubic. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."

I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face Jeering, and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My fleets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he k alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,


Thursday, January 12


Walking down the sidewalk this afternoon, I caught my heel in a dip in the sidewalk and nearly fell to the ground in a big, dramatic heap of hilarity. I employed a very neat recovery and raised both arms to the sky in triumph and drama. Both my companion and the random guy walking toward us burst out laughing. But what upset me most was not my aching ankle, nor the laughter ... but the fact that neither of them applauded!!!

Doesn't anyone applaud a really good trip anymore?!



I'm not kidding you. I'm staring at the headline right now through the window of Starbucks. The second lead story in the local newspaper ... it reads:

"Town wants levy built."

And yes, they're talking about an embankment that would prevent the overflow of a river.

Interesting. Let me know how that works out for you.

Wednesday, January 11


Sometimes it happens quickly; other times, it can take years, eons really.

The best kind of transformation is birthing in me, I think. It's not that I was pessimistic about this year, but I did start 2006 in not quite as buoyant a spirit as I normally possess. Something about God showing me exactly what kind of a person I am, exactly what I must do to change the bad in me, exactly how I am to grow and mature and be a better person. Difficult stuff, to say the least. Even the grace and care of friends was and continues to be a little hard to accept and embrace. Looking inward ... not a bad thing, but not always the happiest thing either.

But grace pierces through. I'm so thankful that those who put a smile on my face continue to put a smile on my face. I'm so grateful for those who will stay up with me, laughing and crying with me, just watching and listening through the silences, hugging me and lifting my spirits in the smallest, but most valuable increments. I'm so glad that there is persistence in those who love me, which butts heads with and conquers the persistence in me that doesn't always allow me to love myself.

And most thankfully ... I'm finally excited for the NHF women's retreat this weekend. Planning has taken weeks; my spirits and attitude haven't always kept pace with the development of ideas, creative touches, frenetic last-minute details. I've struggled with myself to keep a smile on my face; Mabel and Flacon have struggled with me to allow myself to just be me and to seek after Life. Wrestling pays off. With less than a week to go, my hopes are revived and my expectations are high. I'm still tired, and there are still things in me that must be brought into the light so I can examine them more closely. Still ... God is great.

Sing it with me.

Tuesday, January 10

IT'S HERE! . . .

MacBook Pro is here! Just announced at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco ... you can order it now, and it'll roll out to you in February.


Who wants to take my old PowerBook and give me $2000 so I can buy the new one?

Sunday, January 8


I'm cutting out of work early today; hitting the sack at 3:18am. Hee-hee. But today was very productive and I am officially overworked. Why is no one paying me to simply live my life? Sheesh.

Anyhow, sometimes, there's nothing quite like the feeling of crawling into a bed made up with freshly washed sheets and a freshly washed duvet cover.

Oh, delicious.

Saturday, January 7


The bottom line is this: I am now officially most productive between the hours of 10pm and 5am. Anything I attempt to do outside of those hours is completely useless. After months of conditioning and hanging out with people who are night owls -- and I mean, NIGHT. OWLS. -- I've become one of them.

The challenge now is finding a legal job -- a real legal job -- that lets me work these hours. Huh.



It's funny. I try to write; I really do. I mean, write, like, for real.

But I find that my best writing is in my emails. You should see some of the tomes I send out. Cheese knows. Ha knows. Flacon knows. The NHF Seven know. If those weren't so personal, I could just bind those and send them out as a manuscript. A real sordid, emotional, bare, raw, revealing, uncomfortable manuscript.

Still, that would be a heck of a lot more than what I'm producing now. When I sit down to write "for real," my brain shuts down. Everything that comes out of my mouth sounds awful, trite, stupid, uneducated, recycled. Not like my emails, where I am pouring out my heart and soul and mind, where I can think and rethink and formulate and dig for the very, very, exact words I want to use. No thesaurus necessary. Just me, just my feelings. The real me. Not the dictionary-aided me.

What is a wannabe to do? Maybe I'm not cut out to be a writer, not "for real," anyway. Why do I want to write anyway? To be published? To have my book on some list? To have people want my autograph and to have people look at me as A Writer? Or do I really feel the urge to express myself in that medium? Is there no other way I can be me, out loud?



Another busy weekend looms. Then a busy week. Then an even busier weekend.

This is horrible, but ... I can't wait until it's over. I am on the verge of not enjoying the experience. And believe me, that would be a real, crying shame. Truly detrimental.

I shared with a friend a couple of nights ago that I ... gulp ... don't want to attend the upcoming NHF women's retreat. I have not yet recovered from starting out this year exhausted and beaten down. To have to go and be with a group of women, to have to care for them, to have to take care of business, to have to be "on" ... I don't know if I can do it. It's not even a matter of wanting to anymore; I just don't know if I can physically do it. I have frightening visions of me withdrawing and going away to a quiet place every chance I get, or being unable to be free and muster up an outgoing nature for 36 hours, or even collapsing from the mental burden of living. Either way, I'd miss out, and that would suck.

My friend wisely assured me that it is in moments like these that God will lift me up the highest. It's not that He waits for me to be at my lowest point to show Himself; it's merely that His power is most obvious when I step aside and let Him be Him. So, that's all I'm depending on right now, that God will be God, and that He will use me and work through me despite myself, and that He will bless women through me even if I can't see that being done with my own limited human eyeballs. Oh yeah, and that He will keep me awake.


OWIE . . .

I have a papercut -- actually, a cardstock cut -- in the webbed part between my thumb and index finger.

It hurts.



I can't stop thinking about and enjoying the penguins from "Madagascar." They are just too much. I've been told that I'm turning into them. I can't see that as being an entirely bad thing.

Cute and cuddly, boys, CUTE AND CUDDLY.

Friday, January 6

WHO, ME? . . .

The other night at care group, the question was posed: when you were a child, what were your dreams? What did you want to be?

I am and always have been a nerd. And so I said, "I wanted to write books." (Now, this is not to the exclusion of other things. I, at different times throughout my childhood and teenage years, also wanted to be a surgeon, a Legal Aid lawyer, an astronaut, a high school foreign language or English literature teacher, a firefighter, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, and a CIA spy. Actually, I suppose there's no way for anyone to know if I AM a CIA spy right now or not. That's for me to know and you to ... not find out.)

Then Ranger Jay looked deeply into my soul and asked, "wanted?"

I had to correct myself. I still want to write books. I don't know how this is going to happen, or when. But it surely must. I mean, I can't carry this dream around for twenty-five years and have it not come to fruition, can I?