G is for Gardening and Growth

It’s Spring in Alabama… time to start the planning and preparing and planting that is the beginning of the gardens that will provide visual and gastronomic delights as the cool springtime weather turns into the blistering heat that is Alabama Summer.

Nothing is better than eating vegetables and fruits from your own garden. And nothing would be better than planting the seeds for social justice and equity for all citizens of Alabama in the hearts and minds of our young and old, interfaith, different cultures, Democrats and Republicans, men and women… so that we can all enjoy the fruits of those seeds in the future.

And my favorite, John Denver, gives us a true little ditty to take to mind, take to heart, and take to song to help us make these efforts grow into the garden of hope for Alabama’s Daybreak:

“Garden Song”

Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row, Someone bless the seeds I sow.
Someone warm them from below, ’til the rain comes tumbling down.

Pulling weeds and picking stones, man is made of dreams and bones.
Feel the need to grow my own ’cause the time is close at hand.
Grain for grain, sun and rain, find my way in nature’s chain,
to my body and my brain to the music from the land.

Plant your rows straight and long, thicker than with prayer and song.
Mother Earth will make you strong if you give her love and care.
Old crow watching hungrily, from his perch in yonder tree.
In my garden I’m as free as that feathered thief up there.

Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row, Someone bless the seeds I sow.
Someone warm them from below, ’til the rain comes tumbling down.

~John Denver



F is for Francis

Francis… my old hero and my new hero.

Below is a post I made several years ago on the birthday of Saint Francis, and I thought it would be appropriate for my “F” blog, along with a few quotes of the new pope, Francis I, on why he chose the name. Like I said… my old hero and my new hero: FRANCIS.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love… For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  ~Saint Francis of Assisi

             I’ve learned many lessons from Saint Francis over the years since my high school days. I can’t say those were the best days of my life, but I can honestly admit to a little wistfulness as I remember finally being allowed to wear jeans to school, pairing those jeans with a flannel shirt, and listening to John Denver sing the words of Michael Murphy as he told the simple story of “The Boy from the Country”. Growing up at the tail-end of the Civil Rights Movement, I now have many heroes and sheroes from that era, but at that time I didn’t appreciate them as I do now. Since then, I’ve learned to embrace Gandhi and his teachings; the real-life lessons taught by the fictional characters of “To Kill a Mockingird” have helped me form my own moral character; and although I have never met her, I count Maya Angelou as the mentor of my soul because of what her writings have said to me through the countless reading and re-reading of them. But it was Saint Francis that first introduced me to personal passion and individual responsibility to become that person one was meant to be. In a way, Saint Francis was my first crush: He garnered and encouraged my own passion in both what he had said and in the way he lived his life. I had never known anyone like him, real or fictional, dead or alive… and I marveled at how simply he lived his life and how happy he was in doing so.

My younger brother used to kid me about “Francis, the Sissy”, and I took offense at his poking fun at him. I now understand that if waging peace and loving people is seen as weak, then so be it: I’m sure Saint Francis had a redneck badge of honor gained from not only grit, but grace as well. He certainly was no coward: One has to be strong in conviction and faith to turn his back on his family and turn towards God’s promises as Francis Bernadone did. His complete acceptance of Jesus and his teaching of faith found in Matthew 6:22-34 is a lesson in complete trust with which I continue to struggle: But I have an example that it can be done through the story of the poor little monk of Assisi. His story is important not just because of what he said or even for what he did. It is important because of how he lived.

Both biographers and songwriters stress that Saint Francis chose to not see the forest for the trees: He chose to see the individual and to live in compassion with those that were in poverty, in pain, and in need. Rereading Jim Wallis’ article in “Cloud of Witnesses” as we start another year of JustFaith fellowshipping, I am reminded that Saint Francis listened intently, with his ears, with his eyes, and with his heart. The people he served knew that they were important to the man small in stature yet great in love, simply because he listened to them, looked at them, and knew them for who they were.

We need to take this lesson from Saint Francis and make it our own. Yes, the social injustices and blatant inequities of the world can be overwhelming, if we look at only the big picture. So much poverty, so much pain, and so much ugliness can make our eyes glaze over. But if we remember to look into the eyes of those we wish to serve, and open our ears and our hearts to them as individuals, then we can see each person for who they are and not simply as a part of mass devastation. This, I think, is the lesson of compassion and solidarity Saint Francis taught us.

Back in those high school years long ago, I wrote a little verse that applies somewhat to the birthday wishes for today:

                                    Friendship is like
                                                an old flannel shirt:
                                                            and comfortable.

I want to be warm and comfortable in living the lessons learned from Saint Francis, but I know to live those lessons I must be ready and willing to roll up my sleeves, wear my old jeans, and walk through the forests of needs… making eye contact with individuals and listening with my heart to know who each of them are. So, Happy Birthday, Saint Francis! And may we all have many more shared with you as we look for our own area of service in Jesus’ name.

On Choosing the Name Francis

The man of the poor. The man of peace. The man who loved and cared for creation — and in this moment we don’t have such a great relationship with the creator. The man who gives us the spirit of peace, the poor man who wanted a poor church. (Vatican press conference, 16 March 2013)

Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation. (Vatican press conference, 16 March 2013)

[Francis of Assisi] brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, [and] vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He changed history. (Sobre el Cielo  y la Tierra, 2010)

Collazo, J. & Rogak, L. (2013). Pope Francis: In His Own Words. New World Library. Novato, CA. (p. 17-18)




E is for Esslinger

Esslinger… that’s me. I have to accept the responsibility of my own daybreak, here and now. I have to accept Rumi’s words as a promise: There IS a morning inside of me waiting to burst open into light. I have to accept the challenge of looking into the faces of poverty, getting to know the people of those faces, and know their story so that I can call them by name. I have to rise above my comfort level and fight for equity and equality for each individual. I have to gather my courage, and my strength, and be ready to not only defend others against injustice, but go on the offense and fight for true justice. I have to ask myself: “Debbie, it’s Daybreak… are you ready?”

Daybreak in Alabama: The Poem

When I get to be a composer

I’m gonna write me some music about

Daybreak in Alabama

And I’m gonna put the purtiest songs in it

Rising up out of the ground like a swamp mist

And falling out of heaven like soft dew.

I’m gonna put some tall tall trees in it

And the scent of pine needles

And the smell of red clay after rain

And long red necks

And poppy colored faces

And big brown arms

And the field daisy eyes of black white black white black people

And I’m gonna put some white hands and black hands and brown and yellow hands

And red clay earth hands in it

Touching everybody with kind fingers

And touching each other as natural as dew

In that dawn of music when

I get to be a composer

And write about daybreak

In Alabama.

~Langston Hughes

C is for Candidates… and Congregations

I hate to make the analogy, but I’m afraid it’s the truth: As politicians get more extreme, holding tighter and tighter to both the pursestrings and the heartstrings… congregations become more exclusive and turn inward to their existing congregants, instead of opening up and welcoming all that might want to attend. Conservative congregations are growing by leaps and bounds… people find comfort in congregants that look like them, believe like them, and act like them. But if there is one God and we are all brothers and sisters, shouldn’t we be flinging the doors open, as well as our arms, in welcome to everyone?

It’s Daybreak, Alabama… and we need to think about this.


B is for (the) Beautiful

Alabama the Beautiful. The state’s slogan greets each person crossing over the state line on each of the main thoroughfares,,, I65, I59, I20, I10. My home is truly a beautiful parcel of land: It stretches from the foothills of the Appalachians to the beautiful sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast, with hills and valleys, rivers and streams, farmland and forests in between.

But all of us here in the Deep South have been taught a very wise lesson, probably from the time we were old enough to understand reason and why folks should act the way they do. It’s simply, “Pretty is as pretty does.” Sound familiar?

In these last days of the Alabama legislative session, it’s hard to find too much pretty coming out of Montgomery. Yes, both houses did pass, and sent on for Governor Bentley’s signature, Carly’s law, allowing for the use of marijuana oil dirivitive to combat severe seizures in children, and a research amount for further study of this treatment.

But, as I wrote in my post “Changing the Heart of Dixie”, I fear our legislature passes laws to show Arizona that they can be a bad ass, too… There is the possibility of three different anti-abortion laws being passed by the full Senate after passing out of committee. They have already passed out of the House. It’s just hard to believe that these bills are being pushed through and supported because the lawmakers care so fervently about the unborn.

Why do I say that?

Because these same lawmakers let die a bill that would provide minors a Safe Haven if they have been arrested as a prostitute due to trafficking. As the law stands now, these children who have been sold by their parents or stolen from their families are arrested as a prostitute, they are charged with a crime and treated as a criminal, with their John and their pimp receiving no arrests. These are people’s babies… Why don’t our lawmakers care about them?

And what about those unborn babies whose mothers have no right to birth them safely (and happily) at home with a midwife in attendance? Right now, if a trained midwife attends a home birth in the state, she can be arrested and convicted for doing so. Not only should every mother and family have a right to choose a homebirth with trained assistance, but it is beyond my capacity to understand why our legislatures won’t allow this since there is the disturbing fact that over half of all Alabama counties do not have local obstetric care. The law that was allowed to die wasn’t even making midwifery legal… it was simply decriminalizing the act of home support. Our legislators would rather parents birth without any support rather than allow trained assistants at the birth. What about these unborn?

I only want to point out that any person, much more so those elected to represent us in government, should take complete responsibility for their actions, their voices, and their votes. If you are going to punish a woman because of her sexual habits in the name of the unborn child she carries, then step up and take responsibility for that child. Since you are insisting the woman give birth, allow the mother to birth at home if that is her choice. Make sure both the mother and the new child being born is covered with adequate insurance to provide for health care during birth and after life has begun. Make sure that baby, and the parents who brought her into this world, have plenty to eat so as to be healthy and alert to possibilities. Make sure a strong education system is in place to provide equal and equitable opportunities for every child being born and/or raised in Alabama. Make sure you strengthen the economy, so that these babies being born now don’t have to leave home when it’s time to find a job. And, by golly, play a little bit nicer… it may just be politics to you, our lawmakers, but it’s all a matter of life and death to the people you represent.

So, in these last few days of the session, and when you head home in a dead heat to campaign for reelection, think about all of these new little babies being born for whom you need to be responsible. Because it’s Daybreak, Alabama… time to earn (the) Beautiful!




A is for Alabama

Although I was born and have lived most of my life in Alabama, I can’t say I’ve ever really felt at home here… I’m not like most of the people who live in the state, and although most are what we here in the Deep South consider “good people”, in truth, I don’t want to be like them. There are too many living with closed minds and closed hearts, with the fear of change keeping them from the joys and wonders openness brings.

I am a strong believer in the old Southern preacher’s benediction of “Let all God’s people say ‘Amen!’… yet, unlike many, or even most, of those declaring ‘Amen!’ as the most important word in that sending forth, I tend to stress the word ALL. For that, I am often ridiculed, talked about behind my back, and clucked over as a radical-thinking, misinformed child who needs to find her way back into Jesus’ fold. At close to sixty, however, I choose to plod along, raising the eyebrows and rolling the eyes of those that just don’t believe the way I do… the “thems” that make me feel awkward in what should be the comfort of my own home.

I often say, probably more than once already in this three-month-old blog, that’s it’s hard being a bright, open-minded, open-hearted woman in the Deep South… and although it’s hard, I have to remember that even as I am pelted with words and gestures and rolling eyes, I have to stay open to people and who they are: I cannot allow myself to become one of “them”.

This blog, and this month’s posts for the “Blogging from A to Z April Challenge” will look deeper into what I think of Alabama and the need for change here in the State… and ideas and projects that I can share to invite those close by to attend and become a part of, so welcome to Daybreak in Alabama!

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cI have accepted the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge extended by the blog of the same name… Write a blog every day (taking Sundays off) starting on the 1st with the letter A and ending on the 30th with the letter Z… Let’s see what happens!