Fill the Potholes

Photo credit Bonny McClain

I confess to an unwarranted love of storytelling, even though I put myself through hell before putting my butt in a chair, and actually writing. I’m willing to do just about anything to avoid staring at a blank page, including organizing the bathroom cupboards, cleaning under the kitchen sink, or heaven for bid tackling my disorderly gift wrap cabinet.  

But today is different.

I couldn’t find sleep last night and then I couldn’t get out of bed this morning. I wanted to hibernate under the covers, stay tucked in the sanctuary of this linen womb, because right now the outside world seems menacing

I want to put a Do Not Disturbsign on my front door and chill with I Love Lucy reruns, coffee, and Oreo cookies. 

“Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” Toni Morrison

Today when our communal safety has been breached, and our sense of wellbeing severely impaired, I find it nearly impossible to find the right words to write. My fear of offending is real but my apathy is even worse.

I grow indifferent to prayer, books, and the rituals that used to invigorate me because they seem meaningless in the wake of such violence? Instead of presence and love there is only injury and loss. 

What can I possibly write that offers a smidgen of hope in the wake of such brutality, mayhem, and slaughter. Bonny McClain writes, “I start most days running and writing. Those are the best days. Often we have to trust the ritual. Even if we feel like there is nothing to say.”

I lackadaisically browse the scriptures for applicable, relevant, apposite messages, but other than assurances that God is capable of walking on water to join us during a terrifying storm, I find little comfort in the words, “Do not be afraid, it is I.” (John 6)

“Anger is the choice of many. Anger at politicians. Anger at the NRA. Anger at God. We become bitter and sour toward this world; toward one another,” says Max Lucado but adds, “fear is another option. Lock the doors and close the windows. Avoid every shadow and dark alley.” 

I struggle with my anger, but also my faith, I’m consumed with a spiritual apprehension that we have massacred all that is good and holy with our self righteous rhetoric and divisive practices.

Henri Nouwen says, when we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. 

Will we ever have a community that is spacious enough for everyone? I don’t mean space per se, I mean holding space for each other, especially those who feel rejected by society. 

There is this odd fear that seeps into my veins when I’m scared, I start thinking in terms of limitations, limited resources, limited talent, even limited success. This sort of mentality says if you win I lose, if you lose I win. But over and over again I have been shown this is simply not true, there is always enough, even an abundance if we learn to share, applaud, and celebrate one another. Our problem might have more to do with greed, privilege, and a lust for power than a matter of scarcity. 

Brene Brown says, “I went to church thinking it would be like an epidural, that it would take the pain away… But church is not like an epidural; it’s like a midwife… I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'”

All I want is to numb myself, pull the covers over my head, and sink into a mild depression, but Brene claims our faith will sit with us in our deepest despair. Therefore faith is not a drug, it’s a companion, a fearless advocate of the heart.

I read an article by Christian Picciolini, a reformed white nationalist who warned, “it’s going to get worse.” I wanted to stop reading right then and there, but as if a rubbernecker, I was compelled to keep looking.

Christian Picciolini joined a neo-Nazi movement 30 years ago and now tries to get people out of these organizations or mind sets. He says, the white-supremacist terrorists—the ones who have left dozens dead in attacks in Gilroy California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio recently—aren’t just trying to outdo one another, “they’re trying to outdo Timothy McVeigh, the anti-government terrorist who blew up an Oklahoma City federal building and killed more than 100 people in 1995.”

That’s not very hopeful, in fact it’s down right frightening, we’re living with people who have a king of the mountain sort of mentality, and I’m afraid we’re trying to put a bandaid on a infected, oozing, mortal wound that is not survivable.

Picciolini says if you’re an addict, abused, or homeless there are services for that, but if you’re struggling with ideas of hate, there is not much out there. He says he listens for potholes: things that happen to us in our journey of life that detour us, things like trauma, abuse, mental illness, poverty, joblessness. Even privilege can be a pothole that detours us. As he listens, rather than confront them about their ideology, he creates rapport, and starts to fill in those potholes. He says nobody is born racist; we all found it. 

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but refuse to hate him. Martin Luther King Jr. 

As Rachel Held Evens once wrote, “I worry that I am missing out on a God who surprises us by showing up where we don’t think God belongs. I worry that I’m missing out on a God whose grace I need… She goes on to say cynicism may help us create a simpler storyline with good guys and bad guys, but it doesn’t make up any better at telling the truth, which is that most of us are a frightening mix of good and evil, sinner and saint.” 

It’s hard to be a human, God’s first creation screwed up so badly they got kicked out of the garden, and then God tried to drown the rest of us in a gigantic flood. It was not looking good for humanity, but against all odds we’re still here, so why is evil appear to be metastasizing? 

When we deny people a sense of identity, community and purpose through human apathy or neglect or bullying then they will find it somewhere else, on the fringes of society, with those who have formed ungodly alliances, who have succumbed to cynical propaganda, who are now enacting our worst nightmares.  

If we actually image the divine in some way, if collectively we are the soul of God, then we have to acknowledge the parts that are suffering, because as Martin Luther King Jr. warns, “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.”

Even though I feel directionless, I am going to stay invested, I’m going to risk being vulnerable, I’m going to keep looking deeper until I stumble on the truth. If our love for each other is triune in nature, then our love is an action, not one that hides under the pillow. Damn.

Toni Morrison says love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn – by practice and careful contemplations – the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it.

Today might be dark, but I have to believe God taping us on our collective shoulder, asking for our undivided attention (did you catch that), demanding that we be disturbed, disordered, maybe even disrupted by these acts of enmity.

New life starts in the dark, says Barbara Brown Taylor, whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark. 

So how do we resurrect a bullet in the dark barrel of a gun? 

Charli Mills offers, “if you want to DO something today that changes the mess our world is in? Want to express your thoughts to others, share your concerns and hopes, be vulnerable, and speak up as a citizen of a democratic nation?”

Mills answers, “then mind what you say, how you say it, why you say it, and practice patience and kindness. Don’t let others speak for you. Find your own words. If you use quotes or share articles or memes, explain your thoughts on the topic without resorting to blame or superiority or exclusivity.”

Mills challenges, “for just one day, don’t blame anyone or anything. Instead, build up someone or something. Then try it tomorrow, and every other tomorrow you are blessed to have.”

“Sometimes this human stuff is slimy and pathetic…but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it than to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.” Anne Lamott

That which is most grievous needs to be recognized, called out, confronted, overcome, and survived. This is how we triumph over evil. “Show up. Open every door. At the risk of looking like a fool buried with his feet facing the East or like a mockingbird singing stubbornly at the night, we should anticipate resurrection,” says Rachel Held Evans. 

She says we should anticipate resurrection…this is why we rise from our linen womb, graciously fill the potholes, and allow goodness to prevail.

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, after we weep we’ll walk arm and arm to the gym.


  • The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Toni Morrison
  • “There is nothing sane, merciful, heroic, devout, redemptive, wise, holy, loving, peaceful, joyous, righteous, gracious, remotely spiritual, or worthy of praise where mass murder is concerned. We have been in this world long enough to know that by now and to understand that nonviolent conflict resolution informed by mutual compassion is the far better option.” Aberjhani
  • “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed our soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.” Anne Lamott


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  1. Who will cry for Atith, Volodymyr and Jakub? After the events of the preceding weeks, I wondered if you would address the so-called elephant in the room. (I should have known better.) It has been on my mind a lot. Not in the sense of being afraid, but rather sorrow over the senseless deaths of these innocents, along with the slow death of our country. The United States was born of a violent struggle, to free men from oppression by others. It was the only country to get sort of a fresh start, whereby it was to be ruled peacefully with the consent of the governed. To make this country go, the Founders realized they needed a set of rules that would ensure that liberty would last. Hence came the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. A landmark document that pretty much got it all right, except it did not apply to all humans. Since that time this has been rectified, and things have pretty well hummed alongIn any event, the Founders realized that an unarmed citizenry could be easily controlled, so the second amendment was included in the Bill of Rights. This was not included because of a love for hunting. It was included because for a people to be truly free, they must be able to defend themselves and their country.So, what is the root cause of the malaise gripping our country? Is it politicians? No…Is it Hollywood? Well maybe. I think you nailed it with ” When we deny people a sense of identity, community and purpose through human apathy or neglect or bullying then they will find it somewhere else, on the fringes of society, with those who have formed ungodly alliances, who have succumbed to cynical propaganda, who are now enacting our worst nightmares.” When a society experiences the collapse of the family unit, the abrogation of child rearing responsibilities (which have been turned over to the XBOX with games such as: Fallout, Call of Duty, Fast and Furious etc.,) good things won’t happen. Couple this with a collapse of interpersonal relationships, the glamorization of sex, a desensitization to violence, the absence of punishment, and a complete lack of the instillation of morals, and ye reap what you sow. Joe Blow, awesome at violent computer games, who can’t talk to anyone, doesn’t like anyone, couldn’t get a date if he tried,… can easily “hit a pothole.”What will happen next? That sucking sound you here is the sound of liberty fading into the netherworld. Why it will happen? Because people are sick of mass shootings and want to feel good about doing something. Why many are afraid of it? Making the government the final arbiter of firearm possession, was what the Founders sought to avoid. A registration list makes it easier to round up all those in possession. What will it accomplish? Hopefully decreased firearm possession by the truly wacko’s out there. Will it work? Not likely. Chicago had over 72 people shot over a recent August weekend, and they have pretty strict gun laws. In this world, just about anything can be had for a price. Will it prevent mass murders? Doubtful. This just in…..


  2. Joseph Stalin once said….” When one dies, it is a tragedy. When a million die, it is a statistic.” Why is this relevant? The title of this tome includes 3 surnames. The first represents a male Cambodian, killed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, one of the estimated 1.3-3 million dead at the hand of the ghastly regime. The name Jakob was taken from a list of German Jews rounded up and taken to the Krakow ghetto by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust (5-17 million snuffed out) and finally Volodymyr, a Ukrainian name representing one of the 1.8 to 7.5 million killed by Joseph Stalin during the Holodomor (it’s that communism/socialism/ disaster thing again) and we won’t even get into the deaths caused by Mao Zedong. “First they take the guns…”“To Conquer a Nation, First Disarm its Citizens..”Well, I realize this could never happen now…WTF! There are currently 5 genocides ongoing today. Cambodia was in 1975. Surely the Bill of Rights will protect us. Well, not if it is systematically destroyed. With regard to limiting different styles of firearms, the 1st amendment corollary would be total freedom of speech, with the exception of words unfriendly to the president or not approved by the government.And lastly, when seconds count, the well-armed police are only minutes away, if no traffic and they are not busy.In any event, get out of your linen cocoon/womb. Life in a shell is not worth living. But be careful. 40,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents last year. I think we should ban the auto.And of course the song,… I initially thought it was about vasectomy reversal, but it is not about what one would think.


  3. Hi Michael,I’m so glad you responded to this post and got the conversation started! I noticed your submission late last night and have been mulling over your words ever since. In fact this morning while walking the hill with Sue we read aloud your response, remarking on your articulate point of view, courage to speak your truth, and then of course we had to volley (pun intended) the meaning of your words for two miles up and down the mountain. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the cartoon called The Simpson’s? They took up the right to gun ownership in one of the episodes. Homer: “But I have to have a gun! It’s in the constitution.”Lisa: “Dad! The second Amendment is just a remnant from revolutionary days. It has no meaning today.”Homer: “You couldn’t be more wrong Lisa. If I didn’t have this gun, the king of England could just walk in here anytime he wants, and start shoving you around.”An interesting exchange about our right to bear arms. The Founding Fathers: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington had a lot to consider when drafting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they seemed most concerned with the close connection between rights and obligations, I think it was central to their understanding of Liberty. You have uncovered some of the concerns the Founding Fathers had around loyalty and purpose of society to collectively protect the interests of the United States. In fact people who were unwilling to vow loyalty to the US were disarmed. And you are right, the original intent of gun ownership was not hunting, it was the preservation of this new nation. James Madison warned, \”The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.\”Thomas Jefferson said, \”On every occasion [of Constitutional interpretation] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying [to force] what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, [instead let us] conform to the probable one in which it was passed.\” The struggle to establish a solid union between the states was a difficult task and the issues they had to consider to accomplish this task were extensive and difficult. Alexander Hamilton said, \”For it is a truth, which the experience of ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.\”And the famous words of George Mason, \”To disarm the people…[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them.\” Which you referred to in terms of our freedom, and the risk of genocide, which has occurred throughout history, and continues in modern times. I too worry about the changing values in America, the collapse of the family, and the poor children who end up slipping through the cracks because we have no safety nets. Thomas Jefferson added, \”The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.\” Look around, unarmed civilians are being targeted, and this reality is deeply disturbing.


  4. Patrick Henry said, \”Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined…. The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.\” But you also bring up a good point, what about the ones who are not responsible gun owners – the criminals. How do we identify them, disarm them, protect ourselves when attacked. Should everyone carry in public places? There are many things to consider. I think of how easily road rage can get out of hand especially when guns are involved. St. George Tucker offered this dire perspective, \”This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty…. The right of self defense is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.\” But then John Zubly adds on the eve of the American Revolution, “well regulated liberty of individuals is the natural offspring of laws, which prudently regulates the rights of whole communities.” He amplified this notion, “all liberty which is not regulated by law is a delusional phantom. Outside of a well regulated society governed by the rule of the laws, liberty was nothing more than licentiousness and anarchy.” The founding fathers must have considered all of these perspectives, struggled with the solutions, and debated these ideas when forming our constitution?There is so much I don’t know about constitutional law, about the intentions of our Founding Fathers for this country, and how we preserve our way of life. I’m grateful for our country, the freedoms I enjoy, and the lifestyle this country offers to its citizens. It is confusing times for sure and I appreciate the civil discussion around these issues. I also appreciate the way you offer a well reasoned perspective. This is how I learn, shift, and develop my understanding around complicated issues like gun control. Thank you so much for getting the conversation started. 40,000 deaths in motor vehicle accidents! If we took the privilege of owning a car away from everyone who has been in a car accident I believe no one in my immediate family would be allowed to drive?


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