Things I Think But Don’t Say

I was in a meeting the other day, where the speaker made an oblique and gentle reference to the upcoming US presidential election.

And seriously, you could feel the room stiffen.

It was like everyone drew a sharp breath and thought “Oh please don’t go there…This only works if we don’t talk about it.”

Well friends, I think we need to talk about it.

I think we owe it to our Republic to talk about it regularly, in civil and courageous ways. Unfollow me if you want, but nowhere in the history of ever has polite avoidance of a difficult topic lead to understanding and cooperation. Never!

So here’s me going first:

I am a blue state native living in blood red Texas. I’ve been a registered Democrat since I was 18 because the values of the Democratic party better (not completely, but better) reflect my values than those of the Republican party. I am also an ardent follower of Jesus Christ. I work in an evangelical community in the Bible belt where the electoral college will make little note of my preferences. And I’m surrounded by people of the opposite political persuasion whom I love and respect.

This picture of me and Ronald Reagan is for them. (It’s a long story, ask me sometime).



And I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I believe she is a stable, proven, tenacious, experienced public servant who is more than qualified to lead us. Read a list of her accomplishments here.

The Dallas Morning News agrees, in its first endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate in 75 years.

“Resume vs resume, judgement vs. judgement this election is no contest.”

– Dallas Morning News.

And no, I don’t believe the rhetoric surrounding her integrity.

It troubles me, particularly as a follower of Jesus, how regularly and casually people use the word “criminal” to describe Hillary Clinton. If the definition of criminal is having been charged and convicted of a crime before a jury of your peers, then the descriptor is not only inaccurate but slanderous.

Relentlessly investigated – Yes.

Tried in the court of public opinion – Yes.

Charged and convicted of any crime – No.

I wonder what would people say about me if, for the last 30 years, my life was the subject of endless media scrutiny and unrestrained commentary from my enemies? Yikes.

What if every day at work, I had to publicly defend myself against a guilty-until-proven innocent narrative?

I’d probably quit and go live by the sea somewhere.

I certainly wouldn’t run for Senate twice and win. I wouldn’t serve on five Senate committees and nine subcommittees and travel to 112 nations as US Secretary of State. I wouldn’t sponsor legislation to provide for sick 9-11 first responders. I wouldn’t negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

But Hillary Clinton did.

I often use which describes itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” It’s funded largely by The Annenberg Foundation (think public broadcasting).

Are you unsure if your favorite 24-hour news channel or Facebook meme is correct in repeating say, Trump’s claim that Clinton has no child care plan and never will? is a good place to look. run by the Tampa Bay Times is also fun. These are journalists – not internet trolls – evaluating what exists in the public record.

Here’s a quick, measured read from on the Benghazi reports, which former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a leaked email, called a stupid witch hunt.

Here’s a guide to Clinton’s emails.

Here’s FactCheck’s take on Trump saying Obama was actually born in America, but Clinton started the birther rumor. 

And stuff like that.

The Dallas Morning News Editorial continues:

Clinton has remained dogged by questions about her honesty, her willingness to shade the truth. Her use of a private email server while secretary of state is a clear example of poor judgment. She should take additional steps to divorce allegations of influence peddling from the Clinton Foundation. And she must be more forthright with the public by holding news conferences, as opposed to relying on a shield of carefully scripted appearances and speeches. These are real shortcomings. But they pale in comparison to the litany of evils some opponents accuse her of. Treason? Murder? Her being cleared of crimes by investigation after investigation has no effect on these political hyenas; they refuse to see anything but conspiracies and cover-ups.

I agree. If Clinton had things to do over again, would she do some things differently? Wouldn’t most of us?

But here’s the thing:

If you support Trump because you don’t like the Democratic Party and you love seeing people like me apoplectic over the repulsive things Trump says, I get that. If you support Trump because he’s disrupting a political system that isn’t working very well for middle class people, I get that too. If you support Trump because he’s kind of pro life-ish these days, I see how that’s an alternative to voting for a strongly pro-choice candidate.

But in the end, do you believe Trump really wants to show up every day and work for your interests all the way through 2020? Why?

Will he work to overturn Pro-Choice legislation? Will he and his third wife restore family values? Does he really know more about ISIS than US Military Generals? Will he expand the middle class? What in his record indicates he gives a damn about the middle class?

I welcome your answers in the comment section. Really. Do your research. Be polite. I moderate trolls.

Did you know middle class incomes had their fastest growth on record last year? That’s big progress since the 2009 recession. Did you see Senator Elizabeth Warren eating the Chairman of Well’s Fargo’s lunch over the millions of fake bank accounts the company created since 2011. Also good news. ICYMI:

But you squeezed your employees to the breaking point, so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket. And when it all blew up, you kept your job, you kept your multimillion-dollar bonuses, and you went on television to blame thousands of $12-an-hour employees who were just trying to meet cross-sell quotas that made you rich. This is about accountability. You should resign. You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on. And you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

– Senator Elizabeth Warren D-Massachusetts

Trump supporting friends – Has your kid has ever gone to the doctor free or at a sharp discount courtesy of the CHIP Program? You have a couple of people to thank for that, Senator Edward Kennedy, D – Massachusetts, Senator Orrin Hatch R -Utah and Hillary Clinton, who pushed for the legislation as First Lady. 

It saddens me that, in 2016, it requires a fair measure of courage to write a blog post about the presidential election. In America, of all places, that should not be true.

So I’m inviting you, without fear of censure, to disagree with me, to tell me where I’ve missed it, but I’m asking that you do so in a well-researched and measured fashion – something this election desperately needs more of. We owe it to our Republic to be lively, informed and engaged. Any less is an insult to the gift of democracy, which people in many places have died to attain.

Courage is one of my core values and I don’t want to look back on this season and wish I’d had enough of it to speak up.

The above thoughts are, as ever, entirely my own. Please help me understand yours below.

Yoga and the Graceful Leader

yoga-1146277_1920A funny thing happened at yoga class today. Jesus and yoga got all mixed up together like a chocolate and peanut butter milkshake, and I love it when that happens because some people think that can’t happen.

The studio was packed when I arrived, with probably 30 people sitting on their mats and chatting. I was a student in this class and elated at the idea of 90 minutes of pure self-absorption.

Sizing up my floor options, the teacher, who is in her 50’s and has been practicing for 30+ years, sidled up and said,

“There’s room at the front.”

“I know,” I said with a laugh. “I’m kind of a back row Baptist.”

“Lucky for you this isn’t a Baptist church, but I like the back sometimes too,” she said smiling and sidled off.

Did I imagine a little antipathy in that comment? Or am I expecting it because of who I am? I am always standing with my feet planted in different worlds, I think it’s my gift actually. I thought of the Christians who’ve been snarky to me about yoga over the years, and smiled to note the yogis still get a few punches in too.

And that’s the way of humans isn’t it? We hunker down with people like us, and lob grenades over the walls we build. No devoted Christian or yogi would ever admit they like homogeneous exclusivity, but from time to time, it sure looks that way.

Anyway, at the front of the room in a sea of white, mostly female faces, I took a spot under a watery blue and green painting with the word joy written on it in gold letters. I thought about the gold cross dangling from my neck and considered how the crucifix sometimes looks weird in a yoga studio, but it’s not like I take it off. Then I wondered what assumptions the teacher made about me when she saw it, or if she even noticed.

It is possible I think too much. That’s why I do yoga.

Twenty minutes into class and breath three of a hard pose, I heard the door of the studio open behind us and heard the teacher say hello.

Do you know what the first rule of yoga is?

You do not arrive 20 minutes late to yoga. Ever. It’s JUST. NOT. DONE. And yet, a small conversation ensued in the back of the room, as I was shaking my way through breath six.

Do you know what the second rule of yoga is?  FIVE is the number of breaths, not six, because…tradition.

Soon enough, the teacher pulled us out of the hard pose and let us rest. Then she began making space for the latecomer, which was tricky because there wasn’t any.

She began gently instructing people to move their mats over and forward and back, like parallel parking in a crowded city.

When we started up again, I saw the newcomer for the first time. She was black, which increased the number of black people in the room by 100%.

Several poses later my teacher asked if today was anybody’s very first attempt at yoga. Guess who raised her hand?


When it was all over, a number of people, including myself, asked the newcomer how she liked it. She was smiling and said she liked it a lot.

Now, imagine how different her experience would have been had my very wise and experienced yoga teacher chosen rules over relationship, smugly protecting yoga tradition and embarrassing someone who knows nothing about it.

I can promise you there were people in that studio, holding a hard pose and rolling their eyes at the breach in etiquette behind them. I know because if my teacher hadn’t offered grace, I wouldn’t have either. Had she offered sanctimony, I would have done the same.

And I can’t believe that about myself, but that’s why the world needs more graceful leaders.

My yoga teacher acted exactly like Jesus would have in the situation. Jesus didn’t punish people for things they don’t know, he just invited them in and taught them. In so doing, he showed his disciples, who weren’t always inclined toward grace, what graceful leadership looks like.

It’s ok guys, scoot your mats over, there’s enough room for everybody.

Jesus must roll his eyes a million times watching us crave and build exclusivity because we think separation makes us safe. It doesn’t, it makes us fearful. So when someone extends grace, it’s at once scandalous and awesome.

And Christlike.

I guess that’s why I don’t argue with people about yoga anymore. I guess that’s why I’ve quit describing myself as a follower of Jesus, and instead just say I’m a Child of God. The former says something about me and my ability, the latter says everything about God and his.

I don’t know if my yoga teacher follows Jesus or not, but she sure acts like it. She gave us a beautiful lesson in grace today, by just modeling what it looks like in action.

She ended the class by putting us in this pose.


Photo Credit: Kukhahnyoga’s Blog

It is exactly as hard as it looks and most of us did not look graceful doing it. But I plan to practice it now, to remind myself that grace in action takes much practice.

When done well though, it’s something to behold.

The Lady I Want to Be

IMG_4994Sam and I went to a funeral this week for one of my best yoga students.

She died on Tuesday at age 98. So Sam and I hopped in the truck at dawn and drove back to windy West Texas where the mesquite and post oaks grow.

I met Aline Garrett when she was 92, after I decided to offer a “chair yoga” class to the ladies who live in the local senior apartments. I wrote about it in 2011. 

I had no idea what I was doing teaching yoga to people who may have been alive during World War I, so at our first class, as six slow-moving, Texas farm-wives gathered around, ready to learn yoga, I said,

“Does anybody have medical issues I should know about?”

They looked at each other and immediately I thought: Oh man what did I just say, we only have an hour.

92-year-old Aline, with her grey hair wound into a tiny bun atop her head, thought on it a minute, then held up her right index finger and said,

“My finger is crooked.” Then she giggled.

With that one comment Aline Garrett set the tone for the class forever. We met twice a week and she never missed one. Soon, I started calling her Ms. G and decided, if I get to be 98, I want to be just like her.

In fact, I want to be like her at 43.


At the funeral home on Thursday, her family sat behind one screened in area, as a Bluegrass trio sang hymns from behind another.

Old-fashioned decorum is alive and well in West Texas farm towns, and it pleased me to think Ms. G was probably bluegrass before bluegrass was cool. I found myself nodding again and again as her 34-year-old Church of Christ pastor shared, with deep knowing, all the things that were great about her.

Without hyperbole or preacher theatrics, he compared her to the Apostle Paul.

I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances. I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need, and I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

Seriously, that is no small thing, but I think she would have just smiled and shook her head.

I remember sitting with Ms. G at her daughter Aletha’s house, which sat across a big coastal field from ours.

June 2010 103

This was probably a tornado, but that’s not the point.

We were shelling peas at the kitchen counter, when Ms. G began to talk about the Great Depression, and how for Christmas one year, she and her siblings each got an onion.

“Oh and we were happy to have it,” she said.

When she was in her 80’s she flew on an airplane for the first time. She said they gave her a bottle of champagne, announced it over the PA and let her see the cockpit. “Now that was high cotton,” she said clapping her hands and smiling.

Both events seemed to delight her equally.

May 2010 033

Norma (left) and Ms. G. in Warrior II.

In the few years I knew her, I never heard Ms. G say a negative thing about a person or event. Ever. If people were speaking negatively around her, she would look at her hands and sit quietly.

She also loved to read, but when we met she was going blind. Rather than mope and complain about that, she began to memorize long passages of scripture, so she would always have it, even if she couldn’t see it.

Some of her buddies, who were mine too from yoga class, came to the funeral. Although, I haven’t seen them in five years, they treated me like I’d only been on vacation. Bernice squeezed me for a very long time.


Betty, me and Bernice

This is also how I want to be in the world. Because if you’ve ever mattered to me, you probably still do, despite space and time. Ms. G was like that. She never forgot anybody.

Later,  we gathered at Durwood and Aletha’s for coffee at 4 in the afternoon, just like we used to. There were a pile of new great-grandkids playing in the living room and people rocking in chairs.

Despite having lived in that old farmhouse across the field for only two years, I can think of few places where Sam and I are as woven into family and community as we are in Gorman, Texas. I didn’t realize how precious that is.

Aletha, who is her mother’s daughter to the bone, said to me through tears as we hugged goodbye, “Mother would have loved this, because this is the stuff that matters.”