The Cage Bird Sung

Maya Angelou passed away this morning at the age of 86.

Along with the news of her death, the newsfeeds offered the reminder of how Maya first found her voice.

He voice arose in the ugliest and darkest of times.

As a young child, Maya was raped by a friend of her mother, and in an act of incredible courage, she later testified against him in court. The man was found guilty, but in an act of gross injustice, he only spent a day in Jail.

Upon the man’s release, he was beat to death.

In all likelihood, the beating came at the hands of Maya’s uncles. For the next 5 or 6 years, Maya didn’t speak. She believed it was her words that killed the man, and her guilt was real and profound.

During this time of hurt and silence, she lost herself in books and poetry and found another voice. Over time, she did speak again, and spent the next 73 years sharing the beauty of her voice and her words to all who would listen. Her voice gave a hope that will indeed prove her legacy.

There was something magical, and captivating by her presence and her writing. Today, I wanted to celebrate the passing of a national icon, and literary force but also remember something more. I wanted to remember the little girl – barely 8 and broken beyond belief. I wanted to remember the truth that became Maya’s greatest legacy; Evil and ugliness may overflow from our world, but hope is greater still.

Maya reminded that ugliness doesn’t get the last word.


“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.

I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

~Maya Angelou  (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)

The Incredible Invisible Man

I would like to take a moment and introduce you to Liu Bolin.   If you look close, you will see him in each of these photos;







It has been said that the art of Liu Bolin, this desire to make himself invisible by painting himself into the stuff that surrounds us, created as a very real reminder of the harshness of the world.   One critic has said that his art is a reminder that despite your uniqueness, despite all those countless things that make you special, odds are you will be absorbed by your surroundings.   You will start to blend so that no one truly sees you.   You become inseparable from the stuff we treasure or the stuff we buy.

Critics have said that Lui’s art is a very stark criticism of the ugliness of the world. Me, I see a reminder in there too.

I am reminded that yes world can be bleak like that, you can get lost in the noise, the crowd, and the stuff.   These photos become a reminder to me, that I need to find and embrace those places where it’s harder to blend.

I need to find and treasure those places and those communities, and those realities where people matter, where uniqueness is treasured and encouraged, and our presence matters.

One of my favorite quotes by John Wesley, was “There is no personal holiness without social holiness, and no social holiness without personal holiness”

When I think about church being that place where we don’t blend in, I think of that quote and the reality that for us to be a Holy People, we need to be a communal people; we need to be willing to fight the blending, celebrate the uniqueness, and recognize that despite the diversity of this group, we all share the same divine seed – the same piece of God – at our core.

For me, there is peace in that.

For more on the artist: Visit

MLK Day & What We Forget…


Today, I have become a bit unsettled by the many facebook posts of quotes, pictures, and pithy sayings, all attributed to MLK.  From those same racist hills of New Hampshire that he mentioned in the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, I sat and scanned through those images and sayings that reflect the sum total of our remembrances of this man.    Eventually, I paused my scrolling long enough for me to realize  another sad truth of this moment.

Me, and people like me, have forgotten a more needed lesson to be taken from this day.   I have forgotten that as a white, middle class man Martin Luther King Day, should say something else to me.    It seems that with my overeager desire to acknowledge him for this one day each year, I have allowed the message of this man to be softened.   I have taken hold of MLK and claimed him as one of a handful of personal heroes, and have relegated his true message into the back corners of his legacy.

In our desire to hold him up high; we miss the point.    For me, from the comfort of my white privileged world, there is a need to hear something else.  As much as I would like to claim MLK as my own, and make this day something else, this must – first and foremost – be a day for shameful remembrance.

We need to remember that a generation ago, it was people who looked a great deal like me, that bred a world were a MLK became a necessity.     It was the white, middle class man, through equal parts apathy and racism (either personal or systemic), that created an environment where our black neighbor was beat, lynched, and oppressed.  It was the white, middle class man who created a world where many of us believed it was okay to relegate another human being to inferior status.

We should pause and recognize this day, not because we own a piece of this man’s accomplishment and legacy, but rather because the ugliness was born at the hands of those like you and me.  We need to pause long enough to remember that there is a great deal of good that comes with the label American, as well as a great deal of broken.   Today is a day to remember both.    Today we remember the good that is born in the sacrifice of people like MLK, and the bad that is born in the apathy and oppression of people like us.

The truth of our remembrance should come with the recognition that this ugliness didn’t end with MLK.   The racism and the apathy did not end.  That ugliness is part of our national character, and should challenge each of us to be better, bigger, and more human today.    This challenge is needed because these things still simmer below our collective day to day lives.  Today we look at MLK ‘s legacy and picture ourselves right there, with those who marched, those who protested, and those who complained.    With full honestly, we cannot lose sight of the very real truth that we might have found ourselves on the other side of the line.

This day should prompt in us a desire to look at our daily walk and see the ugliness we partake in, and make a difference.  MLK’s call for us was a call to be better and holier.    We have yet to become those holy and those better people.    Today, I will acknowledge and remember that.   I will also try to find some small way to be both.


<Here is a very powerful post, written by Hamden Rice, for Daily Kos, that expresses a similiar sentiment, but from another side of the equation.   It is worth the read.>

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