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blog it all by lea marshall: september 11th

Editor’s note: In case you are one who feels inclined to judge all of Christianity as Dove Outreach Ministries in Gainesville has judged all of Islam, meet my dear friend Lea and her spectacular friend Claire. Lea and Claire are participating tomorrow in what our summer dinner speaker Stephen Kiernan calls Authentic Patriotism. Authentic Patriotism often happens without a lot of fanfare, certainly without network news coverage, but make no mistake that it is there. I cannot imagine a better way to mark the 9th anniversary of the devastating events of September 11th and the higher angels of Americans in response. And as whatever happens in Gainesville tomorrow happens in Gainesville, think Lea and Claire. I will be. (Find Lea’s fabulous blog online HERE.)

oh yes, one floridian’s plans for september 11th have gotten a lot of press coverage lately. and i am not going to add to that insanity by linking to any of it.

because in my never humble opinion, the problem with that “christian’s” plans for september the 11th is that it is way too easy.

because he plans to burn.

burning is easy. isn’t it? light a match. put it next to something flammable and VOILA, fire. really, we have been doing it for thousands of years. even the youngest boy scouts learn how to set a fire. then they learn what the results of that fire are… because something winds up in ashes. and if the wind catches it just right, lots more things than you ever intended wind up in ashes.

so what will i, also a “christian”, be doing tomorrow? something harder than burning. i will be building. the same kindling that burns is also used to build. the same Bible that he reads tells me to use my faith to build.

so i will be doing the buddy walk for the down syndrome association of tallahassee. and i will link to that event.

you see our friends and neighbors, the tomans, have a daughter, claire (pictured above), with down syndrome. and claire rides to school with us everyday. she loves me in a way that far surpasses the way anyone other than Jesus has ever loved me. she thinks i am a rock star because i sing a song to her every morning with the day of the week in it. it isn’t a really clever song and i don’t sing it that well but she cheers for it so loudly that at times i feel like justin beiber must feel.

so tomorrow morning we walk in the buddy walk to build relationships with our neighbors. we walk to build a bridge of understanding, of community, of education, of support for those who know and love people with down syndrome. i walk because i want tomorrow to be a day of hope. a day when the sound of laughter is louder than the sound of burning timbers.

why build? it is harder. it requires getting up early on a saturday. of getting sweaty through working and walking and talking. it takes WAY more time than burning. and WAY more energy. and the results… well, not as quick as burning. not as certain.

how do i know?

well, i have burned way too many things in my life. i have taken the easy route and just burned things up with my words, my actions, my revenge, my selfishness, my need to be RIGHT and HEARD and do it MY WAY. i have seen the collateral damage. i have felt the flames and they have even turned and burned me and scarred me even when i thought i was doing something to make someone else hurt and feel the pain. i have smelled the smoke in my hair and in my clothes. i have singed my nostrils and burned off my eyebrows. i have been downright pyromaniacal. and it was easy. fast. certain. resolute.

oh yes, i know how to burn.

so on september 11th, i will choose to build. in such a small small way that i wonder if anyone will ever see any results from it. but i choose the joy of hard work. the joy of walking hand in hand with friends, family, and strangers. the building of one brick at a time. one log. one board. one nail. one window. one door.

do i write all this because i think i am “better” than that other floridian. nope. just worried for him. worried that this might singe his eyebrows off before it is all said and done. worried because i know that pyromania is addictive and fire spreads.

perhaps i am a bit wiser. i have been shown a “better way”. by someone who liked to build. because He is a Carpenter. you should see what he can do with two boards and some nails (yeah, that one might have been over the top). but He might just be able to tell us a thing or two about how to build…

Lord Save Us: We had a wonderful and very diverse crowd (and a packed house)

I couldn’t back up enough to photograph the whole crowd, but this is part of it:

blog it all: an evangelical, a sikh, and a jewish preschool

child for Lea's post

i mean it’s no rabbi, priest, pastor, and imam. but it is a cute story…

in december right after 9/11 we had new neighbors moving in down the
street. i took the prerequisite plate o’ cookies down to them and
found some people unloading boxes. i introduced myself and told them i
was a neighbor and had cookies.

i was greeted with cold stares and a warning to take my cookies back.
they weren’t the neighbors. they were the movers and i was told that i
wouldn’t really want to bring cookies to “these” neighbors.

well, nothing like a little warning to make me TOTALLY interested in
meeting someone. so i came down later once “those” movers had finished.

and met this lovely family with two children the ages of my two
younger children. and a sweet mom and dad. and it took me a little
while to figure out what made them “these” neighbors. it think it
might have been the turbans on the dad’s and the son’s heads. but
turbans notwithstanding, they liked cookies.

i invited them to go christmas caroling with us that evening. there
was a neighborhood group going and it was before the time when one
would have thought to call it “holiday caroling”. they politely
refused. they didn’t “christmas carol”. i said that we would sing some
secular songs too. but they didn’t celebrate christmas at all.


i am not sure what should have been my first clue.

but they did come up to visit the next day to ask about schools and
could i recommend a good preschool for their daughter. at the time my
youngest daughter was attending and i was teaching part time at temple
israel preschool. so i told them all about that preschool and how
great it was for children.

the mom said that she didn’t think they could attend a jewish preschool.


again, i am not quick on these things…

but i told her that i wasn’t jewish (maybe the christmas caroling
thing had tipped her off). that i was a christian and that it was a
really great place. very warm. loving. accepting of ALL faiths. and i
told her i would take her and show her around.

and i did. and it was perfect for her daughter.

i took her and her oldest child, the turbaned boy, to our elementary
school and introduced them around too.

and then we started carpooling. the greatest form of civility known to
parents and neighbors.

we split up the elementary school trip and some days her daughter would
come to my house at 7:30 and stay with me until i took the girls to
preschool. it worked out wonderfully (and all you parents out there
know that a perfect carpool is to dream the impossible dream…)

she was upfront and honest with me and asked me not to proselytize. so
i looked it up in the dictionary and realized what it meant.

i was upfront and honest with her. i told her that i did listen the
christian music cds in the car. but not loud and i would doubt that
her kids would be singing along to “amazing grace” anytime soon. and i
told her that sometimes we prayed before hitting the car drop off
area. especially if someone wasn’t feeling well or had a big test. but
that i wouldn’t force her kids to pray but i would take requests if
they had them. and she said both of those things (the music and the
prayer requests) would be fine.

she had some bad experiences with evangelicals in the past. “haven’t
we all?”, i asked…

and i wanted to use the big new word that i had learned so i asked her
not to proselytize too. and she told me that sikh’s didn’t actively


why wouldn’t they want me????????? oh well. let the carpooling begin…

one day my oldest daughter (who was in 2nd grade) came home and told
me that she had asked our neighbor on her carpool run that morning why
her son and husband wore the turbans. she said that it was because of
their religion and she explained it all and all my daughter could
remember is that it was all very confusing and wasn’t our religion so
much easier.

i told her that things that seem so simple to a person who has heard
them their WHOLE life (in her case a very long 8 years) might seem
complicated to someone who hadn’t heard them yet. and we talked about
how there were different religions and what that meant.

then my daughter asked the BIG question that evangelicals don’t really
want to have to explain to their kids because we don’t want to ask it
ourselves…”does that mean they won’t be in heaven with us”. and i
said what i felt in my heart. i don’t know. but they are friends and
our neighbors and that is the way it is supposed to be now and maybe
forever and ever. and i hope and pray and i wonder and i wander and i
question and sometimes i can’t answer because the lump in my throat
and in my heart is too big. and that is why we all need a God. because
the questions are too big for us to answer on our own.

and then we sang “amazing grace” and took prayer requests. just kidding.

eventually the neighbors built a house in another neighborhood and
they moved away from the “perfect carpool situation”. sigh. they
regret it. i know they do. i tell them that they should every time i
see them. i miss them being down the street.

i miss carpooling with someone that wasn’t in my usual circle of
friends. someone different, someone to learn from, someone to listen
to that isn’t saying the same thing that all my other friends say.
someone who challenged my faith by having a different world view.
someone who made my children ask questions and me have to search out
answers. i have had other carpools, but that one was different.

i miss her kids singing amazing grace at the top of their lungs and
all their prayer requests (just kidding. they never sang along and i
think i took one prayer request in that whole year which was from one
of MY kids about a lost homework sheet).

what i miss the most is that every time i walked my evangelical
daughter and her sikh daughter through the front door of the jewish
preschool together i could feel that somewhere george washington,
thomas jefferson and john adams all gave each other a fist pump with a
whispered “nice”…

–lea marshall

(Photo credit.)

blog it all: the fracas in the organic produce section

jon and kate plus eight

i have a list of “when i get around to it” blogs to read. a majority of them are people that i highly respect their work, their words, their vision, and their lives. a lot of them are incredibly rational and real Christians. then i can count it as Bible study time when i read their blogs (just kidding-ish).

as you may have noticed i keep finding little quotes and blurbs to send in about being civil and looking beyond the differences that separate, several prominent Christians are trying to find those lost pieces of the puzzle in discourse: civility and grace.

they wrestle with that at times (and i sometimes check in on a time when they are wrestling which i don’t think is a coincidence. i don’t think anything is a coincidence). i know that i wrestle with it often and i am always relieved when someone i respect has a bit of wrestling going on as well.

of course NO one wrestles with civility on the scrapsmack blog that i read sometimes as well. it is a blog that smacks (criticizes) famous scrapbookers. yes, there really is such a thing as a “famous scrapbooker” and there really are people that smack them. and there are people that read that sometimes. sigh, and i am really one of those readers. or the other blog that i sometimes read that bashes the jon & kate + eight television show on the learning channel (one wonders what i am learning from it).

one must have her vices to make her virtues shine brighter… or is it that my vices start to dim my virtues when they outnumber them…. yeah, i think it might be the second of the two choices.

and so i thought that this was a point to note for myself and my civility issues:

that c.s. lewis quote is spot on to the whole jon and kate nastiness. i am referring to the nastiness coming from the general public/myself. it might be the problem of their own marriage nastiness, but i am no marriage therapist but i did live next door to a christian sex therapist for 10 years and that make me qualified to throw that little neighbor fact out at dinner parties where everyone is shocked to hear the words “christian” and “sex therapist” linked together but it does not make me qualified to judge someone’s marriage lest i be judged on mine.

i think i was doing that same thing c.s. lewis wrote about “thinking your enemies as bad as possible” to jon & kate.

and how did they get the auspicious job of being MY enemies? it was jealousy as much as anything (and isn’t it usually jealousy?). i mean what does “jon & kate + eight ” have over “adam & lea + three”?

our names rhyme with the # of children that we have! why isn’t tlc filming ME?!?!? where is my new HUGE house?!?!??! where is my ski trip?!?!? trip to hawaii to renew my vows?!??! where is my nanny?!?!? my public relations person?!?!? my book signing?!?!? hey, i was in CELEBRITY high school musical shouldn’t i have all of those perks?!?!??!?!?!

and as i watched the show with that attitude i began to see their gray areas as black. and blacker and blacker… i saw EVERYTHING jon did as wrong and everything kate did as wronger and those kids were in NO way as cute as MY kids and not nearly as well behaved as mine were at that age. not that i really remember exactly how they were and there weren’t 8 of them, but in the photos in my scrapbook my kids look MUCH better behaved.

and then i went further into that dark night. i started reading online gossip about the show. i was picking up people magazine and reading the articles quickly in the check out lane while waiting for the cashier to ring up my groceries (speed reading is a wonderful skill). and i had the attitude of “they made their bed of fame, let them LIE/LAY in it”. (wish i knew whether it was “lie” or lay”). anyway i was the one laying or lying in a whole heaping stinkin’ pile o’ judgement and painting them with a darker and darker brush until EVERYTHING kate or jon said was a point for me to criticize. and everything their kids did was evidence of all their wrong choices (yet, please NEVER judge me by what my kids may say or do)…

yes, i can be civil to liz, a democrat, and count her among my dearest adoring fans and friends. i can pick up atheist AND liberal, john marks, at the airport and drive him around town all day and love doing it and see the good and right in him…

but had i seen kate grocery shopping in publix… well, it would have made the news with and this line would have been in there, “also injured in the fracas was the organic produce section”.

oh, civility is a slippery thing to hold on to when it comes to politics and pop culture and pretty much everything else in our lives. and when we see the world as BLACK/WHITE, US/THEM, LOOK WHAT THEY DID/I WOULD NEVER, THEY DON’T DESERVE/I SHOULD HAVE we end up losing sight of who we are (imperfect and sometimes wrong), who they are (imperfect and sometimes right), and who God is (perfect and always Righteous)….

amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. i once was lost but now am found. was blind but now i see (dimly through a glass darkened mostly by my own painting of black).

kate… call me. i can now be civil and gracious. and i know the phone number to a GREAT christian sex therapist.

–Lea Marshall