Mere Women

A “mere allegation” shatters and destroys lives, says the president.


His “mere” echoes deeper.

An allegation of mere domestic violence

An alleged history of mere sexual impropriety

shatters and destroys the perpetrator’s life.


His “mere” rings deeper still

An allegation by a mere woman

shatters and destroys a man’s life.


Ah, there’s the rub.


Not the unwelcome rub of male hands on female genitals

Not the rub of junk against unsmiling cheeks.

No, that rub is just the way things are.

locker room talk lived out

by boys being men, or men being boys

and who dares allege that they should not be?

There’s no rub there

No rub that matters

The process of that rub gives everyone their due

if women are mere,

with lives and careers not to be lamented

when they are shattered or destroyed

wounded or splintered.

and experiences not to be voiced

nor examined

nor trusted.


Better not risk voice nor examination nor trust.

Better shame and silence us mere women, call us liars

lest male lives be uprooted

lest a president’s façade be wrecked

Which could happen if there were such a thing

as the overdue process of recovery and justice

in which mere women and mere men

might become partners

who can touch and tell and trust

one another

with their lives and careers.

8th Day of Christmas: The Marshall Project, and More on Criminal Justice

You probably know I’ve developed a pretty keen interest in criminal justice issues. Through my ministry inside the Iowa women’s prison through Women at the Well, a yearning for greater justice is a matter of daily concern. For those of you who share this interest, I want to make sure you’re aware of The Marshall Project, a daily news roundup on criminal justice issues, along with some other resources that may be of interest.

  1.  The Marshall Project (TMP)

The Marshall Project calls itself “nonprofit journalism about criminal justice.”  You can go to their website to sign up for a daily and/or weekly digest of news from around the country that connects with criminal justice reform, recent court decisions, and more. In addition to collecting news from across the web, TMP journalists do some original reporting on matters that aren’t getting attention.  Like their recent article about care packages.  Or this one from last summer, about how differently killings are deemed “justifiable” depending on the races of the people involved.  

When I open my daily TMP e-mail, I am amazed at how much news there is on these subjects.  In the nearly seven years I have been directly engaged in this work, I have watched criminal justice reporting take a much more significant place in the news. This is partly because of important efforts toward criminal justice reform, but it’s also because our nation’s prisons and jails stand at the epicenter of issues that have consumed much public attention in recent years, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, mental illness, addiction, domestic violence, sexual assault, gun violence, policing, poverty, jobs and opportunity.  What happens in our streets affects our prisons, and vice versa. TMP helps me see, on a daily basis, the many ways these matters play themselves out, and how they affect the women I have come to know and love at the prison.


2. Ear Hustle podcast.

Ear Hustle is a podcast that started last summer, with stories of life in prison–the San Quentin prison, to be precise.  It’s actually produced and narrated by men incarcerated there.  The stories told there are interesting but quite different from what I hear from our Iowa women’s prison.  Even so, they do something that is so important:  they humanize the people you meet through those stories.  It makes a difference when we begin to know something about these people that have been so distant.  We can’t love what and who we don’t know.  But we Christians are called to love!  When we hear people’s stories, we begin to know something of their lives and their hearts.  We may not understand everything we hear or agree with all their choices, but we will likely discover that we have more in common than we ever imagined.

Ear Hustle moves in that direction.  I hope you’ll check it out.

3.  The Prison Lectionary Project.

If Ear Hustle is about stories of our incarcerated brothers (and sisters), the Prison Lectionary Project is about how incarcerated persons think and, in particular, how they think about the Bible.  This web site includes reflections, art, sermons, devotions and poetry–all created by persons who are incarcerated, “the most authoritative witnesses to incarceration.”  I am excited about any resource that amplifies the voices of persons who are incarcerated.  I have known so many women in prison who have found their voice there.

Reading the Bible from within prison yields a whole new perspective, much of the time.  The Prison Lectionary Project is a helpful resource for us to see that more clearly.

4.  Women at the Well Christmas Open House skits!

For our recent Christmas Open House, sponsored through Women at the Well on December 15, 2017, some of our leaders took it upon themselves to write some Christmas-themed skits.  Without prior coordination, they ended up writing two skits on a common theme:  the angels working on plans for Jesus’ arrival on earth.  One skit was written by Anna and Sarah, and the other was written by Kristi, and all of them have given me permission to share their work here.  Enjoy!


Scroll down or click for the first 7 days of Christmas:

Day 7:  Better Brella

Day 6:  Spotify

Day 5:  “When God Is a Child”

Day 4:  Kindreds podcast

Day 3:  Air fryer

Day 2:  Becoming a Patr(e)on

Day 1:  LeVar Burton Reads

7th Day of Christmas: Better Brella

Today’s recommendation is most untimely given that today was the record-coldest January 1 in Iowa history! But it’s a holiday, so I thought I’d keep today light, and perhaps it will make you think of warmer days, when rain is falling and you reach for your umbrella. When you do, maybe it will be a Better Brella–so named because it is better. Instead of folding down, so that the rain drips on you, it folds up, so the rain is contained!

We were introduced to this marvelous invention by my Auntie Margaret, because it dared to rain when we were in Richmond in the fall. (OK, well, it didn’t rain on those beautiful 75-degree days we had at Virginia Beach!) She pulled out her Better Brella, and once we got our heads around how it opened and closed, we were hooked. Santa brought Dan one for Christmas, and it’s on my birthday list in case anyone needs an idea.

It’s a little hard to wrap your head around this until you see it in action. Once it’s fully extended, it looks just like an ordinary umbrella. But when you close it, the edges fold up. If you’ve ever tried to use an umbrella while getting into or out of a car, you’ll quickly see the wisdom of this design. It solves that whole problem of closing a wet umbrella that drips on you as you bring it inside the car.

If you’d like a demonstration, I hope you’ll stop by. Watch for Dan singing in the rain one day this spring, and he’ll show you how it works!


Scroll down or click for the first 5 days of Christmas:

Day 6:  Spotify

Day 5:  “When God Is a Child”

Day 4:  Kindreds podcast

Day 3:  Air fryer

Day 2:  Becoming a Patr(e)on

Day 1:  LeVar Burton Reads

6th Day of Christmas: Spotify

I realize I’m late to the party on this one, but as I tell about 12 things that have made a difference in 2017, I have to mention Spotify. You all knew this awhile back, right? I didn’t, but it has become my regular companion.  How I came around is kind of a long story, but I have to stay awake until midnight anyway, so why not?

When streaming music services were gaining popularity, they weren’t really an option for us because they were data-intensive.  For years, especially living out in the country without cable, and with three teenage boys on our cellular plan, we were paying a small fortune for data, so anything like Spotify that would add gigabytes was a non-starter.

Verizon’s move to unlimited data a year or so ago opened up various possibilities, but this one didn’t occur to me until I was on a road trip in August with a colleague who tuned in some music on Pandora. It got me thinking, and after I got home, I did some investigating.  I chose Spotify because it had a larger music catalog and a greater ability to select specific songs. I signed up for a 30-day free trial and soon I was hooked.

It has been so much fun having access to practically every artist and album I have ever loved, all in one place and without having to rummage through piles of plastic CD cases.  I have enjoyed popular music, Christian music, Broadway shows, folk artists, dance party music and–in this season–Christmas music ranging from classic to new to obscure. Recommended stations, playlists and new releases pop up every time I open the app, so new music is always a click away.

I could say more but midnight is coming and I should be choosing a song to begin 2018!

Happy New Year, all.  May it bring many joys and blessings to you and yours.


Scroll down or click for the first 5 days of Christmas:

Day 5:  “When God Is a Child”

Day 4:  Kindreds podcast

Day 3:  Air fryer

Day 2:  Becoming a Patr(e)on

Day 1:  LeVar Burton Reads

5th Day of Christmas: “When God Is a Child”

Continuing these gifts for each day of Christmas, tonight I have a hymn for you. This season around Christmas is so full of familiar carols and Advent hymns that it’s hard to make room for new music. Hard until you come across a hymn of such beauty that it simply must be sung. That happened for me, early in December, when I discovered the hymn “When God Is a Child,” by the incomparable hymn writer Brian Wren. It’s not in any United Methodist hymnals yet, but it’s at page 132 of the Chalice Hymnal, of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The full lyrics can be viewed at this link or you can listen here.

Wren’s refrain reminds us that when God comes to us as a child, some amazing things happen: “The last shall be first and the weak shall be strong. And none shall be afraid.” Paired with the beautiful hymn tune Moon Beams, by Joan Collier Fogg, those last words ring high on the staff and with deep poignancy: “And none shall be afraid.” What a profound statement of what we are waiting for, during Advent, and at Christmas. A time when none shall be afraid. Don’t you long for that to be true?

We sang this hymn all through Advent, starting with our choir and then as a congregation. When the choir practiced it, I asked whether some would solo on a couple of the verses. Two new members volunteered, who had never sung alone before. After we tried it out, they decided to sing together, and they came repeatedly that week, to practice the tune and get the words straight. They sang verse three–not perfectly, but with energy and the joy the lyric names:  “Joy is a song that welcomes the dawn, telling the world that the Savior is born.” When the choir joined on the refrain (quoted above), I thought, Wow, we are living out those words, right now, with these sisters who dared to lift their voices before God and us all. The last are first, and the weak are strong! This is what it looks like when we’re no longer afraid! What a blessing to glimpse that happening, right there in our midst.

Maybe this hymn will bless you, too, in this season or beyond.


Scroll down or click for the first 4 days of Christmas:

Day 4:  Kindreds podcast

Day 3:  Air fryer

Day 2:  Becoming a Patr(e)on

Day 1:  LeVar Burton Reads