Oh, Ferguson, Ferguson…

The spot in the middle of the street...covered with teddy bears.

The spot in the middle of the street…covered with teddy bears. Ferguson, Mo.

by Cherie Martin

God Counts the Tears of Women                      by Cherie Martin

A few days ago I spent some time in Ferguson as they came upon the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown.  I walked the streets where Michael Brown laid for “4.5 hours.”   I saw the business district where buildings were burned and destroyed, some still showing the effects with boarded-up windows and fences, while other businesses were repaired and open to the public. I listened to the people and pastors tell their story. I heard what they experienced a year ago, how it affected them, and how hard they worked this year to make peace in their town.  The people of Ferguson have truly done good and difficult work to bring peace to their town.  And today, I am watching the news that Ferguson is reeling in pain again, and I’m thinking the people I met are praying for peace.

Jesus had a time of lament in Matthew 23.  He takes himself away from the crowds and cares of the world, and cries and agonizes over Jerusalem.  He grieves over their treatment of their prophets, over the hypocrites in the religious circles, and over the rule-keepers who forget the parts of the law that include justice, peace, and faith. And he cries out his wish to gather those who have lost their way under his wing, like a mother hen gathers her chicks.  This gathering under his wing is for a purpose:  to protect, shield, and reform… Jesus’ cry-out came from the depths of his love for Jerusalem, a town that mattered.

Ferguson matters too.  The people of Ferguson are valued and cherished in God’s eyes.  They are people of worth, with hopes and dreams, with children and grandchildren, and with an innate desire for peace.  When their town is in danger, they cry out too.

The picture above is titled, “God Counts the Tears of Women.”  My sister formed it with her strong hands and compassionate heart.  Psalm 56:8 says that God counts or collects our tears in a bottle.  There’s a whole lot I could say about that, but mainly the “bottle of tears” are signs of exteriorized love and pain.  And often the women cry out, wishing we could gather our loved ones under our wings to protect, shield, and reform…  It is intuitive in us…

Our collective hearts go out to the beloved and beautiful people of Ferguson today, and we do what we can:  tell the story, allow safe places for lament, and create avenues for peace.  And we pray.

And we hope. My hope is that all forms of racism and violence are removed from each and every person alive.  It is time for racism to die.  It is time for Love for All to win.  #weareallferguson Amen.






I don’t think I could be more inspired.  Yesterday I attended a DreamWorks seminar with the United Methodists in the Western Jurisdiction, and I sat with my mouth open as they detailed the joy and sorrows in storytelling. I wondered if we had lost our long-practiced art of storytelling in the Church.  I remembered that our faith is grounded in our sacred stories. I wanted to learn more from the every-day storytellers, so that I could tell the best story ever.

At one point, a raw confession was expressed about the Church:  there is no experience of challenge within the Church.  Have we gone soft?  Have we given over the power of story to those who do it so well?  Have we forgotten to follow in the footsteps of the greatest storyteller that ever walked this earth?

My head and heart are full of questions and wonderings. And while I question, I am inspired to begin again.  To refine my craft of storytelling that is sometimes called “preaching.” To tell again the story of the One who loves enough to live and die for us. To tell the story of Love and ReBirth and Forgiveness and LoveAgain. To tell the story of God’s presence and why it matters. To tell the suffering, the strength, and the courage to live fully.  I’m working to be better at storytelling. I hope you’ll join me.



The women were disbelieved by the men.  I could say a lot about that, but I won’t.  The men disciples were at best, confused.  At least they had some idea that something crazy might have happened, though their brains couldn’t comprehend it.  Peter, at least, looked at his doubts, and perhaps remembered some of Jesus’ words, and ran to the tomb.  But the real moment of understanding came when Jesus walked with two of them on a road, and then appeared to all of them in a room.  He showed them his hands and his feet so they could believe.  He explained their own scriptures, especially the parts that pointed to this very moment.  And they experienced joy beyond-belief.  That’s the kind of joy that comes when you don’t need CNN-factoids to understand.  What they knew for sure was that Jesus was here, that Jesus stomped over death, and that their worldview had taken a seismic shift.

Jesus asked those beloved women and men disciples to do one thing:  to preach a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins to the world, but starting at home.  Whoa!  Starting at home?  Really Jesus?  That means I need to forgive mama, and uppity sister, and mean cousin?  Start at home?

The good news is Jesus is alive and well, and our very own homes will go through a seismic transition from tolerance to deep binding love.  The good news is that the good news is meant for me and mine as well as for everyone else in the world.

Sometimes we still don’t believe.  But today, on this gorgeous Arizona Easter morning, I do believe! I can see my own transformation and I can see it in those I love and in those I don’t know too well. And I’m sure it matters to the world, and to me.

He has risen!  He has risen indeed!

FRIDAY – Noon to Three


The part of Good Friday that strikes me today is how the elements responded to Jesus’ death. The curtain in the sanctuary ripped in two, and the earth shook, and the lights in the sky went out.  The darkness happened at noon, when the sun is normally bright in the sky, and the light disappeared for three hours. I can imagine the people murmuring together in fear because the sun had left their view, and I can imagine the runs to the store for candles and extra food in case this disaster lasted longer than their preparations. I can imagine the sight and smell of fear, because the sky responded with a declaration of “Lights Out!”

Today I think about that.  And a part of my soul senses that loss.  i wasn’t there, but I can feel Mary’s pain, and I can imagine the disciples’s confusion, and I can relate to fear.  So, from a distance of over 2000 years, I still recall the image of the lights going out for a long period of time.  And I wonder what our world would be like if we knew that feeling of light-lessness and if we could see, sense, smell the sorrow that changed the nature’s response to its order.

I will stop there.  There is nothing more to say today.  Except, my soul wails along with the women, the sanctuary, the earth, and the sky…

Holy Thursday


Holy Thursday.  Maundy Thursday.  The Last Supper.  Titles we use to describe this day.

This morning I was aware of the sacredness of the last time the disciples were to share a meal with Jesus, the one they had chosen to follow.  The only thing is, they didn’t know it was their last meal. They ate, and laughed, and relaxed around the table as if they had a forever of meals before them.  They joked, and recalled some recent moments, and of course, listened up every time Jesus spoke out.  And he had some things to say…and they heard them, but did not understand.  They didn’t know what he meant about the bread and wine being his body and blood.  Where did that come from?  And when he said he wouldn’t eat again until everything was fulfilled, they wondered about whether he was about to enter another 40-day fast.  And when he pointed out that one of them would betray him, they rallied with self-doubt and finger-pointing.  I imagine it was, to them, just another meal with Someone they didn’t quite understand.

And so they left the meal unaware of the importance of this moment.  Clueless to the limited time they had with Him.  Certainly, they left the meal without knowing the world would be remembering that meal even up to the year 2015.

And I feel the same sometimes.  Clueless.  Unaware. Unknowing.  The story lives in me, and yet I still don’t fully get it.  A simple meal shared among friends on a Holy Day, which becomes the Holy Communion that sustains my faith today, on Holy Thursday.  I can’t explain why.  But I can tell you when I take Communion, I remember that  they didn’t get it either, and yet that sharing of bread and cup sustained the disciples through some pretty tough days to come.

And today, it sustains us too.  We don’t know what’s ahead.  We just know we will make it somehow because all our meals are holy, sacred, nourishing, spiritual moments with God in Jesus Christ. And that what our brains can’t fathom, our spirits call “home.”  May your Holy Thursday be a connecting point to the One who loves you more than you can know…

the NEW view of John 3:16

Remember this verse many of us learned in childhood, and in KJV?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should
not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

As a child, the emphasis was on the end of the verse, but today we need to take a new look at the first part of the verse, “For God so loved the WORLD…”

It doesn’t say,
For God so loved the CHURCH…
For God so loved the UNITED METHODISTS…
For God so loved the WEALTHY and ENFRANCHISED…
For God so loved the PREACHERS…

No, it says, that God loves the WORLD! Today, we need to focus on loving the world as God did…with depth and sacrifice.

The WORLD is everywhere: in BARS where friends are drowning their sorrows; in FAMILIES that are feuding; in TOWNS that are crushed by racism and racial profiling; in BUS STATIONS and DETENTION CENTERS where children have traveled across one, two and three national borders, seeding safety and home. These are the locations where the WORLD is crying out for the Church to be a very present help in a time of trouble. The world is swirling with news of these events. So today I have a question. What are we doing to show the indisputable evidence of God’s love for the WORLD in the midis of the Swirl?

Last week we buried my husband’s father, a man who lived 90 years and preached until a week before his death.  And he is the last of my foundation to leave. In 2012, my mother-in-law died, and then both my parents in 2013. So in our family, the baton has been fully passed. And knowing they are gone has changed me. It makes one grow up and realize that now that the baton is in your hands, we must do something with it!

So what must I do?  To begin I can think of two things that are unfinished business of my generation of spiritual leaders.  We must take care of these two things before we pass the baton to the next generation of leaders, so that they don’t inherit our left-over crap.

1.  I have to continue to work to rid our world (or at least The Church) of racism in all it’s forms.  Racism that is personal, legal, political, law-enforcement, lingual, familial, stereotypical, and profiling, And I want to be a part of the Movement that fully rids The Church of Institutional racism. My children don’t understand why we make such a big deal about racial issues, but they are inheriting a world, and (my heart stops) a Church, that still hates The Other, The Different, The Hidden-Ones.  I can’t leave them with a Half-Finished Job of ridding our world, or at least our Church, of left-over-and-even-full-blown racism.

2.  Secondly, I hope to clear the way for the Death and Resurrection of The-Church-as-We-Know-It.  I have to pry my fingers off the Buildings, Traditions, Finances, and Theologies that bind us. I have to be open to the Surprise of the Next-Move-of-God’s-Spirit. I have to do my part to clean the House of the Rot-Mold-and-Ruin that I created by my Own-Understanding of What-Is-Right-and-Good.  I want to prepare to hand the next generation a Lean Church that is Faithful, Real (Joe Daniels) and about Love.Period (Rudy Rasmus). I want them to have traditions that are foundational and not binding; buildings that are assets and not shackles; dreams that are new and not worn-out… I want them to know when the baton is passed, we will support the new Pastors and Leaders; we will hold them in prayer, and we will block the Institutional Bullies that attempt to squash dreams with fear and finances. And I want to be ready to LET GO of the Baton, so that they can take the next leg of the Race and Run On…

Because God so loved the WORLD, we have some work to do. As a Church, we have a lot of Loving to attend to. Loving God’s world, ridding ourselves of the sin of Racism, to start with…, and creating a church that is all about Love. This is the NEW view of John 3:16:  first things first. Love the World.

Walking Different Ground


Getting ready to head out to LA for MARCHA, and thinking about how different my life work is now.  Where as I used to walk the neighborhood and city surrounding my church, I now walk the neighborhoods, cities, and states surrounding many churches.  I have been an observer with fresh eyes, multiple questions, and the seeds of new dreams.

I’ve seen churches in rural and city contexts; churches with holes in the floorboards, and one with floors made of marble; churches with full use of the space and others empty except for Sunday; churches led by clergy and staff and, others led by volunteers; churches built around agriculture, and some built around mining; churches with money and not enough ministry, and others with overflowing ministry and not enough money; churches that reach the poor and sidelined, and some that reach the rich and centralized; churches with a fighting spirit, and some with a sweet spirit; churches with parking, and churches without parking spots; churches with new pastors, and some with long-time pastorates.  The variety has been astounding.

And there is another part of this road that I’m looking for.  I’m searching for the places where the world goes to “not-church” to find spiritual connection.  I only have a vague idea where that will lead me…

So I walk farther, or drive the distances, in order to see what God is up to and to feel God’s spirit in beautiful variety.  In some ways, it feels like my territory went deeper, rather than farther, for the depth of God’s love leaves me in a place of silence.

The best part of this new beginning is not knowing the journey, or the territory, or even the Church.  The best part is making room for the surprise that comes when Walking Different Ground…