Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Tag: faith

Parade for Peace

This Sunday many Christians will celebrate Palm Sunday. (The Greek Orthodox church will celebrate Palm Sunday on April 9.) Though each gospel differs in its details, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is described as a parade. Most parades celebrate the status quo. Scout troops, kids on decorated bikes, politicians waving from cars, and library floats traffic in nostalgia and highlight what we think is best about our communities. These symbols march before gathered throngs reinforcing that all is at it should be. 

Jesus’ parade was different. The palms waved and the cloaks thrown down acknowledged him as a king, but he rode a donkey, a symbol of humility. Though the parade could have looked like a military victory, the gospel writer Luke inserted into the quotation from Psalm 118 a proclamation of peace. Instead of lifting up an idealized version of the world as it was, Jesus’ parade provided contrasting symbols to highlight the world’s brokenness. That doesn’t tend to be popular with those benefitting from the status quo.

Preparing for Palm Sunday during a week in which another mass shooting made the news, my mind went to last year’s 4th of July Parade in Highland Park, IL. A local man shot at parade goers killing seven and wounding 48. A group from our church had just finished our marching in our local parade to hand out seed packets announcing our upcoming EarthFest. I was driving a couple people back to their cars when one of them who had recently moved to Highland Park, scanned her texts and gasped in panic, “oh no, oh no, oh no.” She made quick phone calls and sighed in relief to learn her family had not attended the parade as they had planned.

Mass shootings have become common enough in our country that they don’t always make the headlines. There have been 38 mass shootings (defined by the Gun Violence Archives as incidents in which at least four people are shot and injured or killed, not including the shooter) in the US this month. At least 57 people have died and 133 have been injured. March has not been anomaly. There have been 133 mass shootings this year. 

It is time for us to acknowledge that there is something broken in the United States, that all is not as it should be. But this is not how it has to be. Those of us who follow Jesus know that the world can be a better place. Ultimately it is God who will save us. But we do not have to just sit on the sidelines. We can participate in God’s work to bring peace.

There are many organizations addressing gun violence. One that many people in my church are part of is Mom’s Demand Action. If you go to their website you will find a petition to hold the gun industry accountable that you can sign on their website. 

Whether or not you choose to sign the petition, I hope you will celebrate Palm Sunday this year by doing something to put God’s way of love into action. 

Soul Singing

I don’t like for people to hear me sing. I don’t do karaoke. It’s a sign that I really trust you if I sing with the radio with you in the car.  But I love congregational singing. 

I grew up going to church – church, not just Sunday school. Some of my love of church music may be nostalgia. I learned the hymns standing next to my mother and sister, while watching my dad in the choir. I can still hear Rev. Smythe’s gusto and certain hymns take me back to the congregation of Parker United Methodist Church. But there’s more than nostalgia in the music for me. It forms my faith. There is a sense of belonging in the music. It weaves among us and makes us into a community. 

Several years ago I went on a mission trip to Guatemala where we made cooking stoves in homes. Teams of 2 or 3 from my church were paired with a mason with whom we worked the entire week. I was the only one on my team that spoke very much Spanish and our mason didn’t speak English. We found a common language on our second day in hymns. We sang some of our favorites to him, and he sang to us. With delight we discovered many hymns we all knew in both of our languages. 

When I’ve gone through difficult times in my spiritual life it’s music, particularly congregational singing, that’s brought me back. I can’t sing alone. I need the support of the congregation to have any hope of finding the notes. The truth of music, deeper than mere words, carries me. Music holds together lament and trust, joy and doubt. When I’m in the congregation, even if my head is uncertain and my heart hurts, my soul sings. 

Bitch Wings

(Liz gave me permission to write about “Bitch Wings.”  She read this post and approved of it going public.  I am so grateful to her and her family for sharing this part of their life with me. )

I learned about “bitch wings” from Liz. We were standing in a hospital waiting room after Liz’s husband had died. The representatives of the organization that would harvest Frederic’s organs had given Liz a lovely quilted keepsake box as a memento. Her cousin said, “That was a bitch wings moment.”

“Bitch wings” are what women get when we put our hands on our hips, push back our shoulders, take a strong stance and are ready to take on the world. I learned from Liz that bitch wings come in handy when interrogating teenagers about what was happening in the basement. Her young adult children laughed about how their mom stared down their friends, hands on hips, eyes locked.

Bitch wings can say, don’t mess with me. And, I’ll carry you on my back for a mile. For 100 miles. Through mud. In the hail.

The previous days had been excruciating. The paramedics had rushed Frederic to the hospital after Liz found him. What followed was intubation, neurological tests, moments of hope that were dashed with the words “reflexive movement, not intentional movement.” There was the family conference with the neurologists who advised more time and more tests. Liz sat up in her chair and the wings came out. Would more time on the ventilator help Frederic’s brain recover? Would it help him speak again, or help him know them? She didn’t flinch when the answers came. So if more time will not help him heal we know what he would have wanted. He wouldn’t want to be like this. Not even for one more day.

Bitch wings make a woman fierce and brave and vulnerable and strong.

It was bitch wings that drove Liz to lift Frederic’s body when she saw it hanging from the rope in their basement and it was her wings that let her let him go.

Those wings gave Liz the courage to say out loud that Frederic had died by suicide, to confront him as he lay in his hospital bed with the pain he had caused her and their children. And those same wings stroked his cheek with a lover’s touch and whispered to him about the goodness of their life together.

On bitch wings Liz flew into the face of God, “You abandoned him. You abandoned me.” And she wrapped those wings around herself and her beloved as she gave him into the care of the Holy. With those wings she pulls her children and her friends close in a tight embrace.

Liz is moving soon to California to try on a new life. She isn’t done grieving, but she is willing to try flying in new directions.

Anyone can have bitch wings if she is willing to be strong instead of sweet. Though they make her terrifying, they are not armor. They send her into fire for those she loves.


By Mara,  Liz's daughter  "I find so much emotion in the pose, yet I know she will stand up proud and strong again.  You can see that glorious strength in her."  -Liz

By Mara, Liz’s daughter
“I find so much emotion in the pose, yet I know she will stand up proud and strong again. You can see that glorious strength in her.”


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