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Remembering 9/11 as an American and a South Asian American


turban surveillance

I remember my father gathering the papers on a Saturday morning to go to a bank in Cleveland.

“PLEASE don’t go,” I tried not to sound like a 5-year-old. I was 25, visiting my parents in Akron after a successful career in Washington, DC and getting ready for graduate school in Chicago.

Banks don’t usually cause so much anxiety, but it was September 15, 2001, and a mosque in Cleveland had been firebombed the night before. “It’s not safe,” I said in the most reasoned tone I could muster.

“I shall make a tee shirt,” my father joked, “saying ‘I am a HINDU. We hate Muslims, too!’”


On earbuds, harassment and not wanting to block out the world. (And on Mrs. Hall and “Seeing a Woman.”)

I use earbuds now. I use them reluctantly but at full volume, ever since a woman shouted out the passenger window of a passing car at me, “eat more salads!” And when I pulled out my earbuds (softly playing This American Life), thinking it might be someone I knew, she hollered, “you heard me!” and laughed maniacally as the light changed and her friend pulled off. A congregant said loud music in her ears all the time was how she drowned out the harassment–and to her, anyone she didn’t know talking to her constituted harassment.

Extrovert and optimist and deeply connective person that I am, I wanted to keep the world buzzing in my ears but eventually decided I get less bruised when I drown it out periodically. So, when it’s daylight and I’m walking in a safe neighborhood, in go the earbuds.

But sometimes the world slips in through the earbuds. That happened today. (more…)

To everything… a reflection on seasons of a radical

I gritted my teeth as she said it. A colleague I deeply respect was speaking at a luncheon, and she, with the full force of her Memphis charm, put forward this statement: “When I was twenty, I wanted to change the world.” She paused for dramatic effect. “When I was thirty, I wanted to change my community.”

I could see the punchline coming, and I knew it would win over the baby boomer-plus crowd in ways that left the young folks on the fringes again. “I just turned forty—and forty looks GOOD on me”—she flashed a smile that could melt butter as I balled up my little fists—“and now I just want to change me.” (more…)

First person plural: the Lord’s prayer and liberation

This is a reconstructed version of the sermon I preached as my last sermon as pastor of First Christian Church of Oakland, July 1, 2013.


The “scripture reading” for the morning was actually this skit.


How many people in the congregation knew that the Lord’s Prayer is actually in the bible? (Most hands go up, and someone shouts “twice!”) That’s right—the original and the extended versions. And because we hear it so often, it can be easy to forget that there are many things that prayer is teaching us about who we can be together. In fact, here’s how MUCH we can take it for granted.


Variations on the Lord’s Prayer

In my final sermon at FCCO, I talked about the Lord’s Prayer. Part of the sermon involved everyone getting a different interpretation of that prayer and discussing how it made them look at the original version in new ways. (Part of the point is that there are lots of layers to scripture, but unless we’re looking to see it in new ways, we might miss the new message in an old text.) Here are the versions of which each congregant was randomly handed one:


Singing a new story—God, Oakland, and hope amidst change

(The theme of the June 2013 Michigan Disciples of Christ Women’s Retreat was “Our Stories, God’s Story.” This was the sermon I offered on the last day of the retreat, after two days of workshops that invited us to go deeply in sharing our personal journeys, our connection to scripture, our experiences of being people on the margins and in the center, and issues of dignity for people of all races and orientations.)


My life flows on in endless song;

Above earth’s lamentation, (more…)