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Month: October 2015

Black Lives Matter More Than Fear

I’m thinking about #Black Lives Matter and my surprise at the backlash against it. #Black Lives Matter began in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted in Florida for murdering Trayvon Martin. Coined by Alicia Garza, the phrase has grown to encompass all deaths of Black folks following encounters with police. Pure chance led me to follow #Black Lives Matter on Twitter a long time ago. It’s my go-to source for what’s happening in today’s civil rights movement. I feel like I’ve kinda gotten to know the young folks who founded and breathed life into the movement. I knew DeRay‘s blue vest before it had its own Twitter account. I admire these brave men and women.

So I was taken aback when people began responding to #Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter, which seemed rude to me. Argumentative, really—no, not Black lives, all lives. The topic under discussion had been set by BLM—we’re talking about times when folks act as if Black lives don’t even matter—and others (white folks, mostly) were grabbing the spotlight to shine it back on themselves. As if no conversation could take place without them being center stage.

Then some Black elders began to chastise the kids. “You aren’t doing it right. Look at the way we did it in the 1960s. Do it that way.” Respectability politics, I think they call this, but I don’t know. Again, it seemed like the old folks were trying to horn in on the young people’s moment, hoping to remind people they were still relevant. (Take a look back and be astonished how young John Lewis and Diane Nash and even Rosa Parks were—Ms. Parks is portrayed as a little old lady, but she was not).

Finally, the police popped up with Blue Lives Matter. I halfway understand that. Police think Black Lives Matter is against them, so they elbow their way in to holler, “No, we matter!”

But do the police really believe we don’t value their lives? Is there any town in America that doesn’t turn out en masse when a police officer is killed? We mourn the deaths of those who sign up to “serve and protect.” We grieve the loss of their lives. We commemorate them with renamed highways and memorials and funds to care for their left-behind spouses and orphaned children. That is the way it should be and it is. Of course, the Blue Lives Matter response could just be an attempt to silence criticism. Or it’s possible police officers do feel undervalued, aware we use the police out of fear for our own safety and only really care about them when something bad happens.

So we’ve divided ourselves into sides, all of us standing in a circle shouting at one another. Pro-police, anti-Black Lives Matter; pro-Black Lives Matter, anti-police. As if police aren’t us. As if, in fact, we—by which I mean those of us society sees as capable of influencing policy—aren’t the ones who tell police how to act.

Sometimes we give direct orders, the way Ferguson, Missouri did. Police in Ferguson were harassing African Americans like Mike Brown because the town wanted the money that tickets brought in. That’s what the Justice Department’s investigation found. The Ferguson police weren’t acting in a vacuum or out of character; they were paying the town’s bills, as directed by the city fathers. 

Other times we give orders indirectly, by letting the police know we will tolerate the harassment of “criminals” (read: poor Black folks) as long as the police promise to keep us safe.

It’s not working. Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice and Eric Garner and Darrius Stewart and Freddie Gray and Walter Scott and Jonathan Ferrell and Corey Jones and all the other unarmed Black men and women tell us it’s costing lives and money—cities are routinely settling cases for millions and millions of dollars while we remain locked in debate over the particulars of whose fault each instance is. But surely we can agree we don’t want police killing unarmed African American citizens?

As President Obama said in the context of criminal justice reform:

I think the reason the organizers used the phrase “black lives matter” was not because they were suggesting that nobody else’s lives mattered. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in African American communities that is not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.

Maybe fear keeps us from really addressing this. When I read white folks suggesting everything would be okay if Black folk would just start obeying the police, I don’t just hear victim blaming. I hear fear. Fear of the police. Fear of noncompliance. Fear of even asking questions. The fear is greater than the respect for known rights. And when Black folk are advised to act like white folk in their interaction with police, what I conclude is Black folk are braver than white folks. African Americans and #BlackLivesMatter are the standard-bearers for the rights of all of us, and they are paying the price of that bravery, for all of us. 

Whenever I look back on the civil rights movement, I’m puzzled by those who observed from the sidelines. I have little patience for the leaders who urged patience and propriety. I really don’t like the lock-jawed police who held the billy clubs, giving the upstanding citizens time to debate the merits of such an obvious evil as segregation.

My turn has rolled around. I don’t want to be in the position of saying, damn—I wish I’d spoken out against a system that over and over and over again justified the extra-judicial killing of unarmed Black Americans.

I support #Black Lives Matter.

THAT’s Creativity?

Creativity is the glue that holds my life together. This week in my creative life, I:

  • re-explored Facebook’s Notes feature
  • published a long, involved blog post
  • put together a new outfit that I liked so much I wore it two days in a row
  • did final edits on an essay before sliding it into the metaphorical drawer for its “out of sight/out of mind” resting period
  • began reading the Count of Monte Cristo as research for the new pirate novel
  • made up a story for Searcy while he sucked on his nighttime bottle
  • drafted the next blog post (not this one!)
  • decide to offer, and began formulating, a creativity workshop for next year
  • designed pirate costumes for Tom and me
  • conversed about a new blog for the Door of Hope writing group
  • crafted many sentences for FB status updates
  • boiled sea oats to (possibly) make a cross
  • filed essays and short stories with umpteen literary journals (really not part of my creative life, but necessary business support of that life)
  • back-and-forthed on a custom Thumb Prayer request
  • drafted my vocational credo
  • plotted the redesign of my front yard
  • critiqued a friend’s essay
  • tinkered with my Pinterest boards on the new beach house
  • revised a short story for submission to Conjunction’s “Friendship” issue
  • updated an essay that won a contest but was never published
  • snapped a few pictures


How about you? How much of your daily life actually involves creativity? No, I didn’t create a musical or theatrical masterpiece. I do my work in clothes, the blank page, home and yard, detritus as art material. The commonness of the medium does not make it any less creative.

Where does your creativity spill out? Do you give yourself credit for the impulse? For the talent? Do you see the love in doing what you do?

A Southern Woman’s Vocational Credo

I come to Deborah Koehn Loyd’s Your Vocational Credo: Practical Steps to Discover Your Unique Purpose (IVP Books, 2015) as a Southern female raised in the 1960s and 70s. The adjectives this statement evokes for me are “stricture,” “judgement,” “demanding.” Peering down the tunnel of time, I see a long line of women staring back at me, frowning. Love wasn’t missing, not by a long shot, but it was filtered through expectations. My mother didn’t participate in this cadre of women dedicated to molding young girls into proper female roles. But grandmothers, aunts, friends’ moms, Sunday school teachers, total strangers—they all did.

As a youngster, my first outlet of rebellion against my native culture was clothes. Mother, bless her soul, let me dress myself from a young age. Free to choose my own way, I turned my toddler underwear backwards so I could see the ruffles. I fell in love with my blue plaid jumper with the oversized wooden buttons and wore it three days running. You can imagine, then, that Dr. Loyd captured my heart with her declaration, “I consider dressing myself an art form.” (Vocational Credo, p. 103).

The goal of Dr. Loyd’s book, as the title suggests, is to help the reader discover a creed that defines his or her vocational credo. “Vocation” she defines as “speaking or living forth the truest form of self.” (Vocational Credo, p. 19). A vocational credo is “a description of a personal passion directed toward a course of action that occurs for the sake of a specific outcome, that of doing good to and for others.” (Vocational Credo, p. 96). I came across the book because she quotes me in it. 🙂


The “Investigating Ellen” work I’ve done over the years in the Memphis School of Servant Leadership, Enneagram workshops, Myers-Briggs, weekend retreats, and elsewhere has taught me some of the concepts Dr. Loyd advocates for discovering your vocational credo, such as leading with your gifts: when choosing your path, act out of what you really, really want to do. She names as one of the “myths of vocation” the belief that doing the right thing/following God is a sacrifice, and you prove your spirituality by doing what your really, really don’t want to do. (Dr. Loyd is a spiritual person so God is present in her language; if it helps, replace God with the Universe, which can clear out the more troubling images/characteristics of what so many call God). I need to be constantly reminded of this truth, as one of my deeply held beliefs—a common one, if we’re honest—is that I’m not inherently likable, so I have to show how very other-oriented I am to make people like me.

My Life with First Wound
My Life with First Wound

Also, similar to Henry Nouwen, Dr. Loyd advocates as the first step in discovering your credo examining your places of brokenness and using them as sources of strength. Even so, her suggestion to physically draw an image of your life then add your earliest hurt was, literally, enlightening. I drew a sun, and added a black spot to represent the death of my dad in a train wreck when I was three years old. Studying the picture, one can see either a sun with rays of pain shooting from its black spot or a sun with a solar flare of expanding energy radiating outward. The choice is mine to make.

What is the strength I gained from that hurt? Daddy Joe’s death made me feel a loss of belonging, even a feeling of being cast out. My sense of existing outside the box is not irrational; less than 1% of the population shares my INFJ Myers-Briggs personality. The difficulty comes from interpreting “outside the box” as “outside the fold,” which is likely to occur when you are different and your culture values conformity (see “I was a Southern Female Child” above). As a result, I’ve been left with a lifelong search for belonging and community—I famously wanted to buy a Saturn just to be invited to the picnic. As Dr. Loyd puts it, Daddy Joe’s death cast a negative prophecy over my life. (Vocational Credo, p. 79).

What I saw in reading this wonderful little book, however, was that the “out” of “outcast” is a place of power. When you’re “out,” you’re no longer restricted by the rules/judgement/dislike/disapproval/superiority/hierarchy of the “in” places. Even better, my experience of the last few years has taught me God is more easily accessed in the out places. My healthiest response isn’t to lick my wounds of rejection, but to find community in the out places.

Inside or Outside?
Inside or Outside?

My favorite new concept goes to the heart of Dr. Loyd’s book. In her definition, credo isn’t the “how” of what you are doing (making crosses, teaching writing group); it’s the larger why of it. “A well-developed vocational credo can be exercised almost anywhere at any time.” (Vocational Credo, p.40) Dr. Loyd guides the reader through a concrete set of exercises (I love exercises, don’t you?) to get to your credo. In addition to your first wound, her pyramid is built on your favorite quote, your favorite childhood book (The Tall Book of Make-Believe), and the value you learned from the book (the absurd is often the only proper response to life).

Following Dr. Loyd’s guidance, the credo I arrived at for myself is:

GOD PUT ME ON EARTH TO create trusting spaces where people in community can experience the delight of themselves and others SO THAT we experience God. (Yes, the queen of puns subconsciously wove a pun—drawing a sun, seeing de light. Go ahead, groan).

This focus on delight is new for me, not something I attribute to my sometimes melancholy self. But Dr. Loyd points out we often give to others from our own meager share.

Because Dr. Loyd’s view of vocational credo tracks the Frederick Buechner view that “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” she also asks the seeker to define those she wants to help. For me, that’s anyone who has been told he or she can’t do or can’t be—see how all this is fitting together? Dr. Loyd provides a survey for finding the “how” of implementation, discovering the motivators that allow you to act in the way most natural to you. My motivators—Caregiver, Creator, Activist—sound very familiar.

All of this leads to a vocational credo easy for me to see at work in my two huge undertakings of the past decade, making crosses from broken and found objects (Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God) and facilitating writing group (Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness). These are perfect fits: pursuing individual creativity in a group setting with those who have been denied their right to “be.” The real question is, how does this credo fit with the novel my agent is currently shopping to publishing houses? What can any novel do to create space to experience God?


Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness (Triton Press, 2014)- 7 years of writing. 2 years in the making. A lifetime in the living. Edited by Ellen Morris Prewitt, available on








Well, The Bone Trench could be viewed as an anthem to slip-sliding to the margins where truth and God lie. A rollicking, rambunctious, outrageous—some have said blasphemous—anthem, but, hey, is there a more fun way to get to God? The Bone Trench places first our connection with each other, and lets the rest of it be threshed away. In my fondest dream the novel would be discussed—no, debated—in small groups . . . spaces where readers can discover the delight of themselves and God. Would the church host such a conversation, a body whose focus on rules, judgment, expectations, values, exclusion, and titles often specializes in smothering the discovery of the delight? I don’t know, but maybe if we could make caring about one another our priority, we would trip into what Dr. Loyd characterizes as Joseph Campbell’s appreciation of “the human need to experience a transcendent aspect of being alive.” (Vocational Credo, p. 170).

Oh, and where am I quoted? On page 123 in the chapter Pursuing Change and Chaos. How apt is that? Here’s the quote.:

As we embark on a new creative venture, it helps to remember that we are working with a God who loves us more than anything in the world. (Making Crosses: a Creative Connection to God, Paraclete Press, 2009).

Deborah Koehn Loyd (DMin, Bakke Graduate University) is a professor, conference speaker, writer/blogger and pastor. She is the Scholar Practitioner of Vocation and Formation at Warner Pacific College and an adjunct professor at George Fox Seminary. Her organization, Finding Forward, expresses her passion to empower people to find their voices and vocations. She is also co-creator of Women’s Convergence, Women’s Theology Hub and The Bridge Church. Deborah holds an MA in exegetical theology and a DMin in transformational leadership. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband Ken and they have three grown children and two beautiful granddaughters.

Oh, my gosh—they’re listening

I’m quoted. In a book. By a “thought leader.” A woman with a Doctorate in Transformational Leadership, Dr. Deborah Koehn Loyd. The quote appears in her new book, Your Vocational Credo: Practical Steps to Discover Your Unique Purpose.


Dr. Loyd was kind enough to send me a copy of the book. It arrived in the mail last week. I can’t wait to read it, maybe find out more about my vocational credo (it’s never too late, right?). The back jacket promises insight on:

* the true meaning of vocation
* how to redeem past pains in your life
* your personal vocational preferences
* a unique plan for your life’s work

You can read more about Dr. Loyd here. You can purchase the book at Amazon here.

Stay tuned: I’ll be offering a review as soon as I find out what it has to say.

© 2017 - Ellen Morris Prewitt |