memorial day

most memorial days i think about my uncle Lâm.
think about that time i went looking for his name on the wall when i was a kid and i thought there would be so many nguyens.

so prayers i guess for everyone who gets confused when they say that someone died for our country.

because who is our.
who doesn’t know what memorials to lay flowers on.
who was there and then a war came and then you were part of it.
for the translators and the drivers and the administrators and the journalists and the nurses and the chaplains and soldiers of all places.
i asked my dad to tell me some stories this year about Lâm. he told me about how he would take my dad to watch soccer games and eat banh mi when he was a kid. how he was supposed to stay home as saigon fell, wait to get out like the rest of my family. and how he felt like he couldn’t. like he needed to stay fight. and so he did.
these photos are an accidental tour of vietnam war memorials: the vietnam war memorial in philadelphia, the only one i’ve been to in the us that honors both south vietnamese soldiers and american troops; from memorial day 2015 in washington d.c. where i visited the wall; from a cemetery honoring north vietnamese soldiers in vietnam.

Prayer for August 10th 2014

God of mercy

Spirit who makes peace out of war, who wanders with refugees and keeps vigil with children at our border and all borders. Holy healer in hospitals and shelters, at schools, in homes, at weddings, and in planes. May your love be balm for all the hurt. May your truth be present in offices of power and in the hearts of soldiers and civilians alike. Many times we’ve thought the arc was bending towards justice. Many times we saw it happen in courtrooms and in streets, in the hearts of people creating their own liberation. Many times we’ve also doubted. For those of us this morning who doubt. Who despair that brokenness and suffering and war may win, remind us of the small mercies, the tiny triumphs: hope does dwell in this world.

 Amen, axe, and blessed be.

Prayer for August 17 2014


There have been a lot of prayers prayed this week.

From Gaza to Ferguson, Oakland to Liberia, Sierra Leone.

 Last week I prayed about that arc that bends towards justice. I prayed about how often I’ve seen it bend with my own eyes – in legislation and in hearts and in communities casting out injustice. I prayed for doubt and for the truth that despite the despair, hope does dwell in this world.

It’s true, hope does dwell.

But this morning, after a week of watching clouds of tear gas, a week of tapes not released, things not known, a week of people calling for justice but the only thing I can think of that that this world can offer is prison for a cop and that doesn’t feel like justice, it just feels like a cycle of heartbreak, I don’t know.

So we pray for hope and for hopelessness. For a justice that isn’t about prisons, but is about hearts.

A justice that is about hearts and is also about undoing that great sin of racism that lives in minds and eyes and guns, in courthouses and lows, education, government and history. A justice that is about undoing sin, remembering our dead, honoring families and protecting the living and is about the work that is ours to do as people of faith. The work that we are appointed to do, in the words of Universalist Olympia Brown: our own great lesson.

That work may be about our own racism, about gun control or workplace culture, may be about hiring practices or the language we use, how we describe neighborhoods or people. It may be about where we walk on sidewalks, what violence is called crime and what is called defense. Our work may be about not forgetting.

 May we not forget, not tomorrow not in a week not a month or year, when news crews have turned to some other pain. It will be easy for those of us buffered by money or whiteness to not remember. We will get caught up in emails and church committees, children and plans. Others of us will always remember because all of our emails and church work, our parenting and our planning have everything to do with whether we will be the next John Crawford or Eric Garner, our child the next Michael Brown, our sibling the next Renisha McBride.

Our prayer ends this morning with words by Lambda Literary Award finalist, the poet Marvin K White,

wikiPrayer: A How-To

Pray as if you are that black boy.

Pray as if you are the bullet.

Pray as if you are tomorrow waiting on him.

Pray as if you are that black boy’s mama.

Then pray as if you are that whiteness.

Pray as if you are the witness.

Pray as if you are the curtain through which his killing is witnessed.

Pray as if you are the ground he fell on.

Pray as if you are the blood trying to get away.

Then pray as if you are daylight savings time.

Pray as if you got to break the news to his son.

Pray as if you got to watch the news break.

Pray as if you are the scripture that speaks healing.

Pray as if you can hear black boys crying even when they not.

Then pray as if you know that even god don’t know what to say to this.

Pray as if you know people think praying people right up there with looters.

Pray as if you are listening for justice.

Pray as if you can’t hear none.

Pray as if you black and thinking locked up is safer than jay-walking.

Then pray that no lies about black boys get past you.

Pray as if you are a funeral service.

Pray as if you are the money for a spray.

Pray as if you meet a florist that hate funerals.

Pray as if you know quiet hours can’t keep you quiet much longer.

Then pray that the cops don’t say that they thought your clasped hands was a gun.


For all of us, whether we are the system that created the bullet or the soul that the bullet found – help; hope.

May it be so. Amen and blessed be.