Be Loud With Your Courage

UPSTANDERS Gathering| Not In Our Town | Billings, Montana

Public Address given January 28, 2018 at Grace United Methodist Church

Billings community, friends, people from different walks of life and professions all gathered together:

I speak to you today as a female, a community leader, and a Christian.

It requires courage to take a stand in our own communities, among our friends and family members that believe differently, among the people whose rejection could hurt the most.

What the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School have been through and the courage within their actions every day since both breaks my heart and causes me to find my own courage to speak up on issues where I face possible rejection from community, family and friends. BUT we must speak up. We must.

How can we ever be the “good guys” or fight for human rights in other countries when the slaughter of children in a school classroom or the slaughter of members of the LGBTQ community dancing to music or the slaughter of members of a Sikh temple is considered bearable in our country?

What we choose to tolerate we will never change.*

When we choose to tolerate hate messaging or the lack of legally recognized equality for ALL, we allow the idea of superiority to build. When we choose to tolerate the degradation of others, we allow the presence of modern day slavery to build. When we choose to tolerate the messaging of “boys will be boys” when a young girl is raped, we allow the idea that men are afraid women will laugh at them and women are afraid men will kill them to build.**

As a Christian, if I do not rise up against hate, I deny Christ.
As a Christian, if I stay silent in the midst of hate, I deny Christ.
As a Christian, if I turn a blind eye to the degradation of those different from me, I deny Christ.

What you stand for right now is what you would have stood for at any other point in history. And if you are silent now you would have been silent in history.

I once heard a wise young man say, “You cannot control how others perceive you. You can only control your presentation.” We Christians fail in many ways in our presentation of Christ. To me, our greatest seems to be how we take His death on the cross as an individual act for “me” and “me” alone. We hold our hands up in praise and shout “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And then we turn around and take His Son for our own grace, for our own redemption, for our own mercy. We are very good at taking Christ as God gave Him to us, but we are not so good at reciprocating that gift to others. We hold that “whosoever” in a tight grip of judgment as if it is our decision to determine who is worthy of inclusion.

And, I believe, we hold great responsibility in how the world perceives the LGBTQ population. The Christian church – and I’m talking both corporately and individually – has presented such great condemnation and rejection on this population we have virtually said to parents, “You are right in rejecting your own child.” We have virtually said to the world, “You are right in not hiring this person. You are right in not allowing this person housing. You are right in your condemnation of this person.”
In this, to me, we have failed in our presentation of Christ.

As Christians, I wish we would ask ourselves every day: If I never quoted one scripture or spoke the name of Jesus, would people see the love of Christ through me?
As Americans, I wish we would ask ourselves every day: Do I believe all people are created equal?

Today, in the United States of America 300,000 children are trafficked for sex each year. Today, in the United States of America among the most vulnerable population to be trafficked are our homeless youth, and today, in the United States of America LGBTQ youth make up 40% of our homeless youth. Today, in the United States of America, women and girls of color are trafficked and murdered at astonishing rates and shockingly the crimes against them go unpunished in great numbers.

Today, we gather in a church that embraces Christ’s message of love, acceptance, and equality for ALL.

Today, we gather in a church whose message embraces the idea that there is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole.

May we rise in our love and support for this church and their message.

Today, we gather in the strength of those who stood up years ago and said, Not in Our Town.

May we rise again in our love and support for those most vulnerable to hate and degradation.

Today, may we remember that in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of frustration, in the midst of all that is unfair, we must never forget the strength and beauty and power of all that is right, all that is just, and all who stand, speak and die for such things, for they are the ones who shine. They are the ones whose light can never be extinguished. Because of them, injustice is made just; sorrows have their limit; and that which must be changed, is.

Today, in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of frustration, in the midst of all that is unfair, be brave with your love; be strong with your morals; and be loud with your courage.

Thank you,

Penny Ronning

Quote Credit
*Mike Murdock
**Margaret Atwood


Transcript of Meryl Streep’s Powerful Golden Globes Speech

January 8, 2017

As delivered by Meryl Streep upon acceptance of being awarded the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award:

Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year, so I have to read.

Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.

Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.

O.K., this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing: Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.

As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.


Al Feldstein, My Friend


I was blessed beyond measure to call Al Feldstein a friend. We enjoyed hours and hours of conversation at my gallery in Livingston, MT or on the phone or email. People came from all over to sit and talk with Al about his art, his years of being the editor at MAD Magazine, his years of military service, or his adventures at ComiCon. Al graciously held his audience captive with his ability to tell a story. Al was extraordinarily intelligent and deeply passionate. I loved talking history and politics with Al. He was a treasure chest of knowledge.

As Al’s health began to decline I spoke more with Michelle, Al’s extraordinary wife, when I would call. Our mutual love for animals and her respect for the friendship Al and I shared created an immediate bond between us for which I am eternally grateful.

Al Feldstein, you have always been and will forever be one of my heroes.




Dear Arizona

Dear Arizona

I’m a straight, Christian, American woman and I stand in solidarity with my fellow Americans who are gay. We all fall in love with another human being the same way — with our hearts.

The idea that any lawmaker in the United States of America could even desire in their heart and think in their mind of introducing a bill that would create a legal “less than” mentality back into our country is very disturbing…

BUT, for that lawmaker to then recruit other lawmakers to actually sponsor and help craft a bill with language so a legal “less than” mentality is masked within a web of “religious freedom” language . . . well, that is frightening.

BUT, for those lawmakers to THEN actually get this bill passed in one house of congress in their state, as it did in Kansas and now both houses of congress in Arizona . . . . well, that downright scares the shit out of me and it should every American.

In Arizona this bill appears to be moving closer to the Governor’s office. The intent behind these bills is shameful and against everything our great constitution stands for. The language in these bills opens the door to vast consequences – who will they come after next and what are the next steps – patches on our clothing?

As an American, I believe these are the type of laws that weaken our country. As a Christian, I believe these are the type of laws that weaken Christianity and present God in a false light.

Discussion on vetoing this bill based on a projected detrimental financial impact that will occur to the state only adds to its shamefulness.

Veto the bill based on its immoral intent  — period.

Shame on you, Arizona lawmakers.


G-DOG. What happens when a young, white Jesuit priest walks into the most violent Latino, Asian, and African-American gang neighborhoods in East LA? If that priest is Father Greg Boyle, a 70% success rate for having gang members swap violence for community.

And what’s his radical method?

Boundless, restorative love.

This documentary follows Father Greg or G-Dog as the homies call him, through a year in the life of Homeboy Industries, the largest, most successful gang intervention and rehab program in the U.S. In 1986, Father Greg was assigned to the poorest, most violent parish in East LA, Boyle Heights. With his belief that nothing stops a bullet like a job and his intense focus on jobs not jail for the kids he saw planning their funerals instead of their futures, he began building Homeboy Industries — a café, silkscreen shop, yoga studio, retail shop, catering service, tattoo removal, job training, anger management training, parent training, etc, business – in downtown LA. In the year the film memorializes, Father Greg and the homies face a tough economic decision about Homeboy Industries, but they face it together and with boundless, restorative love.

Father Greg saw a need in his community and he worked to meet that need. As a result, Homeboy Industries serves as an inspiration for helping to kids at risk in Toronto, Manchester, Hamburg, Rio de Janeiro, and many more communities.

It’s easy to see why a Jesuit priest would be so loved in one of the poorest communities in LA when you embrace the truth delivered in his commencement speech at Occidental College:

“So, I’m in a car with a homie named Manuel and we’re driving to give a talk and he gets a text and he looks at it and he kinda chuckles and I said, ‘What is it?’ And he goes, ‘Oh, it’s dumb. It’s from Snoopy back at the office.’

I said, ‘What’s it say?’

‘Oh, hey dog, it’s me Snoops. Yeah, they got my ass locked up at county jail. They’re charging me with being the ugliest vato in America. You have to come down right now. Show ‘em they got the wrong guy.’

I nearly swerved into oncoming traffic and then I realized that Manuel and Snoopy are enemies. They used to shoot bullets at one another. Now they shoot text messages. And there is a word for that and the word is kinship.

There is no longer us and them. It’s only us.

The measure of your compassion lies not in your service of those on the margins, but in your willingness to see yourself in kinship with them.

Oxi [Occidental College] is not the place you come to; it’s the place you go from. And you go from here to create a community of kinship so that God might recognize it. And good for you. And congratulations.” ~ Father Greg Boyle

G-Dog a brilliant film by Freida Lee Mock.

OPERATION: Homefront

OPERATION: Homefront

ORGANIZATION: Up with Billings!, a Billings Kiwanis satellite group

SUBJECT: Holiday Gift Boxes for Homeless Children in Billings

DATE: NOW – December 14, 2013

BOX COLLECTION SITE: Rock Creek Coffee Roasters 124 N. 28th St. Billings, MT


Did you know that on any given night, as many as 100 homeless youth in Billings are sleeping outside underneath bridges, in ‘camps’ near the river or inside a cave along the Rims? Billings School District 2 identified 503 homeless youth enrolled during the 2012 – 2013 school year. Tumbleweed’s Street Outreach Program identified an additional 150 homeless youth who were not enrolled in school.

Fashioned after Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, OPERATION: Homefront is a local holiday gift project sponsored by Up with Billings!, a Billings Kiwanis satellite group.

Up with Billings!’ mission is to collect 500 individual shoeboxes with gifts for students identified by School District 2 and Tumbleweed Runaway Program as homeless or at risk.

The shoeboxes will be distributed the week of December 16, 2013 by School District 2 and Tumbleweed.

Please join OPERATION: Homefront and learn what a difference a shoebox can make!




Use an empty shoebox (standard size, please) or a small plastic container. Please wrap the box and lid separately with holiday paper.


Determine whether your gift will be for a boy or a girl or a teen male or female and the child’s age category as listed below. Create a label designating the appropriate gender and age category and tape the label to the top of the wrapped lid of your box.


Primary Girl or Boy

K – 3rd Grade

Intermediate Girl or Boy

4th – 6th Grade

Early Teen Girl or Boy

7th – 8th Grade

High School Female or Male

9th – 12th Grade


Fill the box with a variety of gifts that will bring delight to a child or teen. Please include at least one item a child can immediately embrace such as a stuffed toy, doll, ball, or toy truck. Including a handwritten greeting is encouraged.


Place a rubber band or removable ribbon around each wrapped, closed shoebox and drop it off at Rock Creek Coffee Roasters by December 14, 2013. (Rock Creek Coffee Roaster is located at 124 N. 28th St. Billings, MT 59101)



School supplies: Pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, notebooks, ink pads and rubber stamps, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, reading books, etc.

Toys: Small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A-Sketch, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), Slinky, etc.

Hygiene Items: Toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb, brush, wash cloth, etc.

Other: T-shirts, socks, gloves/mittens, winter hats/scarves, ball caps, sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries), etc. Clothing items for winter weather are encouraged.


Age appropriate items for school, recreation, clothing, and hygiene products. Clothing items for winter weather are encouraged.

For All Boxes Do Not Include: Used or damaged items, war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out of date candy;  medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.



THE INVISIBLE WAR. This truth driven documentary tells the story of a shocking number of extraordinarily brave women and men who were raped by either their fellow service men or superiors in the military and their courageous fight for justice.

BUT, in truth, it tells the story of so much more.

“A female U.S. soldier in a combat zone is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. In fact, The Department of Defense estimates that in 2010 alone, there were more than 19,000 violent sex crimes in the U.S. military.” ~ The Invisible War

Many of the violent sex crimes happening in the U.S. military are not happening in combat zones, but rather in the United States of America.

As in every profession in which humans are present there will always be those who hold themselves above the law and abuse whatever power or authority they have. The United States military is no exception.

However, what seems to be the exception is how the law is applied to rapists in the U.S. military. And that is one of the truths this film confronts head on.

This Academy Award nominated film sheds light on a subject that has too long been kept in the dark.

“Currently, commanders who do not have legal training have the power to dismiss a case, set aside a guilty verdict, and return an attacker to the ranks. The Military Justice Improvement Act would get to the root of this problem by moving the decision-making on whether and how to prosecute serious offenses, like sexual assault, out of the chain of command, giving these decisions to trained, experienced military prosecutors.” ~This Is Personal Campaign

Fifty Senators have already pledged to support the act, but 60 total votes are needed to assure that it passes.

Today may be the day the Senate votes on the Military Justice Improvement Act. Do you know where your Senators stand on the issue?

To find out, click HERE. (Senator Cory Booker, who appears on this list, has now signed on to support the MJIA.)