becoming an angry white woman

I had an uncomfortable realization last week. As I was reading about another unarmed black man being killed by police, I got angry. Really, Lord? Why is this happening again? Why does justice feel so far away sometimes? Why? Why? Why?

It took me a long time to realize my own preconceptions: my experience with police officers and authority figures in general has always been positive. Frankly, my experience with people in general has been positive. My overwhelming tendency is to trust people and to take what they say at face value. Call me naive, but it’s really a reflection of my experiences in life. It didn’t occur to me that others’ experiences were different and therefore would lead them to alternate starting points, lenses to see the world far different from my own.

Many people get frustrated when people of color talk about discrimination. The voices they hear sound strident, harsh, angry to their ears. Honestly, it sounds that way to me, too. I back away. I don’t want to engage. But I shifted in my seat when I got upset. Because what I heard myself think was this: “If I start speaking out about these injustices, time and again, people will consider me a downer. I’ll sound angry all the time.” Gulp. I’m not an angry person, and anyone who knows me knows that. Could it be, I thought, that those “angry” people I’ve shirked in the past are actually just trying to speak truth into darkness? Could it be that they have seen too much, felt too much and really just want a better place for all of us?

I remember learning in one psychology class that anger is a secondary emotion. There’s a deeper emotion that presents as anger. I suspect that many times pain sounds an awful lot like anger. When sharing your heart gets shut down, it creates a scar. When we say we value justice, hear others questioning if a breach occurred, and blithely disregard their concerns without due process, hot coals sear people’s hearts and they cry out.

For those of you opening your mouths in protest, wait just a minute. I am still wary to jump to conclusions when there are altercations anywhere that I didn’t see. I do think that whatever lens we wear can lead us to first impressions that are wrong. But are any of us willing to step back from our own viewpoint long enough to say that the world is a wholly just place? That we are free from the brokenness of this world? Friends, in this week after our Easter celebrations let us be reminded that Jesus came because we are broken and in need of a Savior. Jesus redeemed us and is making all things new. But the world still groans. Sin is conquered but not removed.

I believe that God broke the dividing wall–between both us and him and each other. I believe that when we hear from others different from ourselves–be it race, gender, age, life experience, culture, etc.–that we see a fuller image of God. Let us listen, let us remove our lenses, let us cry out…even if it sounds angry to others.

speaking out

There’s an interesting line one treads when one decides to enter the inter webs. It’s not “real life” in the sense that anyone can read or comment, regardless of their knowledge of you. This is not a, “hey, come over and let’s have coffee” sort of gig. I weigh that (probably too) heavily when I think about writing. Because I have this penchant for nuance I struggle with the idea that my thoughts could be twisted or taken out of context. So I tend to sit on the sidelines. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but sometimes I wish I could throw caution a to the wind a bit more. It’s not like I’m running for political office or have some grand platform I’m trying to protect; no one really needs to make soundbites out of my writing. I’m ok with that; I started writing because I like to write and it helps me organize and process my thoughts.

Speaking of politics…boy, where do I start? Long ago I established that I’m “purple”–a mixture of democrat and republican. I generally agonize at every election cycle, trying to decide which candidate espouses more of my perspectives on policies. But this year I’m flabbergasted. I’ve never voted against someone; that’s not how I work. “Tell me what you’re for!” is my mantra. But I want to add my voice to those frustrated, concerned, scared, and otherwise shocked that a candidate like Donald Trump is not only still running, but is winning, state after state. My friends at both ends of the political spectrum (yes, it’s both possible and helpful to have both in your life!) are in agreement: this man does not represent anything for which we stand.

I have friends who think we really need to up the screening process for any refugees we allow to enter; I have friends who think it is rigorous enough as is, but none of us believe that we need to track Muslims or their neighborhoods.

We all agree that everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect–even when we disagree vehemently with each other. Someone is not “stupid” because they have a different perspective.

We agree that one does NOT make America great again by belittling people.

We agree that women should not be objectified. We do not go around talking about women’s bodies.

We agree that we all make mistakes. However, we don’t brag about them, and we show remorse. Mr. Trump, the fact that you brag about having affairs with married women in your book disgusts me.

We agree that to be a Christian one must confess that they are a sinner in need of a savior. There are lots and lots of things that we disagree about, but that’s a safe topic of consensus. Mr. Trump, I would strongly encourage you to read your bible.

I actually don’t believe that all of Trump’s supporters actually think through everything Trump says. I think that there is a large group of people who feel rejected and misunderstood by those that fit well into the political arena today. They are voting against a group they feel have rejected or ignored them–they’ve lost jobs, they’ve seen their quality of life go down, they are scared about the terrorism in the world and want it to stop before it reaches their hometown. I wish I could talk to them, because there is no doubt in my mind that Trump is not the solution to their prayers. So, for them and for everyone else, if (God forbid) he actually gets the nomination, I will most assuredly be in the #nevertrump camp.

 

life as vacation

I don’t even want to look at the last time I posted, all. It was eons, and I do mean eons, ago. (Eon now equals a few months. Didn’t you know? But in this age of  instantaneous information, it might as well be forever.) It isn’t that I haven’t had anything to say. I’ve mentally started many posts–posts about the sermons I need to hear, posts about the bleakness of the world, posts about how my son’s face lights up when he smiles (and how that tempers the aforementioned bleakness), posts about freedom and hope in Christ, posts about racial reconciliation. But, honestly? I get about a paragraph into the post…and then I don’t want to think about it anymore. I can’t quite pull it together to focus and get it on (virtual) paper. So I move on, sweep the floor, surf the web, distract, distract, distract.

The quote wasn’t totally new to me, but it hit a chord today. Of course, I didn’t copy it at the time and now I can’t find it–fb isn’t helping me just now–but the gist of it is a quote from Seth Godin: “Instead of wondering where your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” I don’t buy this hook, line, and sinker, as I think vacations aren’t always an escape. Vacations can be a chance to explore someplace different, to shake up the normal, to do something just because you can. But I like its essence: set up your life in a fashion you love, that you aren’t itching to leave, that uses your passions and inspires you to do your best. I let that sink into my soul a bit today, and it helped me clarify my thoughts about my next steps for work. You see, the kids are both in full-day school now, so I could get a more involved job. And I do miss physical therapy. My hourly gig doesn’t need me this fall, so, for the first time in almost nine years I have chunks of time. I’m no longer dashing from place to place, cramming as many errands as I can in before racing to pick up my kid on time. I feel like I can breathe, drink a cup of tea and even (gasp) read a book. I finished _Ready Player One_ today; I read 98 pages in one fell swoop. And it was glorious. That was today, and it’s not meant to be an everyday activity (I think). But what does God have for me in this new season? What makes me want to make sure the schedule is clear? Here’s what I think today:

  • I don’t want to work full-time unless our family situation dictates it. Yes, I realize that even making that statement is a huge luxury. I am grateful (ever so grateful) for that option. I would, however, like to work about two days a week.
  • Making time for friends is key.
  • That goal of running a half marathon? Make.it.happen
  • I’d like to write more, which is why there’s a blog post out of my brain and in your line of vision.
  • I want to dig down deep and figure out what God has created me for. I don’t mean in the general sense. I’m with the Westminster catechism on that one: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But what does that look like given how God made me? How does his fingerprint on my life play itself out? There’s some vulnerability there that I’m not totally sure I’m comfortable with. But I’ve heard good things about Jennie Allen’s book _Restless_ (and I even own it), so it might be a good tool to help me walk through some of this.
  • There are other details that don’t bear mentioning at this point.

I wish there were a way to wrap this up tidily, to give you and me a five step path to keep us headed forward. However, if there is anything I’ve learned in my months away, it is that the best thing I can do is to seek God. How trite, how cliché, I know. But life doesn’t work according to my timeline (are we still trying to figure out church?). Staying centered on Jesus allows me to move through this curvy path of life with peace. So, whether I’m back here soon or not, greetings to you. May you slow down to figure out what brings you joy, what makes you light up inside, what moves you closer to living out your life’s purpose. I can’t wait to see what it is for both of us.

echoes

echo:

a repetition of sound produced by the reflection of sound waves from a wall, mountain, or other obstructing surface.

any repetition or close imitation, as of the ideas or opinions of another.

I generally think of echoes as the first definition above. I’m in a place, a bird sings, someone yells, waves crash, and there is a reverberation of that sound a short time later. Sometimes you have to strain to hear it.  But yesterday, I experienced the latter. I had coffee with a woman I met recently. That doesn’t sound terribly momentous, does it? Lots of people chat over coffee and the world remains the same when you walk outdoors again. But as we spoke a bit of our stories, something shifted, because I heard echoes of my story in her. As we spoke of church and good times and hard ones, there was an acknowledgement that something was shared.

Something shared. No, it wasn’t that we grew up in Southern California, or that we had both lived in the Bay Area for some time. It was something deeper inside. It was the faith that shapes our lives and actions. We both chose to engage in ways God called us–and it wasn’t always easy. There were push-backs, questions, and times of isolation, feeling like you are swimming upstream in a place that shouldn’t require it. So you make hard choices, not without prayers, tears, and reservations.

In those times of feeling alone, this echo feels precious. It reminds me that while the details are different, I have company. There is a great band of believers around me. And I repeat this to myself: faithfulness is not about achieving a certain outcome, but doing what you are called to do.

I am thankful for echoes that reverberate deeply in my soul, and thankful to a God whose timing for them is perfect.

reconciled to God and each other

I have a bit of sermonizing to do today. Feel free to listen in.

Here’s what I believe the gospel is: We are fallen people, stuck in the muck of sin. While created in God’s image, we are mired in our imperfection, which separates us from God. If the story ended here, us covered with the filth of selfishness, greed, pride, and more, it’d read as the greatest of tragedy of all time. But there’s more, there’s hope because God’s love compelled him to send Jesus to earth. On earth, Jesus showed us more of God’s character, showed us how to live, how to love, what following God means. After all that, he died for you, for me, for all of us, to be the perfect sacrifice, washing us clean of the tar of sin, starting all things new again. Because of Jesus, God reconciles us to himself and to each other. Yes, I said to each other, too. As God makes all things new in Jesus, we get this amazing opportunity to be reconciled to the one who made and loves us and to those around us, also created and loved by God.

There are few Christians among us who would disagree with this…in theory. I bet if I asked 100 pastors that at least 99 of them would say that through Jesus, broken relationships can be healed. We have an example in the early church (see Acts 2), where Jews and Gentiles worshiped and sacrificed for each other, because Jesus had dramatically changed their perspectives and priorities. That’s exciting, isn’t it? We reflect God’s transforming power when we love those who were once our enemies. It’s incredible. But let’s be honest enough to say that the practice of reconciling relationships is messy and hard and needs to take the long road. We must humble ourselves to admit that we need to fully rely on Jesus to work through the sins of our culture and the distrust sown over centuries. It’s one that takes intentionality, because that swamp monster of sin longs to creep back and divide us once more.

A bit more theology: I believe that God made all of us, different cultures, different ethnicities, different perspectives. I believe that when we share that diversity with each other we gain a fuller picture of who God is. I believe that one day people of every tribe, tongue, and nation will worship God together. Why would I not want to get a glimpse of heaven now? Why would I not want to see God’s power supersede the messiness of life? Why would I not want to see God get glory for doing His work, here and now?

I went to a new church this morning. There were things I loved: the sermon was one of the best I’ve heard in years, exegeting scripture, following the text, teaching and applying it to our lives. The music was good. There was slave-free coffee. But all, and I repeat all, the people standing at any point in the service–from music to preaching to leading communion–were white males. I was a bit taken aback. They recently studied Acts and decided to physically meet the needs of others in their congregation because of what they studied. Awesome. Perhaps they do care about reconciling all people to each other; I hope so. But, as I told a friend later today, the proof is in the pudding. There was nothing showing me that this was even on their radar, and it made me sad. Because if God has broken down the dividing wall for His glory, may I never, ever place a brick back in its place.  O Lord, hear my prayer.

getting educated

When I wrote in the last post that we should listen, I was speaking to myself as well as you, dear reader. I know that emotions run high, that we instinctively move into flight or fight responses, that spaces exist when it’s hard to listen. But for many of us, the heightened awareness surrounding Ferguson and Eric Garner  is gone, or at least my Facebook feed is far more interested in discussing the whys and wherefores of the last play by the Seahawks in the 2015 Superbowl than commenting about race relations in the USA. So maybe, just maybe, on this gray afternoon (at least in Washington) we can put on some slippers, grab a cup of tea, and settle into some reading.

When epithets flew I asked a black friend of mine what I could do. Her response?  Simply: “Get educated.” I think it’s sometimes easy to rush headlong into something (anything) that we feel passionate about, whether or not we actually understand the issues. I remember when Darfur hit the news and I sported a green plastic wristband printed with “Safe Darfur”. In a supermarket one day someone asked me about the details of the conflict…and I’m mortified to admit that I had no idea. The bandwagon looked good and people were dying, so, by golly, I jumped. But I would have made a bigger impact, would have been a better ally, had I taken the time and learned what was at hand, why things were at such a tipping point. Sometimes the best action is not to do, but to humbly learn. By sitting to hear someone else’s story we enlarge our own. Later if we have the opportunity to act, we will have ties to another reality not our own. We will, God willing, have the grace to act in someone else’s best interest, and to use the power we have for justice and righteousness.

Friends, we could all use some education. But for those of you that are my brothers and sisters in Christ, I humbly submit that if we are seeking to live as Jesus did, we don’t have an option to turn a blind eye. We are called to love our neighbor as ourself. If we learn about injustice, we must call it out, for we serve a God of justice. If Jesus really did break down the walls dividing Jews and Greeks, males and females, slaves and free and made us all one in Him, we must care about the resurrected barriers that divide us.

Ok, enough sermonizing. I repeat: I’m preaching to myself. Sometimes I need a good kick in the pants. But if for no other reason, because I care about Tioni I’m reading and learning. Won’t you come along?

I get that it’s sometimes hard to know where to start, so I’m linking some articles from folks I respect. I’ve read a chunk of them, but not all. 

Come with me, friends. It’s worth the journey.

can we humble ourselves?

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m a moderate. I’ve yet to find a politician for whom I’m excited to vote, and I’m fairly confident that I frustrate my conservative and liberal friends alike with my extremely mixed views.  I like nuance, dislike soundbites, and nearly always feel there are two sides to every story, both with truth in them. As such, I rarely enter the foray of politics on this blog or elsewhere in internet-land. I generally feel that the best discussions are not held in cyberspace, but in person, in relationship. This is still true. But I’ve come to realize that I live in a virtual age, and that the conversations I’d love to have don’t always come to fruition. More importantly, I’m moved to share some voices that are not always heard.

I want to start with a fact: I will never know with certainty exactly what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014. Let me repeat: I will never know with certainty exactly what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014. But regardless of what occurred that day, can we take a step back and look at the bigger picture? People are not reacting solely because of the lack of indictment of Officer Wilson. Yes, yes, that’s a part of it. But if we only focus on that, we’ve missed something vital. People are protesting because they see a pattern repeated over and over and over, not just in this generation, but over centuries. It may look different from slavery, than being considered part of a person when counting votes, than having different restaurants or drinking fountains or schools. People are mourning because interactions don’t reflect  equal value. People are angry because their voices are belittled or dismissed.

I’m a white woman. I don’t pretend to understand an experience that is not my own. But what I do know, as a Christian, is that I am called to humility. I am called to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Can we quiet our hearts long enough to listen?

I started this blog post before Thanksgiving. I asked black friends if they’d be willing to write something for this blog. A few said they would. But in the meantime, I’ve read about Eric Garner. I sit here not even sure what to say. I’m sad. All I know is that my voice feels weak, but that maybe, just maybe, if all weak voices band together maybe we can be loud enough to help enact change. God, give us grace, courage, and your heart for justice and for the oppressed. May we reflect Your compassion.

As an introduction, here are a few Facebook posts from some black friends:

My head hurts. My heart hurts. Taking a FB break to get it together. Email, text or call if you need me.

 

If anyone is surprised this evening, you haven’t been paying attention.

 

I’m exhausted.
Right about now I’d be penning an “Open Letter”, but I’m exhausted.

I’m allowed to be sad, I don’t care if he was wearing a hoodie and a mean mug. I don’t care what he did moments before his death. I’m allowed to be pissed off that he is gone. I’m allowed to be worried that my boyfriend doesn’t wear a hat when he drives to avoid the flashing lights, and that my dad avoids certain areas in his nice car because why would he be driving something that swaggy anyway?

I’m exhausted because my little cousins have so much more to fear if they choose to wear a hoodie one night over a button up and boat shoes.

Two years ago I was told I couldn’t be angry about Trayvon Martin and how dare I compare him to Emmett Till, but it’s still death by force and by fear.

I’m exhausted just wrapping my brain around it all.

 

*These are my friends. You are welcome to comment on this post, but only, and I repeat only, if you remain civil. Asking questions, wanting clarification, even disagreeing is fine, but remember that the whole point of this post is to pause and listen, so please consider that before you speak.*