The Other Part of James 1: World Vision, Gay Marriage, and Fighting Christians

I watched on twitter yesterday as World Vision announced that they had changed an HR policy that will allow for hiring of employees who are in same-sex marriages.

And then I watched twitter erupt with reactions.

Some Christians were overjoyed at the announcement.

Some Christians were outraged at the announcement.

And then, as often happens on twitter, those two camps of Christians found each others’ responses and started throwing stones.

And then others joined in.

And soon enough, I watched a twitter war break out.

Conservative Christians vs. Liberal Christians against each other again in a very public forum hurling Scriptures and words at one another as weapons. It’s like a well-watched reality tv show that depicts a family fighting ugly with one another while the world watches.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

We all have convictions.  We all have opinions.  We have all read the Bible, and somehow, we have come out with differing interpretations.

But we agree on Jesus, don’t we?  We agree on the cross.  We agree that mercy triumphs over judgement.  And we believe in justice.  Thank God we believe in justice.  We fight because we know that the world is not as it should be.  But sometimes in our quest for justice we fight mean and wrong.  

And others take notice.

I’m not saying we don’t stand up for our convictions.  By all means, let’s fight for justice and truth.  But how we go about fighting matters.

I’ve seen a lot of James 1:27 quoted in the last 24 hours, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  I love that verse.  It’s a verse that inspires and challenges me to my core.

But we seem to have forgotten the verse just before it: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (James 1:26).

Social media has given us an outlet and a platform to speak and respond.  It’s a medium that allows us to engage in dialogue (albeit limited to 140 characters much of the time) in real-time.

And this is the danger of social media.

Because we post things in the heat of a moment. And sometimes we do good. And sometimes we mend fences. And sometimes we cause others to think differently. And sometimes we damage someone’s reputation. And sometimes we bully others. And sometimes we wage wars.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t get angry.  We’re humans, so we get angry.  And we are followers of Jesus, so we get angry.  We should get angry at injustice, at oppressive systems, at man-made religious rules, at hypocrisy, at judgmentalism, at sin, and at hate.

But maybe we need to get better at getting angry slower.  Especially when we find ourselves angry at another person and not a systemic ill.

James puts it this way (still in chapter 1), “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)”

This isn’t about conflict-avoidance.  This isn’t about sweeping critical disagreements under a rug and pretending that our family is happy and healthy and unified.  This isn’t about never getting angry. But it is about pausing. It’s about listening (out of respect, not a cue for a comeback).  It’s about being slow to speak.  And slow to become angry.

I’ve been learning a lot about this lately and doing a whole lot of repenting.

Our immediate reactions aren’t always our realest reactions.  And when we take a moment or a day or a week, we can come the table with dialogue not debate.  Debates rarely change minds and even rarer, make friends.  Dialogue, however, can enlighten us, and can even forge unlikely friendships.

We can challenge in love.  We can disagree without slandering. We can speak out on issues, without calling out individuals.

At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, we’re family. We’re in this for eternity. We need to call each other out from time to time.  We need to have it out on occasion.  But let’s not make individual fights so public. And let’s shame each other less. And most of all, let’s keep doing God’s work of redemption, reconciliation, healing, and welcoming in the world.

This particular issue is very personal to me because we love our sponsored child through World Vision, and because we love our friends who are gay. Fighting hurts bystanders. Fighting hurts the Kingdom. And fighting hurts the Peacemaking Jesus that we follow.

As I hit publish, I’m finding myself humming that old 1960′s song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our Love.”  May that be true one day.

Posted in Acting Justly, Loving Mercy, the Church | 5 Comments

When Bravery Looks Like Healing

I haven’t felt fully myself for several months now.  I’m still me, just a slightly off-key version of me.

This summer, I experienced some trauma.  The physical recovery was grueling, and is still ongoing, but it’s clear that the emotional recovery is the harder of the two recoveries.  Since July, I’ve struggled with periods of debilitating anxiety and moments of sheer panic.  What used to be routine outings have become special ops missions: I have to emotionally prepare to go to friends’ homes, I have to read my courage-meter when committing to any outdoor events, and I have to be on high alert when I go for hikes or walks.

There are days when I feel brave and grounded, and others when I feel absolutely weak-kneed and cowardly.  A certain noise, an instagram, or a scene in a movie can either leave me feeling confident I’m healing or completely panicked.  There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or rhythm as to what can trigger the panic or lack of panic.

Maybe that’s what makes healing so hard.  It’s unpredictable.  And unrelenting.  And sometimes seemingly endless.

I’ve struggled to give myself permission to heal.  I’m typically more of a “suck it up” kind of girl, especially when it comes to personal standards. Some days I feel totally silly and weak and I want to tell myself to “just get over it”.  But thus far, that hasn’t been possible for me.

Over the last few months, I’ve found myself feeling more defeated than determined.  I’m quicker to give up or not even try things at all.  And that’s not me.  At least that’s not the old me.  And I hope it’s not the future me.

Over the last few months I’ve also felt more attuned to my own pain and issues than the greater pain and issues in my community and the world.  I’m not indifferent, I’m just tired from fighting my own battles that I don’t have as much energy for others’ battles. And that’s not me.  At least it’s not the old me.  And I hope it’s not the future me.

Because I haven’t felt completely myself lately, I haven’t had a lot of my own words to share, so I’ve been taking in others’ words.  Reading has been a nice reprieve from my inner dialogue.

I just finished the Divergent trilogy and one of the last paragraphs in the final book left me sobbing; not necessarily for the plot line, but for the truth that was contained in the words for me for this season:

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else.  Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known , or everyone you have ever loved for the sake of something greater.  But sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”

Bravery looks different for me this year than it has in years past.  And I have hope that bravery will look different for me in future years than it does now.

For now, bravery looks like admitting weakness and fear.  For now, it looks like knowing when to face fears and when to take breaks from fear-facing.  For now, bravery looks like not worrying about what others’ will think about my courage or lack thereof.  For now, it looks like being ok with not being ok.

For now, bravery looks like healing .

To those who have experienced great trauma and repeated trauma, this post by no means compares my experience to yours.  I am so very sorry that you have experienced horror, fear, and injustice.  I hate that there are triggers that re-traumatize you.  My struggles to cope with my own experience cause me greater compassion for those who have experienced greater trauma. I cannot imagine the bravery it takes for you to face each day. I applaud you.

Posted in Life, Walking with God | 6 Comments

Zumba Rhythm

Have you ever gone to a zumba class?

They are pretty fun.  There’s zazzy music, a little sweat, and a whole lot of people watching.

I’ve gone to a few zumba classes in the last few years, and here’s what I’ve learned:

There are front-row-zumba-ladies (and the occasional dancy gentleman), and there are back-row-zumba-ladies (and ne’er the occasional man – if you’re a zumba-man you’re up front – that’s all there is to it).

The front-row-zumba-ladies and gentleman know all the moves.  They have clearly been to a few a million classes before and when they shake it, they shake it fast because, they have the routine down.  Or perhaps they are just naturally good at picking up new rhythms (cue envy).

The back-row-zumba-ladies, are a little awkward, a little off beat, and definitely not sure of the routine.  These are the ladies that don’t naturally pick up new rhythms and who look more confused than sweaty when they leave the class.

I’m sad to report that I’m a back-row-zumba-lady.  New rhythms aren’t easy for me.  I’m not one of these, I’ll just make up my own moves and have fun in the process, free and easy types.  Nope. I have to get a feel for the routine before I can launch in.  I have to know how to move within the rhythm before I can feel good about the routine.

I know that if I go to the same zumba class for several weeks in a row, I’ll hear the same songs and dance out the same routines, and that soon, I’ll edge closer to the middle of the room because I’ll feel more confident with the routine.  (For the record, I’ll never be a front row zumba-lady, because I don’t have moves like Jagger).

I handle new life routines like I do zumba routines.

For the last month, I feel like I’ve been in the back row, wide-eyed and trying to figure out how to move in a new life rhythm.  I’ve felt a little unsure and a little off beat.

In January, my job responsibilities ramped up to warp speed.  I chose to take on some new and exciting responsibilities at work, and it’s been awesome.  I have loved my job since I started there a little over two years ago and I continue to love my job.  In fact, though things are busy, I’m loving it more than ever.  And in the midst of loving it, it’s been an adjustment to a new schedule.

Also in January, Adam started a new job at a church.  It’s an unexpected gift and a total blessing.  We’re both oozing with joy about how the whole deal went down.  I’ll have to tell you more about it soon.  There has been an air of nearly electric excitement around our house. And in the midst of the joy, it’s been an adjustment to a new schedule.

The good news, is that we’re about a month and a half into all the newness, and I’m starting to get the hang if this new life routine.  I’m still a little awkward about it all, but I’m feeling less off and more on.  I think I just needed a little time.

How do you respond to new rhythms and routines in life?

 Are you good at rolling with a new beat or do you, like me, need time to observe, learn, and practice?

Posted in Life, Various and Sundry | Leave a comment

I Have a Dream, Too

MLKI still get goosebumps every time I read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech”. My heart starts racing as his conclusion approaches, and I feel the lump forming in my throat. Tears well in my eyes when I read the words:

“And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Even though I’m alone in my home re-reading these familiar words, I want to stand up and shout in agreement. I long for the day when our nation has justice, equality, and unity.

But we aren’t there yet.

As I read and re-read impassioned words of Dr. King, I am reminded that we are still so very far from the goals of justice, equality, and unity. I don’t need to read his speech to be reminded of that. I need only to drive around the streets of my city to see that the majority of renovated neighborhoods are owned by white people, and the projects inhabited primarily by black people. I need only to look at test scores in our local school system to see that white students are achieving higher test scores than their peers of color. I need only to look at the prison statistics and see that black Americans are 5 times more likely to be imprisoned than white Americans and Hispanic Americans are 2 times more likely to be imprisoned than white Americans.

I need only to step outside my door and talk with my neighbor across the street who carries great hostility toward me because people the same color as me have oppressed, mistreated, and abused her for generations.

Where I grew up, in the Northern United States, racism existed in subtle statements and secrecy. I’m better at identifying it now. It is ugly and present. But here, in the Southern United States, where I now make my home, racism is glaring. There are confederate flags hanging in yards and decorating the bumpers of cars. People say things that are downright nauseating. The racial tensions in the south are palpable.

I’ve studied privilege and power, I’m cognizant of my stereotypes, and I’ve dedicated my life to pursuing justice.  Racism is a justice issue.

And I want to talk about it.

But to be honest, sometimes I’m scared to talk about it.  

Because I’m afraid to say the wrong thing, or perhaps the right thing but in the wrong way.

I’ve done that in the past, and it didn’t go so well.

And so I’ve stayed more quiet than I should out of slight paralysis, fear, and embarrassment. I’ve been fighting a quiet fight for justice in my work, my church, and my community. I’ve been quietly watching my Black and Hispanic friends and co-workers for signals, trying to learn about their stories, working to observe how I can join this fight effectively.

But I still feel powerless as to what to do about my power.

And then this week, I read a blog that convicted me about my voice and racism in America. The author petitions white bloggers to stop avoiding the topic of racism. She says, “Put the power of your privilege to work and speak up.  Don’t let the internet be void of your voice on this topic and don’t allow yourself to have distorted views of black people or racial reconciliation for fear of letting your ignorance show.”

I reread her blog several times with wide eyes. Here I am, a woman who claims to be addressing issues of justice and mercy through writing, and yet I’m avoiding this topic because I’m a little scared, because I don’t want things to get awkward, because I don’t want to say something wrong.

The truth is, I’m not sure where my voice fits in the chorus of racial reconciliation. But I know I want to be part of the chorus. I’m ok with not getting a solo, or even having a microphone, but I love this song, and I want to sing it.

I read these words from Dr. King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, and I wonder, what kind of white person am I?

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice… Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection…

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this. Maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I expected too much. I guess I should have realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans and passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent, and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too small in quantity, but they are big in quality.”

I pray I am the white person that has grasped the need for justice and who is committed to the cause.

To my friends whose skin is a different color than mine, I want you to know that I’m in this chorus with you. I know that my song isn’t anything like your song. I know that it’s different for me to join this fighting chorus, because it’s a choice for me, and it isn’t for you. I know that I don’t know much of anything, but I do know that I’m not ok with the way things are.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

(MLK, Letter From Birmingham Jail)

Posted in Acting Justly | 8 Comments

2014: A Year Of…

Happy New Year, friends!

Hope your new year is off to a brilliant start!  I’m still sitting in my pajamas drinking a delicious mug of coffee so I’d say 2014 is looking up!

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions?  If not, my husband has made some for all of us so feel free to read what he’s resolved for the masses.  I’m all for resolutions.  I know that’s not a popular opinion, but I hold to it.  Resolutions can be a good thing.

Last year, I decided to take a new approach to the New Year Resolution and jump on the One Word 365 train.  If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a movement to choose one word that will define your year.  This word guides growth, reading, learning, and thinking.  2013′s word for me was generosity, and it was an awesome year of growth in gratitude and sharing.

Throughout last year, I thought a lot about generosity.  I prayed a lot about the selfish areas of my life.  I was intentional about giving.  I read about generosity.  It was a focused year.

I liked this concept of picking one word so much, that I’m doing it again.  I’m picking one word that will shape and grow me throughout the year.

2014 will be a year of REST.

As I type this, I am fighting every urge to delete that word and fill it with something more awesome, more adventurous, or more productive.  I am an achiever and a do-er.  I am not a rester.  I love being busy.  And the longer I stare at my cursor dancing over that little 4-letter word, the more panicky I become.

I often fight rest.

Instead of rest, I pick checking off one more thing on my to-do list.  Instead of rest, I pack in one more coffee date with someone.  Instead of rest, I multi-task while watching movies.

For a long time, I have felt guilty about ignoring the Sabbath and making it rather unholy with all of the ways that I make it just another day to accomplish.  I know that I need rest, I just fight it.  I know I need Sabbath.  I get stressed out too much.  I get sick too much.  I crash too often.

So enough is enough.  This year, I want to learn how to create rhythms of rest that are lasting.  This year, I want to become a student of the Sabbath.  This year, I want to become healthier spiritually, emotionally, and physically because I am resting regularly.

So as I push publish, know that I am taking a huge gulp, because this means I’m letting you in on this… Which means you get to hold me accountable… Which means this is really happening.

What about you?  

Are you going to pick one word for the year?  

Do you have any resolutions?

Posted in Rest (One Word 2014) | 16 Comments

Generosity in 2013

I love this thing that my friend, Alece started.  In place of New Year’s Resolutions, we pick one word that will define, grow, challenge, and inspire us for the new year.  Last year was my first year to pick my word, and I loved it.  Unlike resolutions of years passed, this word really was a prescription for growth, behavior, and learning for me.

My word for last year was generosity.

Let me tell you, it has been an amazing year!  I know, I know, I should have been blogging about this all year, sharing my journey of growth in generosity, but it’s tricky to blog about generosity.  How do you blog about sharing and sacrificing without bragging or over-sharing or taking the joy away from being generous in secret?  This year, I felt the tension of not letting my left hand know what my right hand was doing, so I didn’t talk a whole lot about this journey on the blog or outside the blog.  And I’m ok with that, I hope you are, too.

This year, I learned how to give with joy when I knew that there would be no reciprocity.

This year, I learned how to give when prompted by the Holy Spirit without doing budget calculations.

This year, I learned how to open up my home when it was dirty and messy and feel no shame.

This year, I saw God’s provision, that to be honest, was miraculous at times.  Apparently others were learning generosity this year, too, because we were the recipients of a whole lot of generosity.

This year, I became less entitled and more grateful through constant reminders that “my resources” aren’t really mine in the first place.

This year, I learned how to welcome generosity from others and feel grateful, not guilty.

Through generosity, I grew in openness, vulnerability, and joy.  I don’t think I can go back, either.  This year has been a beautiful journey. I’m excited to announce 2014′s word…  but not yet.  I’ll leave you hanging for a bit.  What about you, how was your year?  Have plans for your next year’s One Word?

Posted in Generosity (One Word 2013) | 3 Comments

2013, God With Us

2013 has been a really hard year for many of my dear ones.  It has also been a really good year for many of my loved ones.  For Adam and I, this year has been both really hard and really good.  And as I’ve been reflecting on this year through the lens of advent, I keep coming back to, “God with us, Emmanuel,” and finding deep comfort.

As I think about all that my friends have experienced this year, and all that we have experienced this year, I keep envisioning God there with us in the midst of it all.

In sleepless nights, chronic pain, and un-diagnosed illness, God with us, Emmanuel.

In routine days on a route job, God with us, Emmanuel.

In positive pregnancy tests, healthy pregnancies, and in births, God with us, Emmanuel.

In the clinic during chemo treatments, God with us, Emmanuel.

In running after busy toddlers, and taxiing around teenagers, God with us, Emmanuel.

In depression and in anxiety, God with us, Emmanuel.

In contentment in single or marital status, God with us, Emmanuel.

In loneliness and in broken relationships, God with us, Emmanuel.

In graduation, and job placement, and promotions, God with us, Emmanuel.

In infertility, miscarriage, and loss of children, God with us, Emmanuel.

In a clean bill of health and in the miracle healing, God with us, Emmanuel.

In job loss, job discontentment, and job searching, God with us, Emmanuel.

In a second chance at life, God with us, Emmanuel.

In caring for aging parents, God with us, Emmanuel.

In loved ones being deployed, God with us, Emmanuel.

In our loved one returning home, safe from deployment, God with us, Emmanuel.

In addiction and compulsion, God with us, Emmanuel.

In figuring out life-callings, changing majors, changing colleges, and dropping out of college, God with us, Emmanuel.

In unwelcome singleness, God with us, Emmanuel.

In becoming a parent through fostering or adopting, God with us, Emmanuel.

In financial stress, God with us, Emmanuel.

In falling in love, engagement, and new marriages, God with us, Emmanuel.

In the loss of ones we love, God with us, Emmanuel.

In growing, healthy relationships, God with us, Emmanuel.

In infidelity, broken hearts, and divorce, God with us, Emmanuel.

In financial peace, and unexpected provision, God with us, Emmanuel.

In endlessly long nights with a crying infant, God with us, Emmanuel.

In uneventful weeks, God with us, Emmanuel.

I’m so thankful for a God who is with us – in the smallest and biggest, easy and painful moments.  A God who left the comfort of heaven to be with His people in their deepest pain, shame, guilt, and sorrow to save His people is Good News to me.  A God who is a Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty One, an Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace brings me Great Joy.

In the moments when we acknowledged it, and the moments when we were unsure, God was with us in 2013.  He was with us as we cried ourselves to sleep and with us when we squealed with joy.  He was with us in our deepest hope and he was with us in our deepest hopelessness.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

 

Posted in Walking with God | 2 Comments