Friday, January 19, 2018

listening from different places

Last Sunday, I went to church at Living Stone Church, a local Congolese congregation.  Over the past five years or so, the Cedar Valley has had quite an influx of residents from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I've been wanting to go to one of their churches for some time, and after the negative rhetoric in Washington DC last week, I figured the best time was now to go and worship alongside African brothers and sisters.  

The first 45 minutes was praise and worship music and a very unique time where individuals all offered prayers aloud at the same time.  Though I could not understand the French words spoken or sung, there is a common language to praise and prayer, and it was good to spend some time praying for our Congolese neighbors...for their lives in this new place, but also for their home country...where so many of their family and friends still live and where their hearts surely remain.  

Many of our local Congolese neighbors came on the Lottery Visa system that is currently being negotiated on Capitol Hill.  They didn't come without great difficulty and heart ache.  One man I spoke with after the worship service just lost his mom who still lived in Congo.  It's hard enough to lose a parent when you're near; how terribly difficult to lose a parent across so much distance.  

The Democratic Republic of Congo has had decades of war, violence, and poverty.  According to sources, it is a land full of natural and human resources that give it great potential, but it has had a history of colonial and commercial exploitation.  With wide spread corruption and no solid infrastructure, the DRC is listed as the second poorest country in the world.  

Issues of migration and immigration are no simple or easy matter.  People do not generally wish to leave their culture and homeland without being desperate for their survival.  Pray for our Congolese neighbors in the Cedar Valley today.  And look for opportunities to show hospitality, listen, and connect with them in our community.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

listening from different places, connecting in different ways

These are the words that I have sensed God impressing upon me lately:  Listen from different places, connect in different ways.  I took a ULab course online this fall that talked about two ways of listening and being:

In the paradigm of an inverted U, we tend to download incoming information in the way we have grown up receiving it.  We don't interrogate it, reflect on it, and we're not open to thinking critically in new ways.  This can lead us along a closed path where we download, deny, dis-connect, and blame..all which lead toward destruction.  This is a closed system called "absencing"  and is largely about "me" or our ego.  In this closed way of seeing and being, we close our minds out of ignorance, close our hearts out of greed/pride/hate/anger, and close our wills out of fear.  We see this happening in so many ways in families, communities, the world, and on the political stage today.

In the visual of the U, we set an intention to listen with fresh ears.  To recognize and suspend our judgments.  To listen from different places. We see with fresh eyes and connect from the field.  We get closer and connect in a different way.  We then surrender and spend time in reflection and meditation and allow the information to crystallize so that we might co-create differently.  This is an open system called "presencing" and it is largely about the eco system...or "we, not me." In this open way of seeing and being, we open our minds with curiosity, open our hearts with compassion and empathy, and we open our wills with courage.

This EdX course was not specifically Biblically-based,...but it was Biblically-based, if you get what I mean.  So many Scriptures came to me as I listened to the descriptions of both U's. 

1.  Where do you see absencing happening in your own behavior?  around you in the world?

2.  Where do you see presencing happening in your own behavior?  around you in the world?

3.  How might you listen from a different place and connect in a different way this month?

Monday, January 15, 2018

unlearning speed, distance, innocence

On Saturday evening, I watched Bill Hybels share his MLK message at Willow Creek.  You can find it here:

Like Hybels, I too found the book Divided by Faith to be an education that has worked over my lens and perspective regarding race in America.  It helped open my eyes more widely to the systemic nature of racism, but more than that, it helped me better understand why the white evangelical church collectively has been so slow to join with people of color in the work toward racial justice and reconciliation throughout history right into the present.  Chapters 8 and 9 prophetically expose the dynamics of "stuck-ness" for the white evangelical church, which, if examined, also help point to ways to move past the stuck-ness of status quo, complicity, silence.

One of the best ways out of stuckness toward movement as an individual is to listen from different places and to connect in different ways.  As a white person, my racial education and experiences have come down from a racialized society that has shaped my views and beliefs and actions deeply.  According to one of my favorite books, Reconciling All Things by Katangole and Rice, I am in need of the practice of lament by unlearning speed, distance, and innocence.

Unlearning speed:  "So often we prefer to work superficially and move quickly to 'solutions' that only mask our brokenness."  "Lament in local places is a reminder of the long journey to tear down walls and become different people."  Unlearning speed requires us to consider the past seriously and to recognize the fragile and lengthy pursuit toward healing and peace.  It's an intentional, but slow journey.

Unlearning distance:  Here, "lament is about location, location, location."  "Why are those who are named 'oppressed', 'poor', and 'the least of these' so prominent throughout Scripture?  Perhaps to show us that God draws very near to the most vulnerable- not because they are any less sinful, but because they are the most sinned against.  They are the ones most likely to be lamenting.  By telling the truth about brokenness, we too learn to lament.  When we draw near to those who are most sinned against, our call is not first 'to make a difference' but to allow the pain of that encounter to disturb us."  It's an incarnational journey; a journey alongside.

Unlearning innocence:  "..learning to see and name the truth about the brokenness of the church itself is such an achievement.  Otherwise 'the way things are' is accepted as exactly that: the natural, acceptable and even inevitable way things have to be.  The more we become intimate with a terrain of profound difference and division, the longer we remain there, the more it reveals our complicity and how much we resist transformation.  Learning lament involves not only seeing the church as broken but also seeing our own complicity, how 'I' am also part of the problem." It's a journey of confession and repentance.

Though lamenting through the unlearning of speed, distance, and innocence is painful and costly, it is also the way forward out of stuck-ness toward hope, freedom, new creation. 

Hybels recommends giving one hour this week in honor of MLK.  How might we each continue taking steps toward unlearning speed, distance, innocence?  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

ccda 2017 detroit: Cross

A group from our area enjoyed 4 days in "The D" (Detroit) between October 4-7, for the annual national conference of Christian Community Development Association.  (CCDA)

This year's theme, RESILIENCE, was a powerful and needed word.  In fact, our first speaker, Haman Cross, from Detroit, spoke on these 4 contributing factors that build resilience:

#1 A Refreshing Sense of Purpose

Be reminded of why you're here.  In the Biblical story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes, the story concludes with the disciples being told "to gather up the fragments so that nothing is wasted."  We need to be about gathering up the fragments.

#2 Ride or Die Partners

We all need a few "ride or die" partners...people who stand with and stick with us in the journey of our call and faith. 

#3 Raw passion to survive and thrive and to do something significant

God often pushes us into work in which we feel inadequate, ill-equipped, unprepared for the challenges.  We need to stay close to Christ in the work in order to keep the vision and passion alive and to be sure that we're "on the right wall".  (Cross talked about how we can be climbing a ladder of success only to look and find it's up against the wrong wall).

#4 Reality of God's Presence

Live in the reality of God's presence, power, and faithfulness.  We will find our resilience in Him, not in the situations and circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

may we become wounded healers

 I so look forward to this in my email inbox each day.  Thank you, Sojourners. 

Verse and Voice
verse of the day

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff — they comfort me. 

- Psalm 23:4
voice of the day

In violence, we forget who we are.

- Mary McCarthy
prayer of the day

Lord, we bring to you our vulnerability, our wounds, our pain, and our growth. By the power of your forgiving love, help us also to become wounded healers. 

- Common Prayer

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

leading from the emerging future

I have started a 13 week course through MIT and edX called ULab: Leading from the Emerging Future.  About 12,000 participants from 145 countries are involved..many in work groups across sectors of government, health care, business, environmental science, and more....

The opening of our live video last week grabbed me:  

"We are living in an age of disruption."

 "We see communities responding in one of three ways."

1. Downloading. We listen from a habitual place that reconfirms old patterns and beliefs.  This keeps us stuck in a status quo, doing what we've known to do but not getting us to a better place.

2.  Another response is to move backward as the mind, heart, and will closes in hopes of protecting self and the familiar.   

3.  Leaning forward through a mind, heart, and will that is open to seeing with fresh eyes, sensing/connecting in different ways, being still and surrendering, letting the new come, and working to co-create through curiosity, compassion, and courage.  

This experience is aimed at helping us move from an ego-system of me to an eco-system of we.  
Its premise is that leaders have results they produce and processes they use, but under both of those are the sources from which they operate.  Most of the time we cannot see the source from which we operate; we aren't aware of the place from which our attention and intention originate.  

The challenges we face require us to become aware and change the inner place from which we operate.  "The essence of leadership is to become aware of the blind spot from which we operate, both individually and collectively, and then shift."  

I have been thinking so much about all the Scripture that undergirds what's being taught in this diagram.  

-Be still and know that I am God.
-Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
-You are a new creation in Christ, the old is gone the new is here.
-Do not fear. (over and over through Bible)
-Love your neighbor as yourself.
-Invitation to join Christ in his redemptive work.

In this first week of class, I am reflecting on ways that I'm personally involved in the absencing arch, and I'm considering where I'm living in the presencing U.  I'm also thinking about this regarding privilege and systemic racism.  And I'm thinking about this regarding the white American Evangelical Church.

Much to chew on as I jump into module one!  You can check out this course yourself, if interested:

"We cannot solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them."  -Albert Einsten 


Sunday, September 24, 2017

white awake

"As Christians, we must embark upon an awakening journey- a path that will lead us into direct confrontation with the narrative of racial difference.  We must open our eyes to the uncomfortable racial hierarchy that has been the basis for the structure of our entire society.  We must wake up to the ways that the narrative of racial difference played a major role in identity formation in the early days of our country, and to the ways it continues to play a dominant role in our sense of identity here and now.  

One of the primary issues we must face, especially in this socio-political climate, is the need for white people to do the hard work of wrestling with what it really means to be white.  

This points to one of the core messages of White Awake (by Daniel Hill); the poisonous impact of the narrative of racial difference does not land solely on people of color.  The narrative of racial difference has also profoundly affected white people.  But unlike people of color, most white people remain completely unaware of the ways this narrative has affected their sense of identity."

-Dr. Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil (wrote Forward to White Awake: an honest look at what it means to be white by Daniel Hill.)

This weekend I read through the forward and the first two chapters of Hill's book, White Awake.  To my white friends who are trying better to understand what is happening around race in our country, I urge you to order this book and embark on a journey.  It will be a journey that will interrogate what you've grown up believing about racial difference.  It will be a journey that leads to transformation by the renewing of your mind.  It will be a journey that is necessary for the healing and liberation of ourselves and our neighbor.