Thursday, April 6, 2017

turning right side up in an upside down world: loss is gain

 Loss is Indeed our Gain (Walter Brueggemann)
The Pushing and Shoving in the world is endless.
We are pushed and shoved.
And we do our share of pushing and shoving
in our great anxiety.
And in the middle of that
you have set down your beloved suffering son
who was like a sheep led to slaughter
who opened not his mouth.
We seem not able,
so we ask you to create space in our life
where we may ponder his suffering
and your summons for us to suffer with him,
suspecting that suffering is the only way to newness.
So we pray for your church in these Lenten days,
when we are driven to denial —
not to notice the suffering,
not to engage it,
not to acknowledge it.
So be that way of truth among us
that we should not deceive ourselves
That we shall see that loss is indeed our gain.
We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.

Monday, March 6, 2017

let us not hesitate

"Give us grace, O God, to dare to do the deed which we well know cries to be done. Let us not hesitate because of ease, or the words of men’s mouths, or our own lives. Mighty causes are calling us—the freeing of women, the training of children, the putting down of hate and murder and poverty—all these and more. But they call with voices that mean work and sacrifices and death. Mercifully grant us, O God, the spirit of Esther, that we say: I will go unto the King and if I perish, I perish. Amen.

-W.E.B. DuBois

*This prayer was the conclusion of today's Lenten Devotion at .  If you don't have a Lenten devotion plan, I encourage you to check this one out.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

live restoratively

I am so glad to be welcoming Cheryl Miller to the Cedar Valley today!  She travels from her home in Texas to train 15 local partners in the way of restorative justice and mediation over 3 days. I took the training from her a few years ago in Chicago, and as divisions heat up in our country, I thought it might be a good time to revisit these principles and gather community partners to also gain important tools for helpful dialogue.  

Miller recommends reading and learning from Howard Zehr.  Here's a list from Zehr on 10 ways to live restoratively.  

10 ways to live restoratively
by Howard Zehr

1.  Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institutions, and the environment.

2.  Try to be aware of the impact +/- potential as well as actual +/- of your actions on others and the environment.

3.  When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm +/- even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.

4.  Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don't expect to encounter again, even those you feel don't deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.

5.  Involve those affected by a decision, as much as possible, in the decision-making process.

6.  View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities. 

7.  Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others, seeking to understand even if you don't agree with them.  (Think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)

8.  Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.

9.  Be cautious about imposing your 'truths' and views on other people and situations.

10.  Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism, and classism.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

inauguration declaration

  1. the beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.
    "the inauguration of an independent prosecution service"
    • the formal admission of someone to office.
      "Truman's second presidential inauguration"
    • a ceremony to mark the beginning of something.
      "the inauguration of the Modern Art Museum"

It's the day of the U.S. Presidential Inauguration.  As we begin this new era, it's also a good day for me to declare how I want to live forward in this period.  

I confess....

*I confess that I have a hard time loving my enemies.
*I confess that is hard to pray in the right spirit for those whom I am angry with and view as enemy.  
*I confess that I often place my hope in a false sense of comfort and security.
*I confess that I have not represented Christ well.
*I confess that too often I self-protect. 

I commit to...

*not return violence and hate with violence and hate.
*intentionally living in the tensions in order to seek healing.
*learn the way of Jesus who embodied truth and grace, beauty, forgiveness, humility, courage, sacrifice, service, and most of all, love.

I pray for...

*our cities, country, world.  
*those whom we most often neglect, de-humanize, harm.  
*the United States government.  
*personal courage, wisdom, discernment, and Christ's heart and mind.  

How about you?  What do you confess, commit to, and pray for as we live in these days? 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

the right to vote

I can't stop thinking about my neighbor.  She's an 83 year old African-American wonder who spent many hours this fall going to  high schools in order to help 18 year olds register to vote.  Then, on Election Day, she spent the day at local hospitals giving voting access to people who had been hospitalized within 48 hours of November 8.

I was marveling at her commitment the other day, and I decided to go back and look at a bit of history. In Divided by Faith, I read about the Reconstruction Period 1865-1877.  Four millions former slaves were now "freed" but owned no land and were living without much for resources or educational experience.  Many white folks were angry with the abolishment of slavery, and a new type of oppression emerged- sharecropping.  Still, with that all of that being true, this was happening:

"Blacks and whites were seen going to school together, and even in politics together.  As northern reporter James S. Pike reported on his visit to the South Carolina House of Representatives: 'The Speaker is black, the clerk is black, the doorkeepers are black, the little pages are black, the chairman of the Ways and Means is black, and the chaplain is coal black.'  This was a shock to white southerners, and northerners too.  After hundreds of years of white domination, suddenly, within just a few short years, former slaves were holding seats of power.

In addition to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, African Americans in the South were able to capitalize on their numbers.  According to the 1860 census, African Americans constituted 35 percent of Virginia's population, 36 percent of North Carolina's, 44 percent of Georgia's, 45 percent of Florida's and Alabama's, 50 percent of Louisiana's, 55 percent of Mississippi's, and 59 percent of South Carolina's.  Assuming voting along racial lines, those proportions made winning elections not only possible, but likely.

All this was too threatening for most white southerners, and for many white northerners as well. They feared for their way of life, their sense of group position, and their vision of a Christian America, which, as the leading evangelical social reformer of the time, northerner Josiah Strong, clearly expressed, was to be an Anglo-Saxon society.  The former slaves were not properly Christianized nor educated to be holding elected offices and running the nation.  More directly, the economic and cultural threat of the African Americans was very real, and southerners responded by instituting the increasingly harsh realities of the now well-known Jim Crow laws, designed to separate blacks from whites and subjugate blacks in social and economic life."

I spent some time the other night trying to answer questions to a sample literacy test found here that was used to turn away African Americans from their right to vote during the Jim Crow era.  I, of course, failed big time.  And, I considered deeply how the Voting Rights Act wasn't signed until the year I was born, 1965.  Crazy.  Unjust.  Not okay.  

This to say, that I've been impacted this year in a way I had not been before regarding the privilege and right to vote and the struggle for so many in what I have previously taken for granted.  I so appreciate my neighbor's commitment and what she's shown me this year through her tireless work to honor those who have struggled before her and to use her voice to help others use their voice.  She makes me want to fight the good fight alongside her.   Thank you, W.M.W.  Your faith in Jesus, your life, and your commitment to justice work makes our community a better place.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dakota 38

The power of a story.  I got up early this morning to watch Dakota 38 (1 hour, 18 minutes) .  In my opinion, it's a must see.  

*I need to look at real history.
*I need to grow understanding.
*I need to grow empathy.
*I need to learn stories of healing and reconciliation for my own heart's journey of healing and reconciliation.
*I need to feel with and pray for Native brothers and sisters whose land is still being threatened. (ie: Standing Rock, North Dakota)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

a different story

Over the past month, I have worked with a handful of individuals who are seeking to understand the mission and vision of Link and its initiatives.  I am finding that people have a common story in their mind that needs to be challenged. 

We white American Christians have developed a storyline that lives deep in us regarding mission and community transformation.  It's a story that usually reads something like "Resourced church starts program to help poor children get out of poverty."  That is not our story.  Certainly, Link’s goals include working to help people overcome material poverty, but just as important is the goal for people like me to overcome spiritual and relational poverty due to my neglect of justice and the sin effects of segregation.  

Link is a story of building a community together where all people and gifts are valued, where we each give and we each receive so that we might all experience more of the fullness of life that Jesus promises.  I am finding that regardless of our race or class, we have all been damaged by racism and classism, and we need healing. 

I think the hardest page for folks to turn in this uncommon story is the pressing need for people like me to engage with the marginalized and the poor not because of what we have to offer them, but because of what they have to offer us for our own development.  

The bottom line of Link is relationship.  Jesus the Reconciler offers to make us right with God and with one another. If we can begin to live in the power of Christ as neighbors and friends across lines of separation, then I believe our worldly power structures could begin to reorder so that our caring and sharing together might just produce a model that looks like reconciliation and justice….that looks like Jesus.