Thursday, August 24, 2017

franciscan blessing

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers,
And superficial relationships,
So that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, 
Oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed
For those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them
And to turn their pain into joy.

May God bless us with tears to shed
For those who suffer from pain, rejections, starvation and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them
And to turn their pain into joy.

May God bless us with enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in this world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, 
The Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon us and 
Remain with us forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

two thought provoking questions

Lately, I keep going back to the notes and experience I had some years ago while taking an Undoing Racism class hosted by People's Institute of Survival and Beyond.  The second day of our workshop, we got into groups and had to reflect on two questions together:

What have you known about racism that you've pretended not to know?

How has that impacted your humanity?  

Some answers in our group to the first question were:

-we pretend we have equal opportunity
-we deny our own racist thoughts
-we pretend we can separate ourselves from institutions and systems
-we pretend racial profiling and targeting doesn't happen
-we pretend we've made huge strides and that racism is a part of our past
-we pretend that we can solve the problem without coming together

...and some answers to the second question, "how has this impacted our humanity?"

-we live in fear, not love
-it has hindered our creativity, potential, and our pursuit toward wholeness and healing
-we are not true to ourselves or others
-it gives us an 'us-them' mentality
-it inhibits relationships
-it reinforces a judgmental, competitive nature

At the end of our conversation, our instructor said, "When it comes to racism, until we know what we've lost, we won't do anything.  We won't be moved to change until we recognize what has been lost of our humanity."  

May we all recognize the cost of racism on our humanity, and begin to educate and organize to deconstruct the evil that it is.  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

race recovery: what lies beneath part 2

Last week, I was moved by a powerful Global Leadership Summit.  Bryan Stevenson was among the many gifted speakers at the 2017 Summit. 

Stevenson spoke about ways we have to go about leading change in our communities and nation.  He spoke about changing the narrative that fuels what we think.  I wrote about this some in my last blog post. 

Stevenson also talked about becoming proximate with people.  Distance will never lead to healing and justice.  In the same breath, being proximate without taking the journey into the race narrative that has fed our worldview has potential for further wounding.  The superiority that lies below in me will manifest in unhealthy ways of thinking about or working with people if I am not aware of how I’ve been socialized to think about people.   Paternalism,  judgment, power, control all want to spring into action unless I am doing the work of being transformed by the renewing of my mind into a Kingdom of God worldview. 

Stevenson talked about brokenness.  The more I can recognize my brokenness, the more I can recognize my need for others different from me.  The more I can receive grace and give grace.  The more I can  experience collective power in collective brokenness.  

My greatest growth comes from being awakened to and broken by the realities of systemic racism and a new understanding of my own broken place in the system. 

Earlier this month, my daughter returned from a high school trip called Caravan, and the theme this year had 4 R’s:  Rethink, Receive, Remain, Respond.  During the return celebration, I thought about a few more R’s that I need in this race recovery:

Rethink—I need the Spirit’s guidance to continue to challenge the narrative that has shaped my thoughts and beliefs. 
Repent—I need to confess and repent of the evils of institutional racism that lives in our society and in me and has affected my thinking, beliefs, actions in my life. 
Receive—I can receive the grace and forgiveness of Jesus who nailed racism to the cross and rose to make us new.  I can receive a Kingdom worldview where Christ and His power are central, not the power of economics.  I can receive the hard truth because there is grace and freedom and hope found in Christ.
Remain—I am given Christ’s Spirit and invited to remain in Him to find wholeness and life to the full.
Reorder—I can examine my life, listen for God’s calling for me, and reorder my life accordingly to pursue the whole of the Gospel which includes healing, reconciliation, loving my neighbor, justice for all. 

Without brokenness, repentance, and grace my being proximate will not lead to a new way of seeing and being that leads to healing, reconciliation, or justice.  But brokenness, repentance, and grace + proximity = mutual interdependence and power.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

race recovery: what lies beneath part 1

God created humans who have a rich variety of ethnic heritage, cultures, languages, personalities, physical traits.

Humans created race, a construct intended to create a hierarchy of human value for the purpose of power and economic gain. 

There’s so much I still need to learn about the history of this construct called race and both the psychological, spiritual, and social impact it has had on others and on me, a white, middle class Christian woman from the Midwest. 

As in any good recovery program, we are asked to explore our families of origin, the narrative of our upbringing.  So, too, with race.  I need to learn about race and racism through the generations in this country and how I have been taught to think and see and believe through a racialized worldview.

In 2011, I took an Undoing Racism class led by the People’s Institute of Survival and Beyond.  I learned about internalized racial oppression that results in internalized inferiority for those who have been oppressed, and internalized superiority for those who are among the oppressing people group.  We studied how both manifest themselves in our society, and I thought, “uh-oh, I have some serious work to do to become more adept at recognizing, naming, and working to recover from my own internalized racism." 

Manifestations of internalized superiority are things like privilege, individualism, denial, defensiveness, intellectualism, exceptionalism, protected status, entitlement.  So much of this is wrapped into what I have been raised to believe is the normal and right way to see the world, so I have to be very diligent about taking a journey with Christ and others so that I might  “be transformed by the renewing of my mind.” (Romans 12:2)

In the video below, Joy Degruy Leary describes the multigenerational trauma that racism has caused and the persistence of a hierarchical, racialized worldview that has been passed on from one generation to the next with no corporate reckoning or healing of any sort along the way.

I need to study the history that I never learned in America’s public schools.  I need to hear from the voices who encourage me to look and think critically about history and the narrative that has been promoted broadly.  I need to ask myself, “How did I grow up thinking about people of color?”  “How and what did I think about inner cities, discrimination, injustice?” “What messages did I receive from history books and classes?  From media?”  “In what ways has institutionalized racism impacted my own humanity?” “What have I gained and what have I lost due to racism?”

The first step in recovery is always an awareness of what lies beneath in me.  How can I do this?  By opening myself up to other voices who share their truth and experiences,  I can begin to identify and name my own brokenness within a racialized society.  Why can I do this?   Because of Jesus Christ.  Because He gives me the grace to do it.  His mercy and forgiveness allow me the safety and assurance to face it.  He is the healer whose reconciling power can help me heal and see myself and my neighbor in a whole new way.  I read this on Twitter today:  The battle against racism within ourselves can begin with a simple prayer: Lord, show me the lies I believe. Forgive me for believing them.  Amen.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

all in grocer

We have a grocery store in the works for the Walnut Neighborhood of Waterloo.  That's exciting!  For some years now, we've listened to neighbors speak their desire at neighborhood association meetings for a grocery store with quality, affordable groceries that would be within walking distance.  And here we are in 2017 with City Council's vote last Monday taking this dream to reality one step closer.

Not only is there a grocery store planned, but there are several pieces of good news within it...

*The developer is an African-American man who grew up in Waterloo and is committed to building up his home community.

*Uplift Solutions, a nonprofit that comes alongside urban grocers to help them be successful, will be a part of this start up.  Check out their mission here.  They work together to create food sustainable solutions, health solutions, finance solutions, and workforce solutions.  They strive to create community and are committed to offering job opportunities for people who have been incarcerated. Their mission: to strengthen, heal, and inspire.  Plenty of that needed in our neighborhood and across our community!

*We have heard that the operator will be a local owner/operator.  It's hopeful that this will mean a long term and strong connection and commitment to excellence inside the store, to the property, and a relationship with the neighborhood.

*Rodney Anderson, the developer is also putting a restaurant in the grocery store.  The grocery store and restaurant will bring needed jobs and commerce to the area.  Commercial development will help housing development in the neighborhood, and vice versa.  More residents living in the area will increase the customer base at local businesses.  Win-win.

The name planned for the grocery store is ALL IN GROCER.  It will certainly take an All In approach from a broad spectrum of our community to create a thriving and bustling corner of commerce.  The neighborhood CVS store, which will be directly next door to the grocery store, is across the street from our home.  I find myself at CVS a couple times a week to buy some item.  On average, no matter what time of day I shop, there are 2-5 customer cars in a very large and open parking lot.  All In Grocer will need to have unique appeal not only to residents who live in the vicinity, but to people from across the community, especially those with discretionary income, who will commit to lifting up the neighborhood and community by spending their dollars at this downtown grocery. I'm all in.  You?  

Friday, August 11, 2017

relearning respect

I'm home after 2 days at the Global Leadership Summit 2017. So much good content and inspiration and challenge! In Bill Hybels' opening talk, he addressed what we can seemingly all agree to in this particular time of our history:  we are living in a time of increased disrespect and incivility.  

Hybels went on to give the following list that he used in a message he gave entitled "Respect Everyone Always".  This is an important code of conduct for us in this day of increasing tribalism.  

10 Rules of Respect Every Leader Simply Must Obey
  1. Leaders must set example on how to differ with others without demonizing them.
  2. Leaders must have spirited conversations without “drawing blood”.
  3. Leaders must not interrupt others who are talking and must not dominate conversation.
  4. Leaders must set example of limiting volume levels and refusing to use incendiary or belittling words that derail a discussion. You know what words are like hand grenades. Don’t use them.
  5. Leaders must set the example of being courteous in word and deed to everyone at every level.
  6. Leaders must never stereotype.
  7. Leaders must apologize when they are wrong, don’t double down or cover up.
  8. Leaders must form opinions carefully and stay open minded if better information comes along.
  9. Leaders must set the example of showing up when they say they will and do what they say they will.
  10. Leaders must set rules of respect for what they believe and implement relentlessly. Make a written code of what the rules are and have the employees sign.

Civility Code example:

  1. Greet and acknowledge each other
  2. We will say please and thank you
  3. We will treat each other equally and with respect
  4. We will be direct, sensitive, and honest
  5. We will address incivility whenever it occurs

Friday, August 4, 2017

making me braver

My friend, Michael, moved to Georgia today.  I stopped to say goodbye a few days ago, and besides wishing the best for him, I wanted to let him know how much he inspires me and increases "my brave".  

Three years ago, Michael and a few other friends from the Democratic Republic of Congo moved in kitty-corner to our house in Walnut.  They came to America by lottery and were escaping political corruption and civil war in their home country.   A few friends and I spent the summer of 2014 driving our new friends to English classes at a local church.  I watched them get jobs at Tyson Foods, and we escorted some of them to Hawkeye Metro to get signed up for a series of English classes that would start that fall.  I also learned that many of them had already gone to post-secondary school and held professional jobs in Congo.  Now, they were starting over.  

Fast forward three years.  This May, I had the privilege of attending Michael's graduation from Hawkeye Community College.  Over those three years, Michael and his roommates have learned English, worked difficult jobs at Tyson, gone to college, and even worked their way back from a house fire that burned most all of their possessions- both with sentimental value, and items they had purchased since arriving in the United States.    

I am in awe of Michael.  His grit.  His courage.  His faith.  His tenacity and perseverance.  I sometimes think about if the table was turned.  If I landed in Congo...away from my home, family, friends, culture....not knowing the language, nor the people, nor what resources were available.  That seems overwhelming to me.  As we were saying goodbye, Michael mentioned that God had helped him, but that people like me had helped him too.  On days when I feel like life seems difficult and obstacles loom large, I say the same to Michael in return.  God helps me, but people like Michael help me too. His life inspires me to press in to struggle, and it's people like Michael, gracefully working through hardship, who make me braver. Continue to put your hope in the Lord, Michael, and Godspeed in Georgia.   

Isaiah 40:31
“but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”