Tuesday, December 11, 2018

first 18 minutes




If you watch the first 18 minutes of last night's Waterloo, IA, City Council Meeting, you will be able to hear the proclamation I shared yesterday and you will see a 6 minute video of our Vision Trip to the South last month. 


Monday, December 10, 2018

human rights day december 10

I had the pleasure of joining others at the Waterloo City Council Meeting tonight to stand with Mayor Hart as he read this Human Rights Proclamation over our community:



City of Waterloo, Iowa
Proclamation

WHEREAS,
On December 10, 1948, nations from six continents came together to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This extraordinary document affirmed that every individual is born equal with inalienable rights, and it is the responsibility of governments to uphold these rights.  In more than 430 translations, the Declaration recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of all people and supports their right to chart their own destinies.  On the anniversary of this human rights milestone, we join with all those who are willing to strive for a brighter future, and together, we continue our work to build the world our children deserve; and
WHEREAS,
We want our children to lead healthy lives and pursue an education without fear, and when citizens are empowered to pursue their full measure of happiness without restraint, they help ensure that economies grow, stability and prosperity spread, and communities flourish.  Protecting human rights everywhere extends the promise of democracy and bolsters the values that serve as a basis for peace in our world; and
WHEREAS,
It is our obligation as free people to stand with courageous individuals who raise their voices to demand universal rights.  Under extremely difficult circumstances – and often at grave personal risk – brave human rights defenders and civil society activists throughout the Cedar Valley are working to actualize the rights and freedoms that are the birthright of all humankind.  We will continue to support all those who champion these fundamental principles, and we will never stop speaking out for the human rights of all individuals, at home and abroad.  It is part of who we are as a people and what we stand for as a Cedar Valley United; and
WHEREAS,
We honor those by continually working to protect the personal dignity of all Waterloo citizens regardless of race, gender, religion or non-religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, national origin or ability and to ensure social, political and economic freedoms and opportunities for all;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Mayor Quentin Hart, do hereby proclaim Monday, December 10, 2018, the official recognition of International Human Rights Day Celebration in Waterloo, and the official kick-off of a city-wide “2019 Human Rights Corridor of Activity.” This “Corridor of Activity” features round table discussions, theatrical productions, community book-reads, the inimitable  Waterloo Freedom Bus Tour, and celebrates 51 years since the assassination of the beloved Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose servant leadership led to the creation of civil and human rights organizations throughout the nation, including Waterloo Commission on Human Rights.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the official seal of the City of Waterloo to be affixed this 10th day of December 2018.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

those who have gone before

It was on this date 63 years ago.  December 1,1955.  Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus.  Read her story here.

I was in Memphis at the Civil Rights Museum a few weeks ago with my neighbor, Willie Mae Wright, a Civil Rights hero in her own right.  Willie Mae told me that she always sits at the front of the bus. 

In her own words, "Ever since Rosa Parks, I always sit in the front of the bus.  I just can't bring myself to go to the back.  And when I vote, I never use an absentee ballot.  I always go to polling place to vote after so many have given so much for the right to vote."






Tuesday, November 27, 2018

moral memory, identity, participation, imagination

Pastor Abraham Funchess gave our group a folder of materials to read through as we traveled to Memphis on our recent Civil Rights Vision Tour.  One of the articles was a chapter from a book written by Kelly Douglas Brown called Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.

In this chapter (chapter 6), Brown writes...

of MORAL MEMORY:

"Moral memory is nothing less than telling the truth about the past and one's relationship to it."
"To have a moral memory is to recognize the past we carry within us, the past we want to carry within us, and the past we need to make right."
"A moral memory recalls the story of America's chosen identity, the way it is shaped by the Anglo-Saxon myth, and thus recognizes how that continues to play itself out in our current reality."

of MORAL IDENTITY:

"A moral identity recognizes, as Paul Tillich says, 'that every human soul has infinite value.'"
"A moral identity is one that is relieved of pretensions to superiority. It lets go of any myths that suggest one people is more valuable than another or that one people is chosen by God while another is not."
"A moral identity affirms the shared humanity of all human beings."
"Essentially, it is with a moral identity that one lives into the image of God who is freedom."

of MORAL PARTICIPATION:

"This is a participation marked by a commitment to freedom, love, and life.  Such participation is a matter of faith."
"God's call to faith is an invitation to become a partner with God in 'the mending of creation.'"
"The Greek word for faith, as used in the Gospels, is pistis.  This word does not suggest a way of thinking about who God is or reflecting upon God's relationship to us.  Rather, it points to a way of acting in light of our relationship to God."
"The only way to change the realities of the world is through moral participation in history."

of MORAL IMAGINATION:

"A moral imagination is grounded in the absolute belief that the world can be better."
"A moral imagination envisions Isaiah's 'new heaven and new earth,' where 'the wolf and the lamb shall feed together,' and trusts that it will be made real."
"With a moral imagination, one is able to live as if the new heaven and new earth are already here.  This means that one's life is not constrained by what is."
"Moral imagination allows black bodies to live as free black bodies, despite the forces that would deny that fact."

Sunday, November 25, 2018

braving the wilderness

This past year, a friend gave me Brene Brown's book Braving the Wilderness.  I needed it.  I loved it.  I then ordered another one of her books, Rising Strong.  I needed it.  I loved it.  I have recently ordered both on CD so that I can listen and listen to them on my daily drives to and from places.

Brown identifies and articulates so much about ourselves as individuals and as a collective, and even better, she offers some skills and steps to overcome some of the trouble spots we have as humans. 

In Braving the Wilderness, Brown talks about the fear and the disconnection that we are experiencing in our lives and helps us address the fear and conflict to move toward one another in courage and love.  It's a much needed read for us in the midst of such divisive times. 

"Addressing this crisis will require a tremendous amount of courage.  For the moment, most of us are either making the choice to protect ourselves from conflict, discomfort, and vulnerability by staying quiet, or picking sides and in the process slowly and paradoxically adopting the behavior of the people we're fighting.  Either way, the choices we're making to protect our beliefs and ourselves are leaving us disconnected, afraid, and lonely.  Very few people are working on connection outside the lines drawn by 'their side'.  Finding love and true belonging in our shared humanity is going to take a tremendous resolution."

Brown then goes on to teach us how to "brave some serious wilderness" through four practices. I need her writing to inform and teach me.  I need and am grateful for friends to practice braving in the wilderness so that we might ultimately "become the wilderness". 

You can check out the table of contents and reviews of this book here


allies




These allies inspire and make me want to be brave in the continued work to be done for human and civil rights.  

Friday, November 23, 2018

seeing

It's hard for folks like me to see systems at work.  I grew up being taught that racism is overcome by treating each neighbor, one by one by one, with respect, dignity, and kindness no matter what ethnicity or skin color tone.  I understood racism solely as individual prejudice, and I could not see power structures and scaffolding that have been constructed by racial values assigned to people through time.  I could not see bias that has lived in me and directed my thoughts and approaches to life.

While it is true that individual and interpersonal relationships are needed to overcome distance and negative stereotypes, there will be another kind of seeing needed to move toward justice. 

I spent a great number of hours on a small church bus as I recently traveled from Iowa to Memphis to Montgomery to Selma and back to Iowa on a Civil Rights Vision Tour.  I chose to read the book Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World by Jer Swigart and Jon Huckins along the journey.

Swigart and Huckins talk about "seeing" as the first way we move toward mending divides.

"Of Jesus' thirty-one miracles documented in the Gospels, nearly one in four involves the healing of sight."

"What if, like so many of those healed by Jesus, we owned our blindness and made it a practice to cry out, 'I want to see like you see' ? What if we acknowledged that the systems we were raised in taught us to see and not see certain groups of people?  What if we confessed our preference for particular media channels and worked to understand how a steady diet of them had formed cataracts in our eyes and blurred our sight?  What if we analyzed our upbringing to discover where our mentors' biases scratched the corneas of our souls, causing damage to our ability to see particular people with generosity and empathy?  If we want to see like God sees, we need to do the hard work of understanding what caused our blindness and then cry out for the healing touch of Jesus.

When we pray that prayer, an essential journey from noticing to seeing begins.  On that journey we find ourselves aware of things we've never seen before.  We become people who choose to see things that make us uncomfortable.  What we see begins to change us and produce compassion in us.  That compassion, the precursor to responsibility, propels us forward to become a part of just solutions that lead to restoration."  p.81 Mending the Divides Swigart and Huckins, 2017, InterVarsity Press

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

strength to love



Martin Luther King Jr's suitcase contained his book, Strength to Love.  This was the suitcase he had packed for his time in Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, on April 4, 1968.  The day he was gunned down.


 “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”  MLK Jr's Strength to Love

Monday, November 19, 2018

roots


As I left the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, I penned this page in my journal.  This was the overwhelming sense I got of oppressor and oppressed throughout the museum.  I could literally feel the determination in the oppressor to keep control and power and feel the determination in the oppressed to be recognized as fully human and afforded respect, opportunities, and a life as such. 

I have been thinking about the roots of deception that have guided the minds, attitudes, and actions of the oppressor over the centuries.  What  are the roots in the narratives and beliefs of predominately Christian Europeans that drove them to set up a value hierarchy for humans and to justify their treatment of both Native Americans and African slaves?  

Perhaps....

1.  It's an "off" theology that gave Anglo-Saxons a sense of exceptionalism.  A belief that they were the chosen people of God who had reached the Promised Land.  A belief that God favored them over others.  A theology of superiority and a conquest mentality believed to be ordained and sanctioned by God.

2.  It's the love of money.  No wonder Jesus spoke so much about the danger of this in the Bible.  The love of money and power over the love of people was evident through the period of slavery and beyond.  Greed has created a hold on people that has driven so much injustice.  

These roots have tendrils wound throughout our being and our country in such a way that we cannot just simply say, "That was in our past."  We still see these deceptive roots active and alive today.  We must interrogate the narrative together that has guided us in order to understand it better and to ultimately change that narrative.  


consider with me this gross contradiction







At the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, it is stunning to see Jefferson's quote from the Declaration of Independence engraved high on the wall over exhibits that detail the kidnapping of millions of human beings who were brutally treated and forced into labor for the amassing wealth of white America. What a gross contradiction.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".  

How could a new country with such high ideals so violently treat fellow humans?
Who were the "all men" being considered by these new founders?
Who was not included in this statement?  Why?

I believe it is not unpatriotic to critically examine these questions.  In fact, I believe the opposite.  In order to be the nation that we desire, one that ascribes to such high moral ideals, we have to look back at how our foundations have formed us in order to move forward toward freedom and justice for all.  That is patriotism at its best.

"White man, hear me!  History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read.  And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past.  On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.  It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.  And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this."  - James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket

Action Step:  Revisit history from voices other than male Eurocentric perspectives.  

Thursday, November 8, 2018

L!VE Cafe

My friend, Reesheda, shared a story on stage of the 2018 National CCDA Conference last Thursday in Chicago.

She talked about going to Africa and observing a group of women who were part of a savings group.  They saved money together in a box and helped one another start businesses with the microloans from the box.   Reesheda spoke of how terrific the program was but also of all the questions that formed in her as she considered how the box traveled from one woman to the next for safe keeping each week.  What if the box gets stolen? lost? What if a woman spent the money in the box on something outside of the collective rules and goals?  Reesheda mentioned some of her "what if's" and fears that were raised and told us that she asked several questions of the women through a translator regarding these fears.

Reesheda waited as the women spoke to the translator in response.

"What did they say?"  Reesheda asked the translator.

"They said, 'You Americans have time to worry and be afraid.  You Americans have everything and do nothing.  We have nothing and do everything.  When you are ready to live, then we will answer your questions."

Hence, the name of Reesheda's innovative business ministry model, L!VE cafe.  It's in Oak Park, IL, and if you're ever in Chicagoland, please stop by there.  I got to spend a morning there last week, and I love the vision and mission of  Jesus's justice being worked out through products, staffing, coaching, and events held there.

Reesheda told the CCDA audience that we have to live rooted in community and courage.  We have to go forward afraid...we will never move if we wait until we have no fear.  What might you need to do even though you're afraid?

#live intension  #live in tension







Sunday, October 28, 2018

the water is receding






I attended my first NAACP banquet this evening.  It was an important and inspiring evening.  NAACP was founded in 1909 to defeat hate...and it appears quite obviously that 109 years later, its voice and mission is still desperately needed.

Tonight's keynote speaker was Dr. Ivory Torrey Thigpen, son-in-law to our community's Rev. Belinda Creighton-Smith.  Dr. Thigpen is a chiropractor, preacher, and current Representative in the South Carolina House. 

"The water is receding" was Dr. Thigpen's reoccuring phrase.  "There is a strange phenomenon before a tsunami...the water recedes.  Coastal waters draw back, and it serves as a warning sign.  You suddenly see stuff on the ocean floor that was always there, but it is no longer under water.  It's easier to see."

"The water is receding."  

Thigpen proceeded to talk about the need for each person to take action.  

"We can't sit in comfort and convenience.  It will never take care of itself.  Don't ignore the overwhelming warning signs.  What affects your neighbor will, in fact, ultimately affect you.  Those who have survived a tsunami are those who acted.  They moved.  They didn't stand there watching and waiting.  The water is receding."  

What action will you and I take to defeat hate?   

Romans 12:21  Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.



Sunday, October 14, 2018

the power of forgiveness

This past Tuesday's keynote speaker at the Iowa Justice Action Network conference was Jeanne Bishop.  With the conference focus on restorative justice, Jeanne shared her journey toward forgiveness and mercy after her sister, Nancy, her brother-in-law, Richard, and their unborn baby were murdered.  
I wanted Nancy's name to live on and his to die," Bishop said. "At the trial, my mother said we'll never see him again."
That would not change until Bishop was given a book written by Randall O'Brien. One of the book's passages stuck with Bishop, and it reads, "No Christian man or woman is relieved of this obligation to work to reconcile with those who wronged them."
"I was incensed," Bishop said. "I called Randall O'Brien. He called back. I told him my story. I said, 'I'm supposed to reconcile with him? What would this look like?' He said it would look like Jesus on the cross."   (excerpt from Chicago Tribune article)
Here is a 33 minute video of Jeanne sharing a similar message to the one she shared with us Tuesday.   This talk was powerful, moving, challenging...what might this work to reconcile look like for each of us?  

Friday, October 12, 2018

lean into it

In August, after following my son back to Boulder with a load of his personal items so that he could move into a house with teammates for his second year of college, he and I enjoyed some coffee together for a few hours before I hit the road to come back to Iowa.  




I thought I would be the one being strong for our young adult twins through this divorce, but they have both proven to be strong for me.  They have been listeners, grace givers, forgivers as I've poured out my mistakes and failures to them, and they've been encouraging as I've struggled to find any way forward.  Sara's met me on the floor when I was in a puddle, making me stand and repeat positive sentences back to her, and Nathan spent time with me at that Boulder Starbucks listening to me tell him that I have three words currently.  The words are "wait for it".  Through my tears, I told Nate that I know from experience that God is faithful and that Jesus will eventually refresh and restore me; I just need to trust and wait for it.  Nathan in turn, told me had 3 different words for me: "lean into it".  He reminded me that God and His promises are there and available for me; that I just need to lean into them.  He encouraged me to let go of guilt and sorrow and embrace forgiveness and healing.  He encouraged me with a vision of a good future and a life that waits to be lived large and fully.  

Seriously, when did our children become wise and strong and emotionally intelligent?  

I will attempt to lean in.  You?



Sunday, October 7, 2018

fierce....and broken


I have a cousin who has been an incredible part of my pit crew through these dark days of divorce.  On one occasion, I opened up a package from her and found that her encouraging message to me in the form of a framed FIERCE had been broken somewhere in the process of there to here.  

I was about to take it apart so that I could buy a different frame, when I very clearly realized that this was just exactly what I needed- as is- on my shelf.  Who of us has not been broken somewhere in the process of there to here?  Who of us does not need the encouragement that we can be FIERCE right in the middle of that brokenness?  

Thanks, Cousin Kate.  

"Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Hebrews 4:16


Sunday, September 23, 2018

learning to live well with sorrow

"I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow.  I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am.  Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.  I learned gradually that the deeper we plunge into suffering, the deeper we can enter into a new, and different, life- a life no worse than before and sometimes better."  -J. Sittser, A Grace Disguised

"When we plunge into darkness, it is darkness we experience.  We feel pain, anguish, sorrow, and despair, and we experience the ugliness, meanness, and absurdity of life.  We brood as well as hope, rage as well as surrender, doubt as well as believe.  We are apathetic as often as we are hopeful, and sorrowful before we are joyful.  We both mourn deeply and live well.  We experience the ambivalence of living simultaneously in the night and in the light."  -J. Sittser

"The darkness lingers for a long time, perhaps for the rest of our lives."  J. Sittser 

"Is it possible to feel sorrow for the rest of our lives and yet to find joy at the same time?  Is it possible to enter the darkness and still to live an ordinary, productive life?  Loss requires that we live in a delicate tension.  We must mourn, but we must also go on living."  J. Sittser


This is a work that I am very early on the journey of learning about and choosing to do well. Sorrow has been the dominant  and overwhelming emotion in my life of late, but I am grateful for this author who reminds me that I have a choice to embrace and absorb that sorrow into my life in such a way that it can be integrated into a new narrative of which its very presence in my life can create a greater capacity to live and love well.    

Friday, September 21, 2018

the valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making


In May, my good friend's dad passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I did not know Gerald, but through his loss and funeral, I learned some beautiful things about him.  I learned that Gerald stopped in daily at his Catholic parish to light a candle and to pray.  My friend shared this practice of her dad's in a text to me, and it attached itself to me and would not let go.  I went home and took the unity candle from Mike's and my wedding day out of my cedar chest.  I placed it on the table next to my bed, and I've been lighting it each morning when I make the bed....praying daily to Jesus, Light of the World, to illuminate, reveal, heal in the midst of so much difficulty and darkness found in the lives of family, friends, our community, our world.  Perhaps, these words below might be the greatest prayer for us all...

"And sometimes, when the cry is intense, there emerges a radiance which elsewhere seldom appears: a glow of courage, of love, of insight, of selflessness, of faith.  In that radiance, we see best what humanity was meant to be...In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed.  But there also character is made.  The valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making." -Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son.


"It is therefore not true that we become less through loss- unless we allow the loss to make us less, grinding our soul down until there is nothing left but an external self entirely under the control of circumstances.  Loss can also make us more.  In the darkness, we can still find the light. In death, we can also find life.  It depends on the choices we make.  Though these choices are difficult and rarely made in haste or with ease, we can nevertheless make them.  Only when we choose to pay attention to our souls will we learn how much more there is to life than the external world around us, however wonderful or horrible that world is.  We will discover the world within.  Yet such attention to the soul does not have to engender self-absorption.  If anything, it eventually turns us toward the world again and makes us more compassionate and just than we might otherwise have been." -Jerry Sittser, p.49 A Grace Disguised

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

tied together

We must all learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will all perish together as fools.  We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  This is the way God's universe is made; this is the way it is structured.  

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

plunge into the darkness



“the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.” p. 42 
A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser


“I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could.  Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it.  I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean.”  P.42 A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser


A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss has been the most helpful reading I've done through the unrelenting pain of losing my husband and marriage.  I have not yet counted a day in the past 8 months that has been without tears, but I have also not yet counted a day in the past 8 months that I've not recognized that I've entered a core space, and that I sense deep meaning and message in the darkness.   Perhaps, I'm flittering close to this truth...

"The soul is elastic, like a balloon.  It can grow larger through suffering.  Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss.  Once enlarged, the soul is also capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace, and love.  What we consider opposites- east and west, night and light, sorrow and joy, weakness and strength, anger and love, despair and hope, death and life- are no more mutually exclusive than winter and sunlight. The soul has the capacity to experience these opposites, even at the same time." p. 48 A Grace Disguised  by J. Sittser

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Iowa Justice Action Network

Iowa Justice Action Network (IJAN) is hosting their fall conference in Waterloo, IA, on Tuesday, October 9, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 

Consider giving a day to listen, learn, and join this important conversation.

DESCRIPTION

The Iowa Justice Action Network Fall Conference addresses the need to create new narrative about criminal justice, one that focuses on restoring wholeness to the individual, the family and the community. The keynote speaker will be Jeanne Bishop, author of "Change of Heart:Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with my Sister's Killer" There will be panels on services to persons returning from prison, reconciliation, services to families of those incarcerated and the role of higher education in restoring those who have served in prison.

You can learn more and purchase a ticket here:



Sunday, September 9, 2018

freedom from regret, guilt, and shame

"When you combine a passive guy and an assertive gal, there will be far more than underwear and dishes to wash.  You'll also have a build up of anger or rage to disinfect, a diminished intimacy to cleanse and restore, a loss of trust to reestablish and renew.  And much more."  -Paul and Sally Coughlin, Married But Not Engaged.   FAIL.


Losing mh and living in the reality of a failed marriage is by far the deepest sorrow and greatest regret I've known.  Loss, grief, regret, guilt, and shame have been constant companions of mine these past months, and so I was thankful for my friend, Alice's, teaching this summer.. a gift of grace from the Divine for me one particular morning.  I had not even been able to sit through a full worship service since Christmas without having anxiety overwhelm me to the point of needing to leave the room.  But on this particular day, I stayed through every last powerful word for my soul.  

If you are stuck in the sludge of regret, guilt, shame, be reminded today with this sermon below that we are invited to receive forgiveness and freedom by way of the work done by Jesus, not us, on the cross.  

https://soundcloud.com/ohchurch/greatest-hits-regret-alice-shirey?in=ohchurch/sets/greatest-hits


"We mess up, we sin, and we then give in to this belief that we've messed up so badly that our sin now defines us.  That we are somehow beyond grace, and we refuse Jesus's offer of forgiveness....We flat out say, 'I want guilt and shame to eat at me for the rest of my life.  I'm really interested in self-crucifixion."  -Alice Shirey

"The choice to extend forgiveness is God's.  The choice to live in the power of that forgiveness is up to us." -Alice Shirey

“Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat denial of the gospel of grace. Our approach to the Christian life is as absurd as the enthusiastic young man who had just received his plumber’s license and was taken to see Niagara Falls. He studied it for a minute and then said, “I think I can fix this.”
― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out

“May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint!  I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the fainthearted, the feeble and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sins.”  -Martin Luther

Sunday, September 2, 2018

with


I just returned from co-facilitating a day long CCDA intensive in Indianapolis at E91 Church. How energizing it is to dialogue with several churches and ministries about God's heart of compassion and justice!  To hear what God is up to in Indy and to hear the passions and work of Jesus followers in the room inspires me so much.   What a warm welcome Terrance and I received from Indianapolis host churches/ministries!  

After facilitating activities, conversation, and reflection over the 8 key components of Christian Community Development, we spent a little time hearing the learnings and takeaways from our day together.  One key takeaway that I heard from participants was to further examine what it means to partner WITH the community in development work.  How is our church or ministry an integral part of the community?  How are existing relationships and programs utilizing gifts from both the community and the church/ministry?  Are decisions about the programs/services to be offered being made with the community?  Is the ownership of the programs/services shared with the community? 

These are excellent questions to ask as we consider our ministry approach.  Christian Community Development is about harnessing and developing the WITH.






Sunday, August 26, 2018

pets help



This crazy cat.  Sammi.  What would I have done without her over these past several months?  Sammi has been a snuggly companion in the midst of my becoming an empty nester and a single person all at about the same time over the course of the past year.  Whether you're a dog lover or cat lover, pets undoubtedly help in the healing process.

"A cat purring on your lap is more healing than any drug in the world, as the vibrations you are receiving are of pure love and contentment." ~St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

an example of systemic racism

Several years ago, I attended a 3 day "Undoing Racism" workshop taught by People's Institute for Survival and Beyond.  It was such an enlightening workshop, and it has helped me so often to identify situations of internalized, systemic racism where I might otherwise have overlooked it.  

During the workshop, I remember one of the instructors, a Hispanic woman, talk about one of the ways that systemic racism manifests. She said that when there is a crime that gets national attention, she prays that the perpetrator will not be Hispanic.  She went on to say that when the perpetrator is a minority, then it is part of systemic racism's nature that the dominant culture will paint that entire people group in the light of that perpetrator.  Yet, when the perpetrator is of the dominant culture, then he/she gets viewed as one individual who did this very bad thing.  

We are seeing an example of that this week in the national spotlight.  Yesterday, law enforcement was led to the body of Mollie Tibbets, a 20 year old college student, from Brooklyn, IA, who disappeared on July 18.  I am heart sick for her and for her family.  I have a wonderful, beautiful daughter the same age, and I cannot imagine the pain and grief of family and friends.  Mollie's life was cut short by a man named Cristhian Rivera, a 24 year old male from Mexico who was undocumented.  Rivera was sick to follow, abduct, and take Mollie's life.  He needs to be brought before the courts and to pay for such a tragic crime.  He, however, should not be viewed as a representation of all 24 year olds, males, Mexicans, or undocumented people in the United States.  

This week, the national spotlight is also on the murder of 34 year old Shanann Watts, 4 year old Bella, 3 year old Celeste, and unborn Baby Watts, by the hand of Chris Watts, their husband and father who is a white, 33 year old middle class male.  Chris Watts was sick to take his wife and children's lives.  He needs to be brought before the courts and to pay for such a tragic crime. No one in dominant culture, however, will paint all white 33 year old males as dangerous, bad, or evil.  Heck, this news story doesn't even want to paint Chris Watts in that light: 
 https://people.com/crime/chris-watts-triple-murder-suspect-seemed-like-family-man/  Dominant culture will, because of the entrenchment of systemic racism, naturally see this criminal (Chris Watts) as an individual while seeing the criminal above (Cristhian Rivera) as an entire people group.  

After being told this, I see it often.  We saw 64 year old white male, Stephen Paddock, as an individual.  He killed 58 people in Las Vegas out of his hotel window while they attended a concert.
Statistics show that mass killings are committed predominantly by white males (https://www.statista.com/statistics/476456/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-race/), but we will continue to view each of these criminals as an outlier rather than to create a general stereotype. Dominant culture will not afford that to minorities, however.  This is a characteristic of how internalized systemic oppression holds on to the superiority/inferiority dynamic.  Sometimes people have trouble getting a grasp on the systemic, internalized nature of racism, so I thought I would share a pretty visible example of it at work.    

Have you seen examples of this? 




Sunday, August 12, 2018

books help





Books help

I am a reader.  Books inspire me, challenge me, instruct me, and they often offer language that helps me identify, clarify, and process emotions, questions, experiences that I’ve not fully understood or processed.  In the midst of much grief in 2018, God has faithfully provided gifts and graces daily; books included.  Alongside Scripture, here’s a reading list that has helped me in this season of divorce:


The Furious Longing of God  Brennan Manning
Option B  Sheryl Sandberg
Braving the Wilderness  Brene Brown
Married but Not Engaged Paul and Sandy Coughlin
The Disconnected Man Jim Turner
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Pete Scazzero (emotionally healthy podcasts, too)
Rising Strong  Brene Brown
A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

oh to get fun snail mail

Fred Burton took snail mail to artistic brilliance when he sent his friend, Steve, more than 2,000 unique art pieces via letters, envelopes, and postcards over a 30 year period.  Steve kept every treasure received by post, and currently this art exhibit is at the Waterloo Center for the Arts until August 26.  

The Youth Art Team core group of artists spent part of the morning at the WCA checking out this exhibit; even doing a scavenger hunt that allowed them to search Burton's envelopes for a multitude of objects found in his work.  

I LOVE THIS EXHIBIT SO MUCH!  I grew up writing letters back and forth with my cousin, Kate, my Aunt LuDean, and I had several pen pals across states.   This display brought back fond memories of letter writing, and it inspired and thrilled me.  Makes me want to get shelves full of art supplies again (like we had in our basement when sh and nh were young) and to send some fun and love through the United States Postal Service!  






More than kisses letters mingle souls.
~John Donne
Or don't you like to write letters. I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something.
~Ernest Hemingway
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.  ~Phyllis Theroux

Sunday, July 29, 2018

pit crew


I find that the number one question I’ve been asked after I reveal to someone that I’ve been going through a divorce is this:  Do you have people who are walking with you through this?  Do I ever have people…God has given me the most incredible “pit crew,” as I call them.  This incredible team of family and friends who have been there to service and fill me up with their compassion, prayers, and kindness.

Presence, prayers, listening, cards and notes of encouragement, gifts and getaways, space, and love.  So much love. 


Early on, I talked with our young adult children, and told them to identify their pit crew…that this will be a critical part for their journey and healing through grief.  I have been so grateful for the amazing humans God has placed in the lives of our family.  What an incredible blessing, a true lifeline.  I also mentioned to nh and sh that they in turn will be there in the future for someone else who is struggling due to the help they themselves received in a time of need and the gratitude they have for God’s provision of a pit crew. 

I know that the picture above may seem antithesis to the quote below, but there is a "both/and" to this beloved community.  It consists of both an active carrying of a friend and a quiet holding of a heart.    

From Henri J.M. Nouwen’s The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”



Friday, July 20, 2018

wholehearted

Through the course of grieving divorce these past six months, I have found that tangibles and rituals seem to offer some bit of help for me.  Early on,  in the midst of considering the broken hearts of my family, I had an image in my mind of four broken hearts in four little dishes that I could see, touch, and pray over.  I even went to a gift shop in March while I was in Arizona, and found marble hearts that I thought would be too difficult to bust up, so I set aside the notion to make this idea tangible, and instead, decided to keep the mental image only.  

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I was visiting my friend, Alice, on her porch, and she showed me a book she was reading that she thought I would be interested in reading also.  There, on the cover, was a full marble heart in a dish, much like the image I had had in my mind, but my mental picture had been of a broken heart.  Right then and there I was stopped in my thought life.  Of course.  God longs for us and offers us a life of wholeheartedness.  This Healer wanted to remind me that morning that He desires to take our brokenness and make us new, whole, and fully alive in Him. He would rather my focus and prayers be on Him and newness and wholeness, rather than on me and a fixed gaze on the broken pieces of our lives.   

I shared this God-revealing moment with Alice.  A few days later, I found the book and a whole, marble heart gifted to me on my desk.  I went out and bought 3 more whole hearts.  nh and sh chose their colors, and these hearts sit in a oft visited place on our kitchen counter serving to remind me to pray for wholeheartedness as I look at them and hold each one.  




"Here's what I'm learning personally about wholeness.  I'm learning that it can't be managed.  It can't be scheduled.  It can't be attained in seven easy steps or three key disciplines.  And while disciplines and boundaries and wise life choices are building blocks of a life well-lived, we learn wholeness, more often than not, when our boundaries are shattered, when our disciplines fail us, when our theologies stump us, when our supposedly wise choices betray us.  We learn by un-learning, by stumbling and falling into the very thing we attempted to gain on our own terms.  This, I believe, is the deep wisdom of my Christian tradition.  Like love, wholeness is discovered in a thousand disappointments, embarrassments, and missteps.  It's discovered as our egos are shattered in the inviting presence of Another, One who calls us to belong.  It's experienced as a unity within ourselves and with our world that is indescribably satisfying."  -Chuck DeGroat Wholeheartedness p.7

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

the gospel is the answer

Yesterday, I listened to a co-worker talk about how God's Spirit is moving through a recreation room at a training school for juvenile offenders.  Volunteers from Grundy Center's Orchard Hill Church are making and sharing cookies there, games are played, TV watched, conversations had, community built, and the thread of grace is being woven throughout.  The school's administration is taking note of something extraordinary happening there.  The visionary behind the rec room talks about this space as a "holy place", set apart for the young men, set apart by and with the young men, and set apart within the young men to experience something that will live on within them past this time and space.  

This conversation reminded me of a segment in the CCDA training that I facilitate.  In the first 3 times that the Gospel was shared after Christ left His disciples (Pentecost- Acts 2; Peter and John heal a man- Acts 3; Stephen- Acts 9) we see a similar pattern:

-The disciples were out in the community/streets.
-The Spirit of God was moving.
-People began to ask questions about something extraordinary that they were seeing and experiencing.
-The Good News of Jesus was the answer.  

Paul Tillich, theologian and philosopher, said, "It is wrong to throw answers, like stones, at the heads of those who haven't even asked a question."

Bryant Myers, author Walking with the Poor, writes, "If the people do not ask questions to which the gospel is the answer, we can no longer just say, 'Their hearts were hardened,' and walk away feeling good that we have witnessed to the gospel.  Instead, we need to get down on our knees and ask God why our life and our work are so unremarkable that they never result in a question relating to what we believe and whom we worship."  

May we live in such a way in our communities that people cannot help but to ask questions to which Christ's good news of the Kingdom of God is the answer.  






Friday, July 13, 2018

dancing helps


Sometimes dancing to Fitness Marshall on You Tube is just what is needed.  I've become quite fond of this as a "beating the blues" strategy over the past six months.  Be sure to give it a try:




Friday, July 6, 2018

immigrant apostles' creed

Written by Rev. Jose Luis Casal

Immigrant Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in Almighty God,
who guided the people in exile and in exodus,
the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon,
the God of foreigners and immigrants.
I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean,
who was born away from his people and his home, who fled
his country with his parents when his life was in danger.
When he returned to his own country he suffered under the oppression of Pontius Pilate, the servant of a foreign power. Jesus was persecuted, beaten, tortured, and unjustly condemned to death.
But on the third day Jesus rose from the dead,
not as a scorned foreigner but to offer us citizenship in God’s kingdom.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us,
who speaks all languages, lives in all countries,
and reunites all races.
I believe that the Church is the secure home
for foreigners and for all believers.
I believe that the communion of saints begins 
when we embrace all God’s people in all their diversity.
I believe in forgiveness, which makes us all equal before God,
and in reconciliation, which heals our brokenness.
I believe that in the Resurrection
God will unite us as one people
in which all are distinct and all are alike at the same time.
I believe in life eternal, in which no one will be foreigner
but all will be citizens of the kingdom
where God reigns forever and ever. Amen.