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?