The Myth Of Equality

I just bought this book and will be reading it soon, and I want to put a challenge out there. Would you get a copy as well and read it with me? I’d love to build a group of people reading this at the same time and meeting periodically (online or in person) to discuss. Here’s the thing- this book might be gold (or it might be trash!)- I’m coming into it having not read it yet either. It just came out last month. But I believe that in the process of reading together we can learn together. If you read the description and it immediately turns you off, I’ll make another challenge to you: send me a link to a book you want me to read and I’ll read that and discuss with you if you’ll commit to the same with this. #ChallengeTime #SummerBook

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InformationWanted.org

During the course of America’s painful and mournful history with slavery, against their will (as most things were… sigh), mothers and fathers were separated from their children, wives were snatched from the arms of their husbands, and siblings said goodbye to siblings… wondering if they’d all ever see one another again. Humans traded as property, from owner to owner, plantation to plantation. Again and again and again.

Have you ever thought about what happened to the now-freed families AFTER Emancipation?

Until I stumbled upon InformationWanted.org, I hadn’t. 

This beautiful project coming out of Villanova University has given names to the individuals on an often life-long quest to find their freed loved ones. On the site, copies of actual ads placed in newspapers in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s are posted. Each ad is concise and to the point, but it’s hard to read them without feeling the emotions of desperation, longing, and loss.

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I encourage all to check this site out.
(You can even help transcribe the ads as they’re placed on the site to aid in further genealogical research.)

It’s important for us to remember another crushing impact of our dark history of oppression and injustice against people of color.

May we see their humanity by saying their names, and may we stay ever vigilant today as slavery continues to reinvent itself under new labels and clever packaging.

#OurHistory
#StayWoke

100 years later

I’ve heard enough people in my circles say we live in a post-racial world. And I just want to give a little perspective. Why? Because when we say things like that today, people get hurt. It angers them, and for good reason. People made in the image of God… our brothers and sisters.

Not discounting the certain fact that progress in many areas has been made, we ought not think we’ve finished the race. I love how Deidra Riggs put it earlier today: “…if we were all running a marathon together (and we are) we wouldn’t stop at the one mile marker, look back toward the starting line and say, ‘Wow! Look at how much progress we’ve made! We’ve come so far! Let’s go do something else now.'”

For me, these 2 images when placed together are quite profound.

The first one is from July 2, 1917: a peaceful march in New York City, following a horrific event of injustice in St. Louis earlier that week that should never be forgotten. I unpacked that event more here.
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The other one is from about an hour ago – June 16, 2017, nearly 100 years later. Another peaceful march, this time in Minnesota, following the announcement of the verdict in Officer Yanez’ trial. I didn’t sit on the jury, and I can’t know all the intricacies that went into the reaching of that verdict. But we all saw the Facebook live video. And given the (enormous) track record of oppression from law-enforcement on people of color, the smell of bs here is strong.
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My heart aches for everyone directly involved (including Officer Yanez), and my heart aches for the millions of people who feel the pain of this moment from afar – pain that in many ways I will never be able to feel. I believe we need to pray for those in law enforcement like never before, and I believe we need to pray for minorities just as much.

Can we stand with one without hating the other? I believe we can.

But in the process, may the Lord help us never ever stop asking these gut-wrenching “Why” questions until the stubborn stench of injustice is burnt out of our nostrils for good.

Some times God rescues you from the mouths of lions. Some times he lets you be beheaded.

In our home, from time to time we like to tell Bible stories to our kids before bed. It doesn’t happen all the time, and there’s definitely A LOT of nights we’re just doing whatever we can to get them in bed. However, if the story is right, we occasionally try to act it out together, be goofy and fun, and still communicate a point the kids can walk out when they wake up in the morning.

Tonight, we told them the story of the time Saul took a dump in the cave. David, his enemy, was already hiding in the cave unbeknownst to Saul, and he could have evened the score in that (awkward) moment. Such a good story…

And it made me think.

There’s a lot of stories we like to tell (like this one) – ones that have a happy ending, ones that always work out the way we expect them to.

And then there are other stories that we don’t tell as often. Not intentionally I don’t think. They just don’t come to mind much because we haven’t thought much about them. They’re uncomfortable. They don’t end anywhere close to the ways we think they should. Even more disconcerting, they push the boundaries of the God we thought we knew. Frankly, some of them push God right off the page.

For instance, we love to tell the story of how God rescued Daniel from the mouths of the lions. But we skip the story of how God allowed John to be beheaded.

Both individuals were faithful, humble, selfless people. They had morals, and stood up for truth. They lived with an internal conviction we all deeply long to have. And as far as we can see, their character was one we all want to emulate.

For the one, he was granted life when death was pretty much a guarantee. The other was granted death when life was a hope still on the horizon.

If you’re bumping into stories and shades of God that don’t seem like God, maybe it’s time to take a closer look, instead of skipping over those narratives. It’s ok to have your categories questioned. It’s ok to doubt the God you thought you knew. We can’t let our understanding of God up until this point in life define who God is for us for the rest of our lives. It’s a journey of understanding that will continue to grow and develop and be shaped over time. And that’s ok.

I believe God is calling his followers to a deeper faith, a solid trust in a God who exists outside the confines we grew up thinking he lived within. A God that doesn’t always make sense. A God that often leaves us with more questions than solutions.

And it’s ok to read those stories and wonder how they all fit together.

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Riches Have No Meaning

I’ve been reading through Shane Claiborne‘s book “The Irresistible Revolution”. Nearly every page has something that challenges and hurts to read, in a good way. This was from my reading today:

“So I did a little survey, probing Christians about their (mis)conceptions of Jesus. It was fun just to see how many people think Jesus loved homosexuals or ate kosher. But I learned a striking thing from the survey. I asked participants who claimed to be ‘strong followers of Jesus’ whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question. I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time with the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor. … I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.”

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A God That Cares About Justice

Over the last few months, with a new and fresh burden on my soul for those caught in the cross-hairs of injustice and oppression, I’ve often looked up to heaven wondering when God is gonna show up and right some of the wrongs in front of us. As I wait in silence, like a lonely passenger waiting in the subway for that train that never seems to come, it’s easy to get to a place where you wonder if he cares at all.

It’s actually quite easy to assume he doesn’t.

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Eric Garner

Michael Brown

Walter Scott

Philando Castile

Alton Sterling

Jordan Edwards

But then I got an answer that was both encouraging and daunting: God expects his followers – the people who truly claim to be committed to him – to create the justice we all long for. He’s expecting you and I to stand in that gap. To not wait for someone else or for the right time or for the right resources – but to fight and labor for justice now!

Certainly, there is a day coming when Jesus will come back on the scene… not as a baby in need of care, but as a King ready to rule. But that’s not yet. For today, he’s called us to rise up and act.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

Matthew 23:23-24

In Jesus’ day, the teachers of the law and Pharisees were an interesting bunch. I don’t like to admit it, but they thought very similarly to the ways I often think, when left unchecked. They’re more similar to us in the church today than we often concede. I’m convinced of this.

It was common practice for the Jews to tithe- to give 10% of their earnings and income each year back to God. And they were very meticulous about it. It was common practice for families to tithe from all of their crops. Even if they had a small garden of spices in their back yard, they would still give a tenth of it each year at harvest time as an offering. In fact, they were so meticulous, if there was any miscommunication or question as to whether or not the tithe had been given already, the owner of the land would give a second tithe, just to make sure it happened.

Jesus isn’t knocking that carefulness here. He clearly states that they should be following the law, which this practice was part of.

The issue Jesus has here is that they were neglecting something more important in the process. Clearly, Jesus felt the issues of justice, mercy and faithfulness were of greater importance and more central to his heart than tithing spices. Essentially, if we’re gonna get something wrong, we ought to not let it be turning a blind eye to injustice and allowing our brothers and sisters to live under the stubborn, selfish, systemic oppression that snakes its way into society.

It gets better.

If his audience wasn’t repulsed enough already, he ended with a sucker-punch to the gut with this last indictment:

“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

The imagery here is profound. According to Jewish ceremonial law, both a gnat and a camel were unclean; it would be impure to ingest either one. If living today, the Pharisees would put a metal strainer over that tiny opening at the top of their Starbucks cup to ensure a gnat wouldn’t accidentally get through on their way to work… not realizing (or caring) that the night before they feasted at the dinner table on camel steak.

There were probably many examples of a lack of justice, mercy and faithfulness in Jesus’ mind as he had this conversation.

  • The woman caught in adultery – in the very act. The woman was caught… but what about the man? He was never presented before Jesus and the mob never intended to kill him. But their stones were in hand, raised and ready to kill her. A complete lack of justice.
  • The story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus for sure had specific examples in mind of this scenario playing out. A man is beaten and left to die on the side of the road, but religious people walked by and looked the other way, rather than investing and helping. A complete lack of mercy.
  • Jesus continually got in “trouble” with the law when he healed hurting people on the Sabbath. A complete lack of faithfulness.

One of the best examples is probably the day Jesus walked into the temple for worship, overcome with wrath at the blatant injustice occurring right before his eyes. People behind tables, taking advantage of the poor and destitute, using the sacrificial system set up by God in order to turn an exorbitant profit margin for personal gain.

Crazy stuff.

So… why does all this matter?

To those who don’t follow Jesus or claim allegiance to him, I think in many ways you’re off the hook here. To those of us though who do name the name of Christ, and sing his songs on the weekend, and claim him as our Savior, we have a responsibility. And when we don’t step into these conversations and speak up and create the kind of justice we all want, and when we don’t fight against the systemic forces of oppression in our nation, our message loses credibility. 

People walk by and see us tithing our mint, and dill, and cummin… and they see us doing nothing about the young black boy shot in the street last week.

And they don’t care about our message. Because to them, (rightfully so) it doesn’t matter! Our message isn’t changing their experience on the ground! 

There’s a God that cares about justice.

If you’ve been hurt and beaten down while the church passed by on the other side of the road, oblivious, I’m sorry.

It’s not your fault, and it’s not God’s.

It’s ours.

 

How To Affair-Proof Your Marriage

Nobody wakes up one day and says to themselves, “Hmm… I wanna go get an affair today.” It just doesn’t happen like that. Affairs are always the result of a long, gradual process, many times without those involved even being fully aware of the destination they’re being taken to.

What if I pass on to you something that others have passed on to me: one, simple practice – a practice that when continually applied, will keep your marriage secure and keep potential landmines away?

Ready?

Publicly talk about how much you love your spouse.

All the time.

It’s so simple, and yah – it can get awkward sometimes. I’ve got one guy on my newsfeed who takes this principle a little too far. Weird. You don’t need to do it in a way that needlessly makes those in your social feed feel jealous (or worse, gross)… but you do want to let them know you’re taken… that you’re committed… that you’re seriously not open to another option.

Faithfulness is something we all long for, no matter who you are. We longed for it from our parents, even though we may not have admitted it at the time. We long for it from our employers and our coworkers on the job. And we long for it in our own relationships.

The problem is, we don’t often believe it’s possible.

So we stop trying.

We stop saying the things we used to say when we fell in love.

And instead we start saying the negatives or the whatever’s or the frustrations. And that’s the message that gets heard.

And while we do that… slowly, the vultures outside the home circle the air over our heads a little bit closer. A little bit closer. A little bit closer… Eventually, they’ll be close enough to see that the front door isn’t fully shut, and before long they’ll invite themselves in.

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I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty

“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security… More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, ‘Give them something to eat.'”

– Pope Francis

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Humility

“If you’re modest and have an awareness of the limits of your own knowledge you know that you need the people who disagree with you to correct for your own errors. [However] if you think you have the truth 100% then the people who disagree with you are just in the way.”

-David Brooks, NY Times

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The Drowning Man Trial

Everyone who loses somebody wants revenge on someone, on God if they can’t find anyone else. But in Africa, in Matobo, the Ku believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the Drowning Man Trial. There’s an all-night party beside a river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat. He’s taken out on the water and he’s dropped. He’s bound so that he can’t swim. The family of the dead then has to make a choice. They can let him drown or they can swim out and save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they’ll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn’t always just… that very act can take away their sorrow. Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.

The immensely profound paragraph above comes from The Interpreter, one of my favorite movies. You can find the clip here.

A lot of people have been thinking more about the death penalty these days, (thanks in large part to the disgusting nature of all that’s going on in Arkansas this month) and I’m certainly in that crowd. Though I last saw this movie over 6 years ago, this scene has continued to come to my mind as I’ve pondered, searched, and sought out the morality of capital punishment. Not because I plan to directly influence legislation (though I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea some day) but because I believe to my toes it matters how we think about other people. Even, (especially) the people we despise the most. A person’s thoughts on the death penalty draw that out like few other issues being discussed around dinner tables today.

However, in these discussions, the grieving process of the victim’s family often don’t get talked about enough, or at least not talked about well.

If you’re still reading, my question for you today is this:
Does taking the life of a loved one’s killer truly bring the family the closure they’ve been promised?

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