Friday, November 18, 2016

We the People Have the Gift of Resilience

I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world. John 16:33

In the past week since the results of one of the worst election periods in recent history, I have read articles and listened to reports of a surge in racial hate crimes and sexual assaults on women as well as LGBTQ bullying in alarming proportions. The loathsome mindset of white supremacy and misogyny has gone from hateful verbiage to outright physical attacks. All the while, I wonder if many of those who thought that they were voting their conscience are in fact conscious of the results of their decisions. I wonder if many conservative Christians have openly denounced racism, sexism and homophobia in order to begin to heal the gaping wound that is seeping out and infecting this country. I hope so.

I wonder if they care about the state of this nation as it stands today, or if many would rather look the other way and pretend not to notice the aftermath of siding with extreme hatred. I’m trying to remain hopeful that there is a segment of that population that is on its knees praying for justice and equality in America, even if the hate crimes and attacks are not affecting them. Are there conservatives who care about the rest of us and the daily angst that comes with being a minority in America? I pray so.

I’ll be honest, I have planned a reasonable distance between myself and those who do not seem to notice or show concern that we are at war against hate in this country. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the notion that there can exist within oneself a duality of viewpoints when it comes to love vs. hate. Cognitive dissonance is not a workable reality for me when it comes to the marginalization of entire communities of people. It’s not a matter of moral superiority but compassion and empathy. 

The Good News is:

There is a gift of resilience that has been given to the marginalized in this world. We have survived with remarkable odds, many attempts at total ethnic cleansing and the desire to silence anyone who is different from the majority. The sickness that infects the mind of the man/woman who believe that there is a superior race of people, has not managed to succeed at total domination. That is not to ignore the massive damage that it has done, as well as the many lives that it has taken. It is just to say that we the people have persevered beyond the unthinkable, again and again. It’s what we do. It's how we're made.

Personally, in order to stay hopeful, I draw my strength from the person of Jesus Christ, whom I believe was the example of the greatest humanitarian known to mankind. He had the ability to stand up to his enemies, expose religious hypocrisy and love the marginalized from a heart ignited with a passion for humanity. That divine action, is what is desperately needed in our grief stricken world today.

If any lesson bears repeating in the seminaries of Christianity, in order for it to maintain any semblance of credibility, it is the lesson of Jesus Christ and love thy neighbor as thyself. If we dare to believe any one doctrine, it should be the doctrine of equality through the love of God.

Within a segment of the population:

Somewhere beneath the mere surface of humanitarianism, lies resilience that is primed through love in action. When we are in motion, caring for one another and standing in solidarity against the evil that comes as a result of festered hate, we grow stronger, see clearer and resemble more of what is needed in this earth. We are actually lending a hand, as well as a heart, to the efforts of diminishing hate.

We the people, who are the ancestors and by-products of all those who have ever been the target of racism, sexism and exclusion of any kind, are inherently strong, undeniably brave and unapologetically fervent in our stand to live in freedom and justice. We may stumble, for just a moment, as a result of inhaling the noxious fumes of hatred that pollutes our country from time to time, but we don’t stay down for long. We draw fresh breath and strength from the example of a time when love clothed itself in human flesh and walked the earth to silence hate…

Friday, November 11, 2016

We Are Better Than This...

Three days later and the unthinkable is still a reality.

How do we begin to recover while living in a country that now suffers from self-imposed tragedy? For anyone who has ever suffered hatred, economic and racial injustice, oppression, sexism, violence, loss through unjust murder or is a victim, in any way, of the rape culture, the devastation is tangible. Collectively, none of us can ever breathe the same again. And to clarify for the ones who love to use religious platitudes in a time of profound suffering, we know that the President is just a man. We know that God is still in control and we know that Jesus is still Lord, for those of us who choose this as our belief system. Thank you for your pep talk, it won’t help in our grief however. Now let’s get down to brass tacks. This mortifying election was truly about love vs. hate, unity vs. racism and freedom vs. oppression. The outcome was the symbol of our nation’s heart… and what a sick, fragmented, hateful heart it has become. But that is not who the majority of us are. There is still much hope, if we ban together.

The healing:

On Tuesday morning, as my mind began to spin out of control, I heard the villainous jeers whispering in my ears: hate won, hate won, what are you going to do now? I cried, not soft quiet tears, I cried from my belly with guttural moans. The prophetic resides in the belly. I cried for every Native American ever terrorized and murdered on this land. I cried for every slave ever beaten, chained and whipped. I cried for every body that ever hung from a tree from senseless hatred. I cried for every immigrant used and abused by this country. I cried for every woman humiliated and discarded through sexism, misogyny and rape. I cried for our children who have to bear the weight of a careless and greedy nation.  I cried over graves with no headstones because the bodies within were never considered human beings. I cried for every gay man and woman disowned from their families and attacked by society, both physically and religiously. I cried for our elders who worked so hard to bring us to a better land only for us to wake up on the same bloody soil.  I cried for our first Black President and First Lady, who endured hardness like good soldiers and still managed to maintain dignity and grace. I cried for the deceived religious elite, who really believe that they can reach the world through hatred and division. Oh, did I cry…

I thought that it would take days to collect myself. I couldn’t tell my youngest son the results on my own. My despair was too heavy, that’s when I reached out and the healing began. I began by group texting my older children along with their father. Help, I said, I can’t tell Tim. I don’t want him to see me this way. One by one they began to respond. Tim’s dad called and explained the results to him in a way that wouldn’t worry him. We all kept texting, expressing grief, anger and sadness. The healing was beginning. By mid-afternoon I had texted, called and messaged several of my friends from various backgrounds and ethnicities. Their voices were important to me. I needed my community of diversity to help restore my faith in the world. We grieved together, we encouraged each other. Love was working. I began telling my friends that I loved them in one form or another. Each time the words came out, my heart grew stronger. I felt less faint. Love was healing. I slept that afternoon for the first time in days. That evening I had dinner with friends who represent interracial love. We talked, laughed and grieved together. We sought out the light in the darkness together and I felt lifted. Love was winning.

May I encourage you to seek others who love humanity with the same intensity as you do? When my daughter said that she was nervous about the climate on campus Wednesday, I told her to look for the people who had grief in their eyes, they’re hurting like you and can be trusted to mourn with.

The separating:

During the last few days, through much thought and prayer, I have come to the understanding that there is a time in life that we all must assess the people and ideologies that we surround ourselves with. This election, along with the pressing social injustices that have flooded our news in recent history, has uncovered the darkness in the hearts of many, along with the unwillingness to admit to the faults of this country and its sins. It has been open season for all who wish to express in clear undeniable detail that social injustice persists. Many have clung to a belief system that was rooted and grounded in the Jim Crow error and the church that turned a blind eye to hatred for people of color. I have read commentary from those who blame the victim and claim ignorance at the same time. The hypocrisy is astounding and I can no longer bear witness to it, nor befriend it in the hopes that such hearts will change. It is obvious that the line in the sand of good and evil has been drawn and many wish to dwell in the land of evil claiming it as their birthright of patriotism, while defiantly ignoring the call to love your neighbor as yourself. And just to clarify, this does not mean that I choose to separate from anyone who doesn’t share my same belief system in all aspects of life, this separation is about far more than a mere differing of opinion, anyone who has been trying to tap below this granite surface for any length of time understands that.

The revelation:

These are the words that have resounded in my ears within the last few days:

The American church has lost all credibility with the world. It will never be viewed the same again. This has been a long time coming. Slowly but surely those who warmed the pews have spilled out into the streets joining those who have never entered its doors. The American church has revealed the highest level of hypocrisy for the entire world to see. The by-standers are just as accountable as the perpetrators. By refusing to speak up and to cry aloud and spare none, many have sown hatred where there should be peace as well. There is no such thing as a neutral stance between good and evil. Remove yourself from the appearance of religion completely because it is an empty and lifeless exercise. It will simply prove itself as a display of an antiquated behavior, producing no real results for the world. I am ignoring the religious and the loveless of this land. Rise up with the poets, the prophets, the teachers, the singers, the dancers and the artist. Become an activist pursuing love at all costs, especially for those who do not share your culture. Come out from your sterilized surroundings padded with people who look and act like you. Abandon the notion that I don’t hear the prayers of the entire world and all those that seek me in ways that are foreign to you. Stop trying to get people to come into your buildings and go into the streets, the cities and the highways to live amongst the seekers, while asking me for wisdom and guidance along the way. Choose life, outside of religion and receive new life.

Lend your church buildings to recreation centers, daycares, after school programs, employment agencies, food pantries and civic centers. Offer your lavish establishments and your storefronts to community needs instead of hosting your own weekly club meetings.

The rebuilding:

Tuesday morning’s resounding question was: what are we going to do?  There is rioting, kkk rallies and harsh dissension all over the country. People are afraid of being attacked on the streets. How do we live amongst such hate and go on with our daily lives?

My personal directive is to dig deeper and stand my ground with civility and knowledge. Ignorance and hatred is what got us into this mess and it’s going to take higher thinking to get us out. We don’t have to be doormats and accept the visceral behavior, we just have to outsmart low level thinking. They want us to display the same hate that they are showing. It thrills a racist mind if we choose to become fearful beyond words and angry with rage. Fear yields power and tells your enemy that you believe that they are stronger than you. Refuse to be intimidated by the men in white sheets and the shaved heads. Refuse to let them steal your peace and relinquish your power. Stand strong and fight the power of hatred with civility. Head up, chin raised, eyes toward heaven, with an un-flinchable resolve, that’s the stance that we need to take against the self-appointed oppressors. Dignity is not a language that they can understand or war against.

Take that stance into your workplaces and communities. Teach your children how to walk with authority and wisdom. Read often and speak boldly about the history of this nation and its slow moving demise from its inception. Create a new language of unity and acceptance. Broaden your social circles. Stop just having that “one friend” who’s (insert ethnicity here.) We can’t keep thinking that this movement will only be advanced by one particular race of people and others cannot be trusted. For those that like to quote Malcolm X by saying: By any means necessary, remember that his life changed when he traveled to Mecca and began seeing men of other races who believed the same as he did. Only then did he understand the error of what he was taught to believe and that the “blue eyed devil” is a misnomer. Remember there have always been abolitionists who aided the oppressed at the expense of their own lives. They are still alive and well today. The movement is love vs. hate, not black vs. white.

There will only be a remnant of Christians that answer this call and leave their Sunday morning rituals for action that makes a difference. The majority will be people who do not claim to belong to any one belief system but who do have genuine love for their fellow man while desiring nothing more than to ignite a love revolution. If that shocks or bothers you, just remember the church has had more chances than we can count to come out of its lifeless ways and to actually live as Christ. This is the final result of seeking after its own self-interests and ignoring the greatest humanitarian ever known…Jesus Christ.

If you belong to a ministry that actively seeks to model Christ’s behavior in its ENTIRTY, then you are part of a much needed remnant in the earth. But make no mistake, this is only evident to the world by how you treat your fellow man.

The hashtag:

#lovealution (love revolution)

I hope it catches on…

Monday, November 7, 2016

Are you a river, a well or an ocean?

I wake up to many thoughts and questions in the early morning hours when I would probably prefer to be sound asleep, if I didn’t know any better, but I do know better. I’m not new to the fact that the whispers of my Creator come in the hush of the darkness, before daylight, before business. I also know why. It is at this time that my mind and body are most surrendered and willing to move beyond the natural into the eternal and receive in a deeper realm. I know too, that I am not alone at this hour. Many awake to the still small voice and assured presence of a God who knows no space or time. It is a privilege.

 So, when faced with what appears to be a philosophical question, with one ear on my pillow and the other towards heaven, I tuned in deeper.

Am I a river, a well or an ocean?

I knew the answer immediately and was more eager to find out from others how they saw themselves. This might have been one of my favorite questions to ask of all time. I may never stop asking.

Here are just a few samples of what some of my friends said:

I would lean towards ocean because I think I unite large land masses (ideas) and am full of experiences (as oceans are full of life) and depth. It’s not always safe out here, where you can’t see land and not everyone is comfortable with that much freedom. I like the expanse of an ocean and the sense of adventure in it.  - Mike

At first glance of this question, I’d have to say a “river.” A river’s source is from somewhere else, it feeds into other tributaries as it moves toward its final destination. Particularly after seeing footage of the recent floods, a river has a destination, it’s moving toward something and it cannot be stopped. – Ken

A well goes deep, a river is constantly moving and ever changing, and an ocean undulates in a gentle manner and touches nations. I am an ocean. – Eden

Others offered their answers in the definitive with no explanation:
A river –Bruce
Definitely feel like a river –Gabe
An ocean –Tim

Some leaned towards their answer:
A river, I think –J
I’m probably most like a well. –Lottie

Some were not sure at all and will have to think on it a bit longer before deciding.

This subject fascinates the philosophical geek in me. I love all of these answers and can’t wait to hear more. But mostly, I love where this question takes us. How it makes us look at and appreciate our place in this world, while helping us study how well we all relate to the healing power of water in any form it takes.

Water is necessary for life and so are we.

A well provides a pure source of water from beneath the ground. To access this water, wells are drilled deep into the bedrock. People are constantly drawing from wells and it causes folks to gather. Well water is worth the effort to retrieve, but not everyone can manage that effort. Wells require work.

A river flows smoothly, until interrupted by nature. It rises and falls, expands and extends. It can be an endless source. People are drawn to rivers for rest and relaxation. Rivers can also go beyond their boundaries and overtake dry land.

An ocean can have boundless energy. It roars at times with high tide and passively paints the sand ever so gently during low tide. An ocean can incite and excite the senses. People are drawn to the ocean mostly for its wonder and expanse. It is unpredictable and fascinating all at the same time. Some, who cannot swim, are afraid of the ocean because it can be so powerful.

When I was younger, I was an ocean, probably more for my unpredictable nature than anything else. I felt boundless and strong. I was good at being an ocean but not necessarily for all the right reasons. On my high tide days, I challenged the world and everything in it. On my low tide days, all I wanted to do was to be a part of the landscape with little effort. I was often overwhelmed with my own vast interest and I didn’t know how to begin or end. The creative in me will always be drawn to the ocean. I believe that’s where it all began for me.

There are days when I miss the energy that I had then and the excitement with listless freedom I displayed. But through adversity, much pain and loss along for the need to be hidden and grounded, I have become a well, for myself and those who are closest to me. I’ve learned how to be subtle and quiet and I’ve traded my boundless energy for rest. Being a well has allowed for me to become more thoughtful and disciplined. I consider a thing more before moving or speaking. My quiet days far outweigh my outspoken days. 

I love spending time with the rivers and ocean friends in my life however because they bring a new experience to my underground existence. My river friends feed and comfort me. My ocean friends stir up the creative in me and provide an escape. I need them both.

Perhaps, when I begin to travel, I will revisit my ocean season again. But if not, I am content in being who I need to be for the purpose that it serves my time on this earth. After all, it is well with my soul. Get it?

So now it’s your turn. 
Are you a river, a well or an ocean? 
Take your time and get to know you. There is no wrong answer…