My Privilege

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You may have seen a Buzzfeed quiz going around lately titled “How Privileged Are You?” Well, I took it and above you can see my results.  ^^^

Funny thing about privilege, growing up I didn’t know I had it. Now, however, I understand that by virtue of the color of my skin, my sexual orientation and my family history, I have benefitted tremendously from the simple circumstances of my birth.

Don’t believe in privilege or simply don’t believe it has that much of an effect on life? I humbly submit that you may be more privileged than you think. That is the thing about privilege, it is a filter through which one sees every facet of life, and it is a filter that is inborn. It is only through education and relationships with others who do not experience the benefits our privileges provide that we are able to begin to see the need for change.

A quick note: I am by no means an expert in this area and it is really only in the last few years that I have begun to be educated on this topic, even having been raised by parents who taught me that men and women, rich and poor, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, etc., were all equal in the eyes of God.

Another quick note: you can be privileged in one area and completely not privileged in another. I think of it kind of like a continuum. That is why I kind of appreciated the BuzzFeed quiz, as non-scientific as it is. Yes I am white but I am also female. Yes I have money now, but I didn’t always. Here’s the thing though, the statement above is pretty right on. I have had a few struggles in my life, but I have also had many, many advantages that had ZERO to do with me and everything to do with who, where, when, and to whom I was born.

I would now like to share with you an excerpt from The President’s Devotional by Joshua DuBois,

NOVEMBER 5 – KEEPING WATCH

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. – 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)

As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we must be most aware of the change in the air –however slight– lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.  –Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglass, letter to the Young Lawyers Section of the Washington State Bar Association

Let’s keep watch. Let’s perceive the slow creep of oppression, wherever it might move. Let’s be aware of the darkness in our world–or even in our own soul–that seeks, like fungus to grow.

When we see it, or feel it, we pray that Christ would come into it and strike it out, making us new. We will not be victims. Nor will we be oppressors. No–today, we will keep watch.

Dear God, open my eyes not just to blessings but also to the potential of evil in the world. And when I perceive it, help me move against it. Amen.

We read this installment with our kids a few weeks ago and I was reminded of a Facebook post by my friend Markeetia McKinnis, which I shared with my children and husband on the spot at the breakfast table. As I read it aloud again, I couldn’t make it through without choking back tears. You see, this post helped me be more aware of my own inborn privilege and that of my children. Sharing it with them and with you is a small way in which I can strike out the slow creep of oppression:

As I wind down on this last day in Black History month, I reflect on how far the world has changed from when I was little black girl growing up in Mississippi to now a black mother of three residing in Texas. Some changes for the better….progress. Some changes for the worse. BUT, It is true, we are a different world. We have become a better people. We can now all drink from the same fountains. Attend the same schools. Aim for the same goals. Play the same sports….Through the worlds view, we are better. Even through this black mothers view, I feel on the majority of days, we are better. AND then there are those days when you’re driving with your husband and you’re stopped and the white officer calls him a boy in front of your kids. Or the day when the black President is re-elected and your kid comes home from school with tears in his eyes because he’s heard the N word for the first time. [her children attend school with my children at a private Christian school].Or the day you have date night with the hubby and you walk into Neiman’s and you’re followed around the store. OR the day when you’re out with your husband and people keep stopping you, because they think he’s a ball player. OR the day when you’re sitting during your kids American program feeling proud and then you realize that NOT ONE single black person was characterized during Black History Month. OR you realize that schools don’t even celebrate black history month anymore AND…..these are the days when you realize that despite how hard you’ve tried…this is your reality and you MUST educate your children…your black children. Because the reality is they are not only Americans….They are BLACK Americans. And unfortunately, they have a past that will follow them to heaven. So, you brace yourself for the why’s and the tears and the pain in their eyes….knowing that you can’t change their past. It is very much who they are. And unless we do them an injustice, we as their parents have to educate them on a world we as black people did not choose, but found ourselves being thrust in. A world that says it sees no color, but for the Black American that is so NOT our reality. I have had many tasks thrust upon me, but being a black mom is by far the most challenging. How much do you share? What EXACTLY do you say? I still have not quite figured that one out yet, SO I take it day by day and lesson by lesson. Allowing God to guide my heart and speech….Lately, I have taught them that they are who God says they are, not man. They are more than a color. That’s offensive, not cute. They are not brown, they are black. There history is more than just Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. They are walking on the backs of some of the greatest inventors and scientists in the world. They are more than just basketball players and runners, they are leaders and world changers. They are not projects, they are humans with hearts and desires. In the same breathe….as age appropriate as possible, I have taught them that they are the kid in the store with the hoodie on. They can’t do what everyone else does and get away with it. They cannot go everywhere, with everyone…even if all of there friends go. The same rules just don’t always apply. They are not rap music and slang talk -don’t allow people to disrespect you by assuming as much. They are not a statistic or JUST an athlete. They are the HEAD and not the TAIL. They are kings and queens. They are worthy….. I am slowly teaching them to “respect the struggle”….day by day…. #momminute #blackhistory #raisingblackkids#myworld

So, here is the thing, if you are a man you are privileged in some ways that women are not, no matter what race you are. If you are white you are privileged in some ways that minorities are not, even if you grew up poor. If you were born in the United States you are privileged in ways most of the world is not, no matter what other disadvantages you have had. There are so many more ways in which to be born privileged. I have been trying lately to examine my own filters. I think the quiz above can help you get started. Another thing you can try is if you are a man, ask some of the women in your life to tell you about all the times they have been harassed, molested or discriminated against for being a woman. If you are white, ask some of your friends who are not white to tell you about all the times they have been harassed, molested or discriminated against for being a person of color. If you are straight, ask some of the LGBT people in your life to tell you about all the times they have been harassed, molested or discriminated against for being LGBT. Then listen, and believe what they tell you. You might be surprised at what they have to say. It isn’t a lot, but it is a start.

For some other good educational reading on this topic…
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Painting the Stars Review, Part 1: “We are moving!”

pierre-teilhard-de-chardin-firePierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who was also a trained paleontologist and geologist.

He was the first truly evolutionary theologian. He publicly sought to reunite science and religion. What has become embraced by many was first lauded by this man, and like most geniuses, he was not understood and was even ridiculed at the time. I have just learned of him today and I am utterly mesmerized. Consider this:

The conflict dates from the day when one man, flying in the face of appearance, perceived that the forces of nature are no more unalterably fixed in their orbits than the stars themselves. But that their serene arrangements around us depicts the flow of a tremendous tide. The day in which the first voice rang out, crying to mankind peacefully slumbering on the raft of earth, “We are moving! We are going forward.” It is a pleasant and dramatic spectacle, that of mankind divided to its very depths into two irrevocably opposed camps, one looking toward the horizon and proclaiming with all its newfound faith, “We are moving!” and the other without shifting its position obstinately maintaining, “Nothing changes. We are not moving at all.”

To quote my friend Steven Baxter, “Holy shit you guys!” This is amazing. It makes me want to go out in the street and yell, “We are moving!” It is a revelation and a truth that stirs my soul. This is not how it ends. The beginning was just that the beginning and the whole of humanity and creation and time and space is moving. Isn’t that exciting? We started out moving and we are still moving. Lovelies, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I think our new friend might even take that a step further and say, “The arc of the entire [moral, spiritual, relational, emotional, physical] universe is long and it moves toward justice [all things made right].” I believe this with all my heart. It makes me feel alive.

I was having a talk with my friend Josh Mitchell the other day about tattoos and we were saying how if either of us were to get a tattoo that it would have to be words. Words that meant something. Words that were personal. Words we didn’t want to forget. Today, if I had to pick, I might choose, “We are moving!”

Jesus was continually pointing people toward the future. He called it, “The Kingdom of Heaven“. The teaching carried with it the idea of already but not yet. Jesus had come, history and evolution and movement had brought people to the moment of being brought face to face with Jesus. Both man and God, he declared that the Kingdom of heaven was at hand and that also it was yet to come. More movement, more evolution, was and is required.

 

But I am getting ahead of myself.

This post is part one of a review series I am starting. I will be reviewing Painting the Stars: Science, Religion and an Evolving Faith. Each of the 7 sessions is 20 minutes long, and I will be writing one post about each session. After viewing session 1, I am very excited to be sharing this experience with you. The makers of the series, Living the Questions, produced the series in order to celebrate and explore the promise of evolutionary Christian spirituality.

The first session begins with the suggestion that like tectonic plates, the realms of evolution, religion and science often butt up against each other causing philosophical earthquakes, tsunamis and dramatic changes in the intellectual and spiritual landscape. Ironically, this is an evolution all its own. When some new reality in science collides with our beliefs about God, religion and the origins of the world, “something must eventually give way or merge” in order for a new landscape to emerge.

Evolution. What immediately comes to mind when you hear that word? Biology? Survival of the fittest? Charles Darwin? The big bang? What about personal, psychological, emotional, relational, culture, language, belief systems, political and economic systems? When we think about these areas, we find evolution is simply a fundamental universal reality.

This video series proposes to address how people of faith can engage difficult questions about science and faith in ways that decrease conflict and may even benefit us with new and challenging understandings. Questions like:

How are Christians who work in the disciplines of the sciences and technology able to accommodate and even embrace evolution?

Is the voice of the Scriptures somehow diminished by descriptions of a cosmology that no longer serves?

Is the Genesis story of creation voided by descriptions of a creation no longer seen as complete but rather driven by evolutionary processes that embody randomness and mortality, mutation and adaptation?  Or is the Genesis story deepened each time we discover more and more about our universe, about the amazing complexity of species and life that live on this planet?

How can people of faith engage such questions in ways that decrease conflict and even may benefit by new and challenging understandings?

The session titles are:

  1. Toward Healing the Rift
  2. A Renaissance of Wonder
  3. Getting Genesis Wrong
  4. An Evolving Faith
  5. Evolutionary Christianity
  6. Imagining a Future
  7. An Evolving Spirituality: Mysticism

The DVD series features over a dozen leading theologians and progressive thinkers including:

To learn more about Living the Questions, Painting the Stars or to purchase the DVD, click here.

Response

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Have you seen this meme? It has just hit facebook and is all up in my feed. Here is my response…

Yes, I am a follower of Jesus.
I believe the truth contained in the Bible and in THE TRUTH who is Jesus Christ.
I support my homosexual friends and their right to marry the person they love.
Yes, I love all people.
Yes, I am still friends with people who disagree with me.
No, I am not judging you.
Yes, I am trying to persuade you to love like Jesus.
Yes, I will stand up for your right to free exercise of your beliefs as long as they don’t infringe on someone else’s right to practice theirs.

I will never call you a name but I will point out where your practice lacks grace, mercy and compassion. I will not remain silent as you say that I do not respect the scriptures or that I do not believe “the truth”. I will not remain silent when people God loves are being told they are not welcome in his family. I fully support your right to speak what you believe, and I will continue to speak what I believe.

* Due to demand I turned this into a meme of my own which you will find below. Please feel free to share it.

mymeme

 

Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity


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I know we are way behind but my husband and I just started watching Mad Men from the beginning on Netflix. Last night after watching the second episode, Kent turned to me and said, “Do you know why I like this show? Besides the great acting, writing and to-the-t period stuff?”
“No,” I said, “What?”
“This show is a perfect illustration of what people mean when they say they want to go back to the good old days. It’s how guys like Driscoll and Piper wish it was.”

I have been thinking about this ever since he said it last night.
At the time my mind immediately went to another blog written by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large for mediarostra.com which I read a while back. In it Mr. Ponder asserts that,

“Family” is the euphemistic code du jour for “Evangelical Christian.” “Focus on the Evangelical Christian” and the “American Evangelical Christian Association” didn’t have the same zing to them as their familiar twins. The watchword for these organizations is the preservation of “traditional family values,” which are, in a nutshell, white American family values from a period of 1939 to 1964. The family values constituency longs for a return to the virginal time before the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, John Lennon, and Rock Hudson made the world a more complicated place.
When I read the Bible, I get the distinct sense that Jesus wasn’t interested in saving the nuclear family from a windy onslaught of liberal opinions. I rather get the impression that he was concerned with diving headfirst into the unvarnished messiness of the human condition and saving us—as individuals, as families, as communities, as people—from our own unhinged self-absorption and festering lovelessness.

I also remembered a scene from Modern Family which I told you all about in The Will of the People. The scene takes place between Jay and Gloria.

“Jay: This weekend we’re going up to Pebble Beach. I’m gonna meet a bunch of guys I played high school football with. Man, those were the good old days.
Gloria: Yeah, unless you were a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay.
Jay: But if you were a straight white football player you couldn’t have a bad day.”

I am sure most of the folks nostalgic for a time gone by prefer to think of it like Leave It to Beaver where everything is clean and sanitized and the worst you have to worry about is Eddie Haskel and his mischievous ways. Mad Men is a more unvarnished look back that doesn’t gloss over the messiness of life. Honestly lovelies, neither is a perfect picture. They are both fiction. However we are talking about a real period of American life that is often pointed to by christians in general and evangelicals in particular, as a time when things were simpler, better and frankly closer to what God intended. After all, the marriages and families I see in the Bible look just like the Cunningham’s on Happy Days. 😉

Personally, I have no desire to go back to the way things were.

Christian Piatt wrote a great article about a year ago titled: GOP Nostalgia? Only Christian White Men were Better Off Back Then in which he said in part,

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say “yeah, I was better off back then.”… To call for a return to the good old days is, in some ways, a marginalization of those for whom history has meant progress. For the majority of Americans today, turning back the clock means losing ground, acceding power or opportunity and returning to a time of greater imbalance and division.”

Sadly, the church, whom I love seems to be stuck in a nostalgic longing that is really nothing more than a mirage. It offers the illusion of a cold drink of water but for many they find only a mouthful of sand and the scorching wind of shame. Heck even some of us raised in the church who know how beautiful and life-giving our communities truly can be, all to often have found our mouths filled with sand rather than the cool and refreshing living water.

Those who feel their privilege slipping away continue to grasp at an unhealthy nostalgia responsible for keeping the church on the wrong side of history way to often. It is what makes and has made people justify slavery and segregation or oppose women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to own property, interracial marriage, women in church leadership and gay marriage. (Even when people believe they are excluding people because of unrepentant sin I still call B.S. as we often hold the door open with a big smile for people who continue to stumble when it comes to gluttony, lust, gossip and lying while slamming the door in the face of homosexuals under the guise of “unrepentance”.) When people perceive their place of privilege is slipping away, rather than rejoicing that others will share in the freedom and forgiveness which they have enjoyed, often defend and set up barriers that push people further away from Jesus. Once again, someone else addresses this issue of priviledge much better than I can. I encourage you to read The Distress of the Priviledged by Doug Muder. He explains it like this:

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

Then this morning as lady luck or Sarah Bessey would have it, I woke up to a post which exposes another facet of the mirage with a fierce and brave vulnerability. In Which I am Damaged Goods is a post way too many of us could have written. Sarah shares a time when she was served the sand of shame and judgement rather than the living water of love and forgiveness. She was taught that because she was a woman who had been sexually active she was damaged beyond repair and that she should be thankful if there was a christian man out there who would have her as a wife. While this may seem at first blush unrelated to a nostalgia for an earlier time, rest assured, it is. It is nostalgia for a time when a girl who gets pregnant (not the boy of course) would be sent away “to camp” for the summer or a divorcee would automatically be viewed as desperate, a home wrecker or “hot to trot”. “Oh Myyyyy,” as George Takai would say. With just a few google searches you can find church leader after church leader (including women) who will state unequivocally or simply subtly imply that women’s sexuality and/or women in general are something to be feared, suppressed and even demonized. Tertullian went as far as describing woman as the root of all evil. This is yet another mirage of sinking sand that brings death, shame and bondage rather than life, reconciliation and freedom. A current hotly debated question in the church is, “Why are young people leaving in droves?” Perhaps it is partly because they are tired of receiving a glass of sand when they are begging for water.

Please lovelies, let us remember this, Jesus came not to condemn (John 3:17) but to bring freedom and forgiveness.

This of course is just one example. The non-drinkers exclude the drinkers, the men exclude the women, the heterosexuals exclude the LGBT community, the races exclude each other, the hits just keep on coming and love loses –or so it seems. As a friend of mine (I can’t remember who, if it is you send me a note so I can give you credit) said in a Facebook post this week, many in the church upon arriving at the banquet to which they themselves were uninvited have set themselves up as doorkeepers, judging who is and who is not worthy to enter. Do they not see the irony? None of us were invited –yet we got to come in. And now here they sit callously turning away those whom Jesus would let in. Let that not be me. I say swing wide the doors; Come in. Taste and see that He is good.

As always my lovelies, I remain hopeful. Behold, Jesus is making all things new. He is NOT making all things the way they used to be. He is making all things NEW! Make no mistake, love will win. Look around. There are more and more people who shout and whisper and sing, “Come in! Come in! All are welcome. There is enough living water for us all.

LORD JESUS, May my judgements never push people away from you. Please show mercy to those who having already received grace for themselves would push away others whom you came for. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. AMEN.

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As we were driving home I was reminded of the song Pieces of You by Jewel.  It drove home the point that we are all connected. When we exclude, shame and hurt each other we cut off our nose to spite our face. Any damage we do to each other, we do to ourselves.

She’s an ugly girl, does it make you want to kill her?
She’s an ugly girl, do you want to kick in her face?
She’s an ugly girl, she doesn’t pose a threat.
She’s an ugly girl, does she make you feel safe?
Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

She’s a pretty girl, does she make you think nasty thoughts?
She’s a pretty girl, do you want to tie her down?
She’s a pretty girl, do you call her a bitch?
She’s a pretty girl, did she sleep with your whole town?
Pretty girl, pretty girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

You say he’s a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him?
You say he’s a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?
You say he’s a faggot, does he make you sick to our stomach?
You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same?
Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you?

You say he’s a Jew, does it mean that he’s tight?
You say he’s a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he’s a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you.

Grab your Loop and Run like Hell -or- Hang Ten

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Dr. King

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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. – Alice Walker

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As I reexamined that memory on light of justice I was beginning to realize that I wasn’t being neutral at all. My lack of conviction had been an accomplice to the unequal treatment of women. My diplomacy was misguided. In my quest to maintain peace and unity, I had become a woman with a divided mind and heart.  – Pam Hogeweide, Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church.

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over time, we have been sold a bill of goods on what it means to be a christian woman.  we’ve been domesticated, tamed, caged, and limited.  we haven’t been properly valued or empowered or nurtured.

so here i am, in a place i never thought i’d be. an ex good christian woman. wreaking havoc on the norms that women are supposed to have in the church, encouraging women to get their voices, pursue their dreams, quit waiting for their husbands to lead them and live a passionate life for God no matter what other people tell them they can or can’t do. to seek change for their lives, quit doing the same old unhealthy thing in their relationships and learn a new way. to seek God’s love and approval instead of human’s. it’s been hard for me to make the shift. i still feel shame for feeling this way. even as i write this, i am wondering what person is going to say how unbiblical i am, how if i just knew my role and leaned into it i would have God’s perfect peace. you see, good christian women are filled with shame. shame for the things we do do, shame for the things we don’t do. and i was a great christian superwoman. – Kathy Escobar

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Stop waiting for someone to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, that you have a place, that you are called. Stop waiting for someone else to validate the person that you already know you were made to be.  Stop holding your breath, sister, working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, and your quietness, your submission and your “correct” doctrine what God has already freely given to you.

Because, darling, you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your calling or your marital status or your labels or your underlined books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the job description of Proverbs 31.

I imagine them around a fabled table, in suits, no doubt, pulling the chairs in tight and tighter, until they are the only ones left there, crowded around a tiny table in an airless room that feels small and smaller. Me? I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.  – Sarah Bessey

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At first I thought this would be a good letter to the 16 year old me and then I realized that in spite of the struggle and the difficulty and the muting, I am who I am right now for a purpose. Lovelies we were born for such a time as this. Do you get how exciting this is? Do you get how your struggle has brought you to the point where you are standing atop the surf board, salt air in your face, hanging ten as you ride toward the shore with the wave of equality and freedom at your back propelling you into a future where there is ROOM FOR US ALL?

We stand once again at the terminator of history. The terminator or twilight zone or gray line is the moving line that separates the illuminated day side and the dark night side of a planetary body. We are coming out of the darkness and sit expectantly in the gray zone, but instead of merely waiting for the light to arrive I picture us like the people who unfurl those huge flags at the Olympics opening day ceremonies. When the music starts they grab their loop on the flag and they run like hell for the other end of the field until the full beauty of the banner is visible to all.  I picture each of us, Rachel and Sarah and me and you and Pam and every woman God has made, grabbing the loops to our collective banner, yelling into the air, “FREEDOM!!! (like Mel Gibson in Braveheart)” as we run like hell for the goal line. I picture the stands full of people watching and waiting to see what kind of banner it will be. And let me tell you when it is finally displayed for all to see, when the full picture comes into view, WOW, my lovelies is it something to behold! The colors of the lives of the men and women made in Gods image bleeding together and showing a picture, the image (if you will) of God! Holy crap. Can you just picture it?

Now, imagine all of us, men and women, young and old with Jesus in the middle, our hands on the loops of the terminator of history running like hell for the horizon pulling the light of the new dawn across the whole surface of the earth. Do you hear us? Shouting and singing and proclaiming justice for the oppressed and freedom for the captives? C’mon. Grab a loop and run with us. And look! He is making all things new.

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This post is part of the Rachel Held Evans synchroblog event, One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality.  You can follow this event on Twitter by entering #mutuality2012 to read all entries by participating bloggers.

So She Did. A Word of Encouragement to Women…and Men.

“For a woman to not become all that she was meant to be is sin. She’s missing the mark. When she dumbs herself down to not threaten the insecure male, she is forfeiting all that God created her for.”

Tony Campolo

Today I read a blog post by Amy Young, who is asked over and over why she is still single. Her response when she is feeling up to it?

I am a Christian. I am a woman. I am a leader. Remove any one of those statements and I believe I would be married.

Wow. That three sentence answer is a powerful indictment on how we in the church raise woman to stunt themselves and men to look for stunted women. Think about her answer she would have a better chance to get married if she was:

  1. a Christian woman who is not a leader
  2. a woman leader who is not Christian
  3. a male Christian leader

Think about it. She is probably right. She goes on to assert two other points in the post:

1. If you marry before 30 your skills seems less threatening to Christian men.

2. There is a difference between having leadership skills and an actual leadership position.

Like many choices life offers, I didn’t fully realize what I was saying yes to when I stepped into public leadership at age 29. I now know that I was most likely trading leadership for partnership and that, though still beloved by many, I became threatening to potential “pursuers” because of the heavy and mixed messages sent about gifting, submission, headship, and gender. As my leadership blossomed into spiritual realms I became even more like kryptonite to some (both men and women): scary and powerful. It’s also confusing because it’s clear I’m good at what I do and people are drawn to me.

So, returning to the question as to why I am single, there is no simple, easy answer; but I do believe that, in part, it is because I am a woman and a leader and didn’t marry before it became apparent that I was not a behind-the-scenes leader but an up-front, out-loud, follow-me one.

I am thankful every single day to be married to Kent and that we got married as young as we did (18 for me and 20 for Kent). I have frequently thought when confronted with a story like this that I would have had a much more difficult time finding someone if I had waited until I was older to get married.

I had intended to write today about becoming all you were meant to be; about chasing and discovering the beauty of the undiscovered joy that is your gift to the world. I honestly wasn’t sure about how I was going to say it. I thought about a numbered list of witty and inspiring tidbits meant to inspire, I thought about a poem, I thought about just writing about my own experiences. But, as the Holy Spirit would have it, and as it happens to me so often, synchronicity and serendipity stepped in and I was given a gift by Melody Harrison Hansen who blogs at logicandimagination.com on facebook. She posted as her status the quote that you see at the top of this post and pointed me to a blog by Connie Jakab called Culture Rebel which was the source for her quote. She also had linked to the blog I quoted above from In A Mirror Dimly by Amy Young.

These two gifts (thanks Melody!) along with this snippet from Kathy Escobar’s post, ex-good-christian women, are my catalyst for today’s encouragement. Kathy wrote,

over time, we have been sold a bill of goods on what it means to be a christian woman.  we’ve been domesticated, tamed, caged, and limited.  we haven’t been properly valued or empowered or nurtured.  we have been taught codependence and given the company kool-aid to drink.

but it’s changing.  slowly, surely.

thankfully more and more women are joining the ranks of  what i call “ex-good-christian-women.”  it’s lonely at first but in the end, so freeing.

You know what?

The more I think about Amy Young’s post, the more I think about Tony’s quote, the more I reflect on the writings of the closest friends I’ve never met the more encouraged I get. Yes, you heard me correctly. Why exactly do I find encouragement in these things?
Because…

  • I know more and more women who are choosing to be “ex-good-christian women”.
  • I know more and more men, who like my husband are encouraging the women in their life to stop missing the mark by believing the lie that they cant be/do ________ because God doesn’t want them to. These same men are also helping to provide avenues and encouragement for these women to use and develop the gifts that they were afraid to even admit that they thought God gave them.
  • More and more young women are being raised to believe that God wants them to use every gift and every skill that he has given them to serve and lead in any way possible.
  • More and more young men are being raised not to fear strong women but to embrace them and appreciate them as the better and stronger companions that they are.
  • More and more people, men and women are finding their voices and speaking up and out on behalf of the oppressed.

And today, I would like to encourage you my lovelies, male or female…

  • You are amazing and have gifts buried inside you that are waiting to be discovered
  • Those gifts will change you and others in ways you never dreamed possible
  • Don’t give up just because you try something you have always wanted to do and it feels like the hand-me-downs of your childhood that you needed to “grow into”. Sometimes when a gift has been ignored on a shelf it needs more TLC to cultivate it than it would have taken to maintain it.
  • Try things even if you aren’t sure they are for you. You just might surprise yourself. And if you don’t? So what. You will be richer for the experience.
  • Husbands look for ways to encourage your spouse to be all they were created to be. Don’t be afraid of the strength she will find. Help her discover who she has always been and you will be rewarded with a richer life and a happier wife. I love my husband so much for encouraging me in my new found talents.
  • Wives don’t be afraid of your gifts. It will not subtract from who you are as a wife or a mother. On the contrary, if you become who God designed you to be you will be a better partner and a better mom to both your sons and you daughters.
  • Single women, you are enough. Don’t ever trade who God made you for a lie in order to have something less than all he has for you. Any man worth having will embrace YOU.
  • Single men, you are glorious, walk in all God made you and never ask a woman to be less than God made her in order to be with you. A strong and gifted woman makes an amazing partner.
  • Teach your children these things.
  • And most of all, love one another. Truly love one another. Which means freeing the other to be who they were always meant to be. It is a beautiful thing.

A Change of Focus

That moment when someone says something to you that changes your focus. Ever have one of those?

I bet you have. I know I have.

Recently I have had a couple conversations that have shifted my focus on the way I am going to be handling the crazy ass, hateful, ridiculous things being said by people who think they are serving Jesus by cheering for kids who are taught to parrot hateful songs, or calling for the extermination or legal prosecution of our homosexual brothers and sisters. Rather than focusing on these negative and hateful messages that do not bring life or hope, from here on I am choosing to focus on the people who are living in the light and bringing a message of hope and love to the world.This does not mean that I will stop standing up for people and standing up against injustice. On the contrary, I intend to fight it with the only weapons that work.

My focus was becoming increasingly negative and I was allowing the hate they have been spewing to become my focus which only brings hopelessness.  I had become increasingly frustrated, especially since the passage of Prop 1 in North Carolina, because these things are going on in churches. In a recent poll 91% of people 16-29 choose “anti-gay” to describe Christians. Heck, even 80% of church going people in that age group described the church as “anti-gay”.  I am hurt and distressed that people are taught that God can’t possibly love gay people. For crying out loud people even if you believe it is a sin, Jesus died for sinful people and the cheering for such a horrible song this week made me want to do something. Say something. Maybe because I didn’t know better when I was young and listening to people like like the leader of my former community saying homosexuals should be lined up and shot and producing songs like Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Homos”.

Well, this is where hope breaks in. While I do think it is important that people realize just how pervasive this kind of thinking is and while I do feel that people need to be informed, I also think that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr . had the right idea. Whenever he spoke about injustice he always cast it in the light of the truth. That side loses. Love wins. Dr. King called us to be our best selves, he called us to overcome, he called us to love. He set a vision for the dreamers. He invited us to hope that things could change; that God’s will could truly be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Romans 12:14-21 it says,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Not that this is easy. It isn’t. Individually we must love, even when someone is hateful towards us. This week on Primetime: What Would You Do? the scenario was that a young white woman was introducing her black boyfriend to her dad for the first time. He was not happy, to say the least, about their interracial relationship. There was an elderly woman who (after the young couple left) expressed support for the father and her extreme distaste for interracial relationships. At the end of the segment after it had all been revealed for the social experiment it was, this beautiful young black man hugged that ignorant old woman and do you know what he said when asked why? He said I have been taught all my life that people like her exist, I wanted her to know what kind of person I am.
Dr. King said,
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
That is my plan. Let us drive out the darkness with the light. Let us drive out the hate with love. Let us overcome evil with good. Starting today, whenever I am feeling hopeless about the state of this or like the darkness might be winning. Instead of focusing on that I am going to feature a person or organization who are bringing light, hope and love. I am going to start today with Minnesota Pastor Oliver White.  According to the Independent, Southeastern Minnesota‘s daily newspaper, Pastor White is

A black leader at the helm of a predominantly black church, White — who marched for racial equality during the Civil Rights era — faced pushback from his own community after he stood up for gay rights in 2005.

During a national synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, he joined a majority of delegates from across the country in voting to adopt a resolution supporting gay marriage.

He returned to his congregation the following Sunday and explained his decision. Almost immediately he saw church membership plummet. Within weeks he lost two-thirds of his followers, and now a Sunday sermon draws at most about 20 people.

He now stands to lose his church for good as their balloon payment of 200k came due yesterday. Even though Pastor White, 69, stands to lose everything he stated in a recent interview,

“If we are not successful, I am not going to feel that we are defeated,” White said. “I’ve often said if one person has been turned around, if their thinking has been turned around, and they are no longer homophobic, and they can reach out and love their brothers and their sisters as they love themselves, unconditionally, without labeling them in any way, then losing the church will not be in vain.”

Here’s to you Pastor White. You are my hero of the day and the champion of those who Christ loves. Your reward sir is in heaven.

Grace Community United Church of Christ
You can email your word of encouragement here: mystory42@hotmail.com