Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It Starts with Me: My response to "The Verdict"

Some of you will stop reading the moment you see the topic of this blog, but I would encourage you to read it in its entirety. It is not at all what you think. I have avoided sharing my thoughts on the Trayvon Martin case 1) Because I did not follow it closely and can not speak to if the man was really guilty or not 2) I don't like controversial debates 3) Emotions have been way to high to be rational 4) To be honest...a lot of people already assumed they knew what I thought. Why, you ask? I'm white. There was an enormous amount of racially targeted comments and assumptions made with the verdict of this case. Let me preface the following with the fact that any loss of life is something to grieve. Any loss of a young life is reason to be outraged. But I want to have a voice for what I truly feel is heartbreaking about this whole scenario.

To be honest, the day the verdict was read, I had no idea it was happening. I was at my mom's house on a Saturday night playing cards when I realized what was happening. For those who do not know, we moved into an inner city neighborhood a couple of months ago.  We are one of the few white people who live in the surrounding blocks. We have been called, "Those white people" by some of our neighbors. We get looks all the time like, "What are they doing here?" Other neighbors welcome us with open arms. We realize that moving onto our corner was a shock for some. I've been told by a man on a bike, "Be careful out here" when walking into the house late one night. I've watched numerous drug deals happen from our window or back porch. It does not bother me to have a different color skin from my neighbors. But it made me nervous when the verdict was read.

Why? Because people were irrational. As I pulled up to our house I got a text message from my mom that said, "Not Guilty." That walk to my front door went in slow motion. I immediately started seeing posts on Facebook about the "White" man. How people wanted to riot and murder. $#%^ the "white people." Did the color of my skin suddenly dictate everything about me? In that moment...yes.  The most heart breaking thing of all was that most of this talk was coming from kids. Teenagers. Many of whom probably didn't watch the case but jumped on a media and cultural bandwagon of extremely high emotionally fueled responses to a situation. These are kids we have worked with and considered our own, but in that moment, we were the enemy. 

As we laid in bed we listened to gun shots going off in our neighborhood. I looked over at Glenn and he said, "It's probably going to happen for awhile tonight." I read and responded to some of the comments I saw but realized it was so much bigger than what I could speak to. What could I do? Had we taken 10 steps back?
It scared me to think that kids were so quick to jump on a bandwagon not of justice but of hate and revenge. Would this be the course of their life? When would they decided that they had a choice and could choose peace? Would we be effective where we lived?

My heart was heavy. My heart was broken for a generation. My heart was grieving for the families. 
I realized that this all exists because we live in a broken world. A world and a people who need to be reconciled one to another and to God.

In an extended time of silence and scripture reading the next night I was raw with God and He led me to this passage, " Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look......All this comes from God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other.  God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins.  God has given us the take of telling everyone what he is doing.  We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them." 2 Corinthians 5:21 (The Message) I shortened it for this blog, but encourage you to read it in its entirety.

This was my answer clear as day. Because we live in a broken world, we will face persecution, judgement, injustice. Our assignment is to be in the business of reconciliation, one to another and one to God. I have been incredibly disheartened by things I've seen posted by those in the Christian community. Do you not read the same Bible I do? Some of you are only fueling the fire of division. I read a comment on FB recently by someone who said, "Are you going to be Kerosene or Comfort? 

If we are called to be peacemakers it has to start with us. Our future generations are watching how we handle our daily life and our responses on a larger scale.

Forgiveness is the ONLY thing that will breed an eternal difference in these kids lives.
At the end of the day its not about our skin, it's about our heart.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

In the Thick of "It"

"In the thick of it"....that seems to be the phrase that I've heard more than any other when people talk about where we are living. We've heard that our street starts the more rough part of the neighborhood. We've been told that the corner where our house sits has always been known as "The" corner for drug activity. Most of the time when people come to our house they say, "dang..you live in the hood."

In the thick of "it." What is "it"?

"It" probably refers to...lots of crime, racism, drugs, prostitution, etc.  The kind of place you don't want to find yourself lost after dark, alone. "It" is the place where many people will drive out of their way to avoid. "It" is the place that maybe 2 blocks from your house but you've never been there. "It" is the other side of the tracks. "It" is where I live.

While "It" carries many negative connotations, "It" is beautiful. "It" is filled with smiles of children. Children who still play outside until it's dark. People in "it" all know each and sit out on their porch and wave hello. "It" is filled with much history, heritage and hope. "It" is strong. "It" is bold. "It" is pretty transparent. People in "it" don't really hide behind lots of money or big houses.  In "It" people don't apologize for who they are. Maybe the best thing of all is that Jesus lives in "It." I seem him everyday.

"It" doesn't need or want your pity. "It" is filled with talent, personalities and possibilities. "It" is the place many churches will serve for a weekend or a week on a mission trip, pat themselves on the back and forget about the rest of the year.

What "it" needs is for people to stop avoiding it and proving them right about everyone else. "It" needs consistency. "It" needs love. "It" needs neighbors and people to buy the abandoned houses, renovate and move in. "It" needs diversity. "It" needs to no longer be "it" but a neighborhood.  

"It" is my home.

Funny how where any of us live could be someone else's "it." Where is your "it"?

I would encourage you to visit. Drive through. Pray. See. Act.

I'm reading the book Radical by David Platt. This made me think:

"The price of our nondiscipleship is high for those without Christ. It is high also for the poor of this world.  Consider the cost when Christians ignore Jesus' commands to sell their possessions and give to the poor and instead choose to spend their resources on better comforts, larger homes, nicer cars and more stuff. Consider the cost when these Christians gather in churches and choose to spend millions of dollars on nice buildings to drive up to, cushioned chairs to sit in, and endless programs to enjoy for themselves.  Consdier the cost for the starving multitudes who sit outside the gate of this contemporary Christian affluence."

If you read the same Bible I do, we all have some serious thinking to do.
I have to fight against these thoughts everyday myself.
God is using "it" to teach me, grow me and humble me.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hiding In Plain Sight

I rented a movie with this title a few nights ago. It was about a family who had fallen on hard times and were living out of their car. There was this struggle with God about never leaving or forsaking them and it wasn't until a school teacher had to bring his student "home" that they were discovered and needs were met. The title has been on my mind since then...."Hiding in Plain Sight."

It has been a super busy month for the Dream Campaign. I will post an update on all of the ministry taking place. Just in the past month we have come into contact with about 80-100 new kids and their families. Our block is filled with kids playing in the streets, while drug deals and other things happen around them. I've seen it. It keeps me up at night to wonder what else is really going on. How many of the kids we work with are "Hiding in Plain Sight?"

But this got me thinking even more. How many people in general are "Hiding in Plain Sight?" Co-workers, family, friends, people sitting next to me at church? How many people are fighting a battle within or difficult circumstances that walk in front of me everyday that I may never know about?

How often do I do it?

Just yesterday I was struggling pretty bad internally and I sent a few girlfriends a basic "pray for me" text message. But that was it. There are days when I don't know how to express the deepest places in my heart. There are moments when I can't make sense of the chaos I see or how I'm even supposed to help. There are situations where I have fear and doubt and feel ashamed at my lack of faith and trust. There are days when I am screaming inside, yet slap on smile and face the day. To be honest...in those moments...I'm afraid to be seen. I'm afraid of what people will "think" or afraid they won't understand. I'm afraid my life will be misrepresented in a conversation somewhere along the way like a game of telephone. At times I can be a broken person hiding in the shell of my skin and no one knows.

Except God.  He always knows. He always sees. He always understands. And some days that is enough. And if I'm honest, other days, I need Him to be able to reach down from Heaven and physically hug or wipe my tears. But I believe He does that through others. I believe He uses other people as vessels to be his hands, feet and even hugs. But how can that happen if authenticity in relationships does not exist. If we don't allow ourselves to be seen?  I feel like that tension exists because we are human. We are broken people loving other broken people. Because sin is our nature. It's easy to mask gossip as "prayer requests." It's easy to judge another person without examining our own plank...even when we have the best of intentions. It's easy to be concerned with ourselves rather than carry another's burden.

It's called Community. We all need it. God created us for it. Being authentic is sometimes difficult because we want to remain hidden. It feels easier, but it takes a lot more work to hide than to be seen.

I have some incredible people in my life, but only I control how much of me is seen.

In the meantime, I'm glad that even when I don't feel it....God sees.

Are you hiding in plain sight? Do you want to be found?

Guess what...you already are.

Psalm 139

139 Lord, you have tested me,
    so you know all about me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
    You know my thoughts from far away.
You know where I go and where I lie down.
    You know everything I do.
Lord, you know what I want to say,
    even before the words leave my mouth.
You are all around me—in front of me and behind me.
    I feel your hand on my shoulder.
I am amazed at what you know;
    it is too much for me to understand.
Your Spirit is everywhere I go.
    I cannot escape your presence.
If I go up to heaven, you will be there.
    If I go down to the place of death, you will be there.
If I go east where the sun rises
    or go to live in the west beyond the sea,
10 even there you will take my hand and lead me.
    Your strong right hand will protect me.
11 Suppose I wanted to hide from you and said,
    “Surely the darkness will hide me.
    The day will change to night and cover me.”
12 Even the darkness is not dark to you.
    The night is as bright as the day.
    Darkness and light are the same.
13 You formed the way I think and feel.[a]
    You put me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because you made me in such a wonderful way.
    I know how amazing that was!
15 You could see my bones grow as my body took shape,
    hidden in my mother’s womb.[b]
16 You could see my body grow each passing day.[c]
    You listed all my parts, and not one of them was missing.
17 Your thoughts are beyond my understanding.[d]
    They cannot be measured!
18 If I could count them, they would be more than all the grains of sand.
    But when I finished, I would have just begun.