Juneteenth & Philando Castile, Still Waiting

A much overlooked holiday was observed in African American communities around the nation this week. Juneteenth is a celebration of the day the last slaves in Texas were told they were free. It was June 19th, 1865 and more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Two years. These men, women, and children had been free on paper and it did not touch the reality of their lives.

Moving forward in time 100 years to 1965 would show a nation of “free” black people whose lives over the past century were constricted, hemmed in by colored water fountains, restrooms, bus seating, redlining, segregated schools and more than 500 lynchings in the state of Mississippi alone. That year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched from Selma to Montgomery. That year, the Voting Rights Act was passed.

Let’s bring it 50 years further and observe 2015 where the nation was divided over the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown, Freddy Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and other people of color. A USA Today article lists 30 names of unarmed African Americans killed by police in the one year following Michael Brown’s death. (According to an article from The Washington Post, that number may be much higher.)

On Friday of last week, just before many communities were to celebrate the anniversary of their freedom, a jury handed down an aquittal in the case of the officer who fired 7 shots into the car where Philando Castile had moments before been enjoying a day with two loved ones, his girlfriend and her young daughter. By all accounts, Mr. Castile was a model citizen who served his community well. He was a legal gun owner, and he disclosed his possession of that gun to the police when they approached the car. The officer involved claims he feared that Mr. Castile was reaching for his weapon, but there is no evidence to support his fear.

Fear.

I do not doubt that the officer in question was afraid. I do not doubt that he immediately regretted his decision to open fire, it is all over the video evidence. I do not doubt that this moment will haunt him for the rest of his life. But it was his fear that killed Philando Castile. Fear that seemingly had no basis other than the color of Mr. Castile’s skin.

I sit at my computer as a white woman who has been let off with a warning every time I’ve been pulled over in my life, pondering the death of a man with a broken tail light.

At the end of this week following Juneteenth 2017 I can’t help thinking that we are still waiting for the news to be broadcast far enough that black people are free, that we are all created equal, and that it is up to every one of us to make those written statements a reality.

 

More Resources:
Timeline from slavery to civil rights
History of lynching in Mississippi from 1865 to 1965

The Question that Changes Everything

Most of us walk through life thinking what we see is a reflection of reality. Our opinions are based on real, factual, objective observation and they are right!

But wait…

What if you don’t have all the information?
What if you don’t see things clearly?
What if you are actually just picking up opinions someone else dropped in front of you?
How can you tell?

I don’t imagine that many of us wake up every morning ready to apply the scientific method to our daily routine. Do we research our toothpaste? What about that brushing technique? No, most of us wave off any thought of wasting our precious time on what we are sure is good enough, even if it isn’t perfect.

Have you fallen into a routine where you always drive the same way to work? Do you always order the same thing from that restaurant you always go to? Are you watching the same news anchors and commentators day in and day out? Maybe it’s time for a change.

I want to share with you one simple question that has made the biggest impact in my life. It has changed my opinions, caused me to do a little more digging in regard to things I take for granted, and it even changed the way I drive across town.

Are you ready?

(No that wasn’t the question!)

What if I’m wrong?

There it is, the question that changes everything. What if I’m wrong, about this toothpaste? About the situation in the Middle East? About my politics or my parenting?

I like to think I am always right. Who doesn’t? Admitting I’m wrong is uncomfortable, and really, let’s face it, I just hate it! But the truth is that I very rarely see the situation, the issue, the product, from every angle. There is almost always something I’m missing, and guess what–That is ok!

I’m human. You are human. We are limited in our understanding!

No one has all the right answers, there isn’t a cheat sheet to life. So give yourself a break and start learning to assume that there is a remote possibility that you are not 100% right all the time!

What if I’m wrong? What if you are wrong? What more do I need to know, see, do, experience in order to get a better handle on this?

Wisdom is not always having all the right answers, it is instead the ability to recognize both what information we have and what we still need to learn in order to make the right choices.

Seeing things clearly,
How ReFreshing!

How I became a poet

Words are kind of my thing, I write, I talk,
and yet, I never was a poet.

I always felt too tight, bottled up,
what if the words were wrong?

What if they didn’t flow, or fit, or rhyme?

What if they weren’t perfect?

Perfection was my Great Wall of China,
Impressive in the middle, if unfinished at the ends.

It was impossible to be perfect, I knew
I couldn’t reach that high, that wide.

I’d shuffle pretty parts as people passed
keeping them from seeing what lay undone.

Until tired, I saw with new eyes my fellow shufflers
All exhausted from the motion meant to hide.

And others, who had laid their pretty bits aside
still close at hand, but not as screens for broken things inside
Instead they opened wide their hearts and lifted up their heads
No longer shamed, with joy their daily bread.

Then words arose, delicious aromas of sweetness wafting by
I took my paper, and drawing one down began to write.

A Prayer for Peace

I offered this prayer at our Vigil to Pray for Peace in Emporia, KS on July 10, 2016.

God of grace and mercy,

We come tonight with our hands full, our fingers tightly gripping our fear, our anger, our pain, our suspicion, our frustration and feelings of powerlessness in the face of what seems an impossible problem.

We know that our fear leads to isolation, our anger builds walls and our frustration can lead to apathy. By your mercy, forgive us for allowing our bitterness to bring division, and our pain to excuse contributing to the pain of others.

Tonight we look to you for the healing of our hearts and hearts across our land. Teach us to let go of all we are clutching, lest we use our closed fists to add to the violence.

Give us strength to pry open our fingers so that we may stretch out our palms to you and receive your healing grace.

May your healing produce a peace that is not only an absence of violence or conflict, but full of forgiveness, restoration, and joy.

Instill in us a love that reaches across racial boundaries, economic boundaries, religious boundaries, and every dividing wall of hostility. Grant us wisdom as we work toward reconciliation wherever we are, whatever our context.

Turn our hearts toward you when we grow weary. Unite us in purpose so that we know we are not alone. Light a path before us so that our steps may be clear as we journey together toward peace.

I offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, who laid down his life for the healing of the world.

Amen.

Fundamentals—Salvation

When Christians talk about salvation, we often give the impression that it is a moment in time in which we flip a switch that means we will go to Heaven when we die. While I believe Heaven is important, salvation is bigger than what happens when we die.

In the last Fundamentals post, we looked at humanity and sin. Sin broke our good relationship with God, with our fellow humans, and with creation. Salvation brings an opportunity for restoration of those relationships as well.

Walking with God

God has always wanted to walk with us. He created us to be in relationship with himself. In the days of the Garden, he walked with the man and woman in the cool of the day. It was his habit. Through the times of chaos, the patriarchs, and the early law, God reached out for fellowship. The Old Testament writers spoke again and again about a time when God would write his law on our hearts and the need for external coercive measures would fall away. A time of restored relationship with God, and a renewed sense of fellowship with him.

Jesus came, announcing a fulfillment of prophecy and the nearness of God’s Kingdom.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…” The response that Jesus calls for is repentance and belief.

Repentance is a concept that gets a lot of bad press. At it’s core, though, it is simply a call to change your mind and change your direction. We do it all the time without even thinking about it. I was using a particular brand of laundry soap, it gave me hives, so I repented of using that soap and switched to one that didn’t.

Photo by linder6580

Photo by linder6580

My daughter had a choir concert out of town a while back. It was important that we get there on time for the rehearsal because I was driving 2 other girls to this event. I followed the directions and couldn’t find it. I drove back and forth, up and down the same street for a half mile in both directions and couldn’t find it. Finally I rechecked the directions and realized I had turned right when I should have turned left. I repented and went back to where I made the wrong turn and took the right one. We got there right on time.

The story of humanity making a wrong turn at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil begins with an idea that we need to be more like God. There is just one problem.

Only God can be God.

We’ve displaced God, taking on the role of owner of creation and judge over ourselves and others. We’ve often trashed creation, and we do a terrible job of judging rightly. We tend to see our wants as needs, and the mistakes of others as much greater than our own. Salvation begins the process of restoring God to his rightful place in every aspect of our lives.DSC00977

Relationships Healed

The way to restoration in our relationships is taking on a new view of self and others. A realistic view that Jesus talks about in his parable about the speck of dust and the log. The Holy Spirit helps us discern where we’ve gone wrong and begins to form in us the ability to see through the lens of grace. We have to know who we are in our brokenness and receive God’s healing grace for ourselves when we find we are not able to live up to a perfect standard. Only then can we begin to extend that same grace to others. That is how we find healing in ourselves, forgiveness for our mistakes and the ability to offer the same healing forgiveness to others.

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Creation Care

In the beginning we had a job to do. We were to be stewards of creation. When we walk in sin, that relationship is broken as well. Paul says that creation cries out for redemption. It is our job as Christians not only to administer grace to our fellow human beings, but to care about all of creation. That means asking God how we can participate in stewarding creation in our daily lives. It means caring about things like waste of resources, mistreatment of animals, and even climate change.

You and I can’t fix these things on our own, and that is not our job. But it is our job to care and to do what we can to manage this gift well.

God desires to do more than give you a ticket to heaven. God wants to bring restoration to your daily life, your relationships, and the whole earth.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

 

Below is the statement on salvation from our regional Faith and Practice.

Salvation.

Salvation is a personal matter between people and their Maker. It consists of forgiveness for sins as well as sanctification or the cleansing of sinful human nature. People can be redeemed because of the atoning death of Jesus Christ and the direct work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit restores people to fellowship with God the Father and enables them to love Him wholeheartedly. Salvation does not depend on outward ceremonies or symbols. Sanctification is the work of God which is accomplished through the baptism with the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer who is yielded totally to God. The believer is thus empowered to witness to the living Christ. Sanctification is both an act in which one’s heart is cleansed and a process in which the life is continuously disciplined to God’s holy standards.

Silencing the “Shoulds” & Taking Back Your Schedule

I wear many hats. With every hat comes a list of things that I have to do in order to be a responsible hat-wearer. Unfortunately, most days there are just too many things I should do, and I am (by far) not the busiest person I know.

How did we get here and how do we do all of this without killing ourselves in the process?

Here is what I SHOULD include in my day:

Work is important, at least 8 hours a day
Health is important, 1 hour of exercise
Not smelling is important, 30 minutes to shower and get dressed
Mental health is important, 1 hour of reading
Spiritual health is important, too. 1 hour of prayer and meditation
Eating well is important, 1-2 hours cooking, 1-2 hours eating
Keeping house is important, 1 hour of cleaning
Spousal relationships are important, 1 hour of relationship building
My 3 kids are important, 30 minutes isn’t too much to ask for each of them, 1.5 hours of kid time
Having friends is important, 45 minutes of catching up
Helping others is important, 15 minutes of being a good neighbor
Clean clothes are important, 1.5 hours of laundry
Relaxation is important, 30 minutes of “me” time
Sleep is important, 8 hours to recharge

A full day, and it only took me 30 hours to accomplish it all. Good thing I don’t have to commute.

Reality dictates that the day has only 24 hours, and you only have a certain amount of energy to make it through each day. We have set ourselves up for so much heartache when we stack our plates with unrealistic expectations. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to do it all. I know that sometimes we can multitask, but even with those multitasking fixes, we easily end up stealing from tomorrow’s energy to accomplish today’s goals. Realistically, we cannot keep up this pace without having a breakdown along the way.

So what is likely to get laid down first? Anything that takes extra brain power or will power. This is why the typical American diet is horrendous. This is why our physical activity is lacking. This is why our houses get cluttered, or our relationships break down. We have to put energy into everything we do, so how do we begin to bring some sanity to our overloaded schedules?

Redistribute the workload. There are things you have to do, no one can exercise for you, but if you have a spouse, or kids, or a roommate, household tasks can be shared.

Simplify. Fewer things means fewer things to take care of. Fewer clothes means less laundry. Fewer dishes means less to load in to the dishwasher.

Remove or modify the things that correspond to someone else’s expectations. A lot of what drives our schedules comes from guilt or fear of not living up to what others expect. Set your priorities and let the rest go.

Don’t kill yourself trying to be HEALTHY! Health includes your stress levels. Make changes incrementally, simplify your diet and exercise routines. Healthy choices only count if you can actually follow through with them.

Don’t be afraid to plan. Sometimes I fear that if I actually see everything that I am doing written on a page I will faint from exhaustion. Planning ahead can really help us stay on task and not waste precious time and energy on things that will be important tomorrow instead of the things that must be done today.

If we don’t take the time to ponder our priorities, we get swept along in the riptide of demands on our time and energy. We run ourselves ragged, or we shut down and nothing (important or not) gets done. Take a deep breathe and start planning a new year of less stress and more health by taking control of your chaotic schedule!

Now that’s ReFreshing!

6 Reasons Why I’m Always Running Behind

I claim tardiness as my number one weakness in life. For whatever reason, I was not blessed with the on-time gene. This drives some people crazy, others feel it is balanced by my winning personality, some are relieved because they know they are not alone. Here are some things my well-timed friends may find surprising. Maybe this will bring peace of mind and clear up any misunderstandings about why I, and others like me, find it difficult to arrive before the bell.

1. I absolutely hate being late.

I am fully aware of my lack of promptness. It is not a power play, like some would have you believe. I am usually running behind because of my inability to say no to the 10 tasks that pop up just before I walk out the door. The phone always rings. My toddler has the worst timing for bowel movements. My second-grader waits until now to show me the 4 page writing assignment that showcases her new-found brilliance in reading. My oldest has a meltdown over 5th grade girl drama. All in the 5 minutes before we are supposed to walk out the door. This is why we set an alarm for 15 minutes before we are supposed to leave, but somehow that is still not enough.

2. I sometimes use lateness as a cover.

I am an introvert. I hate being the first one anywhere that I do not have a specific role to play. Small talk kills me. So I would rather walk into a meeting after others are already engaged in conversation. That way I can listen and only contribute what I feel is important. This is why I love meetings with a mingle buffer. The time to talk starts 15 minutes before, usually over coffee, and I can come anytime in that 15 minute window. If I am feeling chatty, I can get there early. If I am already talked out or have something pressing to take care of then I can arrive just before the meeting officially starts.

3. I hate to leave tasks incomplete.

I am a bit of a perfectionist. Not obsessively, but enough that I find it difficult to stop in the middle of a project to go somewhere and do something else. That means if I am working on something that I can finish in the next few minutes and it will mean arriving up to five minutes late, I will probably choose that option. That goes for half-written sermons to a half-loaded dishwasher to half-read emails and articles.

4. I am not always late.

I am a pastor, which means there are things I cannot be late for; funerals, weddings, and worship services are among them. So I set a really early time to leave for the event. I don’t start anything up to an hour before I leave the house. I plan a half-hour buffer between my arrival time and the start of any planned event. I sometimes still arrive after my artificial deadline, but always before I am needed.

5. If I am late, it is not about you.

My lateness is not a reflection of how much I value the people or the function I am attending. If I am late for a coffee date or a committee meeting, I am not making a statement. I’m just late. Probably a little overwhelmed by life. Definitely chastising myself for being 35 and still unable to leave the house or office and get where I am going on time.

6. I’m the friend who will clear her schedule for you.

People tend to be my highest priority. If we have met for coffee and we are going long, I will not stop mid-conversation to dash off to the next thing. I will cancel my next meeting before leaving you hanging if you need to talk. My kids and husband come first, so If they need me, I am there for them. If someone is in crisis and I can talk with them, pray with them, listen to them process their situation, the schedule goes out the window.

Chalk it up to genetics, perfectionism, prioritizing relationships, it all adds up to a part of who I am that alternately brings comfort to some and annoyance to others. It is part of who I am, but not something to which I have surrendered. Maybe the ReFreshing Life consists of accepting ourselves while continuing to press toward becoming our best selves.

What is your weakness? Are you owning it? How can you work toward your best self?