Saturday, August 1, 2015

On Death - Write that down.

Lisa and I have talked about a billion things over the past couple of weeks, but there are two specific things that I was directed to write down. So, that's what I'm doing. Writing it down.

(And I suppose for the sake of any strangers who stumble upon this blog, I should say that Lisa is a good friend and mom to little Eli, who recently went to be with Jesus. So she's a newly initiated member of death club, where we love well, but "we aren't as fun as Girl Scouts." Quote credit to the wonderful and hilarious Janice Foster.)

The first thing I want you to know about death is that it's not what you think it is. This is so hard to communicate, and I'm not sure anyone will believe me until they are actually in it, but it's just not what you think it is. Lisa and I sat in my car in the wee hours on Saturday night, the night before Eli passed, talking and crying and praying. She told me how she didn't think she could survive losing him, how she didn't know how she would be okay, and how she didn't know how they would go on. She shared all the fears and thoughts you can imagine, and yes, you CAN imagine it. Everything that you'd fear and think if it were your child in that hospital bed is everything that she said. I kept telling her, "If you have to do it, you'll be able to do it, and I'm so sorry that you'll be able to do it." She was sharing thoughts about life without Eli, well beyond the actual moment of loss. How would she only be a mom to a teenager? Would she be such a young empty nester? How can this be happening? This is all wrong. It absolutely is all wrong. Completely. 100%. However, there is something interesting that happens when we entertain thoughts and fears about the future in our minds. I experienced this when I lost Ransom, and I've experienced it in a hundred different ways since then. The anticipation of a thing is almost always worse than the thing itself. I truly believe the reason for that is because we fail to account for God in our minds. You have to know that when I knew that I'd be giving birth to a baby who had already passed away, I was terrified. How could I do that? How would I survive? What would it be like? Would I be completely crushed? There is no way I could live through such a thing. ....and then God. If you know my birth story, you know that I ended up giving birth with arms raised singing a worship song. It was truly the most beautiful birth experience of my life. It wasn't because of me or anything I did. It was because God showed up. When God shows up, things are completely different than our fears and expectations. We can't predict God. He does new things. He shows up. He walks with us through our darkest moments, and they are completely different than our expectations. There are moments of beauty and joy and even laughter. He genuinely draws near to the brokenhearted. And when He's near, you're okay... actually, you're better than okay, and there are times in those moments when you get a glimpse of the bigger picture and realize that your pain is worth all of this beauty, and this story, and this closeness with the Creator. I understand if you only sort of believe what I'm saying here, and that's okay, but just try to plant this little nugget in your mind. When you are fearful and anxious about the future, remember that your brain is only capable of so much. Once you're actually in those places where you're afraid, God will show up. It won't match any of the scenarios your mind has constructed, and you'll remember that He is good. So whatever it is, you'll be able to do it. And I'm so sorry (but maybe a little not sorry?) that you'll be able to do it.

Here's the second thing. Once you've walked through a loss, you have a choice. It is easy to become extremely fearful. Death has hit too close to home now. You can expect it to hit again, at every turn....OR you can become fearless. You can recognize that you have survived the worst experience of your life, and no matter what is thrown at you, you will survive. You are capable of so much more than you realized. No, you don't become reckless or try to tempt death, but you grow in strength and confidence. You think, "Screw you, Death. You thought you were going to destroy me,  but you didn't. I'm going to take this experience and tell everyone they shouldn't be afraid of you. I'm going to link arms with others who've walked this journey, and you are going to lose some of your power against us." In the past, I shared my Lord of the Rings analogy, and I'm going to share it again. This is an excerpt from a previous blog, but it still applies.

"I’ve shared this several times with several different people. I think it applies to a multitude of circumstances. I know it applies to mine. (Bear with the following nerdiness.) In the first Lord of the Rings movie, there is this scene that always makes me cry. They are running across this bridge in the mines of Moria. This monster, a Balrog, to be precise, is coming after them. Gandalf stops on the bridge and faces the monster. He yells, “You cannot pass!” The monster keeps coming at them. He says, “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun.” A moment of silence. “Go back to the shadow.” Another moment of silence. “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!” Every single time I see that scene, I cry. I think if I had any clue of the power that I have in Christ, I would face my own fears with that kind of confidence. I would slam my staff into the ground. I would say, “I am a servant of the Most High God, bearer of His Holy Spirit. The dark fire will not avail you, my enemy.” “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!” I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Yeah, great. Doesn’t Gandalf fall off the cliff in that scene?” Yes. He does. BUT THAT MONSTER DOES NOT PASS. And if you know the whole story, you know that Gandalf falls and fights that monster and emerges as Gandalf the White. Here’s a youtube clip of the scene. ( Knowing Tolkien’s motivation for writing these books, I don’t think my interpretation or encouragement from that scene is far from the mark that he intended. So, as I daily declare to my fears that they shall not pass, join with me. Declare the same to your own. Slam your staffs into the ground and refuse to be defeated. Join with me “until at last we throw down our enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside.”

Sometimes we face hard battles. We fall off the cliff and we fight. There is hurt and pain and difficulty, but our monsters DO NOT PASS. We don't give ourselves enough credit, but if fear hasn't completely overtaken our lives, if we're battle-weary and still fighting, it counts! Gandalf's battle was long and rough, and our own battles are the same, but as long as we keep fighting the temptation to let fear take over our lives, our monsters WILL NOT PASS, and guess what? WE WIN. Screw you, Death.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Broken Systems

I’ll start with the disclaimers. If you know me, you may already have an idea where I stand on these issues. If you know in advance that you disagree with me and are not open to another perspective, but just want to fuel your own flame (I get it. I’m like that sometimes.), just move on. I’m not going to change your mind. You aren’t going to change mine – certainly not in an online forum. So, agree to disagree and move on with your life. If you want to talk about it face to face, hit me up! ;)

Secondly, I’m talking to people who consider themselves Christians. Yes, some of this certainly applies outside of that realm, but if you don’t share that perspective with me, I may just sound like a crazy lunatic to you. I’m okay with that. Hopefully you’ll still be my friend, despite my crazy lunacy! :)

With that said, here goes nothing.

All systems are broken. All of them. There is no such thing as a perfect system, and no Christian person should die on the hill of defending any system. However, we should all be constantly looking critically at the systems of which we are a part. We should be examining them and asking ourselves if we are contributing to the brokenness (through action or even silence) or if we are contributing to the healing. 

It has been interesting to watch many of my colorblind friends (but you know how I feel about that already) suddenly regain their ability to see color in the past few weeks, asking things like, “Where are the protests for black-on-black crime?!” Well friends, they are out there. They don’t get the same media coverage, but there are plenty of protests for black-on-black crime. Also, you might have missed them because you are colorblind anyway, so you wouldn’t know who was protesting what. ;) Black-on-black crime occurs at a rate of 91%, while white-on-white crime occurs at a rate of 83%. Where are the protests for white-on-white crime? It seems we’ve got our own issues. We get angry that the media coverage of a white police officer killing a black man is more significant than a black police officer killing a white man. Guess what? Plenty of black people are angry that the media coverage of the protesting of black-on-black crime is so insignificant as well. Plenty of black people are angry that the media coverage of all of the recent protests are focused on the opportunists and those people who chose to become violent, while it seems that the vast majority of protestors were quite peaceful. Guess what? We’re all part of this broken media system. Every single news outlet in the country knows that these kinds of stories will get a zillion clicks, views, and comments. We feed that machine. Want more fair coverage? Stop watching, clicking, and commenting. Want things to continue exactly as they have? Click away. 

With that said, let’s talk about the police. Actually, no. That will get everyone all riled up. Let’s talk about teachers and the education system instead. Everyone’s fine with criticizing them. Good news! I’m a teacher. I can take the heat. (Snarky, snarky girl!)

Our education system, like our media system (and all systems), is broken. There are lots of ways that this brokenness manifests itself, but I want to focus on one particular area and try to draw some analogies. 

If I walk in to any school and go into a secret room to take an anonymous poll of teachers, and ask one question – “Which math teacher’s students are most likely to fail the big test?” – I am willing to bet that one or two names will be repeated over and over. In most schools, although teachers are not always in one another’s classrooms, we have an idea about what is going on. Maybe we teach the grade level above, and we’ve noticed that teachers from X classroom always perform really well, while teachers from Y classroom always seem to struggle. We know what’s up. Maybe Y teacher doesn’t show up to many professional development courses. Maybe that teacher’s “water cooler gossip” indicates that he hates the job. Maybe they just flat out seem incompetent. If you’ve worked in any job, you’ve had coworkers who were less competent than others, and everybody knew it. Right?. But what do you do about it? Do you “tattle” on your coworker, on suspicion of suckiness? Is that even a thing? Do you offer your help to them? Do you stay out of it because it’s not really your problem? Do you just thank your lucky stars that you aren’t in administration? Well, what if your kid gets assigned to that teacher’s class? You’ll probably make sure your child gets a transfer right out of there! But are you responsible for all the other kids? That’s a tough question. 

Let’s change the situation. What if you suspect a teacher of having an inappropriate relationship with a student? So, it’s no longer just that students are getting a subpar education, but perhaps they are at risk. You don’t have real evidence, but you’ve got a bad feeling. You see the way Y teacher looks at one student in particular. It just doesn’t sit well with you. Let’s say, like with the poor teaching quality, you decide not to get involved because it’s really not your problem. Besides, it’s just a feeling. Well, stuff goes down, and your gut feeling was right. Oh no. Are you partly to blame for what happened to that student? Should you have spoken up? 

What if that student was your child? Would you feel that all the people who contributed to the situation (actively, or by remaining silent) should be held accountable? Probably. 

There are lots of good teachers out there. There are also lots of bad teachers. What is the role and responsibility of good teachers in these scenarios? In my opinion, it is always to err on the side of the student… but that is HARD. It puts teachers in uncomfortable situations with coworkers. It can make you a target, an annoyance, or a whistleblower.  Anyone who has had a job with any coworkers can understand that. These kinds of things are not easy to do, at all. There have been plenty of times when I’ve failed to speak up about issues, and there will probably be plenty more in the future. However, as a Christian, shouldn’t I always be critically evaluating the system of which I am a part, and my particular role in it? Yes. It’s my job to do justly, even when it’s uncomfortable.

So NOW let’s talk about police. I have several friends who are police officers, and I do believe they are good ones. I hope they see me as a good teacher. I hope they won’t take any of this as critical of them as individuals, but that they will understand (and possibly even agree with) the concept that the system is broken. There are good police officers, and there are bad police officers. I’m sure I could go into that secret room and take that anonymous poll, and ask “Which police officer is most likely to shoot an unarmed black teenager?” and probably get one or two names over and over. That should bother us. 

Many of you read and shared Voddie Baucham’s recent piece, and probably skimmed over this part:
I have been pulled over by police for no apparent reason. In fact, it has happened on more than one occasion. I was stopped in Westwood while walking with a friend of mine who was a student at UCLA. We found ourselves lying face down on the sidewalk while officers questioned us. On another occasion, I was stopped while with my uncle. I remember his visceral response as he looked at me and my cousin (his son). The look in his eye was one of humiliation and anger. He looked at the officer and said, “My brother and I didn’t fight in Vietnam so you could treat me like this in front of my son and my nephew.”
I commend Baucham for forgiving those who treated him unjustly, but it should bother all the rest of us that we live in a society where a man like Voddie Baucham is face down on the sidewalk for no apparent reason, at the hands of those who are supposed to “do justice.” These types of stories are repeated over and over by many highly respected black men. That’s not okay. It’s not okay that these men were humiliated in front of their children. I seriously cannot imagine if a police officer had treated my dad that way, for no reason, in front of me. How could I ever look at police without fear and suspicion in the future? It is no wonder there is fear and distrust of the police in the black community. 

So, here’s the issue. The bad police who did this to Baucham certainly worked with good police who never would have done such a thing. Are the good police at all responsible here? Should they have spoken up? Did they have a gut feeling about these guys? Had they overheard water cooler gossip that indicated some racist tendencies? Did they think, “Well, that’s just that generation. He’ll be retiring soon.”? It’s hard enough to speak up if you are a teacher in a school. How much harder is it for police who have to count on one another in what could literally be life or death situations? How do the police create a culture where fairly upholding the law is more important than brotherhood, or having each other’s backs, or any of that? I don’t know. Seriously. No idea. 

A couple days after the Ferguson verdict, there was a story in the news about a police officer who wrote on Facebook, “Damn cockroaches! Squashem all!!...” Oh my gosh. How is this guy a police officer in the United States in 2014? Not only is he blatantly racist, but he was bold enough to put it on the internet for the world to see! Surely some of the good police officers who work with him have picked up on this. What have they done about it? I don’t know, but for some reason he’s still a cop. 

I do know this, though. Several years ago, our government started looking at our broken education system very critically and added in a bunch of tests and other things, in order to deal with some of these issues of teacher quality and fair education. Teacher pay is now tied to student test performance, and the whole system has gone from being one kind of broken to a different kind of broken, with very little teacher input into how the problems should be solved. I think the police are about to be in for the same thing. To you good police officers, I commend you for your good work. I hope you continue to do good work. I hope you also become very vocal about how best to fix the brokenness in your system before the government forces “fixes” on you without consulting you. 

So basically I have no answers here, just lots of questions. I hope that you agree that no system (including the police) is above reproach. As Christians, we do have to constantly evaluate our roles in our own broken systems, and especially, our silence. We are either contributing to the brokenness or to the healing. Choose wisely.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Race Talks: Race and the Christian

This one is a little over an hour. Particularly, I'd recommend Tim Keller's portion (starts around minute 26). It's worth your time, I promise!

Race Talks: Bloodlines

Got 20 minutes?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Race Talks: Listen, Listen, Listen

Wow. Yesterday's blog had over 500 page views. For perspective, the most page views one of my blogs has ever gotten was 4500, and it's been up for 3 years. haha :) I'm going to assume I hit a nerve. I will also assume that I upset some people yesterday, and that what I said bothered lots of people who did me the courtesy of keeping it to themselves. ;) I hope you noticed that I flippantly used the words "white" and "black," and avoided political correctness. I was really trying to share without pretense. I know that many people feel we should not discuss race. I would contend that this approach is doing us absolutely no good. I think we need to talk about it. So, here I go again...

Today, I just want to challenge my white friends. Let's listen. Let's listen without defensiveness. Let's listen with understanding as our objective. Go to one of your black friends and ask them to tell you what it's like to be them. Try really, really hard not to be defensive. Don't receive any of their statements as indictments against you. Just listen. Don't ask questions to try to back them into a corner. Ask questions like, "Do you think racism still exists? How have you experienced it? How did it make you feel? What should we do about it? What can white people do better?" And just listen. As I said yesterday, there are opinions across the spectrum within each racial group, so you may find that the person you talk to shares very similar opinions to your own. If you find that, I'd encourage you to keep digging, just so you can exercise your "listen without defensiveness" muscle even more! You can even go to one of the hundreds of very racially-charged Facebook threads out there right now, look at the pictures next to the names, and try to listen (read) the common thread. What are people of other races saying? They do have the right to feel there is a problem. We should also afford them the right to be heard.

I took a class in college with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was called "Truth and Reconciliation." It really rocked my world. The archbishop taught us about post-apartheid South Africa. The people of South Africa, instead of seeking retribution for the injustices done to them under apartheid, set up meetings (for lack of a better term), where people were able to voice the injustices done to them, and be heard. An amazing thing happened... forgiveness, and reconciliation. Post-apartheid South Africa could have easily been a violent, nasty mess. I'm not saying that was completely absent, but I can definitely see how this process of allowing people to be heard was so valuable in stemming the tide. So, why don't we try it out?

Does it do us any harm to just listen? If nothing else, it's good practice for all our other relationships. Listen. Practice reflective listening. "What I hear you saying is..." and see how well you do.

Please know that I am not trying to assert myself as any authority or moral superior. I just think this is an important discussion, and want us to keep talking... and listening. ;)

Also, I'm trying to convince one of my black friends to share on here soon. Hopefully I'll be successful! :)

Have a great day of listening!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Race Talks: Don't Be Colorblind

On the heels of the Zimmerman case, the door has swung open wide to discuss race in our country. Whether you believe the case to have been about race or not, the discussion is open. Let's talk.

I'm a white lady. I have friends of many different shades. Most of my adult life, I have found myself serving and ministering to people with black skin. So, I've tried to listen and learn, and I've picked up a few things along the way. I want to share with those of you who might live in a slightly more homogeneous world, or even if you don't, give you a different perspective to consider.

It is a pet peeve of mine to hear white people say they are "colorblind." I cringe when I hear it. A friend of mine made a little joke about it last night, and I figured it was time I outed myself as a colorblind hater. Haters gonna hate, right?.

Why does this bother me? Well, there are lots of reasons. First, have you ever heard a black person say they were colorblind? No, because they are not. They are acutely aware of the color of their skin. Has a black person ever asked you to be colorblind? No. I would venture to say that most of the black people I know would prefer to be respected AS black people, rather than IN SPITE OF IT. That's what the colorblind message says. "Don't worry, I'm okay with you, because I can't even see the color of your skin." That's a bad message, and a wrong one. It communicates that we, the colorblind, recognize there is something inherently bad about your color, so we choose not to even see it. No, no, no, no, no.

Don't get me wrong, here. I KNOW, without a doubt, that my white friends who are saying this are loving, well-intentioned people. If you are one of those people, I hope you know I'm not trying to bash you. I realize that because you ARE loving, well-intentioned people, after reading this and rethinking this idea, you will probably not use that statement again. That's why I'm telling you. It's like many of us are walking around with toilet paper stuck to our shoe. Consider me the friend who's willing to tell you that you're dragging that mess around.

Where did the whole "colorblind" thing come from? Well, it seems to have been an extreme take on Dr. Martin Luther King's dream speech. We should judge people on the "content of their character." Yes, we should. However, we should also respect and appreciate their color. King wasn't saying that we should become "blind" to one another's differences. Instead, we should learn to love, embrace, and appreciate one another's differences. This is far more valuable on the road to healing the many, many race issues that are alive and well in America today. Post-racist America is still a long way away. In my opinion, frank and open discussion with people of other races and a willingness to LISTEN, not defend, are the most important tools for getting there.

If you still think I'm crazy about the colorblind idea, just google "colorblind racism." You'll see what I mean.

Also, one little disclaimer. Nothing is true of ALL black people, or ALL white people, or ALL Hispanics, Asians, Middle Easterners, etc. There are billions of opinions across the spectrum within each racial group. Let's just not be blind to the fact that these racial groups exist. That's all I'm sayin'.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Summer Challenge!

Who's up for some summer fun?

Today, I asked my kids what they would like to do this summer. I wrote down their ideas. I'm going to post them on the refrigerator and use them as a defense against the curse of "I'm bored -itis." Also, I just think it will be fun to see how many of these things we can actually do!

In no particular order...

1.  Go fishing.
2.  Have a backyard campout.
3.  Go golfing.
4.  Go swimming.
5.  Find shark's teeth.
6.  Go to the beach.
7.  Go to the zoo.
8.  Make popsicles.
9.  Roast marshmallows.
10. Make smores.
11. Play in the rain.
12. Play in the sprinkler.
13. Have a dance party ("and shake your booty" - courtesy of Aspen).
14. Find seashells.
15. Go to St. Augustine for a day.
16. Build a project with Dad.
17. Make lemonade.
18. Go to Legoland and trade minifigures with the workers.
19. Go to DisneyWorld.
20. Paint pictures.
21. Have a cookout, and eat outside.
22. Have a picnic.
23. Make our own bubbles.
24. Make our own slime.
25. Go to the library.
26. Write our own story.
27. Write our own poem.
28. Find ways to serve and help others.
29. Sew something on the sewing machine.
30. Build a giant sand castle.
31. Dress up like Star Wars characters.
32. Go to a movie at the beach.
33. Go bowling.
34. Build a giant Lego ship.
35. Make our own candy.
36. Make snow cones.
37. Paint our rooms.
38. Paint the outside of our house.
39. Make shirts.
40. Put together a big puzzle.
41. Make our own puzzle.
42. Make an obstacle course.
43. Put on a show.
44. Go to M&M and Cracker Jack's house.
45. Do some Connect-the-Dots.
46. Read books.
47. Play board games.
48. Make cookies for our friends.
49. Listen to Adventures in Odyssey Novacom Series.
50. Go to tae kwon do.
51. Play hopscotch.
52. Wear costumes to the store.
53. Go skating.
54. Go bike riding.
55. Sing loud in the car with all the windows down.
56. Pray for missionaries.
57. Help at 2nd Mile.
58. Go to VBS.
59. Have a scavenger hunt.
60. Play hide and go seek.
61. Visit new parks.
62. Have a puppet show.
63. Make a home movie.

...that's what we've got so far!

Any other ideas!?!? I'd love to have a longer list, especially with more FREE ideas! :)