Just Breathe in the Moment – Breathe in Shalom

It’s there in the moment.

sunshine

Sandwiched between the sadness and the joy. Between the love and the difficult relationships. Between the sun and the clouds. Between till death do us part, and lets talk about this another time. Between confidence and fear. Between self-preservation and laying down our lives. 

Between risking it all, and guarding our hearts.

Between finding God and losing Him.

Shalom

I am starting to understand Shalom in this time between times as I listen to the rhetoric of a political figure who incites fear and anger. I wonder what has happened to our country – to respecting those in authority as given by God even when we don’t agree. To respect each other and our different opinions – the fabric of freedom.

It is a higher calling to love others rather than to hate –  to have faith instead of fear.

All politics aside – I serve the Son of  a Middle Eastern immigrant who also happens to be the Son of God, born of the Holy Ghost, and born to die that others may live.

A Middle Eastern immigrant who had to flee persecution and death on several occasions beginning as a wee child.

We are compelled to give the person who asks us for our shirt – our coat as well.

We are encouraged if asked to walk one mile to willingly go two instead.

We are called to lay down our life for others with a promise that if we hold tightly to our own lives we will lose them, but if we give up our life we will gain – everything.

We will gain Christ. 

We are called to love, love, and then love some more. We are not called to Patriotism but to Kingdom life.

We are not called to an American flag but a Banner of Love.

We are called to an expansion of the Kingdom, not an expansion of our government.

We are called to this moment in time.

We are called to the person next to us on the bus who is a different color, a different race, a different ethnicity, a different religion – but of one blood. We as Christ followers have the Spirit whispering to us, “You were called for such a time as this.” The pain, the suffering, the wars, the genocides, the immigrants, the oppressed – we were called for them.

The hurting, the weak, the despised. 

We can’t love without Shalom. True Agape love can’t spring forth from the polluted waters of fear, self-preservation or anger. 

Shalom is so much more than peace. Shalom is complete wholeness, peace, tranquility – it is our emotions at harmony with everything that is –  breathing to the rhythm of God’s love. It is a state of being even when everything around you is in a state of doing.

It’s outwardly weeping the pain of one of our children while we breath in it is well with my soul. 

It is crossing thoughts of movie theater terrorism carried away by the laughter of happy grandchildren eating popcorn without a care.

It’s overcoming the fear of flying and seeing the in the Middle Eastern Muslim sitting across from you the face of Jesus instead of the face of the enemy.

Our Triune God is great. Our country is just a group of people fighting to do the best we can with fallen perspectives and selfishness and sin striving against the guiding compass of Love with a small measure of finite greatness. 

We as disciples are to live in the moment of Shalom. It is well with our souls when we put others first.

We must recognize that we are afraid, and fear produces cognitive dissonance…

…and cognitive dissonance causes spiritual dissonance…

…and spiritual dissonance is not where Shalom abides.

Shalom resides only in the God who was willing to lay down His rights – His very life that we as immigrant children could be adopted as sons and daughters into a Kingdom without end, without boundaries, without wars, pain, or suffering. A Kingdom party of Imago Dei.

We can’t invite enemies to the party – we won’t get close enough to them to do that. We must invite friends, acquaintances and neighbors.

We are called to inhale a time as this – and bring others into that breath. 

(All photography courtesy of my son Samuel – SamShots )

 

 

Why Black Lives Should Matter to Christians

Watermarked_Love Sign (2)I am the mother of a white policeman. I am the mother of two white soldiers and mother in law to another. I am the mother of an Asian son. I have been the foster mom, respite provider, shelter, or temporary home to White, Black, and Asian children. I have friends that are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Christian,  Muslim, Hindu, Jew…  I believe that before God all lives matter. 

I also believe that although we are ALL created in the image of God, Jesus modeled a special heart for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized.  He went out of his way to minister to those who were culturally unacceptable, religious outcasts, and gender oppressed. He didn’t stand up for those in power, instead he rebuked them.

All lives matter – Jesus modeled that. He also modeled that until there is an all inclusive cultural and racial equality, both inside and outside the church, we are to speak for the marginalized. 

Timing is everything – when black lives are snuffed out unjustly – that is not the time for “All Lives Matter.” When police are snuffed out, that is not the time for Black Lives Matter. It is a time of empathy for all people. 

This is empathy training 101 – jumping down in the hole with others who are in pain instead of minimizing what they are experiencing. It’s why you don’t reply to a women who has just lost a child, “I lost a child too…” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle…” or “All lives matter.”

Imagine what empathy would like like across cultural, racial, economic, political, geographical, and religious boundaries. It would look like the hundreds of scriptures that encourage followers of Christ to care for the poor, weak, marginalized, oppressed, orphans, widows, hungry...

It would feel like Christ.

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Empathy is silently saying, I don’t understand what you going through, but I know you’re hurting and I’m here.”  It is doing for others what they can’t do for themselves in that moment, or that culture, or that time.

This is the time for the racial reconciliation and equality that should have happened a lifetime ago. 

I was raised in a white middle class suburban neighborhood in the 1960’s and 70’s, in New Jersey, and though my sister in law is black, my parents held onto racial prejudices. Though they strongly disapproved of hate groups like the KKK and spoke about equality, they didn’t want us to “bring one home” for dinner either. My in-laws held to strong racial prejudices – to the point of seeing only differences.  Big differences. That was my husband’s heritage.

It’s real. 

When I was in grade school, both my brothers and the neighborhood boys liked to mess with my mind. They told me how a little white girl like me was going to get beat up when I went to my mixed race high school. I was a scrawny white kid and was sufficiently terrified.  I had to fight the same racial prejudices of my upbringing because of ignorance.

 Ignorance. 

Two years later I was dating a young black man (hiding it from my mother) and beginning to learn that there were differences in our lives that I would never fully understand because of the privilege I was born into.

I was comfortable in our own American caste system. 

There was a reason Jesus modeled why we are to enter into the world of the marginalized. He understood the imbalance of power and the favor that goes with the status quo and privilege. 

The first time that racial prejudiced touched my life was when my Asian son was about seven years old. He went to play nearby with some children at his brothers soccer game and after a short while he came back crying that the kids had called him “ching, chong, cho.” My mothers heart broke and I was livid. (I wanted to smack the little beasts to be honest). I can empathize with the anger that rises up from injustice.

Those of us who hold power and privilege simply because of our race, economic status, or geographical location already understand that our lives matter. This country caters to white, Judaeo-Christian mores. Fact. It was our foundation. Fact. Those mores do not always reflect the truth of the gospel of Good News or of Christ. Fact. 

My Asian son is going to be a licensed driver soon – if he was black I would be anxious. I wouldn’t want to think about him getting pulled over. I have friends in mixed marriages who have told me about police stopping them to make sure they aren’t being kidnapped.

I fear for my son – he’s a good cop – a just cop – his life matters. He is on the side of right. He speaks out against injustices – especially within the church.

The political climate is creating division and hate and the church is hoodwinked into following along. We are a country torn. A people torn. A church torn.

Social media has become an Adrenalin pumped, addictive place for people to spew vile comments and push ideologies. As disciples of Jesus, we are to stand for love – to agree to disagree – to be a blessing to the nations – to others. We were not called to protect ourselves and to think only of our own rights and privileges, but to lay down our lives for our neighbor – Muslim, White, Black, Jew, Arab, Hispanic, Hindu…

Jesus didn’t “save” us for a get out jail, take care of myself, country-club Christianity, but for radical transformation that changes lives – beginning with our own.

We were called to speak out against injustice and fight for the oppressed and marginalized. Instead the American church often appears to be filled with groups of self-righteous indignant people with an attitude that says, “It’s me against the world, my own nationality, nice house, comfortable lifestyle, personal ideologies, and abundant prosperity, is more important that maintaining a posture of humility and reconciliation towards others.” 

I have had a teeny, tiny, eansy, weansy, sampling of what injustice feels like as a female pastor/ chaplain. I have stood by as men were referenced by titles despite my never being called that way (and I don’t want to be, but it’s the principle), or given positions of responsibility with less qualifications, or threatened by my education, age, or experience. I haven’t always handled it as well as my Asian son has. It hurts. My strongest mentors have been women of color and minorities who are also pastors. Women of color who know what it is to pray, pray, pray, and pray some more, for the safety of their loved ones, or lean into forgiveness towards those who deem them poor or uneducated on the basis of their skin color. I aspire to be like them – to live in the love and forgiveness that Christ modeled when he turned the other cheek and said, “Forgive them Dad, they are clueless.”

I mourn for France.

I also mourn knowing that the flags will fly, the prayers will flow, and the support will be strong – as it should be – but it will be much stronger and much more present than it was for the terrorist attacks and murders in the Middle East, or Africa, or  other developing nations that don’t represent our Western ideologies.

Maybe in “praying for repentance” in our nation our prayers should begin by asking that our hearts will break over the imbalance of power in races, gender, nationality, and cultural biases – that we will see humanity as Christ does. 

A good place to start discovering your racial prejudices is this site below. You may find out that you are more prejudiced than you realize – or you may find out that your prejudiced attitude has been transformed by releasing your deeply rooted western ideologies as you cry out to love others more than you do your own life.

Understanding Prejudice

“Our Lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”  Martin Luther King Jr. 

May we never be silent.

Facebook – A Sociological Perspective and 7 Ways to Be Positive

Facebook and other forms of social media have the potential for good, but as evidenced, also the potential for plain old stabbing ugly. I see more negatives on Facebook than positives lately. At least it feels that way when we think about how many positives outweigh one negative…

Creepy

It made me think about the commonly known sociological idea of needing to speak  more positively into a person’s life to counteract one negative. For some reason, people think Facebook is the ideal place to spew anger and personal ideologies wherever and whenever they please. I am not talking about posting personal viewpoints about religion or politics on your own page, but how we respond to others who post things on their own pages.

If I don’t agree with what you post on your page – I can choose to scroll by and leave it alone. 

What began for me as a fun way to stay in touch with family and friends, has me thinking of deleting the whole page, “unfriending” all but my closest friends and family, or just never looking at it for the sake of keeping it as a ministry tool. Yet, it is a wonderful way for me to see pictures of kids and grand-kids, some of whom I hardly get to see.

Sociologists have known for ages that for every negative that gets spoken it takes between five and nine positives to counteract.  Yet, I can think of the many times I post an article, a saying, or an image, and no one ever “LIKES” it. Yet, post an article that someone disagrees with and people who are never on my Facebook page come out of the woodwork to make judgments, speak their opinions, correct, or try to provoke an argument.

“Just saying.” 

On several occasions I have posted articles that I wanted to read later, only to find by the time I had returned to my page there was a long argument of responses already there.

I always delete the post rather than have put downs or arguments front and center. 

When you continuously post negative comments to another person’s page, it is like going into their living room for a visit and provoking an argument or telling them everything that’s wrong with their thinking.

It is not relational. It’s rude. It does not foster community. It hurts feelings.

Facebook should not be a place for thought police to tell others how to think, feel, or what convictions they should or should not have based upon your personal ideologies or doctrinal beliefs in the absence of genuine relationships. 

How long do you think a real life friendship would last that way? 

Not long ago I posted a satirical article from a silly paper, poking fun about a prominent prosperity gospel preacher “declaring he could fly.” I do not believe the prosperity gospel is sound gospel, I believe it promotes self-centered, American Christian exceptionalism, and I came out of a word of faith cult – buried a child in it – it is my personal deep conviction. Mine, mine, mine – you don’t have to agree. I found the article amusing – nothing more, nothing less. I was disappointed to have several people preach at me, even make a  comment about hoping my “friends understand that it’s satire.” Yet, instead of replying if my “friends” think people can fly they deserve to be deceived,  I deleted it. Seriously?

I don’t want to enter into rude dialogue in a public forum. If I accidentally offend someone I apologize – and I don’t preface it with a “but I thought…”

Since that satirical article was posted, I have taken notice of how many people visit my page to speak life. I have deleted three more articles in a matter of weeks, one which I hadn’t even read yet but had posted to “read later.” I have also just deleted comments that were negative and would hurt someone else, if not me.

(And yes, I “like” lots of stuff – even things I disagree with if it was a well written article with good points. I try to see from the perspective of others – I teach that in my courses. I do it to create the “positives” I’m speaking about.)

I also take notice if any “friends” comment on the video of the Muslim girl speaking about her horrific experiences of persecution (not just my Muslim friends, but Christians), or “like” the picture of the Hindu child of my friend, adorned for a religious service. I notice if they ever share a conference about grief that is being held locally, even if they don’t want to attend, but because maybe it’s important to someone else. Or because I ask and it’s important to me. I notice out of 600 plus “friends” less than 200 have joined my ministry page – the thing that is most important to me in my life in Christ – serving others who are hurting…  

I take notice if I say I may choose not to vote and people are quick to tell me how wrong I am – that my “only options” are…and my “only choice is….” People who don’t know me well enough to know what my convictions are, or if I have ever voted in any election.  Or with a strongly military family if I hold convictions of passive non-resistance or agree with taking up arms.

I don’t know my Facebook “friends” and they don’t know me. In truth, we are not even acquaintances.

I have certainly come to understand that.  I have less than a handful of friends that know me and Dave. Friends that I trust my heart to. I certainly don’t have 600.

Most of my closest friends aren’t on Facebook. They don’t like what they see there. 

If people did know me, they would understand that my empathy and trauma work stems from a soft heart and a place that is easily wounded so carefully guarded. I have good self-care in place. 

My friends understand that I have strong convictions that I try not to push on others. So when I say I probably won’t vote – I want to be respected for that – the same way I will respect your right to vote for Hillary, Trump, or anyone else (even if I don’t respect the candidate) – or not vote at all – believing you are basing your decision upon your own convictions. 

I wish I could say that sticking to ministry interests has fixed the problem, but I have had people rudely respond to articles about suicide, domestic violence, and poverty – sometimes messaging me privately to tell me how wrong I am – and deleted the comments in courtesy toward those who would be further wounded. Really?

I am not God. I am not arrogant. I am fallible. So are  you.

I am a citizen of a higher country first, and a citizen of the U.S.A. second. Both are places of freedom 

So let me make some suggestions about Facebook:

  1. If you see a post on someone else’s page, don’t argue unless you know that person desires to be engaged, or invites you to. 
  2. Instead, you can always re-post the article in your own living room (facebook page) and start a dialogue there.
  3. Find positive things to “like” about your friends posts. Use the 5 to 1 rule. If you haven’t found five positives with a friends opinions don’t respond negatively with one. Five likes on grandkids pictures don’t count.
  4. Remember people have feelings and you never know what someone is going through at any given moment in time. You can make or break that day with positive or negative words. Speak life.
  5. We live in a free country – try not to be like the politicians who spend more time bashing each other than dealing with the issues. We don’t need thought police.
  6. Ultimately, we are all on the same side – wanting what we believe is best for our country, the church, our children, our communities – even when we differ.
  7. If you are a Christian – remember that we are salt and light. Spending all your time speaking out against the sins of this country, the moral issues you disagree with, or end time judgements is not living how Jesus did. Jesus spent the majority of His ministry healing, doing good, and speaking life – even to His enemies. That is the power of the gospel -the Good News.

 

So, if I unfriend you, don’t take it personally. I need to take care of my heart and stay close to my kids and I am trying to figure out how to do that. Maybe I just need to stay away for a season –  As Dave says, “It’s Facebook.” I know.

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If you are a “friend” you can follow me where it matters to me the most – my ministry page. That is where I am busy trying to feed vulnerable children and families, help orphans and widows, and serve the poor and hurting. That’s who I am – God uses our brokenness for His glory. I am trying to live out that lesson through social media – be patient with me. 

Compassionate Reach Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

The Message of the Cross in the Face of a Child

“I don’t want anything else from this world. Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.”
Refugee 1

Compassion has a face. Love has a voice. Action has a motive. Christ. 

We are all strangers in a strange land, pilgrims passing through.                   (Full story here:  News )

He only wanted a life for his family, fleeing from a country where over 11 million people have been displaced since 2011 and a hundreds of thousands have died. Surrounding countries such as Iraq, are facing their own civil wars and terrorism.

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Where would you go? He tried to go to Canada to join his sister through legal immigration means, and they were denied.

What would you do to save your littles?

It is so easy for us to miss the living, breathing, brokenness of real life, amidst the abundant sterility of our well-kept lives. The faces of refugees are not sterile, or well-kept, but desperate and stricken.

They were just little boys, the same ages as some of my grandsons.

Refugee 2

In the face of Galip, I see my four year old Hector, who just started Kindergarten last week. I bought him a backpack with the image of a shark on it.  It is an,  “I love you, work hard in school,” gift of my love. I’ve never had to think about keeping his head above water as we struggled to stay alive. I don’t have to worry about a bombs exploding overhead.

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Galip should be picking out a backpack and jumping with excitement over the big yellow buses that go by. He should be grinning from ear to ear as he picks up his new box of crayons and shows them to papa with pride. He should be looking forward to Christmas and the shiny light shows that North America displays. His aunt should be able to see the snowflakes reflected in his eyes as he gazes in rapture at his first downy sight. He should be visiting museums and learning about Pirates, U.S. History, and tasting freedom and safety. 

Hector 1

In the image of tiny two year old Alyan, I see our little grandson David Grubb.

refugees 3

I can’t look at the image of Alyan’s lifeless body, lying face down on the beach, without weeping. He should be smelling flowers, and growing up to the  questions of “why?” “Why do they have so many cars mama?” “Why is it so green?” He should be swinging on a swing saying, “higher!” or playing in a sandbox with his mother hovering nearby, her eyes full of the wonder of raising a toddler. Instead her eyes are closed, forever, and her husband holds the images of pain for a lifetime as they were buried in the very place he tried to flee from.

I would have taken them all into my home so they would not be a “burden” to society. David would have housed them, and clothed them, fed them, loved them, and helped them to find a new life. He would have held their toddler so mama and papa could explore an evening in their glorious new beginnings. In doing so, maybe they would find their life in Christ. (The sad implication of our financial changes as result of David’s former loss of career with IBM, isn’t in our own lack of need, but in our inability to help and house the hurting.)

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In helping others, we are helped. In loving others, we are loved. In teaching others, we learn the many things education can’t provide. In giving, we receive gifts that no amount of money can purchase. The things that the Donald Trumps’ of the world are lacking in – a Kingdom vision.

People are often shouting about the sins of America in terms of external issues of morality, and what we need to do become a great nation again. Maybe the wicked ways we need humble ourselves and pray about (2 Chron. 7:14), are not the things that America is doing, as much as what we are not doing, caring for widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor, and revealing a nation full of compassion towards all of God’s image bearers. (Duet. 24:17, Exodus 23:9, Duet. 27:19, I John 3:17, Is. 58:7-10 to name a few.)

Jesus was moved with compassion towards all people, at all times; outraged only at those who were more interested in the preservation of themselves and their historic religious identities. Acts 10:38 says it clearly,

“You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.   (The MSG)

We are all refugees in a foreign land seeking a safe place to rest our heads, be free from struggling, and find peace in this fleeting moment of time.

For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. I Chron. 29:15 (ESV)

With issues of sovereignty, it’s crucial that we remember we are all just passing through the place we temporally call home. We are here to glorify God and to grow His Kingdom, with disciples who are relentlessly pursuing Him. We should be radically altered in that pursuit so we are transformed to reflect the character and nature of Jesus!

 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,   Phil 3:20 (ESV)

Maybe our “passions” as American citizens of heaven, need to be re-aligned.

 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.  I pet 2:11 (ESV)

Let us all be people of grace to the Alyans’ and Galips’ of the world. Let’s not appear before God as a nation whose sin was to stand by and idly watch the suffering of others, engorged by our own gluttony, as we turn our eyes from suffering.

Maybe that is the message of the cross.

Heaven is Waiting, Hell Kicked You Out

DoorThere are a lot of things floating around the internet today about a particular Christian ministry closing its doors. Times like this the negative is publicized much more than the good. For some reason people seek opportunities to put others down rather than build them up. It makes us feel bigger or more important to be right rather than to be righteous. I don’t know much about the ministry so I don’t have much to comment. I do give the people in the organization credit for being brave enough to start the ministry, and for the courage it took to repent of any wrongdoing. Sometimes we are simply damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

I don’t like to debate anymore over things that I have little knowledge of – they simply don’t matter. Social justice, care-giving, family, love – the love of Jesus is my primary focus. I am more worried about my own life and heart – first.  I have experienced the ugly defensive, opinionated, them against us side of humanity as both a perpetrator and a recipient far too often, and I would be a liar to say I still don’t have moments when I am hurt or rejected. But God is doing a work of grace in me, and I recognize it’s fully my issue, not the sucker whose ideologies I felt I needed to bash. I believe there is a Person and thing called Truth – but I believe that the things called Love and Grace are the foundation to Truth. You can’t live Truth without Love. You can’t love without grace. The Law of Christ – love God and love your neighbor. (Gal. 6:2, Mk.12:28)

Jesus has been misrepresented a lot. He was blamed for the Crusades and the Holocaust. He gets blamed for wealthy fat cat televangelists, and name it and claim it pastors who get rich off the vulnerable; he at fault for the worldwide famine. He gets blamed for tornadoes, floods, fires, and earthquakes, and the people who died as a result. He gets criticized when I make a mistake, or any human being does in His name to wrongly accuse, judge or hurt another. Rarely is he given the credit for those who were saved from death, or the poverty that is alleviated as a result of people doing God’s work. Rarely is He appreciated when a life is changed and the person changed is happier, healthier and at peace as a result. Rarely is He given credit when I do good in His name and I am thanked for it, or when I gave him credit for the actions and behavior of my eight successful, well behaved children.  I give Him credit, but it is most often given back to me.

There will always be people who do wrong in the name of Jesus making  the name “Christian” or “Christianity” appear like “hell” is for the good guys because “heaven” is filled with hypocrites.  That’s not Jesus. Jesus was simple and spoke a simple word. He walked around in a robe and sandals without owning his own – anything. He fed, healed, taught and loved all those His shadow fell upon– sinner and saint.  The only people He got angry with were the religious leaders of his time – the loud obnoxious opinionated who stood in places of authority throwing around words of condemnation instead of words that brought Life. Not the hurting. The hurting He loved into lasting life changes; He loved them into the Kingdom.  If only we did the same.

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

If only…