My first-born is headed off to middle school. Yesterday, it got real, when she picked up her 6th grade class schedule and school gear. Last night, we gathered one last time with mothers and daughters who have walked through a Jen Hatmaker study with us, called Brave Girl. I’d like to think that it’s been formative for the girls, reinforcing what matters as they head into this new frontier. At the end of our evening, we gave them ‘BRAVE’necklaces from The Giving Keys. The control-freak in me has done everything I can to prepare her well.
Today, I looked up the definition of brave: ready to face danger and/or pain.
What the hell was I thinking? I’m not sure I want her to be brave! I think what I reallywant is for her to be SAFE. Sure, courage and bravery sound lovely – but, am I really ready for this? You can read all the books, do all the studies and try your best to control outcomes. But, eventually, we all face the reality that we can’t.
This morning, I sat with a bunch of moms, who together make up the leadership team for Mothers Together at Menlo Church. We talked about the year ahead, and also reflected on past teaching moments that have stuck with us through the years. Hands-down, we agreed that the women who said, ‘here’s what I’ve told nobody till now’ or ‘here’s a part of my story that often sends me to the bathroom in tears’ ..when someone is willing to be vulnerable and show you their true-self, the lessons and comfort that come from that are second-to-none. We remember the ones who were brave.
We all want to be brave. Yet, none of us want to face danger or pain. That’s the quandary. Whether you’re headed into your teenage years or you already carry an AARP card – none of us seek suffering. There’s that great passage in Romans that says, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” This truth runs through many faiths. Still, as much as we understand this process in our minds, our hearts hate the shitty reality of pain. We will do just about anything to avoid it, even as we glorify the byproducts of the process. Speaking to this process in his book, The Road to Character, David Brooks says, “Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Many people don’t come out healed; they come out different.” Wow. Along the same lines, I read a blog post by Sarah Bessey this morning, where she writes: “I always thought I would be one sort of person, but now I’m someone else.” We want to be brave, but we don’t want the suffering….we don’t want to change. If we applaud a growth mindset for our head, shouldn’t the same be true of our hearts?
One of the gals who spoke this morning said, “sometimes, I think my job is to lower the bar.” We all laughed. Why? Because, a) we walk around thinking that if the world knew all of the skeletons in our closets, we would be instantly declared Limbo Champions (cuz, we’re all constantly lowering the bar). And, b) we laugh out of the sheer relief that we’re not the only ones with broken pieces. Wouldn’t it be grand, if we could all lower the bar…in real life? Amazingly, in lowering the bar, we might actually grow taller and stronger.
The advice that Jen Hatmaker gave the girls is pretty good advice for women of all ages:
For young and old, this is it! So, can we make a pact? No charades, please. If we’re gonna encourage our kids in this and do our best to model this, it would help if we stayed true to ourselves and our stories. I love what Brene Brown says about our stories. She writes:
Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.
I am always grateful to the women who, in private or public, are willing to share their brokenness. But, as Brene cautions, we have to use some discretion in picking the people and places where we choose pull back the curtains on some portion of our story. That said, discretion isdifferent from fabrication. Maybe we don’t have to tell our deepest darkest secrets to the world, but is it too much to ask we stop pretending like we always have our shit together? I say this, partly as a plea and partly as a confession.
We all want the bravery placard. Yet, we all pray we can bypass the process. You can’t. Life just doesn’t work that way. What you CAN do, is find people. The good ones actually draw near when life sucks. They’ll be honest about their pain, and will keep your own story safe. The real KEY, I will tell my daughter as she heads off to middle school….is that it’s scary and hard, but it is good to strive for bravery, even though there are not shortcuts….even though there will be moments she may cry (when means I will probably cry too)…still, it is good to pursue perseverance and character. Eventually, you will get to hope….especially, if you have people who will walk with you along the way. #timetolaunchmybaby #bebrave #bekind #beyou #lovejesus #bettertogether
Earlier this week, I was apologizing to one my kids. It had been one of those days when I’d gotten buried in a mountain of back-to-school paperwork, bills to pay, etc. Confession: I had pretty much ignored my kids all day, in trying to cross a few things off my list. Anyways, in an effort to be a good example, be the bigger person, yada, yada….I pulled aside my kids and said, ‘I’m really sorry I’ve been so busy and kinda MIA all day’. One unnamed cherub of a child looked at me and replied, ‘What do you mean? Today was kinda like everyday?’. OMG. Stick a dagger in my heart! Do you really think I ignore you everyday?!?!? Today has NOT been like everyday!!! Don’t you remember the coding camps and the sports camps and the ‘mommy and me’ times and the freakin’ falconry in IRELAND!?!!?!? Have you already forgotten the laundry list of priceless memories we made together this summer!?!?
So, today is redemption day. I vowed then and there to end the year on a bang by taking them to the beach!!!!! By golly, their last memory of this splendid summer, will be of the fantastic array activities and experiences we shared, including one last glorious hike to Half Moon Bay.
Ninety-six years ago, women got the right to vote. In commemoration of that, today is Women’s Equality Day. I was thinking about that this morning….that on this day we celebrate women’s suffrage and equality, I am closing out the summer with my kids, with this ‘best ever trip to the beach’; it’s as if, as one chapter closes, another begins. I sometimes joke that school starting is like my ‘grand emancipation’. This phrase is especially true this year: I’m sending my youngest off to Kindergarten. Part of me can’t believe my baby is headed to elementary school. Another part of me is practically giddy with anticipation, envisioning all that I’ll get done sans children and sans the guilt of handing them the iPad….again. So, watch out, world! We are about to put something other than ‘personal chef, chauffeur, life-coach and activities coordinator to three darling kids’ on my LinkedIn profile. (Ha Ha)
Here’s the thing… While I am so excited about life beyond cooking, cleaning and driving my kids all over the Peninsula – I don’t want to screw this up. On the one hand, I want to be an example to my daughter and sons, that women can do anything! On the other hand, I don’t want to be so completely preoccupied with saving the world, that I lose my own family.
I think the hardest part about being a woman right now is that we’re living in 2016, with all of the dreams and aspirations of the twenty-first century, yet we are stuck in a society that still often operates as if it were 1950. Newsflash: women can do anything but women can’t do IT ALL. And, this is what’s so hard. We want to cure diseases and fight racism and sit on the boards of big companies…. but, then we’re trying to serve on the PTO, run our school’s book fair, stay on top of crazy sports schedules, have a healthy (locally-sourced and organic, of course) dinner on the table when everyone comes home, find time for our own health/wellness, plan awesome beach excursions, etc.. Don’t even get me started on Pinterest. God bless you, if that’s you’re thing. But, I’ve pretty much banned myself from Pinterest when trying to plan birthday parties. #noteveryoneismarthastewart We try so hard to do it all and be it all.
Here’s the deal, ladies. It is hard and messy; truth is, our lives may never be simple. I suspect women will always have a more complicated patchwork of pieces, compared with men. But, let’s commit to cheering each other along the way. I wouldn’t be ‘here’ – if it weren’t for the people who spoke words of encouragement and empowerment into me….women who didn’t make me feel guilty for saying no – even when it was to them. I’ve learned the hard way, that another person’s project cannot become my problem. One of the biggest gifts we can give our kids is not only the example of strong women, but authentic living. Brene Brown defines authentic living this way:
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
I want my kids to see the ‘best’ and true version of me – not the ‘trying to be everything to everyone’ me. Don’t get me wrong. Love the spirit of Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes. But, Lord help me, should I try to say ‘yes’ to everything. Another smart lady, Lysa Tyrkeurst writes: “A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.” Wow. I sometimes say, you can’t give what you don’t have. How can we pour into the hearts and minds of our kids, if we are running on fumes?
It’s not just back to school for my kids, it’s back to school for me. I’m trying to go back and learn who I am…the me who believes my most sacred work is loving my family AND the me that’s ready to peek past the curtains of my home. I know my kids learn best – not by hearing me ‘preach’ but by seeing me ‘do’. If I want them to learn purpose and balance – I have to live it. Few meaningful acts or profound thoughts happen when you’re going 10 different directions at once.
So, whether at school or church or wherever, this is the year of me trying to be me….not me trying to be Super Woman. Our most important vote isn’t justatthe ballot box – it’s the one we give to ourselves.
How many times have we all seen someone insist one minute that he/she’s NOT a racist and then the next minute they confess to sometimes telling racist jokes. Or, maybe they feel the need to say that blacks have a real problem with gang violence in their communities . But, don’t call them a racist! They mean no harm or they’re just telling it like it is….
Did you ever watch the first few weeks of American Idol? If ever there was proof of our inability to conduct reasonably accurate self-assessments, this is it! Week after week, the judges listen to countless individuals who are absolutely sure they will be the next super star – when reality is, they suck. And, this isn’t just a fabrication of reality TV.
In 1999, two researchers from Cornell published the results of their studies on self-assessment. Their theory became known as the Dunning–Kruger effect: a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.(6) People tend to overestimate the their skills in everything from logical thinking to empathy. Even in areas like generosity, we tend to overrate our likelihood to act in selfless ways. (7)
Is there the a solution to our blind-spots? Dunning says high quality feedback is the best means of increasing our awareness. (8) In 2003, Dunning and another colleague, Joyce Ehrlinger, published a study showing that our views of ourselves CAN shift with external cues. While our Facebook posts may not always change the opinions others, we can’t discount the impact of those around us on our perceptions of ourselves. The research also reveals that usually ignorance rather than arrogance, that is the root cause of our skewed view of ourselves.
So, am I a racist?
I grew up in the Midwest. My parents were from Indiana. My father came from a family of farmers. He used to tell stories about getting up at the crack of dawn to milk the cows. Faith, family and hard work were values instilled in me from a young age. While I was born in Indiana, the only years I can remember were in the Chicago suburbs. And, the first meaningful or personal interaction I recall with an African-American was at the home of famed Chicago Bear, Walter Payton, aka “Sweetness”. He lived down the road and had kids our age. A few times, we went over to his house to play. As I grew older, some of my closest friends were Asian. They were the children of successful doctors. For better or worse, color didn’t equate to something negative or bad. The people I knew, were people of great accomplishment.
This kind of exposure was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because I grew up assuming that color wasn’t a bad thing. It was a curse because I assumed that if you worked hard enough, you could be like the people I’d known growing up.
Fast forward a few decades….
I’m now married to a Singaporean. Our kids are half Caucasian/half Chinese. My experience as the spouse of an Asian immigrant and mother of bi-racial children has given me a TINY glimpse into the way racial bias lives on. A few years ago, I started reading books, like Just Mercy, that opened my eyes the rampant racism and injustice that still plagues our nation today.
The younger me hadn’t fully understood the depth of fear, the extreme injustice and huge obstacles that make the everyday African-American experience so much more difficult. Their reality was one that made my childhood encounters the exception rather than the rule. And, while hard work certainly played into it – hard work alone could not begin to remedy the challenges they faced. Nobody ever said that to make the leap from a hard-working farmer to a small business owner, living in an affluent Chicago suburb wasn’t impossible for a black man….but, was probably 1,000 times more difficult than it was for my white father. Nobody had to warn me about wearing hoodies or asked me to memorize rules for staying safe, if I were ever stopped by police. You get the picture. I recently read a letter published in the Washington Post, from an accomplished Princeton alumni, Lawrence Otis Graham, to his son. He writes in the wake of his son being called the n-word for the first time; it is a heartbreaking window into their reality. You see that for all the hard work, accomplishments and efforts to move beyond bigotry, racism lives. I don’t think the ‘younger me’ fully understood the nuances behind everyday bias. Even the ‘present me’ hadn’t anticipated the horror of recent police killings of unarmed black-men.
In the last 40 years, roughly my lifetime, the gaps in unemployment, income/wealth and educational attainment have either stayed the same or widened. (9) One can better understand some of the frustration with police and/or the justice system when you study the statistics behind the African-American experience, such as:
The rocky road often begins in adolescence, where black youth face harsher punishments at school. Outside of school, they are arrested twice as often as white youth, and then go on to represent 67 percent of those committed to public facilities, despite being only 15% of the juvenile population.
African-Americans are more likely to be searched during routine traffic stops than whites. According to a Guardian, the final total of people killed by US police officers in 2015 shows rate of death for young black men was five times higher than white men of the same age (11).
Also in 2015, a total of 1,134 people were killed by police. One in five were unarmed. Only twenty percent had fired shots of their own before being killed. Non-white Americans make up less than 38% of the US population, yet almost half of all people killed by police are minorities, more than half of whom are unarmed.
40 percent of those who are incarcerated are black, while being only 13 percent of the overall U.S. population. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, black men are more than six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men.
Black males receive longer sentences (20%) than their white non-Hispanic counterparts for similar crimes.
All told, the United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons and jails — a 500% increase over the last forty years.
This data is a summary from the Center for American Progress, The Equal Justice Initiative, The Sentencing Project and The Counted, an initiative by The Guardian
Brene Brown says that stories are data with a soul; conversely, these numbers represent lives and communities shattered. I’ve already said that I’m not a policy expert; I’m also not a statistician, but even a non-numbers person like me can see these figures all point in a consistent direction. For too long we’ve talked about public safety while undermining the very same.
Take the War on Drugs. John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s White House adviser, admitted that the whole thing was created as a political tool, with African-Americans and the political left as its targets (12). Whoops. Nobody mentioned that *minor detail* during my countless American History and Poli Sci classes. Sadly, little has changed in the decades since. According to the Sentencing Project, “sentencing policies of the War on Drugs era resulted in dramatic growth in incarceration for drug offenses. Since its official beginning in the 1980s, the number of Americans incarcerated for drug offenses has skyrocketed from 41,000 in 1980 to nearly a half million in 2014.” What’s more, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests, according to the Human Rights Watch (13). We’ve spent billions of dollars ($80B in 2010 alone) and there’s no evidence that we are any safer, all while African-American communities have been decimated. To be fair, ours is a nation of law and order. But, the mistakes of individuals do not excuse or explain ineffective public policy, especially when it is so blatant in its disproportionate harshness towards a particular group. As they say, two wrongs don’t make a right.
A few months ago, John Ortberg gave a sermon on Esther (14), where he walked through her story and shared how Mordecai persuaded Esther to help save the Jews. In Esther 4:12 it says, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”. As a congregation, he challenged us all to seriously consider, that while the troubles of the world might not be our problem, this could be our time.
So, what to do? I’m serious? I see the reports, day after day of violence and fear and frustration. But, it feels another world away. I live in the Bay Area. We’re progressives! We’re not like those other parts of the country, with their racial tensions and prejudice.
Just google racist texts and SFPD. Okay, fine, fine….but, aside from that, I’m sure we’re doing much better. Not. Again. Here’s another example. Bay Area tech firms have a diversity problem. The PBS Newshour recently reported that after nearly 2 years of reporting from major tech firms in Silicon Valley, figures show that companies are still overwhelmingly white and male. (15) Only 7% of employees are black. Oops. Maybe we do have a problem that cuts across various socio-economic and geographic layers of the Bay Area. According to Joelle Emerson, CEO of Paradigm, even in areas like California that talk and supposedly value diversity, we can still struggle with what she calls unconscious bias.
Fabulous….so, we’re back to the world where we don’t really see ourselves as we actually are – even here! I’d rather take a bullet than join a white supremacy group. But, maybe I have unconscious biases. Maybe the violence in Ferguson or Milwaukee isn’t my problem, and Lord knows I couldn’t fix it if I tried! But, maybe there’s still work to do. Here. In my community. In me.
So, on Saturday, I gathered over coffee with women I love and trust….women that I know care deeply about this issue. We met because we knew that to stand silent and do nothing was not an option. In the end, we decided to commit ourselves to a year of studying white privilege and racial justice while simultaneously looking for opportunities to build bridges with African-American individuals/communities. The reality is that white people like me are statistically much less likely to talk about racial issues, according to recent data from the Pew Research Center. (16) And, while not the only problem – this is part of it. Our white silence is not helping.
As I walked away from the meeting, I realized how even this gathering epitomized white privilege. We’d gathered at the Stanford University Golf Course Cafe (Coupa). Collectively, we hold a long list of degrees from the nation’s most prestigious universities. There’s at least one, if not two, income earners in our homes. We are property owners. The list continues. Some might wonder, reading all this, if we’ve not just inadvertently created an exclusive all-white group – becoming the very thing we claim to hate. Good point. The counter to that, first, is that after centuries of enduring racism, it isn’t the ‘job’ of African-Americans to educate me on their plight – there are plenty of books to that end. Second, to go back to the Dunning Kruger effect or Emerson’s unconscious bias, I can’t appreciate the challenges of their world until I see the open doors, second chances and resources that have been fundamental to my life story.
Robert Frank, an economics professor from Cornell, has a new book called Success and Luck. In it, he explains what he calls ‘the myth of meritocracy’. Using his background in economics, he lays out the years of research by social scientists pointing to the role of chance in our lives, and how its impact is much larger on important life outcomes than most people think. Frank writes, “a growing body of evidence suggests that seeing ourselves as self-made—rather than as talented, hardworking, and lucky—leads us to be less generous and public-spirited.” (17) It makes sense that if I give myself all the credit for the blessings in my life, like a nice home or college degree, I can more easily give someone else the blame for the misfortune or challenges in theirs. The impacts of this human tendency, while applied to societies at large, is huge. But, here’s the good news: when you prompt people to recognize their luck and blessedness, it improves every aspect of their lives.
Anyone who has actually made it to the end of this blog post probably feels like they need a cup of coffee….OR….a glass of wine! Or both! I certainly hope I’m not a racist, but I likely have certain biases – I’d be crazy not to admit that. My life has been one of both luck and privilege from the day I was born – period. And, I’m ready to invest in some serious self-reflection with friends who will hold me accountable and be completely honest with me. My holy discontent necessitates action, in response to the injustice of today plus the hope for a better tomorrow. And, for the sake of my bi-racial children, I pray that they may be both the enablers and recipients of a more just society. I like the way Lawrence ended his letter to his son(18):
As we observe each other and think that we have a close understanding of what it means to be black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, rich or poor, we really don’t — and very often we find ourselves gazing at each other through the wrong end of the telescope. We see things that we think are there but really aren’t. And the relevant subtleties linger just outside our view, eluding us.
Racism my not be my problem, but the evidence of injustice is overwhelming – it is time to do whatever I can. #blacklivesmatter #forsuchatimeisthis
I just got back from Ireland, where the phrase ‘Feck it – sure it’s grand’ is a common euphemism used in everyday life and plastered across green t-shirts that Americans love to bring back as souvenirs. For those that haven’t been or aren’t familiar, feck it’s closest synonym from American vernacular is ‘damn it’. Enough with the mini-tutorial on Irish sayings…. Here’s the point: the world isn’t grand, and that’s something to be royally pissed about.
Exhibit A: The little boy in Aleppo. This is not okay. There are over 4.5 million Syrian refugees. According to the UN estimates, a quarter of a million people have been killed and another 13.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria(3). This is not a new crisis. I’ll spare you the heartache of revisiting the image of that little boy who drowned when his family was fleeing the violence. Suffice to say, the horror has been with us for too long. And, here’s the tough love part….too many of us tacitly accept a certain baseline misery in the world because we are too afraid or too selfish to get up off our asses and do something. These are the moments when it’s not sufficient to say that our thoughts and prayers are with them. A thousand times, YES, keep thinking and keep praying. But, DON’T STOP THERE.
Bob Goff has a popular book titled, Love Does. He says, “But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence.” Look at the stories of Jesus. He didn’t set up an office in Nazareth or Jerusalem, where He and his buddies gathered weekly to pray, write notes of encouragement to those in need and periodically set-up a lemonade stand to raise money for charity. He went. In person. To use Bob’s terms, He offered both sacrifice and presence. The Bible isn’t ambiguous about what we are called to do for those in need. Luke 12:33-34 says, Sell your possessions and give to the poor… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Specific to refugees, the Old and New Testament speak of our duty to do MORE than offer our thoughts and prayers; we are to actually provide tangible assistance to the foreigner. Here’s a quick summary(4):
Love refugees as yourself – Leviticus 19:33-34
Leave food for the poor and foreigner – Leviticus 19:9-10
God loves the foreigner residing among you – Deuteronomy 10:18-19
The sin of Sodom: They did not help the poor and needy – Ezekiel 16:49
Do not oppress a foreigner: Exodus 23:9
Do not deprive foreigners among you of justice – Malachi 3:5
Do whatever the foreigner asks of you – 1 Kings 8:41-44
Leave your door open to the traveler – Job 31:32
Invite the stranger in – Matthew 25:25-36
Love your neighbor as yourself – Galatians 5:14
Have mercy on your neighbor – Luke 10:29-37
Jesus said it best when He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…” (John 15:12) Shall I unpack that verse for you or do you see my point? So, the tough love reality is that it’s not sufficient to share an article on Facebook or say a 10 second prayer. And, full disclosure folks – I am guilty too. I am smart enough to know that I don’t have the answers. But, what I do know is that we need to stop pretending that THIS is okay.
This blog is a journey. It is me looking at the world and saying, ‘what the hell am I supposed to do?’. One of my favorite authors, Eugene Cho, has a great book called, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? I think that most of us fall into the category of those who love the idea, but please don’t ask us to make painful sacrifices of time or money. Eugene says, “To “do justice” means to render to each what each is due. Justice involves harmony, flourishing, and fairness, and it is based on the image of God in every person—the Imago Dei—that grants all people inalienable dignity and infinite worth.” He goes on to say, “Our calling is not simply to change the world, but perhaps as important, our calling is to be changed ourselves.” Gulp.
I wear a necklace that says, act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. It reminds me of the way I’m meant to live. Thematically, I’m not yet sure what this blog is about. But, practically, I can tell you its purpose in my life: accountability. It’s about loving the world enough that I am willing to change.
In my bio, I described myself as part of the Christian Left. For too long, the way I read and understand the Bible has seemed to be so completely different from the mainstream evangelical practices and messages. Thankfully, in recent years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of bloggers/authors and leaders who are advocating for a kind of Christianity that is compassionate and progressive…people like Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, David Platt and Eugene Cho, among others. Another great leader, Bill Hybels, has a book called Holy Discontent. My family found Bill’s church, Willow Creek, when I was a teenager. I remember it as a place that put faith into practical action, whether with food pantries for the poor or a cars ministry for single moms (Oprah’s not the only one giving away cars) or more recently, generous advocacy for and donations to the organizations helping Syrian refugees(5). Bill writes, “What is the one aspect of this broken world that, when you see it, touch it, get near it, you just can’t stand? Very likely, that firestorm of frustration reflects your holy discontent, a reality so troubling that you are thrust off the couch and into the game. It’s during these defining times when your eyes open to the needs surrounding you and your heart hungers to respond that you hear God say, “I feel the same way about this problem. Now, let’s go solve it together!””
Feck it. There is a reality so troubling, that Christian or not, we must change. In my case, it is my faith that motivates. And, my frustration stems from this sense that too much of the church has become a clanging cymbal. We, the ones who should be on the front lines of justice, compassion, mercy and love – are silent, absent and sometimes indifferent or even judgmental. Deborah Fikes, who previously served as a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals and the Executive Advisor to the World Evangelical Alliance, posted a damning article today in the New York Times(6). I highly, highly recommend that anyone who cares about the credibility of the church in America during this tumultuous political season read her article. She writes: “I also saw how easy it is for American evangelicals to be a politicized subculture, a tendency I see as detrimental to authentically living out our faith, as Christ modeled for us to do.” Deborah then goes on to list 11 different areas (including the refugee crisis) where Christians have opted to let ideology trump (no pun intended) faith.
The world is watching. Young people, are watching. I’m not a theology expert. I’m not a policy expert. But, I’ll tell you what I do know: Jesus loves that little boy in Aleppo. And, God help me if I’m going to stay silent. So, I’m going public with my journey to figure out my place in this world. I’ve got no illusions of my ability to make a major dent. But, I know that I have to fill in the blank. What comes after “and”? I will give this boy my thoughts, my prayers and__________________????
I am blaming a select crew of unnamed friends, who have been goading me for some time to blog. So, if you’re reading this and wondering why – it’s their fault (you know how you are!!!).
The truth is that I love to write. But, what’s kept me confined to wordy Facebook comments, is a quandary over WHAT to write. Because, seriously….the world needs another blog like I need another kitchen gadget. There are plenty of brilliant and funny women out there. And, for God’s sake – wouldn’t the world be a better place if we did a little less talking and a little more ‘doing’?!?!
Nevertheless, after my umpteenth search for ‘best blogging platform’ – I bit the bullet this afternoon, clicked on WordPress, and voila – here we are. During the set-up phase, I was asked to select a genre. Oh, for heaven’s sake, I don’t know! Family, lifestyle…..NO. Good Lord, I’m not a poster-parent (though, if you want a window into my world, there’s already TMI on Facebook) and Lifestyle….sorry. Not.That.Cool. And, the list goes on…..nope, nada, never, absolutely, not, not in a million years……
Throwback to a Thursday looooooong ago, and I’d have thought you were insane to ever label me as *funny*. Shy? Yes. Uptight? Yes. Self-conscious? Yes. Many things, but not humorous….at least, I didn’t think so. There’s a saying that you can’t be fully loved until you’re fully known. And, friend that knew me well repeatedly said, ‘you’re so funny’. I started to wonder….maybe, just maybe, I was funny. It was as if she was loving a part of me, that I’d never fully acknowledged myself.
Here’s the thing about humor, though: it’s often rooted in pain. Emra Bombeck said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”(1) So, confession…..I laugh, I joke, I make sarcastic remarks, often because I feel as though my head might explode or I could burst into tears, if I were to actually speak directly about the things that matter to me, be it my faith, my kids, my community or the world beyond….all of which the control freak in me would love to FIX. To put a finer point on it, racism, poverty, sex-trafficking, adolescent depression (along with many other issues)….I carry close to my heart, the wounds of my own past plus the brokenness of the present. As my husband would attest, I’m the ‘feeler’ in the family. All that ‘feeling’ needs an outlet.
There’s another obvious reason. As much as I’m a serious person who spends a ton of time reading about and thinking about serious things, I sometimes feel we take ourselves a little too seriously. Perhaps, I need to make peace with the fact that I control very little of the world around me. Heck, I can hardly control the little people that live under my roof. Sometimes, you need to exhale and realize that you can’t fix the world. Sometimes, even if you’re still wiping away tears, it feels good to laugh.
So, what is this blog? Well, I’m still not totally sure. I’m not a comedian, but my friends tell me I’m funny. I’m a woman on a journey, trying to figure out who I am and my place in this crazy universe. And, I guess you could say that I’m putting pen to paper on some of the ideas and conversations that have been part of my life for many years. Often, it’s with a big mug of coffee or a glass of wine that I’m trying to make sense of the world. Sometimes, life will make you cry. Other times, you can’t help but laugh. There’s a lot going on these days (to put it nicely). This blog will be my record of trying to make sense of it all….of trying to figure out the places where I’m just meant to reflect or pray, and where I’m meant to actually get in the trenches and do something. I don’t know if I’m funny, but I am here.