Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

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Sandi Patty and Wayne Watson

Sandi Patty.  Larnelle Harris.  Gaither Vocal Band.  These were the household names for me growing up.  I was raised on a music diet that consisted primarily of Christian music with a bit of classical thrown in on the side.  Sandi Patty was my favorite.  I knew every word to every song.  To this day, I still believe she has the voice of an angel.  Duets, like those with Wayne Watson, sounded like music from heaven.  Truly.

Though it has been YEARS, I can still hear one of their most famous songs, Another Time Another Place, play in my head.  The main refrain begins, So, I’m waiting for another time and another placeWhere all my hopes and dreams will be captured.  These lyrics remind me of the verse in Revelation, where it says that He will wipe away every tear, that there will be no more sorrow, no more pain.  I love that verse because it speaks to the brokenness that we all carry plus God’s redemption promise.

At my church, we’re doing this series called, Upside Down, looking at the most famous sermon ever given – the Sermon on the Mount.  Embedded in that sermon is the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus commands us to pray that Up There Come Down Here.  It turns out, the work of the cross continues, in and through broken people like you and me.  Till we get to that other time and place, there is work to do.

 

So what is that work?

In August, I wrote about what I’d learned in my year-long journey of trying to *actually* live out the Micah 6:8 verse.  Option B was more about the process than the outcomes.  So, here I want to expand on the WHAT….what do justice, mercy and love look like?  I am still learning, myself!  But, these are the doors God has opened.

Community Equity Collaborative

In May, a few of us met over a cup of coffee to talk about what we could do to promote social justice in our community.  At a Starbucks in Menlo Park, Community Equity Collaborative was born.

400dpiLogo (1)Who are we?

  • We launch, support and connect initiatives across the San Francisco Peninsula that promote educational equity, especially in the area of early learning.
  • While we believe that charity is a cheap substitute for justice, an opportunity to distribute 7,000 pairs of toddler shoes kinda fell into our lap, providing a great platform for connecting with the early childhood education community in our area.

What do we do?

  • Some examples of the work we’re doing now:
    • Assist faith-based organizations in assessing their site for preschool and connect these organizations with early learning operators.
    • Create career pathways into early learning, collaborating with Able Works and Canada College with integrated teacher/student mentoring and individualized coaching.
    • Support local school districts that have or are building early learning programs.

I intended all summer to write about Community Equity Collaborative.  I’m just now doing it because we have been busy, which is a good thing – God is actually using us!  Who knew!?!  And, it is confirming for me that the Micah 6:8 work precedes the writing, not vice versa.  It is as if God keep telling me, “just do the work, I’ll give you the story.”  And, stories He is providing!!!!

Domestic Worker Oral History Project

Very little research or reporting is done on domestic workers.  They are this essential ingredient, helping us take care of our little ones and keep our homes in order (especially in the high-paced, over-achieving region of Silicon Valley).  Yet, we know so little about their *actual* lives.  Simone Weil, says, “Attention is the purest and rarest form of generosity.”  We have decided it was time to shine a light on these women….to stop and just listen to their stories.

So, what exactly are we doing?

  • I, along with a partner from Community Equity Collaborative, decided to personally organize and fund the gathering of stories from Bay Area women.
  • We partnered with Able Works, as many of their clients are formerly or presently in the domestic worker field.

How are we doing it?

  • We identified someone who these woman would trust and are having her interview the women, using a set of questions we designed, the answers to which are recorded, transcribed and then translated (if needed).
  • In total, she will have sat down with ten women, and from what we’ve already seen – the stories are amazing, as they paint pictures of both great tragedy and triumph.

Why are we doing this?  

  • Well, for starters, we believe in a God who always seeks out the marginalized and disadvantaged.
  • Second, we believe in the power of story.  It is easy to be indifferent when you don’t know.
  • Our hope and prayer is that these stories will create a foundation for greater understanding and compassion for domestic workers.

What will we do with these stories?

  • There will definitely be a blog post!!!!
  • We will also work with partners, like Able Works, to share these stories though local news outlets and organizations, so that others can learn from these women.

Life Moves

This week, I was back at Life Moves in Palo Alto, serving lunch.  Those two hours, serving the homeless, never cease to soften my heart.  Here are two stories from Monday that have stuck with me.

  • PB Guy: We always try to smile and engage in friendly banter as clients move through the food line.  One elderly gentleman began trying to tell us something, in Spanish.  A handful of us were trying to translate what he was saying.  We finally figured out he was telling us that when he eats peanut butter, it gets stuck in his intestines.  (Okay….thanks for sharing.) We naturally jumped into problem solving mode….now that we understood, how could we help….what should we do….what did he want?  Turns out, nothing.  He didn’t want anything, other than for us to know.  Later, as we were cleaning up, this same guy starts coming to us with paper-towels, pointing at the towel.  Again, it took us a moment to figure out what he wanted.  Finally, we figured it out – he wanted us to put some of our cleaning spray on the towels so he could help.  I drove home, thinking about the PB Guy – he just wanted to be known.  He wanted to help.
  • Late Girl: Around the same time that the PB Guy was helping us clean-up and stack the chairs, a young lady came running in, asking if it was too late to eat.  She explained that the buses were late today and she was really hungry.  Quickly, we began gathering bits and pieces…..an apple here, a handful of crackers there.  We began stacking it all on a plate.  She looked over at a huge tray of pasta.  “Can I have some of that?”  Those of us serving looked at one another, our hearts breaking.  We explained that this tray had not been opened.  If we did open it and serve her, we would have to throw out the rest of the entire tray.  In the end, we were able to give her a plate that was stacked pretty high with different items we could take from the refrigerator or pantry. I will remember the Late Girl, her eyes filled with longing.

I return to Life Moves, not just because my faith requires that I am loving the least, but because my heart is the life that needs to move – more than any other.  If those of us with power and privilege learn how to see PB Guy and Late Girl with the eyes of Jesus, we will see Up There come Down Here.

Better Together

These ladies are my soul sisters.  We read.  We cry.  We organize.  We pray.  We celebrate. We talk….a lot.  They are my people.  I am reading Slow Kingdom Coming by Kent Anan.  He writes about how Micah 6:8 kingdom work is a long run – there are no easy solutions or short-cuts.  I’m in this for the long haul, but in the same way that Aaron helped Moses hold his arms heavenward during the battle against the Amalekites, so we all need folks who come alongside us.  I need these ladies to hold my heart and lift my hands, as we put our heads together for how we can do the same for others.  WE are better together and we know the same is true for the rest of the world.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

There are my *real* girlfriends and then there are my fantasy BFF’s…..the gutsy, progressive female Christian writers I do not know for real but they mean the world to me and they keep me sane during this not-so-sane season.  Sarah Bessey recently tweeted, “I’m fired up and burned out at the same time.”

THAT.

That is where I am right now.  Part of me is so weary but the other part of me remains mobilized and ready to fight.  As Cory Booker just recently said, “The opposite of justice isn’t injustice, it’s indifference, it’s inaction.”  So I’ll be damned if I go back.  This past year or so has been my Damascus Road.  Now that the scales are gone, there’s no retreating or surrendering to the numbness, even as the onslaught is unending.

DACA.  Charlottesville.  North Korea.  Puerto Rico.  Las Vegas.  Weinstein.  Earthquakes.  Floods.  Fire.

Disaster, both natural and manmade, have become a daily reality.

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Wine Country Devastation

Today, it isn’t just my heart but my literal home that is being burned out.  For the fourth day, Northern California, where I live, is on fire.  Thousands of acres have been burned.  Nearly thirty lives have been lost (that’s surely going to go up).  Again, our schools are forced to shelter-in-place.  Wineries, like Stag Leap, where I have wandered through the vineyards and tasted Cabernet’s with my husband, are completely destroyed.  While we are about 100 miles from the front lines, the smoke is heavy across the Peninsula.  You see the ash in the sky and your lungs instinctively tighten.  The feeling that it’s hard to breath….It seems oddly familiar.

 

Church, the world is going up in flames and it’s waiting to see whether or not we give a damn.  Too many of us have allowed religion to morph into sanctified indifference enabled by privilege.  But, once you take the mask off.  Once you open your eyes to the Syrian refugee and the young black man and the Latina domestic worker and Puerto Rican still without power….even if you’re not in the midst of the fire, you still see and smell the smoke.  You still can’t breath.

Screenshot 2017-10-12 12.16.06“I can’t breathe.”

Eric Garner’s last words have become the mantra for many protesting injustice.  There’s a line in the oldie, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, “When your heart’s on fire, you must realize smoke gets in your eyes.”  If you go anywhere near the fire, if you take a stand against power and privilege, if you intend to actually get into the trenches and love the least, smoke will get in your eyes.  That is just a fact.  What’s also true, is that anyone seeking God will find Him in the margins.  He is in the middle of the fire, and he calls us to join Him there.

 

Screenshot 2017-10-12 13.47.54In a couple of weeks, I’m crossing another item off my Forty-for-Forty list, attending a Lecrae concert in San Francisco.  Since November, I just can’t turn on Christian radio.  Happy worship songs play and chipper DJ’s banter with nary a mention of those desperate for a gospel that is good news.  They sing of love and grace, but where is the fruit?  Their silence reminds me of a people who voted overwhelmingly for Trump, take offense at athletes taking a knee but not at police brutality, value life in the womb but not enough to support commonsense gun control, pray for Texas but say nothing of Puerto Rico and I could go on and on.  On days when my chest feels tight and I can’t breathe, I crank up Lecrae.  One song called, Fuego, includes these lines:

I know this life it comes with pain
But it’s through our pain we win though
Could be made like Him so treat these streets like flint bro
Cause our God can spark up the dark
In the hearts of the hardest departed let’s go

Treat every night like it’s the last night
Like it’s the last time you get no other chances
Get your torches high let’s set ablaze the sky
Passion’s a fire bright and we’ll be burning forever
Set the world on fire let’s set the world on fire

The world’s on fire.  I can’t breathe.  But, then, but then….  Up There comes Down Here.  John the Baptist says in Matthew:

I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Long before Metallica (I now listen to more than just Christian worship and Classical), it was Shakespeare who coined the phrase, “Fight fire with fire.”  It means basically that – fight as your opponent fights.  In the Kingdom, we too fight fire with fire.  But, fire from above is nothing like that of earth.  In Christ’s upside down kingdom, the weak are strong, the first are last, there is no hunger, nobody ever receives a cancer diagnosis, justice prevails, the poor are blessed and love always wins.  When flames of holy fire come from Up There to Down Here, we taste shalom and see slivers of heaven.

This is not only the promise of eternity, it is His command to the church today.  And, the whole point of the gospel is that this is the time, this is the place.  Therefore, I am not waiting.  Give us this day, bring your kingdom Up There to Down Here for I am here, fired up and burned out.  Use me.  Let’s set the world ablaze.

 

 

Forty for Forty

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Proofs from my HS senior portrait

My fortieth birthday is in two weeks.  Am I freaking out?  Absolutely not.  Since I was in high school, I have felt like a forty-year old in my head.  Stick me in a coffee shop with the Sunday New York Times or a hefty historical biography and I’m on cloud nine.  That was me at 18 and that’s me today….  Still, for whatever reason, it’s an American tradition to make a big deal out of 40th birthdays.  So, deal me in.

Grand Emancipation

A few weeks before my 39th birthday, I sent my youngest child off to kindergarten.  I called it my Grand Emancipation.  In the months since then, I’ve been on a journey to figure out who the hell I am (when I’m not wiping runny noses and going to Mommy and Me music class) and what on earth God wants me to do with my life (I think it’s more than Pinterest inspired chore-charts for my kids and a full BSF schedule for me).  I wasn’t one of those moms with a lot of extra help during those years in the trenches, so these have truly been transformative months.

I have learned, for example, that my Micah 6:8 journey is indeed the path that God wants me on….that my faith is best expressed in a life built around love, justice and mercy – particularly to those who need it most.  Living with a Trump president.  Coming to terms with my own white privilege.  Confronting a faith that has been complicit in the face of racism and injustice.  These months of wrestling have not been easy.  But, questioning (and sometimes discarding) old ideas has been both healthy and liberating.  The more I learn, the more confident I am that this – the path of God-inspired social justice – is the right direction.

So, in the midst of all this heavy soul-searching, I’m launching my Forty for Forty campaign.  Put simply – it is a list of forty fun activities or treats that I’m proactively pursing in celebration of this milestone birthday.  Is it super cheesy?  Absolutely.  Is the nerd in me totally psyched?  You bet.  Am I done with justice?  No way.

What the hell do I like?

A few days ago, I started making my list.  I whizzed through the first 10-15 items. Then, I started running out of ideas.  Crap.  What the hell do I like to do?  Has it been that long since I’ve let loose and had fun?  Confession: You know you’ve not engaged in extensive ‘self care’ when you’re struggling to think of more than a dozen things you enjoy doing.  As silly as this exercise is, I AM learning a thing or two about myself in the process.

Realizing I needed some inspiration, I googled….’forty things to do for fortieth birthday’.  I had no idea whether the internet would come to my rescue or not.  Sure enough, there were tons of websites, blogs and even entire books!  I doubt that my list (which we will get to eventually!) will appeal to many, but can I just say to Estee Stanley at MyDomaine, you lost me at #4 on your list: Take care of your friends’ kids for the day.  Are you serious?   That idea is even worse than my daughter’s suggestion that I run a marathon.  To both of these, I say, I’m trying to treat myself – not punish myself!

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MyDomaine.com – Forty AWESOME things to do when you’re 40

So, back to the drawing board.  I clicked on another link, this one for Best Life.  Is that a men’s magazine?  I’m not even sure, but I needed ideas….ANY ideas that did not include killing myself with exercise or going insane watching other people’s kids (remember, I’m just barely out of the mommy trenches – maybe the idea will appeal more for my 50th….maybe).

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Best Life – 40th Birthday Ideas 

As you can see, we barely got past #4 this time, when the dudes at Best Life tossed out ubering a private plane as a legit suggestion.  I’m sorry…does that idea come with a winning lottery ticket?  And, if I may: THIS, friends, is a perfect example of the aspirational privilege of white men.  Anyways, back to the list….

Suffice to say I clicked through many blogs and articles, finding little inspiration.  I had no choice but to simply think about what brings ME joy.  So, here is what I came up with.

Dayna’s Forty for Forty List

  1. Eat a Mademoiselle Colette Chocolate Croissant
  2. Have a nice birthday dinner with husband
  3. Have tea or coffee with friends
  4. Schedule a lunch date with a good friend
  5. Get nails done
  6. Take a long walk with friends
  7. Go to a coffee shop, order a grande cappuccino and then just sit and read the Sunday New York Times or a historical biography
  8. Treat myself to Tinpot ice-cream
  9. Listen to live music
  10. Eat Mexican food (Can you ever have too much chips and guac?  Seriously.)
  11. Visit an art gallery or museum
  12. Get my hair done – maybe even try a new style
  13. Plan a spa day/get a massage
  14. Watch one of my favorite movies
  15. Spend an entire day in PJ’s
  16. Get a realllllly good, dense chocolate cake – like a flourless chocolate cake
  17. Look through all my photo books
  18. Buy a new lip gloss
  19. Go to the movie theater while the kids are at school
  20. Drink a really good red wine
  21. Take a bubble bath
  22. Enjoy my favorite Asian dishes
  23. Eat Chicago style pizza
  24. Spend an entire afternoon reading
  25. Drink a root beer float
  26. Enjoy a super long Skype chat with my Irish BFF
  27. Go to a bookstore without a ‘to buy’ or ‘to do’ list – just look at books (maybe buy a few)
  28. Yelp ‘best eggs Benedict’ and then go eat it
  29. Give myself permission to do NO CLEANING on my birthday
  30. Try a new food
  31. Update my will (I know, it sounds morbid but it’s truly reassuring to know your life, family, estate, etc., are in order)
  32. Reassess and possibly change where I give my time and money
  33. Take a family photo (okay, like the will, not so high up on the ‘fun factor’ but still something that’s worth it in the long-haul)
  34. Make plans to see friends who live further away
  35. Write down blessings
  36. Create a bucket list – things I want to do in my next 40 years
  37. Take time from all the spa days and indulgences to go to the homeless shelter, remembering that I am always so happy when I spend time there
  38. Spend a weekend away with my hubby 
  39. See Hamilton 
  40. Write a birthday blog post 

Sure It’s Grand

In the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Abraham Lincoln changed the federal legal status via executive order of more than 3 million enslaved people in the designated areas of the South from slave to free.  For many abolitionists it was cause for “grand emancipation jubilee.”  Frederick Douglass even called it a ‘death blow’ to the slaveholding rebellion.  But, the devil is in the details, which headlines and tweets often miss.  And, a quick review of our Civil War unit from American History class reminds us that ‘grand’ is far from ‘complete’ or ‘total’.  In fact, the 1963 Proclamation applied only to the 10 states still rebelling – it did not cover nearly half a million slaves in border states.  Other states under Union control, namely, Tennessee, as well as most of Virginia, West Virginia and Louisiana were exempted.  Though African-Americans gained the constitutional right to vote in 1870 via the 15th Amendment, the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, allowed Southern states to effectively disenfranchise black voters. Thus, it wasn’t until 1965 – just 12 years before I was born – for full participation to be guaranteed with passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  

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Or not????

#WTF

So, what the hell is a civil war history lesson doing in the middle of my otherwise lighthearted blog post about my 40th birthday?  Well, once a history buff, always a history buff.  That’s why I love to use witty phrases like ‘Grand Emancipation’ – which connect my life to fascinating historical topics.  But, here’s the problem: this last year of studying racism and bias has taught me that it’s only through the lens of my white privilege that I can casually employ euphemisms like, ‘Grand Emancipation’ to describe my transition from ‘stay at home suburban mom’ to ‘still stay at home suburban mom….with more time’.

If you are one of the millions of African-Americans in our country, not only is it highly probable that you remember FINALLY getting the right to vote, just 52 years ago, but it is almost certain that you still live with the remnants of America’s ‘original sin’ which lives on in the form of daily encounters with racism, bias and privilege.

Who’s Rescuing Who?

Yesterday, I finished a book titled, Rescuing Jesus, How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism.  And, it is true…..the margins are where revival will happen.  The trenches are where the holy ghost is alive and well.  And, it is in loving the least that we are most likely to see God at work.  In the pages of books written by an Asian woman and in the lyrics of rap songs sung by a black man, I am rediscovering Jesus and with it, a whole new view of the gospel.  One of my favorite songs to blast in my minivan, as I run around town, is Tell the World.

Now, I’mma tell the world, tell the world, tell ’em
I’mma tell it everywhere I go
Tell the world, tell ’em
Yeah, I’m a billboard
Tell the world, tell ’em
And I’m broadcastin’ like a radio
Tell the world, you ought to know
I’m brand new

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Rewriting the ‘church clothes’ rules 

I’ve been thinking a lot about that…..  What does my billboard say?  What does my life say about my faith?  There is indeed much about me that is largely the same – from that 18 year old me in the senior portrait, to the nearly 40 year old me now.  I still love history and coffee shops.  I still love chocolate and root beer floats.  I still love Ralph Lauren (I know, I know, so very preppy but I now also have a Black Lives Matter hoodie – progress!).

 

The line from Tell the World, I’m brand new, references a verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Folks who knew me back in high school probably would have described me as ‘nice’.  God, I hope that’s largely still true.  But, what’s also true is that (to borrow a phrase from Lynne Hybels) nice girls don’t change the world.  And, nice is not a spiritual gift or heavenly calling.  And, in my next 40 years, I pray God would continue remaking me.  I want to be the kind of person who not only knows the past history of racism but is presently working to tear down organizations and institutions that perpetuate systemic injustice.  I want to ruthlessly look at my own attitudes and assumptions, figuring out both where my privilege gives me a platform for helping others, as well as where I can learn from the oppressed and marginalized.

American culture offers a tradition 40th birthday celebrations that includes everything from private airplane rides to big birthday bashes to running marathons or watching your friends’ kids (well, according to one blog).  Americans weren’t the first to give special attention to the number 40.  As I wrote in my Lent post, 40 has special significance in the Bible, occurring 146 times and generally referring to periods of trial or testing.  Another confession: I think eating my favorite foods and hanging out with my favorite people sounds much more appealing!  But, I also know that a life limited to superficial niceness is no life at all.  So, if trial and testing mean leaning more intentionally into the life God created me for – I say, bring it!  Forty, here I come….holding my ‘Micah 6:8 Mission’ in one hand and my cheesy ‘Forty for Forty’ list in the other.

P.S.

With this blog post now published, I’ve officially crossed off an item from the list.  And, my husband justifiably argued for the inclusion of our SF weekend (last month) on the Forty for Forty list – it was pretty awesome.  You can read a bit about that weekend away, along with some other reflections on Year One of my Micah 6:8 life, here.