50 Years Later

50 years later

Dream unrealized

Unrealized equality

 

50 years later

Discrete discrimination

Sustained segregation

 

50 years later

Exiled reality

Internalized priority

 

50 years later

Impressive weapons

Disparate violence

 

50 years later

Bankrupt justice

Insufficient funds

 

50 years later

Wrongful convictions

Wrong-full executions

 

50 years later

Rich culture

Offering squandered

 

50 years later

God’s children

In? Out?

 

50 years later

Unrecognized love

Loved un-recognition

 

 

50 years later

Fear-full ignorance

Ignored fear

 

50 years later

Life, liberty?

Pursued happiness

 

50 years later

Unmet expectation

Unmet satisfaction

 

50 years later

Urgent now

Finite now

 

50 years later

Dark valley

Sunlit path

 

50 years later

Bright day

Still emerging

 

50 years later

Transforming injustice

Becoming oasis

 

50 years later

Joining hands

Work together

 

50 years later

Pray together

Hope together

 

 

50 years later

Struggle together

Freedom together

 

50 years later

Unfinished business

Pending dream

 

50 years later

Promised Land

En route

 

50 years later

Piecemeal peace

Rent quilt

 

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The Sin of Healing

The so-called “sin” of Jesus in Luke 13:10-17 is that He healed on the Sabbath. The Jews & God, who handed down the 10 Commandments that were interpreted by Moses & others in the community, were not heartless. There were provisions for when life was at stake. If someone’s ailment meant immediate life or death, then there would be an expectation and obligation to give immediate medical help. While the synagogue leader did not seem to interpret the bent over woman’s ailment as necessary for life and death, and quotes the Law to Jesus and the crowd in verse 14, Jesus disagreed.

 

Jesus healed her immediately. Jesus initiates her healing in verse 12. The woman receives the healing. I wonder what Jesus was teaching about in verse 10 just before spotting this woman and choosing to heal her. Perhaps He was teaching on the importance of loving neighbor, or having abundant life, or the dignity and worth of all people. Healing this woman would be an affirmation of all 3 of these lessons and many others that Jesus taught and embodied throughout His life & ministry.

 

Jesus was and is in the healing and liberating business. Jesus wants us to stand tall, move freely, breathe deeply, and be our best.

 

Why did Jesus use the example in verse 15 when responding to the synagogue leader and the crowd? “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?” As the caretaker knows what the livestock needs and is obligated to faithfully respond to them, so is Jesus with people. Jesus knows what the woman and what we need, and is faithful to respond to our needs.

 

This woman needed Jesus and needed healing. While patience is a Fruit of the Spirit, why should she or anyone else have to wait another hour or day to be healed while in the presence of God? God is all about the here and now, and the later still coming.

 

My friend, Kyndall Renfro, gave a sermon here discussing the particular need for women today to be healed from being hunched over as a result of cultural assumptions and ridiculous internalized expectations for who and what women should be. I am bent and in need of healing from heavy burdens, and I am ‘bent’ on going to tell it on the mountain that there is a Healer, a Liberator! A theological, hermeneutical, and spiritual perspective that focuses on healing of all people in need is precisely the spirit of Jesus Christ Himself.

“And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” [Galatians 3:27-29]

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Grieving Summer: A Havdalah

For many people, summer is a type of Sabbath- a slower pace, vacation, more interaction with neighbors as the warm weather invites people outside, a deliberate pause between academic years. Even people whose lives do not operate solely on an academic semester calendar sense the changes that summer brought and the changes that fall brings as fewer children play outside, the probability of getting a school zone speeding ticket increases [oops!], teary eyed parents send kids off to college, changes in church programs, and a remarkable increase in clothing and lunchbox sales.

 

With every change there is grief.

 

Some changes are smaller with less pronounced grief. Some changes are larger with more pronounced grief. Some people, whether children or adults, may feel excited while others may feel overwhelmed and anxious about upcoming changes that a new season and a new school year brings. Giving spiritual attention to this important annual transition will help make the experience more centered and meaningful.

 

St. Ignatius of Loyola writes on examen prayer in The Spiritual Exercises, a time of spiritually reflective prayer characterized by considering pairs of opposing questions. Examen is typically used at the end of a certain time period such as at the end of a day or week. This examen process is an invitation to reflection and processing with a particular focus on how one experiences God and the spiritual life in daily life. Here are some helpful questions during the summer to fall transition for adults and children:

 

When did I most experience God this summer?

When did I least experience God this summer?

 

When did I feel most connected to [myself, mom, dad, God, church, etc.]?

When did I feel least connected to [myself, mom, dad, God, church, etc.]?

 

For what am I most thankful for this summer?

For what am I least thankful for this summer?

 

Select 1 pair of questions for consideration. Take a few moments for quiet and unhurried reflection between each question. Some people find journaling a response, or looking through pictures as a reminder for what all happened during the given time period of reflection, or even hearing the questions then responding to them later to be helpful. After considering a pair of questions and responding to them, ask for God’s continued presence, grace, and guidance throughout the next time period- whether day, week, semester, etc.

 

Havdalah is a prayer to conclude Sabbath, the particular period of ceasing from work and focusing on restfulness each week in Jewish tradition. The liturgy of Sabbath begins with Kiddush, a blessing, on Friday night, continues with time shared with loved ones, and concludes with prayers. The wisdom behind havdalah is that even transitions can be remembered as sacred time.

 

A havdalah to conclude summer Sabbath:

Blessed are You, Lord, Creator of all and giver of every good gift.

Lord, thank You for changing seasons and new opportunities.

 

May I/we always be thankful to learn new ideas.

May I/we always be thankful to lead in new ways.

 

May the water of the water fountain remind me/us of fun summer swimming.

May the traveling to and from school remind me/us of summer travels.

 

May seeing apples at school remind me/us to taste and see that You are good.

May packed lunches and sandwiches remind me/us of Your Communion.

 

May the colorful faces of students and teachers remind me/us of Your love for all people.

May the weight of backpacks remind me/us that You share heavy loads with me/us.

 

___________________________________________

For more on Sabbath practices check out Every Person’s Guide to Shabbat by Ronald Isaacs, and Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller. For more on prayer and examen with children check out Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life by Dennis Linn.

 

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A Departing Welcome

I was able to share some of my story as a part of my church’s welcome this morning. You can listen to the recording here.

Biblical Manhood: Warrior Theology

Find part 1 of this series on “Biblical Woman/Man-hood” here.

This post is in response to Simeon Snow’s blog, Brave Warriors, found here:

 

Warrior imagery is often used by those who wish to affirm masculine strength. Unfortunately, there is more than 1 type of warrior, such as: 1) men who thoughtlessly & often times violently demolish everything in their path, conquering whoever & whatever gets in their way [think Huns in ancient China] or 2) men who rescue damsels in distress & thereby indirectly validate their masculinity by showing their strength vis á vis conquering the damsel’s situation [think Arthur & Lancelot]. An important difference between these 2 is collateral damage. Both conquer, but the first muscling through without restraint & the second restraining himself at times in order to be gentle or chivalrous with the damsel, but tough on the shared enemy[ies]. The first is more offensive while the second is more defensive.

 

God is described as a warrior in the Old Testament & God fills both of these types of warriors at different times as God destroys the Israelites’ enemies on some occasions [such as the Egyptians in Exodus 14] & other times rescues the Israelites [such as Gideon & the Midianites in Judges 6]. Sometimes these 2 actions of God are 1 & the same. The Biblical Manhood movement [a sometimes ugly brother of The Biblical Womanhood movement] uses a warrior metaphor to describe “Godly Masculinity”.

 

Simeon writes that there is an emphasis on “righteous confrontation, strength, and courage”. Interestingly, these qualities remind me of many honorable & respectable men, but also remind me of incredible women, too. Such as Esther and Rosa Parks, both women of faith. Simeon also points out a goal of the Biblical Manhood movement- to restore the church. I have heard firsthand some leaders in this movement attempt to blame the decline of Christianity around the globe because men are not “stepping up”. To say nothing of the guilt and/or shame tactic, this is unfair. However, there is truth to this- too many men sit on the sidelines & do not take their so-called faith personally & deeply enough.

 

The flaw- this lack of engagement is a human problem for men and women! The Great Commission [Matthew 28:19], Paul’s exhortation not to forsake the assembly [Hebrews 10:25] & pray without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17], & other commands in the Bible pushing believers to take their faith seriously are not gender specific. God expects everyone who is in The Church to participate in The Church as each is gifted. [1 Corinthians 7; 12] All hands, feet, eyes, & hearts on deck- male, female, or otherwise.

 

Unfortunately, in its attempts to ‘encourage’ [read- shame/guilt trip] men toward deepening their faith & sense of spiritual responsibility in relationships & daily living among a variety of people in the world, femininity is devalued & made shameful. Simeon writes that the Biblical Manhood movement’s desire to “counter the problem of men only maturing in ways that are feminine”. This implies there is only 1 type of feminine & that 1 narrow feminine definition is inadequate. Just as only femininity is unbalanced, so is only masculinity. Narrow definitions of masculinity, femininity, and gender do not benefit anyone. Rather, this leads to exclusion, confusion, & shame.

 

Simeon makes an excellent point that many times machismo snippets of men’s stories in the Bible are taken to validate a call to macho masculinity- such as David, Samson, or Benaiah- but overly considering external actions such as physical strength or warrior imagery without adequate conversation surrounding their spiritual and interior lives. While David is called a man after God’s own heart, he should not be a masculine ideal. David was adulterous [Bathsheba- 2 Samuel 11], needed a bold word of correction from Nathan [2 Samuel 12], dishonored his wife [Michal- 2 Samuel 6], & so on. David also wrote many Psalms & there is plenty of evidence to suggest he had an active relationship with God. Still, parts of David’s story in the Bible can be interpreted as a warning for what not to do.

 

I had to control myself from giving a slow clap standing ovation when I read Simeon’s comment on Pauline masculinity- “it would be putting words in Paul’s mouth to say that true Masculinity is Godliness”. I must add that if true masculinity is indeed Godliness, then true Godliness is masculine & that leaves women up a creek & inherently devalues femininity- a big no no against valuing God’s Creation! Genesis 1:27 says male & female God created them. However, masculine & feminine- society created them.

   

Overall, just as the Biblical Womanhood movement makes some good points & I trust has positive faith-affirming motives, so does the Biblical Manhood movement. However, both are crucially flawed. There is more than 1 “Biblical” definition of femininity and masculinity. Both the Biblical Manhood & Biblical Womanhood movements have an Anglo-Western perspective as evidenced by its narrow ‘definitions’ of femininity & masculinity that are as culturally relative as food & music. As Rachel Held Evans writes in A Year of Biblical Womanhood, “Biblical cannot be used as a cheap adjective” For more on her book, read my review here.

 

As a moderately progressive Christian, I continually remind myself that the enemy [if there must be enemies] is not faith-seeking Christians who believe differently than me. Rather, the enemy, in this case of gender issues, is anyone who does not uphold the dignity, value, & equal worth of every person- male, female, or otherwise. The enemy is anyone who makes cheap blows & insults that only reveal their ignorance & lack of motivation to education themselves. The enemy is anyone who is incapable of having a civilized conversation. As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. While I may passionately disagree with Christians that have a more conservative or more strongly gendered perspective than me, I still call them my brothers and sisters, not an enemy, as we all desire to understand what it means to be who we are- carefully balancing gender, sexuality, & faith. A little grace goes a long way. Give & receive. 

 

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