current-events

From Darkness to Light

‘Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.’ 1 Corinthians 15:58

I don’t know about you, but, I suspect that, like me and many others I know, you might be tired. I mean mentally, emotionally, and physically fatigued. With everything going on in the world around us, that alone is enough to bring on the fatigue.

Just when things were on the verge of or starting to open up from the restrictions of the pandemic, there’s a spike cases and hospitalizations. Now things are tightening down again, as Oregon enters it’s 14th week of sheltering in and wearing masks. As a result of these pandemic related things, the national and local economies have been increasingly depressed with businesses closing (small business the most) and people losing their jobs, and the national unemployment at the highest it’s been since 1940. The protests for Black Lives Matter are entering their fourth week, having just passed Juneteenth, the celebration of the Emancipation of the slaves. Not to mention the victories and losses for our LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors. Plus, the Presidential election cycle and the polarized politicization of both the pandemic and the BLM movement.

It’s overwhelming and absolutely exhausting. Then you add in whatever is happening for you and your loved ones, as well as how these national events are affecting you on an individual level.

So, there’s a lot of confusion. There’s a ton of conflicting information and even more conflicting opinions. The focus of the news and the media is sensationalized and focused on the painful and negative. There’s very little constructive dialogue and there seems to be a constant, false dichotomy of “us vs. them” everywhere you turn.What do we do with all of this? How do we get some relief, some clarity? How do we get some rest, other than avoiding the media and becoming turtles withdrawing into our shells? How do we decide where to place our focus?

The passage that the verse above comes from is Paul speaking about Jesus and all that he did for us to have life and to look forward to. He’s offering us a foundational reason to keep moving forward and to keep doing good in this world, even when what is good seems to have gone on vacation. Even though the issues and things around us may seem too big and too much for each of us as individuals to make a difference in, anything we do to bring the light of Jesus and God’s love into the lives of the people around us is not in vain.

‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. ‘ Galatians 6:10

But, before we can do any of that, before we have anything to give, we have to allow ourselves a chance to rest, recharge, and fill up on that light and love ourselves.

‘“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”’ Matthew 11:28-30

Now is the time for rest, recharge, and renewal, so that we can reenter the world’s arena and face the things around us with hope and love to share.

‘Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.’ Philippians 4:8-9

It is imperative that we look for the good in the midst of the bad. It’s there. Look for the stories of those who are giving of themselves, the stories of the peacemakers, the stories of those who are offering comfort, and even those who are offering happy and joyful things in the midst of the sorrow and the tragedy. Many may argue that now is not the time for levity and laughter. I would argue that now, more than ever, is the time for us to take a break and seek these things out.

‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. ‘ Proverbs 17:22

If we don’t take a break from the darkness around us and seek the light, our soul dies bit by bit and our spirits become broken. That’s no way for anyone to live. That’s not the legacy that Jesus left us. He left us God’s Spirit to live in us, so that our spirits can live and thrive, and that so we can share that life with those around us.Take a break. Get some rest. Find a reason to smile and laugh. Then, take that out with you and reenter the fray so you can help others to have a break, take a rest, and have cause to laugh and smile.

“Not being a racist” is not enough

If you support Trump, then you are allowing his racist attitudes and comments to bolster racists systems and people who are knowingly and actively racist. In turn, he knowingly accepts and thrives on the support and financial contribution – pure and simple.

If you tolerate it because you don’t want to support opposing candidates, for whatever reasons, you are tolerating racism and racist systems which jeopordize the health, safety, freedom, and economic security of an entire segment of our fellow American citizens.

It is not enough to see your personal acceptance, tolerance, like/love for the BIPOC you know as non-racist. If you support someone with the power, ability, and charisma to influence, whether purposely, with malice, or unintentionally/incidentally, then, believe it or not, you are complicit when racist actions damage and destroy the lives of Black and brown people.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

It is not enough to “not be a racist.” In order not to be complicit, you must be anti-racist.

PS: this also applies regarding the Transphobic, Homophobic, and Non-Gender Conforming policies

What to do with the grief of others

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. ~ Romans 12:15 HCSB

How can we show up in the midst of pain and grief for our marginalized siblings in the world around us, when we have no idea what to do or say to them and what we CAN do feels futile in the face of the vitriol and intentional ignorance? How do we not wind up making our sense of ineffectiveness and futility more important than their experiences of violence and suffering?

The answer is to BE with them in their grief. Acknowledge and validate their anger. Learn why they fear the things we don’t. Share and celebrate the things and people they celebrate. Be willing to set aside your “stuff” to show them they and their “stuff” matters. In other words, treat them the way you want to be treated.

It may be challenging to look away from our own issues, circumstances, and experiences in order to look and see those of others, much less step into their world and be with them. But, it’s very much worth the effort to do so. We also have guidance on how to do this.

‘He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. ‘ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 HCSB

How do we receive comfort from God? Sometimes it’s an internal sense of peace or a lifting of the spirit, maybe a lessening of the pressure on our chest or the lessening of the restriction of our throat. Maybe it’s through a song, a poem, a meaningful writing, or piece of scripture. Perhaps a video or show. However, there are times when it is another person and their words, actions, or just them being present with us which contributes to the feeling of being comforted. Those are the things we can do and share, if they are something the person grieving is in a place to receive.

‘The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord ’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him. ‘ Isaiah 61:1-3 HCSB

Jesus came to do these things, show us how to do these things, and teach us to do these things so we can share and demonstrate the love he shared and demonstrated to us. This is how we can learn and know how to show up in the midst of the pain and grief, anger and fear, our marginalized and brutalized brothers and sisters experience.

Fight for the Oppressed

‘Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. ‘ ~ Proverbs 31:8-9 HCSB

There is no way to avoid the fact that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are dispossessed, oppressed, and in need of justice, along with economic and social equity. We also know (or are coming to realize) the realities of white privilege, which is, ultimately, at the root of systemic and institutionalized racism in our nation.

The verse quoted above is the advice of a mother to her son, the king, the ruler of the people and the highest authority in the land.

‘It is not for kings, Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine or for rulers to desire beer. Otherwise, they will drink, forget what is decreed, and pervert justice for all the oppressed. ‘ Proverbs 31:4-5 HCSB

We have been witness to, perhaps even complicit in, the perverted justice of the oppressed by the way we have supported or allowed the “rulers,” the people in power in our country – whether they be police or politicians corporate heads – the billionaires and millionaires, to manipulate, dictate, and enforce the laws and the tenets of Constitutional rights. Over the past week, especially the past few days, we have seen the evidence of this perversion of justice by the man who would be king, if he could.

‘“But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of mint, rue, and every kind of herb, and you bypass justice and love for God. These things you should have done without neglecting the others.’ Luke 11:42 HCSB

As Jesus followers we have to be careful to ensure we are not placing things above people. Yes, we are to take care of things and steward them responsibly. That’s just what we’re supposed to be doing in the course of daily living. However, we are called to go above and beyond that and make justice for people, a form of loving God, a priority.

So, how do we do that?

Some of us have little to give in terms of material wealth and possessions. Some of us have compromised physical and/or mental health to be able to engage in “active” ways. Some of us are overwhelmed with the daily responsibilities and obligations we experience. Some of us are fighting for our own survival in ways we may not have shared with others.

In these instances, it may feel like we have little to nothing to offer. The truth is, we each have something to offer and something we can do.

First, we can educate ourselves. Research BIPOC writers and authors, filmmakers and educators. Find their books, blogs, movies, and classes.

Second, we can speak out and up on whatever platform we have, whether it’s on social media or in conversations with others.

Third, we can shop and eat at BIPOC owned businesses in support of their communities.

Fourth, volunteer. Whether it’s to make phone calls, write letters, sign petitions, or even provide office support, even if it’s only for an hour a week, it matters.

As always, we can pray. Pray for justice, equity, and protection of our BIPOC brothers and sisters. Pray for justice. Pray for the community, governmental, and corporate leaders to make the changes in themselves and in their areas of influence.

Here are some places to start:

 

Book Reading list

Netflix Anti-racism Movie Calendar

Netflix movies for anitracism

Social Justice and Being Christian

Forgive this interruption in the regularly scheduled programming about my job search journey. This is just too important to me to not talk about.

This past week I was in a discussion with several others regarding social justice issues like homelessness, stereotypes, what we believe about them, and how we act on them as followers of Jesus.

A significant part of the conversation was regarding those who experience homelessness, with much of that centering on those in chronic homelessness, who often deal with substance abuse and dependence issues.

There were the usual questions about the whys and wherefores of “those” people’s choices and lifestyles. We also touched on the changes and so-called solutions in our society which foster the problem of homelessness and its impact on society.

When we got around to what to do about it, that’s when we got down to the nitty gritty of our role as Christians and individuals. How do you love people who may be unsafe, living in unsafe circumstances, who reject the social services they may have access to? How do you determine if someone will or can benefit from your involvement? What does relationship look like in this context?

One person stated that we can’t know what to do unless we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. But, what if you’re like me and have difficulty accessing and discerning what the Holy Spirit may be saying?

Look to Jesus. Not to be trite, but, what would Jesus do?

• Make eye contact.
• Listen without judgment.
• Offer a willingness to understand.
• Treat with dignity.

It’s not our job to solve homelessness or poverty, as individuals. Those are goals to be worked toward, for sure. However, what we do know that it’s our job as individuals to love our neighbor, including our neighbors without four walls and a roof.

How to do that? Take time to get to know one of “those” people, even if it’s just to share a cheap fast food meal, a conversation on the corner, or offering a garbage bag so they can pick up their debris. These acts are acts of relationship and relationships are what Jesus is about.

I’ve experienced homelessness more than once in my life. The longest period was as a teen in relationship with a much older man who was, essentially, a professional, low-level con artist. Other times occurred when my mental health crashed and I couldn’t hold a job at the same time as my relationship’s toxicity clashed with my anxiety and mania…only I didn’t understand that’s what was happening.

I didn’t have substance abuse issues, but, my mental health issues, which weren’t recognized or understood by me or others around me, created an inability to toe the line of organizational and societal demands and expectations. Encountering someone willing to actually see ME and not just my circumstances or my history was priceless. It afforded me a sense of dignity that can only come from being seen and treated as if I was worthwhile and that I mattered, whether or not I could conform or meet the expectations of others.

I have neighbors who are unsheltered. Many experience alcoholism and dependency on other substances. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they panhandle. Sometimes they collect cans and bottles. Sometimes they do none of the above. They often do what they can to keep the areas they occupy free of debris. However, sometimes they don’t have a way to gather and dispose of garbage. Just like they don’t have consistent or frequent access to laundry or bathing facilities.

I’ve witnessed them helping and looking out for each other. They’ve helped me carry things too heavy for me to carry up a flight of stairs…without expecting or asking for anything in return.

Of course not everyone in these circumstances is friendly, open, or safe. There’s a lot of history of personal trauma for most people living on the streets. Substance abuse and addiction is very common for trauma survivors and those experiencing mental illness.

It’s easy to look at someone on a corner with a sign and make assumptions based on what you think you would do, given the set of circumstances you believe they are in. But, you don’t know them or their story. You can’t, unless you take the time and make the effort.

Donating money is easy – whether it’s to an organization or directly to an individual. Choosing any degree of relationship with an uncomfortable other is less easy for most of us and it’s not possible with all people at all times…but, it makes more of a difference and more impact than you may believe.

Of Millennials, Protesters, and Anarchists

I live in a city filled with diversity. We are home to a strong, active, civic-minded, engaged, and involved African American community. We have been and are home to refugees and immigrants from various countries in Eastern Europe, India, Africa, Asia, and more. We are home to a large, entrepreneurial,  hard-working, contributing Hispanic community, some of whom may be undocumented, but are valuable members of the communities they live and work in. Our LGBTQUIA community is friendly, fun, fierce, fabulous, and fearless. We have strong, courageous, dedicated women in all sectors: private, government, and social service . We are known as the place, “where the young go to retire,” where the “dream of the 90’s” is alive and well, and where the hipsters, post-millennial hippies, and bicycling eco-activists work hard to honor and respect diversity and work to make inclusivity a way of life. We are a blue city flying a rainbow flag.

Don’t twist it and get me wrong. We have our negatives and our misunderstandings. We have our prejudices and our biases. We have our oppressed and our oppressors. However, we also have enough people willing to have the conversations, listen to each other, learn from each other, and stand with each other against the inhumane things humans do to other humans.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we’ve had three days of protests since Donald Trump won the Presidential election with the electoral vote, if not the popular one.

What was surprising is that last night’s protest turned into a bit of a riot, with projectiles being thrown at police, them firing non-lethal rubber bullets and the like back, windows getting smashed in, property getting destroyed, physical altercations between protesters and frustrated motorists trying to get home after 16 hour workdays or get out of the city to get to an emergency. That isn’t who we are as a city. This isn’t who we are as people . . . most of us anyway.

Since the protests started, I’ve seen a lot of posts by people I know, who are criticizing and dismissing the protesters as entitled brats who are upset that they didn’t get their way in the election. These people, many of whom are friends and family of mine, or people I went to school with 30-40 years ago, are claiming that the protestors are whiny, spoiled children who don’t know or understand what true hardship is and are doing this because too many participation trophies were handed out. This couldn’t be farther from the truth . . . at least for the majority of the protesters.

First off, let me say this: There were people, self-proclaimed anarchists, hiding behind masks and wearing distinctive clothing, who inserted themselves in the crowd of otherwise peaceful protestors. Some of these people may be of the Millennial Generation and may have been handed too many participation trophies, but, their actions have little to nothing to do with the intention and message of the protesters. They just want to cause chaos and destruction. They get a kick out of doing it and their payoff is distracting from and derailing the dialogue which the protesters are trying to have.

Secondly, the true protesters, Portland’s Resistance, have disavowed those who committed the violence and caused the damage. Additionally, Portland’s Resistance is taking responsibility and corrective action. You can read more about it here.

Now, on to what this post is really about . . . clearing up the misconceptions about the protestors and the Millennials among them. What needs understanding is this, the world Millennials grew up on is completely and drastically different than the one I, and others before me, grew up in. The differences go much deeper and are more far reaching than participation trophies. I have some perspective on this because I am parent to a pre-millennial, a millennial, and a post-millennial.

My Millennial child was born in 1993, was a pre-adolescent at the turn of the millennia, and came into adulthood in the 2010’s. She’s an amazing, compassionate, passionate, determined, and civically active and aware woman.

You see, she and her peers grew up in a time of unprecedented globalization. The internet led to social media: Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress and so many more online spaces where people of all ages, faiths, nationalities, colors, genders, sexualities, health conditions, family structures, educational levels, and economic levels could communicate with, see, and hear each other. All of these people created and shared the things that represented who they are, where they’re from, what they believe, what they’ve experienced, their gifts, talents, and passions.

The internet and social media became the great equalizer, even if anonymous (or not so anonymous) bigots and bullies trolled to see who they could attack, threaten, heckle, diminish, and demean.

Which brings me to my next point: rising awareness and rejection of bias, prejudice, bullying, and violence.

My Millennial daughter and her peers grew up in an era where many of the previously hidden and accepted isms of our society rose up in awareness, because the people who were stigmatized and terrorized by these things courageously began rising up and speaking out about their experiences of injustice, violence, suppression, and oppression. Domestic Violence, Rape Culture, Racism, Sexism, Gender Inequality, the dehumanization of LGTBQIA people, Ableism, Ageism, Body Shaming, Cyber Bullying, Xenophobia have been an inherent part of their lives, throughout their lives. There have been so many actions, organizations, events, and movements to rise against these things and our Millennial children were taught in school, on television, in social media, and even by their parents, that these things are not acceptable and that this is not who we want to be as people, as humans.

We taught and they learned that everyone has a place and everyone has something of value to contribute to the world, even if they aren’t the MVP. That’s what participation trophies taught them.

They learned to use their voices, the privileges they may have, their personal experiences, their gifts, talents, and passions to stand up, stand for, and stand with people different from themselves, to stand against the things which destroy and devour the hopes, dreams, identities, and lives of the people in the world around us.

Don’t dismiss them. Listen to them. Learn from them. They’re the future policy makers, leaders, and caregivers we’ll be dependent on in a few years.