to the refugee and black (wo)man and the down-trodden.

i have had these thoughts (though not quite as mature or well-formulated to-date) for years. only recently when it feels like humanity has broken down a little more and in a time where the sinfulness of man is perhaps more visible than ever, have i cared enough to think of ways to actually DO something. to stop worrying about putting my foot in my mouth and counting the cost before i’ve started and saying more via social media than i ever do with my life. i’m tired of caring about something or someone only when a crisis occurs. i’m sickened by my inability to empathize with human beings. i’m disgusted by how disconnected the way i use my time and words and tears has truly been representative of the heart of god. what a luxury to get to look away and what a profound disgrace.

i have had many conversations with friends in the last couple of weeks (primarily white friends that are mostly like me, mind you) about what’s going on. everyone fumbling for the words and to voice our despair and depression over the state of things. listen — i don’t know what to say. way too much has been said and so much of it is vastly unhelpful and not even an iota of enough and i have trouble believing my words matter either. and to a degree, they don’t. not if the feelings behind them don’t lead to compassion and to seeking to understand instead of begging to be understood. not if i’m more worried about what my words would sound like than what my silence would scream.

because i love god, i will speak up. the same way i want to speak up about the devastation of abortion, the way i despise the sex trade, the way i should care about child soldiers in foreign countries i will never ever visit, the way my heart is broken when any of god’s people are seen as less than their full worth. i have to care. if god’s people do not care — who will? who, except those who have received RADICAL GRACE, will and can stand  up for the afflicted, the oppressed? it’s our very bloodline, you know? god’s chosen people, a royal priesthood. also? former slaves. also? promised affliction and struggle.

do you know that i have rarely felt that? i have rarely felt the ravage beast Injustice in my own white-girl american experience. i have seldom had the crippling fear of Persecution banging down my door because of the color of my skin or where i was born. i have never once in my life feared for my life or had to risk fleeing my country. i am blissfully ignorant. and thank god! what an amazing gift to never even consider my safety in daily life. but yet, there are so many who this has not been their story, has not been their narrative. do you know that every single one is made in the image of god? that jesus died on the cross to save ALL — even the ungodly, even while we were still sinning? the ones you think are the worthy of that sacrifice and the ones you think absolutely are not. but do you see the problem with our mentality that we get to decide which human being has merit and which does not? it elevates us to a righteous judge, it infers that we WERE somehow deserving of the sacrifice (which we assuredly were not, by the way). jesus died so that every human being would have LIFE and life to the FULL. an amazing, undeserved gift. offered freely to all.

and yet. there has been a huge population WITHIN OUR OWN COUNTRY that has not felt this to be so. black americans have historically and recently not felt valued as human beings (and truly have not BEEN valued as human beings). there are a myriad of other words and arguments being tossed around but listen: a great majority of the black population — in the millions — of human beings on our own free soil have, first in whispers and now in blood-curdling screams, been trying to convince us of their worth. if there was 10 black people in the whole country feeling victimized — fine. when, almost without exception, every black person has tried to tell us of their shared experiences and we respond with “no, it is not,” we are degrading their experiences to ours. we are looking through rose colored glasses telling them that “victimization” and “targeting” is actually just “sensitivity” or something they’ve conjured up, as if they’d like this to be true.

this conversation has miles to go and many wounds to heal before it is solved.

as christians, we are heirs to a bloodline that saved ours. we were washed clean and saved by the blood of a slaughtered lamb who was pierced for our transgressions. none of us are good, not even one — not even a white christian with the privilege of being born in a country with so many freedoms and the ability to choose from practically anything we’d like to become. we should use our so-called privilege to do what jesus did — stand for those who cannot. use our voices to call out injustice. use our platforms to call up into the tree to the one who doesn’t belong and say “let me come to your house”. as christians, let us look more like christ: humble, quick to listen, the one filled with compassion and prompted to move. we cannot stay silent anymore.

buoyant hope.

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72 weeks ago (or about a year and some change if you’re not a math whiz like me), i posted this instagram with the full caption below:

“GUYS. I must tell you a cool story. After a personally difficult semester in the fall, I felt excited for a new start this year as God graciously has been realigning my priorities and heart. Yesterday, after my party I read a letter from@vgoneal expressing prayers for this year to be one where i felt light + weightless; in a word, BUOYANT. Today, I was going to doodle and pulled a quote that i had saved in my notes from a recent book i had read. The quote? “HOPE MADE HER BUOYANT”. I thought it was such a beautiful coincidence. Then, I read a status that @binduthota had posted about MLK jr on his sufferings and God and how they intertwined to change him. As i was looking for something else to doodle, i pulled it up, reread and this quote caught my attention “When the chains of fear and the manacles of frustration have all but stymied my efforts, i have felt the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the BUOYANCY OF HOPE.” // The unlikelihood of 3 unrelated things fitting together so seamlessly points to one thing; a God that cares INTIMATELY about the details of our hearts and lives.”

 

for 72 weeks i have intermittently come back to this prayer. to feel a weightless, buoyant hope. and i often wondered if these were empty words. i haven’t felt light or carefree. i haven’t felt the weight lifted in quite awhile. i wondered if i misheard god. if his promises really weren’t reputable.

until now.

it’s not that everything is peachy keen and shimmery. it’s not that all the things that pain my soul have disappeared. its that in the middle of it, god has been revealing his purpose and his kindness to me. i have, after a long endurance of suffering gained character that leads to hope. i feel buoyant. i feel alive and giddy. i feel like the whole world is before me. and after feeling so much darkness in the past few years, this is and can only be the work of god. he has given me hope in a future — a future i couldn’t have imagined, wouldn’t have pursued had it not been for this time of silence and waiting.

do you have a word from the lord? is it one that you keep hidden in the back recesses of your mind hoping you didn’t actually emit it to the world? didn’t it say it too loud? do you have a hard time trusting his word? his sovereignty? or will we be like abraham, who, “after waiting patiently, received what was promised”?

when looking up where that verse was, i was reading it for context and to see what the rest of the chapter said (read below) and almost cried at the beauty of the word of god. of his faithfulness and promises. he can be trusted. he cannot go back on his word. he swears against himself because there is no authority above him. what an unshakeable and steady god we serve. his promises are unchangeable, as is he.

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it says “we who have run for our very lives to god have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go”. amen! hallelujah! we have a god who sent his son for us who is literally running ahead of us to take our place, to take the permanent post of high priest for us. we have an intercessor, a redeemer. we are allowed to hope because of his work on the cross. we get god’s promises and jesus, too. we get it all because god is gracious and kind to us. because he chooses to bless us.

so, if you’re waiting on the lord — if you are exhausted with hoping, if you are distrustful that his word will be true for you — look to sarah (genesis 21:1), look to abraham (hebrews 6:15), look to anyone in history, look to me. god will never take back his promises. if he has given you a word, a promise, a prayer — he will be faithful to complete it. as mlk jr so eloquently put it, “[when the chains of fear and the manacles of frustration have all but stymied your efforts, you will feel the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope].” onward, friends.

“be brave and courageous. wait patiently on the lord”

when busyness becomes an idol

over the past couple of months, i have had more time than i have had in years. maybe ever. time to spend how i choose — to waste or to dedicate to what i find worthy at the moment. as someone who truly “thrives” on multi-tasking and doing things under pressure, you can imagine what a surprise (and disappointment) this research was to read. this quote summarizes the gist succinctly: “Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.” ouch. apparently it also makes you dumber. like an 8-year old child dumb. no offense to 8-year old children, but i was hoping to have surpassed you a bit at this stage in life.

anyways, i have been thinking a lot about busyness recently. how there is this pressure to say yes to hundreds of commitments, to spend your time frivolously, to go until your body or mind gives out because it needs a break. i have experienced this first-hand for years. i’m all about serving and giving of yourself generously — giving your time and energies and passions to worthwhile things. but i have this image in my mind of us from heaven, rushing around furiously “serving god” by overexerting and overcommitting ourselves. too much in a rush to spend time with god (not for, with) or say hello to our neighbor or to think clearly (we’re all 8-year olds demanding we can keep this pace). we are the multi-tasking generation — much too important to slow down or to dial back where we think we’re needed. we have overinflated sense of selves where we have become necessary in every position at every level. we need to be the mentor and discipler. we need to be the worker and the volunteer. we need to go, go, go until we crash and burn. and aren’t we all feeling a little burned out? almost every person i know my age is experiencing this. we have this very noble desire to serve god in multiple capacities but it often leaves our lives fragmented, our relationships fractured. what does it say about us that we don’t trust god to rest?

“six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.”  exodus 23:12

i have found in this season an unexplainable peace. peace that comes with the presence of jesus, yes, but also a mind and heart that has been allowed quietness and rest. notice in exodus 23:12, it clearly promotes work — work six out of seven days — but it also puts value and importance on being refreshed. maybe your formula isn’t six-out-of-seven. maybe it is four-out-of-five or ten-out-of-eleven — i don’t know. i think it depends greatly on your temperament and capacity. i think it depends on your season and calling. i think it depends on the holy spirit’s nudgings and your willingness to follow in obedience. anything else is sinful. if you think your church or organization or PTA or friends can’t carry on without you, you’re wrong. if god desires you to recuperate and to be refreshed, he will fill in the gaps. you will need to honor your commitments and follow through — this is why it’s critical to constantly evaluate and adjust your capacity to serve in a certain season. it’s difficult for me to say no to helping with something when i TECHNICALLY have the time or ability to do something. i want to be of service and i want to be available. however, the wisest thing is not always your knee-jerk reaction. example: there is a ministry in town that needed volunteers to be paired with girls in particularly difficult situations. Being their friend was the main goal. i felt it a worthy cause and one i felt deeply about. i wanted to help be a part of bringing healing to them through a friendship where god may use me. instead, i committed then realized over the next few weeks that it really wasn’t realistic at that time in my life. so instead of being a blessing to these girls, i became a burden for the coordinator who thought she had a position filled. it would have been better for me to trust that god would fill that position with someone else who cared deeply AND had the capacity and time to invest. I could instead dedicate my time to praying for them.

“you shall have no other gods before me. you shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. you shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” exodus 20:3-5

why is this such a problem? i think because it says more about our allegiance to created things or creatures, than to our creator. we are committed to committing. we are people-pleasers and man-fearers. we want to look good, to have it all, to do it all, and to not need to rest in the process. this is surely ungodly. jesus, whether serving his 12 or serving thousands, stole away to rest and spend time with the father. the need for serving or healing did not take precedence. we can assuredly use jesus as our measuring stick. did jesus work his ass off (his donkey…)? yes. did he serve in inconvenient and unconventional ways? yes — he made time for zacchaeus in the tree (without having it put in his planner by his assistant first), he stopped to speak truth to the woman at the well, wearied though he was (without having schedule a conference near that well) — he was diligent to work and serve, often without agenda but he also made time for god to show up to him personally.

“but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” luke 5:16

notice the key word “often”. would it be said of your life that you “often” withdraw and pray to god? that in the midst of the busyness and business, you would put a priority on time with the one that restores you beside still waters, the one that gives rest to your soul? if not, maybe there is a problem. a problem with the maximization of our capabilities and minimization of god’s. perhaps we think our power too great and god’s too small. i am wildly guilty of this. i put so much emphasis on my abilities to “multi-task” (which, apparently, even according to non-religious sources means i’m as dumb as an 8-year old), that i go weeks or months without giving my soul rest and giving myself over to the lord. but friends, this is the only way. you can learn to say no to overcommitting with confidence in your creator’s supreme sovereignty to keep the world spinning while you rest.