Browsing Category

transformation

community, love, transformation

The Heart of Disunity is found in two words: Us and Them

February 15, 2017

Us and Them: the heart of disunity

In the squarish mile-and-a-half suburb of NYC where I grew up, right near the western approach to the George Washington Bridge, its proximity to the city afforded me glimpses into very ordinary lives of the children of “chosen” artists, writers, university professors, movie, television and Broadway actors, musicians, white collar workers and laborers drawn to its small footprint, culture and location. Everyone seemed to know each other. There was a strong sense of belonging, plenty of ethnic blends and flavors, and what felt like ten mamas who had their eyes on you at all times.

In my childish mind it was very much a “we” community. Mrs. Pilkington, the British crossing guard, ushered all of us from one curb to another with her accent, and we’d giggle and repeat her like we were all queens of England that came in a myriad of pigmentation, tones and ethnic backgrounds. Color, race, nor class never seemed to be a primary issue, but culture clearly was an assimilation process. I actually didn’t consider my hometown to be discriminatory, until I reflected on the discovery that my grandma was born in a house on Spring Street. “How could that be?”, I wondered with all the practicality of an eight-year-old who lacked judgement. My grandma was a white woman and Spring Street was the one street where only African Americans resided. I questioned, how did she manage to be born into the exclusive (excluded) neighborhood of Spring Street on the edge of our small town?

Many years later I look back without youthful naivety, and with deep sadness. We all learned together, played together in the neighborhood parks, swam together, shared pizzas together, laughed and cried together. But none of us questioned why “we” went one way and “they” went another to get home to Spring Street.

My lead pastor, Brian Bennett recently made a statement that triggered my memories of the unspoken segregation on Spring Street. “Jesus frees us to identify with others inclusively.

Deeper than class, culture, color, ethnicity, gender, religion, or political affiliation, the term “they” seems to be the fundamental problem to anything that masks to divide us. The heart of disunity lies in the polarizing pairs of these words: we/us and they/them. Playgrounds, sports fields, workplaces, nations, and yes, churches have become battlegrounds over the words “us” and “them” at humanity’s expense with devastating consequences.

Yet God chose us, not to be exclusive, but inclusive.

Look into the clashing cultures of the Jews and Gentiles in the book of Ephesians; is the church in Ephesus even separated by one degree from whom we are today, as we learn to live out our multicultural calling? Paul wrote to the six-year old church as a reminder that Jesus chose us (inclusive) before the foundation of the world, and we have obtained an inheritance. The law-abiding, Jews emerged from a legalistic background, and worshiped whom they thought was their exclusive God. They suddenly had to learn to shift to “us” and “we” alongside brothers and sisters in Christ who had recently walked away from occult activity, promiscuity, superstition and pagan worship. But if they hadn’t figured out a way to love one another and work together, the church in Ephesus couldn’t stand. Unity was only obtained through God’s enabling power and a shift in their minds from ‘they/them’ to ‘us/we– one church’.

And today, unity can and will again be obtained through God’s power, Christ’s peace and an important shift in our language and understanding of personal identity. We can actually be known by our love, not going separate ways, but opening up our neighborhoods, homes, and lives to learn, embrace and celebrate the differences in all of us, in Christ.

faith, transformation, trust, truth

unencumbered

May 16, 2016

 

unencumbered: living as if you believe

Forget the lies others have told you and labels that have been slapped on you.
Put your trust in what Christ did for you and who He says you are.

Now walk forward in that grace
unencumbered
by the past
changed in the present
and excited for what’s ahead.

equipping, hope, transformation

Moving Forward: Who are You?

December 31, 2015

God is Bigger and Greater

END OF YEAR REFLECTIONS…

assess the past, inventory the present and walk into the promises stored up and waiting for you.

Standing on the crest of a new chapter of your life, what do you hope for?
Is it love? Peace? Health? Faith? Influence? Patience? Trust? Rest?
Maybe just plain hope?

Grab hold of the fact that God is bigger and greater than anything you’ve believed Him to be last year. Take stock in your identity and figure out the areas of your life that you’ve boxed Him in, forcing Him to take on a smaller perspective in your life than He really is.

Figure out your purpose and God will surely grow larger, “exceedingly abundantly” beyond what you could ever ask or think. (Eph 3:20) And so will you.

  • Determine who you are (your identity/mission/calling/purpose) by tapping into Whose you are. To understand yourself, go to the Source who created you! You are made in His image, so, which reflections or characteristics of that Source are you reflecting into the world around you? Or how about this…determine a few characteristics of God that you most appreciate about Him. Those characteristics might be important to you because it’s part of His identity He embedded in you while He knit you together. So give it some thought…He’s patient, kind, unchanging, pure, merciful, all-knowing, gracious, gentle, creative, joyful, just, generous, compassionate, kind, loving, truthful…to name just a few. Pick two of your favorite to start.
    • How are you reflecting that character?
    • What steps can you take to mirror more of that character?
    • What triggers have set you off in the past that prevented you from echoing that character?
  • What have trustworthy people closest to you, past and present, said about you? Sometimes others can see our identities better than we can see them ourselves.
  • Think back to who you were as a child.
    • What sweet, joyous memories stand out?
    • What challenges did you face?
    • What did you dream about and pretend as a child?

Sometimes those dreams are the aspirations God stores inside us to be lived out in the future. Often, the experiences He provides along the way are tools to put in our tool belts for what we need in the journey.

  • Now, take inventory of who you are today. Clarity in your identity and calling is likely hidden just beneath the surface of these questions:
    • What brings you joy?
    • What makes you cry?
    • What makes you jealous?
    • What ‘things’ or issues do you notice all the time?
    • What stirs up justice in your heart?
    • Where do you see God working in any of those answers? Move in a little closer to that.
  • Do you have a life verse that God has given you? If not, pause now and pray. Go to the Scriptures and ask God to reveal it to you. Ask God who HE says you are through this verse or verses, and who HE says you’re not. Remove the pieces of stinking thinking that have lied to you and told you who you aren’t…and you’ll quickly learn to embrace who you are!

Live in His love, laugh in His favor, delight in His presence. Embrace who God’s created and called you to be in 2016. He is bigger than all you’ve believed Him to be last year.  #turningpoints

equipping, fortitude, strength, transformation, trust

Strong Women

November 27, 2015

A Strong Woman desires all God wants for her...even more than she fears it.

From a distance I marveled at my friend as she led her team through a voice of inner confidence that resonated with fortitude, poise and assurance. Tears misted over my perspective that few were privy to, for I knew the sting that remained on her skin from the insults, names and rumors hurled past her only 30 minutes prior.

My friend is a strong woman.

Strong. Woman.

Independently, those two words speak positivity, life and affirmation.
Strung together, they can go either way. “Strong woman” connotes a woman of bravery. Proverbs 31 details the virtuous woman, “Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come.” (v.25). Yet there’s a flip side to the phrase “strong woman” too, that can stir up uneasiness in some. Whether it’s rooted in historical context, cultural context, or even isolation of Scripture without the progressive revelation of God’s purpose to call, equip and empower women, the words ‘strong woman’ together can also stir up a worldly batter of “b” words…bold, brazen, and more.

“STRONG WOMAN.”

One of our pastors once relayed a comment about the “strong women” we have in our own church. It was not said with positivity, delivered with a mild caution for awareness, relayed with uneasiness. I pondered over the hearts behind it with some heaviness, and even my own baggage, for the same demonstrated characteristics that are often celebrated in men, when packaged in a woman, become a b-word. However in that conversation with the pastor, God spoke clearly to me: “celebrate it”.

Celebrate the strong women.

I do. I truly do have strong women in my circle… women of courage, heroic, with spirit and spunk. They are stalwart and adventurous, gutsy and gallant. Their strength is not motivated though, in the outer voices and pep-talks that tell them they matter. The secret to the strength in those I know as “strong” is their inner humility. Each woman I celebrate is unpretentious and steady, nourished by the unnatural strength and power from Jesus to walk in a lifestyle of obedience to Christ when the world woos them to back down, back off, back away. They are not silenced when God says “speak”, but confident in Christ-minded action, and Christ-like in attitude. They are women who stay connected to the Vine; their reputations do not mute the inner Voice inside them, nor are they fortified or molded by media, striving for just the right selfie to post, nor by the naysayers and noises telling them who they are not, how they should look, and who they are.

Strong women are the ones fortified by their best friend, coach, trainer, counselor Jesus Christ, who pours into and invests in them day after day after day…and in turn His strength pours out. That is real strength no person can forge, fake, or fabricate on her own. Their identity, durability, stability and tenacity is rooted in the affirmation of Jesus Christ who declares them worthy, honored and beloved.

FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD RUN TO AND FRO THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH, TO SHOW HIMSELF STRONG ON BEHALF OF THOSE WHOSE HEART IS LOYAL TO HIM. ~2 Chronicles 16:9

I celebrate too, that I see a new generation of women rooted in Christ collectively becoming stronger in who we all are, knowing Whose we are. We are not afraid of having honest conversations with ourselves (vs “about” ourselves), allowing Jesus to fix the broken pieces, heal the wounds and restore us to a new strength.

Let’s all celebrate every woman who desires all God wants for her…even more than she fears it. That is a strong woman.