Intersections and Bright Orange Vests Part II

26 08 2010

Along highway 15-501, you’ll find great stories and meaningful lessons, all by watching people – the begging people. Their actions, clothes, bodies, hair, stations and signs tell a story. Granted, a lot of people don’t believe that story and suggest that they are misleading, living a comfortable lifestyle amongst their friends creating a business of begging, but I beg to differ.

I don’t disagree that they may have another concealed life, but I do disagree that their lifestyle is comfortable. I can’t imagine begging as a comfortable practice or business venture. I can’t imagine what is so relaxing about degrading oneself day after day to get a dollar, or even a few coins. Being on the underside of the economy is uncomfortable. It is humiliating. It is distant. It does not even require contact. Begging is a lonely business, a disconcerting effort to survive and live wrapped up in looks of disdain and harsh glares from passersby’s.

And the beggar’s overall invisibility and one-dimensionalism  is strangely a survival mechanism. Smile your toothless grin, say “God bless” and continue doing the dance of “I need your money, please help me.” That is surely humiliating.   

I was at the light in the third lane over frantically searching for a dollar from my change compartment hoping that I would have enough time to signal him over to get whatever I had on me, but the light changed suddenly and slowly traffic was resuming.

Knowing it was too dangerous to pull the stunt of holding up traffic and ask him to dance across two lanes of fast-moving traffic; I replaced the dollar hoping for another opportunity later. What I looked up, he was gone. A second later he stood up as he now stood erect from the crouched position he had when he was previously picking something up. Dangerously close to breaking the median-lane barrier, he stood staring at whatever it was in his hand. It was a dollar bill. He stood looking at the bill for what seemed like eternity. He was in disbelief.  

Suddenly his stare changed from the bill to the car the bill had come from, a silver car speeding hurriedly to its’ next destination. He stood staring.

I could feel his hurt all the way from my car, and he hurt badly. He wasn’t even human enough, worthy enough, visible enough to have a dollar bill placed in his hand.

The ground was more respectable.

What would or should have my Gospel, our Gospel have done?

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When I Leave You with Peace

23 08 2010

I Google-chat a lot, and like to sign off with “Peace” as often as I can. To me “peace” is not an exit signal, but an invocation for something greater than what I am capable of doing or even being in the other person’s life.

When I say “peace” I mean it. Our conversation could be about stressful or turbulent topics that require something a bit deeper, something more thoughtful, something a bit more real than “TTYL.” Sure, talk to you later could suffice, but I’d prefer to leave my friend with something genuine. I want to leave my friend with a blessing over their day, their life, their family, their needs. Even though I am not ordained yet, I want to bless people any and every chance I get.

So a declaration of peace it is.

I want them to think about what I’m leaving them with. I want them to internalize it and begin to agree that their life should have peace; that their tragedy is capable of harboring more than pain and suffering and that somewhere in the midst of the violent chaos of despair, life can have peace. But it has to welcome it first. And they have to be aware that their pain can be overridden with something smoother, simpler, more lovely.

“Peace” is not a synonym for goodbye. It is the subject for good fortune and love over one’s life. It is the shortest prayer I have ever given in my life. It is the best prayer I will ever give my life over to.

As you can see, I pray a lot.

It is my earnest desire and deepest wish over someone else. That they are not only greeted with good fortune and success in their day, but bombarded with peace that doesn’t and shouldn’t make sense; I want them to know the Holy Spirit even before recognizing Her presence in their midst. And when they know Her, I want them to never let Her leave them.

When I depart with “peace” on my lips or on my fingertips, I mean it. It is my prayer. It is my wish that you experience something far greater than yourself or your circumstances. It is my hope that you absolve fear and doubt and grasp onto something just as real if not more real. It is love from a God who never fails, that I want to hand over to you in a small reminder packaged in 5 letters.

Please receive this blessing over your day and extend God’s gift to others.

Peace,

Tomi





Headphones

14 08 2010

Headphones

By: T.O.O.

 I need to shut out demons with headphones

A sound bite of God nestles Herself in my conscious mind and subconscious soul

And soothes

Away words and language that burn holes in my flesh

Thoughts in my ears

Lies in the dermis of my soul

Scarring me for hell, not resurrection.

I need to shut out demons with headphones

Airlifting peace and harmony into the veined places of my heart

Caressing cargo of care injected holy wonders and fluid memories

Into summer afternoons and fall sunsets

Winter moments and Spring cathedrals

Daring God’s grace to save me. And love me.  

Until I can’t feel fire anymore

I can’t hear gnashing teeth anymore

I need a barrier to barricade barrage after barrage of self-pity, doubt, hate, scorn

Suicidal mental notes to never take this life seriously again

A gifted serenade of mental notes floating far above my dreams and fantasies

Hopes and fears

Sacrificing lambs and rams filled with the sins of my songs

Doused in Hell’s hot sauce just for good measure

And redeemed

And restored

And renewed

Because it was sacrificed

I need to replace my gushing catharsis of Satan’s sanity

With God’s growing harvest

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven

Hear me Holy Spirit

Help me remember music that ‘tis so sweet

I trust in Jesus

Who places Satan behind Him

Beneath Him

Revised hymns of hip hop laced blues

Jazz-infused psalms of God’s heaven and grace

Comfort me, cover me, in wings, windows and words

That open up worlds unknown –

Submerged in headphones.





The I’m Sorry Tattoo

14 08 2010

A friend of mine wrote a blog a few months ago about her experience with the Marin Foundation, a Christian organization focused on reconciliation with the LGBT community. In her blog she describes an earth-shattering event: She a few others from the foundation went to the Gay Pride parade this past June and wore t-shirts that candidly said, “I’m sorry.”

These t-shirts prompted people from the crowd, TV reporters and even people who literally dismounted from their floats to ask “What are you sorry for?” They would respond that they were sorry for the way the church has treated the LGBT community.

And this response was the first brick of a bridge – a bridge building reconciled life between the homosexual community and heterosexual Christian community.

And all it took was an apology; a deep sincere apology that spoke of the hope and close proximity of the Gospel wrapped in humble repentance.

The apology was the first step, the necessary step towards new interaction, a neo-love movement.

But apologies take that word, “humility”, and sometimes humility is hard to come by.

I love this story and this bold t-shirt movement; my eyes have been opened to what this organization is doing with profound curiosity, but I’m dissatisfied with one thing: I think that the t-shirt shouldn’t have only been worn to the Gay Pride Parade.

I would argue that the shirts need to be worn everywhere, including in the church, especially in the church.   

Some pastors and associate pastors need to wear them. Some youth group leaders need to wear them. Some worship leaders need to wear them. Some church mothers, deaconesses, kitchen ladies, church secretaries, church hat ladies, “here’s-a-napkin-so-you-can-cover-your-knees-to-be-in-decency-and-in-order” ministers – YES black church friends and family I said it – need to wear them.

These shirts confess. They confess fault and after the confession of fault, they leave ample space for the Spirit to move and true reconciliation, true forgiveness to happen. But forgiveness requires admitting that we did something wrong. And admitting we did something wrong first requires examining ourselves and what we’re doing incorrectly.

We don’t want people to flee God’s Gospel because our underwear’s in a bunch. We don’t want to be the modern-day Pharisee – exploiting people and God’s words for our benefit and comfort. But a lot of us are. And we need to repent, get off our high horse and just walk with people.

No, all traditions are not made equal. Just because something was created in the crucible of discrimination doesn’t mean that it should create the crucible moment for others who are left out of your happy little circle.

I know this because I have been a part of plenty of circles, have seen people on the outside beg to get in with their eyes alone, and looked away. Because my clique is comfortable. It was easy to follow my rules. It would be too hard to let people who I was taught to hate be a part of my life.

I’m sorry.

I don’t have an “I’m sorry” t-shirt and I don’t think I’ll get one (I have nothing against it! I think that it’s a great idea and conversation starter as well as a theologically bold and brave move!). I hope I wear my sorry’s in the actions I take. I hope the sorry doesn’t have to be on my shirt to be sorry and actively repent by actively showing love. I don’t want to need a t-shirt to attract attention to my repentance. I pray, I sincerely pray that I act different, speak differently and just plain treat people better.

We’re all complex beings and can’t jump off of our horse immediately, but hopefully we can look around and notice the company that we’re keeping. If the company we keep is not true to the Gospel, let’s do some addition and subtraction. Add who we normally wouldn’t be with and subtract those who don’t push us towards being the best person we can be.

Let’s wear our sorry’s in our actions so close to our hearts that they’re etched into our skin like a permanent tattoo, a constant reminder that our repentance gives way to life. It won’t be a sad reminder or a judgmental one, but a sign of grace woven into the tapestry of our being, in our brown skin, in our healing souls, in our sensitive tongues, in our active minds, in our loving touch.





Sometimes good things come out of mistakes.

14 08 2010

Sometimes good things come out of mistakes. Just look at humanity; God came into flesh to correct what our flesh botched up.

And our churches aren’t exempt from this “rule”.

I believe that the racially reconciled church is the phoenix that arises from the ashes of Church-Gone-Wrong and Church-Done-Wrong. Only after one makes the mistake of being in a homogenous church does the racially reconciled church make any sense, not the multicultural church under white leadership, but the racially reconciled church. A church that is still learning what it means to live into its title and defining what it means to be a church let alone reconciled, let alone racially reconciled is the definition of a successful and reconciled church.

It seems that we have to mess up and being around so many “us-es” (you know, they look like us, talk like us, like what us likes – okay, I’ll stop) that we get tired of us and realize that a bunch of us-es gets boring, and isn’t right all the time and has no accountability because there is no deviation of hearts or variation of discernment, but us.

When we get tired of us, we get desperate for we. And where we is, God can be because we isn’t a branch of “us” but a different race altogether: it seeks difference, and disagreement and experiences that look nothing like us-es and joins together, shares power, shares influence, shares say-so, shares sermons, shares perspectives together all the while avoiding “them” language lest they be counted in the “them” number.

Sometimes we have to really get it wrong to open up ourselves enough to get it right. And we give more to we than we selfishly gathered for “us”. That’s how Jesus works. We should give freely because God gives to us freely. We will know if we’re overly attached to some false deity if we can’t let it go because free anything isn’t easy for us.

But struggles create stronger bonds and strengthened resolve to face the next trial as we not us.





Ashon Crawley, “Consider Lot’s Wife”

10 08 2010

I don’t do this often but my friend and guest writer Ashon Crawley, PhD candidate in the English program at Duke University is demonstrating the skill he learned in the MTS program at Emory! It’s a great article (can I say article Ashon, lol) on Lot’s wife. It’s pretty awesome and hopefully will get you thinking like it got me thinking!

http://www.facebook.com/ashon#!/note.php?note_id=421756549317&comments&ref=notif&notif_t=note_reply&r9ed5392b





The Make-Up Confession

7 08 2010

I’ll be frank. I don’t wear make-up for two reasons:

First, I don’t like other people telling me what will make me important, beautiful and loved; and, second, I think we (society, even the world) wear make-up so that our flesh (and others’ flesh) can be pleased, so that our flesh can feel like we have control over something in our lives. We feel that if we control our looks we can control our love.

But I truly don’t understand this. People are made to feel bad if they don’t mask their true selves. God didn’t make me with make up so what is it saying that I make myself into the way “I want to be so others can desire me”? What is it saying about where my heart is?

It doesn’t make sense to me. I thought God loved us as we are. And we aren’t made with make up on. Nor are we made with minds that value the root of what make-up represents: dissatisfaction and disappointment with how God made us.

Make-up is learned. It’s a verb full of colors. It’s a strange attempt to recover something that we cannot, unconditional love and acceptance, by putting colors on our faces to cover up our blemishes.

Honestly, when it gets down to it, God sees our blemishes.

To me, make-up is the half-hearted sacrifice to God. It looks good; we think we’re doing something pleasing, but we’re covering up our sin and greed and mistakes by buying into the falsity that our natural beauty isn’t good enough; we must make ourselves look better.

How God made us wasn’t enough. We have to improve it. No one can see our blemishes, only God can, even if we don’t want Him to either.

Tomi. Whoa. You’re doing too much. I only wear make-up because it’s something nice. It enhances my features. I’m not hiding from anything.

Maybe not, but maybe so.

Sometimes we hide without knowing we’re hiding or sometimes we’re taught that hiding is normal and those who don’t hide, who sit with their faces: their pimples, skin blotches, creases and wrinkles exposed are the posers, are the losers, are ugly because they won’t hide too.

But what is ugly? Exposing all flaws so that nothing is out of sight, nothing is hidden; nothing is giving an untruthful impression? Or does it trick people into a perception of perfect, and cause people to love, lust over, be attracted to what really isn’t?

It’s risky, not wearing make-up, but it can be a spiritual act of confession.

The natural face confesses flaws up front and doesn’t desire to be masked. It doesn’t put a band-aid on a scar but allows the scar to show.

Jesus had scars that He gladly showed to prove one thing: He was real. (John 20:24-30)

Maybe not wearing make-up can do something similar. It can prove our humanity, imperfection and remind us and others that we don’t have it together even if make-up or clothes say so.

Maybe make-up confesses our frailty and our peace with the fact that we are really human, just as Jesus was.

Marks, blemishes, and scars, imperfections say so.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing but a faith thing.

We acknowledge our limitations and rejoice that Jesus is perfect even when we aren’t.

And that His perfection came with skin blemishes too. Divine scars.








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