My Problem with “Valuable” Friendships

2 02 2011

 

 I have a huge problem with the word, “valuable”, especially when it comes to relationships. I hear it tossed around so much, that I believe it has lost the power and appeal it was intended to have and has adopted a completely destructive (albeit well-intentioned) meaning. “Tomi, you’re friendship is valuable to me” doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, precisely because of the word “valuable.”

When I hear valuable, I hear abandonment. And I think I’m right in hearing this, for when things are labeled “valuable”, they are abandoned, untouched, left alone for fear of some outside force or circumstance altering or affecting it. I don’t think “valuable” and “friendship” or “valuable” and “relationship” should be the same sentence anymore. Yes, I’m calling for a divorce.

If “valuable” implies importance and value, then the subsequent actions attached to the word valuable shouldn’t apply like they do. China dishes are valuable so they are rarely used. Diamonds are valuable so they’re rarely worn (well, sometimes). Expensive furniture is valuable so they remain unused in that sitting room that no one really sits in. Let’s face it, valuable has become code for “used rarely”.

And that’s where my problem lies. Friendships and relationships can’t be “used rarely.” They must be used often, especially in circumstances where they can get messy, damaged or broken because that is the point of their existence, to last and to last well. This, to me, is the definition of valuable: often used so as to experience its longevity.

I mean, when I think of something or someone having value, I can’t help but turn to Jesus. Jesus is the epitome of what valuable meant and still means. His value rested not only in who He was, but in how He still lives. He was tested and beaten severely and proved valuable. He died, but His value came in His re-living. In Jesus we have the space and the opportunity to re-examine value. Value is something that is not kept aside and protected or ignored (because that’s just what we do with it), but value is something that is used, often, even brutally, and still lives.

Herein lays my frustration with friendships. If a friendship is valuable to you, use it. Don’t use it when you need to fill you “black friend quota” or your “I hang out with a Muslim quota” but use it because you want to, you need to, and you need it to move forward another day a changed and better person. If that’s not what your friendships are for, stop lying to yourself and others.

I urge everyone who is reading this to be honest with yourself and release people and yourself from the torture of neglected friendships. They hurt and are not serving a purpose as something valuable should. If a friend means so much to you that you are actively a friend back to them, keep it. If not, make it clear that you have a good association, but stop abusing the word “friendship”. If you want to honor someone’s value, be around them, be with them: love them in this way if you truly consider their heart and their soul “valuable.”  

Let’s stop hurting people, especially in the church. White lies aren’t the Christian thing to do.

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The Wisdom of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:7-8)

16 12 2010

Proverbs 3:7-8

7Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8It will be a healing for your flesh
and a refreshment for your body.

Verse 7, in my opinion, offers up a unique definition of engaging in evil: being wise, rational, smart, justifying your life and actions. To be honest, this is kind of weird for me because I think that I’m a pretty rational person for the most part. I don’t try to be evil when making most of my decisions. I don’t try to harm others but do what is best and healthiest for me; if it holds the potential to harm others, then I’ll think it through carefully before coming to any rash decisions. Given this fact of careful consideration, I don’t think that my rationality is an evil thing. I think it’s a good thing and good quality about myself.

But then I think about the depths of decision-making that I don’t really want to deal with. I think about that fast-food purchase, that decision to save the dollar I could have given to that homeless person because I wanted some M&Ms or an iced tea. I think about the clothes I don’t wear but need to hoard in case I do need them. I think about the fact that I pay for internet when I can go to the library and use it for free. I think about times when I buy just because I want.

I think about things I “do for my sanity since I can’t save the world” like not pick up the phone because I’m pretty sure so and so will want something, the e-mails I delete that address the water problem in Africa, the food problem here in the United States and the prison problems here in the Triangle. I think about food I throw out every couple of weeks because I wanted it then but don’t want it now. I think about how my attitude was justified because I was mad at them. While I act friendly towards someone I think about how they did me wrong many times and how they don’t deserve my forgiveness; and they may never get it because I don’t want to give it.

And I begin to realize how I only survey my decision-making when I’m making “good decisions”. I tend to forget the hundreds of bad decisions I made during the week that were not so good, even, dare I say it, evil. My ten god decisions may affect others but my hundreds of bad decisions were about me; and ironically, they still affect others. Maybe this is what God’s wisdom is warning us against, the hundreds of little things we do wrong that we make nothing of, that we are so quick to forgive ourselves of, or that we justify we deserve to forget.

It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but our wisdom, our rationale, falls short.

The solution rests outside of ourselves. They involve us, but we are not at the center. God is. But even God gives us back the space. We must understand the vastness of God, and once we do, there is no other human response but to fear God, not in human-fear, but divine-fear. We fear God because we realize how far away we are from God when we take up our own agendas. We realize how much trouble we are in once we leave the protective covering of God. That is how big God is. We fear how far away we are once we realize how big God is. We fear our location and how we managed to get there. This is the fear of the Lord.

Fearing the Lord and turning away from evil seem like a combo deal. Once we realize that if we’re not with God, we’re in trouble, it is easy to spot and avoid evil. We won’t be fooled, for God’s wisdom will be with, on and in us. Evil won’t have a chance to plant any seeds within us, we’ll be too smart for that.

All this comes if we decide not to follow our thoughts and rationale alone and if we decide to listen to and follow God first, not what we think God should be saying, but what God is saying. Even our interpretations fall short. Humans have specialized in messing up God’s instruction. We must remember that anything of God’s is better than anything of ours. Relying on God’s instruction is a balm. It heals. It re-joins. It rehabilitates. Reliance on God patches up the holes in our hearts, the emptiness in our relationships, and the hate in ourselves. Placing our trust in God rejuvenates us because we don’t have to do the work of fixing people. Depending on God’s ways takes the burdens we can’t bear off of us, and gives us a lighter burden. We must remember that we ultimately make the choice to apply God’s wisdom or not. We have the choice to take the better burden and build up our strength all the while recovering, recuperating from burdens we weren’t meant to carry. If you are carrying burdens you weren’t meant to carry, drop it immediately. Pick up the burden of grace, mercy, peace, and love and continue journeying onwards. You will heal. It will take time, but it will happen. But take Jesus’ burden and never put it down.

Prayer: Lord, impress grace, mercy, love, understanding, kind-heartedness, peace, and justness into our hearts and onto our backs. We will be strong with them on it, and impossible to destroy with them in us. Lord, govern that transition in Jesus’ name, Amen.





The Glorious Gospels (The Advent Addition)

13 12 2010

Luke 1:26-45

I’m a member of a small predominantly white Presbyterian church in North Durham where people of African-descent make up approximately one-third of the congregation. I’ll be forthcoming with you, I am in this church, a church unlike any church I have ever been in, because I am interested in seeing something major happen: I want to see racial reconciliation wrestled with and I want it to overpower us leaving us limping but re-named, disabled to do what we used to do, but able to move gingerly and with more care. With younger graduate and college students becoming more and more regular the percentage of African-Americans may very well decrease sharply which can be disheartening, but this potential is not as disheartening as another statistic within my church.

As an American African young woman, I’ve already been limping throughout this difficult ecclesial shifting process. I’ve lost a number of things, all for the sake of walking with the Lord more faithfully. And it hurts severely every single step of the way; and some sort of ecclesial hip-replacement is not an option. I journey on though, because I do not believe I am called to join a young, vibrant African-American church where worship music and preaching style are what I am most accustomed to, or go to a Nigerian church where I could appreciate a few cultural nuances, but I feel called to a church opposite myself. And I believe with my whole heart that right now I am supposed to be a part of it. But many times I literally feel that I can’t be this church, not because if my race, my ethnicity or my gender, but because of my age.

Cultural differences aside as they are an entirely separate conversation, age-difference is unfortunately and currently too big to overcome. The age of Ageism is alive and well in my church and in the church in general today. I see it all over the place– young all black and all white non-denominational churches are springing up as old white and black mainline churches are dying or barely surviving. Young adults go elsewhere to worship; they create the space for worship that consults their age and time because there is no room for their being amongst the heavy older traditions in many mainline churches. Even young mainline churches are a falsity—they seem to be more like a non-denominational body dressed up in mainline clothing, exercising the appearance of tradition but operating differently.

There is an apparent divide that both young and old church see, but neither know how to nor want to suture back together, because frankly, both groups, young and old, don’t need each other. They have their space for and way of worship and the other group has theirs. Everyone is happy, fine, thriving in their own way; there is no need to continue naming a “problem” that many see as the other’s fault anyway. If the other would just do it their way then all would be well. There is no need for correction or inclusion; division rules the day!

And I do not understand why. I see a problem, a huge problem– the body of Christ, the church, has missed something vastly commented on throughout scripture; we have completely missed how scripture guides and addresses age-discrepancy. We have mastered ignoring the potential for solution. It is problematic not only that both groups do not care for the other enough to sit down and realize church together, but also that they must create pseudo-churches to live church guilt-free “having it their way” projecting their desires onto how the church is supposed to function.

Something is amiss, and a joyous moment of connect between two Jewish women carrying children shows us this in a gentle way.  

Elizabeth and Mary, relatives old and young are both pregnant, Elizabeth two-thirds of the way further along than Mary is too old to have a child. Mary, a young teenager engaged to be married is too unmarried to have a child. Both women are excited because they have the honor of visits from Gabriel to relay a message that the children they carry will do great things: one will point to the other who is making a way for the world to be saved.

But they are both different ages and both bearers for future and important ministries. And they don’t ignore the other to brag that their child will be better than the other’s. No, they both rejoice that the other has a minister within them and they gloat not only over their own pregnancies but the life inside the other woman. They are giggly and excited because the other is also bringing something into this world that the world needs to be saved.

Mary doesn’t gloat that as the young mother-to-be she bears the “best baby” and that the older Elizabeth’s contribution isn’t important; Elizabeth doesn’t gloat that since she will be a mother first that her experience cancels out the voice of the younger Mary. Both babies are prophetic witnesses to the loving and saving power of God. One isn’t God but baptizes God. Both live sacrificial lives that ultimately lead to their grotesque demises. But both mothers, old and young rejoice with each other.

Luke 1:39-45 says it all.

The ministry of the eldest leaps with joy when the younger comes bearing a ministry too. What is most awesome is that the older gets the Holy Spirit in the presence of the younger mother. Her baby gives the greeting, paves the way for the ministry of the younger and she catches the Holy Spirit. She is overcome by a Spirit of joy and wisdom and power. The eldest does not receive the Spirit because of the younger per se, but because she is happy to be with the younger, to see the younger, to welcome the younger into her home and into her spirit, she feels within in her joy for the younger’s ministry. Their ministries connect in that moment bound by the wondrous power of the Holy Spirit; and it overtook Elizabeth (Mary has her own moment later, see Luke 1:46-55). The Holy Spirit repeats Gabrielle’s words through Elizabeth. The older blesses the younger, she doesn’t discourage. The younger is blessed because she accepted God’s will for the ministry that would be birthed through her.  The older encouraged the younger. The older was humbled by the presence of the younger because she had something special in her.
 
And Mary sings directly after this overwhelmed by her joy and the joy of her older relative Elizabeth. This moment doesn’t become a moment of comparing ministerial efficacy but a moment to praise God. John praises. Elizabeth praises. Mary praises. The Son of God, God in the flesh, is coming.

 

The ministry of the old doesn’t scold or judge the young, the ministry of the young doesn’t ignore or gloat in the face of the older claiming to carry something better. But both praise God. Both honor one another. Mary first greets Elizabeth, then Elizabeth overwhelmed with joy and God’s Spirit, blesses Mary. Ironically in giving this blessing, Elizabeth wears the prophetic cloak that her son will soon enough wear. Her role is just as important as her son’s role.
 
The women, the ministries complement one another. They don’t compete. They don’t call each other irrelevant or to blame the other for the state of the church, but they come together, love the other’s presence, and worship God together, still in their own voices, but together. At the end of the day, all the glory went to God, not the bodies who carried the ministries, but to the Creator of the bodies, the Creator of the church, to Jesus the Savior of the world. The Holy Spirit dwelled within them and they allowed Her to move them towards words of praise and song. Old and young disintegrated into praise and worship. And reconciliation reached its peak.
 
Prayer: Holy Spirit bring blessings to our lips for the other and a song to our heart for You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.




Deconstructing the Masks of Racial Reconciliation

7 10 2010

Disclaimer: I am no expert on racial reconciliation, nor do I claim to be one; I write solely from my observations and experiences, but I write with the intention to identify the obvious and unspoken, the uncomfortable results of the racial reconciliation movement that we who have decided that church cannot be church without reconciling, repentant, loving, inclusive action and being have a duty to name and hopefully address honestly, not simply with reprimanding in mind, but repentant and faithful living. (and yes, that was a run-on sentence!)

Racial reconciliation should transcend the boundaries of actions that are close to but don’t purport the notion of community through sacrifice: sacrificing all that is familiar for the unfamiliar, sacrificing personal preference in order to embrace the preference of another, and especially sacrificing pre-meditated understandings of peoples and places and believing the people of those places who tell you differently. Racial reconciliation is not racial welcoming, racial tolerance, nor racial observation. It is more personal than we think. It affects more people than we think. It affects the body of Christ entirely, not just a congregation here or there. It runs deep into Jesus’ body, not as a fad, but as the life-giving connection between His blood and our worship, His veins and our stylistic preferences, His arteries and our cultures.

What it is not is un-sacrificial. It is not a runner-up to what Jesus meant when He sat, ate with and was joined by sinners. It is not achieved in the welcoming level, tolerance level, or observatory level.  

Racial welcoming comes close to what people think to be racial reconciliation, but lacks the effort and commitment to adopt a theology of discomfort from both parties covenanting to be with one another. It welcomes as long as it is not transformed into something unrecognizable, for unrecognizability resists the “predominantly” label so many churches are accustomed to having and being.

Racial tolerance is even further from the target than racial welcoming as it signals one group at the center of the Christian universe, whether they’re African, African-American, Asian, Latino, White etc and allows other to be, to a certain extent, only in light of their being. One group sets the standards and others are “appreciated” in light of how much they are not like the standard, for diversity must be celebrated, right? Celebrated but not integrated, racial tolerance gives permission for Christians outside of their majority to exist within the confines of what the majority deems Christian existence.

Racial observation rests even further on the outskirts of racial tolerance for it is simply a ministry of on-looking. It witnesses difference from afar, and witnesses from afar alone. Nothing is done to see if racial difference and cultural distinction can mean more, it is simply observed and in that observation a false sense of education is exercised, pejorative reading of the Christian church is made precisely in that inactive “education,” and the division between groups remains glaring and distinct.  

These three models of racial reconciliation I believe are more often than not, falsely practiced in place of true and Holy Spirit led racial reconciliation. They provide the foils against which true racial reconciliation can be recognized, but are utilized often because they are disguised as “we’re getting there” and “this is a messy vocation that takes time” language. These three types of models mirror the three categories of personality types present within many churches who find themselves a part of the racial reconciliation conversation. They enter into a conversation without calculating what it would cost them and thus mete out what they are willing to sacrifice, giving rigidly, contemplating giving, or convincing themselves that their interest is gift enough.

The Racially Welcoming Christian (RWC) exhibits 1 Corinthians 11 behavior (vv. 17-33). They are most than happy to sit at the table with everyone, but do not change their eating habits. They feast the same, not cognizant that even their being at the table (implying communion) has to be received differently. They commune not only for themselves with Christ, but with and for others in Christ. They love that difference exists in their midst. They embrace their brother or sister as important, imperative to their understanding God’s kingdom, valuable to and in the body of Christ. What they fail to do is change as a result of another person’s permanent place in their life. Their church body may change, but their personal theology doesn’t change much at all. They listen to the theological background of another, but do not add it to theirs since addition of another’s means subtraction of their own theological beliefs. They operate the same, but appreciate and recognize the difference in everyone. They are touched, but only changed on the surface. Nothing changes in their life, except information about other people. The information does not penetrate deeper than their intellectual capacity; it may touch their heart, but it rarely reconfigures it.  

The Racially Tolerating Christian (RTC) models the Galatians 3 confusion assuming that people are entering their world and thus need to adhere to their way of existing. The Gentile is welcomed in, but the confusion surrounds what the Gentile is entering into. It is a Jewish existence for sure, but what they misunderstand is this notion of being the “original church body” in the first place. Both groups are Gentilic, entering into a completely new existence. Chosenness rests in Jesus’ body that both, the majority and minority church body, are equally invited into. Both are bringing aspects of themselves into community together that looks messy, feels incomplete, and hurts a lot of the time, but leaves without a shadow of a doubt absolutely no room for selfish ambition to parade around as if it is God’s will. It takes both groups out of their traditions of comfort and asks them to be together uniquely and collectively. It leaves no room for human effort, but encourages desire and participation; the Holy Spirit does the rest. It requires faith in Jesus Christ, faith that His words, and body and practices did something to old ways of doing and thinking and constructed something completely new, un-like what we would deem comfortable or perfect and yet is perfect.

The Racially Observant Christian (ROC) parallels the rich, young ruler in Luke 18 (vv. 18-23). They have resources, they have culture, and they have influence and power and do not find it necessary to lose them in order to be with other people. They face Jesus and honestly think that they have done their Christian duty but cannot handle a re-drawing of the boundaries of their commitment and love. They fear that the loss of their resources will affect how others view their culture and influence although that is precisely the story of others’ lives. Their understanding of faith is contingent upon comfort. They believe themselves to be educated on the crux of a life that follows after Christ and models His ways, but are unaware of the depth of this pledge. So they choose to remain afar and give up absolutely nothing. But no doubt, continue “keeping” the commandments.

These responses and ways of being in the racial reconciliation conversation are produced from a desire to do something righteous and right, but after the cost is counted, kill and hinder true racial reconciliation’s attempt to spring forth. The messages sent forth in their failure to break out of the selfish grips of church tradition, racial and cultural purity and generational war deter us from truly seeing the form of racial reconciliation. It is an ugly one at that, a hunched over, injured, and imperfect figure that Christ calls us to. It may not have the stage for P&W (Praise & Worship), the hymnal, the fiery preacher, the contemplative chants, the whatever. Or it may have all of those together mashed together as the same thing; those interested in being reconciled must understand that racial reconciliation happens when people of those different cultures are reconciled, brought together, asked to and taught to live together.

What the racial reconciliation conversation should continue to emphasize is the “person” aspect of Christian life. The church preferences belong to the people, they come from the people. The people who swear up and down that God loves to hear Christian Contemporary Music, and guitar solos, and see young adults in small groups and mission trips are people!

Once the people recognize that it’s more than sitting beside, allowing people to sit beside and thinking about but in the end choosing not to sit beside another, but rather that it’s sitting with that person entailing changing perspectives, open dialogue, holy disagreements, and holier shifts in what one’s “particular” culture is, then racial reconciliation can truly be the strange, weird, ugly, and holy love movement Christ’s body has affectionately called “community.”





Fantasy.

21 07 2010

Sometimes I just plain rush into things.

I thought I was going to marry him…before I met him.

I mean he was black, he was around my age, he was in college at Ohio State. What else was there to discuss?

The summer before my third year in college, I was eager and nervous for my first encounter with urban ministry. I had done “A Day of Service” projects all that time in college, but I wanted something deeper, something that would stick.

So when the Urban Promise people came to UVA’s grounds and pitched the best “This summer will change your life” spiel about their Christian summer camps in urban districts all around the country, I was sold.

But I’m not a great saleswoman. I knew I wanted to do something different that summer and if I could avoid raising money for it, that it’d be even better. Well, it worked out to my favor. I had to raise eight hundred dollars, which was better than the two to three thousand mountain of funds I would have to raise for another summer ministry opportunity.

So Urban Promise it was! The next question that faced me was where.

I knew that it wouldn’t fly with my mother if I selected UP’s most popular sight in the wonderfully-safe city of Camden, New Jersey. So I tried my best to play my cards right. The least dangerous place seemed like the most random, Wilmington, Delaware.

So I was set to go. After God’s favor, I was promoted from mere intern to Assistant Director (head intern of my peers and campers). For this opportunity, I was grateful as it seemed like a huge leadership role in my first ministerial experience outside of a week’s time.

I arrived at the site early and they had no problem putting myself and my fellow Assistant Directors to work (there was one AD per camp and intern team totaling three of us).

A few days into our hard labor but days full of meaningful work and full moments of rest, we learned of who our interns would be.

That’s when I met him. Well, kind of.

My camp director sat me down over dinner and told me who I’d be in charge of and working with this summer.

Ok, so there’s John. He’s from Massachusetts. He’ll be teaching the Science class.

 

Me: Ok, cool.

 

There’s also Adam. He’ll be teaching art. He’s a little younger than you and is apparently an avid reader. He sounds like he’ll be more laid back than anything.

 

Me: Sounds good.

 

Oh! I’m so excited! We have a young lady coming from the UK to help us for a little bit. She’ll be coming a week late and leaving a week early, but she’s going to be with us for a good month or so. Her name’s Cathleen. She should be helping out with Recreation time with the teen employees.

 

Me: Ok, so her job won’t be too bad.

 

Yup. And then we have James. He went to Ohio State. I talked to him the other day. He seemed excited. He’s black you know!

Whatever my Director said after that, I didn’t hear. My mind had already rehearsed the moment we would meet, become good friends, date, then eventually marry after working out the long-distance relationship until we graduated college…

I don’t have any enlightening Biblical principle to drop on you now. I just have a funny story.

I suppose I could proof-text and tie in Peter’s rushed action and thought-process when Jesus prophesied his death in Mark 8 was speaking to his thought-process that rejected anything undesired occurring was like my hurried imagination rushing James and myself into a concrete mental relationship.

I suppose I can also proof-text how Peter’s anticipation and rushed thinking towards not the impossible nor improbable, but the necessary arrest of Jesus prompts him to cut off the high priest servant’s ear John 18 so wonderfully points out. And somehow that this event relates to my instinct to react in the manner in which I’m not supposed to assuming that our physical proximity would generate a result that if I wished hard enough would manifest itself. And if it didn’t I would have to fight to save my fantasy, wish, and silent promise I made to myself that even though I knew better, what I want has to happen.

But I’m not going to.

James never showed up. My Director never really got a reasonable explanation why not. It wasn’t a big deal to her, but it rearranged my entire summer and life’s plans.

Looking back at it now, I think his absence, God not honoring my request if you will, was an awesome thing.

I think that somehow God told James not to come because some girl imagined that through their summer together, a lifelong relationship would emerge, instead of wishing, hoping and fantasizing that the summer would bring much needed humility and dependence on God for her present strength and uncertain future.

Maybe God told James that there would be a girl imagining the wrong kind of friendship with him and that he should stay at Ohio State for his safety and her spiritual well-being.

Because if he had come, she would not see the beauty in those already around her, in the Directors, in the teen workers and adolescent campers, in the intern from the UK who immediately took to her and formulated a quick friendship, and would have been day-dreaming about something that was not supposed to be instead.  

She would have seen all the wrong things. And missed an experience that she has not to this day forgotten.

Maybe she is kind of like James and John, asking for a “let-me-sit-at-you-right-and-the-other-at-your-left-in-glory” moment when she doesn’t even know what she’s asking.

Like she’ll get it eventually, but currently doesn’t understand the sacrifice involved. Maybe she’s too selfish and immature right now for an anything. Maybe she has some growing up to do.  

It’s true. Funny thing is, I’m still growing and don’t think I’m anywhere near where I should be for the whole husband-thing.

Sigh. Sometimes fantasies speak to areas of proposed growth and doesn’t affirm the cute cuddly “dream language” we so readily attach to it. It’s more lecture speaking to potential than simply potential standing solo.

My potential isn’t patient enough to just wait and learn until she blossoms into reality.

But she’s getting there.   

Again, God’s grace is covering her.





Who we tag in our Facebook notes is indicative of who we allow to be in the intricate parts of our lives.

9 07 2010

 

Who we tag in our Facebook notes is indicative of who we allow to be in the intricate parts of our lives.

They are the ones who matter to us.

It’s true.

“In this note” on the right-hand column tells a story. It signals who we trust.

Facebook, a tool so vital to our ministries as social beings, can also be a tool of social commentary.

Our little world is reflected in our need to express ourselves, in our note. And our world is a little too small for God. Those in our notes are the people who we let in our thoughts, our jokes, our musings, our passion and pain. They are those close to us and our dreams. They’re kind of a big deal. They’re kind of like us.

Which sometimes disappoints the Gospel.

We love to share our thoughts with our own.

We don’t expand our circle of friendships and close confidants but allow them to remain black and white. Literally.

My black friends write notes to their black family, friends and acquaintances. My white friends write notes to their white family, friends, and acquaintances. We’re rarely intentional about being with people unlike us. We’re not even aware that Facebook names a dangerous trend of homogeneity.

But the Gospel that Jesus walked was not just Jewish. It was Jewish-Gentile, Gentile-Jewish. Jesus’ Gospel looked for people out of the ordinary to be with and share deep secrets of the Kingdom with. Jesus’ Gospel sought out people who did not belong with Him, with them, with God and introduced them into the family. Jesus’ Gospel quite easily accepted new blood. It did not do coffee with new blood and forget about them until they showed up in front of it.

We forget each other until we stumble upon each other once again.

We remember that black, white, Asian, Indian, and every other people exist when chance allows us to meet. We don’t plan to meet. We don’t search desperately for our meeting so that we can redeem each other by being together outside of chance.

Chance determines our being together. But chance isn’t our Gospel.

To those whose notes are mixed, amen.

To those whose notes are not, there is something being communicated about the Gospel lifestyle we are called out to live. We’re failing but there’s hope for reversal. All we must do is take the Gospel to heart and in turn perhaps our hearts will soften, open and expand…like a flower blooming in Spring.

Or a Facebook note list.





Being twenty-something is such an awkward place.

1 07 2010

Being twenty-something is such an awkward place.

You’re just leaving or have been out of college for a few years. You’re either in graduate school or working where life is completely different from the bubble called curve grading, dining halls, and living approximately 50 feet or 5 blocks from your best friends.

But the most awkward and draining thing is figuring out how to be an adult child to your parents. It is completely hard, strange, frustrating and sometimes bad for us.

Especially when we concede to the painful fact that….every family has problems!

I said it.

I’ve realized that some families have more problems than others, but every single family has an issue. Most of us in our twenties wanted one or both of our parents to do something differently. And we wholeheartedly believe that if they did this one thing that way instead of this way, we wouldn’t have to deal with such and such. But it did happen this way so we must deal with such and such.

Especially in the church…

Relationships are messed up. In fact, they can be damaging, so damaging that the damaged people continue in a cyclical purgatory of pain and despair in the lives of other people. And we twenty-somethings need to be careful that anything we found damaging in childhood, whether it was parental techniques or lack thereof, does not emanate from our pores in vital peer-to-peer relationships.

We need to make sure we don’t mess all other relationships up because of one bad experience.

We need to make sure that rotten habits don’t spoil relationships that have potential.

But what about those people who are VERY messed up from relationships? What do they do?

I believe that instead of inflicting the same pain that crippled us onto others, we need to break the cycle of repetition. This involves not doing what others did to you. This involves not receiving payback. This involves us redeeming one another.

If Susie had a mentally-manipulative father and is tempted to be rash and immature amongst her friends, she must fight the urge to do so. She must also come to grips with the fact that she will not have an avenue to express her frustration like she’s probably hoped she would (not that she hopes to damage her relationships but what she’s dealt with, will most likely come out towards others). She has to swallow the fact that she may never get to express herself the way, she quite frankly, deserves to.

But she has to have people in her life. They need to be people who get where she’s coming from and can help her mourn the lost expression of frustration and anger she wishes to unleash (and that may leak out in relationships she never intends to experience it).

They need to be redeemers. If we lost a relationship early in life, we need to surround ourselves with people who can redeem the love we lost or never had by being in our complex lives in the first place.








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