Sunday, December 31, 2017

When the elephant in the room is ignored

In 2001 on September 11 I sat in the student lounge at Campbell Divinity School. This is where I learned that America was under attacked. As chapel began my friend, and Admission Director at that time, said, "America is under attacked." She reported what we knew at the time and led us in a time of prayer. Then the service proceeded as plan. This struck me as completely wrong and I left to talk with one of the Office administrators. I needed to process what was going on but the someone didn't think, for whatever reason, chapel would be the time for that. In my opinion, they avoided the elephant in the room. That elephant was fear.

Fast forward to May 2017, when I learn a co-worker, who had been fired, was arrested by the Feds for having Child Pornography in his possession. My knowledge of this did not come from the upper management but from a co-worker who was present when the Feds came to our work. There was mostly silence, except among those of us who knew.

On this last night of 2017 I have decided that silence cannot have a place in my life or this world any more. We have to create space for people to talk about what troubles them, upsets them, angers them and causes them to fear and distress.

I still struggle, to figure out how I still love my former co-worker, someone I considered a friend, could feed his addiction that has endangered thousands of minor children. As a survivor of sexual abuse, assault, sexual harassment and rape I will not be silent anymore.

To many of us have seen the evils of this world. Evil that is spoken of in the Bible. If my voice makes you uncomfortable, then GOOD. Just because you want to ignore the elephant in the room I will no longer do that. I will join the #MeToo movement and I will continue to demand that all elected officials, including our President, be removed for engaging in behavior that victimizes children and adults.

#MeToo #SilenceisnotSpiritual

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Good and The Bad (About Holidays)

Relationships are what can make the Holidays Good, bad or sad. On Friday, December 22 I was driving from my Home in Virginia to my parents in North Carolina. A common road I take i passed a road I drove many times in 2015. In 2015 my best friend was battling cancer and I would visit him at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, NC. Friday, as I passed that road, the tears began to fall. He died on May 29, 2016. He was my best friend since High school and just when you think you are over something or someone the Holidays always get you.

The desire to distance ourselves from family and friends can be very tempting in an effort to avoid this inconvenient and unpleasant emotions. But I want to make a statement of caution here.

If we refuse to have relationships during our lifetime then what do we really have? Yes, we avoid, pain, heartbreak, anger etc. because no one can hurt us. But we are also missing out on love, support, encouragement and blessing be retreating from those around us.

I would give anything to have my best friend back. He was my cheerleader and I could use a good cheerleader right now. But I do not regret having him in my life despite the grief I feel with him gone.

On Christmas day this year I learned a fellow CBF pastor and his family lost their home to a devastating fire. In addition the pastor's wife died and his oldest daughter is fighting sever burns and smoke inhalation at UNC's burn center.  This is a family that has suffered great loss and I cannot even imagine the pain. But in the midst of this pain they have a church that is responding in love and support for their pastor and his family.

It is only through relationships that we can receive the love of God through those we have relationships with.

Is there anyone you need to reconcile with? Do it before next Christmas.

Monday, December 4, 2017

First Sunday in Advent, December 3 - When you don't know

Mark 13:24-37 New International Version (NIV)
24 “But in those days, following that distress,
“‘the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
   and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[a]
26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[b] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
In the Barkley commentary Barkley stress an important point about these four verses that I want to share with you. When Jesus is speaking here he is not giving us a map or a sign for how he will return but simply retelling what the Israelites told in the Old Testament. When reading Mark or any apocalyptic texts we must remember that this is poetry. It is dreams that people had of what they thought of how the Lord would return. The truth is we have our own ideas about what that day will look like when the Lord returns but we must not take these readings as a literal direction as to what to look for. The final truth is we just don’t know when or how our Lord will return. Let’s continue with the remainder of the passage.
The Day and Hour Unknown
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
I want to be honest with you today and share some of my personal testimony today to impress upon you what God is telling me about why Jesus is telling us to Be Alert and watch! I grew up in the church. At the age of 6 I knew Jesus wanted to be in my life and I knew I wanted him to be in my life. I shared this with my parents and they arranged for me to talk with the pastor. What followed was a discipleship class and baptism at the age of 7. Despite the fact my parents grew up in a segregated south I never saw or witness anger or judgment towards people who were different than them. I can even remember mom telling me in my teens how when she was at Meredith College she had a sweet mate that was gay. Through my parents example I learned that faith in Jesus Christ was demonstrated as a love for others. When I got to high school I learned about the love of God and the sin of man. I learned that adults can follow their own selfish desires and when they do bring great harm to children, whether it be physically, emotionally, mentally or physically. I learned that adults in my church didn’t like me and would bully me by saying lies about me to disparage my character. But it was at my public high school that I would have a circle a friends that still remain in my life today. This group was included many races, many faiths and non-faiths diversity of orientation and ability and disability. Just last week I was reflecting on the fact that all my closest friends have never professed a belief in Jesus but never the less God showed me what unconditional love is. We accept each other for who we are. We love each other, support each other in difficult times and celebrate with each other in the good times. Sadly, my faith in God exists despite the church I was raised in. As I consider this sad fact I am convinced that when Jesus says to Be Alert and to watch he is speaking to the Body of Christ. During his ministry, and again when Mark was written around 80 BC and now in 2017 God is saying to us, Be Alert and watch lest we fall asleep and are caught by surprise when the Lord returns.
So how do we remain Alert and Watch for the Lord to return in this day and time? This question led me to my textbook for New Testament theology and Ethics. Richard B. Hays wrote The Moral Vision of the New Testament. In his Chapter on Mark he says the entire Gospel centers on one question Jesus’ asks in chapter 8. He asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Hays points out that it’s not until the final chapter when a Gentile Centurion says, when Jesus has died, “Surely this man is the Son of God.” Hays asserts that we cannot not know that Jesus is the Son of God until he has died. We take this for granted simply because we read the gospel already knowing this but the disciples didn’t. Hays’ conclusion lead me to another and final question that I posted to fellow ordained clergy and lay ministers I know. I asked them what a life looks like when one knows that Jesus is the Son of God. There were varying answers and most centered on a change in the person. Whether that change is evident in how one makes decision to how one sees other people. Two answers that hit squarely with my own personal response to this question I will share. One came from my Childhood Pastor and the other from my Spiritual Director. Dr. Coffey, my childhood Pastor stated that when one knows that Jesus is the Son of God then we will see with the eyes of God. He emphasized this by noting that we are seen by a God that is a God of mercy, love and grace wholly revealed in Jesus. Through faith we become God’s children too. In turn we should look at all of creation with eyes and hearts of mercy, love and grace. Then my spiritual director focused solely on love. That to know Jesus is the Son of God is to love others as Jesus has loved us.
This is where the rubber meets the road. In 45 years of life I have learned that much in life is less black and white and mostly grey. But make no mistake, there are some things that are simply black and white when it comes to the Gospel and the commands that have been placed upon us. Consider these passages from the Bible.
Regarding the Poor:
I, the Lord, command you to do what is just and right. Protect the person who is being cheated from the one who is cheating him. Do not ill-treat or oppress foreigners, orphans, or widows; and do not kill innocent people in this holy place. (Jeremiah 22:3)
No, the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Micah 6:8)
Rich people who see a brother or sister in need, yet close their hearts against them, cannot claim that they love God. (1 John 3:17)
On Love:
And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
Do all your work in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)
The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. (1 John 4:21)
Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
On Judgment:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Romans 2:1 | NIV | righteousness neighbor
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
Matthew 7:1 | NIV | law
A person may think their own ways are right,
but the Lord weighs the heart.
Proverbs 21:2 | NIV | righteousness understanding thoughts
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
Romans 14:13 | NIV | gentleness neighbor

We live in a country and world filled with great immorality and because of that fact Jesus’ message in Mark is ever more urgent. For the church to stay awake we must love as Jesus has loved us lest we fall asleep because we have succumbed to the ways of the world. It is not okay, nor has it ever been for us to turn away anyone in need. Regardless of race, gender, age, disability, nationality, religion, orientation or identity we must embrace the call to love. Defend the poor and their right to basic necessities. Ensure community rebuilding occurs around the world when natural or manmade disasters occur. Providing all children safety from abuse and violence because Jesus tells us to not hinder the children for they shall inherit heaven.  Guaranteeing all people the same rights we enjoy to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And calling for justice when others have violated or robbed someone of their rights that God has so freely given us. Jesus reminds us in Matthew that we are a light on a hill and now more than ever the world needs to church to let the light of love shine brightly that God may add to the church and that we will remain awake and are ready when the Lord returns.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I am a Miracle...I could have died a few weeks ago

Since 1990 I have been on Medication for a medical diagnosis. Last year I learned that the medication I was taking for this diagnosis was creating two other problematic medical diagnosis; renal failure and diabetes insipidous. In July of this year I began the transition off of this medication and onto another one. After 6 weeks on this new medication I was suffering unbearable GI issues from chronic heartburn, re-flux, stomach upset and vomiting. That medicine was stopped abruptly and I was placed on another medication. This medication caused high blood pressure and extreme lethargy. My brain was unable to process anything and I began to have memory lapses. At that point they increased one of my medicines to counter the side effects and all that one did was cause me to be hungover. Those were stopped and I was placed on another one. We thought this one would work because I had been on it before but what I did not realize was when I was sick earlier this year it was actually being caused by the medicine. What's so serious about this is this medication can cause what is known as Stephen Johnson's Syndrome. You can die from this.

When taking the medicine i had a mild anaphylactic shock. My cheeks swelled causing me to bite the inside of my mouth. I developed a chronic cough, had body aches like the flood and had a rash break out. We stopped this immediately. Because I was on this twice God made me realize that I am a miracle.

Both times I was on this medicine I could have died yet I am still here. So much happens to us in the world and rarely do we realize what God has brought us through. The reality for me is that God literally sustained me against a medicine trying to kill me.

If you doubt the love of God take a moment to evaluate why you are still here. Romans 8:37 - 39 is my favorite verse because it tells us what can separate us from the love of God.

Romans 8:37-39New International Version (NIV)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you are reading this give God thanks for waking you up. God bless.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Uncovering my Privilege........A necessary pain

Last week I posted a submission titled Silenced. I have since deleted it because I just realized how steeped in white privilege it is. I would call that post a glorified whine.

"Oh, how dare they silence me."

"Who do they think they are?"

"I am just speaking for God."

"Whine, whine, whine."

I am sorry. When you grow up in a world not having to worry about people watching you when you shop, or people mispronouncing your name, or getting any job your want or into the school of your choice you become blind to the blatant racism and inequality against your friends of color.

I am also sorry to my boss. He is a man of color with relative success in the working world but I am sure that doesn't exclude him from the rampant racism that still exists in America.

It just hit me today, that for him to tell me that people were bothered by my post, "The Silence is Deafening," calling it political he had to be told that.

It tells me that the complainers are so comfortable in their white privilege they did not even consider how their words were felt by him. How does it make him feel that his feelings were dismissed as they complained? How does he now work with these people with the idea that they may think they are better than him simply because of the color of their skin.

I don't know if you read this, but I am sorry. Sorry for my ignorance, for my selfish sensitivity and my blindness to your pain and anguish. And I appreciate you too. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Strange Fruit

My favorite summer show is So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). It is in its 14th season and the talent never disappoints and the choreographers always find a way to make you uncomfortable about serious issues. Last night was one of those moments.

Travis Wall took the famous song Strange Fruit, originally written and sung by Billy Holiday, back when lynchings of black people was a common occurrence. He used this song by Nina Simone and choreographed a dance that was captivating, harrowing, disturbing and much needed for our times.

You can watch it here within the article.

I continue to hear White American Christians down play the acts of the KKK and Nazis in Charlottesville. Yet these groups have started spreading threats through posters in Durham, NC.

White Supremacy and Nazism is a sin. This hate is perpetuated on the belief that the White race is superior to all races. If when people say that #ALLLIVESMATTER we should also be condemning White Supremacy from the same mouth.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The History of White America

I do not want to reinvent the will so I want to share a link to a sermon, delivered by Brian McLaren at the 25th Aniversary of CBF General Assembly. In his message he gives a good history of White discovery and settlement of America and how far back Christian hate spans the history of the earth. When you have time to watch it in its entirety, please do.

After watching this please click on the following Link for Bryan McLaren's observations of the events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, as he participated in the march against the White Supremacist and Nazi's. Here is an excerpt:

On the other Anti-Racism Protestors: Along with Congregate C’ville, there were other groups protesting the message of white supremacy and Naziism. I was deeply impressed with the Black Lives Matter participants. They went into the middle of the fray and stood strong and resilient against vicious attacks, insults, spitting, pepper spray, tear gas, and hurled objects. It’s deeply disgusting to see BLM be vilified on Fox News and other conservative outlets after watching them comport themselves with courage in the face of vile hatred this weekend.
There were several anti-fascism groups whose exact affiliations were not easy to ascertain. I was moved by one young woman from one of these groups at the scene of the killing. She stood on a milk crate and shouted (this is a paraphrase): “People, this is hard. This is heartbreaking – to see our neighbors lying in the street, severely injured. But we must realize what’s at stake when Nazis and white supremacists want to take control of our country. We must not be intimidated, but be more committed than ever to stand against them.” There was no call to violence or revenge; only a call to resilient resistance.
I was also deeply impressed by UVA students I met. The group of young men and women that stood up to the torch-carrying marchers on Friday night had amazing courage. Their fellow students, their parents, and all of us, should be proud of these young leaders.
Not all of the groups shared a commitment to nonviolent resistance in the tradition of Dr. King. I saw a few groups of protestors who, like the Nazis and white supremacists, came with hand-made shields and helmets, and I heard reports that some of these groups used pepper spray on the white supremacists, who were also using pepper spray, sticks, and fists on them.
To read it in its entirety click here.