Divided Humanity

One of my closest friends, a white American woman, is married to a black Jamaican man. She doesn’t really watch the news and so I was explaining to her what I had read/heard about the situation that has been unfolding in Ferguson, MO. She mentioned her own awakening awareness of racism since marrying a black man and, unfortunately, his introduction to racism since moving to the U.S.

At the age of 22 I worked for the summer at a camp in Wisconsin. Most of the kids coming to the camp were from inner city Chicago. Black city kids at a mosquito infested Christian camp with an almost only white staff. It was a particularly difficult summer for me and likely also for them. This was partly because I had just been kicked out of Bible college,  and my inner brokenness made me more fragile and less capable of connecting with my campers.

White people who want to steer clear of being called racist tend to do an opposite kind of injustice to their fellow brown humans by pretending that skin color is the only difference, missing the rich differences in culture. I have never heard a black person make this same mistake. On my first or second week as a counselor at camp, I was wrestling heavily with the communication-by-insult factor. On my insistence that regardless of how ubiquitous this was in their families and communities, it was still not nice, one savvy 12yr old said with great inflection, “You don’t know many black people, do you?” 

I didn’t bluster and say, “I have black friends” because I honestly didn’t. Growing up in the suburbs of North Seattle did not bring me into contact with very many black people….

Read More

Getting it Right

Most of us want to be Good People. We tend to think that, just as a child grows from infancy to adulthood, everyone is at some stage of “growing up” toward maturity and greater independence.

A few months ago I posted something a friend of mine wrote where she mentioned a pastor who had committed suicide. Weeks later, another friend asked me about this- disturbed to consider a pastor doing such a horrible, desperate thing. Because of this idea we have that spiritual growth is a steep climb up a mountain made increasingly on your own, it is horrifying when someone “ahead” of us on the path gives up or slides dramatically backward.

We ask ourselves, “What is the point of my climbing if  someone like that can fall?” 

The bad news is that being a pastor or a missionary or a nun will not safeguard us from being Bad People, from getting depressed, from having broken relationships, from sin or from tragedy (a fact that is noticed easily by people who keep their distance from Christianity). Although we gain maturity and we learn lessons, we’re always light years away from being grown up…

Read More

All the Single Ladies

People have told me many times that I have a  unique view of the world. Sometimes this means I’m the only one laughing at my own jokes. Other times it leads to misunderstanding, when I don’t notice or I don’t understand commonly held expectations or viewpoints.

For that reason, something that’s pretty important to me is viewing people as individuals.

Although I certainly fall into several categories, the thing that will be most offensive (and possibly hurtful) to me is if someone shoves me into a category as a way of dealing with me.

I seek, as much as I can, to let people be who they are. I do not always do this well. Sometimes I fail miserably.

Lately I’ve had  several encounters which cause me to notice one of my categories with the eyes of our culture.
That category is, The Single Woman.

I’m going to share a list of ways that I do not fit what is commonly believed  concerning this category. I know other women who do fit these expectations. There are also ways that I fit into the category that other women do not.

In no particular order…

Read More

A Plan to Lose it All

Lately I have been a real mess. Not a quirky, things-will-come-out-right-in-the-end kind of mess, either. A gross and ugly mess that you’re sure will yield rotting surprises. I have seriously questioned my mental health and the wisdom of even interacting with other humans. My heart and mind have been dark and confusing. Even just last night, all of the worst lies came out to taunt me as I tried to go to sleep.

When I woke up (after very little sleep) I felt that same raw and twisty anxiety, but as I sat down to spend some time with God, he came quickly in just the way I needed. He didn’t soothe me with “No, everyone really loves you, it’s okay,” but instead pointed me to how incredibly faithful he is, has been and will continue to be. I think it’s only after I recognize how big and good he is that I am able to feel comforted by what he then says about who I am.

Then, at the end of class today I had a good dose of “hindsight” as I finished up my last teaching in the School of Biblical Studies.

What I got to see at the end of my teaching is how all the things that God spoke about this season before it happened  (this season being my involvement with SBS since the beginning of 2012)  have taken place…

Read More

Existential Absence

Raise your hand if you want to talk about loneliness!

No?

Me neither. In fact, until this morning I would have responded to the topic with a smile and shrug. “I’m not dealing with that issue right now.” For a few weeks now I’ve had that thought several times, to my own surprise. Who doesn’t feel lonely sometimes?

Apparently not me. Cool.

Then this morning, as I was beginning to question this unexpected sturdiness, I opened up the book I’m reading, The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. In the chapter, Ministry by a Lonely Minister he talks about loneliness as a gift, he looks back at loneliness and says, “The truth is so disconcerting and painful that we are more prone to play games with your fantasies than to face the truth of our existence.” He also throws out a few things we do to avoid loneliness and, reading this, I realized I haven’t been craving people because I’ve been keeping myself so busy. Work, books, movies… even cooking and cleaning keep me distracted…

Read More

Land Mines

I hear the phrase “fear of man” pretty often among the people with whom I spend most of my time.

Sometimes, unfortunately, phrases like this begin to lose their meaning for me when they’ve been used too often. I understand them less and less in any practical fashion and they slide past me unnoticed in the daily barrage of words.

Then one day someone will talk about one of these realities without using the common phrase and suddenly I am struck with the truth and given a much needed heart check…

Read More

Paul’s Secret

During discussion group last night we went around in a circle talking about what we have learned from studying the New Testament. The students finished Revelation this week and will begin with Genesis on Monday.

It was so encouraging to hear the answers from the students because they are the reason that we, as staff, are here. I know that my part is a small one, but I’m grateful to have a part.

The staff shared, as well and I was glad to be last in the circle because I had no idea to say. I had some words floating around in my head and was also trying to listen to what others were sharing. It wasn’t until the person before me wrapped up that I grabbed ahold of the bones of a thought. Then the most unfortunate/wonderful thing happened. The truth I was trying to convey hit me as it was coming out of my mouth. Which, of course, means I cried.

Here is what I learned this last quarter:
Early on I was wrestling with the Apostle Paul…

Read More

Call It The Past

When people hear the story of my marriage and divorce, they often remark on how healthy I seem. I’m not bitter toward my former husband- in fact, when I do think about him, I often consider the gifts he continues to offer the world. I make self deprecating jokes, I expound on the joys of being reintroduced to singleness.

But I will also correct my surprised audience because I’m really still just as messed up as everyone else. Maybe the willingness to forgive and be transparent about my faults is a sign of maturity I will own to, but it doesn’t mean I’ve leveled up.

What I mean to say is that when my former spouse was still my future ex husband, I was struggling under the weight of all kinds of neurosis. I got them the same way everyone does, in childhood. A difficult marriage may strengthen old triggers, but those triggers formed on the playground of youth, in the hallways of old houses with my feet sunk into orange shag carpeting….

Read More

Old Acquaintance

I‘m that lady who alternately weeps and cracks jokes. It looks like insanity, but it is actually exactly how to stay sane.

Today I met a 70yr old version of myself.

Every week, some of our students and one of our staff go next door to an assisted living home to lead a Bible study. Every week, whoever goes comes back with full hearts and good stories. Those people are amazing. Sometimes only of a few of them show up, sometimes more than 5. Sometimes several people leave in the middle. It’s not just a place for old people, it’s for anyone who needs assistance in living, so there are people as young as 18 and one lady who is 97 and many of them are noticeably “different.”

Today the 97yr old woman came (I’ll call her Beth), as well as two other women (I will call them Cindy and Lily). Cindy left early because her bipolar disorder was making it hard for her to sit with a group of people. She apologized profusely, but exited quickly. Lily was the old version of me and she spent part of the time cracking jokes, noticing random things (“Look out that window! There’s a plane that just flew over the peak!”), and the other part of the time, she wept openly….

Read More