Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Heartbreak

Tonight, my heart breaks.

It's Christmas Eve. We celebrate a birth, a child come from Heaven to Earth. But too often in the midst of our celebration and beautiful lights, we forget the true circumstances of that birth.
We forget He was born in a stable. We forget He was born into a poor, poor family to an unwed, teenage mother. We forget He was born to an unknown people, in an unknown place. We forget Nazareth was the ghetto. We forget He was despised and rejected, we forget He did not have an appearance that attracted people, that infact He was despised and held in low esteem.

My heart breaks because Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, peace, love. A time to remember, a time to celebrate, a time with family. And tonight countless families must go through this season without loved ones, because for many families this is the first Christmas without their babies. My heart breaks for the mothers, families and friends of ‪#‎MikeBrown‬,‪#‎EricGarner‬, ‪#‎TamirRice‬, ‪#‎AntonioMartin‬, ‪#‎AiyanaStanleyJones‬,‪ #‎TrayvonMartin‬ and so many others.
And my heart breaks because so many hearts are NOT breaking for these families. Because so many people are diverging the conversation from LIFE to excuses and reasons. He did this, she did that, the police were justified, it's because they didn't have a father-figure, if only they didn't grow up there, if this, if that. My heart breaks because people try to change‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ to all lives matter, unable to understand that of course all lives matter and no one is denying that, yet our world says black lives don't matter, and we are saying yes, yes they do.

My heart breaks because the what happened, the "facts," the who, why, and how, are not, and cannot be, the prevailing conversation. My heart breaks because the Jesus whose birth we celebrate tomorrow came to earth and died to have victory over sin and death and fight for justice and mercy because love wins. And when we change the conversation to facts and justifications, we forget the true conversation must start at the reality that we are all human beings, we are equal in our humanity, we deserve love, justice, and equality, we deserve freedom. We should get to a point where we don't need #BlackLivesMatter because our world is finally acknowledging that all lives, colors and cultures are beautiful, equal, and loved.

My heart breaks because this season is about love, and yet tonight so many can do nothing but weep for the brothers, sisters, daughters, friends, fathers, uncles, mothers lost. And my heart breaks because instead of having compassion, feeling love, we try to say we're in a post-racism age, white privilege doesn't exist, and the cops were justified in shooting yet another black kid.

So maybe we can take a step back. Before fighting, debating, and shouting in hopes our opinion come out loudest, let's think before we speak. And before we speak let's try love. Let's try compassion. Let's try mercy. And let's try justice. And let's remember that the Jesus whose birth we celebrate came to break down an unjust system and fight for justice and mercy. Whether you believe He was the Son of God or not, you cannot deny His teachings are centered on love and justice. So let us love one another, because of the deep abiding love we ourselves rest in.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Prophecy of Protests

But Love 
hung on a tree
Bruised body, blood flowed
Love died so 
we could be free

Love didn't look at skin or color
Love didn't look at nationality,
Love look at souls
and said we're brothers
Blood flowed
for every nation, 
tribe and 

But we've forgotten. 

And now 
the prophets of the streets
crying like Pentecostal priests
Beating chests and
stomping feet
those choosing blindness
to see

See our pain
Feel our fury
Our righteous anger
against injustices you pretend 
can remain unseen

You were born with this freedom
to close your eyes
We were born into a world 
stabbing us from behind

So don't bring your Bibles,
shove your tracts 
drag us down aisles
You weren't here from the beginning
Fighting to break chain,
set captives free

"We have nothing to lose but our chains"

Our battle cry is freedom
equality for all
Jew and Gentile
Slave and free
Now the verses can read
Black and white
Upper class and lower
College educated, GED

You know, He's crying with us 
shouting, marching
Beating chest and
stomping feet

Don't think you're bringing Jesus to us
He's already here,
on the streets
Prophecy of protests
Righteous rage against
Jesus, the revolutionary

God with us
On the ground with us

Love doesn't look at
skin or color
And Love hung from
a tree

It is our duty to fight for our freedom
Love has already won the day

And we have nothing to lose but our chains
We will fight to lose our chains

- - - - -

                Ferguson has changed me. Broken me. Built me. My heart breaks again everyday, and the pieces are held together by the community around me. I do not yet know fully what Ferguson has done in my life, and we have yet to see the full extent of what it will do in our world. But I sense the world changing around me, paradigms are shifting, in my own life and all around me. I am beyond grateful to be part of this movement, and to those who have given themselves to fight for justice.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Justice and Jesus

Someone asked me what "got me into social justice work."

I didn't really know how to respond.

I told him nothing really "got me into social justice work," that I honestly couldn't pinpoint a time when suddenly justice work began to matter to me.  I can't imagine not caring.

I told him that I've always seen brokenness and longed for restoration. From a young age I found myself wanting to help people, the earliest I remember is being eight and wanting to adopt kids when I grew up. It was never a question, for me, of if I would help people, but rather who I would help. Because the reality is my heart is constantly in a state of brokenness.

My heart was breaking.
My heart is break

For me, Jesus and justice have never been separate. Loving Jesus and living out that love in acts of justice, compassion, kindness and mercy are utterly inseparable concepts.

I got lucky. I was raised in the church and had the unique joy of being raised by a family and in a community that practiced what it preached, looked around and reaching out to those in need.

For example. I remember when I was little, maybe 7 or 8, I had a friend named Dimesha. I honestly don't know how we knew her, or where she lived, but I know she was at our house a lot. She was like a sister to me. I think she lived with her grandma, and somehow we kinda adopted her. My mom homeschooled her along with the rest of us kids for a bit. She was always over to play, for holidays, birthdays. She belonged. As a kid, that was completely normal. I never questioned why she was there, why my parents would add yet another child to the many they already had, why they would care for a kid not their own, why she would become one of their own. Looking back, I can see how unique that was. Parents so willing to lay down comfort and normalcy to care for someone who just needed someone.

Justice and Jesus were never separate concepts. I was raised hearing about Jesus' love and seeing it lived out in the way my parents and my community cared for those around them.

So when my friend explained to me that most people involved in activism or social justice work have experienced some great injustice or oppression to propel them into justice-work, I had to respond that I didn't have a trigger point or a defining moment. I've simply always cared.

I honestly hesitate to say that because I feel like it's just me tooting my horn. But here's the thing. It's not. Because the reality is that Jesus and justice absolutely cannot be separated, and I've just been incredibly lucky that those never got separated for me.

The tragedy is that so many people do separate Jesus from justice-work, as if social movements and "sharing the Gospel" are separate actions.

See I think we've done a terribly thing in the world of Christianity by acting as if there is a difference between a "social Gospel" and one that you share with people on street corners and on airplanes that tells people they're a sinner in need of a savior.

The Gospel was never about praying a prayer that would save your soul from hell.

The Gospel is the good news of a God who cares so deeply for the oppressed that He died, conquered death, and rose victorious. The Gospel is about the Kingdom of God and restoring a broken world. And at some point we forgot that the Kingdom of God is here and now and that restoration isn't to be saved for some time far away with golden streets and angels floating on clouds. Restoration is for today.

And restoration is justice, mercy, compassion and grace.

The reality is, I shouldn't have to tell someone I'm a follower of Christ. My life should look so much like Jesus people don't even have to ask. Our lives should look so much like Jesus that people want to know Him.

And what does it look like to live like Jesus?

Justice, mercy, love, compassion and grace.

We are missing so much when Jesus gets boiled down to a few points and a pretty painted picture hung on a wall. We forget that actions speak louder than words, and that Jesus modeled that by caring for the poor. He came to heal the brokenhearted, set the oppressed free.

We, as people who say we follow Christ, cannot continue separating justice from Jesus. Justice is not something some are called to. If you believe in Christ, then you believe in a God who is heartbroken over injustice, who cares deeply for the poor and oppressed, who tells His people that true religion is caring for the poor and needy, for the widow and orphan in their need. If you believe in Jesus, you believe in a God who is restoring this broken world and that means binding up the brokenhearted, setting the oppressed free, releasing the captive.

We must stop asking if we will engage in a life of justice, but rather where God is leading us to live and give and who He is leading us to serve.

Justice and Jesus are inseparable, and that is why I have no moment of choosing to care about justice, other than the moment I chose to surrender my life to Christ.

- - - - - - - - 

I spent the past few weeks in Ferguson, MO, participating in non-violent protests about Mike Brown's death, the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the mass incarceration of black and brown men in the US, and other systemic injustices. This experience has truly changed my life. As I just said, I've always cared about justice, my passion runs even deeper now. I'm processing the many things I have seen, the ways I've been challenged, the places I've grown. My faith and relationship with the Lord have grown and my eyes have been opened to seeing God as so much bigger than ever before. Over the next few weeks and months, I will be writing about this experience. Some of these writings will be more about what I've seen and more in regards to the issues regarding Mike Brown and this movement that has sprung from his tragic death, my experience in Ferguson, giving more information than the mainstream media gives, and such. I will also be writing about how this has challenged me and grown me as a person and in my faith. I'll share photographs, potentially some poetry, and the random ramblings of my 2:00AM brain (aka this post). Please engage with me, with questions, comments, concerns. I have been changed, I hope you will be too.