So, as the days and weeks go on after George Floyd's death, the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement is in full swing. I have to take a minute to remind you all that have picked up all of these new educational resources by Black authors, that this is just the beginning of the work. This isn't the work.
Self-awareness is key, vital even, but what happens when we realize how racism has seeped into our deepest ideologies? Then what? We need real institutional and structural changes that can only come when those who hold the power agree to willingly dismantle it alongside of the Black community. Are you along for that part of the ride or just the book club?
This is a real movement with very real people behind it that desperately need change. So by all means, read all of the Black authors because it is so important to hear how life is from a different location, it's important to support and read Black authors, just don't stop there. Information will not change anything except our own personal minds, and we have a whole lot of work to do before the rest of the system comes crashing down.
I urge you to read the books, but just as important, do the work. Engage your family in conversation, call out racism where you see it, push your school system for changes in history curriculum to stop white-washing our nation's past, hold your local police accountable by first understanding their rules of engagement, get cops out of schools, buy from Black shop owners, hold your churches accountable, and just keep moving forward. Don't stop until we can all truly say that we are equal, and equal by the discretion of the Black community, not our own.
The Civil War ended in 1865, yet a vast number of people remained enslaved. It wasn't until June 19th - two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation - that the news reached the rest of the enslaved. While we celebrate our independence on July 4th, we have to be willing to recognize another deep layer of our country's freedom to have happened that day in 1865. This is the day when we were all legally recognized as autonomous, individual, and free. And yet, while it is a day of supreme celebration, it is not lost on me that it is also a reflection of how justice always seems to be delayed for the Black person. Whether it's by way of noose or a decorated officer, we must see the public lynchings end. So today, let's celebrate in the streets. Tomorrow, let's organize.
You're okay with broken windows from policing, but not from rioting. You seem just fine with kneeling, so long as it's onto a black man's neck. What would you know about "appropriate responses" when you have 911 on speed dial for perceived injustices? When you're so angry you march the capital over haircuts? How can you say a riot is disproportionate when it's never white bodies lying in the streets? When you don't have a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting shot by an officer for selling loose cigarettes or walking unarmed in broad daylight?
There are dead bodies of little black boys playing in their yard. There are bodies of the unarmed who were shot in the back. Bodies slain on their own couches, in their own hallway, on their own beds. Bodies from accidental discharges by decorated officers who should know how to handle a damn gun. Bodies from pill bottles mistaken as a weapon.
Why won't you lament the stink of bodies more than the upending of a neighborhood? They are't tearing up their own neighborhood because of an overreaction, they're burning their streets because of our gross under-reaction to their pain.
They use their voice, we call them angry and stop up our ears.
They walk peacefully through the streets with signs we can't stomach, and we shoot rubber pellets and pepper spray.
They kneel at football games and get fired; ostracized.
They speak up and get shot.
It's a mass of unheard voices pleading for us to listen.
What choice have we left, when we refuse to listen? When we refuse to see? When our killing of their bodies is absolutely inconsequential? Don't look at the disorder as disproportionate, look at is as the overflowing cup of a deep-seated trauma that's been a long time in the making.
Look at who you're more angry with right now and that will tell you all you need to know about yourself and who you're fighting to protect. Then, do better.
For you this may be new-
this get back, keep your distance,
everything-poses-a-threat kind of life.
Six feet away feels more like six feet under.
But since I was little
I learned that the way I maneuver in my world would always be dictated by external sources.
Don't wear this, it will draw the kind of attention you don't want.
Don't sleep in the night, you'll be unprepared for the midnight monster.
Don't eat food in phallic shapes in front of hungry men.
My body has never been my own, it's been hijacked.
It follows societal instructions-
not based on my will or my agency
but from the rules that help me fly under the radar of greedy men.
Because how can you ever really trust a stranger when the people you know turn like snakes?
your eyes are opened to see the invisible dangers all around-
every surface contaminated
every person infected.
The virus is everywhere you always overlooked it before.
In the same way-
I catch the nuances of men's bad behaviors before the evidence
piles up as bodies at your feet.
I'm in an unending quarantine-
the threat never passes
the air never clears
my body is always telling me to stay 6 feet away.
I don't feel protected
I feel provoked-
like a jack-in-the-box, my body is crushed into accordion folds, pushed back into the box and told only to come out by the lever in your hand.
All over the world there are hospitals lacking masks, running low on rooms and spread thin with worry and exhaustion. There are kids with pangs of hunger in their bellies because their hot lunches are locked behind the doors of closed schools. Jobs are temporarily cut to protect the lives of the people, while further injuring their economic insecurity as the bills pile on cluttered counter tops.
May we have eyes to see the blessings, and a heart to hold the hope.
May we be like the young boy in the Bible who offers what little he has - 5 loaves and 2 fish - and allow for the bounty to be created in the breaking. Because generosity always creates abundance. When we refuse the fear of self-interest, our resources are scooped up by a loving savior, affirmed by the faithfulness of God, broken and blessed, and are always multiplied in our giving.
May we give generously from a spirit of gratitude.
May we live abundantly despite the insufficiencies.
May we recognize that miracles often happen when we have empty wallets
but mercifully keep open hands.
As the shelves clear out and there is fighting over the last of the current resources, it struck me that we are all experiencing a collective trauma right now. We are all in some form of fight, flight, or freeze. While I don't cognizantly fear what is happening in the world right now, my body - with all of its stored trauma - is recognizing that need to survive. My nervous system is heightened, and I'm sure yours is too.
Like so many, I have been trying to push through all of the details of this pandemic: getting supplies, picking up schoolwork for my kids, and trying to plan ahead for multiple unknown outcomes. I haven't once taken the time to sit with myself and just observe how I am really feeling.
In therapy, there is a tool called a meditative body scan. This tool brings awareness to the sensations of the body, and does so in a gradual sequence starting from the feet and working up to the head. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our stress that we can overlook the toll it is taking on our bodies. This tool encourages us to slow down and to take notice of what our bodies are saying. By mentally scanning, you notice the aches, pain, tension, and discomfort. This knowledge doesn't relieve the problem, but it familiarizes you with the pain so you can learn how your body responds in order to better manage it. With stress reduction there will be obvious physical factors that improve as well. Anything from reduced inflammation to more quality sleep.
I plan on implementing the body scan daily because I tend to be unaware of how I am carrying my stress until I bottom out completely. This is one act of self-care that is easy to do, and incredibly helpful for navigating these altered days. I invite you to take part, too. Here's how:
* find a comfortable spot to lay down
* take a few deep breaths
* slowly bring attention to your feet
observe any sensations or emotions that accompany it and breathe through them
* visualize the tension leaving your body and move on when ready
* continue with each area of the body until you reach the top of your head
(Above is my first body scan of the pandemic. I realized that my hands were shaky while my arms felt heavy and uncooperative (a.k.a. noodle arms). My legs felt weak, my stomach was a ball of nerves that made it hard to eat at times, and gave me indigestion in others. I have had brain fog, irritability, restlessness followed by extreme fatigue, and angrily tensed neck and shoulder muscles. I am visual and chose to draw my completed body scan. Also, scribbling is meditative to me so I chose to fill in my silhouette with scribbles. Get creative if you want and turn your scan into a piece of art.)
May we breathe deeply the air of hope in the pandemic pining for our peace.
May we give thanks for the ability to gather essentials, remembering those who cannot.
May we relish the quarantined time with our children. Holding them closely as we remember those who do not have the luxury of an education or a safe home.
May we be generous with our resources, as Christ has been with His love.
May we be greeted each morning with the hope of a God who comes quickly with a peace that is much stronger than death.
May we gracefully, with each breath, remember we were never promised that the worst thing wouldn't happen, but that it wouldn't be the last thing to happen.
May we, in fear and anxiety, find ways to comfort our neighbors, reaping comfort unto ourselves.
May we search out ways to be the loving embrace of God to those around us.
May we believe Him when he says "do not be afraid," for who better to trust than the one who has swallowed death whole?
Eighteen years ago I walked through these doors.
So heavy I almost felt weightless.
One last cigarette
flick of the Bic before I spilled my guts to a jury of my peers
and all that tried to steal my confession as their eyes relayed their contempt for me.
They didn’t believe me because they thought they knew him.
They didn’t want to believe me because they really did know.
Because the truth is a stone that’s hard to swallow.
And if it were true, what would that make them? The ones who entertained him in their homes, and with their children?
The friend of a pedophile?
The coffee date who was so sick he lusted after a little girl?
I snuffed out my smoke
floated through the metal detector
walked up 2 flights of stairs I hoped would never end.
I sat in the box
(on what felt like a stage)
I confounded his attorney
he told enough truth that it made his whole story
I sat in the hall
staring at these doors
as the strangers I’d met only a few weeks ago
wrote my fate on a piece of paper to read to a judge who knew nothing about me
Would they believe me?
Ushered into the courtroom
diverting my eyes from all of those that heard the explicit details of everything I ever tried to hide.
He looked like a beaten puppy:
head down, sad eyes
I a l m o s t felt bad.
“Guilty” to every charge.
“Guilty” to 13 pleas.
It rang through the courtroom as
I entered my body again
breathed through the burning in my chest.
Relief and fear and sadness and happiness
and I didn’t know what feeling to land on.
He was taken away until sentencing.
Him in his orange jumper
feet and hands shackled.
No more puppy dog eyes
no more pouty face for the jury
in his ice blue eyes
as he glared at me when he walked by.
It was then I remembered
that I didn’t have to feel guilt over him living in the horrors of prison
because I didn’t send him there
he did that all by himself.
I was too weak to speak
I propped myself in the doorway in the hall
and whispered a thank you to each and every juror that walked by me.
With every syllable I felt the thumping in my chest rise to my throat and steal my breath from me.
He got 5 years.
They told me that was good
for a first offense
with no prior record.
for the insecurities and nightmares
for the jagged edges created in my world.
He did his time, I guess.
I’m still doing mine.
I have been meditating a lot on the story of a man named Cleopas from the Bible. He and another (unnamed) man were walking to a town called Emmaus after it was discovered that the body of Jesus - who was killed 3 days earlier - was no longer in its tomb. I can only imagine the amount of decompressing these two were undergoing with all that had happened, not only in the last 3 days, but in the entirety of the last two and a half years.
Before Jesus was crucified, he had walked the earth, demonstrating powers that backed his claim to be the son of God. He showered those who walked among him with miracles of love. This attracted both the attention and the disdain of the Pharisees. The Pharisees claimed blasphemy, while the citizens found the words of Jesus to be true. Jesus challenged people to think outside of their logistical box and to meet with God in a different way then had been taught in the synagogues. People were evolving in their theology, and Jesus’ divine love was the catalyst to this change. He challenged the notion that anyone was an outsider, he redefined what was unclean, and he refuted any tradition that put limitations on healing and loving people. Those who were observing Jesus were likely to have found their doctrine turned upside down.
As Jesus walked the earth he was constantly speaking of a new kingdom, and in this new kingdom, he was to be king. The hopes of the people were rising at the notion of this man of love overtaking the throne of oppression and empire. At the height of their belief, at a time when they came to trust the word of this man named Jesus, that’s when he was killed. For two and a half years their beliefs were in constant motion: from skepticism and doubt to confusion and wonder and ultimately to belief and certainty. And just like that, Jesus was crushed by the empire he claimed to one day overtake. He was crushed by the oppression of the very people he was to rule. The disciples were told this would happen, and even they were confused when it came to pass. They saw the broken body and believed the incompleteness instead of seeing past the physicality of the body to the sweet fulfillment of a promise.
So Cleopas and his friend are walking the 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus and trying so hard to make sense out of their disorientation. How disillusioned and devastated these men had to have felt when all that they believed seemed to have come untied, and to be proven false. They were discussing the events when it says that Jesus came to them in their speaking. In the midst of their disappointment and confusion, their disenchantment, in the midst of wrestling with their darkest hour, Jesus appears and walks alongside them. The men were shocked when this mysterious man hadn’t heard the scandalous news of what had happened. They shared the story. They shared that they had hoped Jesus was really the one to redeem Israel. They hoped. Past tense. They were already giving up. Eventually, they saw that this man walking with them was, in fact, the risen Jesus. He had been good on his claims, they had just been disappointed by their own expectations.
The road to Emmaus is such a beautiful story to me. One that gives me so much hope. A hope and a reassurance that God will come to me when I am disoriented, in the depths of sorrow, and even when I am nothing but doubt. He will show up for me when my theology is all wrong and when I’ve missed the point entirely. He will show up on the journey and he will reveal himself just as he did the two confused men on the dusty road to Emmaus. This story shows us that in our pursuit of Truth, Truth Himself walks beside us.
After quite the sabbatical from church, I have found myself ready to enmesh once again. This is such a huge step for me, it's been about 5 years of this intentional time away. I needed to avoid anyone else's theology, assumptions, and certainties. It has been a transformative time of taking and adding bricks of understanding to rebuild the very tarnished building the temple had become.
It's incredible how this furlough has allowed me to lose the certainties I had unintentionally clung to. As certain theological bricks were removed, I began to see that the Bible in it's entirety had gotten so warped, so involuntarily intertwined with modern culture (specifically that of a capitalistic, American culture) that the whole system felt grimy.
After stepping away for a significant time and allowing this newness to wash over me like a fresh baptism, I have become inspired once again, to pick up my bible with eager eyes and a hunger to read with wonder and imagination as if I have never read this book before. Because in so many ways, I haven't read this book before. I haven't read this book without preconceived notions and a complete willingness to listen without knowing any of the answers. To read without any formulated response or opinion, but to just read and take in. To sit with the text as it was in all of its mysterious wonder.
A group of friends and I got together for dinner and had been challenged beforehand to think about what promises we were standing on for this season in our lives. Every woman came with a beautiful scripture that was so intimate to their lives, something that was filling them with hope and assurance. When the inquiry was passed to me, I proudly shared that I didn't have one yet. It was exciting to me because I wasn't conjuring something that didn't feel right, I wasn't grabbing on to something that had given me life in the past, I was okay with not knowing yet. I was okay with the anticipation of seeking my next promise out like a hidden treasure instead of returning to a tired map that had lost me over and over again.