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Archive for the ‘Reconciliation’ Category

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Tracy wrote a great blog post over at Thrive on engaging reconciliation through the Thrive process of clearings.  Read it here.

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obama

How often in life do you get to know you are experiencing profound change in history.  Yesterday was that day.

I’ve been somewhat muted about the political landscape, offering who I was voting for and a profile on leadership but not much else.  I’m not enamored by politics as a mechanism for change in the traditional sense.  I’m not looking for the politics to change my world.  But yesterday was different.  And here’s why.

Yesterday was about freedom.  It was about releasing people from oppression that has been the legacy of this country for far too long.  When the United States was created more than two hundred years ago, the founders chose not to address the issue of slavery.  They didn’t want to take on too much too soon.  But over the history that choice has haunted us.  True change, which is always best expressed in releasing people from some form of oppression, has been slow in this area.  My own parents got to see the deep segregation and lynchings of the South.  That legacy has lingered.

Yesterday was not about ending all oppression. Obama will not be the end all to be all as President.  It was about planting the seed that cannot be removed.  This was a moment we can forever look to in the future and say, “It is possible.”  We as a nation have always led the world in this regard.  In retrospect, it was inevitable that we would be the first, first world power to do this.

Richard Dreyfuss was interviewed by Mike Huckabee and he captured what yesterday was about for me.  He said,

“There’s a curse that mankind has lived with for 12,000 years. And it’s known so well that nobody ever has to talk about it.  And the curse is that you and yours will never rise.  You are a serf and your children and your grandchildren will be serfs.  And my heal will always be on your neck.  Until America said, “Wait a minute.  If you can get here, if you can take the stuff that life throws at you, if you work hard, and are lucky, you might rise.”

Yesterday we saw a barrier broken that has never happened before.  For the first time we saw the hard ceiling of oppression that has followed the African American community, (and minorities in general) be broken.  The most powerful image for me last night was not Obama’s speech but the weeping of those in the crowd.  They knew that we were part of history.

Yesterday was about speaking deeply into the dignity of everyone who has ever felt stepped on and pushed down by “the man”.  It was and will be that moment in history that people will be able to look at and say, “Yes We Can.”  And like Richard said, it has always been what made our nation great.  Yesterday we reiterated that so loudly.  This is a large reason why I have chosen to stand behind Barack Obama.  I chose to side with healing and restoration as opposed to a single issue.

My hope for the next four years lies not in changed policy.  It lies in the possibility of new dreams and new opportunities that will suddenly be available simply because someone has now already tread that ground.  Roland Martin on CNN said last night for the first time he could look at his daughter and say, “Yes you can be President.”  That is a release from oppression.

Colin Powell had a great interview and said, (Obama) wanted to be a transformational figure and bridge the gap between generations.” I would also add that he will become a symbol for racial reconciliation.  I think it’s easy to forget that Barack is half white.  We miss that when we look at him.  He is the bridge to restoring our racial relationships because neither side can claim him exclusively as their own.  He’s both.  This bridge will help us come together.

And I know there are those who will say, “but politics is not the answer to our problems.”  And I agree with that statement.  Jesus was the first reformer.  But his mission was about restoring the dignity of human beings and restoring relationship.  Yesterday that happened. It just happened on the political stage.

There will also be those who say, “Obama is not the answer to our problems.”  I also agree with that statement.  But history happens through people.  It happens through our social construct.  And God works through humanity to fulfill His purposes.  My hope is that those who chose not to vote for Obama will begin to see the bigger picture of what this election accomplished from a restorative standpoint.

I appreciated Obama’s own words that started it all, and which became a symbol for unity. “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America.    There is not a black America, and a white America, and a latino America, and Asian America. There is the United States of America.”  That symbol of unity requires sacrifice and thinking outside of ourselves.  This call to responsibility, to work with Obama to create change has been what captured America.

Some have assumed Obama has captured everyone into some kind of spell. I would offer that this misses the larger response that happens in revolutions, which almost always happen at the grass roots level.  This was an election that allowed people to find the soul of what made America great.  We have always been about the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden.  We just expressed that in a very big way yesterday.

As a follower of Jesus I have chosen to participate in the end of any form of oppression.  I have chosen to follow in the footsteps of the man who actively identified and stood with the lowly, the poor, and the outsider.  Yesterday was one of those days when I got to cast my vote and say, “I stand with you.”

As a side note: Some guy created a font for Obama.  It’s quite interesting.  Check it out.

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I have a friend who has been deeply hurt by someone important in his life.  And knowing what happened to him it is very easy to sympathize with his pain.  What she did was very hurtful and his anger was justified in some ways in the beginning. I think anger is a very important and necessary part of the grieving and healing process, for a time being.

But lately we’ve had some conversations about it and he’s still angry.  It been several years in fact since the original events happened.  And now every encounter with her is colored by the original events.  I recently asked him when he would let it go and he said several times, “I just can’t forgive her.”

When someone says, “I can’t forgive that person,” it’s easy to assume that they mean, “I won’t forgive.”  And sometimes this is true.  But I was thinking about times in my life that I have felt that way.  And I now wonder if the statement is more often a truly ironic statement.  I wonder if at these moments when I was essentially saying I won’t, I was really meaning I can’t.

Because how often do we really practice forgiveness?  Even as a church?  When a leader falls aren’t we more likely to crucify him than restore him?  When someone “falls” do we really take Jesus at his word when he said, forgive seventy times seven?

Forgiveness is just not a paradigm in which the world (and often the church) lives in.  We practice saying, “I’m sorry,” but how often is this for expediency because we need something from the other person or we don’t like people being mad at us.  And when the offense is high enough, thus seriously jeopardizing our reputation, it is just as easy to abandon the relationship.

Forgiveness essentially means, “to leave behind.”  But to leave offense behind means abandoning the very thing that allows us to be angry in the first place.  And the anger just feeds our desire to strike back harder the original offense.  And if we’ve never practiced forgiveness, how are we going to be able to do it when it is really required in our lives.  So without the understanding of how to forgive, we are essentially locked in a state of oppression…of our own free will.

Forgiveness requires love.  It requires stepping into our own humanity and seeing with eyes of compassion.  It means letting go of our right to remain wounded for the sake of sympathy.  It means stepping into our own maturity as human beings and seeing the person who hurt us as infinitely more valuable than any harm they could do to us.

And it is so easy for us to say, “Come on. Isn’t that a little hyperbole?  Isn’t that stretching it a little too far? But this is exactly what Jesus did on the cross.  He took the posture that no matter what we could do to him, we were still worth it.

I use to always get bent out of shape when I would read the way Jesus approached forgiveness.  He said things like:

14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

That’s just harsh. But what if Jesus understood that if we can’t forgive others we’re creating a standard that we will then use on ourselves.  Or that the standard we are using on others is indicative of the standard we are already using on ourselves.  Doesn’t forgiveness then essentially mean to release the very thing that is killing us?

And so when someone says, “I can’t, is it more restorative to approach them with an understanding that they are truly stuck, that the statement is indicative of something deeply troubling in their life?

Interested in your thoughts.

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I have come to the conclusion that a lot of people within the church don’t really like grace. It calls us to wrestle with stuff we don’t like, stuff like control and forgiveness. Let me explain.

A while ago, I had someone really hurt me. And the moment it happened something inside of me screamed out for justice. I wanted to rail back at this person and lash out. I wanted to rain down on this person the justice that his action demanded. And then this person did something that I really didn’t like. They asked for forgiveness. At that very moment I was staring the Gospel in the face. Something inside of me didn’t want to. I wanted to be mad.

And yet at that moment, I heard God’s still small voice say, “This is your moment. This is what will redefine who you are. To forgive is to become who you are.” I was holding onto a judgment that ultimately I was not really prepared to hold. And love was calling me to look beyond the hurt and to see the human.

And the reality is that its just so much easier to hold onto the pain. But isn’t the pain killing us? Isn’t the poison pill that we wanted to give someone else get instantly ingested into our own system?

We don’t like grace because it takes away our right to be angry. When God forgives me He’s revealing the standard of His kingdom. And I am called reciprocate. And we don’t want to do that. We want to be angry. We want justice. We want God to rain down fury on those who hurt us.

Grace levels the playing field in ways we don’t like. It takes away our ability to control others because we no longer get to use the idea of justice in a way that can control people. Grace redefines justice. It says that mercy is the more restorative approach. It takes away our command to God to end those who hurt us. God simply points to the cross and says, “Am I really mad? You decide. I can’t give you any more than that.”

And we’re left with this strange reality that the problem is really us. We don’t want to let go of our condemnation because it has become this strange tool to control the world around us. It feeds our sense of justice when someone hurts us. It fuels our sense of fury when we contemplate the abandonment, the rape, the molestation, the beating, the lies, the divorce, and the rejection. It allows us to play god.

Grace chucks all of that. It turns the tables on us takes away our defenses. It says, “You are worth more to me than your own sense of justice. You are worth more to me than condemnation.” Because when we judge, we’re really judging ourselves, which always leads to condemnation.

But to embrace that statement requires letting go of our own wounds. To embrace grace means applying it to everyone, not just us. And we simply don’t like that.

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This post is part of a Community Synchroblog

Alan @ The Assembling of the Church: Community Is Unnatural Today

Jason @ Godfidence.org: Community:A Synchroblog

Jeff @ Loosing My Religion: Thoughts On Building Authentic Christian Community

Glenn @ Re-Dreaming The Dream: Community: The Dilemma

Kathy @ The Carnival In My Head: Equality Is An Action Word

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This is why I dig David and the Psalms.

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Psalm 100:5 – For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 106:1 – Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 107:1 – Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 117:2 – For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.

Psalm 118:1 – Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:2 – Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”

Psalm 118:3 – Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.”

Psalm 118:4 – Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.”

Psalm 118:29 – Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1 – Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:2 – Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:3 – Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:4 – to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:5 – who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:6 – who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:7 – who made the great lights— His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:8 – the sun to govern the day, His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:9 – the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.

David and Asaph got it.

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Blue Like Elvis has this great quote from a guy I don’t know. But I like it.

“If we act like a denomination, we become irrelevant.” BGCT Executive Director, Randel Everett

At the heart of mission is restoration of relationship. And by default, denominations create barriers to relationship. Our role is to become so distinct in reflecting His love that we draw people in, not draw lines that keep them out. To be restorative is to tear down those barriers that keep us from relating to people.

And the natural argument is to want to counter with, “but how will we know what we believe?”  And this I believe was the trick the enemy loves to pull on us.  Jesus didn’t focus on theology in the abstract sense.  He didn’t focus on the subtle esoteric nuances of belief.  We either did or we didn’t.  And those that didn’t He let walk away.  He didn’t focus on how we believe.  He focused on how we loved.

Perfect theology is to love, as expressed in his two greatest commandments.

Related Post: Help – What Denomination Was Jesus?

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Over the last couple of years I have come to the realization that my birth father was a broken man. God has been inviting me into this awareness as I step into what it means to be his age when he was raising me. And as I step into the awareness I am beginning to discover the father that I lost before my parents divorce.

When I was nine my mom picked me up from church one day and told me that my parents were getting a divorce. Waves of emotion crept over me inviting me to create a thick protective shell around my heart. This protective mechanism was my friend. It told me it protected me from further harm that I didn’t really need.

And I lived with this friend for twenty-five years. It helped me destroy just about every relationship I ever had. You see my friend was insanely jealous. He didn’t like new friends so he was constantly telling me that everyone would “eventually” hurt me. And the sad part is that I believed him.

What was interesting was how my friend constantly invited me to get angry at my father. He was always asking me how could someone so close abandon me. He must be evil. I loved my father but there was always something in between us from nine on.

And as very important people began asking me about my friend, I began to realize that he wasn’t really a friend at all. He was an enemy. And he had been feeding me lies for sooooo long.

I remember the first time Jesus asked me to trade in the lies. It was a very painful experience. He kept telling me that he loved me, over and over again. And everything inside of me told me that this was impossible. Daddy’s didn’t do this. Do they? But over time the love began to become irresistible. His love just wouldn’t give in.

The dictionary describes reconcile as,

“to bring into agreement or harmony”

It makes sense to me now. God is inviting us to reconcile so we can see what really is. It’s stepping into an awareness of the truth. It’s shedding the lies that keep us from wholeness and relationship. It’s seeing the other person for what really is behind the fake smile, a broken person. When I embraced this, the sense of freedom I experienced still lives within me today.

And as I began to shed my own lies, I could see my own daddy the way he really was. He never stopped loving me but the reality is that he didn’t know how to love me. I realized that he was a broken man, struggling with his own brokenness in the quiet spaces of his condo. He had no one showing him the love that would restore his soul.

So may we be love to those who need it.

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