A Positive Experience in the Midst of Ferguson Unrest

In a previous post, I suggested we start sharing stories of positive experiences with people of other cultures and color to help dispel the fears that drive so much of the prejudice we see. A Facebook post by Kelly Spann is just the type of story I was hoping for and she has given me permission to share. I pray we all actually look for opportunities to share love and common ground. These are the things that will help our community, our country, and the world heal. Here’s Kelly’s story: Continue reading

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Is There Any Way to Help Her Believe Me When I Say, to Me and Many Others, His (Black) Life Does Matter?

In the aftermath of the Ferguson riots last night, a young mama of a beautiful infant boy has posted several things on Facebook lamenting – seriously lamenting, bitterly lamenting, heart-wrenchingly lamenting – the idea that her son’s life does not matter in this crazy world. After praying and crying over her posts, I tried to formulate an encouraging response, but I’m not sure it was enough to convince her. It read:

I’m so sorry you hurt in this way. I am sorry we live in a world where these feelings are fostered by those who hate. I pray you will see that your sweet baby’s life does matter to many. It matters to those who are working tirelessly to create change and promote understanding.

I in no way want to downplay your real concern that this message needs to be heard. That people need to speak out against injustice. That too many are indeed callous towards the lives of others. That there is much work to do to combat hatred and bigotry. I just want to be one voice to bring you hope in this despair.

Keep posting pictures of your beautiful baby boy. Keep letting others see your joy in being his mommy. This is a bright spot in an ugly world and often makes me smile as I scroll through my feed. You keep spreading good. I’ll keep speaking on your behalf. And prayerfully, your little boy will grow up in a better world than the one we have experienced.

What does it take to convince someone that people of other cultures and colors do actually care? What does it take to undo the harm so many others have brought? What does it take to help us all see beyond what we’ve been conditioned (rightly or wrongly) to see? I don’t know. But let’s do keep trying.

You Can Help Fight the Fears Related to Ferguson

Note: I started writing this post this morning thinking it would still be awhile before the Grand Jury announced its decision in the Darren Wilson case. We are hearing now that the decision will be announced this evening, so maybe the post will not serve the original purpose I intended. Still, I think it is important that we consider these things as we process the decision and any aftermath that may occur.

I am typically not prone to fear or worry. I must admit, however, recent events in my hometown in North County, St. Louis have made me wonder if I should take some extra precautions in case rioting breaks out when the Grand Jury announces its decision on whether or not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown. I have wondered if I should buy a generator, stock up on food, or in other ways prepare for the worst. I haven’t done these things, but I’ve thought about it.

This is not the only way that uneasiness with current events has tempted me to change my normal behavior. I met my daughter for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel on New Halls Ferry Road Saturday morning. While driving to meet her, I wondered if it was smart to have chosen that location. When I saw the many surrounding businesses that were boarded up to protect themselves from potential looting, I was saddened. As I entered the restaurant, though, I was encouraged to see it was busy with a diverse crowd of people. I was glad we were dining there and giving support to a community that needs it.

It’s obviously not wrong to be on alert or take precautions during this time. I have no problem with those doing so. I do have a problem, however, with the way fear is being heightened by obsessive, single-focused news coverage and inappropriate use of social media. While a whole lot could be written on those issues (and believe me, I’m tempted), I’d like to instead offer some ways we can combat their effects on us.

Share stories of your own positive experiences with people of other cultures, positions, and races. Such stories help combat the stereotypes that drive our fears. Challenge the mindsets that divide us – “all cops act …,” “all blacks are …,” “all whites think …” – by sharing stories of times you have seen the opposite.

Share positive news stories (with proper fact-checking, of course). It is obvious to those of us who live closer to these events that the news tends to highlight the negative incidents which occur. Even worse than that, though, is that those are the news stories which get shared most on social media. There are good stories being reported (see just one example here and others in prior posts). Let us know when you see something encouraging or inspiring.

Share some shout-outs to people you know who are making a positive impact or modeling the love and change you want to see in the world. Let people know about people and organizations that are doing good work in the area. There are many. Just a few of my shout-outs would be to “The Ferguson Response” group that held a 21 day prayer vigil and services in Ferguson, and Patricia Bynes who is willing to call out those who are doing wrong on both sides of the issue.

Share art, or poetry, or quotes that fight fear and/or promote reconciliation. Try to stay positive on your own social media sites. Even when you desire to point out the wrong people are doing, it can either be done in a way that promotes peace and understanding … or in a way that continues to bring out fear and hatred.

And finally, if you really want to combat fear:

Do NOT share without fact-checking. I am appalled at the number of people I see sharing things from fake news sources or from hearsay before verifying (see this article for examples). This helps no one.

Please feel free to share your positive stories and links here. I particularly would like to hear stories that help dispel stereotypes and calm fears.

Response to the Church of God in Christ’s Threat to Pull Its Convention from St. Louis

The headline reads, “Church of God in Christ threatens to pull convention from St. Louis.” And my heart sinks.

According to this and other news reports, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is not the only organization that’s considered pulling their events from St. Louis convention centers following the Ferguson crisis. Most are hesitant due to fear of violence in the region. Others are making more political statements with their threats to take their business elsewhere. I can understand both responses. But when it comes to a church organization, something in my gut is repelled by the approach. If it were simply a matter of fear, I’d argue that the church has always been called into dangerous situations and must simply trust that God will protect them as they do what they are called to do. But COGIC’s motive falls into the latter category of flexing its political (and economical) muscle.

Should the church be involved in political causes? Yes. It’s our right as much as any other people group to be involved in the political processes of our nation, and I even believe we are morally obligated to utilize this privilege for the good.

Should the church use its monetary resources to impact the world around us? Most certainly. And again, I’d say it’s our moral obligation to be good stewards of the financial blessings we have been given.

Since 2010, COGIC has indeed blessed the St. Louis area during its convention stays. According to COGIC’s own convention recap, the work convention attendees, some 40,000 plus, accomplished while in St. Louis this year included the following.

During the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) 107th Holy Convocation in St. Louis, MO, November 3-11, 2014, many tremendous things occurred that demonstrated the church’s love for community and for the whole man.

Through a number of COGIC Cares initiatives, the St. Louis and metro east communities were helped in some of the following ways:

During our Health Fair and Job Fair, hundreds received free healthcare services while many unemployed attendees were able to network with St. Louis employers;

5,000 people received assistance in the form of food, clothing, blankets, toys, haircuts and medical check-ups at our Christmas in November event on Saturday, November 8, 2014;

Members of our denomination dispersed within the North St. Louis Fourth Ward community to provide cleanup assistance to blighted areas; and

Several COGIC leaders visited a St. Louis Public School to conduct “a day of reading” among elementary school children.

In his official video response on the convention, Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake added, “Prior to the convocation, denominational leaders and members went into Ferguson to support and to participate in the struggle for justice after the shooting of young teenager Michael Brown.”

After such an impressive list of loving action, charitable endeavors, and positive activism it is hard to imagine the church following all that with the threat of discontinuing its positive work here if local politicians don’t meet specific demands. I have no specific grievances with the list of demands, as presented in COGIC’s letter to Governor Nixon. There are legitimate concerns that I, too, hope to see local government continue to address. My issue comes with the idea that they are demands, made by the church, to political leaders.

To me, this is akin to Jesus saying, “I’m no longer going to feed thousands of hungry people, or continue to heal the sick, or minister the gospel of spiritual deliverance to your region if your political leaders don’t do what I think is appropriate.” Jesus never did this, despite the fact that His people were oppressed by both the Roman government as well as corrupt Jewish leaders. He continued to do good and to teach His people how to live godly lives in trying times. His church should follow His lead.

 

4 Motivating Reasons to Start Your New Year’s Resolutions NOW

After finishing up our church’s small group study of Radical by David Platt, we decided to commit to The Radical Experiment. It’s a year-long commitment to five specific challenges:

  • To pray for the entire world
  • To read through the entire Word
  • To commit our lives to multiplying community
  • To sacrifice our money for a specific purpose
  • To give our time in another context

We started working on several of the challenges immediately. For the prayer goal, we’re beginning with Operation World’s 60 day prayer experience. It’s an app that provides the history, statistics and prayer needs of a different people group each day. After the 60 days, we’ll find another resource to help us continue our prayer efforts. We decided on a chronological reading plan for the Bible challenge and have begun our reading. We’re also planning a mission trip with Casas por Cristo for March and we’re raising funds for that.

While doing the Bible reading plan and prayer experience, I’ve thought how these are usually the tasks I start at the beginning of a New Year. I’m finding it refreshing to start some New Year’s resolutions before the New Year actually begins. Here are four benefits I see to starting early:

  1. Starting now is proactive instead of reactive. Being proactive means looking ahead and planning for challenges instead of just reacting to them after they hit. We all know New Year’s Resolutions are difficult to keep. Starting early provides opportunity to work out the kinks and make adjustments to be more realistic with our goals.
  1. Starting now fosters a mindset that deals effectively with setbacks. Since I’m taking action prior to the official start date, if I miss a day here or there it doesn’t feel like defeat. And if I miss a day in 2015 it won’t undermine the whole process because I’ll have made deposits into the “resolution account” to balance out the negative days.
  1. Starting now is motivating because it doesn’t begin with the concept of failure. New Year’s resolutions often feel like attempts to reboot or refocus on something I’ve failed at previously. In 2015, my goal will be to continue something good I’ve already started instead of trying to muster up the enthusiasm to begin something I’ve been putting off for far too long.
  1. Starting now is creating momentum, which should lead to a more successful approach to the resolutions. When the New Year starts, I’ll already have established the good habits I’m working towards. I will enter the 2015 feeling like I’m ahead of the game. I like the idea that I’ll start the New Year off with some accomplishments already made towards my goals.

This approach to my Bible reading and prayer goals has been so positive and motivating that I’m starting on a few more resolutions now instead of waiting. One such goal is related to this blog. To date, I’ve been blogging inconsistently, whenever the mood strikes and/or I make time for it. I’m now planning a posting schedule for 2015. I’m particularly excited to work on turning my “Encourager’s Devotional Series” into a blog feature. This was something I used to send out to email subscribers and Bible study groups. I’ve been told many times, for MANY years, I should create an internet version. Looks like it’s time to get to it. Stay tuned for that and an overall schedule – and remember, I hope to be posting it BEFORE the New Year begins. 🙂

What challenges or goals have you been putting off until the New Year? What resolutions to you begrudgingly put on your list every year only to have forgotten about them in a few months? How might starting now change your success rate?

“A Book that Cannot Be Ignored”

Book reviews and a link to a chapter excerpt from my husband’s book 95 Theses Which Dispute the Church’s Conviction Against Women. This book is a thorough work on the subject, including exegesis of key passages, theological framework for discussion, as well as more pragmatic implications. Scot McKnight calls it “a book that cannot be ignored.”

A Christian blog by T. Scott Womble

My book has been reviewed in at least five places now.

1.  Stone-Campbell Journal (Spring 2009).

2.  Scot McKnight’s blog.

3.  Jeff Miller @ Emmanuel Christian Seminary

4.  Priscilla Papers (Autumn 2010).

5.  The “God’s Word to Women” web, where you can find part of chapter 5.

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4 Reasons You Should Vote Today – Even If You’re Sick of Politics

I was always an enthusiastic voter. I voted as soon as I was old enough and was proud and excited to take my daughter to her first experience at the polls when she turned 18. Yes, I was enthusiastic about voting – until about the last decade. There have been several times I almost decided not to go to the polls because I’m fed up with the whole political scene. I am tired of my party offering up candidates that are an embarrassment. And I’m especially disgusted with the idea that I can’t trust that anyone is really telling the truth – about themselves, about other candidates, about the issues at hand. I used to like doing my research to ensure I was an informed voter. The process now just wearies me. So, what keeps me going to the polls? Here are a few thoughts that keep me motivated and I hope they will motivate you, too.

1. Voting is your right. We protect the right to vote by voting.

Don't give up your right to vote.

Don’t give up your right to vote.

2. Voting is your privilege. Insightful discussion is abounding on the idea of “checking your privilege” (see some great links below). The Oxford Dictionary defines privilege as “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.”

The “check your privilege” movement is meant to … well, I’m not sure what it’s meant to do. In some cases it seems to promote discussion between privileged groups and those without said privileges. In other cases, it appears to be a quick come-back meant to stifle discussion by telling the one perceived to be privileged they have no right to speak on a matter because they have not experienced the hardships of the group most harmed by the issue at hand.

For the purposes of this discussion, I’d like to broaden the concept of privilege beyond the borders of the United States. Compared to many other nations, we are privileged with our system of government. Others, like those currently protesting in Hong Kong, are still fighting for the rights and privileges we take for granted.

One notion in the “check your privilege” concept, at least by some, is the challenge to use whatever privilege you do have for the good of others. This I wholeheartedly support. As US citizens, we should exercise our privilege to vote because it can impact the lives of those less fortunate both here and abroad.

3. Voting is your responsibility.  Voting is a civic duty that has a lasting impact on future generations. I have been most apathetic about voting when the choices come down to the “lesser of two evils” in my thinking, when there’s no one I can really support. But if you think about it, keeping the worst of two evils from taking prominence really can be turned into a motivator.

4. Voting is the credibility behind any complaining or protesting you’d like to do. I’ve been happy to see the “get out the vote” campaigns in the midst of the protests over the Mike Brown shooting in my St. Louis county, which includes Ferguson, Missouri. Now, I want to see a good voter turn-out as a result. I’m tempted to say all future protestors of voting age must wear their “I Voted” stickers to the next rally or not be allowed to protest. And, please, tell me you voted before you go into any kind of social media rant on the state of the world. Otherwise, I may be tempted not to listen to you at all.

Yes, I may be tempted to hold my ears while you try to speak if you haven’t voted at the end of the day, but I won’t. After all, one of the goals of this blog is to bring everyone to the table for good dialogue. So, if you don’t vote, maybe we can start with that. Why don’t you vote? What would it take to get you to vote? And if you are an enthusiastic voter, or an “I’ll still force myself to vote” person like me, do you  have any reasons to add to my list?

 

Further reading to get you thinking about the idea of privilege:

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-origins-of-privilege

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117665/princeton-essay-check-your-privilege-raises-legitimate-gripes

http://theprincetontory.com/main/checking-my-privilege-character-as-the-basis-of-privilege/

http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-03-08_146

http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/how-privileged-are-you

The Inevitable Happened

Hoping to help spread the word about this organizations needs so they can help even more victims of sexual trafficking or sexual exploitation.

businesswoman with a note-book

The Inevitable Happened – A message from our founder, Deidre Lhamon.

Staff member. “Sometimes my job stinks.”

I understood immediately what she meant.

I knew the day would come when we would have to turn girls away from our Long Term Therapeutic Home, but I didn’t think it would be so soon.

Within a 24 hour period last week, we received 3 calls for placement. One was a 12 year old who had been forced to strip in a club and another a 13 year old whose trauma started at the age of 11.

The reason we had to turn these 3 girls away is because they aren’t in state custody.

Let me explain. Currently, Covering House has only 5 beds. We have designated 2 of those beds for private placement. Private placement is when either a parent, the courts, or a juvenile officer refers to us.

The good news…

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