More Good than Bad Happened in Ferguson August 9, 2015 (part 2)

As promised in my last post, here’s another example of good that happened in Ferguson on the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown.

Good in Ferguson

Peaceful demonstration of opposing viewpoints in Ferguson – August 9, 2015

It’s hard to see in the picture, so I circled it. But there was a group of protestors waving an upside down American flag. This solitary woman decided to do a little flag waving of her own – right side up. There are several reasons I think this is a great symbol of the good that occurred in Ferguson on the 9th:

  1. I think this woman was brave to voice an opposing viewpoint against the backdrop of a much larger and angrier group.
  2. This is what America is supposed to be about – the rights of individuals to express their views on either side of an issue.
  3. There was no violence by either party in the protest, but their points were clearly made.

As I post this, it is 11:57 pm and things are heating up again on West Florissant Avenue. Frozen water bottles have been thrown at police. Arrests have been made. And one portion of the crowd was maced by a police officer. I’m certain there is still good happening even in the midst of that chaos. As alderman Antonio French (who, by the way, is another person I believe is doing a lot of good) reported:

Continue to pray for those working for change while still promoting peace. Pray with me that things do not escalate tonight.

 

 

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More Good than Bad Happened in Ferguson Yesterday (part 1)

Despite the turn of events last night, more good happened in Ferguson than bad yesterday. Of course, the good does not get as much media coverage. And what coverage it does get is not shared as quickly or thoroughly as the bad on social media. So, I dedicate this series of posts to the MANY who are striving to make Ferguson, and the rest of our nation, a better place. To those who are BEING the change they want to see.

Phil Berwick is someone I met last year. He has been helping to “repaint” the picture of Ferguson, and other areas of St. Louis, with his lovable character “Merferd.” He also moved to Ferguson this year to be more directly involved with the community there. Here are a few video clips, links, and pictures of Phil and his work.

Merferd in St. Louis

Bob’s Quality Market, a St. Louis landmark for 47 years. My first Merferd outside of the riot zone in St. Louis. I asked if I could paint what was on the poster on the far side of the building, which was a large blank white brick “canvas.” I told him that I knew he was Muslim, and I could just have Merferd saying “I love you,” without the “Jesus.” He told me, to keep Jesus name on the painting.

News channel 5 (KSDK) covered Phil and others who have moved into Ferguson and were active yesterday. You can view that video by clicking here.

And click here to see Phil painting a new Merferd during last night’s protests. As Phil explained, “You will hear [Phil and his wife, Theresa] wail during the painting. It was to drown out the cop hating soundtrack that was blasting from across the street on West Florissant Ave in Ferguson.”

Stay tuned for more posts in this series throughout the day and continue to pray for people like Phil and Theresa who are working for positive change. Also, pray that today’s events also have more positive than negative consequences.

When Hearts are Revealed through Social Media

 

Lord, heal our hearts.

Lord, heal our hearts.

Today my heart is grieved by those who spew hatred. I’m especially troubled by those who claim to be Christ followers yet don’t seem to realize that what they post and share on social media is saying so much about their true feelings towards others. As the St. Louis area still reels from recent events in Ferguson, the last thing we need is more people stirring up animosity.

So, I was tempted today to challenge some of the posts I’ve seen. But then I thought of the Scripture in which God says He can change people’s hardened hearts from stone to flesh. Healing for our region and beyond will require dialogue, debate, debunking and determination on the part of those trying to foster peace. In this moment, though, I am not suited for the battle because my own heart is agitated.

I’m choosing instead to make the irritating posts I see my promptings for prayer:

Holy Spirit, convict hearts as only you can. Lord, please chisel away the callouses and turn these stony hearts into hearts of flesh.

My First Year of Blogging – 2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. See what’s happened since Lisa started her blog on May 8, 2014.

Here’s an excerpt:

The busiest day of the year was October 16th with 81 views. The most popular post that day was 5 Controversial Statements about Race and Gender I’ve Really Wanted to Post on My Blog but Haven’t – Until Now.

Click here to see the complete report.

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

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.

The Pain in Peace

The labyrinth at Trinity Episcopal Church, where I sometimes go to find inner peace.

The labyrinth at Trinity Episcopal Church, where I sometimes go to find inner peace.

My husband will be very happy to see I’m admitting this in public. I have a hard time saying I’m sorry when it comes to an argument.

It’s not that I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. I’m a firm believer that both sides have usually fallen into some form of error when embroiled in an argument – if not from the outset, most definitely once the battle begins.

And it’s not even that I don’t feel sorry for something along the way. At the very least, even when I feel like I’m 100% correct in my original point of contention, I’m always sorry we’re fighting. And I’m sorry the other person has been hurt in the process of airing out our grievances.

Here’s where my hang-up with “sorry” comes in: I can’t stand the thought of it being issued prematurely. I refuse to make an apology until I feel like my voice has been heard. I dislike the idea of a peace treaty that comes from either of us not having said what we’re really thinking and feeling. For me, a peace that stems from sugar coating or backing down from a perceived truth is only temporary. The issue will inevitably come up again because root issues were never really resolved.

I share all of this, not because I think I’m right or justified in this approach to conflict mediation. Rather, I put all this out on the table as an introduction to processing the quote from Jean Vanier. Here, I will share how I am working through the challenges presented in the quote, with the hope that the lessons I’m learning will also be seen as applicable to those who are praying for peace and justice in Ferguson, Missouri and beyond.

The quote really challenged me to think through the idea of what I’m willing to lose in an effort to pursue peace. Now, I’m still working through the processing of this, but here’s what it looks like so far:

Contemplating the loss of certitudes – Am I willing to admit I may be wrong? If I am, then the resulting action would be to listen more closely to the person on the other side of the debate. Instead of only listening for signs that they hear my point of view, I will listen more closely to theirs. What hurts are they expressing? What feels like injustice to them? What valid points are they bringing to the table? Instead of only seeking to be understood, perhaps I should ask questions about their history and what has led them to the conclusions they are expressing.

Contemplating the loss of comforts that shelter and define me – Am I willing to get out of my comfort zone and explore this issue from the perspective of “the other”? Am I willing to probe my own heart and see why I think saying “I’m sorry” is equivalent to saying, “I’m wrong”? Why does the withholding of my apology bring me comfort and a sense of security? Am I willing to give up that security in order to pursue peace? Why must the apology only come at the end of the discussion? Perhaps mingling in a few sincere apologies along the way would bring a level of comfort to the other person and foster truer, more effective dialogue. After all, I’m not just sorry after they’ve acknowledged my points. I’m sorry at various points in the discussion, so why not throw it out there as it’s occurring instead of waiting for them to earn it? (Darn! This is a difficult thing to admit.)

Contemplating the loss of hurts that shelter and define me – As difficult as that last area of contemplation was for me, this one is even harder. Am I willing to let go of my hurts? Holding on to my hurts shelters me from being hurt again. Will I risk all that in order to restore relationship? How does my hurt define me? Not just this hurt, but all the past hurts that feel similar to this one. Is it fair to bring all that baggage into this current conversation? It seems reasonable to allow both sides to acknowledge those hurts as reasons for their current stance on the issue and to promote understanding. If, however, I’m unwilling to release my grasp on those hurts … well, then I’m still in self-preservation mode and not yet working towards relationship preservation.

“Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice.” In seeking peace and justice, which of the losses is hardest for you to take?

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18 (NASB)

Weeping for the City

Mark_Twain_statue,_Garden_City,_KS_IMG_5875

Today, I feel connected to the heart of Jesus when he looked out over the city of Jerusalem.

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.'” (Luke 19:41-42, NIV)

I am disheartened by the way people indiscriminately latch on to stories, pictures, and social media posts that support their view of events – regardless of whether those things are based in truth. No fact checking. No hesitation to hit “share” even if the post might be offensive, or a lie. And for those who profess to be Christian, I have to wonder, where is spiritual discernment?

I’ve said before [see prior post], and will continue to say, the biggest challenge in finding the truth in the Ferguson situation will be that many do not really want truth. They just want to support their agendas.

I’m all for working for causes, promoting change, and letting our voices be heard. But for Christians this simply cannot be done at the expense of truth.

When Christians have blinders on that prevent them from even considering possible truths in the perspectives of “opponents” – or worse yet, when we willingly align ourselves with those spreading lies – it is imperative to lay our hearts before the Lord, yet again, and ask him to reveal the sins we hold in our “hidden parts.”

If you’re willing to challenge yourself in this way, here are a few Scriptures to guide your prayer time:

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being. And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6, NASB).

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. (John 3:19, NASB)

And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit. (Matthew 15:14, NASB)