Am I My Sister’s Keeper?

A special post for If:Gathering and Be the Bridge.

“All my black friends have a bunch of white friends. And all my white friends have one black friend.”—Chris Rock, comedian

In Genesis, God asks Cain where his brother was not because He didn’t know where Abel was, but because He wanted Cain to acknowledge his responsibility for his brother’s fate. While we haven’t killed anyone, I believe we have abdicated responsibility for our sisters. Because our sister may not look like us or live where we live or worship where we worship we have told ourselves the lie that what happens to her doesn’t affect me.

The New Testament reminds believers over and over again that once they belong to Christ they are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters. Once we are adopted into fellowship with God, anyone who also has been adopted becomes our brother and sister in Christ (John 1:12-13, 1 John 5:1).  More than an empty platitude, the change in family status meant something to New Testament Christians (Acts 2:42-47).

I believe God is calling on the women of this generation to remember their sisters, the ones who are trafficked, the ones struggling to make ends meet, the ones mourning the deaths of their teenaged sons, and the ones facing the pain and consequences of racism. More than remember, we should be in the trenches with our sisters, because if she feels marginalized, ignored, forgotten, lonely, we should be there, because that’s where Jesus would be.

The problem of racism has not been addressed by those most qualified to actually fix the problem – the church. Most Christians fall into one of three camps, the first camp argues racism is a thing of the past and since they do not consider themselves racist, think everyone just needs to move on. The second camp acknowledges racism still exists, but they do not want to rock the boat so they are silent. The third camp is in the trenches actively working to demolish racism in their churches and communities.

Racism isn’t just conscious hate like that of the young man who killed nine of our brothers and sisters at Wednesday night bible study, it is a complex system of social and political structures set up to preserve the superiority of a particular race. In this country, racism created a system to elevate white Americans over non-white Americans first through the attempted erasure of Native American culture, then slavery, then through restricting immigration from Asian countries, and then segregation.

But, even with the formal end of segregation, the effects still linger, because when you spend 200 plus years building walls between racial groups you cannot demolish that wall or its effects in 40 years. Even for those who are not personally racist, the stain of racism still lingers in our society, in our individual prejudices, in our speech, in our jokes, in where we live, in where our kids go to school, and sometimes in our churches.

According to Ephesians 2:14-22, the blood of Christ allows us to be reconciled to God, but it also allows us to be reconciled to one another as God’s people. The reconciliation of the gospel does not remove differences, but it does unite us as one body. If we are truly sisters then you should care about my experiences as an African American woman in America.

As my sister you should not tolerate prejudice, favoritism or racism because we are all created in the image of God and to tolerate those things is to disregard that truth.

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My 30th Birthday party

 

Our love for our sisters should not just be true in word, but also in deed.  While prayer is powerful, we can no longer afford to simply pray for more racially diverse friendships or the end of racial inequality or against racial hatred, we must act.  James 2:17 tells us faith without works is dead and it is time to move beyond just prayer.

It is not enough to not be personally racist. It is not OK to hear racist talk or see racist behavior and be silent.  To paraphrase Bishop Desmond Tutu, to be silent in the face of injustice is to choose the side of the oppressor. In the same way, I would not stand silently by if someone made cruel or hurtful remarks behind, my little sister Candace’s back, you better believe if I hear something racist about Latinas, I will speak up. Because you aren’t just talking about a faceless group of brown women, you are talking about my sister, Melessa.

If we are sisters, we should know one another, we should laugh too loud together, we should share what the Lord is doing in our lives, we should sit together over coffee, we should pray for one another at our kitchen tables, our kids should play together, and we should invite each other to church.

An important first step is to look beyond your limited worldview and getting to know someone who isn’t just like you. This will require lots of grace-filled conversations full of tough questions, but the work must be done for the sake of gospel. If we are to demonstrate to the world what it means to be daughters of the King, we can begin by showing our supernatural unity despite our differences.

And Since She Can’t Watch TV She Decided To Scour the Internet (Link Love)

"Be brave enough to obey God in whatever He's called you to do." --Jennie Allen

“Be brave enough to obey God in whatever He’s called you to do.” –Jennie Allen

 

Confession: I’m a Rule-Breaker by Sarah Markley (I’m definitely a rule-breaker! Sometimes a girl just needs a glass of wine)

Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train  (I am newbie bus rider and I am guilty of this. I just like my personal space!)

23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing   (Amen!)

Pope Says the Church is “Obessed” with Gays, Abortion, and Birth Control  (I love the new Pope! Let us love others well!)

Ministry Comparison = Losing Game by Peter Greer (One of my fav Idea Camp speakers, more on that later!)

Editor’s Note: This summer, I read Jen Hatmaker’s “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess,” which chronicles her fight against the excesses of American life that have invaded her life and the life of her family. After reading it, I started thinking about the excesses in my life and did a 30 day fast from T.V., social media, eating out, and shopping. At the end of the 30 days, I was much happier, had spent more quality time with my friends, and saved a lot of money. Even though the fast has ended, I have chosen to continue it in a miniature form, enter “No T.V. Tuesdays.”

P.S. There is just no way to describe this book in a way that does it justice! I can’t tell you so you should just buy it! Don’t believe me, the Hatmakers are so awesome and funny that they are getting a show on HGTV!

And Then She Learned To Wait Patiently

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I hate waiting. Hate it with a passion. I want things, people, projects  to move at my pace or else:

” I am over this, I quit!”

“Just give it to me, I’ll do it myself!”

“Seriously?!!”

People say if you ask God for patience, He’ll place you in situations where you have to learn patience. I don’t think this is true. I have been constantly been placed in situations that should have taught me patience–teaching my younger sister to drive, waiting in line behind a sweet 80 year old woman at Target as she counts out pennies, getting lost on my way to an important meeting. Yet, I am the least patient person I know.

Recently, God has been stirring some new hopes and dreams. But He hasn’t provided clarity, because maybe I am not ready for it yet or maybe it isn’t quit ready for me. Whatever His reasons, the vision isn’t quit clear and I am in a holding pattern.  Which any frequent flyer can tell you is the worst, so close to your destination you can see it, but not able to touch it! It’s uncomfortable, the waiting place.

But, God can use any place for His glory. He gave the Israelites bread from heaven, He gave Joseph a vision that would save Israel, and He gave Paul letters to His church.

So I will  wait.

The old me would have just landed the plane, even without a clear runway or an open gate. But this time will be different, because I will sit and wait on the Lord. Even if it seems like he is moving at glacial pace. Even if I am less than thrilled. Even if it feels like a special kind of torture. Because He is not finished yet.

I will wait. PATIENTLY.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalms 37:7

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:25

And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Hebrews 6:15

I will learn to sing in my “Egypt,” I will dance in my “desert,” and be productive in my “cell.”

Because I can’t bootstrap my way to the “land of milk and honey,” and He who promised is faithful.

And then She Quit

” The first step toward healing is admitting you have a problem.”

As I celebrated my 30th birthday , I was struck by inability to really enjoy it. I was so worried about seating arrangements and talking to everyone who came to celebrate that I couldn’t really be present in the moment.  So many wonderful people that I love had come to celebrate this milestone with me, but I wasn’t focused on them. I was focused on drink orders and having good pictures and making sure everyone got cupcakes (thank you Sugar Mama’s!).

I was so focused on taking care of every need before it could even be stated that missed out on a lot of fun. It wasn’t just about my desire to be a good hostess at my birthday party. It’s generally the way I lead my life.

“We need people for the membership committee, so I will be a part of the committee.”

“Don’t worry about that, I’ll take care of it.”

“No need to ask, it needs to be done, so I will do it.”

“Of course I’ll host a dinner for the leadership team at my house.”

So here I am on every committee, offering helpful suggestions, and bringing cookies.  I used to do it all with a smile–rushing from meeting to meeting, coffee to coffee, committee to committee.

But, lately the smile is gone, replaced with weariness and a little bit of rage. I have realized I am not Super Girl and that I too am limited to 24-hour days. I can’t develop or use the gifts God has given me properly because I am so busy organizing events and attending 50 bazillion committee meetings. (okay so first thing about me is I tend to exaggerate)

I began my 30th year with a 30 day fast. I wanted time to reflect on my twenties and the things I was leaving there. I thought about all of the obvious things; playing fast and loose with my finances, making better choices when it comes to boys, learning to love God more. But, the one thing that never came up was my tendency to rush through my life until a total stranger reminded me of the importance of bringing the peace of God into dark places. In the current iteration of my life, I was bringing nothing but frustration and a “let’s just get through this” attitude.

So what is a  woman to do? How do I restore balance? How do I bring peace if I am always rushing?

God has been bringing me back to the story of Mary and Martha. I mean what women’s ministry worth it’s salt anything has done some sort of study of these two sisters. We get it busyness bad!

But what if it’s for the Pastor?

Or to help out your friend?

Or no one else will do it?

I mean wasn’t Martha just doing what HAD to be done. I mean after all she was hosting the KING OF KINGS. Obviously, He can’t eat sandwiches off a paper plate. I mean what would people say?

So Martha was doing what we all would’ve done she started freaking out.   Instead of getting help from her sister or sympathy for trying to put together a nice dinner party, she was humiliated.  Jesus took Mary’s side! He told Martha that while she was worried about many things only a “few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41

After running myself ragged these last few months doing what I thought had to be done. I realize what Jesus was saying to Martha is that Mary’s way of living is better, because instead of running herself ragged she’s soaking in the fullness of my glory.  The better part is a calmer and simpler way of living. It doesn’t require to-do lists or calendar requests because it’s centered on My presence. You’ll know if I need water or food because I asked you, not by doing what you think ought to be done.

My best friend’s mother has this saying ” Keep the Main Thing the main thing.”  We laugh every time she says it, but I think this is what Jesus was trying to tell Martha. It’s what I have lost sight of in the flurry of calendar dates, all of the things I am doing are good things, but when they are clouding my view of the MAIN THING, then they are the wrong things.

The frenetic pace of my twenties has kept me from truly hearing what Jesus has actually asked of me. I am so busy doing things He hasn’t asked for that I have missed the better part–the living out my calling, the spending time with Him, the deep and lasting friendships.

And so in my 30th year, I quit.

I am quitting because I want to have coffee with a girlfriend and actually hear what she’s saying. I want to help my mentee learn the ropes at our local community college.  I want to hear from God what He actually wants for my life.

So I am saying “no” to some good things, because I really only truly want the Main Thing.

This Martha is finally choosing the better part.