Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thoughts on Dr. King and Violence/Nonviolence

"He was one of the great people in our country. He got his message across without burning the flag, without violence, without disrepect for others."
I saw the comment admittedly on a Facebook thread. I don't think of or recommend Facebook as a place for understanding the entirety of a person's experience, not by a long shot, but I have found it to be something of a place that can reveal more about people's intentions and thoughts than they may have intended to reveal, and I include myself in this.

This comment about Dr. King teetered on the edge of truth. And yet, something was off. Instead of centering the conversation on him, his legacy, his words, his sacrifice, his call for disruptive action...instead of all that, the words seemed to use him as a tool to cast thinly veiled judgment on something else. I fear that a point had been gravely missed, and this one comment is representative of more like it that conveniently ignore the fact that Dr King. wrote these words, too:


Meme created by Daniel Rarela
Much violence, indeed, was suffered by Dr. King and those who followed his lead. People died and suffered horrible bodily injury as a result of following him, committing to the nonviolent tactics he demanded. Indeed his own life was taken in one of the most violent ways. But this violence was not perpetrated by those who followed him. It was perpetrated by those who had a great deal of power, even the power to change unjust laws, against those who were demanding justice in disruptive but nonviolent ways.

It is indeed hard to know how much longer (if ever) it would have taken for certain laws to change without the violence of places like Selma. Or how much our country would be remembering the work of Dr. King had he been allowed to die a natural death at an old age. This isn't to say that violence is necessary, no, but to highlight the fact that our hearts can be so hardened that too often they are moved to softness only when we see violence. The focus when violence happens should not be on the fact that violence has happened, but on what we (individually and corporately) were so blind to that it had to get to this point for us to see it. 

My heart is like this. When I see how long it takes me to pay attention to Syria, to human trafficking, to abuses of power and the ongoing systemic racism within our own country, instead of listening early on to the voices telling us these things...I am certainly part of the perpetuation of these injustices.

How are we honoring Dr. King today by listening to the messages of nonviolent protestors? How are we honoring Dr. King today by examining the power(s) we hold and using them to rightly seek justice for all who are oppressed? How are we honoring Dr. King today by committing to nonviolence in thought, word, action even toward those who would actively oppress us?


If you would call MLK Jr. "a peacemaker" (and I hope we do - he is one of the greatest examples we have in the modern era and indeed throughout history), please recognize that a great deal of his peacemaking involved people becoming very agitated, very uncomfortable and very angry, even to the point that they committed violent acts against him and his followers. As I recently heard from Austin Channing Brown in a sermon, "MLK was not considered a peaceful unifier to most people while he was alive, least of all to those who liked the status quo of segregation and discrimination". 


(And, perhaps it's a good week to ask ourselves these questions: Is there anyone today that I am tempted to see as an "agitator" who, 50 years from now, will be remembered as a "peacemaker"? What is keeping me from seeing them as a peacemaker today? From seeing their work as peacemaking work today? May our hearts be so softened.)


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

beware false peace

I've been thinking about peacemaking recently - what it looks like, how one goes about it. There's obviously been a lot of talk about peacemaking since the election, too, within churches and communities, hence the thinking on it.
I think, though, that we need to be careful about the narrative and visuals we get in our heads when it comes to using the verse in Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

I think for many of us, when we hear the word "peacemakers", we visualize those people who we view as bridges - bringing two opposing sides together at the table, asking them to lay down weapons, to make amends (reparations or compensation). This type of peacemaking is important.

But sometimes, the job of peacemakers is to disrupt a false peace, or to keep it from taking root. We know what is meant by false peace, right? Simple absence of open conflict. Sweeping things under the rug. Ignorance, willful or not, of that which is really happening. It's the type of "peace" that looks neat and tidy and peaceful to anyone on the outside, but is full of decay on the inside.

As an example, Jesus was this type of peacemaker, I believe, when he "made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables..." (John 2). At first blush, his actions seem incredibly unpeaceful to my white, Western eyes - I wonder, sometimes, how I would have responded if I'd stood witness there. Almost surely, in some of the communities I've lived in, this would count as a "disturbance of the peace". Today, the police might have been called. He may have even been arrested. And yet, and yet, Jesus always knew exactly what he was doing. He saw the situation for what it was. This was no place of peace, at least not anymore - it had become a "den of robbers" (Luke 19). People were being excluded from worshiping his Father in that space, or at least having to bear the burden of overcoming financial and ethnic exclusion in order to do so, and that enraged him. To those people, those who were excluded, it was an act of disrupting false peace - an unburdening, a defeat of oppression, a breaking down of walls.

After the beatitudes in Matthew 5, Jesus addresses some specific sins - anger, lust, etc. He's clear that it's not just murder or adultery (outwardly obvious actions) that are sinful, but the heart attitudes that lead to such actions that are sinful as well. I wonder - in what ways may we be settling for a false peace within many of our churches and communities? Our homes?

Absence of conflict does not equal peace. May we have eyes open to root out false peace.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Chili Recipes Recommended by Friends



On Halloween night, we missed an opportunity to join friends for a chili dinner before trick or treating. The combination of no naps for either of my kids, Mark getting home a little later than I expected, and just a general lack of energy meant that I think we made the best choice for us by staying local (my husband took the kids to about 5 or so houses on our street before they were done).

But the hankering for chili hadn't left me by the next day, and with the cooler weather (by So Cal standards), I decided to crowd source Facebook for my friend's recommendations for their favorite chili recipes. And this time, I'm keeping a record of them! I've done too many crowd-sourcing moves on Facebook that then get lost in the shuffle to let this opportunity pass me by. 

So, while I have only made one of the recipes below, I imagine the folks who sent them my way to know good chili, and wanted to keep a compiled list and pass it on to you all as well. I've divided them into "crock pot" and "non crock pot" lists. Enjoy!

Non Crock Pot Recipes

1. White Chicken Chili from Taste of Home (Prep Time 15 mins, Cook Time 25 mins)

Recommended by my friend Daralynn, who says it is "super spicy if you use all the cayenne pepper". She recommends no more than 1/2 tsp. with little ones. 

For my own family, I'd probably cut out the jalapeno as well - Mark has super sensitive taste buds when it comes to spicy stuff. Zoe is starting to come around to appreciate a little kick in things like soup. 

2. White Chicken Chili from Cheeky Kitchen (Prep/Cook Time Approx 30-45 mins)

I made this one the other night. Recommended by my friend Rita, who says she likes it with the sour cream and cheese as a topping, and also with salsa.



I made it as instructed by the recipe, but substituted a quarter cup of white wine in for an equivalent amount of the broth (I probably could have done more!) and added a wee bit of corn starch in cold water near the end to thicken it just a bit more. Scrumptious, and delicious as leftovers the next day.

I love a recipe that starts with bacon. For this recipe, I might use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. Less prep and less mess!

3. CD's Chili Mole (Prep/Cook Time Approx 3 to 3 1/2 hours)

While this vegetarian recipe is easily the most complex (prep wise and taste-wise) recipe of those that were recommended (sounds like the perfect kind of recipe for a wide open Saturday morning or evening spent watching some Netflix or football in between tending to the stove), my friend Emily simplifies it by using canned beans. Still, well worth giving it a shot - I always appreciate eating recipes that are more complex! 

Most intriguing ingredients: unsweetened chocolate, peanut butter, raisins, lots of interesting spices and beer (note near bottom that beer can be substituted for a portion of the broth). 

4. Shrimp and Red Bean Chili (Prep/Cook Time 30-40 minutes)

If you like the good taste of shrimp, this sounds like a nice easy way to eat it other than in cocktail format. Like my friend Susana does, I'd likely reduce the amount of peppers/hot sauce to keep it on the mild side.

Crock Pot Recipes

1. Crock Pot Sweet Potato and Quinoa Turkey Chili from Iowa Girl Eats (Prep Time 15-20 mins, Cook Time 3 to 6 hours in crock pot)

Recommended by my friend Erin, I love almost any recipe that includes sweet potatoes - a low-cost way of getting some good nutrition. Plus quinoa!

2. Red Bean, Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew from BHG (Prep Time 20 mins, Cook Time 5-6 hours)

As my friend Jamie said, while not technically a chili recipe, it still sounds pretty good! I am so intrigued by the peanut butter - sounds like just the kind of oddball ingredient whose flavor I'd appreciate. 

Per Jamie, this is also easy to prep ahead of time, freeze, and then toss in the crock pot when you are ready to use it later. 

3. Three Bean Chili from Smitten Kitchen (Prep Time Time 30-40 mins, Cook Time 22 minutes to 7 hours)

Recommended by my sister in law, who really knows her stuff when it comes to cooking for health and flavor, this one is great because, as she said, it breaks down lots of options for cooking it in a pressure cooker, on the stove or in the crock pot, in addition to recipe notes and substitutions. So, this one could be a crock pot or not crock pot version.

Most intriguing ingredient: beer. I'd forgotten about how much beer can be just the kick you need for a good chili recipe. I think it helped influence my choice to substitute white wine for some of the broth in the white chicken chili I made last night.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Year of Showing Up


Ding. I looked down at my phone. A friend is hoping to visit her sister in the hospital - could I watch her two boys for the later part of the afternoon? My two kids are already well into nap time. It's the type of request that, years ago, perhaps even several months ago, I might have refused. The quiet of afternoon nap time is sacred space - time for processing and re-setting for the rest of the day. I guard it, I protect it. I cherish it. And, honestly, there's nothing wrong with that for young parents - it is one of the few breaks we get, and it's not always consistent.

But there's this voice that gently tugs at me too as I re-read the text: Show up. Show up.

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There are two times during a year, generally, when it feels most natural to set new rhythms, leave behind unhealthy habits and create some new ones: once at the beginning of January, and once again at the beginning of the academic calendar near August or September.

I've never been huge on resolutions or intentional creation of space for reflecting and starting with new habits. A "word for the year" hasn't ever really grabbed hold of me. But this past spring as I contemplated the rest that would be brought with summer and a certainty that I was not being called back to serve in a particular place where I had served for the past two years, another thought entered: showing up. Choosing to serve in places and with people who just required my showing up - no frills, no circus, very little to no preparation, but ready with hands and feet ready to receive marching orders.

Preparation is good. Or, it can be good. And for some folks, especially the perpetually prepared Type A friends that I know and love, preparation and consistent service allows the calm and lack of anxiety that they tend to prefer, I think, in order to move through their days well.

For me, however, I have begun to notice particularly in this season of young motherhood, that serving in places or being with people in ways that require much preparation actually causes more anxiety - it's just one more thing I haven't done on the perpetual list of things to do.

As I thought and listened and decided to be intentional about where to commit my time as fall picked up the pace, I realized there was this constant thread of wanting to be in places where all that was required of me (mostly) was my being there. This summer, it looked like offering to drive Afghan refugee women and their children from their homes to English classes at a local church, showing up with a van. A couple times, it's looked like being able to watch after the children of friends while they care for others who are facing crises, showing up with a house and toys to share. For some people (and sometimes this includes me), filling in for these last minute needs would be stressful. And it's not that they are without their own stresses. I don't want my kids to resent time spent in the car shuttling people back and forth, but I do want them to learn about people coming from other countries to our own country to seek better opportunities. I want them to know these new acquaintances of ours firsthand.

But for the most part, opportunities like this do not stress me out the way they did before. They usually come last minute, and therefore require little thinking ahead. It's just a "will you be there? Yes or no?". I have gotten better at saying no when I need to, but most of the time we just happen to have an open afternoon or other plans that have been canceled.

I know of many people who much prefer to serve and be in places where there is more preparation required, or something that involves a more consistent schedule, and if you are one of those people I so admire you and thank you. Thank goodness there is a diversity of people when it comes to serving in different ways - we need both (and anyone else who falls somewhere in between)! I think there is also quite a bit of fluidity here - in some seasons, I will need to prepare more to serve in some places. But right now, when so much of my energy is going into keeping kids alive, well fed and mostly happy, I need spaces where all I have to do is get there. Sometimes, this doesn't even require me leaving my own house.

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"Sure!" I text my friend back. "Bring them over, no problem."

I'm sure it helped that I happened to have popsicles in the freezer that day. And that my friend didn't mind that I let her boys watch television until my kids woke up. Or that the weather happened to be pleasant enough that we all played outside. Or that I already happened to have a plan for dinner that day (miracle of miracles!). What gifts!

This is my declaration: this is my year of simply showing up. Showing up with whatever I have and saying no (sometimes out loud) to anxiety and guilt for what I may not have. There's no shame in simply showing up with ready hands and feet.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Sharing The Load


This post is published in full at The Village Magazine blog. Thanks for reading!

The first time he prepared my coffee was on the morning of our five year wedding anniversary. Our daughter was two, our son had just been born a few weeks earlier, it was nearing the end of the fall semester - one of the more overwhelming times on the academic calendar to which our family is beholden. We had no plans to celebrate until later that month, no gifts for each other, but his simple act of kindness was gift enough that morning for this sleep-deprived mother: a hot, steaming cup of creamy coffee perfection, waiting for me right at the table.

The best mornings now start when he gets my coffee ready. It's "my" coffee for several reasons, the most obvious being that he doesn't drink coffee - abhors the taste, hesitates to kiss me after I've had my cup. But he knows how much it's like a warm hug to me in the morning, to hold that cup in my hands as the day begins.

It was purely an act of love for him to learn the process: boil the water, grind the beans, measure it out, let it steep for no more than 5 minutes, pour, add cream. And it's an act of love each time he prepares it for me and there's a hot cup ready and waiting like a love note in the morning. It doesn't happen every morning, and I'm glad for that - I have a habit of taking things for granted. This isn’t one...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

5 Phrases To Help Avoid Toddler Meltdowns

This article is published in full at Parent.co. You can read it in its entirety here.

I’m not a huge fan of offering unsolicited parenting advice. I’ve received enough of it myself to be wary of people’s intentions when they do offer it.

Are they judging? Criticizing? Honestly trying to help?

My hope is that, if you’re reading this, it’s because you’re curious to learn what’s worked for other parents who were aiming to raise kind, thinking, strong, and flourishing people. The internet can get a bad rap as a really easy place to find bad advice, but I think sometimes it can almost feel safer than asking in person: those who are looking for advice can find it, those who are not looking for it don’t have to be subjected to the unsolicited version of it.

What I write here is offered only as a “this is what has worked for me,” and perhaps each phrase will only be used for a season. What works at three years old may not work at four or five. I think the best thing for parents to remember is that we usually know our kids better than any other adult on the planet. We know when things work, we know when they’ll fall apart.

There has never been a silver bullet for parenting, and there never will be. That’s what makes it so hard. It’s also what makes it so beautiful – we grow so much more when we are forced to dive deep into knowing our individual children well.

That said, here are the phrases that have helped us.

1 | “We are problem-solvers, not whiners.”
My husband is an engineer – a perpetual problem solver, if you will. As his spouse, it’s both a blessing and a curse; he loves to solve problems, but he also loves to solve problems. As one who loves to work through the process, sometimes I have to remind him that I’m not looking for a cut and dry solution right now. The strength? I can usually present him with the situation when I have a particular problem and expect that he won’t give up on it until it’s resolved.

As a dad, he’s found this phrase to also be helpful with our three-year-old, who is (I hope) at the peak of the whiny years. When we hear her voice creep ever so slightly into the whiny range, we remind her of our goal: “We are problem-solvers, not whiners.” Most of the time, this helps her re-orient to a frame of mind in which she’s focused on figuring out what the problem is that led her to want to whine. Then we can move on to fixing that problem, or working past it.

I’m waiting for the day when this phrase eventually backfires and she responds with, “I’m a whiner!” but for now it’s working...

You can read the rest of this article here at Parent.co

Friday, July 15, 2016

Things I Heard In A Sermon This Week That Bothered Me

The sermon to which I am referring was preached on the text of Acts 4, after the events of the week of July 4th, 2016.

"I wrote this message on Wednesday, before the world went to hell this week."

Alton Sterling's death happened Tuesday evening. Philando Castille was killed Wednesday evening. Five Dallas police officers were killed on Thursday. Unless we are favoring the lives of police officers over black men, the "world started going to hell" this week on Tuesday (and far, far before that for Americans of color). 

"America is the greatest country on earth. If you don't believe me, you haven't traveled."

In what respects? To whom is it the greatest country on earth? It was founded on the backs of slaves and mistreatment of indigenous people who were already living here, many whose communities were destroyed. I'm not sure what's so great about that. On a personal note, as a young mom, I'd much rather live in a country that offered paid parental leave, though that's a little off topic here. 

"The police of the day, the people in power of the day, the Sadduccees have them arrested. See what believers do - they submit to authority. We need to submit to authority even when they get it wrong..."

So, even if authorities take us down for no other reason than that we are wearing clothing traditional to our country and speaking our native tongue on a cell phone - even then we should submit? I suppose that makes sense if we don't want to take the risk of being killed, but sometimes even when you submit to authorities, you end up dead. This bothers me most especially, however, in that not even Peter and John were submissive to the authorities of their day (in the text that was used for this sermon), who commanded them (v. 18) not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Their response? "As for us, we cannot help but speaking about what we have seen and heard." Basically, a big "#sorrynotsorry - what God commands is far more important."

"What you can do is witness a video where a black person is killed, the same video, we're all looking at it and we're seeing it from different perspectives. You're seeing it from your truth and I'm seeing it from my truth. And let me tell you something - God doesn't have a problem with us seeing things from different perspectives..."

He may not have a problem with us seeing things from different perspectives initially, but He always tells us to look for the truth. I may be seeing something from my perspective, but if the lens that I am looking through is faulty, I am not seeing the truth. In the end, it's not my perspective that matters, it's the *truth* that matters. The *truth* will set me free, not my perspective.

"The church doesn't protest, the church doesn't march - what do they do? They pray."

What does this mean about the many marches, demonstrations and protests led by Dr. King during the Civil Rights movement? God's people pray and protest. We civilly disobey, we afflict the comfortable. We preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, we use words.

"The world is watching how the church responds, and they will not forget."

Yes. Keeping in mind that the majority of the world is made up of people of color, when our first response to the death of people who have a history of oppression in our world is to question the circumstances under which they died instead of immediately lamenting and mourning the fact that we have lost yet another image-bearer of God (something which should be part of the response of every single member of the church), something is wrong.

"My favorite song, the first song I remember singing in the church is Jesus loves the [little children of the] world: red, yellow, black and white, they are all precious in His sight. Yes, Jesus loves the children of the world."

This song is straight up racist. Both "red" and "yellow" have been used as derogatory ways to refer to people of Native American and Asian descent. The sentiment and intent behind the song is good - but it's well past the point to stop using that verse. This is why pastors and preachers need to be surrounded by diverse people groups, and read books, essays and publications from diverse authors and thought leaders. Otherwise, you end up using a racist song as a way to end your sermon.