Through my blue eyes

Through my blue eyes and fair, white skin my world has been easy, in fact privileged in ways I have been unaware. Don't wrongly assume heartaches haven't come my way or struggles haven’t been real for me - I am acquainted with both. What I am referring to is this culture in which we reside where the shade of our skin makes a difference in how we are treated, shown respect, given opportunities, looked at, or spoken to.

Never have I been followed through a store or to a dressing room with suspicion when out shopping because the color of my skin. My heart falls into my stomach when blue lights show up in my rear view mirror because first, well I was speeding and second, I am going to pay a fine. Never has fear been attached to it or has it crossed my mind that I am going to be harmed or mistreated. I can choose to put my head in the sand and be silent out of fear and ignore words spoken from political platforms, brutality in the streets, ugliness on the news each night, the experiences shared with me or that I read from people of color OR I can choose differently. “We are only as blind as we want to be.” I choose to say I see it. I choose to say there’s injustice all around us. I choose to call racism what it is - sin. I choose to say I will stand up for my brothers and sisters of color - all shades.

As a history teacher my vision is clear and I see the atrocities on which our nation was built. I will not gloss over it or try to rewrite it to make it palatable. As a believer I read Scripture where God is not neutral when it comes to the oppressed. My Savior came and, to the shock of the Pharisees, stood in the gap for the marginalized - the child, woman, widow, the foreigner, the Samaritan.
Racism in all of it’s forms is ugly and exposes our depravity.

I have opportunities to step out of this country often and get to serve alongside people of all colors. We love each other the same. We smile and laugh, we weep, we pray together, we embrace, yet we have different backgrounds, far different cultures, and speak different languages. I want this in my country too. For months I have sat down to write, to express my heart, to acknowledge other's heartaches that are a direct result of racism. My words will not be adequate, my experiences are so different. During the course of this time I have read articles, watched videos, and read books with a desire to listen in order to understand, to see through another's eyes and gain a different perspective. I have cried, I have shook my head in disbelief, I have dropped my head in shame. My willingness to understand someone has given these blue eyes a clearer perspective.

Today my heart aches and I pray, yet I have hope. My hope comes from a dark skinned, brown-eyed Middle Eastern man named Jesus, my Savior, who chose to call sin out and then be crucified for all sin, he conquered it for our sakes. So it is with my hands open and my vulnerability penned that I choose first the kingdom of God, may it be here on earth as it is in heaven - where we are poor in spirit, meek, mourn with those who mourn, hunger and thirst for righteousness, are merciful, pure in heart, and choose to be peacemakers. We have choices to make, let's choose well.

I encourage you to read, listen, and pray.
Here are a few books that I have read to give me better a understanding:
Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup (a memoir)
Embrace, God's Shalom for a divided world by Leroy Barber
Trouble I've Seen, Changing the way the church views racism by Drew G.I. Hart
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone, I am currently reading.

IF Gathering has videos on YouTube of real, honest dialogue.
Be the Bridge is a nonprofit for Race Reconcilation that offers resources.

Join me at the table this Christmas

The King has prepared a wedding feast for his son, everything is ready, everyone is invited. There’s plenty of room at this table. He has invited us all, good and bad - from the lowest to the highest officials, from the poorest to those filled with greatest of this world’s riches, the feeble-minded to the most learned of academia - you are invited. Have a seat next to the beggar, the blind, the orphaned, the widowed, the downcast and the marginalized - so many have gathered, enjoying the feast already.

I have been a believer for many years, trusted Jesus as my Savior when I was nine years old. This season I was reminded to enjoy the party! Reminded of this truth...
I get to enter the banquet hall, join the celebration, dine on the best of foods and wine, be in the presence of the King and his son - enjoying the feast now, the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Not because I am worthy, not because my good deeds outweigh my bad, but because Jesus made it possible.

Maybe you are like me, you know all about the banquet. Many times you've enjoyed the presence of the host himself, but busy-ness, everyday life, ministry, schedules to keep up with have you distracted and before you know it you’ve lost sight of the banquet. You're too busy for the host and certainly not taking the time to invite others to the table. It's a good season to reflect on the wedding feast, his kingdom, be reminded of his goodness, enjoy the party, and invite others to the table.

If you never realized you are invited or in the past have said no, like so many who “would not” come. Perhaps in the past you thought yourself too busy, better things to do, found the host too demanding, looked at yourself thinking you were not worthy, or wanted no part because of hurts from the past.

Let today be different. Let me be the one to say, “Come to the party!” You, my friend, are on the guest list. This Christmas join the wedding feast! Your Bridegroom - Jesus, has covered the cost, provided wedding garments (his robes of righteousness), and wants you at his table. At his table there is fellowship, truth, forgiveness, transformation takes place, joy is abundant despite circumstances and heartaches that are all too real and rest for the weary is provided. 
Join me at the table this Christmas.

Matthew 22:1-14, the parable of the wedding feast

Tanu, where hope and joy reside.

Harsh, slurred words thrown his way…a precursor to the drunken rage of beatings that would soon follow. Beatings so severe by the end he would lay unconscious like a rag doll on the ground. When the beatings weren’t enough to satisfy the drunkards anger kerosene was doused and the boy lit on fire. Tanu suffered this at the hands of his father.

I sat next to a boy who has the courage of David, who faced a giant at a young age. I was in the presence of a young hero. His smiles and carefree ways filled my cup to overflowing. He now lives in a children’s home where he is being protected, cared for, loved on, and fed both physically and spiritually. He is learning of a much different Daddy, one who loves him unconditionally. A Daddy who “so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

One look into his eyes and you can see that hope and joy reside there. Amazing.
His resilience and ability to face the greatest of giants leaves me in awe. His joy was contagious and he left several of us a bit more than just misty-eyed. He shared openly of his abuse, enjoyed his model status for a photo shoot…and then with help walked away to play with his brother and friends where laughter and excitement over the gifts of a new Upward Sports lunch box and toothbrush abounded.

My summer has been extraordinary. It’s been filled with the privilege to do what I love, share God’s Word, with nearly 1200 children - here in the States with FCA and abroad with Rice Bowls.
The message simple. The focus on three children in the Bible that God used in mighty ways.
David whose courage allowed him to face a giant when no grown man in the Israelite army would step to the line.
Samuel who learned to recognize God’s voice and then be obedient to the Lord even when it wasn’t an easy assignment.
The little, unnamed slave girl whose boldness to share her faith and speak up led to the healing of her master – both physical and spiritual.
Courage, obedience, and boldness are available when our faith is in the Giver and Sustainer of those three.

Of course the lessons God taught me in return are greater than those I shared with the children He placed before me this summer. While I prepared to inspire children from God’s Word to live a life of courage – facing their giants of fear, defeat, and bullies. There in the midst I met one living out loud the message, Tanu, my modern day David.

My prayer for him, and the many others, may they too, like David, have a heart after God.
A heart belonging completely to their Savior.