A Word to the Church After the Election.

Tirelessly working

 

 

Elmina Castle is a popular tourist stop in the African country of Ghana, with a dark history. Elmina Castle was one of the biggest trading posts for slaves in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade centuries ago. It is estimated that over 30,000 slaves were held underneath Elmina Castle in a dungeon. And the thing about this dungeon was that there was only one air vent for all of the people underneath. As you can imagine, many died of suffocation and disease ran rampant in the compressed quarters. But this vent was directly in front of the door to the church in the castle. And so, every Sunday, church goers would literally have to step over the vent to go to church as the cries of those begging for their freedom would fill the air around them. In fact, it is said that the congregation was often asked to sing more loudly as to drown out the cries from underneath. So, Sunday after Sunday, these people could no longer choose ignorance of the problem. They had to make a willful decision not to help.Story from IJM

Just days into 2017, and so many of us have already steeled ourselves for the months ahead, haven’t we? At the end of the high fructose corn syrup of election cycles, we’re left gutted and wary of what’s to come. Whatever your politics, the day after the election a teacher friend of mine consoled sobbing, undocumented children in his class– and could not tell them they were safe. Whatever your politics, my friend’s adopted Rwandan son came home the day after the election and asked if he and his Iraqi friend were going to be sent away from their families, and back across the ocean. Whatever your politics, my friend with a debilitating medical condition that renders her unable to work is deeply afraid of what will happen when her health insurance disappears. Whatever your politics, my friends of color seem to be overwhelmingly disheartened by the new administration.

It’s easy for us to argue about policies, but the real, lived experiences of our neighbors? God forbid we simply sing louder to drown out their voices.

Wherever you stand politically, it’s been an ugly season and so many of us find ourselves viscerally unhinged, attempting to clumsily navigate the wreckage. It feels like the world is on fire—ablaze with anger and fear and hate that seem impossible to quell. Rhetoric feels ever increasingly more us and them–which should unite us all in sober grief.

It bears repeating that no matter how we voted, our charge as the Church is the same as it has always been: to fiercely love God and to fiercely love people. For the believer, justice is not a partisan issue–it is a gospel issue. Loving people like Jesus loves them means leaning hard into holy anger about injustice, oppression and the exploitation of people, and working tirelessly for justice, freedom and peace.  The sick, the elderly, the undocumented immigrant, the unborn, the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, the orphaned, the refugee—they are all emphatically ours. Their sorrows are ours to bear, ours to act upon as we demonstrate and proclaim the gospel. Wherever the new administration dismisses or harms them, we have a mandate to step in and care for them—the task has always belonged to us. We care because He cares, and our whole lives should reflect it.

And, dare I say it? Followers of Christ should be the first to question borders or walls. Our very identity is that we are citizens of heaven. If anything sets us apart, it should be the extravagant love we display to anyone with a need, and not a flag. The gospel demands that we reexamine who our neighbors and family are—it tells us that they are both across the street and across the world in Aleppo. We are citizens of heaven far before we are citizens of America—and it is that citizenship and our charge to love God and love the world like He does that dictates everything that we do. Where people of any color or creed need to be cared for, we should always, always see the church loving them with the wild and fierce love that first loved us. We are to incarnate a risen Christ in our homes and our cities and in Yemen and Nepal and Somalia. Friends, if we really believe that Jesus is alive and coming back one day to redeem and restore every broken thing, we will be unstoppably moved to work for that world here and now.

That the gospel is good news should come as no surprise to anyone that knows a follower of Christ. Church, we believe that there is hope as long as Jesus is still out of the grave. We believe by faith that He intends to answer the cries of hurting people through His Church—us. Let’s refuse to simply turn away and sing louder, and instead make the uncomfortable choice to listen. Let’s boldly call out injustice and oppression wherever we find it, and stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters and work with them to right it until the job is done. Let’s pour ourselves out for people because Jesus poured out His life for us.

We have work to do, Church. As we step into an uncertain future, may our prayers, our dollars, our time, the phone calls we make to our representatives and the people we gather around our kitchen tables speak a louder love story than our Twitter feeds.  Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in and through us, Jesus. Let it be so.

On Gift-Giving, and Being Terrible at It.

Image from Tumblr

Let’s be brutally honest with each other: you’re either good at giving gifts, or you’re just NOT. It’s kind of like having a nice butt—while there are certainly things that we can do to help ourselves along, at the end of the day we’re all pretty much at the mercy of our genetics and BOGO dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

I am, and I say this without a trace of false humility, a decidedly POOR TO HEINOUS gift-giver. Almost everything that I wrap is a cry for help with tissue paper. I kid you not, one Christmas I presented my father in law with a bottle of $3.99 balsamic vinegar reduction from Trader Joe’s and a SPONGE. Perhaps the most alarming piece of this scenario? I was genuinely excited for him to unwrap them.

I wish so much that were a lie.

While my sorry gift-giving has left scores of hapless victims in its unforgiving wake, none have unwrapped more disappointment than the unsuspecting man that married me. When we said “I do”, I truly believed that Kellan’s gift moving forward would forever be, you know, me. Somehow that idea didn’t fly because APPARENTLY WE ARE LIVING IN A MOVIE. My long-suffering husband has since turned almost everything that I have ever given him into a repressed memory that won’t come out without years of therapy.

The maddening thing about Christmas and birthdays is that they cycle back around with numbing regularity every. single. year. Thus, like clockwork, my stress level come mid-December rivals that of 2007 Britney. On any given day I am one crowded mall trip or frenzied Amazon Prime search away from collapsing into a full-on existential crisis, shaving my own head and mercilessly beating a photographer with my umbrella.

I digress.

I do a mediocre job of picking out gifts for the women in my life for the sole reason that I am a woman, and I own things. I give the women in my life things that I would like to have, and then promptly repo them if they’re not appreciated. Win-win! But twice a year when I have to buy a gift for Kellan, I entirely dissolve. My brain becomes play-dough—somehow I am GENUINELY taken aback that it’s already time to get him something again. WHAT DO YOU LIKE? DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES? HI HAVE WE MET?

I have quite literally NEVER known what to give him, and two weeks before Christmas this year found me scrambling as per usual. In a flash of wildly unexpected brilliance, I remembered that Kellan had long wanted a new wallet—a wallet EXACTLY like the tattered number he already owned. [Y’ALL. That wallet has SEEN SOME THINGS.]

I mustered the faith of Abraham, ventured to the mall and was all SWEET FANCY MOSES IS THIS HELL?!

Girding my loins, I wandered into a department store where the dead-eyed salespeople in dirty Santa hats had clearly long since given up on pretending to maintain any semblance of order. Piles of mismatched merchandise teetered haphazardly on disheveled red display tables, spilling onto the floor and leaving the whole scene looking decidedly more like the aftermath of an armed struggle with the undead, and less like a Macys. Faint strains of the radio crooning in the background attempted to convince me that I was experiencing the most wonderful time of the year as I began to panic-dry-heave in the corner.

FOCUS. I was on a mission to save Christmas, and an old, still-in-the-box wallet sitting in our re-gift bin told me that I really did have to get it right.

Resigned, I began to pitifully dig through a pastel pile of rumpled Timmy Hilfiger shirts and leather wallets. I sorted through box after box until FINALLY, I found something that looked precisely like a brand-new version of Kellan’s old wallet. Saving Christmas and escaping the undead for 29.99? TAKE MY MONEY.

Christmas morning found me impatiently awaiting my overdue pat on the back as I eagerly anticipated Kellan’s reaction. I proudly handed him his gift, beaming as though I had just discovered America. Kellan dutifully opened his wallet and uttered all of the delighted exclamations deemed necessary by polite society. He even RAN to get his old wallet and immediately began transferring the contents. Smalls, this is so great!

The thing is, I think that he actually meant it. But shortly thereafter, his eyes began to twinkle and an irrepressible grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. Smalls, do you want to open YOUR gift now?

He ran to retrieve a large manila envelope, and excitedly placed it in my hands. I opened it and DIED A THOUSAND DEATHS when I discovered:

Hamilton tickets.

HAMILTON TICKETS.

HAM.IL.TON.TICK.ETS.

Friends. I bought my husband a money clip for $29.99. He bought me two tickets to go see Hamilton on Broadway in NYC.

I was simultaneously elated and mortified and all I WISH WE WERE IN JAIL SO I COULD SHANK YOU.

In summation: I give up.

Goodbye forever.

[But for real, am I alone here? HOW DOES ONE LEARN NOT TO SUCK AT THIS? Can it be outsourced?? For the love, help a sister out.]

On the Season of Perpetual Hope.

Growing up in Eastern Europe, I spent a lot of time in old, Gothic churches dripping with concrete saints and steeples that spiraled endlessly up towards the sky. I’ve learned to squint and search for the sketches of faded frescoes tucked away behind … [Continue reading]

On Coupons and Capital Murder.

I'll tell you about the first time that it happened. We were newlyweds. Knowing that I loathe trips to the grocery store, Kellan had offered to go with me. Our cart quickly filled, and we made our merry way to the checkout line where we innocently … [Continue reading]

On Beyonce, Recovery Brownies and #WhyITribe

It started the way these things always do: my friends were doing it. Over the two and a half years that I spent in New York, [better known as: the years that shall not be named], several of my North Carolina friends joined a gym calledIron Tribe. … [Continue reading]

On Tamir Rice, and Watching Brothers Die.

I froze in horrified disbelief as you ran towards your brother, and it all came flooding back. The raw, suffocating desperation of watching your little brother die. I know it well--I once watched mine die, too. But this. This was different. You … [Continue reading]