Questions, cause I’ve been thinking

I have a lot of questions right now because I’ve been  thinking.  And when I start thinking I find I end up with more questions.

diversity @ church.

One of my favorite writers, Philip Yancey, recently scoured his hometown churches to see what he might find.   His comment about diversity in a church stood out to me.

As I read accounts of the New Testament church, no characteristic stands out more sharply than this one. Beginning with Pentecost, the Christian church dismantled the barriers of gender, race, and social class that had marked Jewish congregations. Paul, who as a rabbi had given thanks daily that he was not born a woman, slave, or Gentile, marveled over the radical change: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Huh, diversity is Biblical.  ‘Nuf said.

MLK day was it ignored or forgotten? does it matter which.

Can I just say I love my church.  I have never grown in my spiritual life the way I have at this church.  It is amazing.

That said, yesterday I realized a stunning thing.   I attend one of those “mainly white mega-churches that don’t mention commemorating Martin Luther King Day.”   That made me sad.  They likely bumped it because of praying for Haiti and there are many challenges managing program time.  Still, I think it is important for a church to communicate from the platform that remembering and celebrating with our friends of color is significant to us all and valuable.   It’s a national holiday?  How are people going to spend it? Just made me wonder.

I’ve been writing on multi-ethnicity.

A friend asked me to reflect on Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, after reading these thoughts I wrote about my experience of going to a white church and my question of whether I should consider attending a multi-ethnic or even Black church.

Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. ‘The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.  So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living.  But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.  (New Living Translation)

From my post:

To live our lives based on that simple truth means our lives are built on self-sacrifice.  Every time we respond in love to someone else, we are laying down our lives for them.  “This is my commandment,that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” Strange how Jesus did not say to us, “these are my commandments.”  He said is as if it were one commandment.

To believe and love is one idea.

Believing in Christ means that we love one another.  Looking at it that way, there is a lot that I can do as a person with my affluence & power &  a voice for the cause of reconciliation in my city.  Things that have nothing to do with where I worship on Sunday.

What my friend Jimmy was gently saying (I think) is that people are living with oppression in our nation my city, in my kid’s schools.  And no one white people don’t seem to genuinely offer care and comfort.

I will do further study on the word: COMFORT.  And that will sooth my intellect.  But can I DO something.  What can I do?

That takes me back to my Advent Lament and prayer. Oh God, Tell me what you want me to do.

And from someone I am coming to read often, a cautionary quote to white people.

I can only speak anecdotally on this, but there seems to be a growing movement of white people—including Christians—who feel so victimized by political correctness (and how it’s robbing them of their rights) that they’ve hardened their hearts to any suggestion that racial injustice is a factor in our society today. And they’ve become cold to how their privileged words and actions might affect others. That defensive mindset and callousness could be the biggest obstacles to true reconciliation in our churches and nation. Ed Gilbreath, emphasis mine.

I believe God speaks and it is not random.

I believe that God challenges and moves people from within by breaking our hearts over injustice around us.  He is not random about this.  He leads us toward things.  And away from things.  Problematically I have been told  and I can affirm that I have the gift of mercy.   I pop open my laptop and the needs and issues all over the world, and in my community, flood toward me and it all hurts.   If I open myself up to it it’s crushing.  It makes me sad, and mad, and sometimes depressed.  Hopeless and sometimes despondent.  And I slam my laptop shut, but that’s just an excuse for doing nothing.

I challenge  myself to pray every day asking God to tell me how to respond to the OPPRESSED in my life and community.  Who are they?  How can I comfort?  Help me to know what it means to comfort the oppressed?

This means that I cannot be free until all men are free. And if in some distant future I am no longer oppressed because of blackness, then I must take upon myself whatever form of human oppression exists in the society, affirming my identity with the victims. The identity must be made with the victims not because of sympathy, but because my own humanity is involved in my brother’s degradation.  The Christian Century (15 September 1971)

what should I do with myself?

I continue to pray that I would know what God wants me to do with my time, work, contribution, opinions (*smirk*), and talents.

I’m still mulling on a conversation I had with one of my girlfriends (Someone I would trust with my life.)  We discussed what I am doing now.  I found myself saying this,

“I need a job.  I’m feeling like a kept woman.”

Why she asked? Laughing at me, if can you believe it.

“I need to make a contribution. I feel guilty that I don’t have a ‘job.’ The feminist in me is screaming that I should be carrying my weight… I was never going to be a stay-at-home mom..  And look at me, my kids are in elementary school.”

After leaving full-time work in 2001, I had no idea as it was happening that was beginning a long journey of “recovery” from being totally addicted to work — the rush, the sense of purpose, the affirmation (Oh, how I miss the affirmation!)  I came out of that detox a better person.  A stronger person.  Much better understanding that I am not what I do.  And I’m glad (mostly) that I have been able to be at home with my children for the last eight or is it nine years.  I feel okay about it, some days even good.  I can see every day why I am home when it comes to my kids.  Jacob’s need for an advocate for his learning disabilities is just one example.  On one level, I think I started Imagine Photography to dispel that feeling of being ‘a kept woman.’  Bring in a little income myself, but still have the at-home life.  But I haven’t taken off with that even though with my marketing background I know how to promote myself.  Something has held me back.

But I digress.

What Carol did was confront those ideas head on (yes, the voices in my head) that say I should be ‘making money.’  It freed me to consider any job or volunteer situation because  I was thinking about it only in terms of money not in terms of values and interests and calling and heart’s desires.

I just feel freed.  It was inconceivable to me at first that someone who manages to work and be a mom (my friend who I really respect and need) would not look down on me for not working.  She actually said, you do work.  Every day.  Well, we don’t need to have a debate about what I do all day and whether it’s work.  Her blessing (not that she represents all women) and her opinion is one of the more important to me.

But now,  I can pray and wait.  Listen.  Try things.  Explore.  I can give of myself without thinking about “earnings.”


When it comes to Haiti I have more questions than answers.  This poem is a part of that conundrum.  Also, a post.

This week’s message @ church

I wanted to respond to the message this Sunday at my church.  But I don’t have the time or energy today.  But something new I am going to add to this blog, is a personal reflection on the talk.  I think it will force me to take it to the next level of integration into my life.

Be well.

Am I called to be comfortable or to be changed? (as a white Christian)

When I read an article in TIME Magazine Can Megachurches Bridge the Racial Divide? about the diversity journey of Willow Creek Church, I was left feeling surprised and unsettled.  Surprised by the influence that one person can have, a pastor in this case (Bill Hybels) who changed the face of that church – quite literally.  Willow Creek has gone from being  a lily white church to having diversity rates around 20% in about fifteen years.  It is a good story that’s worth reading.  (And quite unlike a lot of what you find in TIME; at least I find TIME Magazine is sanctimonious and moralizing about neoconservative ideas.)

Taking it a step further, Edward Gilbreath interviewed the Time religion writer David Van Biema who wrote the original piece about Willow Creek Church.  That interview was even more compelling, and as usual for me, unsettling. (If you have any interest in these topics this website,, authored by Mr. Gilbreath, is thoughtful, challenging and informative.)  But the interview stirred up in me all the same feelings I have had for years, of dissatisfaction, doubt, and a strange wish for more diversity in my world.

I attend a 5,000+ church here in Madison, WI.  I have no idea of the diversity stats, though we have a lot of international students and college students.  I always see black faces in the crowd, but they stick out.  We seem to have tons of Asians.  Diversity is not talked about that I can tell as important in the Kingdom of God and the staff is Caucasian (the platform speakers are always male and always Caucasian, with very few exceptions.)

This was a strong theme of the Gilbreath interview  — the lack of people of color on staff and in crucial teaching roles, etc.

At times I become discouraged about all this, because after working on a convention like Urbana I have seen, experienced and participated in worship and leadership that is diverse.  Beautifully diverse, challenging, incredible, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, worship at Urbana is a transformational experience.  Heavenly.

My church is very white.

There is an ethnically diverse church here in town.  It is Pentecostal with a black pastor that I know and respect, Alex Gee.  I grew up Lutheran, United Methodist, Evangelical Free, and Presbyterian.  I am open.  Though I find the pentecostal experience is genuine and exciting, it also challenges this awkward extremely white person!  Let’s just say I want to like it.  I want a groove.  I want rhythm.  I want the holy spirit of the Pentecostal experience.  But it isn’t happening yet.

One thing I learned from my friends who are not white is that people with power (white like me) need to be willing to ‘risk and ‘get uncomfortable’ and be the minority presence sometimes. Willing to give up their power.  In my heart-of-hearts I feel compelled to do this.  And at other times the ‘worship with your own kind’ argument resonates with the part of me that just wants church to be comfortable.  Is that sin?  Should I reject those thoughts and desires for what is known and familiar?

Jesus seemed to constantly be in situations with people very different from him.  Is that what he calls us to?  The author of First John says that to love is to lay down your life.

“We know love because Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”

What he did, the greatest act of love, seems like an impossible thing to do for another person.  But just perhaps in a regular persons’ day-to-day life, our acts should be ordinary acts of love.  To live our lives based on that simple truth means our lives are built on self-sacrifice.  Every time we respond in love to someone else, we are laying down our lives for them.

“This is my commandment,that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.”

Strange how he did not say “these are my commandments.”  He said one commandment.  To believe and love is one idea.  Believing in Christ means that we love one another.  Looking at it that way, there is a lot that I can do as a person with my affluence & power &  a voice for the cause of reconciliation in my city.  Things that have nothing to do with where I worship on Sunday.

  • I could take a job in a community development organization, forgoing salary to do a job that made a difference.
  • I could send my daughter (and sons) to Wright Middle School, a school named after one of Madison’s civil rights pioneers, which offers a multi-cultural curriculum.
  • I could volunteer my talents to Madison Times the only minority-owned newspaper here in Madison.

And I am considering all of these things.

I’d like to hear what you think. Do white or black churches need to change? Do people, white people for the most part with the power and resources  need to be humbling themselves to be a minority somewhere in their lives?  What can we do to help change this story in our white churches?  What are the questions I am not thinking of?  What’s left unsaid?  Ultimately how do we love our community as Jesus would have?  Are we willing to change?

UPDATE: I wrote  this in response to Kathy Khang’s post on the subject on Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog.

It’s always disconcerting to read believers ranting at one another. So much emotion. So often so ugly. The danger of the medium I suppose.  I appreciate the intensity of Kathy’s post and the questions she is posing. Things were written that need to be said. Often. In a variety of places. I blogged about the TIME article as well, Kathy, not knowing you had written too. My perspective as a white woman of course being entirely different. I read the White/Asian thing and wondered about it, but it didn’t hurt to read it. That pain is why this is all so important.

The question “are liberals ever happy” though posed in jest, is to me (ironically) the important question here. And my answer is a resounding no, of course not. Not in the way you think.

  • No, as long as our children are growing up to fear one another, and hesitate, and wonder about each others culture. To consider certain cultures suspect, simply because they are different.
  • No, as long as a white child believes somehow they are more deserving than a Black or Korean or Japanese kid born next door.
  • No, as long as white people believe they are the givers and POC are the takers, the needy.
  • No, as long as there is poverty, and hunger, and homelessness in our country.
  • No, as long as kids are not being educated well because they weren’t born into the right neighborhood or family.
  • And no, we’re not going to be happy as long as women and people of color are kept out of opportunities to minister alongside white men.
  • NO, liberals are not going to be happy as long as there is institutionalized discrimination and racism and sexism.

I could go on. But will say a final no. Inborn in a “liberal” as you call us, is a broken heart.  A heart that actually feels pain when they hear someone else talk about their pain.

“Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”- Isaiah 1:17