It’s lurking. I can feel it hovering at the corners of my mind, of my spirit. It’s moving towards me, but this time I am not being caught unaware. This time, I see it coming. And I can do something about it.
It’s like being in the Berkeley Hills, looking out towards San Francisco as the fog rolls in. You can see it and feel it coming. It takes over. As the sun goes down the darkness and fog become one. I’m not afraid of it, per se. I’m afraid of not being strong enough to not get lost in it.
A year ago I stopped taking my medication. I had been on meds for a few years prior and I wasn’t stopping just because I felt better. I wanted to stop to see if I could do life without a dependency on drugs. It might sound silly or presumptuous, but I wanted to see if I had what it took – though I’m not even sure what that means – to live life without a regular dosage of a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). I am a supporter of medication and recognize that depression is not just a feeling but is a biological reality that has chemical implications. I am clear now that I am not one who can just pray, exercise, eat and sleep my way through dealing with my depression. Continue reading →
This reflection on race, faith and justice was written by the 2015 team leaders of the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE), a pre-event of the ELCA Youth Gathering that empowers young people of color and those whose primary language is other than English to claim their story as a part of God’s story, in order to move toward healing and wholeness as transformational leaders in the church and in the world.
Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
As we write this, our hearts are breaking. The events of the last few months, the extreme responses from some and lack of responses from many have left us questioning. For such a time as this, we are uncertain about the role of the church and our own roles as women of color within the church. When some people are left thinking that our social patterns of hate and fear are the only way and others know of more life-giving ways but are paralyzed from realizing them, how do we speak hope to all? How do we speak out against injustice? How do we address the issue of racism? How do we use our prophetic witness of the gospel to not just speak out but live out our commitment to transnational justice in this world? Click here to read more.
As I took the train home tonight, I had a hard time catching my breath. Tears fell from my eyes as I thought about all that has happened in the past week. Here’s the thing – at any given time in our world, trauma and death and suffering occur. It’s not lost on me that so many of our global community suffers and we turn a blind eye, ear and heart away from them. But this week…this week, has been too much. It has hit so close to home. It has become home.
I am an anxious person. I took medication for anxiety for a few years and now only take it as needed. Today, for the first time in a while, I felt like I needed my anti-anxiety medication. The symptoms I was experiencing reminded me of my last panic attack. It was the only time I’ve ever felt like I was going to die. My heart raced. The world around me was spinning out of control. My palms were sweaty. My head pounded and my lungs constricted to the point of me wheezing out, “I can’t breathe. I can’t catch my breath.” I thought I was dying. I think this is how Eric Garner felt in the moments preceding his death.
It’s been a while Shadow Lovers… I haven’t written anything in 6 months. Life has been moving and each day that goes by that I don’t write makes it harder to sit back down to do so. It’s funny though – not writing makes me feel some type of way. I feel like things are shut up in my bones and my mind won’t stop racing. Writing has always been a release but I’ve been putting it off and I feel the difference it makes in my life when I don’t do it.
So I’m back. And unfortunately, my first post has to deal with the never-ending phenomenon and sin that is racism. Leading up to last Monday, I had intentionally stayed away from social media and the news because I didn’t want to see what I know to be true: racism is a thread in the fabric of society that we continue to ignore to the peril of human life. And I’m not just talking about the deaths of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin and numerous other lives taken too soon. I’m talking about our collective humanity. Every time we reject the reality of racism and we choose to continue to be complicit, we kill each other. I worry what this does to our souls, because we are murderers. What does this do to the souls of black, brown, red and yellow folks who not only are on the receiving end of racism but to those who perpetrate it? What does it do to the souls of those who refuse to acknowledge it and cry with indignation, “I’m not racist!” What does it do to those of us who have lived with the reality of internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism? I wonder what it does to us all when we can repeatedly see how racism seeks to divide God’s humanity and we do nothing about it.
I have come to a place where I fully embrace my shit. I’m not talking about metaphorical shit – I’ll get to that later. Right now, I’m talking about actual shit.
I’ve had stomach issues my whole life. It wasn’t until early adulthood that I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and realized that my issues with shit were connected to my physical, mental and emotional health. Anyone who is in my intimate circle knows that I’ve struggled much of my life with managing this part of my health. There are plenty of stories of Roze running to find a restroom in public places or having to pull over on the side of the road. My brother affectionately refers to my issues as insane bowel syndrome, because in his words, “That shit’s insane!” You are probably learning more than you ever wanted to learn about me but all will soon be revealed… As someone who has had lifelong issues with shit, I’m not embarrassed to talk about it and have spent a lot of time thinking about it.
In prepping for this post, I reached out to a doctor friend of mine to get some facts. I learned that we have to shit or else we will die of sepsis. If our bodies do not expel waste, the shit will literally enter our bloodstream and infection will occur leading to multi organ failure and eventually, death. How about that shit?
I’ve also learned that there is a correlation between how bad our shit stinks and our diet. Because it’s waste, shit will always stink, but there are some of us whose shit (and farts) can literally clear a room. This is caused by bacteria that is present in our waste. The odor however is exacerbated by our diets. The worse our diets, the worse the smell. What we put into ourselves, the things we ingest, will literally show their true colors AND smell when we expel it.
Enough about actual shit. Let’s talk about metaphorical shit.
My devotional reflection was on forgiveness this morning. I am reading Radical Grace, a collection of daily meditations by Franciscan contemplative guru Father Richard Rohr. I appreciate his take on so many things and this particular book has been an often used part of my devotional collection. The meditations are divided by church season and for the week after Easter, Rohr writes prayers to be recited by the reader. One such prayer is on forgiveness and the opening line resonates deeply with me:
Lamb of God we ask that we might be defense free people, that we might be able to live a truly disarmed life, that we might be able to be secure enough in your love, Jesus, to be insecure in this world, to let go, Lord.
The overarching theme of this prayer is about learning to forgive ourselves, but I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go and forgiving others recently. And I’m beginning to realize that forgiveness is all about vulnerability. Continue reading →
Authentic is a word we use a lot nowadays in progressive church circles. We talk about people being authentically who they are. We talk about authentic relationships. We talk about authentic ministries. It truly is a buzz word in the communities I get to hang out in. And I like that it is.
Authenticity is defined as something or someone who is of undisputed origin; genuine. Some synonyms for authentic are genuine, real, bona-fide, truth, veritable. I believe that we are first and foremost to be authentic people. And I also believe that this is where so many of our human problems lie – many of us walk around being inauthentic and being unclear of our origin. We don’t know whose we are, who we are or why we are. This lack of knowledge leads us to live lives that are a facade as we try to be what we think others want us to be instead of doing the work and taking the time to be authentically who we have been CREATED to be. Continue reading →
I was asked to be a part of a Good Friday service by a woman who I greatly respect and admire. I am growing as a preacher – am very good with content and am working on delivery because I want to appeal to black church communities. That being said, I was equal parts nervous and excited about this opportunity, which featured seven women in total who were from various faith traditions.
I prepared for the sermon like I do any other sermon. I took time studying, praying, reflecting and writing. As I crafted my message, I felt the Spirit move over and through me. This is a sure sign that I’m operating in my gift and as the words came to life on my manuscript I felt confident that the message that I was given was the one that God had intended.
Then came Friday. Leading up to the worship service, I had fleeting thoughts of insecurity, but I brushed them off. However, when I arrived at the church, every feeling and thought I ever had about not being worthy, not being good enough, not belonging came roaring to life. I literally hid in the bathroom after I arrived because I felt so out-of-place. The anxiety was rising and I though to myself, “How in the hell did I get here? Why do I think that I belong here? I can’t do this.” Continue reading →
“In our board’s effort to unite around the church’s shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, ‘We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.’”
This reversal shows what happens when organizations hear from their conservative base and realize that their decisions come with a cost. I am tired of narrow-minded, life-taking theology winning; of these views having louder voices and monetary might; of these views promoting a divisive faith that gives Christianity a bad name. This reversal is not only disappointing but also perpetuates a common narrative that Christians are unwilling to learn, listen and lead in prophetic ways.
I write this through a watery gaze that is shedding tears for the girl I once was…
I recently watched a video from a family member’s birthday party circa 1983. I must have been 2 years old and the party was held at McDonald’s when McDonald’s was THE place to hold birthday parties. The video was recorded on a VHS and it was slightly fuzzy. It was quite entertaining to see the fashion – especially my mother’s blue tinted, big framed glasses – and hear the music of the 80’s. As I watched, I looked for myself in the chaos of babies, children, teens, parents, characters, balloons…you get the picture. When I finally spotted myself, I was surprised by what I saw. I was sitting alone at a table and I had a look of fear on my face. My hands were clenching the seat beneath me and my frame was cloaked with anxiety. No one was talking to me. My mother wasn’t around. And I looked utterly alone. That video image spoke volumes to me.
Of course, being the good therapeutic patient that I am, I brought this up during my next therapy session. And of course, being the cryer that I am, the floodgates opened. My therapist attentively listened to my sharing and when I was done, she asked that question that I hate being asked, “Rozella, what are the tears about?”
I sniffled my way through my response and finally articulated what I was feeling. “I’m crying for the girl I was; for the image reflected back to me that embodied how I felt about myself. The image that showed me how afraid and nervous I was. The image that reiterates my greatest fear to this day – the fear of being utterly alone.” Continue reading →