A Word on Shame

Shame Quote

As Brene Brown would say, this weekend I suffered from the worst vulnerability hangover ever. After my unfortunate Friday night experience, all I wanted to do was go and hide. I replayed the events of that night over and over and over again and could only think one thing – “Lord, have mercy.”

You see, not only did I feel bad about how things went, my mind led me to a place that went beyond embarrassment to pure shame. I totally passed over the thought of “Oh, well, maybe it will be better next time” and headed straight to “See you are not good enough. You really are a fraud. You can’t do this. You are bad.” Continue reading

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The Radical Reversal

I serve as the program director for young adult ministry for the 4 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and am a consultant desperately seeking justice, mercy, humility and love. I am a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and am passionate about prophetic leadership, human rights, fostering radical self-love and providing compassionate care. Visit my website at www.rozellahwhite.com and follow me on Twitter @rozellahw.

The recent news that World Vision USA had decided to honor marriages in all forms – between those of opposite genders and those of the same gender – had many within progressive circles of faith elated. I was one who believed that their decision was prophetic in nature; that by taking this stand they were saying to same-gendered loving folks that their reality was honored.

48 hours later, news came that World Vision was reversing their decision. The article published by Christianity Today cites the following statement in an official letter signed by the President of World Vision and the Chairman of the Board:

“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.

Radical Love

Continue reading

Soul Sisters

A person with whom you have an immediate connection the moment you meet –a connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before.

As this connection develops over time, you experience a love so deep, strong and complex, that you begin to doubt that you have ever truly loved anyone prior.

Your soulmate understands and connects with you in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when you are around them. And when you are not around them, you are all that much more aware of the harshness of life, and how bonding with another person in this way is the most significant and satisfying thing you will experience in your lifetime.

You are also all that much aware of the beauty in life, because you have been given a great gift and will always be thankful…

Defining soulmate by Elliek at Urban Dictionary.

I have a group of women in my life who I refer to as my soul sisters. These are women who are intelligent, articulate, vivacious and passionate about their life and their work.

We are a motley crew; a diverse grouping of women divinely connected for such a time of this. I’ve met each of them at different stages in my life and I’ve come to realize that God has gifted me with their love and their friendship. I would not be the woman I am today without each of them.

We are the women who love reality t.v., view Sex and the City as the ultimate guide to life and love, refuse to be told what we can and can’t do, want to love and be loved deeply and passionately, struggle with our confidence, fight mental illness – depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder – you name it, we have it.

We believe in a God that is bigger and wider and more gracious than anything we can imagine.

We are the women who people call bitchy and arrogant. We’ve been told that we intimidate folks

We are the women who cry our eyes out. Who want to be loved deeply and passionately. Who are die hard romantics even as we refuse to be submissive and settle for that which we know is not real and true and life-altering.

We are the women who call each other crying when someone sees something in us that we can’t fathom. We don’t see the greatness that lies within and need each other to affirm its very presence.

We are the ones who have been violated, whose innocence was disrupted either by rape, molestation, incest and abuse. The ones who have valiantly fought to stitch together pieces of our broken selves and claim the beauty that God intended us to be.

These women are my soulmates.

It’s not a sexual connection but it is a passionate one. I love men – physically, sexually, emotionally and mentally. But these women fill spaces and places in my heart that no man can… It’s a spiritual connection, one that only God could have designed.

Our scars, our struggles, our fears and our triumphs make us who we are — Soul Sisters.

Soul sisters unite

Speak truth. Speak love. Speak compassion. Speak Life.

Soul sister unite

I love you all,

Me

My Beloved (albeit Broken) Community…

I’ve mentioned in a Music Mondays post that I am unapologetically Christian. Writing this truth again makes me pause. It’s not because I am ashamed of MY beliefs or have a need to downplay my faith. I am a theologically trained, bonafide church nerd who works as a chaplain and lives out my faith daily though my vocation and my relationships. I have gone to church my whole life. I love the church so much that I answered God’s call to ministry in the church.

Personally, I have struggled with doubt and the meaning of life and the nature of suffering. I seek God daily and ask for guidance to make decisions that are not selfish in nature but follow God’s will for my life. I fall short, am a good Lutheran (simultaneously saint and sinner), am honest, and live a life that reflects my understanding that the main point of this Christian life is to LOVE – love God, love self, love others. My faith informs how I view justice, equality and the dignity of all persons, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexuality or any other designation that is used to divide rather than unite people. So you see, it’s not that I am unable to articulate my belief. What makes me pause in my proclamation that I am unapologetically Christian is the fact that my religion, the one that I hold so near and dear to my heart, has a bad reputation. I told my readers that I would revisit the issue of faith and religion at a later date and today, I was inspired to do so….

I follow the lovely @addyeB on Twitter and am an avid fan of her blog Butterfly Confessions. She is one of the first women of color that I came across who blogs about her mental health journey AND is a person of faith. Today, she responded to a tweet by @writingjoy, a writer whose blog is entitled Joy in this Journey. (On a totally separate note, Twitter is an AMAZING community that has allowed me to network and given me so much support, encouragement and direction. Seriously love it.) Since I value @addyB’s opinion, I checked out @writingjoy’s blog. I loved what I read, but more importantly, I came across her posts about Finding Church and read each one in the series. What I found broke my heart…

The post that @addyB responded to is entitled We’ve Forgotten What Church Really Is. The writer chronicles her journey with looking for a new church. Her series gives background information on how she started this journey, but this post in particular struck a chord with me because I struggle with this reality all the time – what does it mean to BE the church? Much like the writer, I realize that we have come a long way from what I believe Christ wanted this community of faith to be. We fall short of being the beloved community that we are called to be and actually do harm to people. For this and for all the sins that have been committed by Christian folk, I apologize.

For the judgement, for the elitism, for the intolerance, for the “holier than thou” attitude, for the misuse of the biblical texts, for the perception that one has to have it all together in order to belong, for the way that we ignore our neighbors in need, for our love of ritual and tradition over community and meeting actual needs, for our need to be in power over instead of being in relationship with, for our tendency to speak and not listen, for our arrogance, for the abuse, for our silence about the things that matter, for the misuse of money, for the lies and promises of prosperity, for the leaders who misrepresent the faith, for all of those things, sayings, people and practices that hurt the soul of a person, I am so very sorry…

You might be wondering why I still consider myself Christian, or better yet, why I am still connected to the church. The first answer is that I am a Christian mainly because of the thought of God choosing to become human and be in relationship with me blows my mind. This thing we call the Incarnation, God becoming human in the form of Jesus, is where my faith begins. For many Christians, the crucifixion is the starting point. For me, it’s all about the incarnation. And here’s the thing, there are some days I wonder if any of it’s true. But I have moved beyond trying to understand that which I may never understand and focus on the meaning. What it comes down to is love. It’s all about the love that is expressed by forging relationships with humanity and teaching a different way to be in these relationships. My second answer is pretty simple – I am still connected to the church because I believe that it has the capacity to be the single greatest proponent of love, authenticity and community and I will not see it overrun or misrepresented. I believe that the best way I can see the beloved community come to pass is to be in the community.

This may seem very simplistic, and I am sure that I could write more about what I believe and why I believe it. I also don’t want to downplay the harm that’s been done to so many, the hurt that you may have experienced or do experience by the church. All I can say to this is that we are broken, sinful people. As much as I’d like to believe that church folks are the most forgiving, loving and honest people, the opposite tends to be true…

I just want to let anyone know who has been hurt, cast aside or disenfranchised by the church that we need you. We need the whole body and me and my colleagues who are like me and who serve as pastors so desperately want a new reality for our church. It’s lonely out here when you think like I think and believe like I believe.

I thank God for my church House of the Rock. I thank God for prophetic leaders like Nadia Bolz Weber, Andrena Ingram and Marlon Hall. I thank God for communities like The Simple Way, the Eat Gallery, Grace Lutheran Church and Awaken Detroit. I thank God for the band Starboarders and others who use their gifts to bring about positive change in the world and show an alternative way to believe and live the Christian story.

I was baptized as a baby. In the church. I was confirmed as a teenager. In the church. I was nurtured and allowed to lead as a young adult. In the church. I was encouraged as a woman in ministry. In the church. I was married. In the church.

I went through my divorce and the church loved me.

I battle depression and the church surrounds me.

I think differently and the church accepts me.

This has been my experience and this is why I continue to stay in my beloved albeit broken community.

My prayer is that you are able to find a community that loves you.

My prayer is that we can be the community that loves you.

My prayer is that we can be gracious towards one another, know that we are not perfect and recognize that things won’t change if we don’t take the steps to change them.

Love,

Me

 

Music Mondays: Shine the Light by Sugarland

One of the hardest things I’ve had to face as I have gotten older is the reality that some roads must be walked alone…

You might think this is a contradictory statement since I talk so much about community support and accompaniment. But let me clarify – even when you are surrounded by people who care for you and want to shoulder your burdens with you, only one person can walk in your shoes at a time. My journey has taught me that there are some things I have to do by myself…

HOWEVER……..

Shine the Light by Sugarland provides imagery for how people who are on the outside of my journey have helped me and how you can possibly help someone who is struggling. The lyrics are so profound that I’ve listed them below. In an interview, Jennifer Nettles, one half of Sugarland, expressed that she wrote this song for her band mate, Kristian Bush, when he was going through a particularly difficult time. When I hear this song, I can imagine my friends and family on the edge of my darkness, shining the light of hope and healing.

So even though they can’t walk in my shoes, I know that they are there, carrying the light so that I might find my way.

I pray that you have someone in your life to carry the light of hope…

I pray that you carry the the light of love for someone else…

I pray that together we walk into the light of life…

Love,

Me

Shine the Light by Sugarland

Lyrics from http://www.sugarlandmusic.com/releases/the_incredible_machine_deluxe_editio n

When you walk into the edge of those
Dark and lonely woods
And when I ask how was your day
And you answer, "Not so good"

And when nothing seems to be working out
Quite the way it should, I will shine the light

And when the skies up above you fill
With gray and stormy clouds
And there's not a single face you know
In the maddening crowd

When you know that you don't make your way
But you just can't see how, I will shine the light

I will shine the light, I will shine the light
I will hold you in my arms
Until everything's alright, I will shine the light

And when your worries, they won't let you sleep
And rob you of your days
And you've looked in all directions
But you still you can't find your way

Oh, when you just need someone to remind you
That it's all gonna be okay, I will shine the light

I will shine the light, I will shine the light
When you're staring down your demons
Weighing in your darkest night, I will shine the light

Sometimes we jump into the great unknown
Sorrows, we all will have to walk alone
But waiting there in the end is a heart that calls you a friend
That's me, clapping the loudest, welcoming you home

So when your heart is heavy like a stone
From carrying its load
And you look into the mirror
And see someone you don't know

Oh, when the shadows are closing in on you
Like a hand around your throat
I will shine the light, I will shine the light

When you've given into your fears
When you've lost your will to fight
Let me know what I can do
Let me try to make it right

And I will shine the light, I will shine the light

Music Mondays: Never Would Have Made It by Marvin Sapp

I am unapologetically Christian. Even as I type this truth, I cringe because I know the perceived implications that may be assigned to this statement. I should follow up and say, that I’m not your average Christian. (To get a sampling of my particular bent of Christianity, visit my congregation’s website – House of the Rock). I practice this religion because of one simple thing – the notion of God becoming human and walking among us literally overwhelms me. And I mean this in a good way. Everything else that is associated with modern day Christianity, I could take or leave. I’ll write more about that in another post…

What I love most about this song is that it speaks about relationality and being present, which for me, is a central tenet of Christianity. I read that the artist Marvin Sapp wrote this song as a tribute after the death of his father. The song is very repetitive but I think that it’s divinely inspired. Hearing the words over and over again reminds me of the importance of those who have supported, loved, nurtured and challenged me throughout my experience with depression. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would not be here today without my community of friends and family.

My favorite part of the song is when he sings,

Never could have made it without you
I would have lost my mind a long time ago, if it had not been for you.
I am stronger
I am wiser
Now I am better
So much better
I made it thru my storm and my test because you were there to carry me thru my mess

I could say more about the theological implications of this song but I’m going to leave my comments at this – I never would have made it to where I am today without someone helping me.

I pray that you have someone or many ones who do this for you. Give them a chance. They may surprise you and literally save your life…

Love,

Me

Click here to see the video for Never Would Have Made It.