A Word on Value

One of my favorite quotes is, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me what you do and I’ll tell you what you value.”

There’s an image that always comes to mind with this quote. It’s winter in Chicago. The ground is frozen and the winds are fierce. I’m walking from the train station home and I encounter many people walking their dogs. These pets have on coats and booties to protect their paws from the icy ground. In the same moment I pass by a person experiencing homelessness who is huddled under blankets, with newspapers stuffed in their coat to provide insulation against the bitter cold. Here is an image that greatly troubles me and reply grieves my spirit – the pet that is provided care and the human who is ignored. 

Show me what you do and I’ll tell you what you value…

I’ve been thinking a lot about value recently – value as defined as the amount of meaning we give to something on someone; how we understand and demonstrate one’s worth and importance. I’ve always struggled with feeling valued, with wondering if I am good enough to be worth it – to be worth loving or worth spending time with or worth committing to. This is something I continue to work on, but there are days and moments when I wonder about my worth. 

I often say that the things you hear people talk about most often are the things people struggle with on a regular basis. Well, I consistently talk about self worth and self love, two things that I am desperately trying to figure out. While I intellectually believe that I am a child of God and that this identity supercedes any other identity, my heart wonders why this designation isn’t enough; why I still seek value from things and people who are external to me. 

And this is the rub – I cannot control those things and people that are external. Any attempt I make to seek meaning from that which is outside of myself will continually end in disappointment. We cannot seek that which can only be given by the Creator from those who did not create us. My work, my relationship, my friends or my family can give me the sense of meaning, worth and identity that I do believe is given to me by God.

On some days this is easier said than believed. I’m realizing that my actions towards myself have to continue to point back to my belief that I have been created in the image of the Divine and my worth is not based on anything or anyone else. It’s not based on anything I do or say or don’t do or say. It’s based on who God is and the fact that God breathed life into me and gifted me to show up in the world as a participant in God’s plan of restoration. 

I’m still struggling with how this knowledge translates into belief and action. I want people to see what I do and say, “Rozella is a woman who values herself, honors the Divine within and loves all whom she encounters.” I’m not quite there yet but I’m  working on it. 

Show me what you do and I’ll tell you what you value…

#AdventUs: A Word on Birth

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I love the church. I know that I’ve said many things and written many words that may cause some to wonder, but my emotion and passion about things such as church, faith and life together stems from my deep and abiding love for God’s church. I define God’s church not as a specific denomination but as an already but not yet reality where people who recognize their identity as beloved children of God gather to worship and grow. These people then engage in their communities – local, national and global – to seek change and transformation because their faith rests in a  God of new life and healing and restoration. This is the image and practice of church that I love and this is the church that I fight for.

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A Word on Truth

Today I was honored to preach during the weekly chapel service at my denomination’s headquarters.  I found it to be quite serendipitous that the Gospel lesson was from John 8:31-36, which speaks to knowing the truth and being set free. I’ve written about that before and it didn’t go so well. Or maybe it did because it pissed some people off…

Below is my sermon from today that explores truth, what is true, how it sets us free and why it pisses us off..

Seek truth

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”[i]

This quote has long been attributed to leaders in activist movements without specifically knowing who was the first to say it. Regardless of who said it, it bears repeating: “The truth will set you free, but first, it will piss you off.”

This leads me to three questions:

  1. What is truth?
  2. How does it set you free?
  3. And why does it piss you off?

Today’s gospel text helps in answering these questions and it does so quite simply and one might even say, quite succinctly.

Jesus is the truth.

He sets us free from bondage to sin.

This pisses us off because it goes against our human nature and calls us into a different way of being – one that is not theoretical, but actual because it is a way of being that follows the person of Jesus Christ. It causes us to change course; to die to ourselves and live anew in ways that are about loving God, loving others and loving self.

The end.

However, in true Rozella form, I can’t stop or even begin there. Let’s back up to some personal reflections. Continue reading

A Word on Publicly Embracing My Shadow

11053139_899139343499134_6248358955284661034_nSaturday, July 18, 2015 is a day I will never forget. I had the distinct pleasure and honor to be a speaker at the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering. When it was announced that I was speaking, many people sent me messages of encouragement. I realized very quickly that most people thought I was going to talk about racial justice or gender equity, two things I speak loudly and unapologetically about. However, my invitation to speak  at the Gathering was not about current events and the church’s response. My invitation to speak at the Gathering was an invitation to share my story with 30,000 people.

I remember the first time I publicly shared my story. It was the fall of 2012 and it was the first blog I published on this site. Fast forward three years and I was asked to share this story verbally. Leading up to the event, I was quite anxious. But something happened as the hour drew near for me to speak. I felt that all elusive peace that we often talk about in faith circles, the peace that surpasses human understanding. When I stepped on stage I had a moment where I thought, “This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

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A Word About Not Knowing What To Do

I am not writing this to elicit any responses. I honestly don’t want anyone to feel shame or guilt. I am not writing to receive recognition. I am not writing to piss anyone off. I’m writing because I don’t know what else to do. I’m writing because I value the process of reflection and meaning-making that comes through words.

I’m struggling. And you know what I do when I struggle dear Shadow Lovers. I write.

A recent study was released by the Pew Research Center on the most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups. Some have commented on the lack of broad-based religious diversity that this study covered and it’s lack of focus on some pretty significant nuances that define some religious traditions. However, for me as a Christian, this study proved to be quite enlightening. And this enlightenment has been profoundly troubling… Continue reading

A Word on My Birthday

TRIGGER WARNING: This post includes information about suicidal ideation. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifelline at 1 (800) 273-8255. You can also call 911 or go to the emergency room where care is mandatory.

I never thought I would make it to 35. I don’t know where this thought came from but I never saw myself as someone who entered the second third of their life. I could see my young adult years clearly but I couldn’t envision being the age I am now. I used to think that I would be married with kids. That all changed after my divorce, which became official three years ago this month. In addition to that, the more I learned to embrace the fullness of who I am, the further away I got from the vision of being a mother. I don’t know that I’m cut out to parent. In many ways, my life has gone in a  direction that I never could have imagined and for that I am grateful. But I never thought I would make it to see myself where I am today. My depression convinced me that my life wasn’t worth living.  Continue reading

The Truth Shall Set You Free

I’ve written before about my beloved albeit broken community; about my church and why I continue to be engaged with a community of faith. I am a member of and leader in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), one of the largest Protestant denominations in this country. My church has approximately 3.8 million members in around 10,000 congregations across the U.S. and the Caribbean. This church is a historically white church, founded by a German Catholic monk named Martin Luther. He never wanted to start a new church, he wanted to reform the Roman Catholic Church. Luther felt like the church was not speaking in the language of the people and that the church had lost it’s prophetic voice and leadership within society. His 95 Theses marked the beginning of what we now call the Protestant Reformation. In 2017, Lutherans around the world will mark the 500th anniversary of this historic event. My church is a church that was born out of truth-telling, risk taking and prophetic imagination.

I’ve always claimed this church as my church. I often say I am a bit of a unicorn – a Black Puerto Rican, third generation Lutheran. I was baptized, confirmed, married, educated and called to ministry in this church. At the founding convention of this church, there was a vision that the church would be 10% people of color within 10 years of our inception. This percentage has not come to pass and we’ve actually declined in the number of members of color within the church. There were always small pockets of communities of color within the denomination and people of color who were members of largely white congregations, but as a whole, we have not been good at addressing the cultural divisions that our church continues to embody.

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