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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A Word on Darkness

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.

Fog rolling in

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

We Belong To Each Other

By: Maya Mineoi, Nicole Newman (Author of New Black Girl Rules) and Rozella White

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.

 

A Word on #Ferguson

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.

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A Word on Jamal Bryant and Shit

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.

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A Word on Forgiveness

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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

A Word on Authenticity

you-are-lovelyAuthentic 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