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

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

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A Word about Dust

Ash Wednesday

I’m writing about dust as I look out of the window and see white dust fall from the sky. It’s snowing again…

Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return. 

These words are sacred speak that are a part of the Ash Wednesday service liturgy. They are spoken by the pastor as they impose (a fancy word for put or place) ashes on your forehead. These ashes literally mark the beginning of the season that is Lent – 40 days of reflection, repentance, remembering and renewal that all lead to crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

Lent is a solemn occasion for sure, but I find it to be my favorite church season. I’m reflective by nature so this doesn’t come as a surprise. I also am someone who appreciates imagery and reminders of humanness; of brokenness, of being a part of something bigger than ourselves and of the need for restoration by something outside of ourselves.

Have you ever really dealt with ashes? Seen someone’s body reduced to ashes? My family cremates our faithful departed. And we don’t bury their remains. We keep them. We choose urns that speak to the person’s life and we create sacred space in our house so that they are always with us. One might be concerned that we are  running out of urn space in my parent’s house… That being said, I’ve seen the body of an elderly loved one go from flesh, bones and spirit to flesh and bones to ash. It never ceases to amaze how one person’s life can be reduced a small baggie full of fine, gray dust. It’s humbling. It’s terrifying. It’s the reality that is life. Continue reading

Embracing My Shadow Reloaded

In October of 2012 I began Embracing My Shadow. It was a year after my last major depressive episode and I had a deep desire to share my story. I wasn’t quite sure why I should share or if anyone would even care. I just knew that I had to get things out of my head and my heart. I had to give language to my thoughts and release my feelings. I had to confront some things and begin the difficult process of letting go.

I should mention that I have always been someone who was told that she shared just a little too much. I was too vocal in my love for folks. I was too open when it came to my thoughts and emotions. I was too deep when it came to my intellectual capacity and philosophical musings. I was too sensitive when it came to my interactions with others. What’s ironic about these accusations (or some might call them critiques) is that I never really shared the darkness and struggles that lurked beneath the surface. Going through my latest bout of death, disease and despair, also known as the reality that is life, I realized that my ongoing cycles of getting overwhelmed, going into hiding and flirting with the reality that is suicide were all directly connected to the side of myself that I didn’t want anyone to see. I was determined to keep this part of myself from the light of day. This was and is my shadow side.
I got the language of shadow from Debbie Ford and my time serving as a hospital chaplain. In simple terms, we talk about one’s shadow as the part of oneself that at first glance is dark, desperate, ashamed and compiled of all the tragedy and suffering in one’s life.
It’s the part of yourself that if not attended to, can overtake you and not in good ways. It’s the part of yourself that replays the negative self-talk that tells you that you aren’t good enough, lovable enough, strong enough, smart enough….ENOUGH.
It’s the part of yourself that keeps you from sharing your whole self, from being vulnerable. You just know that if anyone else ever encountered this part of yourself, they would pick up and run the other way and you would wither and die in a pool of shame.
This is the shadow. This is the side of myself that I not only shared but that I didn’t acknowledge. And I’ve learned something in my 32 years – not embracing your shadow can lead to death and destruction and cause you to act out in negative ways, engage in negative relationships and perpetuate negative ways of being that are life-taking and not life giving. But worse of all, not embracing your shadow can impede you from embracing the fullness and beauty of who you are. And almost two years later, I’ve realized what Embracing My Shadow is really about.
This began as a selfishly cathartic exercise of a woman who was struggling with depression and anxiety. My tag line was, “One woman’s journey of accepting her WHOLE self – depression, anxiety and all – and helping others to do the same.” It grew out of a desire for me to share my journey with mental illness and it quickly became evident that I was not the only one with a story to share who was seeking support. It’s been almost two years and it has grown into a community of Shadow Lovers, all of whom have varying degrees of relationship with their shadow.
It’s time to take the next step, to start a new chapter. Embracing My Shadow is no longer just about a particular aspect of my journey. It’s broadening as I have come face-to-face with my core issue; the thing that undergirds many of my mental health struggles and issues in intimate relationships. That thing is a lack of radical self-love. How can I accept love or even give love – from God or from others – if I fundamentally don’t love myself?
Embracing My Shadow is about one woman’s journey of accepting her WHOLE self – of seeking radical self love and helping others do the same. 
This is my call. This is where this journey has led me. I hope you are able to join in on this, because Lord knows, I can’t do it by myself. And remember, dear Shadow Lovers, WE are not alone.
Love,
Me
LOVE-YOURSELF-s

Just Be – A Reflection on Yoga and Advent

JustBeEnough-Three-Words-2013I am a person of Christian faith, which I have written about here. This time of year is my favorite time of year because, for Western Christians, it begins the church season of Advent. We follow a church calendar, also known as a liturgical calendar, that marks the seasons of our life of faith. Advent kicks off this calendar and it is marked by a season of waiting – of waiting for the revelation of all that is good, holy, just, and compassionate in the person of Jesus Christ. This time is about waiting for the embodiment of peace. This is my belief and as such, I look forward to this pre-Christmas time because it forces me to slow down, to reflect and to be watchful. The watching and waiting take on different forms each year. I was looking back over posts that I wrote this time last year, and I realized how much can change in a year.

As this Advent begins, I find myself in a place of new beginnings. I recently began the process to become a certified yoga instructor and that began with me making a commitment of how I would engage this journey over the next year. After reflecting on my thoughts, I realized how appropriate it was that I was starting this profoundly spiritual journey at the same time that my faith journey enters into a season of just being. I am sincerely grateful for Divine Power Yoga for giving me the opportunity to begin this journey and I wanted to share my commitment with you.

Be present. Be mindful. Be gracious.

I commit to taking a journey wholeheartedly. I will be vulnerable. I will take risks. I will be patient with myself. I will honor the Divine within me and nurture her continuously.

I commit to growing in knowledge of yoga. I commit to seeking out information and reflecting on is meaning for my life so that I may help others do the same. I intend to be fully present in this learning process – approaching each step with curiosity rather than judgement. I commit to study.

I commit to attending to the matters of my spirit through the daily practice of meditation, prayer and journaling. I commit to make space for my thoughts and feelings and to situate myself in a posture of reception – being mindful, not clinging to thoughts and feelings that are life taking, but fully accepting the good, the positive and the life-giving.

I commit to reclaiming my body as a holy dwelling place, paying attention to the messages it sends me. I commit to takin in food that nourishes and provides energy. I commit to ongoing exercise and practice that strengthens my body and connects me to the fullness that God created. I commit to be gracious to myself as I embark on this journey, keeping in mind that it’s not about perfection and progress, but it is about practice and process.

It’s not about perfection and progress, but it is about practice and process.

This is true for my faith walk as well. 

How are you being called to just be?

Be present. Be mindful. Be gracious.

 

Planning Hope

The Rev. John Clausen was the father of my dear friend Sarah who died after a battle with Cancer in 2012. John was a writer and I thought this poem was very appropriate for anyone who struggles and feels like they are alone. These words give me hope and hopefully they’ll do the same for you. Thank you John.

Love,

Me

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You know the plans

Oh, Lord of life

You touch beyond
The pain and strife
You give the hope
Oh, God of love

In midst of doubt
You carry me
You bring me home

You are the plans
New life bestow
You are beyond
What I can know
You are the hope
Oh, God of love

In midst of doubt
You carry me
You bring me home

(Ref Jeremiah 29:11-14)

-Written by John Clausen

Photo by Linnea Clausen

We Wear the Mask – A Sermon on Suicide by Rev. Tiffany Thomas

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We Wear the Mask

By: Paul Lawrence Dunbar, 1896 

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

    This debt we pay to human guile;

    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

    And mouth with myriad subtleties.

     Why should the world be over-wise,

    In counting all our tears and sighs?

    Nay, let them only see us, while

            We wear the mask.

    We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

    To thee from tortured souls arise.

    We sing, but oh the clay is vile

    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

    But let the world dream otherwise,

            We wear the mask!

Suicide is the intentional and purposeful taking of one’s own life. Suicide is an acute problem in our community, a problem that we do not talk about. The reason we do not talk about it is due primarily to the generally accepted notion that suicide is a “white” problem. Communally we earnestly believe that black people do not commit suicide.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth… Click here to keep reading the orginal post by Rev. Tiffany Thomas published at Shepreaches.