Category Archives: missional

Step Away From The Keyhole

This post is part of the November Synchroblog, “Seeing Through The Eyes Of The Marginalized”.  A synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a diverse group of bloggers who have agreed to blog on the same topic on the same day. You can find a list of all the participants at the end of this post.  If you’re a blogger & want to be part of future synchroblogs, you can join on facebook or go to our new synchroblog site and subscribe.


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Being “marginalized” means more than just belonging to a minority. Marginalized people are pushed to the margin because a society refuses to acknowledge their needs, their beliefs, their value, their rights and their concerns.  As a follower of Christ, I want to reach out and help people who are marginalized – I want to be a good ally, who not only empowers marginalized people to believe that they matter and that what they have to offer has value, but also to change society and systems that continue the cycles of marginalization and oppression.  Living that out is hard and even those of us who are sincere and well intentioned are prone to make mistakes.  Here are some things I have been learning as I attempt to become a good ally to some dear friends of mine who often find themselves in the margins.

PRIVILEGE

Someone said, “People who look through keyholes are apt to get the idea that most things are keyhole shaped.”  That is what happens to us.  We see the world through our position of privilege and it robs us of a realistic perspective – we need to step away from the keyhole we have been peering through, throw open the door and walk out into the open. Privilege is the biggest obstacle that an ally of any marginalized person or group has to overcome.  It traps us into mindsets that make it almost impossible for us to understand what it means to be marginalized.  This obstacle can be effectively dealt with and overcome, but many (maybe even most) allies haven’t taken the time to confront their own privilege and the part it plays in the oppression of others.  Most are so accustomed to their privilege that they aren’t even consciously aware of it – white, male, straight, healthy, affluent, employed, included, heard, affirmed – whatever our privilege is, we need to acknowledge it, confront it and learn about how it is part of the problem. Without acknowledging the privilege we hold we cannot truly understand the experience of the marginalized or effectively contribute to their betterment.

HUMILITY

The lack of humility is a definite barrier for those who want to see through the eyes of marginalized people and work for justice.  The more one learns about privilege and oppression the more one will recognize oppressive attitudes and behaviors they have held, how little they know about what it is like to be marginalized, and how many things one has done or said in the past that is now considered to be dreadful … in other words, if you want to see through the eyes of the marginalized, be a good ally and fight for justice get ready to be comfortable with humility.  Becoming a good ally means we have to give up the power that privilege has afforded us and allow humility to create space in us to listen, learn and grow.

INDIVIDUALS

It is easy for us to forget that those who are marginalized and oppressed are individuals with unique stories of their own.  People within a marginalized group have unique and individual needs and concerns.  We need to take the time to build authentic relationships with marginalized people, to listen to their stories, to see them as more than a project or a cause, to connect with them, learn from them and experience day to day life with them.  The only effective way to empower marginalized people to believe they matter and are valuable is through individual interaction.

What help can you offer to those who want to become good allies to people who are marginalized and oppressed?

Here’s a list of all the contributions for this month’s synchroblog:

Kathy Escobar – Sitting At The Rickety-Card-Table-In-The-Family-Room For Thanksgiving Dinner

George at the Love Revolution – The Hierarchy of Dirt

Arthur Stewart – The Bank

Sonnie Swenston – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Wendy McCaig – An Empty Chair at the Debate

Ellen Haroutunian – Reading the Bible from the Margins

Christine Sine – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Alan Knox – Naming the Marginalized

Margaret Boehlman – Just Out of Sight

Liz Dyer – Step Away from the Keyhole

John O’Keefe – Viewing the World in Different Ways

Steve Hayes – Ministry to Refugees–Synchroblog on Marginalised People

Andries Louw – The South African Squatter Problem

Drew Tatusko – Invisible Margins of a White Male Body

K.W. Leslie – Who’s the Man? We Christians Are

Jacob Boelman – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Peter Walker – Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Cobus van Wyngaard – Addressing the Normalized Position

Tom Smith – Seeing Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Annie Bullock – Empty Empathy

Christen Hansel – Foreigners and Feasts

Sonja Andrews – On Being Free

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The Answer Is In The Story

On any given day there is plenty of negative buzz around the internet about the emerging/emergent conversation.  It is accused of being heretical, a fad, a perversion of the gospel, New Age, a disappointment, false teaching and dead.  Some participants have even decided to drop the label completely – and that’s okay as the label seems to have a lot more meaning to those outside of the conversation than to the participants.

I still identify with the label and so I find myself being asked a lot of questions.  “What is it?”  “Why am I attracted to it?”  “Is it distorting the truth?”  “What difference is it making?”  “What do the participants believe?”  “Does it line up with scripture?”  and many other questions that are difficult (if not impossible) to answer in relation to the conversation.

Sometimes I try to answer by explaining that embracing doubt and uncertainty doesn’t mean that I don’t have beliefs or don’t live out my beliefs with conviction, sometimes I make the point that what scripture says is pretty clear but, on the other hand, what it means isn’t so black and white, sometimes I state that unity shouldn’t be dependent upon conformity and that making relationships and community the main thing IS right doctrine.

Sometimes I share how the conversation has helped me sustain my faith, learn how to believe in a way that builds bridges instead of barriers and become teachable once again.  How it’s given me a safe place to express myself, ponder my doubts and beliefs; permission to change my mind and to be wrong without shame or guilt; and beautiful, diverse, authentic friendships that are able to survive our differences with grace and love.

Today I am here to answer questions about the emerging/emergent conversation in a different way.  Today I want to share someone’s story as the answer to the questions.  I don’t know if the person in the story identifies with the label – just that we connected through the conversation.  I don’t know what this person believes about the trinity, the virgin birth, heaven or hell – just that he believes in loving others in the way of Jesus and he believes it enough to do something about it.

Today I am here to answer questions about the emerging/emergent conversation with a story  because

“the answer is in the story and the story is unfolding”

Pádraig Ó Tuama

Dear Friends,

After the recent article about us in the local paper, I have been asked dozens of times just what we do, exactly.

We feed people. But we aren’t a feeding ministry. And while we do help people get jobs, we aren’t a job training program. Almost 50 times since Christmas we have gotten work shoes for folks. But we aren’t a clothing ministry. And in a few weeks, we will be celebrating the 4thof July in the park with our friends who live outside – but that isn’t what we do.

At any given moment, we may be doing any or all of those things. But we are primarily a ministry of presence.

Being homeless means having no one to listen to you when you hurt, no one to share your dreams with, and no one to celebrate with when good things happen. And no one to stand beside you when you are scared.

Which is why, several weeks ago, I was in the doctor’s office, sitting next to my friend Sarah, holding her hand as we wait to hear the bad news. She had recently had her first annual exam in 16 years. (When you are struggling to survive, sometimes you let things like that slide.) And when she had called for the results, they refused to give them to her over the phone. This is never good.

Her sponsor in NA died of cervical cancer, so she was scared to death of going to that doctor’s office by herself to hear the news. So there I was, looking very out of place as she and the doctor talk about cervixes and ovaries and so on. And when he told her it looked like cancer, I was the guy who held her as she cried. And prayed with her in the parking lot.

Today she got the results back from the specialist. It is cancer of the cervix, and in a few weeks she is going in for an operation. So it was only natural that she called me and some of our volunteers to let us know. And when they wheel her back in the hospital room after cutting on her, it will be our faces she will see when she wakes up.

What do we do? We are present. Often our being present doesn’t change things – she is going to have surgery if we are there or not. But now, she won’t be alone. And that is not a small thing at all.

Love Wins. Always.

Hugh Hollowell



The only reason Hugh was able to be in that doctor’s office next to Sarah was because of financial contributions that pay his salary. And, it is financial contributions that will buy the flowers in her room when she comes out of recovery. If you don’t currently support Love Wins but want to be part of this story, you can find out more about that here. They really need people who are willing to commit to ongoing monthly contributions, so they can budget.

Survivor, TransFORM and How You Treat People, Matters.

I was in Washington D.C. to attend TransFORM: East Coast Gathering a couple of weeks ago. I have put off writing about it because it was so wonderful that I know my words will not be able to adequately convey my experience … but it was too important not to write about … so, here is the first attempt:

I’m a big Survivor fan and just finished watching the 20th season, “Heroes vs Villians”.  If you are familiar with the show, you know that Russell played two seasons back to back, got to the end in both seasons, but didn’t receive even one vote by any jury member in either of the seasons.  Some believe that Russell should have won Survivor as he played a physically and mentally strong game.  He tends to be able to control who gets voted off, is a convincing liar and a great schemer.  He’s okay when it comes to challenges and has won several immunity challenges, sometimes when it was critical.  But, (that probably should be “BUT”) he treats people poorly and it is difficult to win Survivor when you treat people poorly, since the people you are treating poorly are also the people that get to vote for the winner.  In other words, “how you treat people, matters”.

This got me to thinking about my experience at TransFORM.

Now, to give you a little context, I was a newcomer among the people at TransFORM.  I’ve been in the conversation for less than five years and I pretty much just listened for the first 3 years … so, I was a little worried about how I would fit in at the gathering.  I knew several people online, but had only met one person face to face before. I’m also older than most, not in full-time ministry AND I don’t even have a MAC or an IPhone … I even had the audacity to show up with my HP laptop and my Verizon Blackberry Tour:>)  But, (that probably should be “BUT”) they embraced me anyway, generously included me and made me feel significant, valuable, loved, and even liked.  Was it because of my great personality and wry wit?  My good looks?  Did my charisma blind them so that they couldn’t see past the dazzling light that surrounds me everywhere I go?  No, it wasn’t about any of those things (if you can believe it!!) … it wasn’t really about “me” – it was about them.  It was about this group of people putting a high value relationships with others.  It was about relationships with others being more important to them than anything else.  It was about them believing even if they were the most cool, the most right, the best speaker, the best writer, the best looking, the most fun, the most knowledgeable, the best or most anything, it wouldn’t amount to anything if they weren’t treating others well.  It was about them believing they can’t be winners unless they are loving others.  It was about this group of people believing “how you treat people, matters” – not just intellectually but experientially, not just in theory but in reality.  This is their central message, their main thing.

And that is why ever since I came back home from Washington D.C. I have yearned to be back in the presence of this group of people.  They are good at real community, they are good at loving, they are good at relationships.  They are transparent and vulnerable but not sappy – okay, occasionally they are sappy, but it’s a good kind of sappy:>)  IMO they are courageous when it comes to offering grace and embracing humility.

In the days to come I plan to write about my impressions of some of the TransFORM sessions, but first I just had to say a little something about what I thought was the most important thing about TransFORM  …  which was that I spent a few days with a group of people who were having some significant success at living in the way of Jesus and it was compelling and attractive and inspirational and motivating and comforting and transformational.

It touched me and changed me.

How you treat people, matters!

Three Things Tuesday

JENNIFER KNAPP

Jennifer Knapp, Christian music artist, recently came out publicly about being gay and in a long term same sex relationship.  Check out her facebook page and you will find that another coming out has occurred as you read all the argumentative and condemning messages that so many Christians are posting there.  There are Christians coming out as allies who aren’t so hateful (check out this post by Chad Holtz) but they seem to be in the minority.

FYI – I am straight, married, with two sons and Christian (although I prefer to use the label “follower of Christ” since the label “Christian” has so much negative baggage) and I have seriously studied scripture and found that there is not clear evidence (when you look at original language and historical context) that loving, monogamous same sex relationships are wrong.  Without sufficient evidence I believe that it is unjust to condemn and oppress people in loving, monogamous same sex relationships.  If Christians who believe these relationships are wrong continue to refuse to admit that their interpretation is only one interpretation and that there is a possibility that they are wrong they (imo) continue to look ungenerous, unkind, stubborn, unreasonable and lose credibility all the way around.

And one more thing … if they are right why is it that they are so obsessed with this particular sin and how do they justify trying to bully and intimidate others into agreeing with them and do they really think they are going to change someone’s mind by winning their argument and why aren’t they more concerned with being kind, loving, generous, compassionate, merciful, patient and humble.  I could understand them getting a little riled up if they were actually standing up for some individual that was being mistreated or hurt but I don’t understand their passion about this issue and the way they treat others over it.  It really seems that they care the most about convincing everyone they are right and forcing everyone to agree with them.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention …  Knapp’s new album, Letting Go, will be released May 11.  Check it out here. If you preorder from her site you get Evolving EP free.  I already received mine and am loving it.

Perspectives on Arizona’s Immigration Law

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently signed into law the highly controversial senate bill 1070 which is considered to be the harshest anti-illegal immigrant law in the country.  The bill makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally, empowers Arizona police to verify immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion, enacts harsher penalties on employers who knowingly employ illegal immigrants, and makes it a crime to transport, harbor, or shield illegal immigrants.

As you might have guessed there are two opposing Christian views of the bill.  I thought Emily Patterson-Jackson wrote a well balanced post covering the two views.  Check out her post here.

TransFORM

I’m headed to Washington, DC this week for the TransFORM: East Coast Gathering.  I’m really excited about the guest speakers who will be there and the crazy part is the conference is completely free.  Everyone working on this conference is donating their time and energies for free because they believe in the ideas that this conference supports.  I think that is amazing and beautiful.  I’m also really excited about the attendees – I know so many of them through facebook and twitter and now I will get to meet them face to face – in person.   Check out the info on the conference here.   Some of the main sessions will be live on the Ustream Channel online.

A Labor Of Love

northwood-home-makeover

My husband and I participated in this last year and it was great.  Unfortunately we were not able to participate this year but plan on joining in again next year.  It is truly a labor of love.

A group of volunteers gave four Haltom City homes a makeover. In just 24 hours, some 1,600 volunteers completed home renovations for the much-deserving families.

The home makeovers come courtesy of the NorthWood Church in Keller. This is the third year that NorthWood has provided home makeovers for families in Haltom City.

The families being helped were all selected based on their need. “There’s something about the time frame and the urgency of it that makes it that much more,” said volunteer Andy Wallace.

Those involved with the project say the renovation isn’t only for the homes, but the soul as well. “God said, ‘Go out and help the needy and the poor’, so what better way to come out and serve the Lord than to help these folks out?” Wallace asked.

The makeovers include painting, replacing flooring, landscaping, decorating, new furniture and decorative items, appliance replacement or repair and other things you would expect.  This year mini-makeovers were added for the houses on the streets where the home makeovers were taking place.  The mini-makeovers included yard work, exterior painting and other small jobs.

The teams start working on Friday afternoon and work through the night and into Saturday.  The big reveal happens about 5PM that Saturday.

Be sure and click on the picture above to see CBS coverage.

Best “Be Like Jesus” List

John Smulo posted this two years ago on his blog and reposted it recently.  It is the best “be like Jesus” list I have come across.  Every link is worth checking out.

1. Get baptized by the craziest guy in town.

2. Say and do things that are guaranteed to make religious people want to kill you. Repeat again, and again, and again, and again, and again and don’t stop unless forced.

3. Do amazing things for people and ask them to not tell anyone.

4. Hang out with the most despised, marginalized, looked down upon, and shunned people you can find.

5. When possible, forgive and restore people, even if they betrayed you.

6. Live in a way that provokes gossip.

7. Win the most grace competition.

8. Keep the party going.

9. Serve people (note: nose plugs may be required).

10. If you’re sad cry.

11. Empower people to do the extraordinary.

12. Act like a rock star in a hotel temple.

13. Radically simplify theology.

14.Break human-made religious laws. Repeat consistently.

15.Prioritize the most important over the important.

16. Let women with questionable backgrounds pay your bills.

If you would like to copy this and put it anywhere feel free.

Am I all alone here?

I am about 2 or 3 years into the emergent/missional conversation/movement. I come from a very conservative, evangelical background and have had to come to terms with the realization that a lot of stuff that I believed, a lot of things I said and did, and a lot of people I supported in the past were wrong. The journey has been exciting but also disconcerting and painful at times. I am thankful that there are people out there that have challenged my thinking/motives/actions/beliefs. I no longer think of myself as conservative or liberal but a follower of Christ – but since that can sound vague and like I am trying to avoid giving a straight answer (to some) I guess I would say that I am a moderate – although my conservative friends would probably think me to be liberal these days and my liberal friends would say I was still a conservative just not an extreme one :>) Anyway, on to the point of this post…

What concerns me is that so many of the very people who have challenged me and my conservative views seem to have gone soft and are doing some of the same things that they rightfully criticized me about.

For instance – when I pointed out that $170 million dollars would be better spent on helping people rather than staging an extravagant inauguration (I did this on facebook and twitter) I barely got a bite. My friends there are mostly liberal (sorry for the label) and supporters of Obama (which is fine with me – I almost voted for him) but I don’t think they would have given a republican or a conservative that kind of break (and I don’t think they should).

And then – when I pointed out that I thought the end of Rev. Lowry’s prayer contained racist speech (again on facebook and twitter) I got even less response. I was careful to explain that I wasn’t calling Rev. Lowry a racist (I know very little about him) but that I thought calling Native Americans “red”, Asians “yellow”, saying that “yellow needed to mellow” and saying white people, in general, are racist, was racist speech even if it was contained within a rhyme that has been around for a long time in black churches. I talked about racism lurking in people’s lives (no matter what race they are) even without their knowledge and that when we see or hear racism we should point it out and speak against it.

Now maybe I am wrong, but I got the feeling that I was breaking some sort of unwritten law, or treading on “holy” ground, or something. No one reprimanded me but the passion that is typically there was absent – the critical eye was missing – the silence said a lot (IMHO).

I don’t say any of this because I didn’t vote for Obama. I think there is a possibility that he will make a great president and do many good things. I was honestly worried about his lack of experience – particularly with the war and economics – but maybe that will end up being a plus – I can see that side of the argument.

I say this because I don’t want my wonderful new friends, who have challenged me for my own good, to go soft because Obama is President. I want them to keep examining and questioning and pointing out discrepancies and injustices – even if it is with people they support and agree with on most everything.

Am I all alone here? Or does anyone else know what I am talking about?