Current Issues

Let’s Go

This weekend was a tad bit overwhelming for me. The events in Charlottesville, while not surprising, were extremely horrifying. The pictures looked like something out of a history book. The abhorrent words that were slewed out of people’s actual mouths. The silence from Christians. The defending. The bullshit response from 45. It was just a lot to take in.

We live in a city much like Charlottesville, VA. We live in the south. People are, how do I say this, extremely proud of where they live. Their heritage is something worthy to flaunt. I get it. It feels similar in some ways to Texas Pride which if you have never encountered Texas Pride, Lordhavemercy. When my husband tells people he grew up in Texas nine times out of nine people say, “I didn’t know people left Texas.” Texas people are PROUD to be Texans.

Now I’m not a history buff and I really don’t want to, like, get in an argument about The Civil War because to be straight honest I could not hang in that conversation. But from what I’ve heard… The north and the south fought a war over slavery and “states rights.” Which from what I’ve read was about the states ability to decide for themselves whether it was legal to own slaves. So they fought. The south lost and over time slavery was abolished. But the south lost. A war over slavery. That much I know for sure.

I know we live in a society where it’s okay to be a loser and everyone who participates gets a trophy non-sense but the south lost a war and we’re down here, I don’t know, celebrating that? Fine, memorializing that? Okay, God, recognizing that? Super weird and basically stupid. Whatever word you choose.

Not a day goes by where I don’t pass a truck waving the confederate flag. Not a day goes by where I don’t see cars with confederate flag stickers stuck to them. There are houses that proudly wave the confederate flag from outside their home. We have a confederate memorial in our town square that I drive by several times a week.

Every single time we pass that statue one of us says out loud to each other, “They would not approve of our family.” Because the truth is they probably would not. The truth is whenever I see people proudly waving that flag in whatever form I think, “I don’t know if you’d like my kids. I don’t know if you’d like my family. I don’t know if you are a safe person for my kids to be around.” They might be the kindest people on the planet earth. They really might love our family and our kids. They might just be waving it around because they deeply believe it represents just being proud of being southern. But based upon history and what history says that flag represents, I’m just not totally sure. And that is just the truth of how I feel as a mom of three black children, thank you for understanding.

And so here we are again…. as a nation, as churches, as Christians, as families, as individuals… facing the racism that still lives on in America. And this time it didn’t involve a police officer but instead the KKK.

I’ve had enough people say this weekend overwhelmed them. I’ve already told you it overwhelmed me too. I’ve heard enough people say that they just don’t know what to say or how to say it. I have already told you I basically failed history and have no idea how to talk about The Civil War. I heard enough people say they just couldn’t take it anymore so they just turned it all off. I fell prey to reading one too many comment sections on Facebook posts this weekend that sent me spiraling into anger at basically everyone on planet earth. I went on an angry run yesterday where I just pounded the pavement and said all the words to God. I am really sore today.

It’s easy when we’re overwhelmed to turn everything off and stick our heads in the ground, and there is definitely a time and place to shut it all down, but I deeply believe this is not the time or the place. It’s easy when we get overwhelmed to think, “This is too big! I can’t do anything! I can’t fix this!” And then instead of doing something, one thing, we do nothing. It’s easy when we get overwhelmed at the evil in the world to fall prey to fear. And fear is paralyzing.

So let’s just not do that this time, eh? We can do this. We can rise up. I believe we can. But it starts with us, white people. It really, really does. We have to do the work. Everybody likes to talk about reconciliation as if it’s easy but very few of us want to actually do the work of reconciliation because, news flash, it is hard and not fun and not sexy and messy and on going and you can’t slap a filter on it and post about it on Instagram. But we have to do it. We have to. No one else can do this for us. Let’s not just stop at denouncing racism because that should be the easiest thing to denounce basically ever. But rather let’s actually DO THE WORK of reconciliation.

It’s starts with you and it starts with me. Inside our homes. Around our dinner tables. Sitting on our kitchen floors (I have a spot on a stool in our kitchen where if Dustin finds me there he knows we are about to discuss racism and he just sits right down on the kitchen floor and we hash it out for sometimes hours, I am not kidding you). It starts right here. So basic.

Dismantling racism sounds so very big, and it is, but it also isn’t. Start where you are. We didn’t start by meeting with our Mayor and our Chief of Police to discuss racism in our city. LOL no. We started by buying one book, reading it and then talking about it. And then guess what? We just kept doing that. For years. And then we got a little bit brave and started talking about racism with our families. And I was so nervous. I didn’t know how to talk about it well or what exactly to say. And so we stumbled through years of awkward conversations where I ended up getting loud and angry and then having to come back around and say, “Listen sorry I’m still trying to figure out how to talk about this. Let’s keep going.” We have to start by dismantling racism in our own hearts and in our own homes before we go anywhere else. Confess, repent, wrestle, tell the truth, forgive. And then continue doing that. I am raising black children and I still have racial biases that I have to check daily. Dustin and I still have really hard conversations about race. We are still bringing it up at dinner tables and making people squirm and it really never gets any easier we’ve just gotten more confident. Talk about in your friend groups and with your co workers.

So, if you find yourself white and overwhelmed by the events of this weekend let’s talk about where to go from here.

Diversify Your Bookshelf

Here is a list of some of our favorites. I have given this list out before a billion times. This list is not exhaustive and if you asked someone else they may suggest another book. Cool buy that one. But seriously just buy one, read it and talk about it with someone. If you don’t have anyone to talk about it with that may be something you need to evaluate yourself but you may call me to talk about it and I do not enjoy talking on the phone. I screen my own husband’s calls. Again, this is just a place to start. JUST START SOMEWHERE. The first book I ever bought was “How To Be Black” by Baratunde Thurston and I was afraid to read it in public because I didn’t know what people would think. THAT IS OKAY. Buy the book anyway.

Just Mercy, Brian Stevenson

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing The Way The Church Views Racism- Drew G. I. Hart 

We Are Called To Rise- Laura McBride 

Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness, Toure

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

The Beast Side- D. Watkins

How To Black- Baratunde Thurston

The Autobiography of Malcom X

Between The World And Me- Ta-Nehisi Coates

Americanah- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Same Kind Of Different As Me- Ron Hall & Denver Moore

Negroland- Margo Jefferson

The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas

“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”- Beverly Daniel Tatum

Black Like Me- John Howard Griffin

Hillbilly Elegy- J.D. Vancy

Diversify Your Kids Bookshelf.

When God Made You- Matthew Paul Turner

Last Stop On Market Street- Matt De La Pena

Whoever You Are- Mem Fox

Peace is an Offering- Annette Le Box

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon- Patty Lovell

The Skin You Live In- Michael J Tyler

Ten Little Finger And Ten Little Toes- Mem Fox

He’s Got The Whole Word In His Hands- Kadir Nelson

The Peace Book- Todd Parr

The Family Book- Todd Parr

Same, Same But Different- Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw

What I Like About Me!

It’s Okay To Be Different- Todd Parr

Diversify What Your Listening To And Watching 

13th, it’s on Netflix I know you have Netflix

Sho Baraka’s album The Narrative

Diversify Who You Follow on Social Media

Huffpost Black Voices

Equal Justice Initiative 

Reformed African American Network 

Southern Poverty Law Center 

This is just a start. The lists are endless. There will forever be books to read and stories to listen to. There will always be the work of having hard conversations and holding each other accountable. We will never just arrive I don’t think. Let’s do the work and let’s do it well. In the name of Jesus. In the name of love. In the name of our brothers and sisters. Let’s go.


On Standing For Life

Over the weekend Dustin and I started seeing all of these pictures flood our social media accounts with the hashtag, stand for life, attached to them. Most threw out a scripture and wrote a little blurb about why they stood for life. It was a movement started in response to the Planned Parenthood videos released earlier. The minute I started seeing these pictures my insides started squirming… it’s not that easy, right? You can’t just post a picture with a pretty filter on it and say you’re standing for life. That cannot actually be people’s response to those videos, to an issue that is enormous and complicated, there’s more to it. Posting a picture isn’t actually standing for life (insert all the exclamation points)… And so I’ve taken the last few days to sort through some feels about it and this is what I came up with.

A few weeks ago, Dustin and I were talking about how funny Wyatt is. We were telling stories and laughing, because he is actually really funny (and I don’t think just anybody is funny). It got quiet for a minute and Dustin said, “I feel sad his biological parents are missing out on him.”

Yes. That, though. Always that.

Wyatt is a miracle, like an actual miracle. Because sometimes life isn’t chosen but rather it is found, and that’s the kind of heavy stuff that makes you think about all the things differently. It’s also the kind of stuff that changes the world, ya know? And so we sit around praying that one day this kid will feel so confident in who he is, in his story, that he will share it with others. And when he does, I swear to you, something big is going to happen. Like, drop the mic kind of big.

I stand for life. Yes, for sure. But standing for life as a blanket response to the Planned Parenthood videos feels somewhat dismissive and totally incomplete. I don’t think we can stand for life without standing for a hundred other things first. I don’t believe we can be pro- life without being pro a heck of a lot of other things, too. I’m not huge on saying I’m standing for life and then not like, doing the dirty work of actually standing for life (other than choosing for myself not to have an abortion, because I have endless support and resources to name a few). Because to truly stand for life is to stand for something rather messy, in my opinion. To truly stand for life is to stand for support and resources and education. It’s to stand for biological family first and then it’s to stand for another family second. It’s to stand for you possibly being that family. It’s to stand for giving of our time and resources. Because if you really want to defend the defenseless our hands are going to have to get dirty (and also our homes and probably our hearts, too).

And so I also stand for empathy. I stand for not having the first clue what it is like to feel like abortion is my only or best option. I stand for intense heartache for my son’s first mom. I stand for grace. I stand for women in crisis. I stand for organizations supporting women in crisis. I stand for family. I stand for organizations doing the hard work of keeping families together. I stand for foster care. I stand for every church getting involved in their respective city’s foster care system. I stand for adoption as a last resort for kids.

So let’s stand for life. Duh, yes. A thousand times yes. And then let’s also like actually stand for life, because that’s the kind of stuff the world needs.

wywy“Heaven blew every trumpet
And played every horn
On the wonderful, marvelous
Night you were born.”

On The Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman

Because It Matters

I went to bed really heavy hearted last night. Confused, sad, angry, overwhelmed.

I went to bed thinking about my sweet Wyatt. He is strong. He is stubborn. He is a little bit defiant. He avoids eye contact and runs like the wind when he’s in trouble. He likes control. His brain is in constant flight or fight mode.

We work on respect and obeying. Kind hands is something I say one trillion times a day. I ask for eye contact repeatedly. We set boundaries and we have rules, and Wyatt hates it, and he lets us know it. But we keep doing it anyways. I pray that one day we can channel the stubbornness into passion for good.

But who knows, really? I stole a pack a gum from the grocery store when I was little. A friend and I broke into a neighbors house in elementary school. I have lied and cheated and made mistakes. I have hung out with people who most definitely influenced my decisions. My language is not always the best. I can kind of be a jerk sometimes just to prove a point.

But I’m white and my son is black. And I think there is a difference.

And so when I watched that video of the kids at the pool in Texas my heart just felt hurt and confused. I read all sides of the story, and I get both sides. There were a lot of actions that were wrong on both the kids and the cops side. I watched the video more than once. I read through hundreds of comments. But the thing I kept thinking over and over and over again was: “If those kids had been white (and acted THE SAME EXACT WAY), would that have been handled differently?” My heart says yes. My gut says yes. My husband says yes. (And I in no way think all cops are racist so let’s not go there.)

I sit here watching my sweet buddy play with his cars and I just wonder. I wonder what this world will be like in ten years when he’s old enough to go places without us. When he’s old enough to fall for peer pressure. When he’s old enough to make friends that we may not necessarily care for or want for him. When he’s trying to figure out who he is and where he fits in this world. When he’s old enough to make mistakes that matter. When he no longer is associated with his white parents and is just viewed as another black kid.

And I just want to hold him forever. Because this world is so confusing.

A couple of months ago Dustin and I sat at a table with several people of color and we talked about race. Dustin and I really just listened as they talked about race, because what do we know? Exactly nothing. And so we listened. That was it. We didn’t ask questions. We didn’t accuse them of playing the race card. We didn’t deny their experiences. We didn’t make their experiences about something different. We just listened as they told their stories.

A Hispanic man talked about how he can’t buy things off of Craigslist, because no one will return his calls or answer his emails. Because he is Hispanic. So his wife, who is white, does the buying on Craigslist for their family. He shared how he can’t return items to stores, because no store will ever accept his return. It doesn’t matter that the box hasn’t been opened, they won’t take it. Because he is Hispanic. So his wife, who is white, returns things to stores for their family.

A Black man told us about a time he went over to a girls house, whose family didn’t know he was Black, and the minute he walked through the door the attitude in the house shifted. There was all of a sudden tension, because he was Black.

A white mom of a Black son shared about a time her son was playing in the pool with a group of white kids. They were all doing the exact same thing. The lifeguard asked her son to get out of the pool. Everyone else got to stay.

A bi-racial woman, not much older than me, shared her story with us. Saying that she learned early on that being Black was not safe. She learned that through watching her brother get the crap beat out of him because of his skin color. And so for a really long time she denied she was Black.

A Black man shared his experiences with being pulled over by the cops. If he is with white people, it’s fine. If he is with Black people, it’s not fine.

A white dad of a Black son shared that he is scared for the day his son gets pulled over by the cops. He said with tears in his eyes that it will be in that moment that he will want his skin color to be different than what it is. That it hurts his heart to feel that way because he loves his son’s skin color.

A Black man shared that one time he was at a park having his quiet time in his car. He was literally sitting, reading his Bible, and praying. A white woman with a white child pulled up to the park and saw him. The police showed up a few minutes later questioning what he was doing.

And with story after story after story, my heart got heavier and heavier and heavier. Because this is real. I didn’t personally cause their pain. I didn’t say the words or do the things to them. It’s not my fault that those experiences happened. And they weren’t blaming me. They weren’t blaming ANYONE. They were just telling stories. They were just sharing truths. And we were just listening.

The last few years I have been learning the art of listening. I like to talk. I like to run my mouth, really. I like to form opinions and I like to tell you them. I like to think I know things, when I really really don’t. But when we decided to adopt a child, who would be Black, I stopped talking and I started listening. Because I’m white, and I know nothing about being anything other than white. And that’s not a bad thing. I don’t feel bad for being white. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. But I did have a choice to acknowledge that I would be a white woman raising a Black son, and I believe there is a difference in growing up Black and growing up white. And so Dustin and I started listening more to people of color. We craved their stories and their experiences and their wisdom. We wanted to know what it was like to be Black. We wanted to know the good, the bad, the ugly. We wanted to know the truth. And so we started asking our Black friends things we hadn’t before. We started reading books that we never would have read before. We sought out articles and blog posts. All in trying to soak up and learn so that we could parent our child better. And so for the last few years we’ve just listened, and we’ve done little to no talking.

What we have learned through all the listening is that racism is not dead. Discrimination still very much exists. The color of your skin matters. And I get so confused when people who are not of color say that it doesn’t. Because what do we know about being a person of color? I don’t know anything. And so how can I claim something to be true when it’s not mine to claim in the first place? I have no idea what it is like to not be white. I will never pretend that I know anything about being a person of color. I know what it’s like to all of a sudden have a Black son. I know what it’s like to all of a sudden view the world very differently. I know what it’s like to watch the news and all of a sudden feel fear. For my son. Because of his skin color.

Wyatt can’t for the life of him do thumbs up. It’s hilarious to us. Instead he makes guns with his hands and shoots them in the air in our direction. One day he was wearing a hoodie, happened to have the hood up, and he shot us the guns. We laughed because, duh. Someone saw it and looked at me and said: “He can’t be doing that now, can he?” And the truth is he can’t. Because it matters.

Racial issues, to me, are kind of like social justice issues: overwhelming. People don’t know where to start, and so they often don’t start at all. Dustin and I started here:

How To Be Black, Baratunde Thurston

The Autobiography Of Malcom X, Alex Haley

Who’s Afraid Of Post-Blackness?, Toure

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

When Issues Become People

I remember when homelessness became real people to me. People I had served dinner to, sat beside, talked with, and gotten to know. People I started thinking about in the grocery store and started buying water bottles for one hellishly hot summer.

I remember when HIV and AIDS became real people to me. People I knew the names of. People I had hugged and loved on.

I remember when the orphan crisis became real people to me. Actual kids I had played tag with, given piggy back rides to, and tickled. Kids I knew the names of. Kids who lived all over the world. Kids whose stories could make you sick.

I remember when cancer became real people to me. A grandfather, a mom, a really good friend.

I remember when poverty became real people to me. Kids I would go to the ends of the earth fighting for, crying in my office because their electricity had been turned off or their food stamps had run out and they hadn’t eaten all weekend.

I remember when access to clean water became real people to me. A little boy who I love, sitting in my lap day after day guzzling the water I would bring him because he was so dehydrated. He was thirsty on a level I will never in my lifetime understand.

I remember when homosexuality became real people to me. People I knew and people I really cared about.

When issues become people everything changes. It gets personal. It gets real. 

For the last several weeks my Facebook news feed has been flooded with people posting videos of the ALS ice bucket challenge. Every time I turn on the news people are talking about it. One quick Google search and you will find all kinds of things. I don’t know anyone personally who has been affected by this disease. For that very reason, I think it was easy at first for me to be skeptical [read: negative] of the ice bucket challenge. Are people really donating? How is this helping ALS? All hell has broken loose in Ferguson and we’re dumping water on our heads? Let’s not even talk about what’s happening with ISIS. It’s so wasteful. There are people who don’t have water to drink and we’re pouring water on ourselves for fun… I just cannot. How is this DOING anything? This is just trendy. This is clogging up my news feed. I will not do this if I get challenged.

And then I watched this video [You can click on the picture and it will take you to the video. The beginning is silly and there is a cuss word. Watch the whole thing or go to 1:40.]:

indexAnd then I watched this one:


And all of a sudden ALS had a face. I started seeing people post things on Facebook who had lost loved ones to ALS. They talked about how they teared up every time they watched an ice bucket challenge. They talked about how it meant the world to them that people were dumping water on their heads and donating money all in the name of a disease that killed people they loved in a really crappy way. They posted things about how they were participating in the ice bucket challenge in honor of a person they loved who ALS had taken from them.They said how encouraging this campaign has been to them.

And just like that ALS became real people to me… a brother, a dad, a husband, a friend, a wife, a mom, a grandmother. All of a sudden the ice bucket challenge became less about a trendy social media campaign, wasting water and questioning whether or not people were donating; and more about solidarity, hope and life.

When issues become people everything changes. It gets personal. It gets real.

So carry on with the ice bucket challenge. Carry on with the donating. Carry on with the awareness. Because ALS is real people.

Why Are There No Black Emojis?

Dustin and I spend a lot of time talking about race. We’ve spent the last seven months reading books about being Black in America, autobiographies of influential Africans and African Americans, and books about Africa. Dustin started going to Vernon Winfrey’s (Oprah’s dad) barber shop that is close by our house to get his hair cut. We’ve had some candid conversations with our white, Black, and racially diverse family friends about race. We started watching Chappelle’s Show (HaHa), and we’ve made a point to have pictures up in our house that are racially diverse. We had to take online classes for our adoption agency that focused on race and being a non-traditional family. We aren’t trying to draw unnecessary attention to race or make something more of the subject than need be. We are trying to learn, prepare and understand, though.

It’s important to us that our son knows about his Ugandan culture and heritage. It’s important to us that he knows about being Black in America. It’s important to us that he never feels like he’s the only one with different color skin in our little world. It’s important to us that the toys, books and movies we buy are racially diverse. It’s important to us that he has Black role models and people who can speak truth into his life. It’s important to us that he has white, Hispanic, Indian, etc. role models and people who can speak truth into his life.  It’s important to us that he isn’t the only kid in our circle who has different color skin than his parents. We don’t plan on constantly pointing out that he is Black or that we are a different color than he is but we do want him to know that we love, value and respect his heritage, culture, and people that don’t look like us. If we ever have white kids we’d want the same for them.

The other night we received our first gift for the little guy. My parents had taken my youngest sister to visit the college we graduated from and had picked up some sweet ACU swag for him. We were excited and the clothes were precious so we took a picture. I wanted to post it on social media and include an emoji (see picture below) with the picture. I had just downloaded the app and wasn’t familiar with what my options were but I was thinking I’d put a cute picture of a Black child or one of a family that is racially diverse.
I scrolled through every single one of the above pictures. No Black people. Surely there is a mistake, I thought. There’s a salsa dancer and an octopus but no Black people? I scrolled back through. Nothing. There’s a camel, for heavens sake, but no Black people. I scrolled through one more time thinking I could at least find one that was just not white. Nope. Well, there is one that is not white but he’s wearing a turban and that didn’t fit my picture anyways. I could have put a picture of the white baby but that’d be stupid because my baby isn’t white. I could have put the picture of that white family but that’d also be dumb because that isn’t what my family looks like. So, I settled on the smiley face with the heart eyes. I didn’t even know at this point.

I spent some time today reading articles about why there are no emoji faces of color. Because this isn’t just about the fact that there are no Black faces; there are no non-white faces, and that just doesn’t make any sense. I’ve read that it isn’t Apple’s fault, they didn’t create the app. I’ve read that people in Japan created the app, and the defense is the fact that Japan isn’t a very racially diverse place, so that’s why all the emoji faces are white. I hear all of that, and I get it. I’m not mad at Apple; I realize the people who created the emoji app have nothing to do with Apple. It’s not Apple’s fault, but Emoji’s, that this app does not promote racial equality.

In reality it just made me sad. Sad that it’s almost 2014 and we’re creating and using apps that are so racially homogeneous. Sad that my friends who are of color can’t fully use that app if they wanted to. Sad that people are left out based upon the color of their skin in an iPhone app. Sad that people really think that kind of thing is over and done. It’s just absurd and sad to me.

I didn’t really know what to do, so I signed this petition. I’m not really into signing petitions but what the heck. Maybe something will happen.

I realize that the emoji app was not created to have a picture of every single thing on this planet. As a friend pointed out, there are also no band aids on there. So, that isn’t the point of this post. I guess the point is just that being left out based on your skin color still goes on. I get so frustrated when people say that doesn’t happen anymore. It was so in my face looking through that app that I couldn’t not say anything. It also makes me so prayerful for the conversations that I know at some point we will have with our son about race and color of skin. Because if it’s happening in something as stupid as an iPhone app, it’s happening in real life, too. I just hope that we can all be aware, sensitive, and pro-active on the things that really matter in life.

Thanks in advance for being gracious with us and giving us this space to navigate and process the things that our family is facing and will continue to face.

In It to #EndIt

end it

Yesterday was “Shine a Light on Slavery Day.” My Twitter feed was full of pictures of red x’s on hands and tweets that included #enditmovement or the catchy phrase “I’m in it to #endit.” I don’t have Facebook or Instagram but I’m sure those kinds of things were on there, too.  I talked with my students all day about slavery. I showed them this video; we looked up slavery in the dictionary, and had some open, deep conversations about injustice. They drew red “x’s” on their hands. I drew one on my hand.

So far that’s all I’ve done to #endit, though.

Slavery is defined (by Wikipedia- I liked this one the best) as: a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation.

Human slavery can be:

  1. Bonded Labor: someone who is forced to work to pay off a debt.

  2. Forced Labor: being forced to work under threat of punishment

  3. Human Trafficking: the selling of humans for services (usually sexual exploitation)

It could be prostitutes, child or adult laborers. It could take place in a hotel, brothel, sweatshop, or a field.  It could involve sexual exploitation, unfair wages, or horrific working conditions. It could be in India or Nashville, Tn.

I’m not going to lie (and please don’t judge me); human slavery is not something that I invest a lot of time, money, or resources into. Fighting that cause is not what gets me out of bed in the mornings. I don’t get fired up thinking about going on raids.  I’ve never felt led to find a way to shut down sweatshops and get people fair wages.

However, as I’ve been processing yesterday’s #enditmovement, my thoughts have gone to “so what am I supposed to DO about it?” Because let’s get real, supporting causes is easy when all I have to do is draw on my hand and tweet catchy phrases. And we’re all against human slavery when it comes down to it. But if I’m really “in it to end it” then something has to change, right? Awareness doesn’t change anything. Action does.

So here’s how we are #inittoendit:

  1. Buy fair trade coffee.

  1. Buy clothes that do not come from sweatshops.

This one is a little hard. It takes time and effort to research what we buy. Here is a website a friend tweeted out yesterday that I found super helpful. You can research by industry and see the ratings of each company in terms of how they treat their workers.

This article also helped me, too.

  1. Support our friends who are investing their lives for human trafficking.

While the End It Movement yesterday didn’t make me all riled up and ready to fight; it did make me evaluate practical ways that I can make a difference.

If you’re really in it to end it… what are YOU going to do?


It Don’t Matter if You’re Black or White

I just finished reading How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston. It was part memoir and part comical self- help book. Now, not to state the obvious but I’m white. You might find yourself wondering how a white girl ended up with a book about being black. I found out about it through an article in the paper where it was another white girl’s answer to “What books are on your bedside table?” I went to the store immediately.

It was quite a funny read. I laughed a lot as he told stories about growing up and set some stereotypes straight.

It was also a quite thought-provoking read. I found myself thinking a lot about people and the world. About race, discrimination, and segregation. About history, the ways the world has changed, and the ways it’s still the same.

It has me currently thinking about if racism and discrimination still exist and why.

I can remember growing up, seeing and hearing about racism and it bothering me. I remember asking questions and being unsettled by the answers. I have recently had comments made to me and around me that make my heart beat really fast, and I have to take a deep breath before I respond. I hear jokes throughout the halls of my middle school and it makes my heart feel heavy and sad.

I can remember growing up, seeing and hearing about discrimination and it bothering me. I have heard statements made about people’s race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation that don’t sit well with me. I have made my own ignorant comments about people based on their religion that I regret saying. I hear jokes throughout the hallways of my middle school that make my stomach hurt.

I find, on a middle school level as well as with adults, it’s harder to dislike someone you have a relationship with. It’s harder to talk trash, judge, or make gross jokes about a group of people when you have a friend in that group of people.

I don’t know how we change racism and discrimination. I have a hunch it has something to do with love, understanding, Jesus, and building relationships. I think it might involve getting out of our comfort zone and experiencing other people and traditions. We might have to get over ourselves and our beliefs for 5 minutes and listen to other people’s stories. If we did I think things might just be a little different. I don’t know though.

What do you think?

… Courtney

Lance Armstrong

Whenever I read a person’s biography, or especially his or her autobiography, I get a strange feeling that I know the person.  A couple of years ago, I read George W. Bush’s book Decision Points, and I got the sense that if I called George on the phone, he would gladly accept my invitation to come over to my house and play catch with me.

When I read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, I learned the background story to the person that make me enjoy 30 Rock.

Last week, I read Lance Armstrong’s book It’s Not about the Bike.  He told his story of being raised by a strong-willed mother, his early career as a cyclist in his teenage years, his terrible battle with cancer, and his return to cycling.  He shared his love of all things Texas, his passion for driving fast cars, and his extreme training regiments.  Just reading about the way he trains made me want to get off the couch and go get a pizza from Domino’s.  He was burning enough calories for the both of us.

For some strange reason, I connected with his story.  I think the only things we have in common is that we both like Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Shiner Boch, and Texas.

But I hate what he is going through right now.  He is no longer in the news for his amazing career as a cyclist.  He is in the news because of accusations that he is a cheat.  No one cares about his Tour de France victories anymore, because those titles were taken away from him.  Now you can read columns about how his world is collapsing all around him.  11 of his teammates have come forward to accuse him of cheating.  The International Cycling Union has turned against him.  His sponsors are leaving him.  People are throwing away their yellow Livestrong bracelets.

It is like the baseball players who breaks records and is then accused of using Steroids.  It is the football coach that wins championships but has them stripped away because of illegal recruiting.  It is the preacher who has an affair with a secretary.  It is the chemistry teacher who decides to start making millions of dollars as a methamphetamine manufacturer.

I think that we forget that everyone has baggage.  Nobody is perfect.  I’m not saying that Lance Armstrong is innocent, nor am I saying that he is a cheat.  I am saying that he has a wonderful story, and this chapter of his life is probably pretty miserable for him.

I think, as a general rule, compassion is better than judgment.

Chances are, there are people in your life that are having a hard time.  Maybe it is their own fault because they made some bad decisions.  It’s possible that it is not their fault at all, and they are merely collateral damage.  Either way, they need someone to stand beside them.  They need a constant in their life that will surround them with compassion, not judgment.  They need someone that will listen, not give advice.

It’s possible that Lance Armstrong feels surrounded by critics and abandoned by his allies.  When your failures and faults make headline news, it’s probably difficult to stay positive.

Compassion is better than judgment.

Love Wins

I caved into all the hype.  We’ve been hearing about it for months.  When you turn on your TV, you hear about it. It’s all over Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

No, I’m not talking about the royal wedding. I’m talking about “The Voice,” NBC’s new singing competition that premiered last Tuesday.  Even as I type this, a commercial for it just came on.  Thanks to NBC, I feel like a victim of marketing. My life was saturated with commercials and promos, and I felt like my soul would be incomplete if I did not watch “The Voice.”

Honestly, I thought it would be better, but it was enjoyable.

I felt the same way with Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. For weeks, it was impossible to check my Twitter feed and not find something related to the release of Love Wins.  There were newspaper articles about it, blogs criticizing it, and news reporters challenging it.  There was so much hype and controversy that I just had to read it.

Honestly, I thought it would be better; but it was enjoyable. Sound familiar?

I appreciated Love Wins because it challenged my beliefs of heaven, hell, God, and salvation that I have held onto for about two decades.  Bell makes very interesting points, and, to my surprise, he backs them up with dozens of scripture references. There were several instances where I would think, “I’ve read that verse hundreds of times, and I’ve never thought of it that way.”

From my understanding, the basic theme of this book challenges the widely accepted (and possibly True) belief that when we die, some of us will spend eternity in Paradise with God, and the rest will spend eternity in Hell with Satan. Bell reasons that, given the nature of God as He is described in the Bible, eternal punishment does not bring Him glory.

“Restoration brings God glory; eternal torment doesn’t.  Reconciliation brings God glory; endless anguish doesn’t.  Renewal and return cause God’s greatness to shine through the universe; never-ending punishment doesn’t” (108).

These words – restoration, reconciliation, renewal, and return – are found several times throughout this book in references to the present age and the age to come (after death).  He brings up the argument that we all have the ability to choose to accept God’s love that will bring the four R’s into our lives, both now and after death.

Wait, we have the ability to choose even after death?  Bell points out that we do.

“If we want isolation, despair, and the right to be our own god, God graciously grants us that option.  If we insist on using our God-given power and strength to make the world in our own image, God allows that freedom…If we want nothing to do with light, hope, love, grace, and peace, God respects that desire on our part, and we are given a life free from any of those realities” (117).

He goes on to say that by resisting God’s love that we, in turn, create our own hells:

“God is love, and to refuse this love moves us away from it in the other direction, and that will, by very definition, be an increasingly unloving, hellish reality” (117).

Ultimately what it boils down to is that we have the power to choose.  Will we choose to return to God to be restored, reconciled, and renewed; or will we continue to wallow in a pit of our own sinful desires?

God wants us to return to Him – to His love.  It is Bell’s argument that we all will…eventually…now or in the age to come.

And love will win.

Have you read Love Wins?

How did it challenge your beliefs?

Moving On

What happens now?

I had a chance to listen to some President Obama’s speech last night as I drove home from work, and I have to admit, it was very inspiring. After reading about it this morning in the paper, I simply wonder, “What happens now?”

In the wake of tragedy, that question is usually coupled with, “Why?”

After Biology class on September 11, the confusion and chaos was amazing. “Why? Why? Why?” On September 12, that question shifted to “What happens now?” What about the families of the victims? Will we seek revenge? Are we going to war? Questions led to even more questions.

Two weeks ago, I had no idea who Gabrielle Giffords was. As I read updates on Saturday about the shootings in Tucson, my first question was, “Why her? Why Tuscon?” I wanted details. I wanted answers, even though I felt detached from the situation. Tuscon is more than 1,600 miles away. The only connection I have to Arizona politics is that I follow John McCain on Twitter, but I still wanted answers.

I can’t even imagine what the victims’ families were thinking.

Last night, in his prime time address to the nation, President Obama shed light on the answers to the question “What happens now.” Ingrained in each of us in a drive to bounce back, recover, move on, and remember; and Obama gave us some words to remember: “It’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

It would be irresponsible for my to try to justify Saturday’s events with any form of logic, but, like many, I see impact that this tragedy has had on our nation. What can we learn from it? What can be done as we move on?

In your life, once the tears are dried and pain has subsided, ask, “What happens now?” Find a way to move on and make the next steps better than your last steps.