Rick Warren, Cultural Sensitivity, and Mission

This post saddened me. Perhaps, it’s because I’ve recently become aware of the cultural ignorance around and witin me. I see glimmers of insensitivity, racism, and prejudice in unexpected places, and often stemming from unintentional places. However, I think this post spoke to me in a much deeper way. Recently, I’ve been very frustrated by pastors/Christians/people of faith swinging from one extreme to the other: They either refuse to acknowledge their imperfections, or use their imperfections as an excuse to not attempt to live by a Holy standard. Grace is a powerful thing…it is the reason we can acknowledge those parts of us that hurt and bring pain to ourselves and others. It is also the very thing that when you realize the Grace you have been offered you want to live a life that brings glory to The One that offered it.

I’m truly sorry for the hurt this imperfect act caused, but I am more sorry for my brother and sisters who refused to acknowledge that hurt or attempted to understand it. I’m sorry that we are tolerating poor actions, behavior, thoughts, comments…sin.

My prayer, starting with myself, is that we start acknowledging our imperfections. We start apologizing and making amends when we hurt others. We begin to desire to understand the people and culture around us. And we begin to love those people with the same grace we’ve been offered, in order to bring glory to The One who offered it in the first place.

Engage the Pews

This blog is about a picture on Rick Warren’s Facebook which features a Red Guard young woman posing.  The picture is typical of a ballet that became immensely popular during the Cultural Revolution period, with a woman depicted similarly in this video at around the 3rd minute.  The ballet was the prototype artistic expression stipulated by the Chinese government during the Cultural Revolution.

The caption on Facebook reads, “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.”

When called by a number of people to recant his statement, he wrote the following response:

People often miss irony on the Internet.  It’s a joke, people.  If you take this seriously, you really shouldn’t be following me. Did you know that, using Hebrew ironic humor, Jesus inserted certain laugh lines – jokes – in the Sermon on the Mount? The self-righteous miss them all while the disciples were undoubtedly…

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I Now Know How Kevin Bacon Felt

I know, vague description. Afterall, Kevin Bacon has been in about a million movies, playing every character imagineable. But, I’m talking about a truly classic scene. A scene I have seen a million times. In fact, growing up I watched it weekend after weekend with my cousins at my granny’s house. It’s that infamous scene that led to teenagers being able to dance everywhere.

Let me give you a play by play. Wren McCormick, new to the area, labeled a rebel and trouble maker from the beginning, walks into a county council meeting with the intent to get them to change a law. You watch as he anxiously sets there waiting his turn. He looks behind him to gain a small comfort from his support, in this case an angsty group of teenagers that simply want to have a dance. He’s dressed in his finest, prepared with his notes, and delivers a passionate speech.

Last night, I found myself in a similiar situation. I walked into a county council meeting, dressed in my suit jacket, high heels, and black skirt. I had my notes that had been written, scribbled, and written over and over. I’m setting with our support group, which in our case is board members, male advocates, our landlords, and community members.

As DD is setting next me, I lean over and inform her that I’m suprisingly nervous and peaceful all at the same time. I’m nervous because, just like Wren, we are new to the area and labeled trouble (at least our cause is).

DD gets up and delivers her passionate speech about how The Covering House came about and what our vision is. Then it was my turn. I’m not sure if my portion was passionate or not, because well…I really can’t remember most of it, but I shared about the program.

Then there was 15 minutes for opposition. And, there was opposition. It was organized and detailed, coming down to “we love what you’re doing, but just not in our area.”

Then there was 5 minutes for our rebuttal.

Then there was discussion among the county council.

Then there was questions about the road…yes you heard that right, the road. Our landlord responded with “he would do whatever he needed to do to make it happen.”

More discussion…and more discussion… and more discussion…

We look at each other a little panicked thinking is this really going to get tabled because of the road. Our board members huddle up in case they need to make a quick decision on our behalf.

We sat anxiously, as they made a motion and seconded it. They then called for a roll call vote. Six in favor, one abstained. It passed. We now have a place for refuge and restoration for girls that have been sexually exploited and trafficked.

After hearing the vote, my emotions crashed. I didn’t know whether to cry, or cheer. There was hugging and hand-shaking and excited chatter. The reality of what we are about to do is hitting all of us!

As I stood in the hallway, I was overwhelmed by where God has brought me. I never dreamed as a small town girl that I would standing in the position I am in. I never thought I would have this amount of responsibility or opportunity. I never dreamed I’d be in a suit attempting to stand up for social justice, but here I am. I just continually thanked Him for allowing me to be part of this mission.

***As we were walking out, I had the odd thought and shared with DD, “huh, that must have been how Kevin Bacon felt with in Footloose,” and we both laughed. That might not have been my most profound moment!

An elevator speech for sexual assault

Last night I had an opportunity to hang out with one of our clients. While we were talking she said, “Ms. Lindsey, one of the boys in my class asked, ‘Is you a virgin.'” I looked at him and said, “is you a virgin, because mine ain’t none of your business.” I was so proud of her because 2 months ago she was admitting to not knowing how to say no.

I instantly thought of this post I had read the day before. One of my biggest desires is that women learn to have their voice, but some circumstances come out of nowhere and are completely unexpected. Unfortunately, we can’t control the people around us, but we can attempt to be prepared.

Tip of My Tongue

A few weekends ago, I was out with a group of friends. We were chatting in a circle, in a busy public place, when one of them got a funny look. Creasing his brow, he announced, “I think that man tried to touch my asshole.” We all stared after the couple that had just walked by, a middle-aged man and woman holding hands. My friend said again, “Yeah, no way that was accidental. He just tried his damned best to stick his finger in my butt.”

This was new to me. I have never been present when a man was sexually assaulted. None of us knew how to respond. My friend was justly stunned, and the rest of us weren’t sure if we should chase the stranger down, or yell after him, or just move on. In the end – no surprises here – we made some weak jokes…

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Woolly Bully!

My heart is heavy; devastated really.  I’ve come face to face with the harsh reality of our history that is currently being reinvented in our present.  Normally, I’m a realist with a healthy dose of optimism.  I see the situation in front of me but can often find hope, even a small piece, to hold onto.  I appreciate reality and get excited about the possibility.  But every once in awhile, there is a reality that hardens me; a reality so dark it seems hope is intangible.

That rare moment is now.  The past month I’ve encountered a character I’ll refer to as the Woolly Bully and I’ll admit it is slightly passive-aggressive.  I say slightly because it can also be taken quite literally.  His external is masked with a split beard down to his chest and overalls.  His internal is filled with ideas of hatred and aggressiveness toward anyone different than him.  The heaviness stems from an overt thought process that can only be described as similar to those thoughts that birthed hate crimes and groups of the past.  I wish I could say he was of an older generation; a generation that didn’t know better or didn’t have opportunities to experience new people, but that wasn’t the case.  He can’t claim ignorance or the unknown.  He’s a young generation filled with hate for unknown and incomprehensible reasons.

But…

I do have hope.  

Not because I think Woolly Bully with change his ways.  Although, I pray for a soften heart, I’m not naive.  He thrives on rage, aggressiveness, and harshness.

No, I have hope because of the people in my life who have challenged me to embrace our differences; the people in my life who despite those differences decided to do life with me.  

My biggest challenger, arguer, and motivator is my dear friend Sherrita.  Through the years, we’ve chosen to be friends and we’ve chosen to challenge each other.  We’ve also chosen to appreciate each other’s culture.

Our first culture clash was over the age old argument…Is spaghetti a side dish?  I say no.  It fills me up and stands on its own.  Pasta that can potentially have meat on it has to be considered an entree.  Her response to that argument is always a shake of the head and a long explanation of how good it tastes with fried chicken…catfish…etc.  The debate continues to be ongoing.  I refuse to cave.  She refuses to cave.  We eventually conclude that in order for our friendship to survive, we are just going to have to agree to disagree.  She doesn’t roll her eyes if I invite her over for just spaghetti and I understand that if I plan her birthday dinner she will be expecting a side of spaghetti.

Fast forward a few years.  Our friendship has grown stronger.  Sherrita, and our dear friend Ramon, recruits me for a “Gospel Choir.” I put this in quotes because when I show up, it is actually a quartet.  That’s right.  Two boy and two girls, each with their own part they’re responsible for.  She would probably still argue that there’s not that big of a difference.  She’d be wrong.  What she didn’t anticipate is that we were trained very differently.  You see I was trained in a Chapel Choir.  That means Handel’s Messiah and you don’t breathe until you get to the end of a phrase.  She was trained in an Apostolic Gospel Choir, which means it is totally acceptable to breathe in the middle of a word if it makes it sound better.  Talk about culture clash!  Again, she would just shake her head and begin the explanation, while Ramon and Samson laughed in the background.

Throughout the years, our worldviews have expanded, we’ve tolerated the ignorance in one another, and we’ve challenged each other’s perspective.  She calls me her twin.  Her sisters are my sisters and she definitely lets Annie be the little sister.  My mom cherishes her as a daughter and proudly sat beside her parents at her wedding.  

So…although my heart is heavy, I look at the Gladneys and my precious sister Sherrita and I will choose to hope.  I may not be able to change the hearts of Woolly Bully.  I will continue to pray for his heart to soften and for him to gain understanding.  But, my hope stems from knowing that everyday I can choose to let people of different cultures in my life.  Everyday I can choose to appreciate those differences and learn from them.  

Everyday I can choose love instead of hate.

Compassion instead of injustice.

Knowledge instead of ignorance.  

 

Which will you choose? 

Jesus is a bad***!

Ok, so before you get offended, let me fill you in on what could be one of my grandest adventures I’ve had yet.  It may not be radical, or put me down as fearless.  It’s something people do every single day.  But, for me it was a significant moment in my life I can never take back.  

You see, this weekend, in celebration of my birthday, I went to get my first (maybe only) tattoo.  I know, not shocking. But, as I said earlier, it was significant because I wanted to document this turning point in my life.  

A few years ago, I had everything:  a great job, two homes, amazing friends, and all the “freedom” I could possibly want.  I looked great on paper.  I was excelling at my job, had completed a seminary degree, was able to travel where I wanted to…you get the picture.  Then one day in my reading I ran across a quote, “the only thing that allows evil to prosper, is for good men to do nothing (Burke).”  I skimmed over it initially, but it began churning in my head.  Then I ran across Proverbs 31:8-9, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

I began to process those two thoughts continuously.  I couldn’t get away from them.  I eventually resigned from my position without having any clear directions.  My only concern was to figure out why those two quotes were plaguing me.  What was the purpose?

I found myself back in Social Services, and after several jobs, at The Covering House.  It’s been a long journey, but that’s kind of what this whole blog is about!

So, this weekend I found myself setting across from Josh, which I can now say is my tattoo artist.  I called two friends, Tyler and Eric, for moral support, we loaded up the minivan (yep, you read that right), and we anxiously headed to the parlor.  

I had called ahead to discuss what I wanted and put a non-refundable, down payment down so I couldn’t back out.  I had two possibilities of tattoos and placement running through my head, which resulted in me standing with my hands on head for several minutes.  I finally settled on Proverbs 31:8-9 on top of my foot and was led to the tattoo table.

I quickly informed Josh that I talk a lot, especially when I’m nervous.  And, since I had chosen Eric and Tyler as my two sidekicks, I was going to talk even more, as a distraction, because there was no way I was going to let them see me flinch or cry.  Josh responded with, “you know the top of the foot is going to hurt.”  Well, yes Josh I had heard that before, but thanks for making it such a clear reality.

I forgave him.  Mainly because he let me chat away without judgment.  We (ok mainly I) talked about why I had chosen Proverbs 31, what my work at The Covering House looks like, and why I waited so long to get my first tattoo.

When I finished, he looked up at me and said, “do you feel like a bad-ass?”  I looked down at my foot and secretly I did.  I laughed and responded with, “Can you feel like a bad-ass when your tattoo is Proverbs?”  

Josh’s response startled me.  He replied, “Jesus was a bad-ass.”  Well, Josh you are absolutely right, so yes, I do indeed feel like a bad-ass.  And, I hope that every time I look at it, I’m reminded of that feeling and I use it to actually do what it says!

Image

***Remember, I was supported in this adventure with two guys.  Although they were great at mocking, scaring, and bantering with me, they weren’t so great at actually capturing the moment.  So, this is the best pic I have at the moment.

***Josh’s follow up question to the Jesus was a bad-ass comment was, “so when he said he was an alien, do you think he was an actual alien?”  

A Woman In This Society

A Woman In This Society

What does it mean to be a woman in our society? What do I wish it would be? Those two questions often have a very different response when asked. The responses are conflictive; they battle each other in our minds and our hearts causing distorted views.

When we add views and ideas on beauty, authenticity, and equality, we cause an unknown, internal confusion that can’t find a resolution until we’re honest with ourselves and others.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you about a group I did with the ladies I work with on their views on what society tells them about beauty, and maybe more to the point, who they should be. There were a few moments that were encouraging, but by the time we finished my mind was spiraling from the dialog we had just had.

I continue to be astounded by the views they had about our society and the expectations of beauty. However, while processing (over and over again) there was one conversation I couldn’t move past.

I made my own collage so the ladies could see what my expectations were (both my own and what other people inform me they should be). I tried to get my creative juices flowing. After one of the girls sketched the outline of my face, I began crafting what my perfect self would be.

I started with…

Clear the clutter. I desire to clear all the clutter out of my mind; my life. I want to purge everything unnecessary, unhealthy.

Followed closely by…

Passion and Intense. I want to find those things that move me to the point I can’t help but do something. I want to feel things so intensely and passionately that it becomes part of who I am.

Resilient. My hope is that I’m truly living. When you’re truly living, you get beat up! I want to be able to dig deep and continue to work, survive, and overcome.

Ideas and Discover. I want to continually come up with new ideas and possibilities. I want to search out the new, best thing and explore everything.

Will Travel. I want to experience new cultures, food, and places.

And…

I want to take risks in my choices, my relationships, my life. I want to stay away from the safe answers. I want to live outside of my comfort zone. I want to believe in people.

Despite what society tells me – We can fix you, you have to be perfect, be number 1 in everything, erase all signs of aging, and change anything that WE don’t like about you – I felt optimistic. I finished and thought I could inspire and empower these ladies to dream, but still find contentment with themselves.

After finishing I proudly displayed my creation. The ladies looked at it and then one of them made a comment that startled me back to reality. She looked calmly at me and said, “I love what you want to be, but you’re the only woman I know that won’t settle for being less than that. Most women say it, but they give in.” I was immediately saddened. My thought went automatically went to, “where are all the strong, empowering women at.” As I’ve been processing, though, I also go to how often do I give in to “being less than” what I could be.

So often, I get frustrated with the insecurity and passiveness around me, but I sometimes forget I have the potential to empower when I desire to. When I step out, it can encourage and give permission for others to follow.

This week I finished my collage with a comment at the bottom of it…

“Hoping for a more beautiful tomorrow.”

The whole story

A good friend of mine recently posted about judgment. It’s something I have been acutely aware of in my own lives, as well as what is going on around me. Recently, I was attending a zoning meeting about getting a home for girls who have experienced sexual trauma and the opposition was concerned about “damaged goods” coming into the community. My face turned red, I sat up in my seat, I was boiling. The lack of understanding and empathy was appalling. It made me start looking at my own life and areas where I lacked it; where I judged others. We are so quick to view others from our own lens, because it’s fast and easy, and well arrogant. What would happen if we took some time to see life from their perspective? Would our views change? Would we have more depth to our relationships? Woud we stop judging and start loving?

So you can come along

Judgement.

This word alone is more loaded than any blog post can explain.

Let’s start with the feeling it evokes when spoken, heard, read…

It’s a sinking feeling.

The very thought of being judged, or the realization that we so often judge others – it hurts.

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“She has an amazing family. That’s got to be so nice.”

What nobody sees are the nights when she woke up to the sound of yet another argument. The nights when she heard her door open and there stood the younger brother in his P.J.’s asking for “a story.” On those nights, she read him “Berenstain Bears” to drown out the voices of anger and unresolved hurt. And no one knows about that one night, when a dead cell phone was charging, a voicemail was left by a sister saying goodbye. She was 16. They might see the “amazing family”, but they don’t…

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