A Few Songs

As a preface, I don’t know a ton of Christian music and it’s because I’m super purposeful about when and where I listen to it. I don’t like it as background music because I don’t want to become desensitized to the meaning of what is being said or what I am saying to God. That’s certainly not how everyone encounters music; it’s just the way I am around this type of music. That means that a lot of my music comes from recommendations or worship experiences.  Here’s a few that are really resonating with me in my times of prayer and worship:

Even When It Hurts (Praise Song) Live – Hillsong UNITED

I know there’s abundance happening in a lot of spaces in my life and so it might seem like a contradiction but this song? It feels like it’s been the song of my heart the last few months.

No Longer Slaves // Jonathan David & Melissa Helser // We Will Not Be Shaken Official Lyric Video

I love so much of this, but one of my favorite lines is, “You split the sea so I could walk right through it, my fears were drowned in  perfect love; You rescued me so I could stand and sing, ‘I am a child of God…'”

Pieces (Official Lyric Video) // Brave New World // Amanda Cook

“It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed, You’re love is proud to be seen with me. You don’t give your heart in pieces, You don’t hide yourself to tease us. Uncontrolled, uncontained, Your love is a fire burning bright for me…”

 

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Blessings From Woman Camp

This past weekend at Woman Camp I realized I got to live out “The Great Commission” through my friendship with a woman who was the first person that I purposefully discipled and then was able to baptize. Over our time together I’ve watched her transform, taking steps of faith that deepen her relationship with God and inspire others to do the same. Now she disciples others too, and our friendship fills my heart with joy.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20

Sunday morning at camp, I went to the lake early to clear my mind and fill myself with His Spirit. To pray that He use this experience to speak into her heart about His relationship with her and who He is. Women began to gather for baptisms and we eventually found each other. Before we stepped into the water, three of us laid hands on her and prayed for her. As we stepped into the lake the sun was bright and reflecting off of the water. We were surrounded by the colors of fall in the trees and a bright blue sky dotted with clouds. All around us were the voices of hundreds and hundreds of women singing their worship to God; praising Him and celebrating her baptism.

I was stunned by the sensory experience of it all. I wanted to look at her and Laura (the other friend baptizing her) and encourage them to feel God’s presence in the moment, although I’m sure they did. I was overpowered. I forgot the words (and was reminded). And so we baptized her, immersing her fully in the pond. Afterwards, around the fire people hugged her and encouraged her and I felt like I should tell her anointed. I felt like it had to be tied to a verse so when I got home I sent her the verse I found that resonated most with what I was feeling in that moment:

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

There were many other blessings that came out my time at Woman Camp but I wanted to write this one down. This journey with her was scary at times, it was a major investment that required sacrifice and sometimes made me question if I was capable of what was being asked of me. But my relationship with God grew from my relationship with her and I am so excited at the number of people I know who will be impacted by her testimony and discipleship.

 

The Living Death of Solitary Confinement

I don’t have much to add to this article except that I really think everyone should read it; know what the effects of this type of treatment are and it’s long term impact. Consider the number of people it is used on each year and the reasons for which it is used (like a meal tray not being turned in). Does this sound like justice to you? Are we equipping people to re-enter society?

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/the-living-death-of-solitary-confinement/?_r=0

Why Care About Prisoners?

My heart is sad that I can’t rally more people to go run at LeCI.  There’s only 20-25 spots and we can’t even fill those between the class and all the people we’ve asked and yet…

The men? They’re apparently SUPER excited. They train for this and talk about it, plan for it. These are guys who run in boots and shoes with holes in them on a track that hasn’t been repaired in years and it is a healing process for them, as is visitors who want to run alongside them. Compete. Discuss the race afterwards. They’re looking forward to people visiting who aren’t just there to do a Bible Study but who actually want to share a little bit of life with them.

Should we care about that though? I mean, don’t they DESERVE to be where they are? Well… I’ll have papers coming down the line, I’m sure, that will look into the justice of the justice system but I do know that community is necessary for the health of every person, and when they re-enter society I certainly want them to be healthy. I don’t want this system to strip their humanity, their personhood, their life from them.

When one in four prisoners in the entire world exists in our country, we need to ask ourselves if we should start doing a better job of rehabilitating people in that system or continue with the punitive measures that keep the numbers of incarcerated individuals climbing. Below is a fantastic article written by a runner who went and ran inside one of these prisons.

http://rw.runnersworld.com/selects/the-wall.html

Reflection Paper: Ableism

It is estimated that 15 percent of any given population has disabilities that are visible, and that percentage would climb if we were to include things that are invisible to the eye, such as mental illness. (Tataryn, 18) Yet does such a large percentage of the population get to participate fully in the society in which it finds itself? Furthermore, does the society to which these individuals belong find themselves able to benefit from what these people have to offer? When people with impairments aren’t able to participate fully in the society to which they belong they are existing in a space where ableism is defining how they are perceived and treated.

“’Ableism’ names a subtle and pervasive bias that assumes nondisabled people…are ‘normal’ and that people with disabilities represent an undesirable deviation from this norm. The disability is seen as a personal dilemma to be privately endured and we’ve placed the responsibility to adapt on the individual with the disability.” (Kujawa-Holbrook, 211) Ableism is able to seen in all sectors of society. As an example, the church I attend just announced that a sign language interpreter would now be available for the hearing impaired during one of their five services. While this is certainly a step forward, it puts a constraint on when hearing-impaired people can attend service and groups them all together, effectively segregating them from the rest of the congregation. Many of the videos posted to media by my church also do not have subtitles, so it can be challenging for a person with that kind of impairment to feel truly connected to the community.

Publicly we face many ableism challenges, particularly in Cincinnati. Often aisles and entryways are not spaced appropriately for people in wheelchairs and in downtown areas they sometimes don’t have curb cuts or ramps. Additionally, entry into buildings or the use of a bathroom is often not possible because of the older buildings and lack of updates. Usually if my family is going out, we go someplace familiar or check out the location beforehand in order to confirm it is actually wheelchair accessible. This is true of many social gathering spaces, although the growing occurrence of family restrooms is very helpful and accommodating. However, when it comes to swimming pools or entertainment parks the options can be very limiting with no way to gain access to many of the rides or amusements.

Even in politics, the issues of disability are not often discussed unless it is in relation to the elderly or soldiers. That ties it even more to the idea, as the book mentions, that “disability” is a matter of tragedy rather than circumstance. Perhaps the reason it is so little discussed is because of the challenges faced in voting. Where many without impairments complain of the difficulty of voting, the impossibility for some to potentially obtain transportation, wait in line and navigate the voting booth can be a challenge. If they have a home, they can certainly write-in, but many who are disabled by our society find themselves homeless and therefore struggle to have a political voice.

When we look at theology, it is most certainly influenced by the perspective one has biblically. Does one view God as a Creator who spoke diversity into existence and continued to create and inspire diversity in His creations, as he did when He created humankind or told Noah to preserve the diverse life He had created through the Ark? Or does their view of God tie sin to differences between people and ignore that Jesus chooses to hang out with those who the Pharisees called “unclean” over those who were “pure?” Jesus demonstrates clearly that even those whose impairments were linked to their own personal sin were not made any less human because of it or any less worthy of His love and community. Furthermore, as a community, we are called to be one another’s burden bearers in Galatians 6:2.

But the attitude we more often hear says that a person’s life choices caused them to be in the situation in which they find themselves, supporting an ableist perspective. This could be things that people sometimes attribute to character flaws instead of illness or social injustice: addiction, prison sentences for past mistakes, diabetes or an eating disorder. But even if that were the case, it doesn’t change the fact that they are as much human as you or I and equally deserving of our love and companionship. When our ministry doesn’t resemble the ministry of Christ in the way that He dined, preached and lived alongside ALL in his community, we are allowing the paradigm of ableism to carry social injustice into our ministry and potentially nullify it.

 

Works Cited

Kujawa-Holbrook, Sheryl (Ed.) & Montagno, Karen (Ed.). Injustice and the Care of Souls: Taking Oppression Seriously in Pastoral Care. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009. Print.

Tataryn, Myroslaw & Truchan-Tataryn. Discovering Trinity in Disability: A Theology for Embracing Difference. United States of America: Novalis Publishing, 2013. Print.

Confessions and Testimony

There’s a tendency in Christian communities to sometimes hide your “dirt,” things that potentially place shame or accusation over your identity. Perhaps it is concern over the judgement of Man, fear that these people in our community who should embrace and love us for where we are will instead judge us for who we were or what we’ve done. But this is not our identity, and it is not the way we were intended to relate to one another. In fact, our “dirt” is where we bring freedom to one another; freedom from lies and invitation into a deeper relationship with our community and God.

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

And so it is not our wisdom but our foolishness that God teaches through; He shows up again and again not through our strengths but the places where we were weak. When God restores us from a place where we feel lowly and despised, who are we left to boast in but the Lord? We did not restore ourselves but were restored by God, from whom stems our righteousness, holiness and redemption. We cannot point to ourselves but only to God. Is this not the best testimony for our Father?

What better way to show that God is alive and moving in this world, through His people, than through the testimony of true redemption? So it is our dirt that is a critical part of our story, the story we must share, because it is there that God plants His seed and reclaims it for His own.  This doesn’t mean it is effortless on our part; no. Love, faith, hope: actionable things that transform life through the power of God. But in every place where I once felt shame, where I once felt a fear of judgement or accusation I see God transforming it into testimony to His power. What can I do but boast in the Lord when he takes my darkness and turns it into light? What else can I do when He takes my faithlessness and turns it into faithfulness?

My friends: Your dirt, your testimony. These are love notes to a King who served you. These are ballads of praise to a Savior who redeems you. These are tools in an effort to show the sacrificial love to others that our God, in His grace, has shown to you.

Impairments vs. Disability

“Perceiving disability through a social model rather than through the medical paradigm that has  dominated Western psyche for generations now is an essential step towards recognizing our bodily variations and limitations as an integral aspect of our humanity.” Pg. 22, Discovering Trinity in Disability

The medical model, one could argue, looks at us and tells us where we fall short from the “norm.” Based on a collection of facts, you receive a label and a method of treatment. But the social model of disability says that people may be born or develop impairments, but that disability is caused by the way society is organized. It looks at how we can structure our society inclusively so that we as a society may benefit from their full participation and they, the individual, are not excluded, discriminated against or made to feel less than because of how they are formed.

“In Western culture, we are so accustomed to equating disability with tragedy and suffering that it takes some effort to get our heads around the notion of disability as simply a way of being. Stigmatizing unconventional bodily variety as defect, rather than accommodating and honouring particular ways of being, can disable people as much or more than an impairment.” Pg. 26, Discovering Trinity in Disability

It is the assumptions we make about people and the ways we isolate them that often are the most wounding, I’ve found. We are all people who have things to offer one another. I remember I went to meet a man who had limited use of his arms but because of a spinal cord injury, he was bed ridden. That day, his nurse didn’t show up to care for him. My father and I were going to take him out but nobody had gotten him ready. After a bit of conversation I realized there would be no meal for him so I suggested my dad and I go and pick up whatever food he wanted; we could eat with him and he could talk to me afterwards. We made sure he was set-up well, I asked what he needed so he could eat, and he told me about his life, his relationship with God and what he was doing with where he was. He was a passionate man sharing the word of God with people through e-mails, texts and conversation. He thanked God that He sent us to care for him today when his nurse was unable to but I was the one being blessed through relationship with this man.

We watched a video in class where a woman talked about spending hours in the park building up the courage to go in a coffee shop in her wheelchair to get coffee alone. She would either have to make people uncomfortable by carrying the cup with her mouth or people would need to assist her by carrying her order to the table. This broke my heart. I remember how isolated I saw my mom becoming and I didn’t want her to be excluded from society; my mother has so much to offer. She’s an extraordinary woman gifted with so many talents who continues to be a blessing to our family and makes sure her and dad’s business operates well. Why should she feel marginalized or less than? Why is she excluded from so many things in society? And why do people not see what a great loss it is to them to not know her?