racial reconciliation

4 Books You'll Love

I shared a list like this at the beginning of 2016, and it was fun.  When things are fun, sometimes you do them again.

The hero of this list is the Amarillo Public Library.  Of my four books, 3 of them were checked out from that wonderful place.  In fact, of the 54 books I read last year, 30 of them were loaned to me, physically or virtually, from the best-we-spend-taxpayer-money-on-in-my-opinion, the public library!

I said virtually in that sentence because, miracle of all technological miracles, I can check out e-books AND audio books on my iPhone.  Thank you Uncle Sam AND Steve Jobs!

The other hero of this list is the webpage Goodreads.  I love my little Goodreads app where I can keep track of what I read, because I know I wouldn't have remember all 54 of those books.  It helped tremendously in making this list.

I love me some goals, and Goodreads has an annual reading challenge.  Last year I set my sights on the goal of reading 52 books, and I crushed reading in December and surpassed my goal by 2.  Go me!

Here's 4 books that really got me in the gut, mind, or heart.  These books changed me a little, and I think they are well worth your time.

1.  Unashamed by Lecrae

 

I was touched by Lecrae sharing the truth about his childhood. I've been working in inner-city ministry for about 20 years. When you've had a middle class upbringing, you might read Lecrae's story and assume that he is the exception or unique. I think most of the kids I've encountered in our ministry would relate to Lecrae's early years, the physical abuse, the sexual abuse, being handed off to grandparents for months, the hurt of being fatherless, and/or the pressure to find your place in a violent culture. There are kids just like Lecrae in your cities and towns, with just as much potential!

I also admired Lecrae's honesty about his early Christian years, becoming very legalistic. I recognize myself in that struggle. It just took me longer to figure out I couldn't be good enough, because I am such a good girl. 

I had made the same mistake a lot of Christians make: I saw my connection with God as a contractual relationship, rather than a covenantal relationship. All contracts have terms, but covenants don’t. They last forever. In a contractual relationship, you’re always worried about breaking the rules. In a covenantal relationship, you’re only concerned with loving the other party as much as you can.
— Lecrae Moore, Unashamed

I think the reason Lecrae has found an audience is because we all feel like an anomaly, we all don't fit in on this Earth. I look forward to Heaven, when we will all be fully ourselves and fully the Bride of Christ. On that day, I'll be happy to stand beside brothers like Lecrae as well as brothers and sisters from every nation and worship The Lord as one. Until then, we can learn so much from audio-biographies like this one that help us understand cultures different from our own. If you had a childhood similar to Lecrae, this story can help you process your own grief, but if you didn't it can bring you understanding. Either way, this book can lead us to be a better version of His Church while we are here on Earth.

2.  Falling Free by Shannan Martin

 

I thought I knew what to expect from this book because I had read quite a bit of Shannan's blog and listened to interviews from Shannan, but this book surprised me in all the best ways.  I didn't expect to be so challenged.  I had to rethink some ideas that I thought I had already pushed so close to Jesus, they had to be right.  Shannan's stories draw me even closer to that every pressing goal of thinking, talking, acting, and living more Christlike.  She shows the grey, the not easy, in the pressing on and pressing in.  All of this idea-wrestling is done with lovely, kind, poetic, beautiful words. Her book is a friend that isn't afraid of the hard days.

Shannan's writing is relatable, kind, interesting, inspiring, and down-right challenging.  If you read it, like I did, I know you will love it.  My copy is getting a good re-read, as currently I am going through this book with a group of ladies who are meeting monthly to discuss it.  In re-reading this, the Lord has already used Shannan's words to push me farther into freedom and trusting Him.  

The chapter that has really was a lifeline for me during this crazy time of trying to climb the mountain of international adoption is chapter four, Unplan.  Listen to this quote.

He (God) chooses discomfort, challenges common sense, and promises pain in exchange for our very lives and all they harbor - our dollars, our hours, our homes, our families, our closely held dreams of a rosy future. This is the God we say we love. This is the God we signed up for. He kept nothing from us, made no false claims, hid zero agendas, and we said yes. We said we wanted the life he had to offer, and that we would follow wherever he led in order to find it. And yet we often feel all baited-and-switched when those dusty roads don’t lead us back to ourselves as planned.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

Yep.  That's truth right there.  And thank the Lord that he doesn't just lead me back to myself.  I would make an awful, horrible, no-good god.

3.  The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

 

This book pushed me WAY out of my comfort zone, but I will never look at this country of ours the same again.  I thought the constitution protected our citizens.  Now I know it doesn't.  I know that sounds dramatic, but there is great misuse of the 4th amendment and abuse of the 13th amendment in our country right now.

I think stories speak louder than political debates, so I will share this quote with you.  It is a long one.

Imagine you are Emma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne, Texas. All but one of the people arrested were African American. You are innocent. After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation. You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence. Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs. You are also now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken from you and put into foster care. A judge eventually dismisses all cases against the defendants who did not plead guilty. At trial, the judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still a drug felon, homeless, and desperate to regain custody of your children. Now place yourself in the shoes of Cliffard Runoalds, another African-American victim of the Hearne drug bust. You returned home to Bryan, Texas, to attend the funeral of your eighteen-month-old daughter. Before the funeral services begin, the police show up and handcuff you. You beg the officers to let you take one last look at your daughter before she is buried. The police refuse. You are told by prosecutors that you are needed to testify against one of the defendants in a recent drug bust. You deny witnessing any drug transaction; you don’t know what they are talking about. Because of your refusal to cooperate, you are indicted on felony charges. After a month of being held in jail, the charges against you are dropped. You are technically free, but as a result of your arrest and period of incarceration, you lose your job, your apartment, your furniture, and your car. Not to mention the chance to say good-bye to your baby girl. This is the War on Drugs. The brutal stories described above are not isolated incidents, nor are the racial identities of Emma Faye Stewart and Clifford Runoalds random or accidental. In every state across our nation, African Americans - particularly in the poorest neighborhoods - are subjected to tactics and practices that would result in public outrage and scandal if committed in middle-class white neighborhoods.
— Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

If these heartbreaking injustices don't hit close enough to home, I was not surprised to see that the Tulia drug bust debacle was mentioned on the first few pages of The New Jim Crow.

I know the idea that our wonderful, glorious country could have such a huge flaw in our justice system is extremely uncomfortable.  I know as a white girl, I have the luxury of ignoring the problem or believing the criminalization of people with brown skin is warranted by bad decisions and actual criminal activity.  It isn't always true.

I pray that our justice system becomes more just.  I pray we all will get past our preconceived ideas and just try to understand the ideas in this book. 

4.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

 

Ok.  That last book was intense.  Here's some fun, easy, enjoyable fiction.  I had way too much fun reading this.  I especially loved that the author cashed in on the nordic obsession starting to find its way into our culture (Ikea, hygee, biking, danish food becoming more mainstream.)

To be honest, this wasn't the best fiction book I read last year, but it was the most fun.  Sometimes when the world is a little dark, fun is just what we need.

I love ports. I love the smell of tar and sea air, and the scream of the gulls. Maybe it’s years of taking the ferry to France for summer holidays, but a harbor gives me a feeling of freedom in a way that an airport never does. Airports say work and security checks and delays. Ports say... I don’t know. Something completely different. Escape, maybe.
— Ruth Ware, The Woman in Cabin 10

I hope you found a book you want to add to your "to-read" list from my list.

If not, I'm on Goodreads updating what I'm reading all year long.  I'd love for you to be my friend on Goodreads.  Click here to view my profile, and click "add as a friend."


My favorite band had just released a new album when I did my "4 Books I Loved in 2015," and now one year later, they have another new album.  It feels like the happiest of accidents or just a mid-level band with incredible work ethic.

Church, Balk about Bannon

Saturday night, I read that president-elect Donald Trump was considering naming Steve Bannon his chief of staff, and I wrote emails and tweets to Trump, Pence, and Paul Ryan voicing my disapproval of this possible choice.

Why did I care?

Steve Bannon has been strongly linked to the alt-right group, which is just a coded name for white supremacy.  (The fact that white supremacy is being veiled and normalized is just one problem I have with the media coverage of this story.)

Sunday afternoon it was reported that Trump named Reince Priebus his chief of staff, but Trump named Steve Bannon his senior counselor and chief West Wing strategist.  It is telling that Bannon's name was listed first, top billing, in the official announcement from Trump's transition team, above chief of staff.

I believe Trump was sending a message to his other appointments to defend Bannon.  He's at the top.  Fall in line.

I also wonder if Trump isn't throwing this out there to see what sticks.  Are the Christians who turned out in big numbers to vote for him going to balk?

Church, we need to balk!

There isn't some video of Bannon admitting to believing alt-right, white supremacist views I could show you.  He is too smart for that.  He wouldn't have a promised job at the White House if he admitted such views publicly.

Just because there is not one single, infallible piece of evidence against Bannon does not mean he is fit for this appointment.

I will tell you the exact moment in my mind that Steve Bannon became unfit to serve as a staff member of the West Wing; it was 14 days after the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015.

Watching the news coverage of that shooting was as traumatic and heartbreaking as any other terrorist attack I've lived to see covered on television.

It was personal.

I spend more days in a church than I spend away from the church.  I even lived in our church building when we were first married and planting our church downtown.  During worship on Sunday mornings, I look out at a sea of faces that are all shades of brown and pink.  If there is anywhere I long to be most free from the fear of shootings, it is when I am with my body of Christ that I love dearly.

That church shooting was completely heartbreaking for all Christians, not just for African-Americans.

Steve Bannon ran the "news" site Breitbart from 2012 to 2016, and just 14 days after the church shooting he ran the headline, "Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage."

You can feel any way you want about The Confederate flag, but this headline was run during a time when the news was still full of photos of the shooter Dylann Roof squatting in his backyard holding a Confederate flag.

It was despicable, and it isn't the only disgusting headline Breitbart has published; hateful is their specialty.

Non-white Christians feel hurt that 4 out of 5 white Christians voted for Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon is one big reason for that hurt.

I didn't cry whenever Trump got elected.  I tell you when I cried.  I cried on Wednesday night when I was driving to the gym after reading a Facebook post from a Latino missionary we support financially and through prayer.  He posted that he was hurt that his Christian friends had not only voted for Trump but were on Facebook gloating and celebrating that Trump had won.

This is a missionary that I have shared meals and prayers with.  He moved his family of three to a third-world country to work with people who identify with a different religion than Christianity, a dangerous assignment.

I mourn with my brother in Christ.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
— John 13:35 ESV

White Christians, we "held our nose" and elected Trump.  We have a responsibility to speak out about actions that go against our beliefs.

Do I even have to say that white supremacy goes against our Christian beliefs?

I have 613 Facebook friends, friends who are almost 100% Christian, and only 4 of my friends responded to my pleas to contact their representatives about Bannon's appointment to the president-elect's White House staff.  I've had friends and family tell me be careful where I get my news from.  I had one of the members of Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board email me back to tell me that I need to stop listening to liberal media.  That email was crushing because of the 27 names on his advisory board, he was the one I respected the most.

I understand how much of the media's trust has eroded over decades of skewed reporting and assaults on Christian values.  That is why I am not asking you to believe anything that is being said about Steve Bannon by the liberal media.  Judge him by his hateful words and shameful reporting as head of Breitbart.  Or if you are willing, listen to Glenn Beck's opinion of Bannon.

Christians have done a good job the last 8 years praying for our president, praying for our country, being aware of what is going on, and holding people in government accountable.  We cannot quit this oversight just because a Republican is in the White House.

Donald Trump has made this staff appointment to see how the Christians who turned out to vote for him will respond to it.  Are we just going to fall in line or are we going to refuse to sit quietly by as Bannon takes this job in our capital?  We have to make it heard that we will not allow someone to work in the West Wing advising our president that has spent the last 5 years peddling hate.

Please contact president-elect Donald Trump, vice-president-elect Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, and your state's two senators.

A quick phone call has the biggest impact.  Few people take the time to call, so it holds more weight than an email or a tweet.  So far, I found calling to be very quick and easy.  Most offices have an automated answering machine that allows you to leave your opinion on any issue and have your voice heard.

Church, let's pick up our phones and balk.

Here are the numbers you can call:

  • Donald Trump (646) 736-1779 (Note:  the ability to leave messages has been disabled.  This is not ok because it sends the message that the president-elect does not want to hear from his constituents.  You have to email info@donaldtrump.com.)
 
  • Mike Pence (317) 232-4567  (FYI, a real person answered when I called.)
 
  • Paul Ryan (202) 225-0600 

If you live in Texas, you can contact the following senators.  If you live in a different state, you can find your senator's info here.

  • Ted Cruz 202-224-5922
 
  • John Cornyn 202-224-2934

Just a few moments on the phone could change the way our country is run the next 4 or 8 years.

 

 

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:2 ESV

Intentionality and our adoption

God called us to adoption from Africa in 2013.  It wasn’t immediately that I realized that I what having a child with black skin would mean or everything I would have to think through.  I don’t think figuring out how race will affect my child’s life will ever end for me.  It is a complicated, heartfelt issue that is constantly evolving in our culture and in my brain.

Our adoption agency helped us to begin thinking through a few interracial adoption issues by requiring us to read books on the subject and asking thought provoking questions on our home study paperwork.  Here are a few of those questions.

What cultures do you feel you have knowledge about?

What are some events you could participate in as a transracial family?

How diverse is your neighborhood, church, family, and friends?

How will you answer questions about adopting a child from another race? What about questions from your child?

Since first answering these questions 2 years ago, I begin to think about how to make our life circumstances fit better answers to these questions.  Our church is diverse.  Our family is somewhat diverse.  Family doesn’t change often.  

I realized I have control over three things: my knowledge about cultures, how diverse my friends are, and how diverse my neighborhood is.

I have always been naturally interested in learning about foreign cultures.  I didn’t know God put that desire in me because some day it would be important to my family.  Now I know, and I have soaked in cultural information with a new purpose.

I have also been intentional about making friends.  Just like when I decided to home school our children and was intentional about making home school friends for my children’s benefit, I have been intentional about making friends who have adopted internationally and friends who have transracial families.  I know it is a beautiful thing to have a more diverse group of friends, and I take joy in it.

We also were intentional about where we lived.  When I filled out that survey 2 years ago, we lived in CityView (a brand new housing development.)  We had moved to a newly constructed house when we had a newborn baby, because we wanted to never fix anything on a house again because it was taking away from precious sleep time.  Sleep was what I wanted to be intentional about.  Can I get an amen from a momma with a baby?

Looking at our neighbors, there wasn’t very much diversity at all.  I wanted that to change.  When we found our house, I loved that their was diversity among our neighbors.

I was also happy when I realized that our house was only a few blocks from the most diverse high school in our city.  I knew God was leading us to have our daughter attend that high school.  We are now very close to having her first year of public high school complete, and I know it has been the right decision.

This blog post has been difficult to write, not because I don’t want to share, but because, gosh, I’m afraid I say something wrong or offensive.  It is easy to do when race is the issue.

I have not meet my child yet, but my heart is full of love for my son with a beautiful Ethiopian culture.  I want the best for him, just like I want the best for all my children.  If living intentionally makes his life slightly easier or slightly better, I’ll do it.

The truth is God has blessed me with every choice.  I love my house.  I love my neighborhood.  I love my daughter’s school situation.  I love my friends, new and old.  I love learning about Ethiopia and traveling to Ethiopia.  I love being more tuned into race issues.  I love being involved in orphan ministry.  I love being more dependent on God.  And I love that my faith has grown because of this adoption.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” That’s code for want what God wants, and you will get what you want.  In my life, I have found that to be true.

Not everyone who is reading this is called to international adoption.  You may never be asked any of those interracial questions.  I wonder, is there something you have to face intentionally in your life?  Please comment, and let me know.

Everyone loves new.  I love how nostalgic this song sounds while it's talking about being new.  Sounds like it maybe could have been written by Buddy Holly or Bill Withers.  I have to say though, his girlfriend isn't that pretty.  I guess everyone wants to live where the buffalos roam.