Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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The Ministry of Reconciliation

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 6.26.59 AM

I was excited to visit the MLK Memorial in DC last fall.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, particularly the part about God giving us the “ministry of reconciliation.” To me, that is central to the work of social justice. It is a mantle I have taken up, and carry with me. And it is what comforts me when I’m weary of how people have harmed each other over and over again, but feel the need to take a step forward anyway.

I once heard someone define justice as “God’s way of putting things right,” and I liked that. It makes the word both a noun and a verb, and I believe that’s how we need to treat it to make any real progress.

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)

These verses have rung loudly in my ears the past few days as we heard yet again about the tragic shooting of two African American men, compiled with the devastating addition of the attack on police officers in Dallas. Both are heartbreaking situations that never should have happened. But the question remains, what are we going to do about it?

I honestly think many people just don’t know what to do. It’s not that they don’t care, but they feel stuck in their response. Or maybe they feel conflicted in what to say, or how to react, or where to turn, or simply how not to offend. I’ve felt some of that myself, and I address it a bit here in this guest blog post.

So, if you can relate, I’d like to provide you with just a few resources that I hope will be helpful.

  • The first, of course and as always, is to pray. My friend Latasha started a terrific organization called Be The Bridge, which promotes racial unity and reconciliation through conversations and the Church. I suggest looking through her resources and site. But her first piece of advice for anyone is to pray. Pray for the situation. Pray for your personal response. Most of us live in our own bubbles, complete with people who look and think like us. So, pray for opportunities to make new friends or have these conversations with old friends. I think these are requests God would love to honor.
  • Another thing Latasha suggests is reading books by people who look and think different than you. Additionally, follow these kinds of people on social media, or go to the places they hang out.
  • Continuing along these lines, here is a fantastic conversation by Latasha and IF:Gathering founder, Jennie Allen, that took place on Friday. I highly recommend this 45-minutes as its just an honest sit-down between two friends.
  • This is a great article by Relevant Magazine for understanding the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
  • Check out this article by Kristen Howerton, who is white, which explains the concept of “white privilege.”
  • There are also many terrific books and movies as well. Two books I’ve read in the last year are The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. And I gotta say, the latter is one of the hardest and most beautiful books I’ve ever read. As far as movies, there are well-known ones like Life is Beautiful and American History X. Here are a bunch more, and it wouldn’t take much research to find others, or you can ask me for more. I have lots to catch up on in this area too, and have books piling up in my Audible Wish List.
  • Pardon the bleeping, but this The Daily Show clip does make some good points while also bringing some humor to the situation. It’s always good to infuse some humor when you can.

There are lots and lots more, but if you need a starting place, hopefully this will provide you with one.

But here’s your disclaimer: I’m telling you now that this can be a messy process. I know that sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re getting outside your comfort zone, which you should in many aspects of life, just remind yourself that you’re doing it to become a better person and more educated. Most often, the people who don’t look like you will be really grateful that you’re making an effort to see life through their lens. And grace will be extended on both sides. Just make a new friend. You’ve done that before. You don’t have initially start with a race conversation. In fact, they might appreciate that too. 🙂

Sadly, I have seen bigotry in action. I have witnessed an actual segregated community south of Atlanta, complete with the literal “other side of the tracks.” I have heard friend’s stories of how they were discriminated against. And even if you missed these things, you’ve probably heard jokes that come at someone else’s expense. We cannot keep pretending these are ok. We cannot keep silent. This kind of harmful thinking often starts in small ways. And therefore, small actions can create change.

When you know these people, not just know of them, you should want to fight for them.

It’s hard work. It’s ugly work. It’s messy work. But it work that matters. And if you follow Christ, you have also been given the ministry of reconciliation. So, what are you going to do about it?

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail 


UPDATE on 7/12/16

I’ve also just watched these two online sermons from this past Sunday, and they’re additional great examples to watch about how the Church can address the issue.

North Point Community Church

The Potter’s House

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First Visit: Center for Civil and Human Rights

photo 2Yesterday my friend Emily and I visited the new Center for Civil and Human Rights here in Atlanta. It just opened last month, so we were pretty excited to see it for the first time.

The second floor is about the Civil Rights movement here in the US. They have managed to include some good interactive portions so it’s not solely standing and reading. The most memorable part, to me, was the lunch counter demonstration. You sit at a lunch counter with a screen in front of you full of images from the era of inside sit-in protests and the reactions to them. But then you also put head phones on, close your eyes and place your hands on the counter. As you do, sound begins to feel your ears. It puts you in the place of the demonstrators. You hear people mocking you, yelling at you and even whispering in your ear. It’s eery how real the whispering feels, like it’s on your own neck and right next to you. My eyes, and so many others I saw, were filled with tears as I stood up, with a little better understanding of what that reality was like. Of course, there is also an emphasis on Atlanta and Georgia. The local info was really interesting, as I wasn’t that aware of how things played out here in Atlanta. While there was tension, as there was everywhere in the South, it remained well, more civil. It was, in fact, a stark contrast to the horrible things you heard from so many other areas in the region like Alabama and Mississippi. It really set the tone for Atlanta to become a more modern and progressive city. Martin Luther King, Jr. and numerous other activists and organizations were located here, but I never thought about the demonstrations, bus rides and the like happening in other cities and states because they weren’t needed as much in Atlanta. We even heard a older black woman sharing her personal experiences of growing up in the South and the things she faced with a few others. If it hadn’t looked odd, I think we would’ve both just followed her around the whole place!

Almost the entire third floor was reserved for Human Rights. It had some really cool interactive elements, including mirrored holograms when you walk in. You scroll through different types (Christian, Muslim, Blogger, Activist, Gay, Woman, Child, etc.), press one, and then hear personal stories of people who have photo 1had their rights violated all over the world. These are not the people who have books written about them, but are just as important. Their stories matter. There is also an Offenders and Defenders wall where you can see the heroes and villains of human rights. It was heartbreaking to see the number of lives represented in the Offenders section—millions and millions of people over the last century. But just as inspiring on the other side of the wall to see how many people’s lives were made better by the Defenders. After that, there was also a section on supply chain, showing you how your everyday purchases can help and hurt others. I’m really glad they included this part as it shows everyone’s involvement at an individual level and what to do about it. It doesn’t matter if you care about these issues or not, you still play a role in them. At the back of the main room, there is also a political freedom map which shows you countries where people are free, partly free or not free. There are also smaller exhibits on the role of technology and media, and touch screens where you can learn more about specific issues that are important to you. I also really liked that they told you ways to get involved in issues with the amount of time you have available.

The first floor, which we only really discovered as we were bout to leave because you actually enter the building on the second floor, was a MLK photography exhibit. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and were unable to see it. But we’re both looking forward to returning soon! I think this floor will have rotating exhibits.

My favorite part of the visit, I think, was watching a father escort his two elementary-aged sons through the center. He stopped and told them, in their language, what things meant and how important it is for them to know. It was the sweetest, most encouraging thing. After all, what good am I to this movement if I never share it with anyone else? Maybe the most impact I’ll have on these issues is telling someone about it with a greater capacity than myself to do something that creates change.

I love that this center is open and here where I live. If you are in the Atlanta area, be sure to stop by and bring others with you. If not, plan on making a trip. (For those of you with families, it’s literally beside the Aquarium and World of Coke.) It was encouraging to see the place crawling with people, young and old, with many colors and backgrounds. The website says an average visit is 75 minutes, but if you are truly interested in these subjects, plan on much longer. We were there three hours, and could’ve easily spent another!

Unlike many museums I visit, I think I would’ve been happy to sit at the door all day and just ask everyone who entered why they were there. There would have surely been some fascinating stories!

I also felt a strange sense of connection to everyone around me. It was a place of like-minded people. We were there because we believe in the mission. We were drawn there because people matter. I don’t think we gathered there because of any particular names on the walls, but because those walls were needed. We mourned, we celebrated and we were changed.