No to Barbie Doll Jesus

My little girl liked Barbie dolls. A lot of children, and even adults, like them. Since 1959, there have been billions of these dolls sold. There have been Barbies of every type, from Malibu Barbie and Cat Burglar Barbie, to Princess Barbie and Star Trek Barbies. When it comes to dolls, it’s nice to have variety. But, when we’re talking about Jesus, the savior of humanity who died on a cross to save people from their sins — there is only one. At least only one that is real.

Most people who are Christians agree that there is one Jesus written about in the New Testament of the Bible. They believe he was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, that he had 12 disciples, did miracles, taught people about God, threatened the religious establishment and eventually was arrested, tried and executed via crucifixion. We (I claim to be among this number) believe that his death was a saving sacrifice, taking away the sins of the world. We believe that he was buried, and after three days, was raised from the dead, showed himself to many people and then ascended to Heaven. Sounds pretty simple really.

But, maybe it isn’t. Since the time of Jesus, there have been questions about who Jesus is, and there has been mountains of material written about him. Yet, the Christian church has had some basic agreements about who we believe Jesus to be. The problem is that in order to finally tame the unruly, rebellious Christ followers of the early years, Roman ruler Constantine decided to legitimize and co-opt Christianity to become a state religion. I learned this from a few books I’ve read, one Brian Zahnd’s Farewell to Mars and Mike Slaughter’s Renegade Gospel. Suddenly, Jesus wasn’t Lord and Savior, Teacher and Resurrected Living Master, but he was State Jesus, Jesus who is on OUR side, a Jesus who cares about what we care about, loves who we love, hates who we hate, and who looks very little like the Jesus of Scripture.

So, now this rebel, this One who tamed the seas and raised the dead has many identities thrust upon him – identities that I don’t think are accurate, or reflect who Jesus is.

We have Sunday School Jesus — everybody loves Sunday School Jesus. He’s meek, he’s mild and gentle as a lamb. He loves the children, he is everyone’s friend, and he glows white. He is not Middle Eastern. And, he does not make waves. There is some truth in this one. We read about his gentleness, and how he blessed the children in the Bible. We hear him talk about love and turning the other cheek. And, we hear him called the Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God.

Then, there is Hippie Jesus of the Jesus Movement. That’s the Jesus I sort of grew up to embrace. I turned from Sunday School Jesus to a hipper, peace/love dude who looks like he came straight from Godspell or a grunge rock music video. He loves Christian rock, the beach, bare feet and rap sessions where we all just tell him our problems and he listens. He is totally cool with whatever we do, as long as we’re “cool” with each other. He’s still white, btw, but, he’s got black friends, so that’s pretty progressive. And, there is some truth in this picture. We do read that Jesus tells people to love their enemies, to not take revenge, and we read where he turned water to wine and didn’t fit into the establishment. He even surfed, dude! Well, I guess you can call his walking on water hanging ten.

There is Superhero Jesus. I remember a pastor made waves by saying he couldn’t worship a wimpy Jesus, a Jesus that he said “he could beat up.” He wanted a manly, he-man Jesus who could flip a table with one hand and punch a bad guy with the other. This Jesus glows, rides the clouds, and is ready to zap out some retribution on all the evil types that we are prepared to sic him on – all those people we don’t like. We get some truth to that somewhere too. His miracles were certainly displays of power. Demons cowered before him, and the Scriptures do talk about him turning over tables in the Temple. They also say he’s coming back to judge people one day.

Irrelevant Religious Jesus. This is a popular Jesus these days. He’s the one who keeps in his place, a little religious box we’ve set aside for him. He’s the Jesus who politely stays quiet while we do what we want, and who we can then take out on Sundays or other religious events, and wave around to show we are Christians. He is interchangeable with Bumper Sticker Jesus, except with this version, you don’t have to remember not to drive like a jerk. This Jesus might also be called Stealth Jesus. He’s there when you want him, and invisible when you don’t. This Jesus isn’t really found in Scripture, but, he’s popular anyway.

American Patriot Jesus. This is the Jesus I consider to be the most dangerous and annoying of them all, but, I will take a look anyway. I’ve actually followed this Jesus a bit in my life because he looks darned good to most red-blooded (white) American evangelicals. This Jesus backs every political opinion we have. He supports our favorite TV pundits, radio hosts, televangelists and political candidates. American Patriot Jesus loves our troops, supports us in war, roots for our sports’ teams, waves our flag, supports our rights to own guns, and he hates who we hate. He cares a lot about un-born babies, hates criminals (and believes that anyone a policeman targets is in deed a criminal, no need for a trial), and he does not tolerate any gay people, except maybe if they vote Republican and are white. He also is white but he likes people of color who show the proper amount of respect for their white superiors (meaning, they are people who spend a lot of time burying their own identities to fit in with the establishment), and he has a real fondness for Independence Day parades. He is the one who finds politics life or death important. He is the one who can’t stand all of those fancy, think they know-it-all scientists who think the earth’s climate is changing, who think that evolution is actually a thing, and who want to use stem cells to try to cure diseases. He also thinks poor people are freeloaders that you cannot trust, that those living in certain neighborhoods with certain skin colors are most probably drug dealers or prostitutes (aka thugs). He thinks that Christians are indeed persecuted in the good old U.S. of A. because stores consider there are other people besides Christians in the country and don’t all say Merry Christmas and they put bunnies out for Easter — oh, and they make them make wedding cakes in their open-to-the-public bakeries for gay people (gasp!). That stuff makes American Patriot Jesus steaming mad. This Jesus gives white Christian evangelicals special blessings that nobody else gets, like sunny days when they want to golf, forgiveness if they’re male leaders who do inappropriate things to women (because it is always the woman’s fault anyway), and extra raisins in their raisin bran. I am not exactly sure where this Jesus came from, but he is hugely popular, and is one good guy for a good ol’ boy to hang out with. Oh, and he ALWAYS votes Republican!

Here’s the thing about Jesus though. He doesn’t come in a box, and you can’t pick and choose what parts you want to add on to him. The Jesus that Scripture gives us is a man who is first of all from Israel, a Mid-East country where people have darker skin tones. Secondly, Living Jesus is Lord and gets to tell US what to do if we are Christians, and we are supposed to actually obey. This Jesus, the only real Jesus, DID teach us to turn the other cheek. He DID tell us to love our enemies (and killing them is not loving them). He also taught us that what we do the least of these (Matthew 25) we do to him. (Deporting Jesus are we?) Jesus didn’t punch anyone. He did turn over tables. Turning over tables is not our excuse to be jerks (we’re just being like Jesus!) unless we are doing it in protest of the poor being taken advantage of. Jesus didn’t come to support an earthly (worldly) government. He brought the kingdom of heaven. He is not endorsing people for president. And, he most certainly isn’t endorsing someone who has no Christian values of any sort. The most public thing Jesus did was die. When he performed miracles, he told the witnesses not to tell others. He was not showing off his power. That wasn’t his purpose. His death was public. His humility and sacrificial love took center stage there and proved once and for all who God is. God is master, but he is also love. And love serves and gives. Love gives everything if it has to to save the object of its passion.

I want to follow a real Jesus. I want to walk in those footsteps of humble, sacrificial love, as I serve others to help bring about a just kingdom, ruled not by greedy billionaires, but by the Prince of PEACE. The Prince of Peace weeps over Jerusalem, and over us all, and says, “If only we had known the things that make for peace, but we would not have it…”

Lord Jesus, be lord again of all of us who have blindly followed the wrong Jesus. Forgive us, master, savior, merciful one, for our lack of mercy, our stubborn certainty, our embrace of evil and our lack of love. Restore a right picture in us of who you are. Don’t let us exchange the beauty of your reality for something made in a campaign headquarters. Forgive us for sullying your name and presenting such a false picture of who you are. Lord, I pray for our world, let us love it like you do. Don’t let us remain puffed up in our own pride. We pray in Jesus’ name – Amen.

Taking a Break

I’ve been trying to make a mindful activity for every day of Lent this year, hoping to move people to think outside of themselves, especially Christians, and to re-orient their inner selves. We all need to do that from time to time. And, I should have a third part to post today, but, I don’t. I don’t have it done and there is a reason for that, besides being really busy. Another reason is that I need a break.

Some people may know that March 28 is the 6th anniversary of my daughter’s death and I am not healed. Far from it. What can ever heal a gaping hole left by someone so very dear? Yes, I do believe Jesus heals, but this is a huge wound. I have tried to fill it with doing more and more things, soldiering on to prove that I’m strong, but these things don’t fill me. In fact, they drain me. I have a disease, and it is called depression. Others suffer this too, I know. The fact is that every day is a struggle for me. I am in therapy, and that helps, but I need to do more. And, I need to do less. I need to find ways to care for myself and I need to actually face the huge loss and trauma that I’ve endured instead of trying to perform for what I think others want to see from me. God knows who I am, and God loves me the way I am. God heals in many different ways. He uses people with talent and skill and he uses medicine. Yes, sometimes, healing happens magically, but that doesn’t mean that other types of healing are not just as special or as much of a blessing. Needing others, needing help, is not something to be ashamed of. It is the way God made us – to be interdependent, not independent.

So, I am taking a break for the rest of this month from trying to fulfill expectations of what I think people want from me. Sure, I will do essential things. I’m a secretary. I have a job. And, I have other responsibilities. But, I am freeing myself from this drive to be perfect.

My daughter, Amber, was (and is) Beauty, Joy, Laughter, Purity, Honesty, Unconditional Love and my best friend. She was my world for 23 years. When she died, I was thrust from a place where I felt safe and loved into a world that I was a stranger to. I am a toddler in this world that I have been born into since her passing. So, I’m going to need to navigate it the best way I know how – learning, growing, taking steps, and maybe falling down sometimes. I am going to try to give myself grace to do that.

And, if any of you are also suffering from mental health issues, depression, anxiety, phobias, PTSD, etc., please, do not be ashamed. It is not a failure. It is a struggle. Everyone has struggles, and each person has a different struggle than their neighbor. Whatever the case, reach out for help because we do need each other. That is how God (or Love) works.

So, for the rest of Lent, just re-read the first two parts of my Lenten blog and repeat some of the days. That’s the best I can do right now. Peace and blessings.

Giving Up Privilege for Lent Part Two

This is a continuation of my 40-day challenge to help us all seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God during the season of Lent. I want to especially thank Jacqueline Menjivar for allowing me to use her work, a true blessing.

Day 8 – Mindful Activity
This one is simple but not very easy to do.
For every person you walk by this week, if you can, look into their eyes. Acknowledge that they exist. If you feel inclined, smile at them. Say hello if your heart feels the desire.
When you talk to someone, don’t watch their mouth, stare into their eyes. It’s overwhelming how a person can disarm you this way.
Stop staring down at your phone and look at every person that you can. Then take the activity I gave you guys before and give yourself a moment to think about their life.
You become human when you feel on a human level towards someone else. Be human this week, be raw, real and open. Jacqueline Menjivar

Day 9 – Think About Christianity and Justice
There are areas where evangelical Christianity has fallen short – very, very short when it comes to the issues of racism, justice and equality.
Recognizing this fact may be uncomfortable, but it is necessary if we are ever going to change what we know to be wrong. Correcting wrongs, REPENTING, is God-honoring. Repentance is more than just saying “sorry” and continuing in the same direction. It is TURNING AROUND, and working to undo the wrongs you have committed. Obedience is key here. So, please, plow ahead in the spirit of prayerfulness, humility and obedience.
Read one, or all of the following links that address the issue of racism and/or injustice within Christianity, especially in the United States.
Disparity in Christian Publishing

Or read this article from from Fuller Studio
Reconciliation

Day 10 – Giving Up the Center
As Christians, we very often talk about who is on the throne of our lives. Is Jesus on the throne as Lord of our life, or are we on the throne and living for ourselves (carnally)? Part of growing up in a society of white centeredness is instinctively centering our conversations, and thinking around ourselves, rather than on others. But, when people of color are constantly drowned out by us, their very real needs and their humanity, is hidden from us. It takes work to de-center ourselves, but as Christians, we have some help – and that help comes from God.
Practice for the rest of this season of Lent consciously stepping down off of the throne and recognizing Jesus as your Lord, and then practice being humble and thinking of others first. Paul writes about this in Philippians 2:3-11 When he says that we should think of others first and be humble like Christ.
Here I am posting it from the Common English Bible translation. Feel free to read it in whatever translation you prefer – or read it from more than one translation.

Philippians 2:3-11
Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God highly honored him
and gave him a name above all names,
10 so that at the name of Jesus everyone
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11 and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Day 11 – Fast and Share
A lot of people fast during Lent. The practice of fasting is an important part of our spiritual journey. It reminds us that spiritual food is just as (or more) important than physical food. It reminds us to put our needs, wants and cravings aside to humble ourselves and seek God above all things.

Even Jesus fasted. Remember the famous story about how Jesus was led into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days, when Satan came to tempt him? The first thing Satan tempted him with was food. How shrewd. He knew how hungry Jesus must have been. He told him to turn the stones to bread so that he could eat. What could be wrong with that? What is wrong with us pursuing and seeking what satisfies our own hungers and cravings?

It isn’t wrong to eat. Far from it. God created us to need food. But, obeying Satan would have been destructive to Jesus’ ministry and spirit and Jesus knew that. When we throw aside the service of God to satisfy ourselves, that destroys our ministry and wounds our spirits. It moves God off of the throne of our lives. Fasting is another way of moving ourselves off of the center throne of our lives so that we depend on God to save us.

Of course, we don’t have to fast for 40 days. But, how about fasting from junk food for a day and donating the money you would have spent for it to a charity that feeds people who really need food? How about donating non-perishable food items to a local food bank?

I leave it to you to figure out how you might fast on this day, but however God leads you to fast, share with others the food that we so easily obtain – but others struggle to possess. And, while you fast, please remember to fast from hate, fear and a spirit of judgment against others. Instead, feast on love, humility and reverence.

Read the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in Luke, chapter 4, beginning with verse 1. Pray that God would strengthen your spirit while you deny your flesh.

Day 12 – What About Our Enemies?
Do you have enemies? Are there people you fear? Are there people who you think might consider you their enemies? When Jesus walked the Earth, he had many enemies. People regularly wanted to kill him, and eventually they did. He and his people were occupied by Rome and the empire was often cruel, harsh and destructive to the people they occupied. Crucifixion was a terrible, tortuous punishment. Floggings were brutal and debilitating.

So, Jesus, as the Son of God, did he advocate that his followers seek to overthrow the enemies that ruled them? Did he suggest that the kingdom of heaven would be a place where all injuries and injustices would be avenged?

How many Christians today see Muslims as enemies? How many feed themselves on a constant diet of scandalous news and teaching that highlight cruelty by extremist Muslim groups? How many Christians condone torture, drone strikes, and all-out war against Muslims because of this? How many condone banning Muslims from entering our nation? How many Christians have labeled all Muslims as the Enemy?

What did Jesus say about what our attitudes should be toward enemies?

I believe any Christian who has ever been to a worship service or a Sunday School class has heard the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus lays out his (and God’s) will for how people should treat one another if they are to be followers of The Way of Jesus.

Read Matthew 5 for yourself and ask yourself this – Was Jesus a savior with his head in the clouds? Do you consider his teaching on the Mount to apply to others but not to you? Do you feel as if our government cannot really follow the way of Jesus, but that it’s still Christian anyway? Do you consider that Jesus is incompetent to run a government? Consider these questions as you read this and ask yourself if you’ve truly been honoring Jesus in your attitudes toward others, in what you accept, support and even celebrate from our government.

Matthew 5:38-48 (CEB)

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.[e]39 But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. 40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too.41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor[f] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.

Day 13 – Repent by Loving Others
After yesterday’s study, you may feel convicted about attitudes that might be off-center of Jesus’ teachings. Maybe you’ve been following Christian leaders who have ignored these teachings and haven’t questioned them. It can happen more easily than you imagine. Our enemy, Satan, is wily and deceptive. He spreads the cancer of hate through so many subtle ways that we often embrace it without realizing it.

But, thankfully, God is a forgiving, merciful God. The Bible says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins. So, pray with me to repent – and THEN, don’t let that repentance stop with a simple prayer.

In order to truly be obedient, I challenge you today to pray for someone you consider an enemy today. Don’t pray that God strikes them dead, either. Pray for their lives. Pray for their well-being. Pray that you would learn to love them.

Then, perform one act of love for someone, or some group, that you consider at odds with you or what you believe. That loving act could be to donate to relief agencies that help people in a people group that you feel is hostile, such as those in Muslim nations. Perhaps it could be to speak up, or call your representatives to denounce the ban of Muslims flying into our nation. Perhaps it is doing something to support refugees fleeing war-torn areas. Let God’s Spirit lead you into this mindful activity that will be in obedience to the rule of love.

Day 14 – Refresh and Take Care
While we work to transform our person, our spiritual outlook and our world, we need to take care of our spirits and emotions. When I think of the vast amount of injustice and heartache in the world, I can get overwhelmed to the point of feeling helpless. The one thing we want to make sure of is not to let our emotional wounds hurt other people, especially people who are already hurt by the unjust systems of our world. So, as you come to more honest realizations about your own privilege and what is happening in the world, you have to take time to process your emotions in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone.

The best person to go to with any hurt is God. But, God has also given us other people, and institutions to help as well. Sometimes, talking to your pastor or your Bible Study group helps.
Today, I urge you to talk with someone you trust about what you’ve been learning and feeling. Rest in the peace of God and remember, God is the peacemaker (through us). Know that God will not give you tasks without giving you the strength to complete them. Rest in God. Trust Jesus and pray about everything.

Read Philippians 4:4-7 here in the CEB or in your own Bible.
4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

Philippians is my go-to book for a lot of great advice for living.
After my daughter’s death, my emotions were so raw and painful that I could not pray. I could not stand to read the Bible. I wasn’t angry at God, but I was hurting badly. During that time, God gave me Psalm 4. I’m not sure how I knew to read this passage, but I did, and I read it over and over until I had it memorized. I share it here for you, so that it might minister to you as it did to me.

Psalm 4Common English Bible (CEB)
For the music leader. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.
4 Answer me when I cry out, my righteous God!
Set me free from my troubles!
Have mercy on me!
Listen to my prayer!
2 How long, you people,
will my reputation be insulted?
How long will you continue
to love what is worthless
and go after lies? Selah
3 Know this: the LORD takes
personal care of the faithful.
The LORD will hear me
when I cry out to him.
4 So be afraid, and don’t sin!
Think hard about it in your bed
and weep over it! Selah
5 Bring righteous offerings,
and trust the LORD!
6 Many people say,
“We can’t find goodness anywhere.
The light of your face has left us, LORD!”[a]
7 But you have filled my heart with more joy
than when their wheat and wine are everywhere!
8 I will lie down and fall asleep in peace
because you alone, LORD, let me live in safety.

Thank you for sticking with me. Stay tuned for more, and may our gracious Lord bless and keep you this Lenten season. And, may he make us all more just, so that we can change the world to look more like the kingdom of Heaven.

Giving Up Privilege for Lent, Part One

Privilege is a part of society, not necessarily something you’ve done intentionally.
It is part of who you are, in a society that values whiteness and maleness above all other states of being.

Most of us have varying level of privilege granted us, even if you are also part of a marginalized group. If you are a white woman, for instance, you experience marginalization in the form of sexism, but you also have the privilege of whiteness.

Think about how society interacts with you. Do you generally think of police as the good guys? Or, do you fear police because of your experience with how you and/or people like you, have been treated by police? Do you see people who look like you on television and in movies that portray those like you as predominately good, heroic, or high achievers? Or, do you have to look hard to see anyone who looks like you in any media? And, do those portrayals paint those like you as generally honest, in predominately negative roles, such as criminals or dangerous people?
Privilege blinds you to the experiences of people in marginalized groups. Without realizing it, you see things through a different lens, one of unconscious (or conscious) superiority.

So, for Lent, in solidarity with those who suffer injustice and oppression (and in solidarity with Jesus himself, who was NOT white, and who spent time as a refugee and an occupied person), let us lay down our privilege like Jesus did.

Day 1 – Reflection and Invitation Prayer
There’s a form of meditation that cultivates compassion. It involves envisioning negative events and recasting them in a positive light by transforming them through compassion.
If you could just for a moment out of your Day think about where you live. Think about someone outside of yourself. Someone outside of your religion, your race, or your ethnicity. They don’t have to be a real person but it helps to put a face on the thoughts I’d like you to have.
Think about their life. Think about how their morning begins. Think about some of the trials they face daily. Think about their joys. Think about how humanly raw they are and what type of things they face that you may not have ever encountered.
Move through that today and if you feel inclined, write about that experience and share it. – by Jacqueline Menjivar

Day 2 – Learning
Please, read this article which is a transcription of an event called, “Living With Unjust Legacies: Race, Justice, and Privilege” at Fuller seminary — Living With Unjust Legacies

After reading this article, spend some time thinking and praying for greater understanding of how privilege affects you, and how, if you are privileged, you can lay down your privilege (at least your defensiveness, and sense of entitlement) and realize that others have real stories to tell that you might not have considered before.

Day 3 The Least of These
Because we are Christians, we need to come back to the words and teachings of Jesus, to help guide us through our interactions and thinking. So, today, please read Matthew 25:33-46 – sometimes called the Parable of the Sheep and Goats.

Ask yourself the following questions afterwards, and pray about your answers:
1. Why do you think Jesus told this parable? What was he trying to teach?
2. Who are the people separated into the category of “goats?” Are they people guilty of sexual sin? Are they people who are of other religions? What makes them unacceptable? Conversely, what makes the sheep acceptable?
3. Why do you think Jesus says, “When you’ve done it for the least of these, you’ve done it for me?” With whom does Jesus identify himself with? Why did Jesus, the very son of God, identify himself with strangers, the poor, prisoners, the sick and the least? Ask yourself, and pray – if Jesus has such love for the least of these that he identifies himself with them, what makes me think I am too good to do so?
4. Do you think that this important story was taught by Jesus to teach us how God will judge us and our nations? If so, what might we be doing to ensure we are sheep and not goats?

Day 4 Repentance
If you are like me, the story of the sheep and the goats can be frightening because the people who thought they were so godly and accepted by Jesus, were told, to their utter shock, “Go away, I never knew you.” To think you have claimed Jesus as your very own your entire life and then realize that you were mistreating him for your lifetime! What a wake-up call that story is. So, today, I want us to confess and repent. God offers us forgiveness, but he also requires obedience, as this parable illustrates.

Pray with me:
Dear Lord, forgive us for the great and horrible ways we have turned our backs on Jesus, our Savior, when we have allowed our fellow men and women to suffer injustice, poverty, illness and hatred. We throw ourselves upon your mercy as we confess that we have gone our own ways, and have mistreated the least of these and so have actually misused our own Lord. We cannot change our past, dear Lord, and so we ask you to forgive us. But, we can change our present, and our futures because of your grace. So, help us Almighty God, to keep the vows we pray to you right now – and so we vow (asking for your assistance to keep these promises) – we will not see the hungry and not feed them, we will not allow the prisoner to suffer without ministering to them, we will not turn our backs on the stranger, and we will not continue to allow people to be degraded, dehumanized and used as political pawns because we acknowledge that your word is truth. And, your word has told us that when we allow these things to happen to anyone, even those we see as the least, we allow them to happen to Jesus. We offer you our humble obedience, confessing that we cannot rightfully carry out our vows without your Spirit to guide us. Thank you for your mercy to us. Please let us show this same mercy to everyone else. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 5 – Going Deeper
Now, it’s time to do a little work. I challenge you to do a search online and read at least three articles about privilege, racism, feminism, or civil rights today, and discuss what you’ve learned with one other person at least.

Or, you can click on the following link and read three of the articles (or more) that are listed here: how white people can learn about race.

When you talk to someone about what you have read, make sure that this person is not a member of a marginalized group so that you are not using them as a mentor. People in oppressed groups already have enough on their plates without educating privileged people who are capable of learning in other ways.

Close your day by simply praying: Lord, thank you for helping me to learn and step out of my comfort zone. Thank you for giving me a mind, and a heart that is open to you. Please, help me continue this journey so that I can honor you and my neighbors in healthy ways. Amen.

Day 6 – Love is the Key
Today, reflect on the fact that God is Love, as 1 John 4:8 states.

What is Love? Read 1 Corinthians chapter 13, commonly called The Love Chapter. It describes what Love is, and it tells us that no matter how much we think we know about God, no matter how much we feel we give of our money, no matter how much we think we sacrifice for God, if we don’t have Love, we are nothing.

Those are strong words about Love. Too often our notions of Love are light, fluffy and frankly, nauseating to God, in my opinion. Because love is not the same as feeling affection. Love is not the same as not hating, or actively, physically harming someone. Love is not simply refraining from terrorizing others. If we love others, that means we have to actively seek their good. Many abusers in domestic violence situations “feel love” for the very people they are abusing. But, they do not really love them, because they are harming them.

Reflect today on whether you might be the cause of harm of those we are called to love, either by your attitudes, your careless words that cut, or through the way you back political systems that oppress them. Maybe you are causing harm simply by doing nothing while the ones Christ calls you to love suffer. That is not an easy thing to face, but one who Loves as Christ calls us to love would most surely face these facts and do what it takes to change. It is not simply enough to have good intentions. You might not mean to harm someone, but the harm is done, nonetheless – through carelessness, through self-centeredness, through vying for control of various situations, through refusing to listen and think about what someone else might be saying. When someone shares the truth of their life with you, the loving thing to do is listen and accept their truth – and the more loving thing to do is be there for them and join them in trying to end the things that harm them.

You are doing good. Stay with me. Remember, this is an exercise that will ultimately honor Christ as you learn to honor others.

Day 7 – Loving Acts
Today, I want you to join me in doing something to make the world a little more just. Step out of your comfort zones in love. Here are some activities that you might want to try, or find some way that you can help someone who is in a different social group than you are:

1. Call out a racist, sexist, or unjust comment, whether on social media, or in person. You can read casual racist, sexist and unkind remarks everywhere online. It isn’t hard to do. Look on Twitter, Facebook or some other website forum, and you are bound to read someone putting someone down for their gender, religion (anti-Muslim bias is at an all-time high right now), their sexual orientation or gender identity, their race, or their abilities. I’ve seen more than a few people online post an insulting remark about people being stupid by using the “r” word, for instance. I would remind them that using the “r” word is unkind. I’d ask them if they happen to know anyone who is mentally, developmentally or physically challenged and let them know that these people do have dignity. Find a way to remind someone that racism (or another form of insulting bias) is not accepted by you, and harms society.
2. Make a phone call: Call one of your representatives and stand up against unjust laws, harmful government actions, or other such problems. Use your voice to let them know that you care about immigrants, refugees and human rights. This is one place you can go to find out information about how – and who – to call about these issues. Call Your Rep
3. Donate to a charity that helps people who are marginalized. There are many to choose from – from Standing Rock Water Protectors to Refugees and the ACLU. There is even a way you can make loans to help others via a non-profit organization called Kiva. Check it out here: Kiva.
4. Volunteer at a local food bank, homeless shelter, school or charity organization. Get some information about how here: Volunteer

These are just some ideas. If none of these appeal to you, find SOMETHING to do that will make the world better for someone in a marginalized group. People need LOVE, and Love is a verb, so act out your love in a real way today.

Okay, stay tuned for more as we all work together to honor God by laying aside our pride, privilege and biases to help create a more just society. Thank you.