How reflections on truth-listening & truth-telling showed up in prayer

What does it take to build authentic relationships and thus, authentic ministry?
It’s a hefty question to grapple with that last week’s sermon took on without restraint.  I gained a lot from it. Pastor T.C. Morrow gave a fantastic sermon answering this question of building authentic relationship through key messages like:
  • “Don’t hold back in authentic truth telling – or truth listening – in your relationships.”
  • “Don’t hold back in remembering God loves you, even if you are telling a truth that’s uneasy to say (or listening to someone else’s raw but truthful viewpoint).
She worked thoroughly with the story from 1 Samuel 3: 8 about mentor Eli insisting with his young pupil and future prophet Samuel — to not hold back telling the truth.
This particular story was new to me (ha, much of the Bible still is!). But she made her “Don’t hold back” words of empowerment resonate in different, very accessible, ways based on this particular story:
  • Don’t hold back from seeing Christ in the unhoused neighbor, the sick, or the hungry;
  • Don’t hold back in seeking God’s voice; it is all around us but often we do not recognize it;
  • Don’t hold back to transformation ourselves through ministry with others (it’s not just ministering TO others; greater authenticity is enabled by our openness to be transformed when we are engaged in ministry truly WITH others);
  • Don’t hold back your pain, your peace or joy, your torment, or your experience of resisting evils.
Authentic relationship and works toward justice take all of the above and even more of regularly not holding back. The sermon continues to reverberate in reflections.
As an initial don’t-hold-back response to T.C.’s sermon, out came this prayer and some sense of play.

Have a great weekend!

Written version of the video-prayer is just below:

I pray for strength to grow your justice 

for neighbors hungry and denied… Oh God trust us /

we need you, we need your liberating hand

to free our minds from self-addicted strands /

 

Oh God pride, it’s our pride high-5ing in endless selfie thumps

Lord transform, God transform our ego-echoes with your Holy Fist Bump /

And expand our doubting squints toward our lost, lone neighbor

to a wide-eyed willingness to lift her labor /

 

Now compel oh compel any privileged toward acts of sacrifice

so deprived neighbors thrive on — more than beggar’s lice / 

Please freeze our greed & melt it away with merciful justness

God seam anew all ego-separations to grow your justice /

I pray for strength to grow your justice. 

Amen.

Racial justice and white ego

imageA friend’s heartfelt expression today on Facebook about “ugly racism” stays on my mind. She emphasized a more conscious return to love and taking each day “one day at a time….and to take care of our own porch and neighbors” among other insights.

I shared below in response:

Your comments have triggered a thought about love: It is the answer.

At the same time, I invite an overt understanding of how love can be easily misconstrued in society as a decision void of discomfort – especially to the white privileged in our country.

I’m not an expert on the perfection of love; but the enacting of it exceeds the proverbial porch of our own comfort or sense of ease.

We as whites need to fully look and listen to how structural racism has strangled opportunity for Black people, strangled their right to decency, and their basic sovereignty to live out a loving life due to entrenched racist structures. The violence we have seen these weeks is nothing to the immoral hegemony that our white race has created in this country.

Consequences of this play out in less violent but demonstrative ways. Like I heard a white mom friend get angry that a Black student, as example, won the scholarship instead of her white son. Why? Was racist judgement at the root of her frustration?  Or was she stressed at facing hefty tuition and I took her expression of disappointment in the wrong light? In that moment it felt uncomfortable to not question her. And it felt as uncomfortable to challenge a friend with such directness.

But in the moment, I believe to return to love as you mention is to also pursue truth and uplift it.  So I inquired about her meaning; she was surprised yet forthcoming. I said her comments sounded racist. It was awkward but damn we talked about it. Hopefully a little greater consciousness was achieved for two white people.

Or here’s another scenario:

I’ve seen white people question the authority of a Black leader in front of a crowd; yet they remain silent when a white leader of same capacity asserts the same authority in the same dynamic. Love means divining the courage to call that out….which frankly I failed to do.

These are just mere slivers of the non-violent racist attitudes and structures that rage, along with the obvious blood.

What is the loving response?

It goes beyond taking care of your own porch. The first black family in my mom’s home town moved in, then a week later their water heater blew up in flames so they left. An actionable love surely means to wake up at the discomfort of how our decisions and perceptions can dehumanize people, limit them, and inspire horrendous fear.

It goes beyond the immediate localness of our porch and into the murky unease of learning that being white does not equate to an entitled sense of ease at the expense of minorities especially Black people.

Surely to God love means not only taking it one step and one day at a time. But it must include taking the consequences of white supremacy and dismantling them one consequence at a time. We must achieve awareness and that takes rigorous adjusting (and deflating) of white ego.

Intertwined

image

Where does compassion for others (or even for one’s self) really come from?

Answering this has been an interesting self study involving some ego bruising realizations. Many years ago at the start of adult life and building a path, I envisioned living out a sense of purpose in service for others, a longing to help “make the world a better place.” Then somewhere down the line, my ego unleashed its insecurity on a much more conscious and wounded level.

Something about “making the world a better place” no longer rang true, it was an empty way to frame my life’s productivity. I’m not sure how else to describe it.

It was as if a mental release valve popped off one year and out burst tons of confused or lacking definitions of real internal wellness. I realized my intended trajectory of a life’s work “based on service to others” had finally revealed a very unhealthy subconscious habit….what could be called a severe self-acceptance  deficit.

I had come to see that my well intended path toward helping the world had a very harsh condition attached to it (unbeknownst to my self awareness for years)… that being: this gift of life was deemed worthy only IF it was caring or serving the neediness of this world. As in, this heart deserved to beat only to place others’ needs ahead of my own. Any offerings of compassion or service or tenderness to others equated to some inner sense of value. But all those offers of care outwardly did not equate to extending a sense of care inwardly.  So after years of working from this deeply buried but active premise — the mental and spiritual energy just gave out, burning to ash any desire to benefit other people. That absense of both inward compassion and tenderness left a big ole hole inside where self-respect needed to replant.

Since then, it’s been a more humbling and conscious (still bumpy) path toward a new outlook: compassion intertwines with respect, for self and others, like a branch with its blooms.