A new season

Every so often in life, I run across these lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Four Quartets:

And the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
- T.S. Eliot

Since I’ve lived through a lot of ‘new’, the sentiment always catches me off guard when it proves itself true and I find myself in a familiar place that I’m rediscovering all over again. Such is this next season of life for me.

I started my career teaching in an urban middle school, then a suburban high school and finally a rural elementary school before settling in higher education as a teacher trainer. After a decade of working in higher education, however, I’ve recently rejoined the K-12 system. Working in the academic world was delightful for its intellectual stimulation and scheduling flexibility, but when I was ready to pursue full time work again, its limitations exasperated me and I realized it might be time for a change.

So this week, I found myself once again standing before well over 150 adolescents, donning both my intimidating-but-warm-teacher-face and the-comfiest-shoes-I-own, watching them bumble over themselves as they explore who they are for the first time. While it was nowhere near the quiet-office and peaceful-space the contemplative in me hoped for, it was not at all unknown to me. In fact, it was a little like coming home.

It will most-certainly be a shift for me. I will be teaching Spanish at an arts-based charter school in a town known more for its rough edges than its shiny ones. Yet after only a few days with these students, I am reminded afresh than even in broken places, there is often softness hiding between the cracks. I see it in the passion of teachers serving as role models for growing minds. I see it in the quiet boy in the corner, both unsure and eager at the same time. I see it in the eager chatterbox-of-a-girl, testing limits, exploring options, expressing curiosities. I hope for it when I glimpse hardness in the eyes of a young man whose softness seems to have been buried long ago. I see it in the presence of parents as they wait alongside their nervous new students.

As I watched the events of Ferguson unfold this past week, I realized with great sorrow that once again, these stories will reflect ‘my kids’ – faces so often portrayed and perceived inaccurately in the public sphere. Tears brimmed over the realities that young black men face as I remembered the faces of so many former students who broke the stereotypes society created, and it made me grateful for the opportunity to relearn these lessons all over again.

While I know parts of me will long for the quieter corner of the academic world (and an occasional place to sit down!), I am exceedingly grateful that this job allows me to live out my life-purposes of caring for the tenderhearted, welcoming the stranger, and listening to the unheard through this next season. I also see a theme arising in my life of smoothing rough places that I’m looking forward to exploring more.

As a result, I’ve also determined my season of speaking is shifting to one of listening which will likely mean that this blog will fall largely silent. While I love the time I’ve had to write here this year, my time and energy will more likely be spent focused more intensely on leaning into new realities. It has indeed been a pleasure to interact with so many of you in this virtual sphere, but for now I’ll be spending most of my time in the place where my career first began that taught me so much about living between worlds in the first place.


If you’re new here and would like to read more, feel free to explore some of my more popular posts on race relations, culture, faith, and family.

Posted in Education, Families, Children & Marriage, Restoration & Reconciliation | 2 Comments


If you hadn’t yet noticed, I’m on a bit of a hiatus from regular writing, but I am still reading!  Here are a few gems from the web this month:


Here’s what world cup teams would look like if immigrants weren’t allowed to play.  Graphic representations of world cup teams without immigrants.

Illegal immigration, the unforgivable sin? by Bronwyn Lea. “When I share the story of how brutal the path to citizenship is for us, people are often shocked. We are not what people have in mind when they think of ‘immigrants.’ We are white. We speak English. We have graduate level degrees. And yet even for us, as documented workers, it sometimes seems nearly impossible that we will be able to gain permanent residency. The path is so much narrower and steeper than people realize, so we speak up.”


On daughters and dating: How to intimidate suitors by Jen Wilkin. “Instead of intimidating all your daughter’s potential suitors, raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because, you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness.”

Thank God for Vaccines by Dr. Emily Gibson. “Maybe some of us have forgotten or are too young to realize the severity of these conditions. Healthcare providers who haven’t had firsthand experience with these contagious diseases don’t always think of them when confronted with classic signs and symptoms. But it’s only been a little over 50 years since vaccinations became routine for childhood killers like tetanus, diphtheria, polio, measles, mumps, and pertussis, or whooping cough.”

How the modesty police are hurting my son by Amy at Bunkers Down . “So when you hint that my son isn’t strong enough to handle himself if a girl wears spaghetti straps or short shorts?  You do him and me a disservice, as you do hundreds (if not thousands) of other sons and parents.  You place a doubt in his brain (and the brain of any male who hears your message) of whether he is stronger than his impulses and if he really needs to be stronger than those impulses.”


The Call by John Blase. A beautiful little poem on our purpose.

Your Jesus by John Blase. “I’m sorry but I cannot accept your Jesus. Your Jesus is eternally afraid of things like movies and sex and naked questions.”


When white women talk about race: a case for thoughtful self-censorship by Esther Emery. A thoughtful reflection on the realities of white women talking about race.

Top 10: Conversation Deflections by Austin Channing. “Unfortunately for many people attempting to speak truth to power, sharing our hearts on these issues (not just theories, but how they make us FEEL) is always risky. Sometimes those listening engage well, but we always know there is a chance things will fall apart. It doesn’t always matter what the justice issue is- mass incarceration, education, immigration, or in this case racial justice- there is always a risk that our hearts will leave as broken as when we came.”


Proud to be. Video created by the National Congress of American Indians protesting the Redskins as a sports team name. Very well done!

The gift of rest. Featuring some alum from my alma mater, this video highlights the work of Jill’s House, an organization that provides skilled care for families with children with special needs.

If Asians said the stuff white people say. A great video showing irony of racial ignorance.


5 painful realities of white privilege. “Privilege runs deep, and as I continue to ponder the ideas of humility, I keep running smack into its gritty realities. They’re not pretty, but ignoring them won’t make them go away either.”

10 reasons I’m reading Harry Potter to my children. “While they can’t yet fully grasp the evil raging in the world around them, they do have an easier time processing the good they see. The fact that hope still makes more sense than despair may be one of the greatest gifts children give adults. For their sake and mine, I want to instill in them a thirst for goodness, hope, and friendship for the future moments in their lives when all might appear lost.”

4 reasons white people need to talk about race. “This cannot be a discussion of tit-for-tat, of accusations and defensives, and as members of the dominant majority, we need to lead the conversation first with humility and compassion.  We can not let go until we know what it is that we’re holding onto.”

Posted in The-best-ones | 1 Comment

5 painful realities of white privilege

5 painful realities of white privilegeWe were sitting outside the frozen yogurt shop when my husband interrupted my yogurt-induced-heaven with a passionate “Did you see that!?!”

“What?” I looked around but didn’t see anything unusual. I’d been a little spaced out in a blissful yogurt coma and was, as usual, less-than-aware of my surroundings.

“That Asian lady in the yogurt store! She and her daughter were just standing there, waiting in line for the restroom and this white guy came in and walked right in front of her.”

He paused, shaking his head in angry disbelief, “And she just let him go. She put her head down and let him push his way past her,”

He paused, processing the interaction, “That’s just so privileged. And he probably doesn’t even recognize it. The problem with us is that we get all submissive and let people walk all over us.” 

Confession Time: In my head, I started listing all the reasons why what he just said happened couldn’t have actually happened. Maybe he saw things wrong. Maybe the guy had to puke. Maybe he left his cell phone in the bathroom. Surely what my husband saw wasn’t what actually happened. 

But then I remembered all the things I’ve written about race & privilege. Dismissing perceptions is one of the most unhelpful responses in race conversations.

I should already know this, right? Right.

(Except for the fact that I don’t.)

Privilege runs deep, and as I continue to ponder the ideas of humility, I keep running smack into its gritty realities. They’re not pretty, but ignoring them won’t make them go away either. Here are a few truths I’ve learned along the way:

1. Privilege is hard to see if you have it, but easy to see if you don’t

I often don’t see the privilege my husband or my friends of color see, but not because it doesn’t exist.  I don’t see it because I don’t have to see it. I live in a world where people who look like me are the norm, so the world-at-large adjusts to me, not the other way around. I can walk into a restaurant without heads turning in curiosity. I’ve never encountered a situation where people define my personal qualifications by my physical appearance. People rarely make comments – ignorant or informed – about my race or ethic background.

It’s kind of like the emporer who wasn’t wearing any clothes – everyone but the stubborn king himself sees the truth. If I could get into the mind of that classic fairytale character as he walked naked down the street when the little boy called his bluff, I can almost hear him thinking to himself, “That crazy boy! Who does he think he is?  He doesn’t know anything. I’m the Emporer, after all. What I say goes!”

It’s not so different from the knee jerk reaction that many white people have when white privilege comes up. Who do they think they are? we think about the people of color who suggest perspectives that upturn our understanding of the world.

What do they know? we dismiss the realities they experience. When history is written by the winners, our story is the one with the power, and until we learn other sides of the story, it’s nearly impossible to understand why some might question our interpretation of it.

If I’m brutally honest with myself, I’ve done the same thing as the privileged white guy at the yogurt shop and never even noticed. Privilege just doesn’t feel the same to those who benefit from it like it does to those who get run over by it.

2. Privilege feels great and horrible all at the same time

I’ll be the first to say that being the one with the power feels great. Power is fun, but an equal reality of power is that it corrupts and blinds. The power that privilege carries does this as well. That’s why when the headlines erupt when a Princeton student writes a letter denying the realities of white privilege. It’s a divisive topic, drawing intense criticism and ire from some loud voices who staunchly deny its existence.

When I travel, I am nearly always treated better than my non-white family. I get higher quality service, more attention and courtesy. I get less attention at airport security lines and from police men. Even if I personally benefit from this treatment, the fact that my family faces its fallout sours any positives it holds for me.

If people only knew how much more humble and sacrificial and generous they were than me, I think, my brown family would be the ones given elevated status, not me. But the history of white skin tells a different story, so we walk instead through a broken and unequal reality.

3. Privilege creates guilt which creates shame which creates denial

Brene Brown has shed an immense amount of light on how shame impacts our ability to be vulnerable, and it’s easily applicable when considering privilege. She writes,

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

When I don’t initially understand a situation like the yogurt shop, it can take me weeks to admit it. My guilt kicks in…how many years I have been married interracially? How many conversations have I had and books have I read about race and privilege?

Will I ever learn?

The shame lingers so subtly that I don’t even notice it until my denial eventually slips out and I’m forced to face my privilege once again.

4. Privilege isn’t about individuals, it’s about systems

What lacks acknowledgement in conversations about privilege is that it’s not necessarily applicable to individuals. When racial microagressions play out on an individual level, the reason they trigger reactions is because of the history such interactions carry with them.

In other words, when the white guy marches past the Asian lady in the restroom line, the history of white-dominant/Asian-submissive interaction plops down right in the center of things. As much as we’d like to believe it, the world is not only made up of individuals, it’s also composed of groups who represent ideas and create realities beyond individuals’ control.

5. Privilege isn’t only about race

As I grow in my understanding of privilege, I see how it extends far beyond the context of race. Privilege comes in many packages and shapes how we view and interact with the world.

“I am unlearning the ways I perceive my own areas of privilege as ‘normal’,” writes Austin Channing. “I can smell when patriarchy is leaking all over a man as he interacts with me. But there are plenty of other ways that that I engage in oppression, ignorance, avoidance, and all kinds of crazy.”

I think of all the times I fail to consider other realities and subconsciously operate as though mine is the norm regardless of things like disability, education level, language ability, religious views, or sexual orientation. We saw it happen yet again last week with nationalities when Twitter called the spelling bee ‘Unamerican’ for its lack of white participants. Clearly, there is no end to how we exclude each other when we see ourselves as the ones who belong and everyone else as the other.

As a result, unpacking how we engage with people of different backgrounds than our own is critical to development the model of humility we see in Phillipians 2:

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” (The Message)

Christ’s example stands in stark contrast to the pundits and pontificators who insist nothing-is-wrong-with-me in response to the racial struggles of our world. It sheds new light on the pushy white guy’s behavior in the yogurt line. It opens the heart’s door of this stubbornly-skeptical wife just a teeny-bit wider.

Our world is sorely in need of people who follow Christ before they follow political figures and tribe leaders.  When we fight against the privilege discussion because it’s too painful to face the reality of the broken history and systems of our world, we end up perpetuating the exact same legacy.

Instead, may our humility grow deep enough that we have the courage to walk through the painful realities privilege carries. May we, like Christ, live selflessly and obediently rather than clinging to privilege and status. If we want to see change the world, truly, it must first begin with ourselves.

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Posted in Culture & Race | 3 Comments

The world needs more places like this

If you haven’t heard of Jill’s House, this is a must-watch. I went to college with the couple featured in this video, and their story and the purpose this organization serves is so heartbreakingly beautiful and redemptive that I had to share.

Enjoy, learn, grab some tissues, and consider how to involve yourself in such meaningful work.

Posted in Restoration & Reconciliation | 1 Comment



On Parenting Teenagers by Jen Hatmaker. “Stop imagining that aliens will take over your darling preschooler at age 13. Your sweet boy will get to age 13 one day at a time. There is no abrupt moment where he ceases being the boy you raised and becomes some adolescent you don’t recognize.”

Dear mom of the crying baby on the plane by Rachel Pieh Jones. “I already empathized with you. I remembered the flight when one of my twins came down with a fever halfway between Minneapolis and Denver. I remembered when my youngest had a cold and demanded to be breastfed the entire flight and I think all the passengers around me got full-frontal flashes for hours on end. I remembered my youngest screaming during every single take off and landing. I remembered ceaseless trips to the bathroom, scrambling over our fake-sleeping seatmates.”

What my mother taught me by Shauna Niequest. If you’re a mom, this is a must-watch.

So much more than pretty by Megan Egbert. “Pretty does matter, my sweet girl. It matters very little to me, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t matter anywhere. But in the very large scheme of things, in the giant puzzle of life, in the thousands of choices of things that matter, pretty is just one piece.”

A letter to my boys (The real reasons I say no to electronics) by Renee Robinson. “I want to talk to you when we are out to eat. I want to listen to your questions. I want to have training opportunities. I want to allow space for conversation that can take us deeper. And if you are always distracted with electronics, well… I might miss those moments.”


When the Church confuses me and we by Jackson Wu.“Individualism,” as a basic orientation, makes the individual an idol inasmuch as personal freedom becomes the authoritative standard for ethical decisions. By fragmenting identity—separating individual from community— public ethics is rendered impossible since each individual presumes sovereignty in making moral decisions.”


Guilt is Good by Christena Cleveland.Many of us want to think that true reconciliation can occur without anyone ever bearing the discomfort of guilt. But we only need to take one quick look at the bloody cross to know that that ain’t true.”

UNLearning by Austin Channing.I am unlearning the need to be all things to all {white} people. I am growing a backbone. I am choosing when I want to teach and when I don’t. I am learning that I don’t have to bust out my scars to prove their presence.”

Are millenials really leaving the church? Yes – but mostly white millenials by Bob Smietana. “Almost everyday, it seems, there’s a new story about how “Millennials are leaving the church.” But there’s a problem with these trend pieces: They aren’t true. American Christianity still has plenty of Millennials — they’re just not necessarily in white churches.”

What I learned: Forming a diverse team by Anita Dualeh. “Rather than just inviting individuals of color to join us in what we’re already doing, perhaps we need to take a step backward. Maybe we need to start with questions like, “How should we collectively support our children’s learning?” Certainly, we need to make it a conversation that includes a lot more people.”

To the Princeton Privileged Kid by Violet Baudelaire. “Privilege is not personal. Privilege is institutional and cultural. It is macro. You have privilege because you are part of a group that has privilege. It is not because you are special or different or better in anyway (any more than those without privilege are not special or are worse in any way).”


The swimsuit guide no woman should have to read by Wendy Aarons.  I also hate these swimsuit guides. They’re supposed to “help” women find a suit that makes them feel like The Princess of the Waterpark, but what they actually do is make women’s self-esteem crash and burn before they’ve even set foot in the badly-lit dressing room at Macy’s.

The world is finally getting the ‘Big Fat Greek Wedding’ sequel it deserves.  Yay! One of my all time favs!




Bridging the cultural gap with a mother-in-law in the kitchen by Anne Noyes Saini. “When we met almost a decade ago, my mother-in-law and I had so much more than a generational gap to bridge. But we could cook together, and we filled the silences with talk of spices and recipes.”

Marriage is the beautiful hard by Rachel Pieh Jones.  “I’ve been married fourteen years and there are days I punch my pillow and think ‘who is this crazy stranger strutting around my house like he owns the place?’ Because yes, there are hard things about marriage. This other person has desires and needs. Deep ones, like what continent to live on and how to raise children. Lighter ones like ribs instead of salad for dinner and how to discard coffee grounds. These desires conflict with my own but I didn’t get married so I could always have my own way.”


Some big words (and helpful ideas) for when the race conversation explodes. “In Christianity, the white evangelical church has spent a great deal of time focusing on orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right practice or behavior) of individuals, but not so much time on orthopathy (right passions, emotions, attitudes) in relation to how we interact with society at large.”

Speaking with children about race and some tips on how to start. “Because of the reality of living in a racialized society, it’s imperative for all families to speak openly about race – especially white families.”

The difference between oak trees and freeways. “Contrary to the story of the freeways, we are not meant to live at break-neck speed every minute of the day. Unless we build barriers around and stoplights into our lives, we might hurtle ourselves right over the edge without even noticing.”

Posted in The-best-ones | 1 Comment

Reflections on a writing life

“Many words do not satisfy the soul;
but a good life comforts the mind,
and a pure conscience gives great confidence toward God.”
– Thomas A Kempis

Today I’m participating in a blog hop started by Ellen Barone about the writing life. I was invited by Rachel Pieh Jones and invited three writers I enjoy to participate next week. I’m excited to introduce Between Worlds readers to these amazing women, in case you are looking for new reading material, be sure to check out their bios and work.


What am I writing or working on? 

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about developing a global perspective, deepening understanding of race relations and living the historic Christian spiritual disciplines.  My writing pace ebbs and flows, depending on how much space other parts of my life consume. I’m currently in a slower writing season as other commitments have taken up more of my time.

While I’m prone to agree with À Kempis that ‘many words don’t satisfy the soul’, I’d also add that a few really good ones definitely influence me toward a better life. Even when the words are less frequent, they remain quietly present in the pursuit and formation of a ‘good life’ that leads toward ‘a pure conscious and great confidence toward God’.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I grew up in a cornfield and then married someone from halfway around the world. I’ve spent my days teaching new languages to both immigrants and native speakers. I’m raising children with one set of grandparents in Midwestern cornfields and the other set on an island in the Indian Ocean. These clashing realities significantly influence my writing. They allow me to hear from, understand and respect people from many perspectives who might not be able to easily understand each other.

Why do I write what I do? 

Every so often, the lack of mass-popularity tempts me toward trashing the whole writing-thing. If it’s not the hottest-thing that everyone’s reading, I muse, it must not be valuable.  Perhaps this is the case, but I also must entertain the idea that there’s another option. What if mass-readership doesn’t matter? Would the internet-friends turned real-life-pals exist? Would the real-life friends have turned toward more honest and vulnerable conversations without the starting point of that-one-particular-post? Would the meaningful conversations and connections I’ve made have occurred otherwise?

These questions remind me of the reasons why I write, the least of which is to become a New York Times bestseller or actually make some money (though I do admit that would be nice!).  Primarily, I write to connect to others, to hold out a hand that says this is where I am, any chance you’ve been there before?  It’s my way of keeping myself honest and vulnerable.

Recently, I’ve realized that I also write because I believe deeply that ideas should be accessible. Working in academia, I come across plenty of ideas that only make sense to academics, and I love the challenge of taking some of these ideas and translating them to language where everyone else lives. I do this in my paycheck-job by teaching immigrants to speak English and find so many other areas of overlap where my heart longs to help bridge in disconnected spaces.

How does my writing process work? 

While I’ve always written, it’s taken me some time to grow comfortable with the title of ‘writer’.  Somehow, I feel like to legitimately use the term for myself, I need to actually make money writing or publish a book or write a monthly column for a well-known magazine or website. If I were a real writer, I tell myself, I’d sit alone in a cabin for a week working feverishly on a book or typing away on my laptop into the wee hours of the night.  

The problem is, this couldn’t be farther from reality. My primary jobs right now are teacher, mother, wife (and for the sake of full disclosure, over-enthusiastic-beach-goer). Writing exists in the margins of my life – sometimes regular, sometimes not-so-much – on a quiet blog with a small but steady readership and an occasional kinda-popular post.  While for some writers, writing is their primary endeavor, for me it is a secondary outcome that stems from my primary work and other life commitments. I wouldn’t have anything to write about if I weren’t also living a life full of so many other things.


Check out these great women!

Part of the blog hop is featuring other writers I’ve enjoyed.  I’m delighted to share the three women below with you. They’ll be answering the same questions next week on their blogs and sharing their own favorite writers as well.

Marilyn Gardner is an adult third culture kid who grew up in Pakistan and then lived as an adult in Pakistan and Egypt. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts 15 minutes from the international terminal where she flies to the Middle East & Pakistan as often as possible. Marilyn’s writing appears in the book What a Woman is Worth Civitas Press published 2014, Among Worlds Magazine, and A Life Overseas – The Missions Conversation . You can find her blogging at http://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/marilyngard

Bringing a lifetime of wisdom and diverse experience to the table, Marilyn brings a wise and valuable voice to the blogging world.  I deeply appreciate her willingness to process her ideas in the public sphere so that the rest of us can learn from her perspectives. Some of my favorite posts include her simple reflections about change and growth like this one, Restoration and Return.

bronlea outlineBronwyn Lea is a writer-mama, latte-sipper, laughter-seeker and Jesus-junkie. Once upon a time she dabbled in law and studied theology, but these days her claims to fame include speed-diapering and bad puns. She has an unnatural love for excavators and the color teal. She writes about all things holy and hilarious at her blog and various other online publications. She’d be tickled pink if you stopped by to say hello at her www.bronlea.com, on facebook or on twitter.

I’m particularly found of Bronwyn’s honesty and willingness to consider other perspectives. She’s thoughtful, fair-handed, and wise, tackling a wide range of topics from gay marriage to honest reflections about ‘average epiphanies’.


A few other writers you’ll enjoy as well…

These writers aren’t participating in the bloghop, but I can’t pass on the opportunity to also recommend their work. 

Kathy Khang: More than Serving Tea. Director of Intervarsity’s Multiethnic Ministries, Kathy brings a bold and vibrant perspective to the Christian world. The perspective she shares is both bold and humble, strong and vulnerable and we would all do well to listen closely to her heart. She is a contributing author to the book More than Serving Tea: Asian American women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith.

Osheta Moore: Shalom in the City.  A church planter, Osheta writes with candor, humor, and grace. She tackles tough topics with wit and honesty, leaving readers feeling both prodded and hugged all at the same time.  Speaking fear, praying shalom is one of my favorite posts of hers.

Ruthie Johnson: Embracing Hybrity.   Ruthie is an Indian adoptee who grew up with white parents amongst Cubans in Miami. She writes about multiethnic identity and navigating cross-cultural worlds. This is one of her recent insightful posts about how diversity in church is essential to God’s mission.

Christena Cleveland: A social psychologist and new professor at Bethel University, Christena is a leading Christian voice today. Her most recent book Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that keep us apart was a winner of the Leadership Journal book award and her blog includes a vast array of resources for people seeking to understand the gaps that exist in the Western evangelical church.


Posted in Miscellany | 1 Comment

Some big words (and helpful ideas) for when the race conversation explodes

Some big words (and helpful ideas) for when the race conversation explodesIn spite of decades of diversity awareness and training, race continues to be an explosive topic, and the media headlines attest to a continued struggle of our multicultural country to come to grips with its multiple realities. There are microagressions and macroagressions, accidental insults, and purposefully racist rants.

While I don’t believe we can do much to change the extreme ends of the spectrum that refuse to think, question, and consider other viewpoints, I do have great hope for all of those who exist in-between to establish a culture of respect for diversity within society at large. Most white people I know have no desire to be actively racist, but usually either don’t know that they don’t know or have no idea where to begin and no understanding of how to consistently deepen their perspectives.

When a colleague who teaches social work first introduced me to the term cultural humility, I instantly connected to it as a fabulous starting point for cross-cultural relationships. Working in education, I had not yet heard this term that has been gaining popularity in the public health and social work fields for nearly a decade now.  While I am quite familiar with the terms cultural competency and being culturally responsive, cultural humility had a whole new feel to it, one that I believe the general public would benefit from significantly given all the public sparring over our differences.

In his recent response to the Donald Sterling fiasco, Kareem Abdul Jabar captured the state of the country well, “Moral outrage is exhausting. And dangerous. The whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking.”

Something has to give. 

We simply can’t keep finger-wagging and head-shaking if we truly want to affect change. This is where I find the concept of cultural humility such a great place to start. Its three basic concepts include:

  1. Lifelong, reflective learning
  2. Respectful partnerships that recognize power imbalances
  3. Institutional accountability

Melanie Tervalon, one of the researchers who coined the term, explains that the ultimate goal of cultural humility is a “sense of equity, equality, respect that drives us forward” (Chavez, 2012). These concepts turn the idea of competence upside-down, for they shift the focus from simply attempting to gather information about people who are different to an approach that shapes how we think and act toward others.

If you’ll indulge the ‘think-y’ side of me for a moment, I want to pull a few more academic/theological terms into the conversation because they address an idea that I believe needs to gain some solid traction in the public conversation. In Christianity, the white evangelical church has spent a great deal of time focusing on orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right practice or behavior) of individuals, but not so much time on orthopathy (right passions, emotions, attitudes) in relation to how we interact with society at large.

This lop-sided growth has resulted in some significant holes in our interactions with each other. We can wave our carefully crafted orthodox flags while simultaneously finger-wagging and head-shaking, but we have a long way to go before our we actively lay our flags down, cross lines, and extend a hand of kindness and humility to someone who holds a belief that violates our carefully carved theology.

Lisa Boesen offers a helpful acronym as a guide to ASSESS how to develop consistent cultural humility:

Practicing Cultural Humility - TheLinkBetweenWorlds.com

As I write about and live out racial and cultural understanding, one of the strongest realities I’ve seen is that what creates the deepest change in relationships is who we are, not what we know.

In think-y words, this means that orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy must be deeply intertwined rather than separate values from which we pick and choose. “We have drawn upon a negative, hostile, and confrontational form of orthopathy,John W. Morehead reflects on recent evangelical interactions, “and out of this has come an expression of orthodoxy and orthopraxy that has been interpreted as less than compassionate by those outside our faith.”

Rather than perpetuate a hostile orthopathy, Morehead suggests evangelicals (and I would also add quite a few other Christian traditions) have another option, “Evangelicals can reflect on the scriptural call for love of neighbor, and for hospitality to the alien and stranger, and this can then can provide the basis for a reformulation of the form of orthopathy from which our orthodoxy and orthopraxy springs.”

Essentially, what it boils down to is that right theology (orthodoxy) and right practice (orthopraxy) should also foster compassion and empathy in our interactions with others (orthopathy) – not ‘farewell tweets‘, dismissively harmful comments, or polarizing reactions over disagreements.


It all leaves me wondering who we would be if the church-at-large and individuals-in-it spent our primary energies cultivating these notions of cultural humility, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy rather than defending our own interests? How would this reshape the imbalanced power dynamics and segregation in the western church as a whole? What if loving-one-another took the face of humility and respect for each other rather than igniting hostility and condemnation?

Instead of exhausting each other with our moral outrage, perhaps such steps would nurture our ability to respond to one another with the kind of sacrificial love Jesus himself taught us. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” Jesus told his over-confident disciple just before he predicted Peter’s ultimate betrayal. Ironic, eh? 

While we’re clearly not the first ones to stumble over ourselves in our feeble attempts to follow Jesus, may our imperfections not prevent us from seeking the deep-wisdom of those around us as we walk the winding path of loving one another.

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