Miscellany, Spiritual Formation

Willow

swing-your-branches-oh-willow-4

Just sharing a quiet meditation from my day, inspired by the recent election and Helen Jane Long‘s song, “Willow”.

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Miscellany

A prayer for the brokenhearted

There is much weeping and anguish over the current state of America right now. Contrary to some perspectives, it’s not about the loss of political power. That happens. That’s normal and to be expected. Let the Republicans take a turn for awhile. Many will disagree, grumble, and wait for “change in Washington”, but we’ll all survive the ups-and-downs of the political fray, and eventually return to our regularly-scheduled-programming.

But this weeping? It is born from fear for personal safety, sanity, and mere existence. These tears aren’t about who votes for or against abortion, the Supreme Court, or Obamacare. They are about the sorrow for the setback of the American Dream—the hope that we are equal under the law, indivisible, with liberty justice for all. The harsh reality for those of us who weep is that the nation’s leader is a man who spoke aggressively against these very ideals, who blatantly denies the impact of his negative behavior, and whose behavior descends far lower than what we would ever allow of our children.

Consider this sampling of events that has already occurred, mere days after the election:

Some are saying that this is normal, that it’s not connected to the election. To that, I respond, “Why the hell is it ok for this to be normal?”

The pain is running deep these days, folks. As one deeply committed to healing racial wounds in our country, I feel the weight of it especially heavy on my shoulders. My husband and I hear from friends and colleagues across the country who feel the same thing. When I hear relief expressed over the election results, I find myself wanting to respond, “Frankly, I’m deeply saddened by them because my volunteer work is in racial reconciliation. This has been a ruuuuuuuffffff week for so many, and there’s a lot of pain out there in the wake of what this has revealed about America.”

For those of us who are mourning with those who mourn, who feel it our call as a follower of Christ to love mercy, act justly, and live humbly, I offer a prayer today.

we-are-weary-and-burdened-lord-and-we-need-rest-the-weight-of-prejudice-sits-especially-heavy-on-our-shoulders-it-leaves-so-many-brokenhearted-and-crushed-in-spirit-and-we-need-your-closeness-may

 

Miscellany

Pondering Privilege (ebook) on sale this weekend only

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In light of the state of the nation, I’m running a Kindle Countdown Deal on the ebook version of Pondering Privilege this weekend. If you’ve been hoping to preview a copy, make sure to take advantage of this sale! The ebook lists for $7 on Amazon, but will be available for $2.99 on Friday, $3.99 on Saturday, and $4.99 on Sunday. Get a copy now!

Miscellany

Coming to terms with my whiteness

My Whiteness is something I did not ask for, cannot change, and don’t completely understand. While I haven’t always been aware of the full implications of this trait in a racialized society, living between worlds has pushed me to grapple with my race as a significant shaper of my identity.

Interested in my new book Pondering Privilege: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Whiteness, Race, and Faith An excerpt is featured at The Salt Collective this week.  Check it out! 

PP Cover 2

Miscellany

Perfectly uncertain

Time is indeed a steady healer, cautiously pointing out that my greatest spiritual defect may well be perfectionism. Having grown up a Christian, I absorbed unspoken messages that spiritual strength meant unwavering certainty and unshakable faith. This foundation became a significant problem when my certainty wavered and my faith shook. How could I be a Christian if I questioned its validity? How would I remain faith-full when the very ground I stood on felt as though it were crumbling? Everything felt unsure. The great hymn of my faith was failing: Christ was no solid rock; I found myself sinking quickly in the sand.

I’m writing at SheLoves this week … read about my journey to accept my imperfections there! (Bonus poem included!)

 

Miscellany

The wisdom of elephants

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I’m currently enamored with this print that my husband gave me for our 15th wedding anniversary. It will soon grace my new office wall; and I find myself reflecting on the symbolism of the elephants in my new artwork. I love elephants, not only because they turn my mind immediately to the wonders of Africa and Asia that have shaped my heart in so many ways, but also because of the remarkable lessons their lives offer humans:


Remember the past.

Elephants are known for their excellent memories. Scientists believe that their memories help them survive, oftentimes helping them remember long lost water sources, reconnect with old friends, and survive harsh conditions.


Walk with dignity. Lead with wisdom.

Led by matriarchs, elephants choose their leaders based not on aggression, but on wisdom, intelligence, and problem-solving skills. Their most effective leaders are often the oldest in the herd who demonstrate characteristics like strong decision making ability, compassion, and hard work.


Listen well. Stay attuned to potential dangers.

Elephants listen not only with their giant ears, but also by picking up vibrations in the ground through their feet. They listen keenly to stay aware of their surroundings and possible threats to their herd.


Protect the vulnerable.

When threatened by a lion attack, elephants form a circle to protect their young. It is a remarkable and tender event to watch the mama elephants circle their babies as they fiercely defend their young.


Travel together.

Scientists who study elephants note that individual elephants in a group each have their own personalities. Their personality traits impact their relationships within the herd as well as their leadership roles and survival skills. The elephants with the strongest relational skills end up being the more successful members of the herd. The ones who are difficult live more isolated lives.


Be affectionate with loved ones.

Elephants use their trunks to show one another all kinds of affection from love to playfulness to consolation. Mamas use it to guide their babies and babies have even been known to suck on their trunks like thumbs to calm themselves.


Enjoy life.

Who doesn’t love watching an elephant take a bath?!?! If you ever make it to Sri Lanka, top on the list to visit should be bathtime at Pinnewala, an elephant orphanage near Kandy.

Catch a glimpse of the bathing beauties here:


Check out these fascinating articles on elephants:

Miscellany

A look back at 2014

It’s been a busy year! Here’s a look at the most popular links, clicks, and posts on Between Worlds this year – enjoy!

Most Popular Posts on Between Worlds:

  1. 101 Culturally Diverse Christian Voices
  2. When White People Don’t Know They’re Being White
  3. Dear ‘Merica: A Lament
  4. 5 Painful Realities of White Privilege
  5. 4 Reasons White People Need to Talk about Race
  6. 4.5 Tips to Help White People Talk about Race
  7. 4 Reasons White People Don’t Talk about Race
  8. 10 Reasons I’m Reading Harry Potter to my Children
  9. 9 Ways to Help Children Develop Global Awareness
  10. Dear Lego: Yellow is not a ‘Neutral’ Skin Color

Most Popular Clicks on Between Worlds:

  1. 101 Christian Women Speakers (Rachel Held Evans)
  2. Urban Church Plantations (Christena Cleveland)
  3. Your Jesus (The Beautiful Due)
  4. Hidden Assumptions and Minority Burdens (The Washington Institute)
  5. Explaining White Privilege to a Broke Person (The Feminist Breeder)
Miscellany

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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

 

Miscellany

Join the #Weneeddiversebooks social media campaign

When I noticed the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks trending on Twitter tonight, I was completely thrilled and just had to share!  (I also found it happily ironic that it was trending on the day the NBA banned the Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist comments…)

Join the social media campaign started by author Ellen Oh, an effort to get the media’s attention to increase diversity in children’s books. Here’s our photo:

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To which my son promptly added that we also need stories that just don’t explain interracial families, but just present them as normal people.

Make your own sign and take a picture to post on social media May 1-3 to give the movement some traction, and visit the link above to submit it to the Tumblr site for #weneeddiversebooks.

While you’re at it, check out some other posts about the need for increased diversity in children’s exposure to the world:

 

Miscellany

{the crippled beggar}

I’m linking up to my friend Amy’s “subvert an empire for us: {poetry for lent}” (awesome title, right?) by posting a poem with the rebels today.

 
(acts 3)
ironically,
your warped body
begged by day
at a gate called
Beautiful
something
you were not.
most people at the courts
looked through you,
never at,
for fear, perhaps,
of ruining the Gate’s name.
but they looked –
the disciples of One
to whom “beautiful”
meant more than
straight anklebones.
and then you
walked,
skipped,
leapt,
twirled,
danced,
and probably cried
at the beauty
of moving
for the
very
first
time
in your life.
Miscellany

Would you do me a big-huge-favor?

Pondering Privilege: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Whiteness, Race and Faith

I’ve just posted a slightly updated version of my ebook, Pondering Privilege: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Whiteness, Race, and Faithon Amazon and I’d really love to get some reviews on the Amazon site.  If you’ve read the book (most of it was in the free download for last month), would you be a dear and leave a review?

I’d be ever-so-grateful!  

If you haven’t read the book yet and would like to, you’re in luck!  I’m still giving away FREE COPIES to anyone willing to leave a review on Amazon.  Email me through the contact page and I’ll send you a copy ASAP!

Miscellany

{an old love poem}

 
 
as i watched them plod slowly up the hill, hand-in-hand
(for steadiness more than romance), i began to see what
so many years of love and tears and laughter and anger
and struggle and joy give to those willing to face it together.
 
years later, i watched him weep when his steady companion
let go of his hand and took a step forward without him, and
again, i caught a glimpse of the depth of love that years of
walking faithfully side by side grows between two hearts.
 
their years together leave me with both tears and smiles,
hoping that i, too, will someday have seen just as many
loving and tearful and funny and angry and difficult and
happy moments of that-kind-of-love that lasts for a lifetime.
Miscellany

|of egrets and old souls|

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Every evening, they come.
One by one,
the egrets arrive at the river
preparing to roost for the night.
They dance from tree to tree,
congregating on the bridge for evening gossip,
and when dark falls,
they find just the right branch,
tuck their noses under a wing
and dot the trees with their fluffing puffs of cotton.
~
She loves to watch the egrets, my grandmother-in-law.
Every night, she perches her tenacious 91-year-old self
on the patio to watch them arrive
on the banks of the Mahaweli.
I sit with her one evening and watch them,
captivated both by the mystery of their patterns
and the joy she still finds in simple things.
We chat about how she watches them every day,
and sometimes even wakes up too-early in the morning
to watch them take off.
Silently I remember that
my own grandfather-a-half-a-world-away
loved these gracious birds too.
 ~
Perhaps
their many years
have given them an appreciation
for grace,
for gentleness,
for slowing down,
for noticing.
 ~
I capture a moment with my lens,
grateful for the wisdom
of the old souls
and the grace
of the egrets.

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Miscellany

Versatile Blogger Award

versatile-bloggerI was grateful to receive a Versatile Blogger Award nomination from Searching for Substance and humbled to read her description of my blog:

Between Worlds – a blog that cuts to the core of the things that matter, she writes often about topics that are too hard to talk about. like racism. or separation in the church. or marriage. or work. or immigration and resettlement. Difficult stuff, but expressed so eloquently and thoughtfully.

Thanks, Soapie. These words are the best part of the honor.

Part of the nomination is the write seven random things about me.  While I love reading such lists, I find them terribly difficult to write.  Here goes:

  1. I once sang the Theme from Titanic (or the ‘Jack and Rose’ song as they called it) to a group of rural Thai school children.  The sad part is that I don’t sing very well and didn’t even know the words to the song, but it was the one thing they wanted to know about the US.
  2. The hardest-superficial-part of traveling for me is the lack of uber-comfortable furniture and cold drinks.  Go ahead an slap an American flag on my forehead :).
  3. I actually prefer squat toilets to sit-down ones.  Waaay more sanitary!
  4. My guilty pleasure is watching cute animal videos on YouTube with my kids.  I have a hard time laughing sometimes and I love the reason to giggle. My absolute favorite are the BBC’s Walk on the Wild Side clips.
  5. I’m an ocean girl.  Mountains are pretty and all, but I could sit beside the sea forever.
  6. I hate to clean.  In fact, if you came to my house, you might actually find me comfortably writing away on the couch while my husband scrubs the floor.
  7. Clearly, I married really well.

And now for my nominations:

Shalom is for the City.  Osheta writes with boldness and grace, honesty and gentleness about everything from   race to faith to church-planting to peace-making to mothering.  She will stun you with her wisdom and relax you with her humor.

The Beautiful Due.  John Blase’s poignant and beautiful poetry about the spiritual realities in every day life.

A life with Subtitles.  Sarah writes navigating the challenging and fun realities of bicultural and bilingual families.

Communicating Across Boundaries.  Marilyn’s writes about everything from third culture kids to growing up in Pakistan to Orthodoxy.  Her writing is both beautiful and practical, and she hosts a wide variety of guest authors speaking to cross-cultural topics.

Grace Biskie.  Grace is a biracial woman who writes with hopeful honesty about race, recovery from abuse, mental illness, and justice.