Fear of the Live Encounter

I was recently reading a book by the author Parker Palmer called The Courage to Teach. In the opening chapters, he discusses the kinds of insidious fears teachers have that hinder their ability to teach effectively. To “avoid a live encounter,” as Palmer calls it, is to only deal objectively with people, places, and things as to not to have to either 1. reveal inadequacies about ourselves or 2. to alienate ourselves through carefully crafted fears so that we never have to truly dig deep into the the human experience — with others or even ourselves.  Continue reading

A SOLE Story: The Next Two Feet

Back in May of last year, my Spelman sister, Amena Brown Owen, sent me a Facebook message about connecting with Logan Wolfram, a woman who wanted to talk to a Christian blogger about ways she could better reach women of color who write about faith and culture. After a few exchanged messages, Logan told me that she and her boys would be making their way to Atlanta from Greenville, South Carolina for a pit stop on their way to a family vacation in Florida.

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God, Justice, and Our Collective Will

As the country waited to hear the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, there were a host of emotions present as we waited to learn Zimmerman’s fate. Many were hopeful that justice would come quickly for 17 year old Trayvon Martin; we ended the night only to have our hopes dashed with a not guilty verdict.

I took some time to look at the response of many people while we waited for the verdict and even afterward. People around the country had a similar request:

While I could spend many words expressing the feelings of despair and hopelessness people had surrounding these developments, there was a common theme that abounded throughout the night: the need for God’s “will to be done”. As hundreds of people tweeted and posted about wanting God’s will to be done with bated breath, hoping the verdict would offer solace to both the Martin family and supporters across the country, the collective disappointment was met with even more social commentary about how we will continue to wait for God’s will to be done and, as Psalm 94:1 suggests, allow God’s vengeance to do the work that the judicial system could not do.

I am not arguing any facts or failures about this case. The aforementioned introduction shines light on my personal views of the case, series of events, and desired outcome.

I am, however, raising theological questions about God, justice, and our collective will.

I mean, how do we find/know God’s will anyway?

We could use algorithms and formulas to figure out God’s will…
Powerful scripture + past experiences / prophetic word from a televangelist = God’s will?
OR
A bible story + prayer x a seed of faith($) = God’s will?

Here are the hard, theological questions I have about praying for God’s will in the midst of waiting for and reacting to Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict:

Since the verdict was not in Trayvon’s favor, does this mean that God was not listening to the supplication of those who wanted a guilty verdict? Was God’s will to allow the Martin family to not see justice and face the devastating pain of having their son’s killer go free? Does God, in fact, will for George Zimmerman to be a free man? Does this mean that Zimmerman’s life was more valuable than Trayvon’s?

Can we definitively say that our prayers for God’s will to be done come with the presumption that God’s will is like our own? And when these things do not work in our favor, does it now mean that God is in opposition to us?

More importantly, whose will is really at work in the earth?

Is it God’s or man’s?

God gave mankind the ability to choose. Many people call this “free will”. We are able to make our own decisions, one way or the other, with or without an understanding of God’s will for any given situation. I imagine that even when we are fully aware of what we think is God’s will for our lives, we still have the ability to choose otherwise.

Zimmerman made a choice on a cold, rainy February night in 2012. Some may argue that his actions were a part of “God’s will.” Others would scoff at the idea. Nevertheless, it was his ablity to exercise his free will that took Trayvon’s life.

So what does this mean for God, justice, and our collective will?

I’m reminded of Marvin Gaye’s song, “I Want You” where he croons over a carefully orchestrated melodic tune with electric and bass guitars, bongos, and string instruments:

I want you / the right way / I want you / but I want you to want me, too.

During my time in seminary, I’ve learned that God can be quite narcissistic, conceited, and totally consumed with Himself. We see countless scriptures throughout the Old Testament where God’s desire for a monolithic worship experience with His people was of prime importance and this incessant need to be chosen by His people is how much of the biblical text plays itself out.

God wants us to want Him the way that He wants us. He wants us to choose Him, intentionally.

But I’m convinced that God knew that we would not always choose Him on purpose. This free will gets in the way of seeing how amazingly wonderful it is to love God, to choose to be in relationship with Him. Our sinful nature pushes against the very idea.

Because God knew we wouldn’t choose Him on our own, He sent Jesus to show us how serious He was about us choosing Him. I’m being a bit presumptuous, but I think God knew that we would not choose Him on our own — our fleshly nature innately rejects God and our minds would only follow suit in a proverbial rebellion against The Creator.

God sending Jesus was the ultimate example of divine leadership: a leader should not expect their followers to do anything they are not willing to do themselves.

So God gives the ultimate sacrifice (His son) to prove that though He was asking us to make a choice to choose him (something that we could not do through our mind/flesh),  He first had to show us what it truly meant to not only sacrifice but to choose intentionally.  Choosing had to be a HEART matter, it could not be  an act of the flesh. God gave his son Jesus as a HEART sacrifice.

So, when we begin talking about God’s will versus our own, though we have the ability to choose any way we would like, when we consider that LOVE fueled God’s decisions to not only create us but sacrifice for us, we have a new lens to look at how we engage in the process of finding justice for those who have been wronged.

We will never be able to answer the question of what God’s will is — especially when it is juxtaposed against human free will. What we do know however, is the core essence of having any type of will at all, is that every choice is a heart matter — when we live and act in LOVE we don’t have to war with who’s will is at work — LOVE is what drives our decision making and communal interactions.

On the Chase for Justice,

Alisha L.

Microwaves

Here’s the scene: you put a dish of your favorite food in the microwave and as your tummy rumbles with hunger, you hear it popping and sizzling, taking in all those micro waves. With all the sound effects coming out of that 1,100 watt machine, you just know that when you take your food out of the microwave, it’s going to be ready to eat.

So, you take the dish out, sit it on the counter, stick your fork in it to get a bite — only to realize the center is still frozen.

This always sucks because you have to put the food back into the microwave for it to heat all the way through. The second time around, you stand there with your face inches away from the microwave… waiting. Those 2 minutes seem to take 20, don’t they?

Well, that’s the same thing that happens when we microwave our relationship with God. We put our lives (desires, dreams, wants, demands) in a microwave, press the 2:00 minute button and wait for the “ding!”, pretty confident that what we want we will get in just a matter of a half-hearted push of a button. Our sense of entitlement rears its head when we pull our spiritual dish out, pick up our fork of faith, and press down into a solid cold, frozen center, otherwise known as our heart.

All the right sound effects are there: the popping (hallelujah!) and sizzling (“I love me some Jesus!) but on the inside, our hearts are cold towards Him.

Revelation 3:15-16 tells us that God would much rather us be hot or cold towards Him — it’s the lukewarm (or half-cooked food – hot on the outside, cold on the inside) that He hates.

I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth! (Revelation 3:15-16 Amplified Version)

Here are two takeaways:

1. We have to learn to bake and roast. Microwaving our relationship with God does nothing but leave a cold, hard center. Baking and roasting allow for the Word to seep in, the juices to marinate, and for our hearts to warm up to the fiery outside we show the world. Nothing worth having in God can be cooked in a microwave.

2. Do a self check: what’s the temperature of your center? Rushing God’s will for your life can cause you to leave the cooking process earlier than you should. There’s nothing worse than having hot outsides (what you present to the world) and your heart lukewarm. It’s essential that we get our heart on fire for God and that our desires line up with His.

The best foods (and spiritual victories) come when we’re willing to bake a bit. Microwaved faith is for amateurs!

On the Chef Boyardee Chase,

Alisha L.