Living Easter Nationally

The pain of the world can be overwhelming. The suffering can seem to be a little too much. As we are considering how to live Easter, I offer some organizations that work for social justice in our nation. I don’t think Jesus expects us to be able to do everything, fix everything, and be everything all the time. So instead I have gathered causes that are important to me and that are important to our nation as a small list here. We are living a resurrected life, knowing that Jesus has victory over pain, evil, and death. Instead of getting overwhelmed (which I am prone to do) it’s good to just take a breath. Any type of volunteering or donation helps. We can pick one thing to focus on at a time and do our best. Maybe this list will help you pick one thing to focus on for now; maybe it will inspire you to research other causes that are important to you. We’re in this together; I don’t have it all figured out. I just keep trying to learn, to grow, and to do my best to shine God’s love in the world. When I fail, I own it, I ask forgiveness, and I try to do better. In the resurrected life we are allowed to be imperfect and to still do good.

 

For national impact on LGBTQ+ issues, here are a couple great organizations to donate time and money to:

Human Rights Campaign

This is a great organization that advocates for rights and protection of LGBTQ+ people on legislative matters. You can also be a local advocate in your community.

The Trevor Project

This organization advocates for LGBTQ+ youth, who are at a high risk of homelessness and suicide. They offer chatting and texting services for LGBTQ+ youth to reach out to in crisis. You can volunteer to be a crisis counselor.

Mental Health:

These organizations support mental health and mental illness. It’s important to break the stigma around mental illness so that all people receive the support and treatment they need. Seeking help and support is not a weakness; we all need help when we’re struggling. Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis test line help when you’re feeling suicidal or having an anxiety attack or in a depression spiral. National Alliance of Mental Illness offers crisis help as well as advocacy for public policies to support mental health and they educate society on mental illness. You can volunteer to be crisis counselors to help others.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Crisis Textline

National Alliance of Mental Illness

Ending Gun Violence:

Both of these organizations are working together state by state to rally for common sense gun laws to reduce gun violence and public shootings across the nation. In 2016 I heard Lucy McBath speak about her advocacy against gun violence since losing her son, Jordan Davis, to a racist man’s anger in 2012. Now she serves as Georgia’s 6th district congressional leader. Hearing her pain and her passion for common sense gun laws deeply moved me. She represents organizations like these, and they are really making efforts to make America safer.

Everytown

Moms Demand Action

Chronic illnesses:

ALS Association

American Cancer Society

St. Jude’s

Alzheimer’s Association

Equality of all people:

Black Lives Matter

It is important for people like me, who have white privilege, to step back, to listen, and to heed the words of those who are not being treated with equality and regard for human dignity. Black Lives Matter provides a platform for black voices to speak to their experiences and seeks equality.

National Immigrant Justice Center

Southern Poverty Law Center

Immigrant Families Together

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services

Immigrants are not criminals. Undocumented immigrants are people. Asylum seekers are within their right. We need laws the help and protect immigrants, and we need legislation to reform our immigration policies. Families should not be ripped apart. We need to treat people who want to enter our country as if their lives don’t matter or as if they are a threat to us. We desperately need to do better. Immigrant Justice Center, Refugee and Immigrant Center, and Southern Poverty Law Center offer pro bono services to immigrant families. Immigrant Families Together help pay for bonds for families, offer legal representations, helping families in detention, and supporting them after release.

Veterans:

According to http://www.metro.us, “According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were 40,056 homeless veterans living in the U.S. in a single night in January 2017, which was a little more than nine percent of all homeless adults. The study shows that three out of five homeless military veterans were housed in emergency shelters or transitional housing facilities, while two out of five were living in places “not suitable for human habitation.” ”

As someone who has worked with veterans struggling with homelessness, it’s shameful how many don’t have access to benefits. Here are numerous organizations to visit to donate to:

Wounded Warrior Project

List of Military Organizations

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Living Easter Locally

I got behind on my Easter blogging. A number of good things have been happening in my personal life. Also, this last week I have had some strong feelings about the death of one of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans. I will write more about that in a couple weeks. So I will be posting two blogs this week to make up for last week.

As we continue in our pursuit of living into the victory and resurrection of the Eastertide, I am continuing my series in how we make change around us. This change to be compassionate, empathetic, and justice-seeking is how we are called to live in God’s Kingdom as per Jesus’ example. Last week I shared a few small, easy ways to make change in our communities. This week I will talk about how we can volunteer our time and donate our money in local endeavors. Change starts here at home in our own communities. It expands out nationally and then through the whole world. I am going to share some organizations here in the south (where I am from) that I believe are incredible organizations. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, just a few organizations that I know of personally. I have worked with them or know others who have, and so I trust them to be valid and effective. For those who may be reading this post and aren’t in the south, then I encourage you to use this list to inspire you to seek organizations like these in your own communities.

Tennessee:

Coalition for Kids

This is a nonprofit I worked with for a semester in Johnson City, TN that offers a free after school program for kids to receive tutoring on their homework. For kids who have parents that work late, there is an extended program where we provide food, games, and other fun activities to supervise kids until their parents can come pick them up or they are taken home on the bus.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Raised as a Tennessean, it’s mandatory that I love Dolly Parton, even if I’m not a country music fan. Dolly is loved by both liberal and conservative alike, and she cares deeply about the people of the Smokies. The Imagination Library began as a literacy project for children in Sevier County (her home county) for children to receive free books from birth until they reach school age. This is now both a national and international program, and continues to promote literacy and imagination in young children regardless of  household income.

Memphis Youth Mission

This is a Presbyterian mission that works with local organizations to meet the needs of the local area. They offer mission trips for youth to immerse themselves in the local culture and to serve the immediate needs of the people they are building relationships with. What the mission groups do will depend upon the needs of the organizations. These missions go beyond just doing something nice for a community, and actually changing and growing according to the community’s needs in that moment.

North Carolina:

Asheville Youth Mission and Raleigh Youth Mission

See above to Memphis Youth Mission.

South Carolina:

Thornwell Children’s Home

Based in Clinton, SC Thornwell serves SC, GA, and FL through foster care and families in need. It is a Presbyterian organization, so a number of churches that I have worked for financially support this nonprofit that continues to grow and help children and families.

Georgia:

Code Out

A friend of mine from seminary, Hannah Hill, began this nonprofit just a couple years ago. They have recently begun classes for women who are incarcerated to teach them how to code; this is an extremely lucrative skill set that enables women to have a marketable ability to help them find work once they are released from prison. I am a monthly contributor, and this new nonprofit can use any and all support.

Central Outreach and Advocacy Center

I spent a semester interning here as my chaplaincy training for seminary, and it truly opened my eyes to homelessness and poverty. The OAC helps to provide ID cards, birth certificates, and other important documentation to people experiencing homelessness. Without these documents it is nearly impossible to secure housing, food, and employment. There is also a job readiness program called Main Frame, which helps people learn computer skills and build their resumes for free.

Love Beyond Walls

I do not personally know Terence Lester, but he attends the church of one of my professors from seminary. Rev. Dr. Ralph Watkins is the pastor at Wheat Street Baptist and he is also a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, and he shared about Terence Lester’s walking (yes, walking) journey from Atlanta to Memphis to raise awareness about poverty. I was stunned at his commitment, and found out about his nonprofit Love Beyond Walls. Terence has been moved to help to homeless population in Atlanta, so much so that he intentionally lived on the streets for a time to understand the demographic he wanted to serve. This nonprofit provides food, water, shelter, grooming, clothes, laundry services, and so much more.

Florida:

Halifax Urban Ministries

This is a great organization I served food with a few times the serves the local area through hot meals, food pantries, homelessness prevention programs, and programs to help shelter people who are transitioning out of homelessness.

Multiple States:

DOOR

DOOR serves much more than the south: Atlanta, Miami Chicago, Denver, LA. Similar to the youth missions above, this is a mission that works with the local organizations to fill needs within the city they serve. They offer youth mission trips as well as year long residencies for people who want to work with inner city organizations the meet various needs specific to the people in the community.

Passport-MissionBASE

I took a youth group to Birmingham through Passport a few years ago, and I was so impressed with how we served the community while also learning about the history of the city. Following the trend with the other missions above, Passport works with local organizations to meet immediate needs. Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, DC, and many other cities are served through this program.

Appalachian Service Project

ASP serves TN, VA, WV, KY, and NC through their mission to repair homes in rural Appalachia. I took a youth group and we worked with a contractor to build a room add-on for a family who had a baby. Some groups patch roofs, others build ramps. Depending on the need of the family, the groups work with a leader who helps them repair parts of their homes.

 

Any of the projects would greatly benefit from your time and money. Any help and aid truly impacts the local community and makes a difference for your neighbors. Again, if these services are not close to you, research what ministries, nonprofits, and charities are making a difference in your local community, and offer your services there, whenever you can. Even if it’s just helping prepare and serve meal once a month, that’s a person fed that day. Do what you can, where you can, with what you can. Next week we’ll talk about large-scale, national programs that would benefit from donations.

John 21:12-19

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Published Sermons!

I am sharing to let everyone know that I have published a book of sermons! “Who May Dwell on Your Holy Hill?” is the first in what I hope to be a long, fruitful, life-giving career in writing and publishing. For anyone who has enjoyed my blogs, I think you will enjoy my sermons as well. They can be used for devotionals (they aren’t too long!) or for other preachers looking for sermon illustrations or for anyone who simply enjoys scripture, theological reflection, and stories. And please feel free to share with your friends! You can order my book here:

Parson’s Porch

Lent Week 5

John 12:1-8
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

 

 

Bold. Bold of Mary to use her agency to commit to a mysterious action that no one in the room would likely understand of anointing Jesus’ feet. Bold of her to use a potential source of wealth in an act of service. Bold of her to do something as intimate as using her hair to wipe his feet.

Bold of Judas to open his mouth and condemn the action.

Bold of Jesus to not only engage with her in this way, but to stick up for her.

In Lent, we think that our boldness might get us in trouble and lead us astray. If we’re quick to shoot off at the mouth, if we are speaking our mind without listening to others, if we act selfishly, these bold actions can hurt us and others. Those are the things we spend Lent repenting of.

But boldness is love, in service, in undermining oppressive power and authority, in eschewing wealth for the sake of equality, in devotion to Christ through our devotion to others is what we are called to do. Even if others misunderstand, or roll their eyes at us because we are “bleeding hearts”, or we are “too p-c”, or that we’re “snowflakes” because we make decisions to respect people and their needs, we are called to be bold. And this text shows us that Jesus is on the side of boldness.

Lent Week 4

2 Corinthians 5:16-21
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

I now live in a new city in a new state. In this state (unlike my previous one) Spring is happening, so there are blooms, pollen, little bunnies in my backyard, and signs of new life everywhere. These cutesy little “new” experiences are often what we associate with newness and Christ. But I believe Lent invites us to think about it differently.

While I’m celebrating the new around me, I’m also carrying deep seated pain and anger. My life has been a mess for 9 months, and I’m finally, finally, finally leaving behind the oppression that sucked the life out of me. I have a new beginning, but I’m going to have to wade through the pain that has attached itself to my soul. Becoming new means that I have to get my hands really dirty to rip away the resentment that crushes my spirit so that I can breathe new air and be alive again in Christ. I have to die to this old way that no longer benefits me; and that requires the hard work of taking a good, long look at my pain, feeling it, working through it, and healing from it.

This week let’s think about the old ways in our lives that we have to die to: bitterness, pain, rage, resentment, unforgiveness, and everything that stops the heart of our soul from beating. We are called to live abundantly. While we think of newness being sweet and cute, sometimes becoming a new creation means taking on difficult and ugly tasks to separate us from evil and save our souls. Enter into the hard work of addressing, feeling, working through, and healing from all that suffocates us so that we can be a new creation in Jesus Christ.

Care-full Compliments

When I was a kid I was pretty motivated to try to new things, to take on leadership roles, and to have the favor and approval of the teachers. Yes, I wanted to be praised by my teachers. I was that kid. I wanted the adults that I admired to be proud of me. I wanted their validation.

I think as children, we all want that to some degree. We want someone older and wiser to see our talent and potential and for them to approve of us. Maybe even be impressed.

 

As an adult in my late twenties I have had a difficult time putting my finger on why being showered with compliments by older adults has not set well with me. A “great job” or a congratulatory remark are wonderful and needed to make us feel like we are doing well and our work or contributions are appreciated. But an over selling of compliments feels belittling.

When people are in leadership roles it is so important to lift others up, letting them know that we see and appreciate their gifts. And if we have a platform and the power to provide opportunities to help our people share their skills, then we should certainly step aside and share the limelight. And then tell them they’re doing great.

That being said we need to be aware of the danger of falling into two pitfalls:

  1. Constantly complimenting or showering with compliments gets awkward really quickly. It can be hard enough to learn how to graciously accept a compliment, but several in a row can be uncomfortable. Why? Because sometimes it can feel disingenuous, and even condescending. Go back to when you were a child and wanted validation from the adults and leaders around you. It felt good and helped you develop your strengths. Now, as an adult, not only have you gained more confidence, the fact that you have a job pertaining to your skills or a degree (or multiple degrees) is more than enough validation of your talents. Who are we to assume that we are so important that their confidence and self-worth hinges on our validation of their talents? Now let me pause here and say that I know as a well-intentioned leader who falls into this trap too often that this is not the mindset. I find myself over-doing it with compliments all the time, because I want to be someone’s cheerleader. I want that person to keep up the good work. We want those around us to feel supported (because we want support too, and we know how important it is.) And we should support them! But let’s be careful that we aren’t overdoing it. The people around us don’t need our approval to be amazing; they already are. And it’s okay if they know it. They shouldn’t have to feign ignorance or being embarrassed just so that we feel like they need us to help them feel confident. One can be confident and also humble and grateful for support. Don’t over sell it. Just show up and congratulate. They’re not helpless.

 

2. Taking credit for someone else’s success as if we “discovered” them is stealing what doesn’t belong to us. If we’re constantly talking about how we “gave” someone an opportunity while disguising it under how thrilled we are to see their talents shine, we need to stop and assess what’s going on. Why are we telling others about this story? Is it to brag on that person? Why are we including the detail about how we “noticed” that person? What does that add to the story? Why do we want our listener to know that we were the ones who acknowledged that person’s talent? Why are we inserting ourselves into a story that supposedly isn’t about us? Often times, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We’re talking about a great experience within our lives where someone shared their gifts and talents when maybe they had never had an opportunity to do so before. That’s a great story to tell! But then we slip in details here and there about how we were the ones who noticed them, then we asked them, then we spent hours working with them, then we found the perfect opportunity for them… And suddenly the story is not about the other person, but about us. Sometimes minor details are necessary to get the whole picture. So here’s an example of a self-centered version of the story, and a more selfless version:

Option A:

“Our company needed someone to take on a presentation for a big client. We had a small group of people on our team that always did the presentations, and they do a great job. But some of our talented people fly under the radar who might have some strengths they could bring to the table. I noticed Haley always takes good notes when I speak at our meetings, she asks me great questions, and she shares great research with me. I thought she had a lot of potential, so why don’t I ask her? She was very excited to that I gave her this opportunity, and she knocked it out of the park! I’m very impressed, she exceeded all of my expectations.”

Option B:

“Our company needed someone… Haley always takes good notes, asks great questions, and she does her research. She had so much potential, so I asked her to do the presentation. She was very excited, and of course she knocked it out of the park! It was great to have her skills be recognized by so many people in our company and with our clients.”

In the second narrative the word “I” was only used once, and it was just to share an essential detail of the story. Otherwise, the story was focused on Haley’s competence and not on the boss’s discovery and validation of her. While we may not be purposefully looking to take credit for someone else’s success, this could be a hidden motivation in inserting ourselves in the story. If we’re getting notoriety for helping someone, we’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

ground group growth hands
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When we are supporting others, let’s be careful and care-full with our compliments. The people around us aren’t some sad baby bird who are just waiting for us to swoop in, save them, and help them fly. Typically, we don’t think of them in that way; at least not consciously. But we have to caution ourselves that our leadership habits reflect that we see these people as our peers and colleagues, not our good little students who need a gold star or pat on the head. Let’s support them without being condescending and let’s help them without taking any credit. There’s so much talent out there and enough room for all of us to share and enjoy it.

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