Increasing Awareness of Justice Issues

Even though I’ve always been someone who is aware of justice issues, I’ve become much more intentional and aware in the past couple years. Since I rarely just jump into anything, I started this journey by reading more books, articles, and experts in the field of justice work. I wanted to share a few of my favorite resources with you to help on this path of becoming more aware.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
This book is cited again and again as a life-changing resource, and for good reason. I think most people have some sort of vague idea that our prisons are overcrowded, that we need reform, and that the inmate population is racially skewed. But why? How did we get here? What are the actual statistics?

Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. He has spent his career providing legal services to those who cannot afford quality lawyers, specifically for inmates on death row.

Just Mercy is an important book, and I’d highly recommend reading it. But I’d also recommend following the Equal Justice Initiative for a view of statistics and cases of racial injustice happening today.

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour
There are a couple books that helped shape my perspective on the complexity of the Israel-Palestine conflict but as a Christian, Blood Brothers was most significant. Elias Chacour is a Palestinian Christian from Nazareth. His family has been Christ-followers since, well… Jesus was their neighbor.

Chacour became Archbishop of the Galilee region and spent his life working toward conversation and peace between Israeli and Palestinian neighbors. His book was an eye-opening memoir about the layers and layers of conflict in this region. There is no easy answer toward peace, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth working toward.

On My Nightstand…
There are so many books and so little time… I wanted to share three books that are on my to-read pile, in case one looks like a good fit for you.

Mending the Divides by Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart
Written by the founders of the Global Immersion Project, this book looks at peacemaking in a world where conflict, hate, and injustice thrive. What do we do next?

The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
This book comes highly recommended. Written by theologian James Cone, it looks at two powerful and charged symbols of American Black history.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Legal scholar Michelle Alexandar looks at the incarceration rates of African American men and argues that the prison system as it runs today is the contemporary replacement of the Jim Crow laws of the 1960’s.

What books and resources have impacted your journey toward a better understanding of justice? Have you read any of these?

BackyardThis post is Day 14 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

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Telling Better Stories

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by what I can’t do in this phase of life – I can’t drive without the demand for kid music; I can’t read more than a paragraph in a book without interruption; I can’t attend protests or marches. Sometimes I wonder what I can do. How can I make a difference in the midst of my own everyday story?

21232021_10155709708059772_4896716415377640771_nOsheta Moore answers that question with grace and enthusiasm. In Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World she reminds me what everyday peacemaking looks like. It looks like getting to know my neighbors; it looks like loving and empowering my kids; it looks like giving myself grace when I mess up.

She reminds me that we all have a story – that our experiences and opinions aren’t formed in a vacuum. How did we get here? What happened to help shape our own narrative? I appreciate that Osheta doesn’t have big solutions to big problems. She has small, doable solutions to everyday problems. Her solutions include things like listening, getting to know our neighbors, dancing in the kitchen and choosing subversive joy in the midst of pain.

Throughout Shalom Sistas, Osheta reminds me that can be the one to change the narrative. I don’t have to believe what I see or what I’m told. I can choose to see good, to love through the seemingly unlovable situations, and to choose to bring peace rather than division.

But being a peacemaker isn’t passive. Like getting your hands dirty in the garden in order to grow flowers and vegetables, peacemaking requires getting messy in order to create something beautiful.

How do you find peace in your everyday? What are ways you choose to tell better stories?

BackyardThis post is Day 7 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Creating Boundaries and Finding Balance

We’re doing the Whole30 reset again. Not because we don’t know what we need to do to eat healthfully but because, without rules and a commitment, it’s easy to cheat and let things slide. There is always a special occasion; always a reason to splurge. This time around isn’t as stressful since we continued to make many of the recipes throughout this past year. It also isn’t as fun since we kinda know how we’re going to feel – and that we’ll most likely get off track again by this time next year.

CreatingBoundariesandFindingBalanceI’m still glad we’re doing it though. It’s a reminder that resets are necessary. That even when we know what’s good for us, boundaries are necessary. I have a feeling that most of us are like that, whether or not it’s about the food we eat. We have indulgences and habits that aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but perhaps aren’t the best.

I was reminded of this with my reading habits the other day. I often lean toward nonfiction genres and this year have been making it a point to read more fiction. And I’ve read some incredible fiction! There are so many incredible storytellers in our world. I’ve also read a lot of mediocre fiction, which totally has its place, as well. But I noticed the more easy fiction I read, the harder it became to focus on nonfiction. And then I started reading easy nonfiction, with more conversational tones and format.

I was critiquing a book I had just started and Frank asked, Why are you reading that? You have another book about the same topic that’s meatier. Why don’t you just read that one?

Since life really is too short to read books I don’t love, I returned the other book to the library. It’s not a bad book – in fact it’s perfect for its intended audience, but at this moment in life, I’m not that audience. I picked up the thicker tome with thinner pages and smaller font and have set about reading it.

It’s harder. And my brain hurts more. But, already I recognize how much better this is for me at this point. I’ve taken a break and indulged in really great and really fluffy books, which was fun. And now I need something meatier. It’s a reminder that I should probably be a little more intentional about balancing the books I’m reading – whether it’s a heavy nonfiction with fun fiction or more thoughtful fiction with lighter nonfiction. All are good but, like food, they’re good when balanced and moderate.

This link to food and reading has made me pause and wonder what other areas of my life I’m off-balance a bit. What small recalibration would make certain activities healthier? I’m looking at our family’s schedule and we have a lot of really good commitments and activities. But we also have a limited amount of time. How do we balance those? What season are we in, where certain groups makes sense and others don’t? I’m looking at my exercise routine (or lack thereof) and am wondering how I can make small changes to my priorities and schedule to fit more of that into my days.

Like I said, I think there’s a time and place and necessity for fun, easy, fluffy foods, reads, and activities. And there’s a season for weightier and healthier ones. I’m remembering to take some time to asses and look at all areas and choose small changes that make sense.

I like the idea of fall-housekeeping for lifestyle choices. I’m remembering that it’s never too late to start a new habit. That I don’t need to wait until the start of the school year or January or the first of the month or Monday. I can start tomorrow or at 2:00 in the afternoon. Small changes happen any time, and I’m looking for opportunities.

How do you balance the meat and veggies of life? Do you have to stop and be intentional or does this happen naturally for you?

Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality

One year, during our week of inservice and team-building before the school year started, we had an expert on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator give us a test and help us learn to work with people of differing temperaments. Great in theory, but in practice it was the most stressful day for me. I felt boxed in and unheard. My strengths felt diminished and each type was presented in an extreme scenario, making me feel that I didn’t fit anywhere. From that day, I’ve always been squeamish about the MBTI.

20480007_10155076767049825_9027085380737922879_nI love taking those silly personality tests, though and am always interested to see which vacation I should go on or which literary character I’m most like. I connect with StrengthsFinder and the Love Languages and find those types invaluable in my relationships. But I wouldn’t call myself a personality junkie – I’ve stayed firmly away from Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram sounded a little too woo-woo for me.

Until…. I read Anne Bogel’s Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything. Anne is a well-read personality junkie but she doesn’t espouse one particular type over any others. She highlights the significance of each and the ways that each personality framework can help in different areas of our lives. In Anne’s signature gentle manner, she dismantles each framework into easily understandable language and uses.

Part memoir, part how-to, Reading People reminded me of the importance of knowing myself. Because Anne so brilliantly breaks down each framework, she made it easy for me to “type” myself without the need for an online test. Some frameworks need the tests (think StrengthsFinder) but most can be done by gut instinct and reading. Because of Anne’s descriptions, I was able to come to a better understanding of my Myers-Briggs type and found the descriptors accurate and freeing.

Anne gave me permission to throw out those semi-accurate tests and really delve into personality on my own. This helped me understand the various typings so much more than if I had blindly let the results define me. Over and over, Anne reminds her reader that personality tests are not meant to box people into stereotypes that don’t fit. They’re meant to open up the world and help us see ourselves and those around us more clearly.

If you are a personality framework fan or if you have always wanted to explore these tests more but just didn’t know where to begin, I’d highly recommend Reading People!

20622024_10155076767089825_5788559411035682335_nFor Fun… Anne created a Reading Personality Quiz, linking readings styles to personality frameworks. I took it twice (of course) and got Explorer and English Professor, which are both accurate.

Reading People releases on September 19! If you preorder a copy before then, send your receipt to ReadingPeopleBook.com for a free download of the audio version and access to Anne’s Reading Personality Class, which explores the types from her personality quiz in more depth.

Do you like personality frameworks? What’s your favorite or the one you’ve most connected with? Did you take the Reading Personality Quiz – what were your results?

As a member of the Reading People launch team, I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher. All views are my own.

Review: Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

If you’re a Christian woman in her late-twenties to early-forties, you most likely have heard of Jen Hatmaker. Funny, thoughtful, and to the point, she has a diverse following. This year, she’s used her platform to talk about things we often don’t like to talk about – race, privilege, politics. I’m always amazed at those who continue to follow her and am grateful that she is able to push the boundaries and world-views of many women.

_140_245_Book.2334.coverHatmaker’s newest book, Of Mess and Moxie just released and I was looking forward to seeing her shifting voice. In the introduction, she talks about how her theology and outlook have shifted over the years, and how this is a healthy thing. It’s true – if my views on life and faith were exactly the same as they were ten years ago, it would indicate more stagnation than steadiness.

This new collection of essays dives into some of her growth. But it also is cut off by other essays about things like How to do math homework with a middle schooler and How to find a family pet. These are funny essays but they took away from the overall depth and power of her more serious essays. I feel like Hatmaker has a great influence and a powerful way of writing. Maybe she knows the art of taking baby steps with her audience but I wish she (or her publisher?) would allow her readers to go on a deeper dive without having to resurface just as things are getting interesting.

Here’s the thing, if you’re a fan of Jen Hatmaker’s, you’re going to love Of Mess and Moxie. It’s her signature style and she feels like a buddy talking on the front porch about life and friendship and motherhood. I like Hatmaker’s message but her style at this stage just isn’t for me. It’s a reminder that not every book is for every person, and that’s ok.

How do you like your essays – deep and thought-provoking or witty and fun?

I received this book free from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Interview: Sabeeha Rehman, Author of Threading My Prayer Rug

Last week, I had the honor of talking with Sabeeha Rehman, author of Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim. We read her book as part of the Red Couch Book Club (check out my discussion post) and it was a delight to ask her more questions and to dive deeper into her story.

Sabeeha’s story about finding her way as a Muslim in America is powerful. Topics we cover include the shifting views on feminism in Islam, American’s relationship and interaction with Islam over the years, and the way Sabeeha’s journey has brought her to advocacy and bridging divides between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. I hope you’ll watch our video and check out her book!

Click here to watch our conversation.

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Review: Adopted by Kelley Nikondeha

I was hanging out with a friend the other day, our kids playing in the basement as we snatched bits of conversation. Her almost-one-year-old crawled over to me with the biggest smile. What a smile! I exclaimed before making a huge faux-pas, She looks just like her mom. Without missing a beat, my friend replied, She does look like her birth mom!

My friend is this little girl’s mom. She has been since before this child was born – chosen for her. And yet, through the connection of Facebook and open adoptions, we also know her birth mom and what she looks like. We see biologic resemblances even though all of this sweet girl’s nurturing is through her adoptive parents.

My friends have learned to handle these comments with grace. They are open about this road to adoption and the challenges and sweetness of the journey. They embody a family knit together by the restoration of adoption.

DGPSZ9bXcAAwJQ1In Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World, Kelley Nikondeha speaks about the theology of adoption as an adoptee herself and as an adoptive mother. She weaves together stories of her own adoption, of her journey of adopting her children, and the Bible’s underlying theme of adoptive family. From Moses to Ruth to Jesus, we see adoption stories as the basis of Christian faith. Paul calls us adopted children of God. Without adoption, there is no foundation for the radical inclusiveness and love of the message of Jesus.

Kelley brings this theology of adoption out of the ancient text and into our lives, here and now. How do we reconcile the adopted land of Israel? To some, this state is a restoration of a displaced people; to others it is the oppression of an original people group. How do we reconcile centuries of oppression and slavery in America with acknowledgement that returning to literal African roots isn’t the solution? How do we restore the stolen land of our Indigenous People while recognizing it isn’t about the physical plot of land. Or maybe it is? Kelley brings these questions and their theology to the forefront while recognizing the complexities of living out a Jubilee-faith, a faith that restores the land and forgives debts; a faith that welcomes the refugee home; a faith that reconciles adopted land with homeland.

Kelley’s rich storytelling and smart theology blend perfectly create a book that deals with current issues of social justice with the power and grace of biblical redemption. She reminds us that redemption doesn’t mean a neat bow and easy answer, that this kingdom is slow in coming. But, she says, that doesn’t mean we lose hope. Through her own story of adoption, she says,

Adoptive parents aren’t superheroes or saints. The legitimate words of caution and real complications that are part of adoption give me pause. And yet redemption, whenever it happens, must be named (94).

Extending this metaphor of adoption, she reminds us that the road to redemption is paved with disappointment, failure, and suffering. It is the restorative work of God that brings those heartaches light and brings the slow restoration of this world.

She ends this book with the reminder that all of humanity is adopted into this family of God. And that by claiming the title of family, of brothers and sisters, we are interwoven and bound. We are together on this road to reconciliation and redemption. This faithful hope gives me pause when I get discouraged and reminds me that, though there are so many divisions, there is so much repair that is happening, as well.

Adopted is for sale now, and I’d highly recommend this hopeful book! As part of Kelley’s launch team, I received an advanced copy from the publisher but all views are my own.

How have you experienced the theology of adoption? Where do you long to see restoration through adoption?