Lawson field, PC: KSB

Confessions of a formerly racist woman

A busload of college students preparing for summer ministries filed into the open room that evening, abandoning the Midwestern winter air. We were entering a space of lament that MLK weekend. Mostly we sat, stood, or bowed in silence, allowing God to heal us from ways we had been sinned against throughout our lives. We let ourselves grieve.

But as we did this, the Holy Spirit showed me something ugly within myself, a way I had sinned against others. It was disgusting and shameful.

I knew God could and had forgiven me, but that didn’t stop my heart from pounding and burning with a pressure that only comes when the Holy Spirit is compelling me to do something. That night as I kneeled on the carpet, God was telling me to publically confess my sin.

I stood up in the silence, shaking.

The roomful of students preparing to share the Gospel in cities across the US, hostels throughout Europe, and countries in the Global South listened as I confessed my sin aloud. I had failed to understand the Gospel I proclaimed, though I did not realize that yet.

I told them I was harboring racial prejudice.

Though not intentional and not directed towards people I knew personally, because I was able see my friends as full humans, I was prejudiced towards black people. I had internalized the belief that they were less intelligent than me, a white person. I was racist.

Four years ago last night, in the dim room at that retreat center, God turned my life around again. I’d been “born again” at age five, when God rescued me from a life stuck in sin and welcomed me into his Kingdom; baptized at ten, which was a marker in my life though not particularly life-changing; and now God was saving me again from a life of racism.

Instead of rejecting me, my peers listened with respect. Some thanked me. And when I returned to campus a few days later, I jumped into a life pursuing racial conciliation.

Through sociological education, relationships with gracious people of color, the love and conversations of the Office of Multicultural Development, events put on by Solidarity, I began to fight my ignorance and racism in order to love others better.

Where I had once been afraid of protests, I joined campus demonstrations combatting racial injustice. I began to use my writing and social influence to teach other white folks about racism, however subtle, unintentional, “innocent,” systemic, or blatant it may have been.

The focus of my life had shifted completely, all thanks to God. He helped me to love my black brothers and sisters. He saved me from the miry bog of ignorance, prejudice, racism and gave me a new song.

As a white person, I still benefit from the systems of racism in the United States. That means I am still racist in a sense. Moreover, I am still ignorant: I have years of racial understanding and conversation to catch up on, and there are things I may never fully understand because I do not experience them.

But that doesn’t stop me from striving to see things from other people’s perspectives, listen to and believe their experiences, research racial justice in order to share knowledge and support communities of color, and generally live my life in a way that esteems my friends and fellow Americans who are a different race or ethnicity than me – and not out of guilt but out of love and a sense of what is right or just.

I say none of this to glorify myself but to celebrate the way God transformed my life, saving me anew, in the hopes that he might open your eyes as well, if they are closed in the way mine were. I am forever grateful to God for this.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend.

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PC: KSB

Who is my neighbor?

You hear a lot of talk about loving your neighbor, but what does that really mean? Neighbor love can be defined in three ways and about 450 words, so let’s go.

Neighbors are the people that live on your street. Americans in general are pretty bad about knowing the people who live proximate to them. My dad, cognizant of the importance of loving the people in your local community, always made sure he built relationships with these neighbors and served them. I grew up knowing a few neighbors but definitely failed at reaching out to the people across the street and next door once I began renting on my own. That’s something I’m working on in my new location and which comes into the story in my next post.

Then there’s the idea of neighbor that Scripture holds in the story of the Good Samaritan: your neighbor is anyone you come into contact with.

This requires compassion for anyone you meet, regardless of having a pre-established trust. This requires a bit of bravery and stepping outside your comfort zone because you might not like the people you meet – you might even be from conflicting religious or ethnic groups as in the story Jesus told – but still God commands us to love, to give of ourselves and resources, to those neighbors. (And honestly, God doesn’t ask much else of us besides to love.)

Plus, getting to know the people you meet might not be bad! Why fear when you could have a spirit of openness and a vision to see the good in others? You could meet some pretty fantastic people by looking up, and if you hadn’t chanced it, you never would have known them. That’s how I met my collabo and now good friend on the single “Astrogirl,” and you can listen to it to see how that went!

Finally, this concept of loving neighbor applies to loving those you haven’t met but still impact indirectly through how you take care of the earth, stand up against systemic injustice, et cetera.

Even if you don’t immediately see the effects, someone will be impacted by your putting milk jugs and soda cans, which aren’t bio-degradable, into landfills, and it will eventually come back to you too. Even if you aren’t personally impacted by immigration policy, the migrants and refugees who spent years searching for safety and even being promised a home here, are. And even if your biological son wasn’t shot because of his skin color, that son’s family and community are impacted by your choice to stay silent or to speak up against racial injustice.

No person is more deserving of human rights and a safe and healthy home than another. No neighbor deserves less love because of cultural, emotional, or social distance.

Photo belongs to KSB and the others therein.

Three Truths OMD Tells Me

I can’t hide it. I can’t stop my affections, and in fact, it might be fatal to do so. Friends, I love the Office of Multicultural Development.

More accurately, I am loved by the OMD. Every time I enter the space, I am reminded of three truths. With time I am growing to believe these fundamental reminders, and I can better reflect these truths upon others. As a white chocolate womyn, the OMD reminds me daily who I am in God:

1. I am made in God’s image.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. -1 John 3:1-2, NIV

In person and via email, Associate Director Eva Ortiz always calls us students lovely. I can picture her in her swivel chair now, looking up from her lists and asking, “How are you today, lovely Skye?” Her mentorship, care, attentiveness, prayers and practical yet abundant provision of food reinforce the truth that I am made in God’s image. In addition, Rodney Sisco, Director of the OMD, always asks me if I am taking care of myself. He responds thoughtfully and in a way that always validates me. Though most of our conversations are brief, his gentle and genuine care is evident in each one. He affirms my beauty as well. God is good to provide these constant reminders!

For those who do not know, the Office of Multicultural Development is more than a business office; it is a community. As such, those in its space provide general affirmation of my body and increase my appreciation of other people’s bodies, all made in God’s image. This carries into the broader Wheaton community when my OMD friends and I see each other.

God made us in all shapes and sizes, curvy and petite, musically talented  and physically strong, and I love seeing the diverse beauty in these men and women’s bodies. The extensive range of skin colors is a given in OMD. I also love the refreshing laughter and familiar voices, both physical gifts God bestowed on us. Finally, it is fun to view the different colors of hair: blue weaves, bleached blonde tresses, naturally raven locks — we’ve got it all.

We are beautiful humans. We suffer pain, but we are also full of life. We exemplify God’s image on earth.

2. I am loved by the Church.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. -1 John 5:1-5, NIV

The institutional church gets a lot of flack from Christians at my school (and those elsewhere in the United States), and a lot of that is for good reason: the evangelical church in this country is not known for its inclusivity of sexual minorities, is often racially segregated and may demean women through its rhetoric and practice. Not every local church will sin in these ways, however, and even those that do so may glorify God in other ways such as passionately spreading the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross or reaching out to refugees the State may be neglecting.

Moreover, what Wheaton students often fail to realize is that they are the Church themselves, as the Body of Christ. And you know what? They’re actually doing a pretty decent job of loving each other well! Yes, Wheaton College has many institutional sins, and the individuals who attend the college also fall short of God’s glory, but most love their specific Wheaton communities well. Yesu redeemed and empowered us, so let’s recognize his victory more loudly! 🙂

Wheaton, OMD, friends: thank you for loving me. Thank you for sharing Christ’s love with me. In case you are curious or doubt this truth, I shall tell you how you in OMD love me well, though I cannot fully accomplish this feat in one paragraph.

The OMD is a safe space to weep or be in pain as well as to laugh and share stories. Hee-Jung welcomes me with her smile, nodding head and perceptive comments. Eva provides snacks daily for all of us. Alisha is sweet, kind, genuine and hospitable. When my back pain became unbearable last week, Tramaine and Juma took care of me. The next afternoon in OMD again, Karis massaged my neck and held my hand as I began to nap to escape the agony. She and I have multiple memories of laughing and literally chasing each other around to take back some object stolen in jest. Last year when I went through a heartbreak, Bria loved on me by spending hours with me in the back corner of OMD and buying me snacks upon food upon chocolate. Iliana and Samuel and I have shared many a story time there as well. It is clear that the members of the Church, as demonstrated in OMD, love me, their sister.

3. I am loved by God.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. -1 John 3:16-18, NIV

This point is short and sweet. Because the Church loves me, I can understand God’s love better. I can tangibly feel it, and occasionally my Christian brothers and sisters will remind me of his love in words. Whether they wrap me in a hug, speak encouraging words or pray for me, they share God’s love yet again. I am privileged to show God’s faithful love in return.

 

Ideally, you will be reminded of these three truths in any good Christian community. I am especially grateful for the Office of Multicultural Development, however, as it impacts my life on a daily basis, reminding me of who I am in God and allowing me to see his image in other students and staff.

Wheaton students, you are always welcome in OMD. ❤

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The bloody beauty of Communion

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” While singing a hymn about Jesus, I take a cracker piece from a silver platter and pass it to the Believer next to me. Everyone in the room eats the bread as one, partaking in the first “course” in the Lord’s Supper, otherwise known as Communion or the Eucharist.

Crunch, crunch, mangled flesh. The image revolts me, yet I am chewing this flesh. Raw. It is Jesus’ body, which he sacrificed for me.

“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’” All around me, heads tip backwards as together we sip grape juice from tiny plastic cups. We are proclaiming Christ Jesus’ death. We celebrate the victory of grace Jesus demonstrated when he took our eternal punishment on the Gethsemane cross.

Swallow, gulp, fragrant blood. I shudder; perhaps the woman next to me notices, but she is silent. I detect an aftertaste from the juice. I picture Jesus’ blood on the cross, in my mouth, in my body now, shed for the forgiveness of my sins. For the redemption of the world.

I was raised to view Communion symbolically. I still lean that way. But my Christian Thought class from last spring opened up faith conversations with which I was not always familiar. For example, Roman Catholicism claims we are eating Christ’s actual flesh and drinking his actual blood when we take Communion. This phenomenon known as transubstantiation is derived from Gospel passages like the ones I quoted. Ever since I learned about this, Communion has become a more vivid and powerful reminder of Jesus’ saving sacrifice.

That is the point. At his Last Supper, the Jewish Passover, Jesus began the Christian tradition of Communion, but he never meant for it to be a thoughtless ritual. I do not want to forget his sacrifice despite its physical repulsiveness.

At the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the crowds did not see a handsome, naked man with a perfectly combed beard on some smooth planked pedestal. Nay, they witnessed a bloody, gnarled, practically dismembered body essentially lynched on couple tree branches shaped like a T.

They came to view the humiliation of the two convicts alongside my perfect King, but I don’t know why they were drawn to the inhuman spectacle.

Yet I too am drawn to it, only in a different way. Jesus uses the Communion Table to draw me to himself, for I am part of his body now. His Spirit is in me, and I am his. I do not desire to view his formerly grotesque body in any bloodthirsty manner. Rather, I am grateful, so grateful, that he sacrificed his body for the world and thus for me, so I can spend eternity with God, whole and redeemed and new.

Jesus is full of grace and truth. I must remember him and proclaim his deep love, as demonstrated in his body and blood.

For this reason, I eat his flesh and drink his blood until he returns. And Jesus is coming soon! When he gathers his Church to him and makes all things new, we shall drink wine again in his heavenly kingdom, this time in celebration. The members of his Church, his Body and Bride, will have new bodies. We will be complete and whole, for he is making all things new.

Until then, I remember him. I proclaim his death until his coming. And through his death, I live.

Why Today Is the Greatest Day of My Life: Celebrating Faith

Today is the anniversary of the most life-changing day I’ve lived, and I hope you’ll allow me to tell you about it. Gather around, dear friends. Make yourselves comfortable, and brace yourselves for my testimony.

Fourteen years ago I was preparing to enter Kindergarten. I was a short, curly haired thing much like I am today, but I was a beaming child back, so I was a little shorter. I already loved words, and I was excited to go to school.

Fourteen years ago it was summer—July 2, 2001, to be precise. The sky by my house was its clear, summery self, and I stood underneath it, toeing the edge of our paved driveway. The glory of God was about to be manifest.

Fourteen years ago and 20 minutes away, my grandpa was in a coma in his house in Southington. It was the eve of his entrance into eternity.

Fourteen years ago my mom told me about eternity.

Fourteen years ago, having heard about Heaven and Hell and knowing I needed Jesus to save me from my sin, I gave my life to him. To put it succinctly, I became a Christian. The angels rejoiced in Heaven, and I ran to tell my parents about my newfound hope and joy—a continuing joy.

Why I’m Still A Christian

Fourteen years later, my faith hasn’t changed. I’ve been a Christian for 14 of my 19 years, nearly 75% of my life. That’s crazy! And it’s awesome! Let me tell you why:

  • I’ve seen God’s faithfulness at work as He continually provides the basic necessities in life for my family and me—practically literal daily bread. For example, just yesterday my financial aid package came though, and I was awarded an extra grant that will help enable me to keep attending college. Praise the Lord!
  • He has brought healing to my relationships and to my scarred heart, and I’ve seen him work forgiveness in fellow believers as well. I could write books about these stories if I could find the emotional energy, time, and proper words to capture them.
  • God has revealed his love, glory and power through people I know and people I’ve only just met. He’s given me peace through the prayers of my faith-full friends such as Magda this Tuesday, and He’s shown me his glory through people who don’t know him such as the man I met at the library last week. I want everyone to know God!
  • He has let me glimpse his justice, holiness, joy and Kingdom through my friends. I call to mind the Asian/Asian-American group at my college.
  • He has continually drawn me to him through his Word in the Bible and to me in person. He’s also directed my future in this manner. Y’all know I’m going to DRC soon. That’s all because God has prepared good works for me to do there for His glory. 🙂

God has used music and nature, people and stillness, to reveal himself to me. God is here, and I can’t even begin to explain how awesome He is. I’m eternally grateful to be the LORD’s—and I can say that completely honestly because I will dwell in his house forever. I have been reborn and adopted into his family! I will rejoice in Him always and keep pressing towards him.

Doesn’t he sound amazing?! Don’t stop reading, please. Let me share just a little more about my God!

Gains and Losses

We need God. To understate our situation, we’re a hot mess without him. We’re actually damned. We’re so broken that all the money, sex, music, social media, TV, friends, volunteering, time spent at work, success, awards, good grades, food, caffeine, sleeping pills, alcohol and weed can’t fix us. We’re not good enough for God. The only thing we are good for is Hell, which, by the way, is not the same as this earth. Hell is worse. There isn’t even any water to refresh the parched mouths there. Yet we deserve to die. We’re not good enough for God, so without him to save us, we have to be separated from him forever and placed in Hell.

Thankfully, God is merciful and loving, and he calls all of us broken, sinful, wicked and mediocre people to him. (Every one of us is all of those things without Christ, even the best of us.) We’re the tax collector that extorted money from the people. We’re the woman who couldn’t stay married or the one who slept around. We’re also the average-Joe destined to work a blue-collar job our whole lives. We’re all those people and more—the nobodies, really—but God looked at us and said, “Hey, I want you. I want you, Jared. I want you, Hala. I want you, Jessica and Donna and Ron. I’ll make a way for you to be with me, because you are my priceless treasure.”

Thus he sent Jesus Christ, prophesied as the Messiah called Immanuel, “God with us.” Jesus is God in flesh. He’s everything we’re not but can aim to imitate. He’s the ultimate example of humility and love, and we don’t deserve to know him, but he pursues us so hard that we can’t run away. His Spirit will work on those God has called until we’re so wrapped in God’s love that we can’t escape it. He’ll renew our spirits and change our hearts. He’ll give us hope and purpose both now and forever. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will have eternal life, and we’ll lose ourselves and find God as we sing his praises with the angels someday: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

I’m so glad to be able to worship God now, and I’m elated to be with all my brothers and sisters in Christ someday. What a choir that will be! What a God I serve! He’s the most forgiving being I could ever know, and I’m so humbled by him.

I want you to know him too. I want you to rest in his love, to be sucked into his justice and mercy, to be awed by his righteousness, to be his. If you don’t know him yet, I pray that this day will mark an anniversary for you, too—the day God redeemed you from the pit and sealed you with his Spirit.

Feel free to contact me here if you want to chat about this or share your story.

Jesus is coming back soon, and while I’m thrilled for that day, my heart is breaking for those of you who aren’t. I want to go to Heaven with you; I don’t want you to live apart from him. I want to praise God with you; God deserves it. He’s worthy of all the praise he can get. Will you surrender your praise to Jesus today?

A Story of Healing

Dear readers, I need to tell you a story of God’s healing. It is not a new story, for it happened last semester, but I want to share it with you so that God can be glorified by more people than just my immediate friends who knew about it when it occurred.

In the fall, my wrist began to hurt badly. When the pain began, my roommate prayed over me. As soon as she was done, she asked if it was better. It was not. It swelled and throbbed.

After a few days, I went to the nurse at Student Health Services because the pain was growing worse. While it wasn’t sharp pain, it was the kind that never left. I couldn’t write for long or play piano, and the pain nearly brought me to tears.

The nurse gave me a wrist wrap and told me to ice the area and take anti-inflammatory pain relievers. She said it was tendonitis and had probably ensued from having so much typing to do and not placing my wrists on the laptop keyboard ergonomically. She recommended buying a pad upon which to rest my wrists as I worked on my computer.

I wrapped my wrist, iced it on and off for days, borrowed a friend’s brace, and leaned my wrists on some rolled up cloth when I typed. Despite these things, I still had to take many breaks while I did my homework, and while the brace was helpful, the pain remained.

About a week after my wrist pain began, I had to help lead worship for a Bible study and for bro-sis worship afterwards. I was supposed to play guitar and sing that Wednesday night, but I was still quite injured and could not play guitar. After praying that someone would be able to replace my guitar position, I bumped into a girl from my sister floor who knew someone who could help at bro-sis worship. Thanks be to our God who hears our prayers!

Another friend covered my guitar part for the first half of Bible study, and we made do with just the piano when she had to leave. When we arrived at a song we hadn’t practiced together, I took over on piano, despite my injured wrist. It still hurt. My friend Wes resumed his place at the piano afterwards, and I went back to leading the vocals.

While I was singing, God told me to lift up my hand. I obeyed, and suspecting something miraculous had just happened, I tested it out, moving my wrist around and using it to do normal things that had hurt me mere minutes before. God had indeed healed my wrist!

I was astounded and grateful  to God for this, but I couldn’t figure out why He had healed me.

I wrestle with the thought of healing, for I know that God can and does heal, but I also think that some people want to be healed for every little thing and may end up missing Jesus in the healing. Furthermore, I know that God is sometimes glorified more when people are not healed than if He had physically healed them. An example of this is David McClain, a man who has lived with ALS longer than he “should” have and who has joyously spread the Gospel through his suffering. I do not believe God will always heal those who pray, nor should he. Our eyes must be joyously focused on Jesus regardless of physical pain or healing.

I question what the purpose of healing is. Multiple people in the Bible were healed by faith, and Jesus forgave their sins before announcing their healing. Others followed Jesus after He healed them. This makes it seems as if He heals so that people will come to Him. However, Jesus also had compassion on the crowds and healed thousands of sick people, and they did not all believe Him to be the Messiah. So what was the purpose?

Perhaps He healed these people out of pure love in the face of human sin and rebellion. This foreshadows the Gospel story: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ [Jesus] died for us” (Romans 5:8). Isn’t it beautiful? God makes His glory known in ways that we cannot understand, yet I love catching glimpses of it.

Another Scripture passage dealing with healing is found in the book of James. It can be found towards the end in the section devoted to prayer. This passage has furthered my curiosity about the purpose of healing. Please note that I’m purposely leaving out the reference so that you might read the entirety of the short book and discover its full message.

I know that God heals. His healing me filled me with awe and wonder and praise for Him.

After pondering why God healed me, I came to the conclusion that God healed me just to show that He could. I’ll repeat that: The only reason I could ascertain about my healing was that God healed me just to show that He could. Saying this brings me joy: I serve a God who heals! He is all-mighty, He does care for His people immensely, and He is always wonderful and worthy of our praise.

I serve the God who heals.