“Our” Dream

Hello readers!  Today, it’s just a quote…but a powerful one.  Tell me your thoughts about this…

From a speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr.: 

“God is not interested in merely freeing black men, and brown men, and yellow men. But God is interested in freeing the whole human race. And we must work with determination to create a society – not where black men are superior and other men are inferior and vice versa, but a society in which all men will live together as brothers and respect the dignity and worth of human personality.”

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We Are Those People

Republicans hate women and minorities.  Democrats hate hard work and saving money.  Independents hate commitment.  Those people…

Mexicans like handouts.  White men like control.  Black men like white women.  Asians like school.  Arabs like terrorists.   Those people…

Musicians waste time.  Athletes waste good education.  Public speakers waste breath.  Addicts waste life.  Those people…

 

Catholics don’t know Jesus.  Muslims don’t know the truth.  Christians don’t have a clue.    Buddhists don’t have a chance.  Those people…

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” [Genesis 1:26] 

We are those people.  All of us.  At some point we have all been on the other side of someone’s judgements and generalizations.  Remember how that feels?  Now remember that feeling every time you are tempted to make a generalization or embrace a stereotype about someone from another race, religion, or cultural group.  We are those people because those people are part of the human race, all made in the image of God.

Lead … with Respect

I have the privilege of leading people.  Every morning that I wake up, I realize that the responsibility that I have been given is a precious one.  I lead some great people…most of whom are older than me.

During a morning connection and conversation time with my lovely assistant, the question came up.  How do you lead those people who are older than you?  As we began to talk about this and as I shared my own experience as a leader, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes in the Bible from Paul, the Apostle to Timothy, a younger leader.  He says, “Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father.”  Later, he says, “Treat older women as you would your mother…”

There are many of us who will find ourselves in leadership positions where we are responsible for and/or in authority over those who are older than us.  This reality does not have to be a daunting nor perplexing one.  Particularly, if we take Paul’s advice for our own contexts.

Lead with Respect.  Those of us who are younger have a wonderful opportunity as leaders to lead others with respect.

1) Go out of your way to honor those people who are older than you.

2)  Ask for their wisdom on a decision that you must make.

3)  Ask them what it was like for them to live through important historical events and what it’s like to see so much change in our world.

4)  Ask them to share with you what they have learned over the course of their lives in work and business and life.

Do you see a theme here?  When you “ask” something from someone else, you humble yourself and show them that they have something of value to pass on to you.  Maybe these lovely people are in your life for a very specific purpose.  Because they have much to pass on and we have much to learn from their own journeys.

Colored On Purpose

I am “colored” on purpose.  I was made to be Black.  There was a time where I thought this truth was a liability for me.  And for many of us that could be referred to as “colored people”, maybe we share a similar experience.  Straighten your hair because you need to get a job.  Don’t show up anywhere late as to not perpetuate the stereotype.  It’s like being Black was a mistake molded by the hands failed Creator…and it was my responsibility to overcome this cross I was made to bear.  But I am “colored” on purpose.  I was made to be Black.  Made to share the beauty and pain of my culture.  The lovely and the ugly.  To share.  That is really why we are here, right?

We are all “colored” on purpose.  Even you, who are pale and fair-skinned.  And you, whose skin is yellowish and eyes have a beautiful slant.  And not too mention you, who are somewhere in-between pink and brown.  You are colored too.  We are colored people who need to talk and to share one another’s culture.  Our color is an asset if this is the way we were made.  What if we were to see our race, color, and cultural identity as a resource… like anything else that has been given to us.  A resource of beauty to share with the world around us.

Could we change the culture of our world with this new perspective?

The White Person’s Burden

The way I see it, when it comes to race and conversations around reconciliation, “the white person’s burden” continues to be the fear of being labeled a racist.  The way I see it, many White people can feel as though there is no space to ask questions about race or explore the topic with non-white people without feeling judged right away.   The way I see it, many White people can even feel like they aren’t able to publicly disagree with non-white people regarding ideologies and philosophies about race without the fear of being called a racist or insensitive.  Therefore, lots of White people choose to stay out of the conversation altogether.

Don’t we all need a place to have safe conversations around race instead of heated arguments?  Is there a place for the perceived “oppressor” to be quick to listen and slow to speak and for the perceived “oppressed” to be slow to become angry?

What I am not talking about is making mean-spirited, flippant remarks that dehumanize people.  What I am talking about is real conversation between real people.  Is there a place where well-meaning (White) people can ask questions, stumble and fall and put their footin their mouths and learn from…dare i say… their non-White brothers and sisters?

In the Bible, Paul speaks of “offering our bodies as living sacrifices” as our spiritual act of worship to God.  What if becoming safe places for people around the topic of race were part of that sacrifice?

White people are a critical part of the conversation on race and reconciliation.  They matter too, and so do their own stories of pain and rejection.

What do you think about this?

Love Before You Lead (part deux)

…When I began leading, I walked into a situation where I was transitioning from peer to the decision-maker.  I was excited that I had been entrusted with this new role, but honestly, was unsure at the time how my new role would be perceived by those that I worked with.  The previous leader, who had decided to move on to other things, was beloved and had had a long history with our people.  Even though, I too, had history with our people, I was well aware that I would be seen in a different light because of my new position.

 

It felt like starting the relationship all over again.  I had visions of what could be.  I was confident that I knew what changes needed to be made, what needed to go and what needed to stay, and I was ready to “lead”!  However, in my zeal to get things up and running, I had to come to the realization that the first characteristic of good leadership is humility.  Humility is the opposite of pride.  It is a lowering of oneself for the betterment of others.

 

No one will follow you, as a leader, if they do not believe that you care for them.  People will not follow you if they cannot trust you.  And how can they trust you if they do not know you?  Trust needs time and relationship…and that takes work and patience.

 

Sometimes the best thing that you can do as a new leader is to slow down, humble yourself, and listen to the stories of the people around you.  Work hard, not at setting a course, but on understanding the hearts of those that you will be leading.  Your freedom to lead them into the vision will come, but we must be willing to be patient.

After all… Love is patient…

Love Before You Lead

My beloved mother died in 1999.  It was one of the most painful events to occur in my life and the life of my immediate family that I can remember today.  My mother was an incredible woman and at that time the one person that I knew would always love me unconditionally.  Her role and presence in our family was and always will be irreplaceable.

 

Less than one year after my mother’s death, my stepfather decided to remarry.  The first time I met this woman in person was at the wedding.  I know, weird, right?  Their marriage lasted about 10 years, and in that span of time I can count on one hand the number of times that she and I were in the same room together.  I do, however, remember the things that she would say about my brother and me.  I was told (and I realize that this is hearsay) that she was hurt by the fact that my brother and I did not welcome her into our family.  She thought that it was rude that we didn’t reach out to her as the “new person” in our family and in our world.  She thought we were selfish and unloving.  My stepfather (bless his heart) was trying to be the bridge between all of us and encouraged me to spend time with he and his new wife as a family.  But there was something inside of me that both rebelled emotionally and repelled physically to this suggestion.

 

Looking back on this situation, this question arose: Whose responsibility was it to make the first move to build the relationship bridge?  Was it the new woman in our lives, or the grieving family members who were still trying to make sense of life now that the matriarch of the family was gone?

 

Sometimes as a new leader, you can come off as the new woman in the family…the chick that someone’s Dad just married and that the family  just met at the wedding for the very first time.  My advice to you new leaders?  Be intentional about building the relationship bridge first.  Love the family or team that you are walking into before you get all excited about implementing all of your dreams and visions for the future.  Remember… you want to reach the goal as a family, a team, so be sure to understand what you are walking into and that your inherited team is still processing the change.

 

Love them before you lead them…

Not only did I experience this in my personal life as a daughter, but I experienced it my professional life as a leader. Here’s how it went down for me… (to be continued in 2 days)

Story Matters

It’s Saturday morning and I am sitting on my couch listening to an album by Andrew Ripp.  Andrew is an incredibly talented artist.  I remember that my husband had played a song of his for me a few months ago.  It was pretty good, but honestly, I don’t remember feeling anything in particular about it at the time other than it was a nice song.

This morning, as I sit and listen to this record, I can’t get enough of it.  We’ve already listened through the record twice, and will probably just keep it on repeat for the rest of the day.  Why?  What makes it different for me today than it did a few months back?

We saw Andrew live in concert a few nights ago.  He was amazing.  The experience was one that I will remember and want to share again…now with friends.

The experience connects me to the person.  It is the person… the story… that connects me to the product.  So now, the product is more than just a “thing”… the product connects me right back to the experience. 

Story matters…

 

The Other “N” Word… just don’t say it…

Whether it is being said by a person of color or someone not, that word still makes me cringe.  You probably know what it is already. “Negro”… there it is.  Even just to write it for me brings a certain sadness to my spirit.  Hearing that word reminds me of a time I’ve only read about where that word was used to describe my ethnic community.  And it was more than just a term of classification.  It was a word that had anger and inferiority to it.  It is a word that reminds me of a time where black people could not drink from the same water fountain as white people.  It reminds me of a piece of footage that I’ve seen where “negro” students were going to a white school for the first time and had to walk through an angry crowd of students and their parents, hurling insults.  The other “N” word reminds me of oppression and separation—all of the things that Jesus Christ came to relieve.

Here is a very important cultural learning, especially for those of you in ministry and trying to do life with a diverse group of people.  The other “N” word is NEVER appropriate.  Just don’t use it.  It is important to always use the appropriate, formal name for a people group until you discover what individuals from that community would prefer.  Oddly enough, you may even run into older African-Americans who would identify themselves as Negro.  Just a note, however, that most African-American people under 70 would not prefer that term J  They grew up in a different generation where that just make sense to them and it is appropriate.  However, I would advise you to always approach someone with the appropriate term.  Trust me, that will save us all a lot of embarrassment and heartache in the end.