I was dead, now I am alive.

It’s funny to look back on the two blog posts I wrote a year ago. Mostly because I was a completely different person then. I didn’t know my life was about to change completely.

In the summer of 2015, I was working my first legal job assisting the attorneys for DHS in trials to terminate the parental rights of abusive or neglectful parents. I thought I would find purpose and fulfillment in the job because I would finally be getting paid to use my compassion to help the vulnerable. What I found instead was that my empathy was a hindrance- not an asset- to the job. My job involved reading police reports documenting egregious abuse. I made copies of pictures of children who had been beaten or murdered. The attorneys I worked for were hardened and cynical, oftentimes making dark jokes to cope with the horrifying stories written into the job. I was very sad, and sometimes crying, at the end of each workday.

Amidst one of the darkest periods of my life, God walked in and took my hand. I spontaneously decided to attend a book release at Powell’s in Portland, where Kevin Palau was discussing his new book “Unlikely.” Former Portland mayor Sam Adams wrote the forward to the book, and I attended the event because of my interest in city politics. I didn’t even know the book was written by an evangelical Christian.

The book discusses the “unlikely” relationship that formed between local churches and the mayor of Portland. Specifically, churches were meeting needs the private nor public sector wasn’t (feeding the homeless, caring for foster children, etc.) I learned about Imago Dei Community, a church in Portland that was clearly defined by compassion, unity, and activism rather than hatred, division, and status quo.

I started attending Imago Dei and became involved in their foster child ministry. The differences in outlook between the folks at Imago Dei (which, by the way, means “Image of God”) and the attorneys I worked for were stark. One group had endless light and positivity; the other was worn down and cynical. In short, the people I spent Sundays with had hope; the people I worked for during the week lacked this mysterious hope.

In the roughly 10 months since I started attending Imago Dei, I have found the source of this hope. It is the power of our loving and merciful Heavenly Father. As with many things, it is difficult to describe without experiencing, but there is a new purpose to my life that doesn’t involve fame, money, or “happiness” as defined by our culture. My new purpose is to serve and pursue God.

In my view, Christianity isn’t about having a perfect life or being a perfect person. It’s about accepting that I am a sinner in a broken world, but I have a Father who loves and cherishes me anyway. It’s about experiencing grace, hope, and joy in the Lord. It’s about acknowledging that He has a plan for my life that is far greater than my own.

A year ago, I was beaten down by the sadness of our world. Now I rest in the knowledge that our loving Father is in control. There is profound peace in living in God’s Kingdom.

I was living for myself, now I live for Him.

I was in the dark, now I am in the light.

I was dead, now I am alive.

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Invisible Flags

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(this post was written in July 2015, shortly after the massacre in Charleston, SC)

Following the massacre of 9 innocent black people at the hands of a white supremacist, the media and the general public have chosen to channel their anger at the Confederate flag, which still flies in a number of southern states.

The Confederate flag represents a disgraceful time in Southern history. It should not be sanctioned by state or federal governments. It should be as stigmatized as the swastika.

However much I and most Americans disagree with what the Confederate flag represents, we should acknowledge that it is just that: a representation. A symbol.

Our energies might be better spent abolishing the “invisible flags” that perpetuate racism in our country. Some of the “invisible flags” that perpetuate racism in our society include:

  • A political picture painted by the right wing that inaccurately portrays blacks as “lazy, no good, government money suckers” i.e. the welfare queen
    • The reality is that the black community has been dealt a pretty crappy hand. Income inequality, a problem that has proven to have numerous ill effects, impacts people of color disproportionately. Being, in many cities, literally pushed into ghettos has hindered the black community’s ability to thrive as some other communities have. Underfunded public schools, food deserts, high-crime neighborhoods, and, yes, racial stereotypes negatively impact the black community, yet white Americans find these issues too multifaceted to actually address.
  • The devaluing of black and brown lives is a byproduct of the prison industrial complex, which is the result of our deeply-embedded white supremacist laws and policies. The War on Drugs has now been admitted to be about detaining Black Americans as a new form of social control. Mass incarceration continues to ruin the lives of countless men, women, and children.
  • White America finds these conversations awkward, thus leading to a failure to act on- or adequately consider- these problems which we (meaning, comfortable, Smartphone-carrying white Americans) perpetuate.

The first step to solving these deep-seeded, systemic problems that lead to a 21-year-old white supremacist murdering a black congregation in a church is talking about and acknowledging these issues. Pretending we live in a colorblind world doesn’t help anyone. We should embrace our differences, and lift up those who have been knocked down. These are- after all- the values our country was founded on.