Are You Ignoring Injustice?

Over 20 Native American tribes living on reservations make up over a quarter of our state in Arizona. On the San Carlos reservation, just around the corner from us in Globe, half of the people living there battle alcoholism. The teen suicide rate is 7 times higher than the national average.

Out of the more than 22 million refugees in the world, less than one percent are considered for resettlement worldwide. The IRC projects that by the time 2018 is over, only 15,000 refugees will have made it into the U.S. In our own state of Arizona, we are on track to take in the lowest number of refugees in almost 40 years.

These are just a few of the many narratives that are a reality for us right in our own neighborhoods.

I just got back from a peacemaking trip with Central to Israel/Palestine and Jesus has opened my eyes. What I experienced will forever change the way I see people and the significance of their stories. We all have our own narratives. We all have our own stories. What may be true about how my life has played out may not be true about you. Every single person has their own narrative that shapes human existence and the world around us. I implore you to educate yourself about the conflict happening between the Israeli and Palestinian people.

On this peacemaking trip, I got to hear many narratives. I was able to lean in and listen to the stories of people built upon centuries of brokenness. What I saw was heartbreaking, but also beauty from ashes. Little smirks coming from children who live in refugee camps, prayers lifted to heaven for peace, and a glimpse of hope between parents who have lost their children to the conflict on the opposite side. I saw a woman working in a coffee shop raising awareness about the refugee crisis in her country, mothers and fathers who have dreams for their children to prosper, farmers who are relentless in growing their crops despite opposition, and a woman who is boldly running her own organization to provide Bibles to people in countries where it’s illegal.

When we asked if peace was possible, many shrugged or sighed. A few pondered if it would happen in their lifetime. Some threw up their hands. And many seemed to have lost hope. How could you not when your narrative is war and violence for so long? Since returning from my trip, Jesus opened my eyes and reminded me that peace is coming.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new.” Revelation 21:4 (MSG)

Jesus will indeed make everything right, and in this I find hope. There is hope for the complexities of human existence. But what does this mean for me now? How can I work to attain peace in my lifetime?! I think it often looks like not turning a blind eye to the injustices happening in your own backyard.

I will no longer choose to be naïve. I will no longer choose to look away from what’s happening in our world just because turning it off feels better than being held accountable for taking action. I will no longer choose ignorance. I will seek out relationships with people who are not like me. I will listen to stories. I will ask questions about their narratives and find compassion for all people.

What is it in your own life that you are turning a blind eye to? Maybe it’s a neighbor. Perhaps it’s a family member or close friend who needs you. Maybe it’s an enemy, or injustices happening right at your doorstep. Take some time today to quiet your soul. Reflect on Ephesians 1:17-19. Ask Jesus to enlighten you. Ask him to share with you what you’ve been naïve to for so long and sit in that tension. Let it be uncomfortable because this is where transformation of the soul begins.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:17-19

Peacemaking Is…

Peace is beautiful. Peacemaking is brutal.

Everyone wants peace but not everyone is willing to engage or sacrifice to do the difficult work of peacemaking. Peace sounds beautiful, wonderful and so . . . Peaceful!

Peace is attractive however, the work of peacemaking is not. Peacemaking requires us to step out of comfort zones, readjust our thinking and perceptions and embrace others who are not like us. It is hard work and not everyone will applaud or join you. You see this in churches, our families, communities, country and the world. It is hard to live for the other and to live the teachings of Jesus: to love your neighbor, forgive, pray for your enemy.

A few years ago I had a defining moment in my journey of living as a peacemaker. Up until that point, I was enthusiastically claiming my desire as a peacemaker, though a little naively. I had invited a few women from the states to travel with me to Israel/Palestine to meet together with a few Israeli and Palestinian women. This would be epic! We were going to spend about 10 days together listening and learning from each other, developing friendships and engaging with “the other”.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, tensions began to mount in the area and violence was erupting. We monitored the climate of the situation and were in touch with leaders on the ground. Finally, about a week or so before we were to leave, my friend, Sami, told me that the Israeli and Palestinian women would not be participating as it was too risky. He said, no one was traveling over to that area because of the disruption and circumstances and if we wanted to cancel, he would totally understand as it would not be the trip we had dreamed or planned.

I had to make a decision. Do I do the safe thing and postpone and reschedule or do I dare go anyway and show up in the tension? In a moment of conversation with God, a pivotal insight was revealed.

I had been saying I wanted to live as a peacemaker and encourage others to join, but I had never actually been put to the test. Was living as a peacemaker only for when times are peaceful? I realized peacemakers are not needed when times are peaceful but when times are tough, risky, filled with tension and conflict. Peacemaking isn’t peaceful. When conflict arises, peacemaking is needed and that is where peacemakers should to be.

My decision? I would go! I wrote to the other women and explained the situation and gave them a choice to go or stay with no guilt attached. I was not surprised when they all said they would be going too! And so we went. We showed up. And the fact that we showed up spoke more than our words could ever do. I can tell you that it was one of the most significant times I have had and I reflect back on that trip so often. It shaped much of what I am doing today. I can’t imagine if I would have said no. Sometimes it is just showing up in difficult places at difficult times to live what you believe.


How Listening Could Change Everything

Peace making and LISTENING.

If there was ever a time for peace it’s now. We need it. Badly. And I don’t mean the kind of peace that keeps quiet. That’s a kind of keeping the peace that disguises itself as nice and kind but is instead a deeply passive insistence on the status quo. People who ‘keep the peace’ have the luxury of willful blindness and are most likely those who have something to lose if true peace (justice/fairness/equality/rightness) was ever actually made.  What we really need right now in our desperate world is true peace making. The kind Jesus suggested would usher in the Kingdom of God. Peace making – like trouble making but turned upside down.

Peace making – people with voices who speak up for the underdog and go out of their way to get in the way of injustice, exposing the deep and dark places of racism, hatred, abuse, and oppression in the desperate belief that exposure is the first stop on the train to healing. Peace making is an active presence of goodness in the world. It’s a decision to get our heads out of the sand and live into the reality of our current global context. There is so much peace to be made. But where to begin?

Recently, ( led a group of incredible women on a peacemaking pilgrimage to the holy land. It was a trip intended to veer far from the average one – going out of our way to get in the way of folks who were suffering and thriving in the midst of deep and horrible oppression. We wanted to get immersed in the realities of making peace, so we sought out people who were trying to do just that. People stuck in the midst of the long trauma of conflict but who were seeking to live a different way. People who looked and sounded a lot like Jesus.

We had a pretty simple framework that I think might be helpful to anyone who is wondering how to become a peacemaker in your own world. Listen – Learn – Live.

The first way of making peace in the world is listening. 

Listen. This is much harder than it first sounds. Listening is an incredibly valuable way of beginning your peace making journey. Listening is an act of solidarity with the person you are trying to hear. And this is where we get a bit specific. Whose voice have you not heard? And how can you begin to make some peace by choosing to listen to the voices of those whom you don’t know? There is a beautiful saying, ‘an enemy is someone whose story you have not yet heard’. At the heart of every human being is a sacred beginning. And to find that human heart can take some uncovering of our own prejudice and distorted perspective and the only way to get to that divine connection of a shared humanity is to LISTEN to each other. Many of the people we think we ‘know about’ we have not met. This is because the world is designed to keep us apart. To separate us. And this separation increases fear and the fear keeps us in conflict. And peace is lost. So, peacemaking begins by choosing to move in the opposite direction of oppression and injustice. Connection. Those of us with the power to choose where we go and what we do and who we talk to can make the deliberate decision to LISTEN to those we have not yet heard.

In Israel that took us to sit around tables and intentionally listen to Jews, Palestinians, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, women, men, boys, girls, teachers, mothers, soldiers, rabbis, priests – well, you get the idea. To connect with many of those people required us to go to places ‘off the tourist map’ and to place ourselves in some discomfort. It required us to confront our own fears and prejudice and pre-conceived notions. But that is what listening demands of us. Choice. We get to choose who we listen to. But make no mistake, just because listening is simple doesn’t make it easy. Active listening requires deep intention.

So, what might that journey look like for you? 

Identify whose voice you have not heard. It may be a new immigrant family from another culture, a person from another faith, someone socially excluded or left out of the narrative of our dominate cultural norms. Then seek them out. This is where it gets a little hard and when we realize that the kind of listening peace making requires of us will be a bit costly. You may need to volunteer somewhere or make a trip or a phone call to someone who might be able to help you connect with someone you wouldn’t naturally connect with. It will feel awkward and that’s ok. You will feel like a beginner and that will be a great blessing. You will be the one asking for help – and that will be a great chance to live in the upside down kingdom of God. No wonder God called peace makers blessed!

The posture required to do peace-making through listening is the posture of need, dependency and relationship. It’s in direct opposition to the  posture of empire, strength and force. If you’d like some suggestions on how to lead a group towards peace making in your local community please check out amplify peace and get some info on our ‘storytelling nights’ or ‘open tables’ or ‘day immersions’ which are designed to help you get started on the the listening part of peace making in your own community.

Restoring Dignity

Peace, peacemaking, peacemaker? These were the words I was hearing over and over again, but these are the words that usually surround other individuals, not me, right? The world is torn and it feels overwhelming to the core but as I hear these words being spoken by women I know and respect, I know I have to lean in. As I lean in, my worldview is shaken, my actions, thoughts, even how I see the gospel, shaken. The more I learn about these words of peace, peacemaking, peacemaker, I learn it is not as big as I once thought, it is not as intangible as I first knew. I learn to listen, which would end up being a bigger action then I could have imagined. I listen to these words be explained in a way I had not heard before. One of those thoughts, “peacemaking is about restoring dignity and humanity to those who have lost it.” I can’t stop thinking about this thought, restore dignity and humanity to those who have lost it, but how? I can’t change the world. Here is the thing about that last thought, I’m not being asked to change the world, instead I’m being asked to engage in my part of the world, it starts where I am at, not where it will end up. This very idea gave me new eyes for the life I was living. I had worked in the same field for almost 10 years, healthcare. Healthcare, much like the world, can feel torn and overwhelming. It can just feel as though you are not going to change the system. Once again, I am not being asked to change everything, I am being asked to engage, to restore in my part of the world, life, and work. For the last 10 years of working in healthcare it has been specifically in the neuro field. Working with patients who have had a traumatic event that has changed their life. Anywhere from Traumatic Brain Injuries, Strokes, MS, Parkinson’s, etc. Once the patient has been diagnosed, as of now, their diagnosis is lifelong. This is the reality of these diagnosis. At times, they are starting a new life, different than once before. Usually months if not years of rehabilitation/therapy will follow, this is where I was. I was an administrator and I found that my favorite part of my job was advocating for the patients through their insurance. The insurance side of their rehabilitation always hurts the most, because we rely on someone to read about a person and make a decision whether or not they “deserve” to have more therapy or for their therapy to be covered. I have seen devastating no’s for so long. These no’s impact the lives of these individuals more than the insurances will ever know or see. These individuals were being reduced down to typed reports with some test scores and facts. That was it, a quick read with a decision that would follow, “it is our determination that you have made the most gains and therefore no more therapy is needed,” “you have exceeded your limits and therefore we will not cover the services provided.” So this was my part of the world. Now that I knew I was being asked to engage, what did that look like in a system that is much larger than me? Again those words come back to me “peacemaking is about restoring dignity and humanity to those who have lost it.” At that moment, I lean in, how do I restore? When I turn back to the gospel I see Jesus, giving the “other” a new narrative, a voice, I see how He was the greatest example of engaging. Once again, restore. After a stirring for what felt like an eternity; a what if came to thought. What if we video the patients and give them a voice for their recovery; what if we send this video along with all the reports and doctor notes to the insurance; what if we turn those reports into a person by giving the patient a voice, a story, their story? This what if turned into a reality, video appeals. Now, we have a way to provide a person, a story to these insurance companies, when they are ready to just say no, they have one more layer, a real person that lives at the other end of those reports whose lives are forever changed, ready to tell their story, their recovery, and their life now and to not be another statistic but a person. It is in this there is a new hope for these patients, it may not give them a yes every time, but it is one more layer to fighting for these patients. Even though I didn’t change all of healthcare, all of insurance companies’ policies, I was able to engage where I was at and make a dent in my part of the world. Without being asked to lean in, engage, restore, and be active where I am, none of this would have even been a thought. The world feels overwhelming, torn, and too much to handle, but we all have our part, at least that is what I have come to know through peacemaking. My part looks different than yours but we all have a part. It starts with a simple thought, what am I being asked to engage in, restore, and act on in my part of the world?

The Now and the Not Yet!

My world view and theology were disrupted with two simple invitations from friends. The first invitation was to attend a Telos Conference and the other invitation was to go experience the “holy land” differently. My husband, Cal and I were asked to go to Israel/Palestine, not as typical tourists, but as listeners and learners of narratives from both sides of the wall. Neither one of us had any idea at the time what life transforming experiences these would prove to be for us. Both would literally change the trajectories of our lives and life purposes in profound ways.

Now that I have seen I am responsible, was a quote I ran across in my pre-trip preparation for my first peacemaking pilgrimage and it was also a quote I saw spray painted on the wall in the West Bank. With this simple sighting God got my attention in a very personal way. This began my journey of immersing more deeply into the ways of peacemaking amidst the backdrop of this particular conflict. This immersive encounter became a huge catalyst for transformation in my life. And so my global journey was launched.

I must confess, it took me a couple of years and many more trips to Israel/Palestine before I began to realize what that “responsibility” could look like. I did a lot of soul searching, praying and showing up. I knew I was passionate about leading women and I was wired to create. Two particular trips and two particular conversations led me to create Amplify Peace.

On one trip I found myself standing in a classroom of high school students, listening to their stories, their hopes and dreams while peering out of a broken window pane with the plaster surrounding it still revealing bullet holes from a recent attack on the school. As we listened and asked questions, one thought emerged as they shared what they wanted to be when they grew up. Their answers were all professions of expression, i.e. photographer, journalist, artist, musician, even the President. I realized in that moment that they wanted their lives to speak and they wanted to be heard. Isn’t this what we all want?

On another trip, while sitting in a room in Bethlehem with my friend, Sami Awad, Founder and Executive Director of Holy Land Trust, a conversation evolved that led me towards my new “responsibility”. Sami made a couple of statements that caused me to rethink some of my ideas of how I could respond as a peacemaker. He basically and quite frankly told our small group of women, that we can’t come over here and fix it. They don’t need us to do that. There is a lot we could do at home and the best way we can help is to focus on some of our own issues. I left that trip with a new perspective of what my “responsibility” could and should look like.

I turned my focus to “home” and to creating spaces that would allow change to happen within hearts. From my global encounters my eyes were opened to the changing power of story and the healing potential of peacemaking. I realized I sat in a place of privilege with a platform and the freedom to use my voice. How could I intentionally use these to amplify the voices of those who have been marginalized and silenced? Pain, courage, trauma, brokenness and a longing for hope uniquely shape every story. Every story deserves to be carried, to be told and to be amplified for the sake of peace.

Amplify Peace has become a movement of women peacemakers leveraging their voices to create change in the world. It is a launching point for local and global encounters, a platform for amplifying the stories of women and a sisterhood committed to creating and telling a better story together. Women are a force, they are determined and they are an untapped resource. It is important to give women a place and permission to step into those places that will allow them to identify and live their purpose.

I recently reread the parable of the various soils found in Luke 8 with new ears. What jumped out at me was two words, “good soil” followed by the sentence, “It (the seed that fell on it) came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” Good soil, full of potential and transformation to those who choose to see, hear and live differently like Jesus. Those who choose the path to love, forgive and be reconciled to the other are like the good soil. God’s intent is for us to live for the now and help usher in the “not yet”, together. He promises a return, even 100 times!

I have been asked numerous times if peace is really possible and if I have hope for a better future? I have to believe peace is possible, and because of Jesus, there is always hope. To live without hope is not an option. We need courageous storytellers and peacemakers. Hope and peace are gifts we can give now to impact future generations. The world is looking for a better story.

We Bleed the Same Color

“Our blood is exactly the same color, and our pain is the same pain.” – Moira, a Palestinian woman

It’s been 9 months since I ventured to the Middle East. Not a day goes by that I do not think about it and the people I encountered. I promised the Israelis and Palestinians I met that I would share what I saw, so I will continue to do that in every way possible. I am realizing more and more how much my Israel/Palestine trip prepared me for what has been happening in our country today. I have realized we need more Moiras and Ramis in the world.

I remember the smell of the room we met in each morning to debrief the day before. The smell was foreign, stale, and yet still so familiar to me. We stayed in a lovely hotel in Jerusalem that was not a far walk from the Old City. The room in the hotel was a room for groups to meet, but I bet they haven’t had groups meet like we did on that day. I knew we were meeting a man and a woman from something they call the Parent Circle. It’s a group that have lost a child or a spouse or any family member really and they meet to talk about their losses and learn from each other. Seems pretty common, right? Wrong. It’s a group that have lost a family member by the hands of their enemies. It’s a group of Israeli and Palestinian men and women who sit together in the same room, sharing about their losses, because of each other! How are known enemies supposed to sit together in a room, cry with each other, laugh together, and love on one another? Oh yeah, they don’t consider themselves enemies.

“I am a Jew, I am an Israeli, but I am also a human being.” – Rami, an Israeli man

Moira and Rami entered into the room. Rami, an Israeli Jew, a father, a husband, a man of pain, a man of joy, and a man of peace. Moira, a Palestinian Muslim, a mother, a widow, a woman of love, a woman of understanding, a woman of loss, and a woman of peace. We entered into a fairly large circle together and the beautiful, but difficult words of these two, incredible people began to spill. Moira’s husband was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier because he got out of his car to check on why there was so much traffic. The soldiers in that area felt threatened and shot him. He was left in the street for hours until Moira found out what had happened. Rami lost his only and youngest daughter to a Palestinian suicide bomber in the Old City of Jerusalem, she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rami and Moira are best friends. How can this be? What do you do with these two stories?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

I felt the tears creeping up to my eyes, ready for them to tip out and run down my face. These two people who have seen death in the most brutal way BECAUSE of each other, have chosen to love their enemies and call each other brother and sister. Moira said this, “Being the victim stops with me. I will not use that to victimize others.” Moira and Rami changed my life that day and they continue to shape my heart towards the events happening in today’s world. That is why we cannot be quiet, for such a time is this to show compassion, to express understanding, to embrace each other in love, and to stand for what is right and just in this world.

How can two people groups, who are known to be enemies, overcome hatred? They sit with each other, they learn, and they listen. You cannot kill someone you know, respect, and love, so we must seek to know those we do not understand. I saw Jesus in Moira and Rami that day. A Muslim and a Jew taught me more about who Jesus is than a Christian Pastor has ever done. Is it at all possible that when Jesus said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” he said that because that is when we truly experience how to be like Him in a world that is so desperate to see His love in us?

Black, white, brown, Muslim, Jew, Catholics, homosexuals, conservatives, liberals, transgender, Christians, I will not stop fighting with love, compassion, and justice until you know of the love that Jesus has for you, for “our blood is exactly the same color, and our pain is the same pain.”