I Am My Brother's Keeper

Last weekend a gathering of “alt-right” white supremacists showed the ugliest version of humanity in Charlottesville, VA. A group of people were so upset about a symbol being removed that they decided to gather with torches chanting words of hate that eventually cost three people their lives and many other injuries. Sadly, none of my non-white friends were the ones saying, “I can’t believe this is happening.” This is an invitation to those of us that were too shocked because it’s not our norm.

In the wake of this tragedy, I often hear questions that sound far too much like, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” So many people live in comfort of their lack of overt racism and think that this was a fringe group of people of which I am not a part. When innocent blood is again poured out for the sake of white nationalism, it’s time for us to be our sister’s keeper and ask hard questions. It’s time to look at the places of privilege that I benefit from and ask the Lord to once again search me and know my heart and get rid of every wicked thought of supremacy.

As I heard accounts Friday night of hate groups buying all the ammunition from the local WalMart and Black clergy leaving through the back door of a prayer meeting, I was struck by the way the Gospel of the Kingdom has always addressed racial and ethnic prejudices. Not only does racism dehumanize those made in the image of God, but it stands in direct opposition to the Good News. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Certainly, this is such a time. We must wrestle with the words of Scripture and participate in the ministry of reconciliation.

In Ephesians 2, Paul speaks to Gentiles about the fact that we (non-Jews) were once alienated from God and yet God tore down the wall of hostility and ethnic hatred. We are reconciled into one body, Jesus. The death of Jesus killed hostility. We must remember that we were once alienated from God and each other and Jesus makes it possible for us to walk in what was impossible.

The apostle Peter was on a roof in Joppa praying one day when the Lord gave him a vision that represented the non-Jewish lifestyle and Peter was shocked. The Lord tells him, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Peter comes to the realization that truly God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). The story goes on and Cornelius and other Gentiles experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Peter shares this with the other apostles and they begin to realize that the power of the resurrection really is wider and bigger than they could have imagined.

As we continue in the story of the early church, Peter is still trying to figure out this Kingdom lifestyle of welcoming in the outsider. So he starts acting one way around his Jewish Christian friends and another way around his Gentile Christian friends. Sometimes he eats certain foods and other times he adds on some extra rules to the Christian life.

We often miss this beautiful passage in Galatians where one leader to another, one brother to another, Paul confronts Peter on his racism and ethnic supremacy. In public. Paul opposes Peter “to his face,” (Gal 2:11) because his hypocrisy caused others to stumble. When the Gospel doesn’t impact the way we view our neighbors who look different from us, it is a hypocrisy that will lead others astray. Paul wasn’t afraid to name the specific sin of racism and ethnic superiority and until we join his courage, we will not live in freedom and unity.

Peter was adding on to the Gospel because he couldn’t imagine a life of faith outside of his own culture. The truth of the death that killed hostility and resurrection power hadn’t impacted his cultural lenses yet. He added on cultural rules that had actually been eliminated through Jesus. We chip away from the goodness of grace when we do not allow the Gospel to impact our prejudices.

We chip away from the goodness of grace when we do not allow the Gospel to impact our prejudices.

The Psalmist asks the Lord to search his heart. We must do the same. We find too much comfort in the fact that we do not join in with the torch bearers, limiting God's transforming work in our own hearts to show us where we benefit from our comfort and privilege. If the apostle Peter, on whom Christ builds His Church, had to continue working out his salvation so that he was steadfast and full of integrity before his neighbors, certainly we, too, can continue sifting through our hearts with God. How are we viewing the Gospel through our own cultural lenses like the Judaizers of Galatia? How have I benefited from my racial privilege in ways that make me uncomfortable to name my own racism?

In the name of vulnerability and to encourage that we all search our hearts, I’ll share a story of my own wrestling with racism. When I was in Israel several years ago, I was struck by the way my time in some Palestinian territories made me feel afraid. I encountered one of the moments in my life that I felt most like a minority on the Temple Mount. There is much more to say, but most relevant was a moment a few days after I returned home. I was walking past a few brown-skinned people in traditional Muslim dress when I felt something unfamiliar in my heart as I looked at these image-bearers and felt fear and hatred enter in. My limited experiences in Israel had opened a door for me to view the “other” as dangerous and less-than. I’m so thankful that the Lord convicted me and showed me the weight of my prejudice. I quickly asked Him to cleanse my heart of every racist thought and every sympathy toward thoughts of racial and ethnic superiority. I want my heart to line up with the Lord and be set free from the fear and hatred that was present.

Truthfully, I’m uncomfortable naming that, because racism is an ugly sin. I don’t want to be comfortable with that. It’s also uncomfortable for me to name the ways I benefit from a racist system, but until I do, I can’t impact the system.

We need to be Paul to one another in these days. We need to remind each other that there is no room for the hypocrisy of racism in the Kingdom. We need to cry out, for our own hearts and for the lives of those around us. May we have the boldness to ask God to cleanse our hearts of unrighteousness and with undivided hearts step into the ministry of reconciliation.

Sent Ones

One of my favorite parts of New Staff Training is the moment we commission our new staff and send them out with blessing to be and do all that God's called them to. I love rehearsing our history seen in the book of Acts when the apostles recognized the Holy Spirit calling and marking Saul and Barnabas. They fasted, prayed, laid hands, and sent. 

I opened our time with a Collect for Multicultural Church Planting to declare our great hope of sending out staff to campus to cultivate Kingdom communities reflecting every tribe, tongue & nation worshipping together.

 

Eternal God, you have promised your salvation to all peoples, and have given us a vision of a great multitude around your throne, from all nations and tribes and languages; Help us as we bring this vision into our time and place; go with those who now undertake  your work in ____ and enable them to hear and to speak new words of hope and praise; through Jesus Christ, the living Word. Amen. 

New Staff Training invites me to escape the familiarity of ministry and step back into the shoes of the beginning of ministry. Each year I have a moment where I step back and think objectively about our work. It usually happens during a support raising debrief where I realize that there's a room full of people making phone calls to invite people to partner in a work that they've only glimpsed. How do we get people to say yes to this?! 

It fills my heart with gratitude for Jesus. That just one glimpse at who He is stirs our hearts to say yes to Him. He's so worthy of a whole hearted yes in our hearts. 

I love seeing the moments in Scripture when the disciples ask Jesus about their "yes". The disciples listen in as Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell everything to inherit full life forever. Peter says "we did that!"... we left our nets and left everything for you! 
Jesus sees what we give up and He says that we will be rewarded. Whoever leaves everything gets the reward of Jesus as our brother. He is the reward! The Kingdom is indeed the pearl of great price, worth selling everything. 

I wonder how we can cultivate a lifestyle of celebration to honor all of the ways that Holy Spirit has stirred hearts, set people apart, and acknowledge a wholehearted yes to Jesus and His Kingdom. What would it look like to commission when people begin families, new jobs, move to a new city, etc? 

 

Discipleship & Dreaming

For the last five years, I've spent my summer pouring into the New Staff class for the CCO. I teach classes, share stories, and celebrate the incredible honor of being called to this work of college ministry.

Last week I taught our discipleship class. We talked about strategy, methods, and our perfect model of discipleship in Jesus. As I shared philosophies of ministry I carry into discipleship with students, I was taken by a holy reverence for this task.

All of creation is groaning for the unique gifts placed inside of this generation. When we invest in students and see their potential unlocked, creation is released from its bondage to decay through them. 

It's a lofty goal. It's a huge goal for any of us when we think about living into our fullest potential. It requires the space, freedom, and courage to dream. I long to see a generation of students who dream about campuses, workplaces, neighborhoods, families and friendships that look more like Heaven. Life with each other is another gift given to us to steward with wisdom. 

What an incredible opportunity we have to steward the gift of life with students! 

Sabbath Summer

I'm thinking a lot about work, rest, and rhythms of faithfulness this summer.

As part of that processing, I wrote this post which originally appeared on this blog series. How is the different pace of summer shaping you?

The very first time we hear about sabbath is in creation. Creation was made very good and then God rested. Why did He rest? Was he tired from all of his creating?

Of course not.

God rested to enjoy and to celebrate all that He had created. We learn much from this first mention. Rest is not simply about ceasing work because God never ceases to work.

The Ten Commandments tell us to rest because God did. Every person, animal, and the land should rest on the seventh day. Deuteronomy gives us another reason to rest–remember that you were slaves and God brought you out of Egypt. We rest to celebrate God’s good creation in all its vast array and the graciousness of God who redeems His people.

Left to ourselves, we will go days, months, years absorbed in ourselves and our own little worlds. On our own, we’ll have narrow lives and allow sin to reduce life to small worlds. Out of God’s kindness, He includes a day of rest in the Ten Commandments to rescue us from ourselves. When we trust God enough to rest, our world expands. Rather than our narrow worlds, we’re invited to celebrate instead His graciousness and the completeness of creation.

Abiding

Have you ever tried to celebrate while you have an overflowing to-do list? Maybe you struggled to remain present while planning a child’s birthday party or missed the incredible reality of entering a new season like moving into a college dorm room because you focused too intensely on checking off the list of needed items. This is why we rest. Resting helps us acknowledge the gift of abundant life in this moment.

When we rest well, it changes us and shapes our hearts. A hurried life devoid of rest strips us from all that God has intended. Oswald Chambers has said that a restless heart keeps us from abiding. So what does a life look like when we choose rest? If we rest to celebrate God’s graciousness then we walk in awareness of His kindness and it draws us into deeper life with Him.

Jesus says in John 15 that when a branch isn’t connected to Him it withers. But a branch connected bears fruit. Life flows. When we live with a restless heart, we disconnect from the life source. We wander about trying to check off our lists and feel useful. The unfortunate paradox is that we find our greatest place of fruitfulness when we’re connected to the Vine. A heart that abides with Him finds that He is the greatest rest. We find that the place of rest awakens us to the beautiful reality before us–our eyes see, our ears hear. Celebration comes as we see the One who is Life and all the beauty of the creation for us to discover and unfold.

When I was 19 years old, I had my most vivid illustration and invitation into sabbath summer.  I had an opportunity to go to Australia to visit a friend studying abroad there at the time. It was a dream come true but felt so wrong. Why would I spend all of that money and time in something that wasn’t ministry? Shouldn’t I travel across the world on a missions trip rather than a frivolous experience to see the world? And yet, I felt God stirring my heart and inviting me into this trip. Was it possible that God had more in mind than how He could use me? Could He really want me to take a trip simply to enjoy Him and His creation? As I prayed about it, I heard a resounding yes!

It was an incredible trip. Everywhere I turned, God had set me up for upgrades and free experiences. I snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef (for free) and marveled at God’s wild creativity. I took a ski lift into the rainforest (for free) to see that God made plants with bright pink and purple leaves. I tasted the unmatched goodness of a true Australian Flat White coffee. I met people who lived at a slower pace and left shoes at home even to go into the city. I celebrated creation in all its vast array with the gracious God who rescued me and invites me into life overflowing with Him. I discovered that God actually just loves it when I spent time enjoying Him and seeing more of the creation He loves.

This summer perhaps God is inviting you to see Him as more than a utilitarian being who honors only what you can do for Him. Of course God loves the things we do with and for Him. But there’s so much more. Sabbath teaches us a lifestyle of abiding with Him and celebrating all the glimpses of grace in our lives. We rest to celebrate His good creation with Him.

How will you choose celebration this summer? Take a walk in a different neighborhood or state and pay attention to the creativity in God’s creation or cook a meal with unique flavors. Search for ways to heighten your attention to God’s goodness. 

When Graduation Hurts :: Part 2

Earlier this week I wrote about the heartache of ministry and knowing that there are those graduation who never encounter Christ and the abundant life that He brings.

The graduation tent is now fully packed up and I’m continuing to think about the beautiful, painful reality of our work. We raise up students that will be world changers in their respective fields while they are with us…. And then we send them out.

How bittersweet it is when the time comes to send them! My heart is so full and content as I consider the way that the Lord has formed the graduates of our ministry this year. I’m in awe that I get to do this work and see the transformative power of God at work. I’m fully confident that each of them will truly be catalysts of change.

And yet in this crazy work of ministry our lives have become knit together. I’ve experienced the reality of Jesus’ words—give and it will be given to you. They’ve been a tangible expression of God’s kindness to me. I’ve watched the relentless love of God in their lives and become more convinced of it for myself.

Last week, I experienced the joy of watching one of my students give the speech for Baccalaureate at our small liberal arts school. She challenged her peers to be not only people of knowledge, but of wisdom. She closed her speech, “As we step into what’s next, let us be people who refuse to be satisfied with a life of comfort. Let us be people who pursue more—pursue justice, pursue peace, pursue empowerment of the weak…pursue wisdom. And out of this wisdom let us step into the destiny that awaits us.” I’m so thankful for the honor of walking with students who are wise, who lead me as much as I lead them deeper into a life of faith, and who give their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

I love Shauna Niequist’s work and I can’t help but ugly cry when I read her essay “Puppies” in Cold Tangerines. She expresses that unique ache of loving students so well.

“When people talk about true community or true intimacy, I think of them, this lovely, bizarre group of teenage girls … They loved me with a force that I think only comes with youth, a wide and fierce and expressive force, and I loved them with that same love, because being with them let me live like I was young… They taught me more than I ever taught them, and they gave me more than I ever gave them, and the best things they gave to me were ten gorgeous examples and all the permission in the world to love with that wide-open love, unmeasured and uncalculated, like a puppy in a box with all of her puppy-friends, right up close to them, feeling warm and safe.”

Truly, this is the abundant life--to know and be known with such uncalculated and fierce love!

When Graduation Hurts :: Part 1

Years ago a leader in our local Young Life said to me, “graduation will be the happiest and saddest day. You’ll weep with joy over students who found Christ and you’ll mourn the reality of all those walking across the stage who don’t know Him.”

I didn’t understand those words then in the same way that I do now. I hadn’t loved students deeply yet.

But those words I heard over a decade ago were ringing in my heart this May. I was preparing to celebrate those seniors who have quite literally changed the culture of the campus and our ministry. As I remembered their faithfulness, I also saw the faces of their peers who have walked away from the Lord… those who never stepped into the fullness of life that Jesus offers.

My heart is undone when I think about those who will face the reality of what they’ve given their lives to in their college years.  Oh, that a holy dissatisfaction would lead them to the kindness and goodness of God!

We all know Jesus’ story of seeds falling on different soil. I hate that parable. I hate it because I hate watching the reality of those who have seeds that grow up and thorns and weeds take out the fruit. I hate watching seed fall on rocky soil that grow little depth.

This is one of the great heartbreaks of ministry. To see and know that there are those who have had a taste of how good He is and say no. To know the names and faces of those who settle for lesser lovers and worship the mute and deaf idols of our world. I pray that my heart is always soft to this type of heartbreak and that it never becomes normal to watch students live into less than all that God has called them to.

As I was grieving all of this, my heart shifted to gratitude. I am so thankful that we will never regret living for Jesus and pouring out our lives for the sake of His Kingdom. He is the treasure and once we find it we’ll buy the field to have Him.

How do you handle those heart wrenching moments of ministry? How did you grow in gratitude this year as you watched the relentless love of Christ pursue those in your ministry?

(A slightly more uplifting Part 2 coming later this week.)

Why I didn't like devotionals...

I didn't like devotionals. But I wrote one!

I used to think I didn't like devotionals because I'm not a big fan of a few thoughts that follow a single verse out of context. But I love the way that a well written devotional can stir hunger and ignite hearts.

When I was in college, my campus minister had me read Space for God, full of art, prayer prompts, poetry, reflections, and full passages of Scripture. It was rich and I had powerful encounters through it. I still don't love devotionals, but I knew that it was possible to reflect on the beauty of God's Word in a profound way.

So my prayer for As Some of Your Own Poets Have Said is that people would dig in deeply to the Word. That we would see the same God who moved in the lives of the men and women of Scripture moving powerfully in our lives.

I'm so thankful for the way that God invites us into His story. He creates each of us with gifts and unique passions so that we can fulfill the first commission and live fruitful lives. We were designed to bear fruit and walking with Jesus helps us live as we were always meant to.

May the Revealer of Mysteries speak to us afresh!

www.jamiedonne.com/store/finalsdevotional

ps if you're asked for your credit card, just bypass that, it's free with the prayer that many will encounter the Lord as they hold Scripture in one hand and their textbook in the other.

 

WWW.JAMIEDONNE.COM/STORE/FINALSDEVOTIONAL

This is my first blog post.

Blogging is a weird world and I have a love/hate relationship with it. 

Amy Poehler's quote from her brilliant book Yes Please encapsulates a lot of my feelings toward blogging, "The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing." Too many people writing, too few people doing. Too many people talking about the Church instead of being the Church. Too many people caring about yoga pants and whatever weirdo post goes viral next. 

And yet, I like thinking. I like talking. I like ideas. In fact, I really love talking about ideas. And sometimes I think, "gosh the world does not need another Christian blog post about yoga pants.... except maybe if I wrote one." (If you don't know what I'm talking about, #blessed.) 

I often wonder if there are other folks in ministry, especially campus ministry, asking the same questions that I am. I long for more female voices to step into some of the campus ministry conversations. 

So here I am. My little contribution to the conversation with very little frequency or structure. Cheers!