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Friday Fruit (06/23/17)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...Weekly Round...

DAMN. and the Crucified Christ

Image result for Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMNThis week, Rev. Greg Henneman returns to BTSF, partnering with his son, Noah, as they review Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMN.
So I was takin' a walk the other day, and I seen a woman—a blind woman—pacin' up and down the sidewalk. She seemed to be a bit frustrated, as if she had dropped somethin' and havin' a hard time findin' it. So after watchin' her struggle for a while, I decide to go over and lend a helping hand, you know? "Hello, ma'am, can I be of any assistance? It seems to me that you have lost something. I would like to help you find it." She replied: "Oh yes, you have lost something. You've lost... your life." [sound of a gunshot]
This is the story of Good Friday. Christians remember Good Friday as the day that Jesus was executed. Fully divine and fully human, Jesus entered human history amongst its struggle and sought to lend a helping hand by modeling a new way to live centered around love of neighbor. Jesus offered assistance. For this, Jesus was killed. On Good Friday, 2017, these words introduced the release of Kendrick Lamar’s newest album, DAMN. Lamar’s normally aggressive and quick words are countered with softness as the song BLOOD. serves as the album’s preface. At the end of this metaphor, the man offering assistance is killed. Related imageThroughout this album, Kendrick aligns himself with the Crucified Christ. In the song, DNA, Kendrick is both “Yeshua’s new weapon” and seen as “an abomination”. His very DNA places him amongst a minority culture, thus making him a threat, described by the soundbite voice of Geraldo Rivera as being a part of hip hop music which has done “more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”  Ironically, the song Rivera criticized, Alright, is one in which Kendrick offers hope and encouragement, that against the struggles of life he repeats “we gonna be alright.” “Alright” has become an anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, despite the song’s claim of assurance, Black DNA makes him a threat to dominant American culture, just as Jesus’ words of inclusion threatened the political and religious powers of the Roman Empire. Within popular music, there may not be a more powerful voice in 2017 than Lamar. When Beyoncé had to cancel her Coachella music festival appearance, it was Kendrick that replaced her with a lauded performance. A recent survey of music reviews came to the conclusion that Kendrick is the highest rated performer of the 21st Century. Despite all of the critical and commercial success, Kendrick does not exalt himself in praise, but places himself amongst struggle. He does not see himself as exalted, but views himself from his Compton roots. He aligns himself more with the Crucified Christ than Glorified God. He wonders if success will last and asks in the song FEAR., “All this money, is God playin' a joke on me? Is it for the moment, and will he see me as Job?” Image result for kendrick lamarJust as Jesus found disciples asleep in the garden and found himself abandoned on the cross, Kendrick’s repeated cry echoes across multiple songs on the album “aint nobody praying for me.” But while Kendrick often feels trapped within his Compton roots and culturally alienated, he finds unity with God. The song GOD. unites God’s and Kendrick’s shared perspectives. The song begins with God saying, “this what God feel like.” Kendrick responds that “ever since a young man” God has been watching over him for his whole life. After describing the behaviors Kendrick used to and is still doing Kendrick says “don’t judge me”. and God responds “who are you talking to, do you know who you are talking to”. And then he says all of the things that God says like “everything I touch is a gold mine.” The song finishes with both God’s and Kendrick’s perspective talking with each other. Kendrick’s struggle, unified with that of the Crucified Christ, is powerful, but is not a lone voice. Image result for Chance the RapperThe most noteworthy winner at this year’s Grammy’s was Chance the Rapper who despite being a self-published artist without a record label won best new artist, best rap album, and best rap performance. Chance’s lyrics mix unashamed praise for God with the reality of his experience growing up in Chicago. In the midst of singing about praises and blessings, Chance makes the same connection as Kendrick between contemporary struggle and the Crucified Christ with the statement, “Jesus black life ain’t matter.” The latest album by Logic, “Everybody” is also filled with theological questions. The album includes an exchange with the voice of Neil deGrasse Tyson as the voice of God in which the meaning of life is explored. But as noted in Kendrick Lamar and Change the Rapper, these are not mere philosophical wonderings, but connect to modern life. In the song “Confess” Logic asks: “Dear God, I just wanna know why, Why do you put us here? Why do you put us below? Why do you put us subservient?” Across the spectrum of modern rap music, questions of where God can be found are being asked. Most often, God is found amongst the struggle. God’s voice is speaking from the streets. The prophetic voice is not only coming from the pulpit, but from the microphone.

Interview: Heather Lehman, Light Magazine Editor

Heather and I have been friends since we were teenagers​; we've played instruments together, shared book suggestions, road tripped to Ohio, sewed purses (mine was a flop), and studied 1 Corinthians at a local coffee shop. Heather's unashamed desire to follow God as well as her creative and independent spirit have inspired me over the years. Thankfully, even though our lives have gone different directions, we've kept in contact through the Light Magazine. Recently, I got a chance to ask her some questions about her part in Light Magazine. What first gave you the idea for Light Magazine?
Digging back through the archives as far as I can, I find a single, folded piece of white copy paper decorated with markers. “Girls for God” is scrawled across the top. I may have been nine years old when I wrote this, and whatever spurred me has long since disappeared from my memory. Later I created farm “newspapers” on an old typewriter I found in the shed. I wrote a family newsletter. I created several issues of a sundry of girls’ publications. As a teenager, I decided to see if one of my magazines could become real. Ten years later, I guess I can say it did. What do you look back at from the first issues and shudder at?
While the content from those first issues isn’t very deep or insightful, it makes me smile. It’s very personal and real. The graphic design, on the other hand, is a nightmare. Why did you choose light as a symbol for the magazine?
I can’t really say that I intentionally choose this symbol. It sort of evolved with time. My cousin, who fielded a long list of potential magazine names, told me she liked the name Life in the Light. I used this name for seven years before streamlining the name to simply Light. Now I realize God guided our seemingly random name choice.
Light is rich with symbolism that fits well with the mission of Light Magazine to bring clarity to difficult topics, to spread joy wherever we go, to be daughters of purity and integrity, and to share the Gospel with our lives and words. Light Magazine is about living in the light of truth and living as light in the world.
Years ago, you told me that you do a lot less writing than you thought you would for the magazine. What do you mainly do? Do you wish you had a better balance? How did you develop your photography and design skills? Writing is my first love when it comes to creative pursuits. Art, music, photography, sewing, graphic design, and baking are nice, but writing won my heart first. Still, it’s true that I don’t do as much writing for Light as you might expect. My articles get cut first if space runs tight, and even if they stay in, that’s only four articles a year. Meanwhile, I have one hundred and twenty-eight pages to layout and design and several dozen articles to edit. The ratio, while not my preference, is needed. Plus, though I love writing more, graphic design comes much easier than writing during seasons of personal dryness.
I’ve learned to appreciate graphic design as a form of communication in its own right and do genuinely enjoy it. Unlike writing, which I’ve studied formally, I’ve learned design entirely through trial and error, which has only recently been supplemented by a few classes through Most of the photography is delegated to the staff photographers or done by freelancers. Did editing Light Magazine help prepare you for your current job? Absolutely. The magazine gave me practice doing graphic design, editing other people’s writing, and communicating extensively through email. I use these skills all the time in my work as publications editor for DestiNations International (the mission agency of the Biblical Mennonite Alliance). Only recently did I realize that all your DIY type activities in Light Magazine had a spiritual focus. Why? With the advent of Pinterest, most of us don’t have any trouble finding projects to do. The greater challenge is finding ways to bring the fragments of our lives into a cohesive spiritual walk with God. Light can’t really compete with all the tutorials and activities available to us, but what we do try to offer is something different: a holistic approach to life that doesn’t separate fun crafts from spiritual reality. Your family lived in Tanzania for 3 months when you were growing up. Later you spent some time in New York City. How do those places affect the type of material and perspective that you bring to the magazine? How have you provided a global focus for Light Magazine? I turned fourteen in Tanzania and have vivid memories of that birthday. My dad took me out for lunch, and I ordered a chapati and tea while the geckos ran around in the thatched umbrella over our outdoor table. Those months we spent in East Africa challenged me to see beyond my own experiences and into the lives of others. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of visiting several other countries and working with people from many ethnicities in New York City.
Heather Lehman (Istanbul, Turkey)
These experiences have helped me resist the status quo of the western world. I have no qualms about being different and standing against the tide. For Light this means I want to share insights from around the globe to help others gain a broader perspective, and I want all of us to live with the understanding that sharing the Gospel is my job -- not just the job for a professional missionary. There’s nothing more encouraging than hearing how God worked in someone else’s life. Two of Light Magazine's features focus on this --the Good News Record and Jasmine’s interviews. Tell us a little bit about these two features. Sure. The "Good News-Record" is the oldest regular column in Light Magazine and consists of two pages in the very center of every issue that are dedicated to sharing true stories of God’s faithfulness or provision. Jasmine Martin also writes a regular column called "Life on Purpose". Based on interviews, she shares the life stories of others with us.
I’m a huge fan of true stories and believe that recounting stories of God’s faithfulness brings Him glory and fuels our faith. While we occasionally share stories from the past, most of the stories in these features are current so we are reminded that God is at work in our day and our generation.
Do retreats and magazines go together? Tell us about the Light Retreat. Would you ever do one again? I’m meeting with a friend this Saturday to discuss possibilities! ☺
If someone wants to subscribe, how do they do so? The easiest way is to just visit the website:

Cross Centered Q&A

For those within driving distance of Saint Paul, MN, we invite you to join us for a free event. Greg will be discussing his new book Crucifixion of the Warrior God with Bruxy Cavey (Pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto) and Dennis Edwards (Pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis). Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Greg explain his cross centered way of viewing violent portraits of God, along with some thoughts from Bruxy and Dennis on his proposal. Additionally, there will be an extended time for Q & A. [...] The post Cross Centered Q&A appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Black History Week 3

From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government Sponsored Segregation  because "[w]hat white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

James Baldwin's Letter to My Nephew because its important to "remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear."

Martin Luther King Jr interview by Alex Haley because you should not believe that MLK and other Civil Rights leaders weren't angry. "It was the angriest I have ever been in my life."

The Invisible Women of the Civil Rights Movement because there would've been no movement without women.

Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks because we dont talk enough about the specific histories carried within the bodies of black women.

Public Opinion Polls of the Civil Rights Movement because its important to know that most Americans did not approve of the now famous Civil Rights Movement.

1992 LA Riots because police brutality has long been an issue, and we must remember that rioting is the language of the unheard.

Goodbye, Hello (An Announcement)

Cliff notes Version: Friends, this is a rather long post - the short version is this: Hey, look, I have a new web address! To celebrate the new address and Valentine's Day, I'll be posting a short poem or story each day this week around the theme of love.  Check back frequently - next week I'll return to my usual posting schedule.  
A Field of Wild Flowers grew out of a vision that arrived in early 2011 as I sat praying in the calm, white, spacious place of my Spiritual Director’s office.  It came at a time when life as I knew it (i.e. planned it) seemed to have ended.  It came when, for reasons deep and wide, I could no longer see a clear path laid out ahead of me; my sense of destination as well as my means of travel appeared to be irreparably lost.
Which is all a fancy way to say that my life was upended by the arrival of twins, by a departure from my job as an Associate Pastor, and by the slow surrender of my long-held dream of attaining a PhD in Biblical Studies.  Before the twins’ arrival, I lived cloistered in our culture’s fantastical illusion that life is a highway – a long, sometimes winding, but steady road toward a distant destination which, most often, goes by the name ‘success.’  And, although we may each define it differently, the successful among us all agree that steady and determined movement toward it is key. 
But, like Dante, “Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself in dark woods, the right road lost.  To tell about those woods is hard – so tangled and rough.”  I worked through those tangled, rough woods for months before I was free enough to embrace a new vision – to accept my placement somewhat “off of the main road” and commit to really exploring it.  What came to me, in the wake of acceptance, was the image of a field of wild flowers – a place with many paths, a space for wandering and discovery, a place of being rather than going.   
Thus was born, A Field of Wild Flowers.  Words became the lens through which I explored the daily looking for signs of life in the middle of this wide open space on the side of the road.  For five years, now, I’ve lived and written from that field, finding God in everything from housework to hens.  The more I explored the field of my life, the more I realized what I feared most wasn’t my failure to reach life’s highway’s destination, but the idea that God was somehow waiting for me in that imagined destination - the idea that the love and acceptance, the presence I longed for, was tied up in success' illusory arrival.  Imagine, then, my continual surprise and delight, at discovering again and again that God is right here with me on the side of the road, picking flowers, tending house and home, incarnate in each moment as it comes.  
Now, five years in, I find myself again in a place of transition, though less lost and less afraid.  I’ve learned to make my home here in the field of God’s goodness and grace and discovered that this is, in fact, my destination.  Writing has been the means of both discovering and exploring this destination.  Over the past several months I've found a new sense of clarity around my intentions as I continue to nurture and expand this site.
I want to create and hold spaces where others can consider the possibilities of God’s presence in all aspects of their one precious life.  I want to help others learn to live in and listen beyond the surface of their days, to begin to discover the heartbeat of God that rolls like a steady drum beneath the peaks and valleys of daily life.  I want to tell stories that explore the possibilities of God’s presence, that illuminate the incarnational realities of God’s dwelling in our midst.  As such, I want to open and share with you the joys, sorrows, hopes and heartaches of This Contemplative Life.
My hope is that this new site will allow me to both broaden and deepen my reach online and through in-person events.  I plan to continue to post here once or twice a week and will also add a newsletter that will go out twice a month.  This site will continue to boast a wide array of stories, thoughts and reflections; my hope isn’t to narrow my content but rather broaden my audience.
My newsletter, Quiet Lights, will, offer short, simple reflections, images or poems to serve as an invitation to contemplation.  The newsletter will also feature updates on upcoming events. 
While I’m a little sad to move away from the image of wild flowers, which continues to ground me in the present, I’m excited to move into This Contemplative Life.  This Contemplative Life will continue to be a space that focuses on the small, day-to-day stories of my own life, but my hope is that my practice of attending to the intricacies of my own life will inspire you to attend to the details of your own life – for, contrary to popular opinion it’s God, not the devil, who’s found in the details.
As always, I'm grateful for the quiet, faithful readership that has grown up around A Field of Wild Flowers.  A change to a new web address is a bit scary and I'd love your continued support and help as I move forward.  Here are three simple ways you can help me grow this space:   
* Please share this webpage, help me build a growing audience.
* Like my Facebook page (still working to update the name there!).
* Sign up for the bi-monthly newsletter, Quiet Lights, and feel free to share that and the resources therein with others too. 
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