The Conversation isn’t a Conversation for Everybody

Even if we live on the same street or city it doesn’t mean we have the same experiances.

I was talking to an African-American friend the other day. He was telling me about a conversation with a mutual friend (a White dude).  The topic was Ferguson, MO.  The White guy said something like “I’m surprised that there’s still stuff to talk about.  I didn’t know there was anything still going on there.” I’m wondering if you’re wondering the same thing?

Perhaps things have cooled off in Ferguson, at least a little. Enough to not be on the evening news, perhaps. For a lot of us this means the conversation is over.  It can be over.  If you have light skin it can be over.

What if you’re an African-American man? Is the conversation over? Is it a conversation at all?  If you don’t know the answers to those questions, it may mean that you don’t have any friends that are people of color.

For us with light skin the converstation can end.  It’s only a conversation in the hallway or over a beverage. We say our salutaions and head home to Netflix or our dog.  This is our privaledge.  This is what our skin tone gives to us. We don’t have to deal with a lot that our friends of color have to every waking moment.

I’m not saying it’s all our fault.  It isn’t.  Well, not mine and yours speficially.  You can’t add up all White Sin and put it on our tab Brah.  You may feel that way when you first enter into the dialogue.  White Guilt should be worked through not camped out in.  What we can take resposibilty for are the ways taht we benefit from Racism and therefor perpetuate it.

I’ve been asked, “What do we do then?” Friends, I don’t have THE answer.  Some days the problem is just way too big to do anything about.  Most days I’m determined to stay engaged.  This engagement alone I think can be helpful.  Being aware is the frist step to cutrual compotency and fighting Racism.¹  Dont’ just stop at knowing.

One of the answers for me is to seek out friends that are of other cultures and races than my own.  I learn about their lives and try to understand. I breack bread with them and meet their families when possible.  I apploogise when I have to.  In other words, I try to be a good friend.  Sometimes good friends stick up for each other.  Lately I’ve found that I have the ability to call out the sublte ways Racism is present in every day life.  Man, have I dropped some conversational bombs on some residents of Queen Anne.  You’re welcome.

An other answer  for me is working with a diverse population.  My internship site’s client population is 95%+ people of color.  I’m getting a lot of expriance being a professional White Ally. In the future, when I have a private practice I want to continue that kind of work. I plan to leave room in my client load for low-income clients, maybe even being authorized by Medicaid  or Boarded with an insurance company.  By not making those kind of choices in hourly rate and client retention I limited my working population to the people who have platium level insurance or pay cash.  And we know for the time being most of the wealth is is still heald by light skinned people.   I’m sure I’ll come across more ways to help… or encourage more people want to be engaged.  For now I feel as good as I can about how I’m helping.

If you’re White I hope that you choose to engage in this stuggle with me.  If you’re a Person of Color may you risk to have a White friend.  Not a co-worker or a bud, a genuine friend.  This is a way we can change our future.  Let’s make minute steps into a new way.  Join me.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

 

 

 

 

¹ Sue, D.W., & Sue, D. (2013). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice, 6th Ed. New York: John Wiley.

Over the River and Through the Selfcare Woods

Like many terms in language the term self-care has many meanings and connotations.  The first time you heard the term self-care you probably came to an understanding.  As I assume most compound words are formed for the need to combine two concepts into a single utterance.  Self + care = self-care: taking care of one’s, ya know, self.  Like much of life simple concepts are not easily lived out.  Much of what we learn comes in layers or in cycles.

Before I go forward, I need to clarify what I think about how we learn.  I think the things in life that are worth learning take a while to sink in.  This kind of learning involves taking in information, reflecting on it, experiencing the information, and perhaps more reflection.  I came across this concept from a youth ministry book.  They were explaining why the book was set up in such a way and that to skip a part of the lesson plan would sabotage your students potential learning.  That made sense and I utilized this concept the rest of my time in youth ministry.  I will not quarantine this modality to youth ministry.  Back to self-care…

My journey toward self-care has been a long time coming.  I don’t mean to make it sound like a place to arrive.  It truly is a journey like most of life, there are places that we mark along the way.  We grieve or celebrate where we’ve come from.

I heard the term self-care before I came to The Seattle School but the genuine pursuit of it I had not experienced.  Only now, in my internship, am I feeling the gravity of selfcare.¹  I am noticing more and more the places that my defenses have simply enabled my survival.  Most of us would agree that survival is basic.  Most of us would agree that we want more in life than survival – we want to thrive.²  I’ve come to a deep realization, in my marrow, that selfcare is essential to living this life well.  I’ve realized what I’ve done to survive isn’t really even leading to survival.  Many of my defenses are toxic, slowly killing me.  They are killing my mind, body, and soul.  At best they are blocking me from goodness because of the risk of pain.  At worst, literally killing a part of me.  In the eyes of my clients I see the ramifications of selfcare.  If I don’t truly and deeply care for myself I cannot in turn truly and deeply help them.  I want to help them. To help someone is to love them.  [An unwriteable sentence.]  I haven’t always helped myself.  The Seattle School has challenged me to consider the cost to myself and consider ways that I might sustain myself and surround myself with people who are willing to help sustain me.

I thought I was headed to Grandma’s house.  Ya know, “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go?”  I hadn’t crossed the river yet.  I was walking along the river.  Most the time I couldn’t look at Selfcare Woods.  There was too much shame to wonder why I couldn’t look, let alone try to get there.  Recently I looked up and noticed that I’ve crossed the river.

I’ve only begun.  I’ve begun the task of peeling the onion.  I’ve just crossed the river.  I see how I can sustain myself.  I hope that I’m a quick study.  I hope that I continue to integrate this concept into living.  Only time will tell I guess.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

 

 

Footnotes:

¹Please note the shift from self-care to selfcare.  This denotes integration.

²Incidentily, why hasn’t the state of “thrival” become a word in common usage?  Furthermore, is the hope of thriving too much hope of goodness for us to handle we can’t name it?

White People Say the Darnedest Things

I saw this video on a friend’s FB feed.  I laughed and cried. We have so much work to do.  By we, for now, I mean White people in the USA.  I hope we can ride this recent wave of awareness in the media of violence by White police officers to people of color. Much more needs to change, I hope we can see that. I hope we can change.

Now that I’ve done some more work on my inner self I feel more comfortable pointing the type of comments and attitudes in this video in daily life.  I get strange looks of course, especially in my neighborhood (Upper Queen Anne, Seattle). I know that shame is involoved and we defend ourselves with those kind of looks and rebutals.  As if I don’t have the right to point out racsim to an aquiantence or someone I just met.   As if you’ve got the right to be Racist.  I guess you do, and that’s the problem. Deep cultural changing work will be done with longterm relationships anyway, I’ve found that I must do something. We’ve got to do something! I have much more to say. That’s all that’s going to be said on Christmas Day +1 when I have a sugar cookie hangover.

Thanks for stopping by. Be uncommon.

Wedding Experiment

Weddings. Most of the weddings I’ve officiated I’ve enjoyed. So much love and anxiety in one place. So much loss and joy about new beginnings. A happy tear and sad tear cocktail. I enjoy walking with people through that fertile ground.

I’m officiating a wedding this weekend. This my first since moving to Washington.  The wedding is of a former student who is also the daughter of a former co-worker.   It’s good to see them again and hopefully I will be able to make more time to see them when I’m out of school.

I’ve had the notion for years that there’s a better way to do pre-marital counseling.  I’ve had feedback from a lot of the couples I’ve married that what I was walking them through didn’t make sense until they were married.  I think that’s probably true for a lot of our learning isn’t it?  Our learning becomes more meaningful when it’s applicable to life or work.  With that thought in mind, I’ve wondered if it would be more beneficial for couples to have some counseling after they’re married.  I have not had any takers on my theory yet.  I know that most of the couples that I’ve officiated have begrudgingly met with me beforehand.  Those are the vibes I usually pick up before they met with me.  Most couples have been able to see that it wasn’t just me telling them how to live, it was me facilitating their conversation on how they wanted to live together.  Often these conversations are not a priority or they are just avoided hoping for the best.  I think those are silly ways to live, even though I have the same defenses.

Getting married is a life transition.  If we’re honest we often struggle through major life transitions.  Most of us who have had a therapeutic presence trough a transition know that it is worthwhile.   (When I say therapeutic I’m using it in the general sense.)  Some of us would say we couldn’t have made it with out that life giving presence.  So why not accept my kind offer to walk along side you?  The reasons are many I’m sure.

Sophie and Ryan, the couple I’m marrying tomorrow, have decided that they would allow me to experiment with them.  I think this may be an optimal situation.  They are laid-back and flexible people.  They love life and love an adventure.  They’ve been open in talking about  life with each other and myself.  I’m excited to see how this goes.

Until then, Godspeed you two.  May you continue to play and explore the world together.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

 

Stirred by Tillicum Village

I was fortunate enough to accompany Graeme and his classmates to Tillicum Village on Blake Island two weeks ago. I’m glad they all had the opportunity to learn about Coastal Salish tribes. I would recommend a trip there if you haven’t gone.

Why do I feel fortunate? I love learning about Native American Cultures. I’m glad for myself as well my son.  All three of my sons are learning a lot about native peoples, often.  I think this is important.  Knowledge isn’t a savior, but it can open many doors to the world and relationships.

Often learning about another culture can begin the journey down the road to understanding. Knowledge and understanding can lead to appreciation of the other. Curiosity can help fuel these pursuits.

In the past few years there has been a stirring deep within me. You may wonder if that’s just my lunch talking. This is a deeper nagging than 10 star Chinese food can bring.¹  It is a nagging to be in community with more cultures than I have dwelt with most of my life. Perhaps that’s why I’m loving city life so much lately.  Not that I’m living in a diverse city.  Still, its more diverse than the small Midwestern towns I’ve lived in the past.  Difference to me is a good thing. It adds to the beauty of the world. I have learned so much from people that are different than myself. Sometimes I have learned through offense. For that I am sorry, but its inventible. The times that hurt the most are the times I don’t have an opportunity to say sorry.  The stirring to try to understand and to know the unknown pushes me into risky interactions.

As the ferry disembarked for Seattle I reflected on the day.  I was grateful for the interaction with a small segment of the Coastal Salish Tribes.  I was glad to hear their stories, history, and learn some common customs.  I look forward to learning more.  I’m guessing much my learning will happen around my dinner table while my sons inform me about the first Americans of this region.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

 

 

 

¹Since moving from the Midwest I’ve noticed it’s common in the Seattle area to find a heat rating on food.  This is especially common for Chinese food. I’ve most often encountered a 1-10 scale, 10 being the hottest. And no, the actual spiciness of the food is not standardized.  At least you know what to expect.

Theological Musings Past and Present

Since coming to The Seattle School I’ve made some realizations about, well… everything. What’s on my mind currently is theology and ecclesiology.   I hear of these theologians writing about cultural shifting.  They’re using descriptors like postmodern, later-modern, post colonial, etc.  I notice when they wrote the article I’m reading or hearing a lecture on and it’s from the 70’s or 80’s.  I immediately jump to the question: Where were these people when I was first wrestling with new theology and new forms of church?  I could have used some of these voices from 2000-2004 especially.  I just remember frustration that there was no one to read. No one to talk to about my wonderings. No one to talk about how church and theology could be done different. Unbenounced to me they were there.

Those of you who were grappling with me on such things here’s a list of people you might like to hear from.  Most of them do not have a dominant cultural worldview.  It’s quite refreshing and challenging.  I dare you to read some of these people:  Colin Guton, Stan Grenz, Musa Dube, James Cone,  John Webster, and Gustavo Gutierrez.

They were there.  If I only new.  Maybe, in the muddling through these things with comrades was the best thing after all.  I just wanted some affirmation that I was still orthodox.  Which I got eventually from some unexpected people.

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

sand castles and the tide

When we were in Oregon I had a wonderful experieance with my boys.

I decided to make a sand castle. The boys were in the waves having a wonderful time. I hadn’t made a sand castle in years. Too long. I considered the beach. Where should I build this thing? How elaborate should I make it? Are the boys going to try to destroy it before I’m done and is that ok? Do want this to last longer than high tide? How far do I want to haul sand?

I found a spot and started to build. The spot I decided on I knew that the tide would wash it away. I wanted to have wet sand so I didn’t have to haul water far. I knew the life span would be short. Usually they don’t last long whether it’s a canine, homosapien or waves. I’ve been around the beach more than a couple times.

As I was building the boys would take a break from the water and observe. They were pretty impressed. Impressed that I was building a sand castle in the first place. Besides that they were surprised at the thought and care I put into the project. My favorite part was the wooden door I included.

As time went on I decided to try to channel and hinder the tide. I knew that my work would succumb to the tide. I was curious if there was anything that would help even the slightest. I put a wedge shaped peak between the castle and the water. I also dug some channels on either side so some of the force would go over the sand bar I was building on. If I had a shovel I would have done something more complicated.

As the tide crept closer to my handiwork it awakened something in my boys. Graeme was most passionate, that the castle could be saved. I was about to tell him what I thought the tide was going to do and to not bother. I held my tougue and thought for a second. I decided to give it a try with my sons.

We moved tons of sand. It seemed like it anyway.  The water kept coming.

After a while Graeme asked me “Dad, do you think we can save it?” No, I don’t. But I knew that when I built it here. “Dad, why did you build it here then?” I just wanted to build a sandcastle. That was the fun part for me. Let’s give this castle a good death and remember the fun we had building it and trying to save it together. After a puzzled look Graeme asked “What do you mean by ‘a good death?'” We need to say good bye and let the waves take it. By remembering how special our experience was, we honor it and give it a good death. He got it as much as a 10 year old can.

As we were laboring to save the castle I noticed a man passing by. I was taking a break from moving sand. The man looked at me. Then he looked at the castle, at his watch, at the waves, back to the castle then to me. His look was one of speculation and annoyance. I can only project onto him what he was thinking. My answer to my perception of him was “Ya, I know that the waves are coming. But not building this castle in the tide plain is like not choosing to live because some day I will die. A good death has much to do with the kind of life you’ve lived.” This was all internal monologue of course.

The waves came.  And came.  And came.  Water is relentless like time. I let my boys make the call when to stop moving sand. When they did, we stood back and let the water wash over the castle. It was a beautiful and tragic scene.

This is a tender memory for me.  I will cherish this and moments like it that I can share tid-bits about life and the world with my sons.

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

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volunteering at a jedi luncheon

I had the privilege of volunteering my time at The Story Workshop this past weekend.   The workshop is a conference offered by The Allender Center.  I got to refill coffee, water, M&M’s, salad, and gluten free goodies.  I got to clean tables, bathrooms, garbage bins, and a coffee percolator.  I was honored to move tables and chairs.  I had the privilege to give directions, pats on the shoulder and warm smiles.  It was an honor to put together an altar with a friend and place communion elements.  I feel truly grateful for an opportunity to be a part of a weekend that creates space for so much life change.

In one of the sessions there was a palpable sense that I was participating in something special.  I felt God’s warm, kind, fierce, unrelenting presence amongst us.  As I was sitting in the back of the room with other volunteers I had a wonderful view.  It was like I had a box at The World Cup Final.  I saw tears and smiles.  Some on the same faces.  I saw heads shaking and hands tightly clenched around paper napkins.  I saw disposable cups rolling through fidgeting fingers.  It was a glorious scene.

When we came to the last session of the weekend I was struck with realization: I amongst some very gifted souls.  Dan Allender gave bouquets of flowers to each of the facilitators.  He honored and blessed their beings and their commitment to health and life in the lives of others.  To the last one they are brilliant and gifted therapeutic practitioners.   It was as if I was at The Jedi Temple participating in a luncheon for the Council.  Such a gifted and compassionate group of warriors.  They put themselves willingly between the forces of evil and the participants.  Guarding, guiding them through the putrid suffering and glorious goodness in their own stories.  I was happy to see them at work.  To serve them, who valiantly serve others, was quite an honor.

Such a sacred space.

One day I hope to craft my own lightsaber.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon and may The Force be with you.

a weekend with my oldest son

Graeme and I had a blast this past weekend.  We camped, just the two of us, in the Cascades.  We weren’t very far from Mt. Baker.  We stayed at Rasar St. Park.  We’d both recommend it.  This is a new family tradition.  Well, I’ve been planning it for years.  When my boys turn 10, 13, 16, 18 I’m going on solo trips with them.  These trips will serve a sign posts on their journey to manhood.

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We whittled, hiked, played Pokemon, had sword duels, ate junk food, read Harry Potter and went fishing.  We had a ball.  We talked about life and how it changes over the years.  We shared old stories and made new ones.

We’d recommend Anne’s Pizza in Concrete, WA.  Great staff!  The pizza was wonderful.  Graeme would like to share it with the family.

We fished in the Skagit River and Grandy Lake , and scouted out Lake Shannon.  We didn’t have much luck.  Admittedly we’re not early risers.  The Skagit River was  very fast and strong.  We worked hard at times to keep our feet.   Graeme had a trout on his line and it broke free.  He also landed a tiny largemouth bass.  I just caught some weeds.  Graeme loved it.  I think we’ve found something that will keep him outdoors.  We were on the river for about 5 hours and he thought it was  an hour and a half.  After we fished for a while at Grandy Lake we took a swim.  A lady that was swimming near us got a leach on her and that was our cue to head for home.

Wonderful memories.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

becoming a man

Graeme, my almost 10 year old, and I are going camping this weekend.  Just the two of us.  This is the first in a series of trips I want to take with him.  Instead of a single event/right of passage, I’ve decided to do several.  I don’t think that theirs a right an wrong to this process.  Most of my friends that have done anything like this have chosen to do a single event.  They have tried to recreate the pre-modern passage into adulthood.  An art and cultural marker we have lost.

Because we have lost these markers into adulthood I’ve  decided to create my own.  I want my sons to be prepared to operate in the world on their own.  They will be able to survive on there own.  I will not be a co-dependent parent that sits outside the office while my 24 year old son interviews for a job in the next room.  Maybe a lunch meet-up, or phone debrief, but not coddling parent of an pseudo-adult.

I haven’t worked out all that will be said or done on these trips with my sons.  I have decided that part of this process I will bestow things on them.  It started at 8 with a pocket knife.  I train them how to use it and handle it carefully.  How to not hurt themselves or others when they do use it.  I keep it, but they can ask for it when they want it.  I’ll be giving Graeme his second knife this weekend.  Its a bigger knife and should last him a while.  I think when he’s 16 or 18 he’ll get a multi-tool.  Again I have not decided what goes into it.  I’m leaving plenty of space for intuition to see the needs of each son as the grow older.  I’m open to suggestions as well.

So this weekend, while we’re near the foot of Mt. Baker, please think and pray for us often.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.