22 May, 2018

An Alternate Response towards Matt Patricia

Earlier this month, news outlets in Detroit uncovered that newly hired Lion's head coach Matt Patricia was arrested for sexual assault back in 1996. Patricia never stood trail as the charges were dropped. But there was enough evidence for a grand jury to indict Patricia and a friend for the assault.

A USAToday commentary ripped Patricia apart, saying he was either foolish to presume this allegation would never come to light, or arrogant for not disclosing it. In the light of the #MeToo movement and the downfall of so many due to their choices and subsequent uses of power to cover up their actions, or silence their victims, this attitude might not seem out of line or even cavalier.

But what if there is a third option: it doesn’t matter anymore?

Let me insert the mandatory: I am a staunch supporter of women and women’s rights and feel there needs to be more space for those victimized to come forward. I also think we need to believe victims based on their word without the corroboration of a second (or sixth) victim or letting our perception of the accused get in our way.

I am also not a Patriots fan (in case you want to say I’m giving Patricia extra leeway in my mind). Not. At. All.

The allegations against Patricia were uncovered by the Detroit press. The woman he allegedly assaulted didn’t come forward to share her story. In fact, as far as I know, her identity has not been made known and should not be without her consent.

At a press conference, on May 10th Patricia said:
"I lived with the mental torture of the situation where facts can be completely ignored or misrepresented with disregard to the consequence and pain that it would create for another person. I find it unfair and upsetting that someone would bring this claim up over two decades later for the sole purpose of hurting my family, my friends and this organization with the intention of trying to damage my character and credibility."

22 years after the incident - this might not be that far from accurate.

One aspect of the #MeToo movement that I have been uncomfortable with is putting all these men under one umbrella. To me, there is a difference between someone who did something stupid as a young man and has seemingly learned from it, and someone who is a serial perpetrator or who has continued to harass and hurt his victims and does not seem at all remorseful for what he did.

As of this posting, there have been no further allegations levied against Patricia. Patricia continues to deny the charges. Former coach Bill Belichick said Patricia was a man of integrity. Patricia served with the Patriots for 14 years without the incident coming to light. And even if it had, is it really a reason to fire him?

How long are we supposed to pay for the sins of our past? How does true contrition and growth from our mistakes play into a situation? Why would one night during college define someone’s entire life?

Let me take a moment to say that I don’t think those who are serial harassers, or who have used their gender or position to protect their secrets should be allowed back into the limelight or positions of power without some serious accountability and visible heart-change around their actions.

But I do not think people are above changing and being given a second chance. And at some point, people have paid their penance, or the wheels of justice have played out, and the court of public opinion needs to get over it.
  • That does not mean we let a serial pedophile serve around children again.
  • That does not mean we reward someone who has several sexual harassment allegations against them back into million dollar TV or endorsement deals.
  • That does not mean we let someone who has been accused of rape and assault by multiple women continue to record albums or find representation.
But none of those statements fit Patricia. At this point all we have is one bad choice. A bad choice the person he hurt was fine not bringing up. We don’t know why that is. It could be forgiveness. It could be it doesn’t matter anymore. Or she also could never have processes what happened and chose not to testify out of fear or shame. Or maybe nothing happened.

We just don’t know. But the idea that one night should define a man’s life is illogical when it seems as though Patricia has chosen to live his life differently from that time. Maybe being arrested was the wake-up call he needed. Maybe it was the line in the sand and he has walked as far from it as he can.

I write all of this cautiously and with a very fine brush. I am looking at one incident. At one man. At one life. I am fully cosignant of the woman and how that night shaped her life. I am fully aware that for her one night changed her life and I write all of this with that in mind.

But I also believe in redemption and second chances and that we know people by the impact of their lives. To say that Patricia should be fired for a 22 year old choice, when his life has seemingly pointed in the other direction, is absurd. He is not Harvey Weinstein and that has to count for something.

Also, how comfortable are you with every choice you have ever made? Is there anything you’ve done that you are so grateful to be done with and only hope people will see you are not that person anymore?

I do not want my mistakes haunting my future. I have spent my life atoning for them and striving to life differently. I really hope they don’t hang me at the moment of my greatest achievement. I really hope some noisy reporter (remember we still don’t have a statement from the victim) and some entitled columnist don’t have enough power to undo what I have spent my career striving to achieve.

Do our actions and choices sometime derail all we have worked for? Yes.

Does that need to happen here? No.

And it is vital that as this movement towards accountability moves forward that this very fine line is brought into clearer focus.

(I fully welcome comments and dialogue on this topic. I am still wrestling with the nuances myself. But keep it respectful and not directed at me - there are proper ways to share your opinion.)

15 May, 2018

Breathe and Begin Again

These days are hard ones. I feel like I am barely holding it together or, more accurately, that God is holding my close, keeping me from breaking into a thousand pieces. 

I don’t know why I feel this way. Which might be okay cause then I’m not trying to “fix” it but just trusting God is here too. But it’s still hard when you feel broken or isolated or just off. 

I traded connection for contact and now don’t know how to get back. 

I’m not going to lie and say I’m okay. But I write to ask for patience. 

Please don’t give up on me. Know it’s not you. And pray that maybe I find a way to let go of whatever is entangling me and find a bit of rest and freedom. 

Breathe and begin again. Breathe. And begin again.

08 May, 2018

Love When It is Hard

What do we do when those we love act in ways that shock us?

How are we to respond when people in our lives repeatedly make decisions that bring pain and lead to negative consequences?

What does it mean to love but not agree with? To say, ‘I’ll be here for you, but that does not mean I’ll bail you out."

I feel like the theme of my life right now is: we never get to write anyone off, but that doesn’t mean you are present in their lives. I don’t have to approve, condone, or encourage behaviors, attitudes, manipulations of scripture or reality that I feel are untrue. But that doesn’t mean I get to be self-righteous and write people off.

Take a step towards the middle. Stay open. That is the heart of love.

This is the wilderness where things are scary and costs are real. This is getting out of the bunkers of judgment or self-protection to still being open. This is not reacting tit-for-tat but asking, “What is love here?”

It’s interesting how things in our life overlap sometimes. I read Braving the Wilderness recently (such an amazing and timely book!) and now I am on The Reckless Way of Love for my quiet time. Reckless is a collection of writings by Dorothy Day, who is one of my personal heroes. She had such a quiet determination to love like Jesus, to see all people as His creation and not see herself above anyone. It’s humbling and convicting.
Image via D.L. Mayfield

But she writes, “Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is that love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other.” (pg. 26)

I do not believe this is blind acceptance of what others do. I do not believe that means we keep getting run over again and again and again. It does not mean we stay in unhealthy relationships or don’t set boundaries. The way of love is not the life of a doormat.

As I have written before, we can listen and encourage, we can love and support, but that is not synonymous with stopping the storm or not letting people fall. Sometimes the greatest lessons we learn come out of our darkest moments. And sometimes the hardest thing we have to let those we love to is walk into the darkness they’ve created.

In the end, it is a question we must all answer for ourselves. “What is love here?” It is an answer we can only come to with a lot of prayer and a huge dose of humility.

Image via freestocks.org

01 May, 2018

Join the Fashion Revolution

One of the things to know about me is that I am fair trade warrior! What that means is I am passionate and relentless about helping people understand how their purchases affect our world. Someone once said that every time we shop, we cast a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. With our dollars, we decide if we want to live in a just and equal society or one that is askew by wealth, power, race and privilege.

It is easier than ever before to shop fair trade. Tell me what you are looking for and I will find it for you, often times not that much more expensive than you’d get from the big box store.

Image via Trades of Hope

Fair Trade matters because it treats the person who made your product with respect. Everything we buy – food, clothing, shoes, bedding, kids’ toys, electronics, etc. – was touched by human hands. It was harvested, sewn, pressed, dyed, assembled, or packaged by people. And how those people live, how they are treated, how much they earn, what protections exist for them, is our concern because we fund the businesses that either uplift or exploit them.

It is the Biblical command to see God’s handiwork and fingerprint on each human being. We are all made in God’s image and there is no hierarchy to God’s love based on race, gender, etc. So if we believe God is in those who make our clothing (or shoes or harvest our food), and more so that they are our brothers and sisters in this global community God created, then how we shop becomes really important.

This change to fair trade comes slowly. It comes with taking time to research companies and, sometimes, being willing to pay more upfront. But, a lil known secret about fair trade – it often equals higher quality. So yes, you are paying $100 for those cute little flats. But they will last you much longer than the cheap flats you keep paying $20 for at the box store. So spend $100 now and impact the life of someone for good. Or buy five sets of shoes for $20 over the course of the year (still equals $100) and further the exploitation and abuse of someone overseas.

I believe that we can change the world with how we shop and we can shift the tides so even the big box stores choose to treat their supply chains with humanity and dignity without it raising the cost of products! (It will affect their bottom line, but I think we can eventually convince Target people are worth more than money.)

I will try to highlight products here time to time that I love. I invite you to join me and let me know what groups or organizations you love that are making a big impact.

Image via Trade of Hope

To start, here are some companies to look into:

Jewelry and Home Goods:
Trades of Hope: mytradesofhope.com/amandalunday
AshaBelle: www.AshaBelle.com/
Sparrow Studio: http://www.thesparrowstudio.com/
Amani Ya Juu: https://amaniafrica.org/
Papillon Enterprises: http://papillon-enterprise.com
Preemptive Love Coalition: https://preemptivelove.shop/
Noonday: https://ashleysmith.noondaycollection.com
10,000 Villages: http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/

Sseko: https://ssekodesigns.com
The Root Collective: http://www.therootcollective.com/
TOMS: http://www.toms.com/
Roma Boots (rain boots): https://www.romafoundation.com/

Elegantees: https://elegantees.com/
PACT: https://wearpact.com/
Liz Alig: http://www.lizalig.com/
Raven + Lily: https://www.ravenandlily.com
Krochet Kids: https://www.krochetkids.org

Flora Stationery: FloraStationery.com

Co-Op Type Websites (think Ethical Etsy):
Bought Beautifully: https://boughtbeautifully.org/
To the Market: https://www.tothemarket.com/
Bittersweet Creative (they do an awesome Christmas gift guide): https://bittersweetmonthly.com/

More Information
Fair Trade Federation: http://www.fairtradefederation.org/
Fair Trade Certified: https://www.fairtradecertified.org/

24 April, 2018

Change Truly Starts Within

Last week I wrote about the fruit of our life. How do we evaluate - or how do others know - that our faith means something to us? What is the mark that faith goes beyond words to choices, attitudes, decisions, and how we treat others? How does following God go from being something we say to something we do? 

In my life, one way I’ve seen “fruit” is a deeper understand of God’s character. Not the platitudes or head knowledge I was raised with, but something I know.

I know God is good when the worse comes - the death of a child. I know, sitting on the porch, the shock of the news still lingering - that God has me and if I stay near to Him, I will be okay.

I know God is in control amidst the questions, the pain, the grief, the tears, the litany of things my stepdaughter will never get to experience and others won’t get to celebrate with her.

I can wrestle with God and move beyond pat answers and what can feel like easy cop outs to what is underneath. Jacob wrestled with God and told Him he would not leave without God’s blessing. He was determined to get an answer from God. And I’ve seen that in my own life. As I take time to study His word, to stop and ponder what is there, to write it out and to wait, to discuss it with people of faith I trust - God answers. 

I’ve also seen a shift from this life or faith being about me, to realizing it is truly about others. My heart breaks more for the injustices of this world. I see things from a place of abundance! And I don’t mean material things but the Fruit of the Spirit. There is always more love, more hope, more peace, more joy that can be shared. We are called to welcome the stranger, to take them food, to love those who oppose us (or who we oppose!). The words of Jesus stop being nice ideas and become something that influences your life.

I pray for those who grate me the wrong way. I pray for leaders I object to. I pray for people I have a hard time finding compassion for. I pray for situations I have no control over. I pray with open hands. I pray: Lord, Your will be done, without some ulterior motive of what that could be.

The point of all this is not a move towards perfection. It’s shedding the armor-like skin that kept me one step removed from this world and allowing myself to feel, see, interact with what is around me in a humble, open, and intentional way.

It is also easier to call out false teachers and messaging that are aligned to a party or platform instead of His Word. I know what the Bible says and I know what His Word means.

And more importantly, I am able to detect the hypocrisy in my own life. It is harder to hide behind an image of God we’ve fashioned after security, a political ideology, an emotion, a box to fit our comfort, when you are wrestling to know, and be grafted to, the one true God. It is also easier to detect what is God and what is man.

Tozer said that God is who God is 100% of the time. God cannot do anything contradictory to His nature. I know God is love, just, good, in control, with me, and all about holiness. God is not responsible for the evil of this world. God will not excuse or overlook anyone who acts outside His nature while claiming His name, regardless of how well liked or popular that person is.

God is a jealous God. We say that, but as we become more fixed on Him, we understand what that means and why that should lead to a holy fear.

God is like a rabbit hole. The more you get to know Him the more you want to know Him! And there is always more to discover.

Now please hear I am not saying this is what fruit should look like! I am saying that the fruit of our life starts within and, for me, the last few years have been a lot about ripping up the rotted, dead, sunbaked soil and putting in the good stuff. It started with water for my dry heart and has grown into something deep, true and real.

That is fruit - and it is something that can only happen within us. If I am connected to the Vine (aka God) then I will be more loving, kind, patient. I will be less angry and defensive and see the more divisive issues of this world from a different perspective.

I am not saying I am perfect.
I am not saying I have it all together.
I am not saying this is the only answer.
I am not saying this process is done.

I am saying I am different today and it is all because of intentionally pursuing God in ways that force me to wrestle with the hard issues and deconstruct the other idols of my life until only He remains.

17 April, 2018

What is the Fruit of Your Life

When we lived in Colorado we built two garden boxes for our backyard. D’s daughter came over and helped us put the boards together, tightening the screws and ensuring there were no gaps for dirt and water to escape. We filled the boxes with soil and then went to the nursery.

As we wandered the lot, meandering in and out of greenhouses, I was overwhelmed by the multitudes of tomatoes, the diverse varieties of lettuce. We could grow snow peas, their stacks snaking up the trellis of our choosing. There were vegetables that grow in the ground, plants that bloom on stalks and vines. And, of course, dozens of flowers to welcome the bees we needed to make any of this happen.

We went home and eagerly planted our garden. We installed a drip system an even distribution of water would reach all of our happy plants. We weeded constantly, but I always questioned what was a weed and what might be a new plant. Did a bird move a pumpkin seed and now I was unearthing it?

Lettuce was easier to grow. Cilantro we never figured out. Tomatoes and beans came in spurts. Our garden showed our time and attention (or lack thereof) by what we were able to harvest.

The Bible says that follows of Christ will be known by their fruit. But what does that mean? How do we determine our harvest (and should we?). This kind of exercise could easily turn into a judgment show, where we determine if other people have a lush rainforest or a barren garden by our standards.

And who would be our standards - Billy Graham? Mother Teresa? Dorothy Day? Or would we go for more pomp and fame - Joel Olstean? Rob Bell? No matter who we would hold as the “ideal” - we would all fall flat. Who can really “compete” with Mother Teresa? And really, is that the point? What about what’s going on in our hearts?

We can fake good deeds. We can give all we have to the poor, volunteer all over the place, mentor ladies till we fill up every free moment. And yet, our hearts can be entirely left out of it.

So are our gardens an internal thing, cultivated by the Lord?

In Galatians Paul writes about the fruit of the spirit. He says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”

I don’t think the use of “fruit” by Jesus in Matthew 7 and Paul in the verse above are coincidental. I think it’s intentional that God is called a vine and us His branches (where fruit grows). 

Most people would say that “fruit” would be good deeds, fame, money, influence, people you’ve led to Christ, things that we can see.

But that is not the list Paul gives us. What he lists as the fruit of the Spirit, manifestations of an honest, grafted walk with God, are things that we cannot do on our own.

I can do kind things, but that does not make me a kind person.
I can do good things, but that does not make me a good person.
I can bite my tongue, but that does not make me patient.
I can not spend money every time I want to, but that does not mean I have self-control.
I might not respond with anger, but that does make me gentle.

All of these things are matters of the heart. For that is where Christ dwells. And the more at home He is, the more we let Him move in, clean out the clutter and redecorate to His standards, the more we will be kind, loving, patience, and gentle.

The Message says it this way, “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

Next week, I will share how I have seen this coming to fruition in my life. But, until then, let me ask: what is the fruit of your life?

10 April, 2018

When you say "Never Again"

Twenty-four years ago the Rwandan genocide started. Friends turned on friends. Neighbors betrayed those closest to them. Even the church failed to protect and, at times, was complicit in committing murder or allowing them to happen.

Over 800,000 people died in just over 100 days. 800,000 people! I have a hard time imagining that many people. That is more than the population of the town I grew up in! If you watch college football – it’s eight of the stadiums for the biggest teams filled to capacity.

How do you comprehend that? Are we supposed to?

I lived there back in 2008. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since I saw the 1000 hills, had the red dirt on my sandals and felt something I have yet to feel again.

The land is gorgeous. The people generous. There is a pain, but I don’t think you can escape that. I don’t think you get over the ache of losing your family at the hands of people you trusted. Rwanda is the size of Delaware. It is a very intimate country. People know each other. They know parents and lineages. You are not your own entity but tied to those who came before you. Which is maybe why what happened stings even more.

There is a poignant scene in Hotel Rwanda where the hotel manager is talking to a local reporter. On the TV screen are images of the genocide that is happening on the streets just outside the hotel compound.

The hotel manager says, “I am glad that you have shot this footage and that the world will see it. It is the only way we have a chance that people might intervene.” 
The reporter asks, “And if no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?” 
The hotel manager is aghast. “How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?” 
The reporter replies, “ I think if people see this footage they'll say, ‘oh my God that's horrible,’ and then go on eating their dinners.”

There are still genocide today: Syria, Myanmar, Sudan, the DRC.

Gendercide happens daily in India, China and other places where girls are not valued as they should be. The UN estimates over 200,000 million girls are gone because of this practice.

Last week my friend wrote, "When you said, 'never again,' after the Holocaust, did you mean that for just for yourselves? Or us, too?"

So what do we do? How do we intervene on something happening so far away that overwhelms us (if we’re aware it’s happening at all)?

Giving money is easy - and there are good organizations that need it. Doctors Without Borders and Preemptive Love Coalition are two I highly recommend.

Get educated! Don’t rely on the news - look at agencies working in the region. Watch documentaries, read books! Get curious and use the internet for something positive.

Get involved! See if there is a refugee resettlement program in your area (Lutheran Family Services usually does this). Does your church have anything? Could you start a program there? Host a screening of It’s a Girl. Hold a book group around Seeking Refuge. Coordinate a prayer vigil for those affected by genocide.

Get educated and use your voice for change! Stand up against rhetoric that is based on fear and hate.

Get connected with local advocacy groups and become aware of what bills are being passed on Capitol Hill that affect refugees.

It is easier to see the footage, admit our horror and then go about our lives. But we are called to care for and love our brothers and sister, regardless of where they are from or what country they are in. The Rwandan genocide ended because an internal force was able to push the perpetrators into the DRC (where genocide is still happening - but that’s another post). But we should not always wait for internal forces to drive out murder.

Beyond the politics, headlines, policy and atrocity are people. If we can focus on that and our shared humanity maybe we can do something for those living in situations ditions we cannot image.
© Amanda Lunday