My sweet friend, Leslie Verner released her book Invited this past week! I just love the subtitle: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness.
Leslie shares from her travel the powerful effect cross-cultural hospitality had on her life. I love a quote she shares from a friend in Saudi Arabia about hospitality, “We usually give up our own rooms to offer them the best room in the house.”
Leslie Verner encourages us to “… leap the first hurdle to Spirit-led hospitality: a concern for our own comfort, security, and safety.” For when we invite others in we are inviting Christ.
She challenges readers not to hold out for ideal circumstances, but offer the invitation that frames the entire love story of the Bible. Often I make up my own excuses about the house not being clean enough, being too tired, too busy. Welcome does not have to be fancy or perfect.
I know I will be praying her call for us to notice the stranger, invite, welcome and lavish generously as Christ has for us. I’m thankful for this beautiful book that guides us to open our hearts and homes.
We all long so very much to be seen, understood, and asked into community.
Leslie Verner writes about faith, justice, family, and cross-cultural issues. She holds a master’s degree in intercultural studies and lived in China for five years. She and her husband and three children live in Colorado. Connect with Leslie at her website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I remember the sound of her voice and her sandy blonde hair, up there on stage in front of blue blazer kids in the school hall. I remember her story, and her words “my husband hit me with an axe against my head,” she said, “the doctors said I’d never walk again, but here I am, walking, talking, living.”
I remember her words, forever burnt into my memory, and the feeling that rose up within me a 14-year-old school girl peering up at an abuse survivor and vowing in my heart to somehow aid women like her. That vow resonated inside my heart again, when I met Yeshua and got saved 3 years later. That desire to help abused women led me to become a trauma counselor, woman abuse therapist and then on to become a full-time social justice journalist.
Inside my heart, I only ever thought about the stories I was telling and the lives I was helping. I thought only about the women whose faces I saw and whose hands I held. I wanted to tell their stories so I could raise awareness of realities like child brides, gendercide, female ritual servitude and women abused the world over. Yet in my quiet times with God I would often cry and pray for God to use me outside of just individual lives, I wanted to make a change, not just for one, but for many.
Ten years ago, a fire started inside my heart, a fire of calling and passion, a fire I would not name to anyone but God. His call was stirring me to speak louder and lead campaigns, to become an activist against gender inequalities and the global oppression of women. Activists are change – makers, they strive for a different world where the glaring oppressions and wrongdoings become undone. My walk with God has taken me to many different places, to writing books, on to the mission field, to global conferences, churches, individuals, hosting my own radio show and being interviewed in magazines. Each of these steps have been steps in the fight to make changes for women.
More recently God has been speaking to me from the precious beatitudes, encouraging me through the words of Matthew 5 verse 9 which reads “blessed are the peace makers for they will all be called children of God.” (NIV) While reading this verse a month ago, I kept on seeing the word change maker in my mind instead of peace maker, so I prayerfully dug deep in to the words found here. I discovered that the Greek word here for peace maker, is a word that means to make or do something, it’s an action, expressed as something tangible and active. While the word for peace, goes back to the holistic Hebrew word “shalom,” which is deeper than just peace, it means wholeness, welfare, prosperity, harmony, complete, and the biblical idea of peace is not the absence of war, as we imagine it to be. In fact, you cannot be a peacemaker without stepping in to conflict at times.
I think of the abused women I have met and counseled. How they fought an internal and external war with both themselves (what would I lose if I left my abusive partner?) and with others (what are others going to think about me?). But in order to step out and form peace for themselves, life had to become uncomfortable first. I think of my journey with social justice journalism, in order to tell the truth about women’s oppression, I could not do that from the sidelines of safety. I could not do that from the sidelines of remaining where I was, I had to be in West Africa to uncover the truth about virgin girls being offered on altars for their father’s sins. To create awareness about gendercide, I had to watch documentaries and listen to the stories of women who had lived through the one-child policy in China and the horrors which came with it.
A peacemaker is a changemaker. She or he is one who does not avoid the truth or a necessary conflict in order to live in a temporary makeshift “peace,” rather they step outside of their comforts, both internal and external in order to bring a greater wholeness (shalom) to a greater group of individuals. Temporarily risking themselves for a God passion of truth and completeness for the world. Jesus did this when He came to earth, He knew what His mission was but He also laid aside Heavens Throne in order to die a painful, horrid death on a tree for no sin of His own! He did that because by entering our world of war, He gave us peace by reconciling us to His Father. That’s the greatest peace we could ever know. In seeking to understand what being a change maker is, I came back to this precious beatitude and saw how every time I spoke up for an oppression I saw, I was being moved by God to risk my temporary comfort for a greater wholeness for others.
It’s not just me who does this, there are thousands, if not millions of people right now leaning in to God’s voice and obeying that voice through caring for the earth, the animals, people, the oceans, the homeless, the abused, the widowed, the orphaned, the deserted and so much more. God spoke to Aaron the high priest and to his sons telling them to bless His people Israel with a blessing that ended in “may Yahweh lift up His countenance and give you peace.” While standing in the wilderness, with the promised land still waiting to be conquered, and war lingering close to their tents, God commanded the priests to bless the people with peace. A peace that transcends war, inner peace of rest and knowing who they were in God so that whatever momentary war would come, there would be the knowledge that peace can exist even within conflict.
That’s our role on earth to lay aside selfish wants and seek to love another as we love ourselves, and that often means we enter the war of working for change, in order to bring a greater peace. Peacemakers, actively seeking, making, doing, creating and forming a tangible wholeness and welfare for others, these are the ones who will be called children of God.
A changemaker works for the greater, for the future, for something more than just the self, or the momentary. Changemakers are ordinary women and men, who dare to think about a different world, a world they not only think about but act to change unreasonable things.
All these qualities of faith- caring for individual lives, showing empathy, practicing restraint, acting with courage, being an ally, collaborating creativity, truly seeing someone, loving well, and using gifts well- can be developed in young people.
Check out these free resources for Changemaker: Fierce Lights
Meet Cara Meredith, author of The Color of Life. She has a huge heart for others, a refreshing honesty, and the wisdom to grapple with the challenging.
How did you get involved in this particular issue?
While the short answer is that the power of love helped me see color, the long answer is that this is something I started to fight for long before I ever knew I was actually in the ring. Before I began writing and speaking professionally, I was a high school English and leadership teacher, and then a non-profit director for an international outreach ministry. In both of those arenas, I worked primarily with kids of color and was also under the supervision and leadership of several advisors (and bosses) of color. Although I was rather green – and always will be, to an extent, for mine is a learned, not a lived, experience – issues of justice, race and privilege lived at the heart of conversations, for creating a seat for everyone at the table was kind of the entire point of it all.
What are the best ways you can help the cause of racial reconciliation?
Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, says it best: we have to get proximate to the pain. No matter who you are or where you live, you can get proximate to those who’ve been personally affected by systems that benefit some but not all… because when we get proximate, we begin to not only listen to but also be changed by the stories of real people. If you’re a person of faith, you can start by looking at how you’ve personally contributed to and benefitted from systems in place around you – including in the Church. Whether in churches, in schools or in places of work, you can look around and see who does – and doesn’t – hold the power …and then you can begin to rally for ultimate reconciliation, both in your own heart and in the hearts of those around you.
What is the most important thing adults could share with young people about racial reconciliation?
Honestly, I’d encourage grownups to listen to what the children around them are already saying and to what they already know. As I write about in my book, studies show that children as young as six months old are able to see “color” and therefore make racial preferences, but I think adults sometimes forget the truth of this reality. A lot of white parents then don’t know how to talk about issues of justice, race, and privilege, so they don’t talk about it at all – but if children are already seeing and talking about it (at least at school, for instance), then shouldn’t we also start talking about it too? Perhaps it’s then a matter of talking about the obvious: even though we don’t all look the same on the outside, each one of us matters deeply, simply because we’re human. I’d probably add something like, “In this crazy, upside down world, even though each one of us matters to God, not every life matters in the eyes of society. So, what do you think we can do to take away this hate?” Just start talking and listening is the bottom line!
Do you have a story of hope you could share?
On the way home from picking up my older son at school today, he began to sing the lyrics to the song, “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars:
If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea, I’ll sail the world to find you If you ever find yourself lost in the dark and you can’t see, I’ll be the light to guide you
And he was so off-key, in the most perfect six-year-old sort of way. But as he sang, I also couldn’t help but think about the greater message streaming at me from the backseat. We’re in this together, you and me. You can count on me, even if we’re just starting on a journey of learning to lay down our power and lift up those whom we’ve marginalized. So, no matter where you are in and on the journey, I’m in this with you – because I’m on this journey, fighting for justice and wholeness and peace for every single human on God’s green earth, with you. And I don’t know about you, but that’s something I cling to when hope feels more far away than it does close at hand.
Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker, and sought-after conversationalist. A former high school English teacher and non-profit outreach director, her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications. The Color of Life, a spiritual memoir about her journey as a white woman into issues of justice, race, and privilege, released in February. She holds a Masters of Theology from Fuller Seminary and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. You can connect with her on her website, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
Something happens as a parent when you realize the weight of putting a life out into the world. You are suddenly struck with the magnitude of this masterpiece you are helping to sculpt, and your hopes for what they will bring to the world. For me, this realization birthed a deep desire to know my own values–to distill them down to the most important parts, and to make them a priority in the raising of my babies. Most of the values, it seemed, my husband and I could help impart in our children through conversations, through shared experiences, and through active learning. One of the values, however, we struggled to feel like we were imparting. We desperately wanted our kids to know and to experience the beauty found in diversity. We wanted them to experience life with children different from themselves and to have life examples of the richness those experiences bring. Taking stock of the homogeneous life we were surrounding ourselves with, we started to wonder about and ask the deeper questions. Why is it that our neighborhood and places we frequent are filled with people who look just like us? What systems are we taking part in that are furthering segregation? Are we doing our part towards reconciliation? Asking these questions started the lifelong journey of doing the deep work to address our own white privilege, to understand our white supremacist culture, and ultimately to do our tiny part in using our privilege to bring about healing. What started as a path we wanted for our children, ended up waking us up to the world around us.
The deeper I got into my own journey of racial reconciliation, the more I saw the need for healing to start early in our children. In my experiences as a social worker, I had stumbled across the idea of Contact Theory. Simplified, the theory states that when we are in contact with people who are different from us, we are less likely to be afraid of those people. The more we interact with, learn from, and share experiences with others who are different from us, the more empathy and understanding we will have for those people. Seems like common sense, right? The problem with this, is that we are living in highly segregated times. Systematic racism has caused our schools, churches and neighborhoods to be highly segregated. This segregation leads to fear, which leads to discrimination, which leads to violence and more segregation–and so the cycle continues. I wondered how I could do my part in interrupting this cycle, starting with our children. How can we teach our children to be bridge builders and agents of peace? This led me to start an organization for children called Peacemakers.
Peacemakers envisions a peaceful and unified world that values both individuality and interconnectedness and where empathy and curiosity guide our interactions. We aim to create this by equipping older elementary students from diverse backgrounds to build relationships and develop empathy, emotional intelligence, and peacemaking skills. By bringing existing groups of kids together who otherwise would likely not meet, we are giving kids the chance to challenge their already forming prejudices through relationship building and empathy. The Peacemakers curriculum is experiential and is done through songs, activities, skits and storytelling. It is a safe and fun environment that teaches kids how to make peace with the people and world around them. I truly believe that one of the best ways we can teach children peace and help the cause of peace, in general, is to create spaces where we can experience that peace. To create spaces where curiosity is valued over being right, where we can look at each other’s faces and hear each other’s stories, where we can listen so intently that we can’t help but to see the other person’s value and goodness. My hope is that Peacemakers becomes such a place for our children and that our children, in turn, learn to BE peace in the world around them.
Alie Morgan lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband and 3 children. She is a social worker, a foster mom, and a reconstructing deconstructionist. Her heart is for reconciliation and peacemaking, especially among kids. To connect with Alie or to learn more about Peacemakers, email PeacemakersGR@gmail.com
In Luke 6, the boy with the loaves of bread and fish, feed many. This story in the Bible reminds adults that God makes a difference through children. We, as adults, are integral in helping them learn to see the needs around them and meet those needs by giving from their own resources.
Check out these free resources from Hunger: Gleaning the Edges