Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Heritage, Hate, and the Juvenilization of Free Speech

Someone posted a link to the following article on Facebook this morning.  Unfortunately the link seems to be having issues, quite possibly because of the traffic it is receiving.  So, I wanted to post it here to share. 
 I would like to add, growing up in Louisiana I very often saw the rebel flag flying above the tailgates of pick up trucks, on hats, on bumper stickers, you name it.  I also grew up in a school system that was fairly diverse and with parents who taught me to love all people.  Some of my friends were those with rebel flags and argued it was "heritage, not hate" and I believed them.  Simply speaking, I believe that the majority of people I knew truly felt that way and saw it as a Southern symbol.  Many of them still do.  
Moving to Oklahoma for several years changed me in a lot of ways.  We joined an awesome church that provided a lot of opportunities to have open and engaging conversations which allowed us to open our minds and learn more from a variety of backgrounds and people.  Moving back to the South to Mississippi was even more eye opening to me.  I began to see racism and segregation that I had never noticed growing up.  Whether it was there and I missed it or Mississippi seems to be worse, that can wait for a future discussion.  However, it is deeply ingrained in the culture here.  The more I have thought about this issue  over the past couple of years, the more I have come to the realization that is shared below.  However, the post below pulls all the thoughts that I keep having and puts them into a coherent message.  For those who disagree, that is okay.  We can agree to disagree.  But I hope this article will challenge people and perhaps they may see this issue from a different perspective.  ~Jaimie })i({
Heritage, Hate and the Juvenilization of Free Speech  taken from http://www.organicstudentministry.com/
I am a Southerner.  I have lived in 3 cities in my life; 18 years in a rural town in North Alabama, 5 in Atlanta and 12 in Birmingham, Alabama.  I grew up middle class, white in a small racially divided town.   I grew up in a culture where rebel flags were flown off the back of pick up trucks, they were worn on hats and raised on makeshift poles in people’s yards.  I was taught that these were symbols of heritage, reminders of who we were and who we are.
I grew up with parents that used the word “nigger” in regular conversation, when they were angry and when they talked about the people who lived in “pepper town”.
One of my earliest memories of my dad is him coming home from work covered in wisps of cotton, a machinist in the local cotton mill, wearing a white t-shirt and his black, fishnet work hat embossed with a rebel flag.  I remember being very young and carefully helping him place a bumper sticker on his lime green, late 70’s beat up pick-up truck.
The sticker was a rebel flag with the words “Keep It Flyin”
I remember being in 4th grade and calling another little boy, an African American 5th grader, “nigger” because that is what he was in my world.  A nigger.
This is my pedigree.  
The school principal, who was also my baseball and basketball coach heard me say this and called me into his office.
“Why did you call him that?” he asked
“Because that is what he is,” I told him with out flinching.
“What do you think that means?” he asked.
“It is another word for a black,” I said (it is important to note that we did not call them “black people.” I think subconsciously that was a little too humanizing for us.  Calling them “blacks” was more simple, more to the point and noted them for what they were, a color not a person.
My principal spent the next two weeks with me (in detention) talking with me about that word, what it means and what it does to people when they hear it.  He spent 2 weeks, every day with me in his office talking, working through these ideas and helping me understand that words and symbols carry deep, impacting meaning and they should be handled with great care and respect.
He was my salvation.
He saved me from the depravity of racism, the ignorance of inequality and the suffocating quicksand of hatred.
Years later when I realized what I had done, how I had been raised to think and who I was going to be, my stomach sank.
Thursday morning I felt that sinking all over again.  I felt it because I began to hear the voices of my childhood in the comment sections, the Facebook posts and in the justifying soliloquies of the defenders of what they call “heritage.”  Outrage over the rebel flag began almost immediately as the state of South Carolina lowered all of its flags to half mast, all except the rebel flag.  The racial fissure in our country’s bedrock began to pull apart again.  People talked of heritage, history, southern pride.  Posts were shared explaining in great detail how the civil war was not about slavery, “only 1/4 to 1/3 of southerners even owned slaves” cites one story.
I love how the word “only” is used to try subdue the gag reflex of the soul.
Contrary to what you might think, I am not here to argue with these historical claims.  I really do not care what they “historically” may or may not have stood for.  Are rebel flags appropriate?  Sure, in movies, museums and history books that recount the civil war it makes sense because it has context.  Which is the problem we are facing today, context.
In graduate school I took this incredible class on the study of semiotics.  Semiotics is a discipline that studies symbols, words and their adoptive and adaptive meanings.  One of the primary principles of semiotics is that there is never a pure meaning that any symbol carries intrinsically.  In other words, a symbol’s meaning is always being redefined, interpreted and evolving.
Take the swastika for example.  It was a symbol that was very prevalent in eastern religions and even early Christianity.  You can find it in unbelievable amounts of ancient art, pottery and architecture.  It was benign and decorative.
That is the heritage and history of the swastika.
That is until it was adopted by the SS and Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  It is a symbol and the definition of that symbol changed, and changed dramatically.  It was assigned a new definition, a definition of hate and genocide.
Here is the problem with the “it’s not racist, it is a symbol of our heritage” argument.  It makes assumptions about the static nature of symbols that are simply wrong.
The meaning of symbols are fluid, they are never static.  When a majority of people understand the symbol to point to another definition then the definition of that symbol changes.
When KKK members adopted it as the symbol of their hate, it changed.
When it was waved proudly as a banner for segregationists, it changed.
When it became synonymous with burning crosses, white hoods and ropes thrown over magnolia trees looped around lifeless brown necks.  It. Changed.
When a 21 year old young man from South Carolina writes a manifesto on his website proclaiming in horrifying detail his hatred for all minorities, posts pictures clutching in one hand the rebel flag and a gun in the other just before he goes out and kills 9 innocent people in a prayer meeting… it changed.
If you want to wear the “stars and bars” on a t-shirt or hat, be my guest.
If you want to fly it proudly on your lawn, go ahead.
If you want to make it a law that it has to fly on the lawn of your state capitol, feel free.
But know this…
When you do this you are throwing your lot in with racists, segregationists, white supremacists, neo-nazis, bigots and murderers.  You will be counted, not among a group of people supposedly celebrating “heritage” but among those whose lips drip with the venom of hate.
You have free speech, that is true, but that speech is not without consequence.  Consequences like what we saw a few days ago in Charleston.
Let me be clear the rebel flag did not cause that man to kill those 9 people meeting for prayer and worship.  It is just the primary symbol of a sick and vile sub-culture that produces people like that man who killed those 9 people meeting for prayer and worship.
I know that culture; I am a refugee and dissenter from it and an organizer against it.
Make no mistake: it is not heritage it is hate.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Reminder

About three years ago, Albany and I were shopping at Old Navy. As we were talking she asked when she was going to get a little sister. I had to explain that I didn’t know, but I hoped soon. Albany told me we needed to pray about it. I told her we would. She stopped in the middle of the little girl’s section, placed her hand on me and began praying for a little sister. There was a part of me that was slightly embarrassed she was praying in the middle of the store. There was a larger part of me that was so floored by her faith. When she said “amen,” she turned to me and said we needed to buy something for her little sister. I hesitated, trying to explain we could get something once her sister was here. Albany sighed and explained, “Mommy, she will need something when she gets here.”

 I directed her to the clearance section and she found a little, pink shirt with Rapunzel on it. I asked her if she thought maybe we should get something smaller. She declared the shirt she picked out was perfect and we headed towards check out.

 We prayed and tried to get pregnant for a year. As we prayed during the next year, we began feeling the pull towards adoption. We took the classes and got licensed. Then we waited another year before finally receiving the call.

 I love these kids. They feel like our kids. We are adjusting well. Albany is doing incredible. We’ve had some little bickering and a few hurt feelings, but she seems to take it in stride. For the most part, it is natural sibling stuff. Little Man is a lot like Albany. He is a very loving child and has such a sweet spirit. He is more introverted than Albany, but also a little more rambunctious. He loves lots of snuggles, especially from his Mommy.

 Sassy is a challenge. She has some massive temper tantrums and can be downright defiant. Just this morning, it was a struggle to get her to sit in her seat and finish her breakfast instead of skipping around the house, directing everyone else on what they should be doing. She will be a great leader if we can guide her the right direction. Please don't get me wrong. I am so glad she is here and I love her dearly. She is also so loving, hilarious, and LOVES to help out around the house. It's just that adjusting to Sassy's needs can be very difficult at times.

 This morning as I was pulling jackets out of the playroom closet so the kids can head to school on this chilly day, I noticed the shirt we bought three years ago stuffed into the closet. I pulled it out and showed Andrew as he entered the room. Over the years I have almost given the shirt away to friends who have little girls. Something has always held me back.

 Even though Sassy is 5, she wears a 3T. Her favorite movie besides Frozen? Tangled.

This morning as I showed Andrew the 3T, Rapunzel shirt, I was reminded of that moment in Old Navy. I realized that Sassy is the little sister Albany and I prayed for 3 years ago. She is the one we have been praying for the past 3 years.  She is supposed to be a part of our family. We never even considered having a boy, but God blessed us with Little Man, too. And on the days where I feel weary or overwhelmed or frustrated, I want to remember this moment. I want to remember that God has a plan for all of this and that we get to be a part of these children’s restoration story. I want to remember that Sassy is the one we have prayed for and that God answered and blessed us abundantly.

Monday, January 30, 2012


My hubby and I were working on refinishing an old dresser this weekend. As I was sliding the newly painted and distressed drawers back into their places, it happened. I got a splinter! At that moment, I became consumed with this tiny sliver of wood wedged into the tip of my ring finger. At that moment, I felt nothing else, just pain. I showed Andrew my affliction (he was soooo sympathetic). After a search, I couldn't find a pair of tweezers, so reluctantly I went back to working and just tried to ignore it. It mostly worked, but every now and then I would pick up something or move something and it would hit that finger and the pain came back.

Hurt is like a splinter. Whether someone lied to you, or misused you, or whatever it is, the hurt can pierce you like a splinter. You can ignore it for so long, but if you do not actually dig it out and deal with, it will continue to hurt you. Maybe not constantly, but a time will come when something comes up and brings the pain flooding back. If left too long, a splinter can become infected and cause all sorts of health problems. The same is true for hurt. If you allow it stay in your life, it can consume and overtake you.

To get rid of a splinter, you have to take some tweezers and dig it out. The process sometimes takes awhile to get it all out and sometimes it is very painful. So is dealing with our hurts. Sometimes it takes talking to the person that hurt you, sometimes it takes seeing a counselor, whatever it is, we each have our own way to get through hurt.

While I never know when I may get a splinter, it would be ridiculous for me to take my bare hands and rub them over that old dresser. I would be smart to use gloves to handle the dresser, to prepare myself and protect myself. Likewise there are some situations we can not get out of, like maybe a family situation. While you may not be able to completely remove yourself from the situation, you can prepare and protect yourself. Whether it is limiting visits, standing up for yourself, or spending time in prayer before a visit. But there are some situations that are so hurtful or abusive that the best thing to do is to remove yourself entirely. Yet sometimes even after doing so, there is still hurt, while not new, it continues to linger.

The thing we must remember though, to get through the hurt, we must get all of the splinter out. Unforgiveness is like that little fragment of a splinter that is wedged down deep. It's the part that becomes infected when not removed. Forgiveness is not saying that what happened was okay. It's not about allowing the person to hurt you again. It's really not about the other person at all. It is deciding not to hold that hurt you've experienced against that person any longer. And it is not letting the hurt have any hold over you any longer. This is the step we most often forget, yet we truly can not heal until we forgive.

What splinters do you need to deal with?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back to School

"Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I'm not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don't get in a fight. Ohhhh, back to school. Back to school. Back to school. Well, here goes nothing. ~Billy Madison"

It has been almost 10 years since I graduated from college and at this moment I find myself mentally preparing to return to school and begin work on my masters. Mostly I'm excited, but there is a little apprehension simply because it has been so long since I have listened to a lecture, written a paper, or highlighted the heck out of a book. I also wasn't the best student ever, taking short cuts or doing what was just necessary to get the grade I was after. Nevertheless, I value my bachelors. I was 3/4 of the way done with a degree in Psychology/Sociology when I realized I wanted to go into Children's Ministry, so instead of starting all the way over, I finished up in Sociology. It felt like it was more of my ticket to be done with school and get married to my high school sweetie, but all of the counseling classes and studies in how people interact and systems work has been more helpful to me than I would have imagined.

But there is something pushing me now. Maybe I'm (a little) older, wiser, more mature... But I think having a goal and a vision is my driving force. It's been 7 or 8 months since I first had the vision of helping start a church or being a part of church that breaks down barriers. Since that time I've had conversations with people from all over, almost entirely started by the other person (sometimes not even directed at me). I've heard story after story of how the church has let them down. How we've missed the mark. I've also heard stories of how we've gotten it right. It has all stirred this passion inside of me. This desire to help create a place where ANYone can come and be loved on, regardless of skin color, income level, background, denomination, lifestyle, appearance, etc. They can all come and learn and grow at their own pace and experience God's love and saving grace. I want it to be a fellowship of believers. I want us to love on our community, not just a couple of times a year because it gives us a warm fuzzy feeling, but because we've been called to love our neighbor as ourselves. I want it to be a safe place where people can share their struggles, their problems without being judged, but so they can find hope and healing. It won't be totally pretty or perfect, because when you get down in the dirt, you get dirty. I know in my mind it is very idealistic of what this church will look like, but that is how it should look in the day dreaming phase, shouldn't it? :-)

But this vision, this passion, drives me. I believe this degree in Evangelism and Church Planting will give me some of the background I so desperately need. Basically it's the next step on this path to seeing my vision carried out.

So here's to 2012! As it brings lots of new challenges, new journeys, and new opportunities, to carry out and see passions and visions come to fruition, may we press forward and stay faithful. May we not become content in the same old thing, but find joy and peace in living out loud! May we look back on December 31 and see awesome things that God has done for us and through us! May this be the year to see change! Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I can't believe another year has gone by... A good friend of Andrew & I told us that once Albany started school that time would really speed up. I think he may have been right! We've had a good year. We saw Albany start kindergarten and dance. Andrew received funding for grants he's been working on. And I enrolled in school (finally) and begin in January. And we bought our first home. God has truly blessed us!

We've faced some pretty difficult situations this year, as well. It has strengthened Andrew and I as a couple and I can say, at least for me, going through the difficult has taught me to stand my ground and to speak up when needed (and that timing and leading is crucial on when to talk and when to stay silent). It has taught me that revealing a problem does not make you the problem, it is simply exposing the problem. It's taught me the importance of healthy, loving friendships. It's taught me that the truth truly does set you free. And it has taught me that forgiveness and the Holy Spirit bring healing and guidance on what to do next.

I am full of joy, full of peace, and overfilled with excitement of what is to come. I'm enjoying this time with my family for Christmas. And I look forward to what is in store in 2012. May each of you have a very Merry Christmas and may 2012 bring you health, happiness, and peace.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sweet Child Of Mine

When I was younger, I remember my mom saying she hoped I had a child just like me (I think that was supposed to be like the mother's curse or something like that haha.) But yep, I had a spitting image of myself. The older she gets, the more obvious it is to me. People often tell me they wish they knew what was going on in Albany's head. I know...

I'm growing tiresome of finding stickers all over the house. The walls, the headboards (mine and hers), doors, chairs, the bathtub, and even the toilet. Albany and I have had multiple conversations about where stickers go. (ON PAPER!) and yet the other morning I walked into the guest bathroom to find My Little Pony stickers adorning walls, fixtures, etc. I quickly called her into the bathroom and using my stern voice told her stickers do NOT go on anything except paper. With one of the most pathetic (and honest) face she looked at me and said, "But I was just decorating." Feeling rather cold and heartless, I made her unstick the stickers and then sit in time out for a couple of minutes. Later that evening she found yet another page of stickers and asked if she could use them. I told her only on paper. To which she grinned and replied, "Yes, your majesty!" and then skipped off. I know her well enough to know she wasn't being disrespectful, just being Albany!

Later I was reminded of a story my mom often tells. My mom once entered my room when I was probably about Albany's age and noticed there was a Care Bear magnet on my wall. Figuring I must have found a stud, she went to pull it off only to find I had Elmer glued it to the wall. She then noticed around my room at about a 3 foot level were puzzle pieces, pictures, and sheet music. I remember that on television the kids always had super decorated rooms. I'm sure I told my mom, "I was just decorating!"

I guess things come full circle. And I wouldn't trade it for the world. :-)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I've never been a long term vision person. while other kids were dreaming about being ballerinas or astronauts, teachers or baseball players, I was dreaming about... well, I don't know what I was dreaming about. To be truthful, I was probably daydreaming. :-) I remember telling my mom at age 6 that I wanted to be a preacher. She never told me I couldn't, but she told me that it wouldn't happen in the church we were at. I continued to "preach" to my stuffed animals and "baptize" my friends in the swimming pool growing up, but I always wondered if something was wrong with me. At 18, God got a hold of my life and at age 19, I knew He was calling me into full time ministry. I fought the thought of following my mom's footsteps into children's ministry and spent a summer and a year interning with different ministries. Despite the thought of being a missionary in India just to avoid following my mom, I discovered my passion was undeniably children's ministry. For the past 9 years, I've worked in children's ministry.

Things began to change a few years ago. I was super blessed with a pastor in Oklahoma who continued to push me out of my comfort zone and to encourage me to follow the desires God had given me. He sent me and his wife to the Gifted to Lead conference with Nancy Beach. It was incredible and showed me that God did not make a mistake when He made me and gave me the gifts and desires that He has given me. As I began to study, I realized that while what I was doing was my passion, God had something different in store for me. Everything I was doing was preparing me for that time and I was content to wait on Him to show me what it was.

Recently I've been reading Craig Groeschel's book Chazown. At the same time I was listening to Steven Furtick's Sun Stand Still sermons. They both rocked my world. I realized it had been awhile since I had really prayed about vision. I had noticed my passion for children's ministry had begun to wane. I still enjoy it, but the passion I had for it once, is just not the same. So I began to pray. It seemed like everything I read, whether a book, blog, or Bible, all was bringing up some of the same questions. A quote from Steven Furtick continued to bother me. He said, "If the size of the vision for your life is not intimidating to you, chances are it's insulting to God." I didn't really have that much vision, let alone one big enough to be intimidating. So I began to pray even harder. What was it God had for me? What am I supposed to accomplish in this life? What was I made for? I didn't want to run ahead of Him, but I want to feel that passion again, knowing that I'm doing exactly what I was created for.

Last weekend, we were helping some friends move. Well, Andrew was helping them move, I just went over for pizza when it was over. ;-) This friend told us that while they didn't have a home owner's association they had a neighborhood covenant. Basically things like, I'll keep my yard up, take care of pests, etc. Except there was a line in the document that to live in the neighborhood, you had to be Caucasian. I was too shocked to even say anything. He also shared he had been a little irritated when a new neighbor had suggested he hire a couple *racially insensitive term*s to do some of the work. Again, wow! It bothered me all night and I found myself in tears Saturday night just thinking about it. It just amazes me that in 2011, we still have that kind of segregation and hate.

Sunday, my heart was still so heavy. Andrew asked me what was going on and while crying I just let it all out. Every bit of it. Between the tears and ranting, I was reminded of something from Craig Groeschel. He said that often when searching for your passion, people ask you what do you love, but he posed the question, what makes you mad, what ticks you off? He said that often it reveals what you are passionate about. It was right that minute that it was crystal clear and I announced, "I know what I'm supposed to do! I have my vision! I know what my passion is!" Andrew listened as I shared my heart. There have been few times in my life I have been that sure that God was speaking right to me and it was Him undeniably leading me!

God has revealed to me that I am to start a church or help be a part of an existing church that breaks barriers down. Color, gender, income level, size, past, it does not matter, the only thing that matters is that people can gather together and worship and grow! When I shared my vision with Andrew, he began to point out some of the difficulties. While I know there will be many difficulties ahead, I reminded him that if God was calling me to it, He was was going to provide everything I needed. Then I shared with him a reoccurring thought I've had. If the Bible was still being written, would you be able to say that you lived your life so passionately, so full of faith, and allowed God to accomplish the impossible through you, that your story made it in the Bible? I don't want to settle for good enough, or even what I'm naturally good at. I want God to stretch me and use me for more than I can fathom. When I was finished, Andrew smiled at me and said, "Fair enough! Whatever God calls you to do, I will be there to support you."

As I shared this new vision with a few people yesterday, while I was looking for anyone's approval, I was very encouraged. Then last night... I had shared with my friend, Jay, on the way to Birmingham to attend the Basement. (I'm so excited and fired up, I'm having a hard time NOT telling people.) When we arrived worship was just beginning and we couldn't find the group we were meeting, so we grabbed seats in the back. Within the first 10 minutes, I was looking around at people of all ages, all colors, all backgrounds, all worshiping God together and it was as if something inside of me wanted to scream, "This is what church should look like!!!" And I felt a confirmation in my spirit, this is what I was created to do. This is my vision.