Posts tagged self-care
For Weary Friends

I know you thought America couldn't disappoint you anymore. You've been followed in stores too many times. You've had to show your ID to prove who you are too many times. You've been stopped and frisked too many times. Told you look like a "suspect" too many times. You've received enough backwards compliments to fill every pocket you own. You've watched criminalization ravage your community for decades. You read too many "apologies" from actors, politicians, musicians, and friends. Since you were six, you've been navigating the space between "I am somebody" and "all men are created equal". And then came Ferguson.

How could we not be immune? Though we are not at all surprised and can claim no sense of shock, we still feel horrified- dishonored and disrespected as distorted images of ourselves unfold on screens. This is a disease America has refused to treat, and we feel the shivers run down our backs. Numbness overtakes us in between feelings of great sorrow, great anger, great frustration. We find ourselves trying to cry it out, shout it out, read it out, write it out, march it out, and yet it remains. Our feelings. Our emotions. Our desire to be fully human demands our emotions. Try as we might to divorce ourselves, to just not care… Our humanity refuses to let us go. Our feelings must be felt. Even when we wish we couldn't feel a thing.

For days we have been unable to turn our heads from our devices as Ferguson's demands for justice for the brutal death of Michael Brown was met with even more violence. We couldn't sleep knowing our community was standing face to face with police dogs, tear gas and tanks. We couldn't fully focus at work or at school. Between meetings and over lunch we pulled out our phones to keep up as the events unfolded. Shaking our heads in unison, we just couldn't turn away, our ancestors somehow wouldn't allow it. So we watched and we wrote. We watched and we wrote. We watched and we wrote. We watched and we wrote. We had to process our feelings, while we wrote. Defend our feelings, while we wrote. Feel our feelings, while we wrote. 

But as our words came to life on the screens, we realized that having to explain our humanity was in itself dehumanizing. So we turned toward one another. Twitter shout outs, email messages, text messages- anything and everything we can do to shout above the noise, "Hey, you are not walking this alone. Hey, you are not feeling this alone. Hey, you are not writing this alone. Hey, you are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone."

Because ironically that is the danger of the work of reconciliation; far too often it feels isolating, lonely, and solitary, but you are not alone.

So go ahead and cry. Weep to your heart's content. Go ahead and shout until the immediate frustration has waned. Go ahead and write- write in words, in phrase, in the language that your heart knows. Go ahead and take a time out. You don't have to hold the line alone. Go ahead and march, sing, write, draw, dance, pray, act until justice is done. 

Don't let them take away your humanity. Feel. Expect. Hope. Pray. Mourn.  

Feel every emotion as it courses through your body. No apologies for feeling feelings. 

Expect America to do better, churches to do better, people to do better, police to do better, politicians to do better. Your expectations of being treated as fully human is not setting the bar too high. 

Hope for better, even as you prepare your children for a world that fears them. Hope for better even as you delete the hateful comment at the end of your post. Hope for better as you work. For this is what the ancestors taught us to do. 

Pray. Remembering a God wrapped in flesh, executed unjustly, knows your pain.

Mourn with abandonment. There are too many tissues in the world to try to stop the tears from flowing. Mourn what is while we work for what could be. Mourn the loss of Michael, John and Eric. Mourn the loss of Renisha, Jordan, and Trayvon. Mourn the losses in your own life, for this is good and right. 

Feel. Expect. Hope. Pray. Mourn. For these are things humans do, and no matter what is said. No matter how many times they call you thug or race baiter, no matter how many times they call you ungodly or unChristlike, no matter how many times they question your humanity- refuse to be dismissed.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. This (I hope) your soul knows full well. 


The Bridge

As we begin the New Year I have been considering what it means for me to be a reconciler. The work of reconciliation is not to be under-estimated. Far more than inspiring people to reach across aisles and hold hands for an hour, the work of leading reconciliation is taxing- mentally, emotionally and often physically. Reflecting on this work has led me to the conclusion that racial reconciliation cannot be achieved without first establishing racial justice. It is this establishment of justice that proves so costly to anyone leading the charge towards reconciliation. 

There are many in the church who want to form superficial friendships, learn how to avoid being offensive, invoke racial colorblindness and call it reconciliation.  Far fewer people want to establish justice because justice requires the sacrifice of power, truthfully confessing sin, altering leadership roles, moving marginalized voices to the center, giving and extending grace, mercy, love. The work of justice must run deeper than emotion to be sustainable, but there are so many emotions to wade through to get to the heart of justice. 

Given this reality, racial justice is difficult to establish, difficult to paint as desirable! It is so much work to show that our system of racial privilege is not just taxing on people of color, but that it destroys the humanity of all participants. History is so clear on the lengths to which the seduction of systemic power and privilege will erode the fabric of our humanity. And yet we cling so tightly to the seduction. The work of reconciliation is in letting go. Because of this I used to begin the work of reconciliation by prying hands open, one finger at a time. Used to begin with any glimmer of superficial interest. Used to answer every question. Take any offense.

Over time I have come to learn that this way is simply too much for me. I have come to a place where I will not condemn. Will not force. Will not sacrifice my emotional health in the hopes of igniting a passion for reconciliation. I now invite. I invite into a new way, a way of justice, a way toward reconciliation. This year I am owning this position. I will invite. You will decide.   

I am finding great inspiration in a poem by Kate Rushin called The Bridge Poem. You can (and should) read the poem in its entirety HERE, but following are a few of my favorite lines: 

"… I’m sick of mediating with your worst self 
On behalf of your better selves 
I am sick 
Of having to remind you 
To breathe 
Before you suffocate 
Your own fool self 
Forget it 
Stretch or drown 
Evolve or die 
The bridge I must be 
Is the bridge to my own power…

Lifegiving. Lifegiving because I am still owning these words.  

I am learning that I need to interact with more than the "worst self" of those who need absolution from the guilt and shame of a racist past (or present). I am learning that everyone must own their journey, their education, their growth. "Evolve or die" The choice belongs to each person, but I am not responsible for that choice. I am learning that it is only when I become "the bridge to my own power" that I am truly of use in this work of reconciliation. 

We can walk together.

We can walk together.

But this year I am refusing to be your bridge. 


Wisdom of Women- Robyn Afrik

I once had a professor who referred to anyone who worked towards justice as an "agent of change". Back then, in college, it sounded so romantic, so intriguing, so full of possibilities. It is a phrase that still calls me back to myself when "doing justice" loses its romance, even if only temporarily. The romance of doing justice can fade for many reasons, but the one this series has focused on is busy-ness. For a couple weeks we have listened  to successful women share how they stay connected to God in busy ministry seasons. Today, we have with us Robyn Afrik- wife, mom, and very busy entrepreneur for the sake of the Kingdom. Every time I encounter Robyn, despite a busy schedule, she is fully present with those around her. How does she do it? Keep reading! I introduce to you, Robyn! 

Hi friends,

It is so good to be walking with you in your season of ministry! Glad to know you are being called to the front lines of Justice.  For those who may have been doing this for a while or for those who are newly engaged, I cannot stress enough how incredibly important it is to remain spiritually healthy so that you do not become easily disillusioned, distracted or disappointed by what is truly the social witness of ‘change’ in this great battle. 

Even for the individual who has seemingly endless courage, determination, passion and focus, one must work through their understanding from which the source of that ‘power’ is pulled. If the source to become engaged with ‘injustice’ derives from anything less than our strength and dependence on God; i.e. our own hurts, frustration, escape, misplaced pain and or false justifications, we become vulnerable to burn out, temptation and ultimately defeat. 

Spiritual Discipline:

One of the simpler, but more powerful spiritual disciplines I use daily is a primer. 

If you’ve ever painted walls, you may have heard the term primer before.  Primer is a thin layer of paint that goes onto the wall before actually painting it with color.  The function of that primer is to help secure the actual paint to the wall because the condition of the wall may not be in the best shape.  It also protects the coat of paint from wearing out and gives it a healthier and stronger life.

In the ‘ministry’ we are called to, our minds become like those walls. We (will) begin to carry around worries, thoughts, struggles and concerns re: the problems and mounting pressure we encounter; i.e. marginalized voices not being heard, arguments (indirect/direct) with power systems, feeling compromised when we settle for illusions of progress. All of these things pick at our minds like a wall with dings, holes, scrapes and dents. Then, we run to God with all of our burdens, sometimes in tears and when God is ready to put a fresh coat of paint over us, our minds aren’t ready to receive the new perspective he has to give.  

The following discipline is called: “Be Still and Know That I Am God”

Directions:  Find a quiet place (preferably before you begin your day). Sit with out distraction, light a candle (optional) and close your eyes.  Then, the following phrases are to be read aloud (see below) in order and as exactly as they are written.  It is important to pause for a few minutes in-between each phrase and to savor every word as you say them out loud. Hold on to the words in your mind as though they are all you have and think about what the words are literally asking you to do.  Do not rush through this exercise. This is a spiritual discipline that if done too quickly, will not result in the practice of being present. It has helped me prime the mind so that I may RECEIVE whatever God wants to give for my day and helps me remain still long enough to let it take root. 

1. Be still and know that I am God.

2. Be still and know that I AM

3. Be still and know 

4. Be still 

5. Be

Now, (you can) listen from a new place of rest, of perfect peace and a fresh perspective. God is going to give you something that elevates you to a new place of ‘being’ so that all of your ‘doing’ is beyond reaction. 

See you on the field. 

-Robyn Afrik

When Robyn isn’t thinking or talking about race, diversity, identity, justice or God, she is usually out slaying White Elephants who think they’ve escaped the room.  


For more information, Robyn Afrik can be reached at: 


Twittering since tweet #249: @afrikadvantage



Wisdom of Women: Judy Peterson

Continuing our series on the wisdom of women, here are the words of someone I have found to be inspirational in my life. There are sermons I've heard that have been life-changing for me, words that have stayed with me for years, and Judy Peterson has delivered more than one that I carry with me. 

When asked how she stays connected to God in busy ministry seasons, here is her answer: 

Yesterday morning I got up early to get a workout in before my day began. I chose a path through the woods, and as I was walking, I had the opportunity to watch a mother quail tend to her eggs, and God reminded me how he hides me under his wings (Psalm 91:4). Along the way I stopped to smell several different flowers, and I thought about their short, beautiful, fragrant lives, and God reminded me how much he wants my short life to be beautiful and fragrant too (Psalm 103:15-16). I had the opportunity to rescue a baby fawn that was stuck in a ditch, and as I put its feet back on solid ground, I thanked the Lord that he rescued me from the pit, and he said, “You’re welcome” (Psalm 40:2).

As I continued walking I noticed two small clouds in the sky and thought about Elijah and the tremendous faith that was required to believe that a small cloud could bring a mighty storm. And I prayed that God would increase my faith so that I, too, could believe that all of the small things in my life can be used to bring refreshing to God’s people (1 Kings 18). At the end of my walk I realized that I had never gotten my heart rate up into the target zone, but I was quickly consoled by the truth that my heart was back on target for the day.

Real life is going on all around us and so often we have our heads down, our ears plugged in, our minds usually thinking about something we have no control over and our eyes fixed on a place about six feet in front of us. And all around us our real life is going on mostly without us. I think we walk through life this way because we’re waiting for our real life to begin, looking for our mission on the horizon, hoping that it’s just around the corner. But here’s the deal, this is your real life. Your real life isn’t just around the corner, and it won’t begin after you get the next thing done, and it isn’t just over the horizon…it is right here and right now.

Even this moment is a part of your real life and God doesn’t want you to miss out on your real life while you’re wishing for the life you thought you’d have or wishing for a life you’d like to have or just wishing your life away because you think next week might have something better for you. This is not a dress rehearsal and we can’t come back and do it again.


And so for the past 15 years I have practiced the spiritual discipline of not missing out on my real life. In the midst of a very busy ministry life I remind myself that there is enough time to smell flowers, notice clouds, rescue fawns and do a little bird watching. I do this because I believe it is not a waste of time to be fully present in my real life. In fact, in the midst of my real life God is just waiting to speak into my moments and margins if I will simply stop, unplug, breathe in and listen.

-Judy Peterson-  

Pastor Judy Peterson is the Campus Pastor at North Park University. She spends her life loving God and loving people, drinking coffee, loving her husband and trying not to miss out on a moment of real life.