Birthdays, Racism, Heartbreak, and Hope

Saturday, August 12, was my birthday.  I woke up that morning looking forward to a day with my family and dreaming about what the upcoming year might hold.  Forty-seven years ago, on that day, my white mother and Native American father welcomed their new son into the world at the Indian Hospital in Claremore, OK.  My parents were young and poor.  Therefore, the natural place for them to give birth was the Indian Hospital where the bills would be low.

While grabbing my first cup of coffee on my birthday, I switched on the television to catch up on the news.  The images that first caught my eye were those of white supremacists marching with torches the previous night through Charlottesville, VA.  The news anchors informed their viewers the white supremacists were planning a larger gathering later that day to protest the removal of a General Robert E. Lee statue.  In addition, a gathering of counter-protesters was planning to be present to oppose the white supremacists.  I turned to my wife and said, “This is not going to end well.”

As my birthday continued, the news began to emerge that violence was erupting in Charlottesville.  Armed white nationalists were clashing with counter-protesters and police.    Alarmingly, news broke that a young woman had been killed when a white supremacist ran his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.  In addition, two Virginia state troopers were killed when their helicopter crashed as they monitored the situation from above.  By the end of the day, America mourned the day of my birth with the reminder that racism is still very much alive in this country and three lives had been taken due to its evil presence.

There has been much said and written about the events of Charlottesville, from vague non-committal denunciations to full-throated condemnations.  Like many, I have listened to and read thought provoking responses over the last few days.  All of them add up to be part of a collected voice opposing racism and white nationalism.  Therefore, I have decided to add my voice to the collection.  Even though I am only one voice, I add my words with others so that together our voices will echo across the nation.

If I could pinpoint a few emotions that continue to re-emerge in response to this weekend’s events, they would have to be anger, sadness, and heartbreak.  America continues to hide our heads in the sand when it comes to the issues surrounding racism.  We love to pat ourselves on the back for the strides we have made in this country (which are positive).   However, we often neglect to understand how racism continues to affect us today.

We have truly never addressed the systemic problems of racism.  This neglect continues to cause vast divides and deep wounds, some which have been cast long ago but are manifested in today’s culture.  America can no longer afford turn our heads and ignore the dark stain of racism.  We must strongly, and without hesitation, denounce with words and actions all forms of racism that attempt to place one group of people over another.  As people of faith, we have been given a Holy Text that speaks about the evils of racism and the divine desire to bring races together under our human commonality.

Jesus was the great liberator of racism, classism, and gender biases.  Jesus welcomed everyone into his presence offering them a hope that transcended their circumstances, empowered them for the future, and attempted to transform a system that was biased in nature.  If Jesus was biased against anything, it was a system and culture that valued one group of people over another.  Jesus loved all people, leveling the playing field so that all can live as equals.

There are people today that do not believe in this equality, but believe that God has created an Anglo class to rule over others.  This is known as theological dominionism, a worldview based upon the exclusion, oppression, and extinction of other races and cultures by a “superior” people.  This was never the way of Jesus; nor should it be the way now.  The Lord’s inclusive example led the Apostle Paul to write, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

While humans display a vast array of skin tones, the blood that flows through our veins remains one color.  It’s the same color of blood that was spilt on Calvary…the same blood poured out on the lands of North America and in the hulls of African slave ships…the same blood staining the blue and grey uniforms of the Civil War…and the same blood that was shed on the streets of Charlottesville on August 12…my birthday.  My prayer this day is that a new birthday emerges from this tragedy, a new dawn where the world finally unites in condemning racism and throws their unwavering support behind the ideals of Jesus and equality.

Anyone defending the opposing ideals of white supremacists has no part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nor should they hold a position of influence over others.  Let me be even more clear, there is no place for racism in a society that claims to cherish Christian values.  Jesus died for us all, breaking the shackles that divide us from God – and from one another.  While we have witnessed the ugly results of racism over the last few days, the truth of the matter is that racism has always been with us lurking in the shadows waiting to rise in force.   Therefore, anytime racism attempts to rise as it has done this past weekend, the faithful should collectively rise to denounce it and offer a righteous and holy path forward…a path traveled by Jesus…a path taken by many others before us…and a path we must now walk.  If there is to be any hope for our future, then we must step forward to make the dream a reality: the mountaintop where the beloved community of ALL God’s children dwell.

Predatory Lending OK HB 1913

Predatory Lending is NOT Good News

March 2017

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” (4:18). Predatory lending is not good news for the poor. Predatory lending is an evil practice that should be regulated heavily or abolished altogether. Unfortunately, there are a few Oklahoma legislators that think otherwise.

On February 28, House Bill 1913, sponsored by Rep. Chris Kannady, was passed by the House Judiciary – Civil and Environmental Committee by a vote of 8-3. Known as the Oklahoma Small Loan Act, the bill would allow a new type of loan to be offered in amounts up to $1,500 at a 17% interest rate per month. This amounts to an APR (annual percentage rate) of 204%. Such unjust rates for poorer Oklahomans would force borrowers to make a monthly payment of $301 for an entire year. Those terms mean hard working Oklahomans would pay $2,108 in interest alone over the course of twelve months.

Obviously, this is not good news for working Oklahomans who find themselves in need of a short-term loan. Predatory lending has no place in a just society. Last year, Senator David Holt withdrew his support from a similar bill. Earlier this year, Senator Dan Newberry chose not to advance a nearly identical bill to the one that is now being considered by the House. Both Senators apparently recognized the dangers of supporting legislation that would further cripple Oklahomans and empower an industry with the objective of profiteering on the backs of our poorest citizens.

In the book of Nehemiah, the Jewish people returned from exile to rebuild their city wall. Their story offers an insight on the importance of stifling predatory lending practices. The poor retuned with nothing. Attempting to rebuild their lives, they were forced into crippling debt that was crushing their productivity. Nehemiah, acting as governor, chastised the nobles for charging a crippling interest rate. He condemningly said, “You are selling your own kin.” Modern day predatory lending practices are preying on the poorest of our citizens with many of them crying out from this crushing burden. By allowing this practice to continue, Oklahomans will be selling our kin to the highest bidder.

The Death of Truth?

Last Sunday, a 28-year-old man walked into a Washington D.C. pizzeria with an assault rifle in hand. He had one mission. He was there to investigate an online claim that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats were running a child sex ring from the basement of the business. He was there to stop it. Now, there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever to this online claim, but the young man wanted to believe it so much that he convinced himself it was true.

There are moments in history when large groups of people begin developing and accepting their own truth. These moments are not based upon solid facts or credible evidence, but rather given birth within a self-prescribed ideology that ignores factual reality to create a new ideological reality. There are two infamous examples in our modern era. In America, for most of our history, we accepted the false claim that blacks were inferior to whites thus justifying both slavery and Jim Crow. Prior to World War II, the Nazi’s created, distributed and accepted a similar distorted truth about anyone who was non-Aryan.

Now, there needs to be a shift in our understanding how these false ideas gained footing. There is a misunderstanding that the people who developed these ideas and those that believed them were somehow ignorant or uneducated. In both instances, that was untrue. On slave plantations and in the Jim Crow South, a vast number of citizens were educated and economically advantaged. In Germany, prior to the war, intellectual developments were on the rise. This was the era of Einstein, Heisenberg, and Bonhoeffer. Therefore, ignorance and education were not the primary factors in the dismissal of truth.

A toxic environment was nurtured and fostered in both instances that gave credence to distrust natural facts and replace them with personalized truth. What we are seeing across the world today is very similar. Educated individuals are making a conscience decision to ignore truth, simply based upon a perception that it is biased against their ideological convictions. Even when confronted with evidence that validates truth, some choose to either ignore it, look the other way, or argue that truth is manipulated. When individuals and communities conclude truth no longer matters, then they have opened the door for any personalized mythological ideology to gain ground and thrive.

Jesus was once asked about truth. He responded, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). His inquisitors, however, prodded him further. He condemned the father of untruths, “(He) does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Because the people were willing to accept lies, Jesus concluded, “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe me” (John 8:45).

There is a growing consensus that we are entering a post-truth era. If this is the case, then the world is heading towards dark days. With the death of truth comes the death of justice. With the death of justice, love of others will be replaced with a lust for power. Therefore, speaking only for me, I pledge to be a bearer of truth. I pledge to keep fighting the good fight that sheds light into darkness. I pledge to extinguish lies and falsehoods built on personalized ideologies. I pledge to uphold the standard that Jesus held, always seeking a truth that liberated others and welcomed strangers into divine community. I pledge to follow Jesus, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

An Advent Theft

Last night, the winds changed. Instead of a warm, gentle, southerly breeze for a cold December day, northerly winds picked up bringing the first bitter bite into an early winter. During this change in weather, someone walked onto the property of NorthHaven Church with desperation in their heart. They pulled their truck up to two trailers that we had recently acquired for conducting disaster relief this Spring. The trailers were donated to us from the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma and First Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia. Our uninvited guests broke into one of the trailers, stealing a large generator that provided power to it. Leaving behind a mess for us to clean up, our uninvited guests pulled away with the generator and a little piece of our hearts along with it.

It can be easy to get angry at such bold and callus behavior. My head keeps telling me these thieves have no consciences, stealing from a church that is attempting to help people going through extremely difficult times. My emotions begin to boil over as I contemplate the thieves selling the generator for cash to buy drugs, booze, or for some other mischievous behavior. I get so worked up just thinking about it, but then Jesus shows up. He tugs at my heart, he touches my soul, and he clears my mind. His words reverberate in my ears, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). Grace. Mercy. Forgiveness. Love. Hope. The easy thing to do about this situation would be to react with anger and retribution, but God has called us to a higher standard. He has called us to rise out of darkness that we might shed light for others to follow.

In Victor Hugo’s masterful work, Les Misérables, Jean Valjean found his way to the Digne Parish in southeastern France after being released from prison. The parish was overseen by Bishop Myrel. The bishop was a small man, but as Valjean discovered, the bishop had a gigantic heart. Early the next day, Valjean leaves the generosity of the parish and steals the silverware. Caught by local authorities, he was brought back to the bishop to face his crime. Bishop Myrel, however, demonstrated the epitome of God’s grace. He commends the officer that brought Valjean back, but informs them that he has given the silver to him. Not only that, but he had forgotten the two most expensive pieces. Handing him two large silver candlesticks, the bishop leaned into Valjean and offered, “I give you this silver to become an honest man. God has raised you out of darkness.” While Hugo’s overall work emphasizes the French Revolution, the real story is about one man’s revolution to become a better man.

Therefore, as I drive myself to buy a new lock for the trailer, file a police report, and talk to our insurance company, I reject the anger trying to build up inside me. Instead, I am attempting to follow the words of Jesus and the example of Bishop Myrel. My hope now is that our uninvited guests find use for the generator. I hope it brings them prosperity that they no longer must steal from others. I pray that through their actions, they discover God’s grace, his mercy, and his salvation for their lives. May they rise from the darkness of dishonesty to bask in the light of glory. In other words, may they discover the hope of Advent through an Advent theft.

The Sacredness of Standing Rock

Over the weekend, the Army Corp of Engineers denied an easement permit that will prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from being routed near the water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Corp said they will work with developers to reroute the pipeline, but developers vow they hope to finish the pipeline without having to reroute it. Over the last year, developers and protestors have collided over the safety of the pipeline and the possible danger it possesses for the environment and residents. Developers argue they have a legal right to continue the project, while the Sioux argue they are frightened of its possible dangers. They point to recent pipeline breaks across the country as examples of these dangerous possibilities.

This current conflict between developers and indigenous people is nothing new. From the moment Europeans set foot on the soil of North America, western developers have coveted the natural resources of this land. Claiming the divine rights of kings, later evolving into the divine rights of white men, American lands were conquered, its inhabitants killed or resettled, and western expansionism became part of the American psyche. From those first years to now, there has always been a sacredness to this struggle. Where does one person’s rights begin and another’s end? What are the larger priorities of humanity, progress or preservation? What is more important, making life better or making certain we maintain life? These are the sacred struggles of humanity, and possibly, at the heart of what has taken place at Standing Rock.

When the Prophet Jeremiah delivered an admonition against the leaders and people of Judah, he described their rebellion as a rejection of God’s fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13). Modern day readers are left to wonder why he used such an illustration? For an ancient people whose sacred story was about finding salvation by the Red Sea, wandering in a wilderness for decades, and needing clean water for survival, Jeremiah’s metaphor was more than a mere image…it was God’s gift of life to the Hebrews.

Centuries later, the Prophet Zechariah offered these encouraging words to a conquered people, “On that day (of the Lord) living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem” (14:8). When John the Evangelist introduced Jesus in his Gospel, he did so with an encounter between the rabbi and a Samaritan woman at a well. Their topic for discussion, living water (4:10-11). Jesus asked her for a drink. She obliged, but noticed he had no cup from which to drink and how odd it was for a Jewish male to speak to a Samaritan woman. His response comforted her, and comforts the world today, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (4:13-14)

Chief Joseph, 19th Century leader of the Wallowa tribe in the Pacific Northwest, once said, “I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more.” When the people of God open their hearts and minds to His ways, then we discover a sacredness to life. We discover that water is sometimes more than a refreshing drink. Water means life. Living water means salvation. The reason the events at Standing Rock are so important is not because a tribe stood up to a large oil corporation, but that they stood up for life. They stood up for God’s creation. They stood up for the sacredness in which God breathed into the world.

In closing, we need to seriously consider our responsibility as God’s caretakers in this world. I truly believe the oil company and their employees are not evil people, but individuals and families attempting to carve out a living and provide for a demand in the world. Therefore, my prayers and hope for Standing Rock continue to be that all involved can discover another way to achieve both progress and preservation. To find this way, we will need to open our minds to new possibilities. We will need to see each other as collaborators and not enemies. We will need to acknowledge the land is given to us by God, thus we have a sacred responsibility to care for her. We can find another way, but we must open our hearts to each other and fill our souls with Living Water.

Where Do I Belong?

After a year of disappointments in presidential candidates, political parties, social movements, religious denominations, and generational leadership, a feeling has swept over me that I have not felt in a long time.  Where do I belong?  This is the same feeling that began to emerge when I realized the beliefs and drives of a certain political party and a certain religious denomination were no longer a part of me.  I struggled then, and I struggle now.   We all need community, but when one feels isolated from others where should they turn?

Now, I do know one thing about myself.  I know where I don’t belong.  I don’t belong in movements swept away with power, exclusion, and a desire to dominate.  When these movement read Paul’s words about running the race to win it, they think he means winning at all cost no matter the collateral damage.  When they rail about a Pauline understanding of freedom, what they truly mean is “freedom for me but not thee.”  Finally, they are more interested in doctrinal and political conformity than being challenged to think and act progressively.  

Therefore, if I know where I don’t belong, where do I belong?  There seems to be one constant in my life where I can always land in a soft place…the local church.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the local church is not a perfect environment either and I know some situations are like the ones I described previously.  However, for me, the local church has been a family where I can find belonging, disagreements, acceptance, struggles, hope, heartache, grace, fellow-sojourners, fellow-sinners, fellow-saints, and above else, I can find love.  

As the world moves further apart, the local church seems to be the place where diversity can be celebrated.  It’s the one place in my experiences where differences can be set aside in order for relationships to emerge, foster, and grow.  Again, the local church is not perfect, but it is the only organization that Jesus said he had come to establish.  When celebrating Peter’s answer about his identity in Matthew 16, Jesus indicated he would use Peter’s faith to build his church…not a denomination…not a political party…not anything else other than his church.

It is true that local churches work together in order to conduct larger ministries, but let us never forget that the local church is the heartbeat of Christianity.  The local church is the place for me to participate in family.  The local church is the place where I can belong, where I can love and be loved, and where I can find the deepest levels of community.  The local church is where my theological conviction are lived out on a daily basis.  In a time in my life when I feel isolated from larger movements, it feels nice to have a local church that I love and loves me back.  

Thanks NorthHaven Church!

Why He Wears a Red Hat

Like many of you over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Randall’s spent much of their time with family.  We had a delightful time with my parents, aunt, cousin, and Cole returning from Boston for a few days.  However, the one moment that stood out in my mind occurred on Saturday when my ninety-year-old grandfather made his way through Norman.  Accompanied by another aunt and uncle, Herb filled our Saturday afternoon with laughter and wisdom.

We went to lunch over on campus corner, near the University of Oklahoma.  It was fun pointing out all the landmarks to him, but the highlight was showing him Heisman Row.  Statues of Billy Sims, Steve Owens, Billy Vessels, Jason White, and Sam Bradford basked in the afternoon sun, as my grandfather recalled each player.  On our way home from campus, my grandfather asked if we could stop by a store to pick a new red OU hat.  “Of course,” I replied, proud of myself for showing him his favorite university.

As we pulled into the Sooner Shop, we entered into a sea of crimson and cream.  Walking over to the wall where the hats were located, I pointed out the variety to him.  Thinking he might want to depart from his traditional all red hat, I offered him hats with red bills and white tops, white bills and red tops, and an all gray hat that I liked.  He was gracious and patient with me, but declined each.  Again, he gently emphasized, “No, it must be red.”

A bit confused with his obsession with red, I asked him why his new hat had to be exactly like the one he was wearing.  “Mitch,” he began, “I wear a red hat every day.  The reason I wear a red hat is that when I go to see your grandmother every morning at the nursing home, she recognizes my red hat.  She can be sitting staring into space, but when she catches a glimpse of my red hat bounding down the hallway, she smiles.”  

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s Disease, therefore her memory has been declining over the last several years.  Even though she has a difficult time remembering faces these days, she remembers one that always dons a red hat.  As I stood before the variety of hats with tears welling in my eyes listening to my grandfather, I knew one hat would not do.  “Let’s get two, Granddad!” I offered.  We walked out of the store with two new red hats that day and I left now knowing why he wears a red hat.

May there be a red hat for all of us this holiday season!  

Small Tent Versus Big Tent

In Waco, yesterday, delegates to the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) voted to exclude churches that allow LGBTQ Christians the full rights of church membership. Baptists have long been champions of local church autonomy, meaning each individual church possesses the authority to derive their own theological convictions and practices as their conscience dictates.  The churches that adopted a more inclusive policy were not asking the convention to affirm their decisions, but convention leaders felt they possessed the authority to demand conformity to their views or be excluded from fellowship.

There are a myriad of troublesome issues with this action, but I would like to begin with the small tent movement.  For what seems like decades now, Baptists have continued to adopt and practice a small tent approach to the Christian faith.  Through a practice of purging other Baptists using theological purity and political loyalty, leaders have shrunken Baptist tents to the extent they will have no space for future generations.  Current leaders in some Baptist entities practice a “conform and control” type of theology.  If any church that reads the Scriptures and comes to another conviction, then they are excused and excluded from fellowship.  

This type of theological process prevents Christians and churches from exploring the Scriptures; challenging their own preconceived notions; and drawing new understandings about God, how he relates to the world, and how we relate to each other.  In other words, it discourages a cognitive approach to faith.  Jesus instructs us to place our minds on heavenly things, which encourages us to cognitively engage faith so that we might discover a deeper appreciation and understanding of God’s ways.  If the church would have ceased to think and challenge its own doctrines previously, then our culture would still be excluding black people from water fountains and preventing women from voting.

Opponents will say that they are not shrinking the tent, but that those of us coming to a different understanding of ministry are stepping outside the traditional tent.  From my vantage point, they are both right and wrong.  They are correct that we appear to be stepping away, but not because we are rejecting them.  We are stepping away because we have decided to follow the Holy Spirit that is guiding us on a new journey of exploration and understanding.  We are simply attempting to live out our faith as we feel the Holy Spirit is convicting us.  They are misguided when they say the tent is not shrinking.  As more and more people from a younger generation want to be a part of a gracious and loving church that promotes social justice, the tent needs to expand to accommodate them.  In other words, the current tent needs to grow because the crowd is growing.  If it fails to grow by denying freedom and autonomy, then it is shrinking.

Finally, the actions of the Texas Baptist delegates have excluded more than just two churches this week.  They have excluded my church.  At NorthHaven Church we honor the priesthood of every believer and celebrate local church autonomy, therefore establishing and practicing a big tent approach to Christianity.  We have members on both sides of this issue, but we have chosen to cherish freedom above conformity.  Our LGBTQ members are granted the same rights as every other member, therefore fully affirming them as brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are certainly saddened by the BGCT’s decision, but many of us have been here before when the Southern Baptist Convention excluded us as we stood up for freedom.  As I step away from the BGCT, my prayers go with them as I join others in a continuing process of building a bigger tent.


Jesus once said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Over two decades of ministry, I have come to discover the significant burden that many in our world carry around each day.  From the micro issues of everyday life to the macro problems we face in society, the burden continues to grow heavier as the years pass by.

At NorthHaven Church, we have worked hard at creating a sanctuary environment where individuals and families can find calm from chaos, love over hate, peace from despair, grace over judgement, and acceptance rather than rejection.  The word for “sanctuary” in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word, qodesh.  The word simply means, “a holy or sacred place.”  At NorthHaven, we take this sacredness seriously.  We believe in the sacred truths of the Bible, but more so in what the Bible actually says.  We are called to love God and love each other – no matter who they might be.

The world seems to be spinning faster these days, leaving some so dizzy they need a soft place to land.  Let me be very clear about what I am going to say: NorthHaven welcomes ALL people needing sanctuary.  We understand this big world of ours is comprised of a variety of individuals, but those of you who are hurting, struggling, mourning, scared, desperate, hopeless, and lost have a place to find peace and acceptance.  Jesus is our example, so those that need a shoulder to steady their walk can find others in their midst willing to walk alongside them offering encouragement and hope.

In NorthHaven, you will find sanctuary from a world trying to bring more divisiveness and destruction.  You will find gracious individuals offering intercessory prayer, warm hugs, and strong shoulders.  You will discover a truth that is counter to what you've grown accustomed to hearing.  You will find a loving community where belonging is just as important as believing.  Therefore, for those walking these days with heavy burdens on their shoulders, come and experience the sanctuary of NorthHaven Church.

Running in Circles

Because today is election day I should probably be writing something related politics, but to be honest, I’m sick of politics. What is truly weighing on my heart are the challenges people living everyday lives are facing. The brokenness, the decisions, and the uncertainty that you and I and those we love are facing can be overwhelming at times.

Recently, a young woman I care about lost her husband, the father of her children, her best friend to cancer. Before I can complete this blog, another friend has been diagnosed. Many families are struggling with the rising costs of raising children. Whether it is health insurance, sports, quality childcare, tutoring, or lessons, we want to meet our children’s needs and give them opportunities to grow. There is the competition of social media, thanks to the folks who use it as a platform to convince themselves and others that their life is perfect. I’m amazed by the number of parents that I come in contact with who are struggling with huge issues raising their kiddos. Attachment issues, learning disabilities, drug problems, medical and mental health issues, special needs, and so many other concerns touch many families, consuming their lives. Households face the demands of full-time employment while raising children or grandchildren or caring for aging parents. There is divorce and marital problems happening between couples you might least suspect. And, on top of it all, we live in a society where overbooking our calendars, comparing ourselves to others, and striving for perfection is the norm.

Friends, the world seems terribly harsh right now and I don’t think I am alone in my feelings. Like a hamster running on a wheel, sometimes I find myself in that circular pattern getting tired but going nowhere. Day in, day out I can easily become consumed by the trials of life. Without my faith, I would certainly find myself in the fetal position on the floor of my closet. And because of that faith I cannot help but wonder what God expects of us as His people.

Obviously, death will happen, struggles and tragedy will come and during those times it is our relationship with Christ that sees us through, often deepening our faith (“because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:3). Loss and illness are also opportunities for our earthly relationships to grow, whether we are giving or receiving support, but what about less obvious things? What about our everyday lives? How good of a job are we doing being transparent with our own feelings or letting those around us be transparent with theirs? God never intended for us to live life alone or handle everything on our own. How good are we at focusing on relationship, with Christ, with others, and with ourselves?

As God’s people, we are in this life together. May we be challenged to live authentically, holding each other up? It is time to step off the hamster wheel y’all!