Hope for Charleston

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Author: Chara Donahue

As I write today, I am very aware of where I sit. My world is still moving, Father's Day just wrapped up, and the sun is shining brightly in the Pacific Northwest.  I am quite conscious of the fact that as I lounge comfortably here, a week ago darkness violently spread itself upon the steps of a holy place.

As I breathe in the quiet warmth of a summer's day I can't help but ask why the most sincere and loudest cries for justice ring from silent pulpits and the bodies of the slain.  My soul is burdened and my heart repeats,

"Jesus please come.
Come to the children for which Father's Day only illuminated that theirs was stolen by hate.
Come to the communities that are mourning and fearful because their safe spaces have been wrought asunder by a soul submitted to evil.
Come to those in our country who naively thought that we were past racial oppression because we have a black president.
Come to the global church as we grieve with our brothers and sisters at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. They have been stripped of their pastor, and are left to be haunted by the prophetic times he preached that engaging in the fight for justice might cost you your life[1]. May they be comforted, because they know he is with you.
Jesus come, because I know you are the perfect reconciler, but at this moment — reconciliation seems so far."

This is my prayer. My eyes, set in white skin, have wept for my black brothers and sisters, and I know I cannot see the furthest depths of this problem.  I know that this is not about the assailant, or rationalizing whatever led him to dehumanize living, breathing people who offered prayers with their last breaths.  I  rejoice in his apprehension, but that is only a trickle of the river of justice that needs to come.  As I view the pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King sitting at Emmanuel AME years ago contrasted with the pictures of the same church surrounded by police cars and coroners, I am paralyzed with grief for the history of oppression, degradation, and injustice. It is a history that says, "we have come so far, but we must go further still."

Photo WPEC CBS 12

The King Center posted this image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston

So I ask, what does 'further still' look like — in my life, in this culture?

It's more than taking down confederate flags. That is a start, but we must acknowledge that when our young pretend to be dead so that they may have life, we, yes we collectively, all people, have a problem. People may continue to rationalize and defend the incidents that have been making their ways into the headlines lately, but this blatant act of hostility demands our voice, our attention, and our lament. Let the voices that say there is no problem be drowned out by those of all races saying, "We want unity and are willing to sacrifice to see it. We will stand in solidarity so that the beauty of action can usher in harmonious calls for justice. We must extend past paltry sentimentality, and actually take steps to make peace, walking out the ministry of reconciliation that God asks of believers in 2 Corinthians 5:18."

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Growing up in the Bay Area of California, my group of friends included a delightful array of Indian, Pakistani, African American, Caucasian and Latino women. That's just the way life was, I never realized how precious a gift I was given.  Then I moved to my current city that is predominantly white, and it just felt awkward, and bizarre. I have met great people here, but there is a part of me that can tell something rich is missing, that longs for my community to be multi-ethnic. Not because it is the hot topic right now, not even because it is simply the right thing, but because it's Christ's thing. I want the things of Jesus, and I am willing to fight for them. He has reconciled the Jew and the Gentile, the Asian and Latino, the Black and the White. I want to help bear the weight of the struggles and share in the joys of all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to invite others into the family who's genetic markers are things like forgiveness, mercy, and sacrificial love. Part of this is a desire to see Heaven come to Earth, and I know heaven will not be rocking a white majority. Too rarely do we get  glimpses of this eternal reality, but when all races gather to worship together — desegregated, with love, and without hindrance — we get a taste of the sweetness to come.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. Revelations 7:9

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP35_JVnP6g#action=share at 10:18

Hope for Summer Break

Author: Chara Donahue


I remember longing for summer break to arrive as a kid. Now, as the mother of four, I dream of ways to build happy childhood memories; I get excited about the opportunities I will have to train them in the ways that are right. I cherish these precious days that will soon slip away, but I also feel something else, something I know is not from the God that loves us all: Dread

I shudder at the thought of boundless requests, endless arguments, and threats to my own comfort rushing towards me, and I cower. I see no breaks, no naps, and no other adult to parent them for most of the day. They are children! How is it that I am still shocked by how much they need me? So there, I confess, in all my hopes for the summer is the shadow of dread.

I hate it. I hate that there is a part of me dreading the fleeting time when the sun burns hot and time moves slow. I try to capture these thoughts and flood out their existence with the true gratitude I feel for my kids. But if I am honest there is this self-serving part of me that is aching to protect the patterns and schedules I have built during the school year. So I search. I try to make my thoughts obedient, to meditate on the true and noble, and I pray for God to fix whatever is broken inside of me.

What I have found is a strong desire to protect MY kingdom.

I don't want to live for my own kingdom, I have seen the beauty of living for God's glorious kingdom and that's what I want. Yet, there I am trying to stretch and scrape toward the throne. I must ask myself not once, not every morning, but multiple times throughout the day, "Whose kingdom are you living for: your own or God's?"

And as a mom who longs to live faithfully in the high calling of motherhood, I must also ask, "Whose kingdom am I training these children to live in?" If I am not living for God's kingdom, how can I advocate for others to live for that kingdom? 

As I try to right my own perspective I have realized I can be in a place where I think I'm living for God's kingdom, and still be training my children to live for mine. I desire for them to let God direct their steps, to hold to the peace that He offers, and to hope in Him even when hope seems scary. But every day I have to take a good hard look at whose laws I am training them to live under. Are we together living in the truths of God's kingdom, or have I have slipped into the realm of training them to live for mine.

Subversively and in some ways unintentionally, I teach them this is how you do not annoy Mom to the point of insanity; here are the things that, though they are not against God's precepts, make me nuts, so you don't have the freedom to do them; or how about you don't ever do that again because it totally inconvenienced me.

I have taught these little ones here is how you exist in this home, in this family, in my kingdom. And when they break those rules, instead of using the discipline to train, sometimes through my actions I proclaim "This is my kingdom. You have broken my laws. Now here is my judgment." Instead of allowing discipline to be a time of instruction and grace it becomes a swift and sudden exile to their rooms, because they have displeased the "queen" and she can no longer be bothered with them.

What a ridiculous way to exasperate my children and build their frustration with life in general! How can I actively be trying to live my life for the KING, instruct them to do the same, and yet make them live under the laws of a weak ruler. They will see through it. They know my kingdom is small and worth little because they have been introduced to the King of the universe.

How did this happen? How did I get here? I am setting my family up for war.

If I am not careful, by training them to live peacefully in my kingdom I am modeling for them that this is what we do as adults. That what we get as we grow up is the ability to direct and build a kingdom all our own. Thus, in this large family I am growing four little independent people to live for and train others to live for their kingdoms. Eventually, someone will try and stage an attempted coup, and I would do my children a great injustice by giving up my kingdom and allowing myself to be a slave in theirs.

I am already seeing it happening in my oldest. Now this kid follows Jesus in ways I didn't imagine a nine year old could, but she is bold, she is smart, and sometimes she can't help but scout out where she may be able to invade. When tension rises between the two of us I often have to remind myself I am the adult; I am in charge. God chose this role for me and I must live it out. I can see her testing the waters, though. It has begun, she is making attempts to build her own kingdom.

Now, before me lies a great opportunity of a summer together where I can correct where I have slipped, weeks where I can retrain them all, a brief pocket of time where I can point my kids back to the God who will fulfill their hearts and lives far more than any summer sports camp, reading program, or vacation bible school ever could. While I don't try to control the earth, I do try to control this house. Control taunts me with lies that I can grasp it. I long to release that pointless striving and instead receive His will, His reign, and His kingdom over all.

This is the line of battle. Here I must fight.  Here is my summer resolution/prayer.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, in this house as it is in heaven.

I must remember that I don't live in warring kingdoms, there is no game of thrones playing out here.