friday.

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Here’s my contribution for Restoration Living’s Lent and Easter Prayerbook. May this day, this weekend, take you to new places. Deep places. Holy places. May we all be aware of and awake to how life circles around and in between both brokenness and beauty, pain and joy, death and life, as we learn how to live and breathe and love as resurrection people.

The ache, deep inside, that comes flooding into your heart, rippling over its surface, down and in between each layer – it hurts. It consumes. It permeates…everything.

Suffering – the strike of disappointment and its unwarranted process of making you aware that there’s nothing you can humanly do or offer to make your pain go away; the stark reality that we live in a broken world.

We fight it.

We numb it.

We hate it.

But it’s there. The rupture between goodness and badness occurs, and we’re left with pain and heartache and questions – with darkness.

The light hasn’t arrived yet. The beauty hasn’t risen yet. The new day hasn’t come yet.

And so we sit, in the darkness, holding out our arms, crying out for something more, something better, a sliver of hope. When will it come? When will HE come? The God who promises to turn ashes into beauty? Where is he?

Could it be, that he, is IN the suffering? Could it be, that he, would actually meet us there, in the despair? Could it be, that he knows all too well what it’s like to cry out with all that he had left? Because on that day – that Friday – in all of Jesus’ humanity, he stepped into the darkest of darkest places, and entered into the most wretched suffering. For us. With us.

He sees…you.

He aches…for you.

He grieves…with you.

That Friday marked history forever. His acceptance to suffer in that way, on that day, sent a message to the world about his heart for us, for you, in epic proportions. A message that says, “I am with you…IN the suffering. Let’s go there, together. I want to show you my heart, my love for you, there, in it. And then just wait…just wait to see what I have for you. It’s coming – new life, new hope, a new day. The story isn’t over yet. Death doesn’t win. But first…let’s go there, to the broken places, to the dark places, together. I’ll be right there, beside you, because you’re mine. You are my beloved.”

Perhaps the more we enter into our suffering, the more we’ll long to taste resurrection, new life, hope. Maybe the depth to which we feel pain is directly related to the depth to which we feel joy.

Because you see, Jesus had to go through Friday, before he could get to Sunday.

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what was. what is. what is to come.

house6-13 001(2) It’s been five years since our first child entered our home, our world, our hearts. So much has changed – some expected, some surprising. There have been thrilling changes. There have been hard changes. Sometimes I find myself wondering who I am, who I’ve become. There are days that I feel as if I’ve completely lost who I was – the really good parts, the really desirable parts – since I’ve become a mom. I haven’t always wanted to let go of the roles or groups or schedules or activities or people who I was connected to, before kids.

But, I have. I’ve had to.

For me. For her.

It’s been easy to ruminate about what “was” and what “isn’t.” It’s felt natural to focus on the loss, what I didn’t want to let go of. But I’m learning, there is just as much good in what “is”…unfolding, developing, maturing…around me, in me. I want to be here, in this moment and in this season.

Change…it certainly is life-changing.

I have some friends who just had a baby – change that impacts the way they view human life and the beauty and brokenness of the world.

I have a friend whose divorce just finalized – change that impacts her role and identity and security.

I have a friend who just found out his wife has cancer – change that impacts every thought of love and companionship and his future.

I have friends whose sister-in-law just passed away – change that impacts each family member and how they step into the world and experience hope and despair, suffering and redemption.

I have a friend who just moved to a different job, a new state – change that impacts friendships and family and finances.

I have a friend whose father is remarrying two years after her mom passed away – change that impacts family dynamics and rules and rituals.

I have a friend who just adopted a child from China – change that impacts the rhythm of the home, marriage, children.

Each person, each scenario initiates finding and defining a new self – who they are in the reality of their new world. It will most likely, at times, feel uncertain and scary and hard. They might even try to grasp at the past, fighting to keep what they’ve known, resisting the new invitation and role and responsibility and tension. But what I’ve found, is that resistance only leads to suffering. It’s in the accepting that brings freedom and perspective and hope…that something fresh and good and purposeful can be birthed.

Maybe change isn’t as much about losing yourself, who you were, as it is about redefining yourself, who you are – taking all that you had become and allowing it to blend in with who you are becoming…a wiser, more compassionate, more mature, more secure, more alive, more whole self.

God’s in the business of recycling and re-purposing…because there’s a bigger, better story he’s writing – a story that needs all of who we are to show up – the parts that we’ve lost, the parts that we’re finding.

Let’s be the kind of people who give ourselves permission to release who we once were so that we are able to receive what’s right in front of us.

Let’s be the kind of people who remember where we’ve been and allow that to be a part of remaking who we are…now, in this moment.

Change…may it call out the best parts.

one voice giving voice. #summit9

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I did something that I’ve never done before last week. I stepped onto a stage in front of 2,500+ people…people who have a heart for those who have been hurt and rejected and wounded so early in life, people who have a deep conviction to create spaces where healing and love and hope can be birthed, people who believe that God is asking them to respond to the plea of the orphan.

And there I was – the “orphan” – standing right in front of them, ready to invite this orphan and foster care movement to “listen.”

NOTE: It’s important to be careful how we use the word, “orphan,” but that’s another post for another day.

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Christian Alliance for Orphans – Summit 9

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Let me back up…I keep learning about this big adoption world – this mass of people who have chosen to grow and change their family through adoption. But, for me, I never wanted to be in this world. Adoption has often felt like a distant “event” that includes loss and grief and silence, dismissal and denial. It’s been a world where (seemingly) lots of people focus on rescuing the needy and forgotten and hopeless. It’s been a world (seemingly) where the gospel has been twisted and mis-used to help make people feel good about doing good.

But the gospel, the good news, is that Jesus came to initiate new life, hope, restoration, freedom…for ALL of us.

That means we get to be a part of one another’s healing, not just the “orphan’s” healing. That means we need the “orphan” just as much as the “orphan” may need us.

This was my message. This was my one BIG idea.

We need one another.

So, I walked onto that stage feeling the weight of all those little babies represented in that really, really big church. Hoping, praying, pleading that the Holy Spirit would awaken and refresh and reframe the hearts and minds of those really, really good people.

I was nervous. I was calm. I was in total awe.

It felt risky. It felt dangerous.

But…

I had this sense, that that platform, in that moment, was holy ground…for me, for my voice, for the adopted person’s heart.

And it was.

I’m not implying that I know how thousands of people felt that night, but there was something profound and beautiful happening in those 8 minutes – I mean 13 minutes (ha!). Maybe, in that moment, people were beginning to lean in, be still, be present, and listen…to the adopted person’s heart, maybe even to their own hearts.

Perhaps they listened.

I’m quite certain that I (we) was receiving as much as I was giving. I’m quite certain that when all those hands stretched forwards and upwards, God’s Spirit was moving.

My prayer is that all those really, really good people would walk away knowing that the more they are able to connect with the heart of Jesus, the more they will be able to connect with the heart of the vulnerable – those who have been given the title, “orphan” – and in return, together, experience more of heaven on earth.

I offered my voice on behalf of those the world has defined as “voiceless”…and on behalf of the 13-year-old girl who was watching me from the “green room” who turned to her mom and said, “She gets me.”

This is the heart I was echoing. This is the story that needs to be listened to.

I’m so, so deeply grateful and humbled to have been invited to speak…up, on behalf of adoptees, representing their our hearts. Perhaps this is why tears rolled down my cheeks. I just happened to be the live human standing there, speaking, asking…but I tell you, it felt as if the adopted voices around the world joined one another in that moment, rallying together – unified, courageous, hopeful, strong – saying,

“Listen. Please listen. We need you to listen to our hearts.”

And that is why I agreed to do this – this crazy, risky, daring thing.

She…that 13-year-old girl…she is why I use my voice.

Me…that little girl inside of me…she is why I use my voice.

My voice…it’s one voice, giving voice.

Some of my favorite Summit pictures:

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Me, Tara Bradford, Melanie Chung Sherman

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Melanie Chung Sherman (Tapestry), Me, Amy Curtis (Tapestry)

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Breakout Session: Finding Me (haha!)

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Bill Blacquiere, President, Bethany Christian Services and Hudsonville, MI buddy

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Finding my roots in the airport.

stepping into the world of adoption.

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Sometimes I wonder how I got here – a place where I’m being asked to speak in classrooms and churches and retreats and events, having my voice invited to share a message of brokenness, longing, awakening and redemption. It’s not what I imagined at 38. (Geesh! 38 sounded so old 10 years ago!) I’m blown away each time an email or phone call enters my day asking me to come share my story with parents, learners, on-lookers, skeptics, the curious, those in process, and sometimes, those who are really ready to listen. I’m deeply humbled and grateful, and also (just ask my husband), so incredibly thrilled! Me? Wow.

I’m so new to this huge world of adoption. I’ve only been in it for about a year, and it’s blowing my hair back! It’s filled with parents and families and advocates who are for the well-being of orphans – those whose stories have unfolded in ways that have left them without one or both of their birth parents, those whose stories have experienced relational loss so early in life, those whose stories have set them up to easily believe they don’t matter. There are hundreds of organizations and ministries who are working diligently to bring homes and families and love and hope to vulnerable lives, weakened hearts, questioning minds. They are seeking the GOOD in humanity. They are offering Jesus to the world. I celebrate that. I affirm that.

So, what is it that I’m asked to bring to this world of adoption that’s different, that adds to, what already is being done? Because there’s a lot of good that’s being done.

For me, as I cautiously and delicately step into this world as an adopted person, I have this deep sense, this calling, to share “the other part of the story.” The part of the story that also needs voice, but the part of the story that’s not so easy to talk about or look at or feel or listen to. It’s the “broken” part of the story – where the loss and trauma and fracturing and shame began. This is part of the story too. We have to know where these sweet children have come from in order to understand where they need to go – what needs to be healed and restored, where life needs to be breathed into again. What I’m finding is that this part of the story isn’t always recognized, honored or given light. But, we have to know this part of the story too. Because if we don’t, we’ll miss the chance for experiencing redemption. We’ll miss how the work of the cross can enter in and make new, heal, restore, rescue. And if we miss that, we’ll find ourselves relying on our own human strength to help these children who have come from hard places and we’ll miss the larger story of how Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted by using the brokenhearted. We may even miss seeing Jesus in this whole orphan movement.

“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” Iyanla Vanzant

So, here I am – one small voice in the sea of voices resounding in our ears. My prayer is that as my voice and my message are invited into these beautiful spaces, that I will use it well – not from an angry or resentful or “you should” place, but from a place of humility, from a place of personal experience, from a place of encouragement…cheering this movement on, yet also reminding us all that we must listen to “the rest of the story” as we proclaim the Gospel – the good news – to the world.

I’m so, so grateful to be invited to speak at Summit 9 – the annual Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Nashville, TN. I’ll be speaking in a breakout session called, “Finding Me,” where I will share my own story and the impact that relinquishment has had in my life and how God is healing the deepest places within me. And then I was invited to be a part of an outstanding group of 9 others for the “oneBIGidea” presentations. But, here’s the kicker…my 8-minute “TED talk”-style presentation will actually be in front of the large audience on Thursday evening rather than with the others. Oh my, oh my, oh my! We’ve titled it, “LISTEN: Why we must listen to the beauty and the brokenness in every adoptee’s story, and how doing so might just change all of us.” I’ve got 8 minutes to share a message – my one big idea – that I believe every orphan advocate should ponder. Talk about insane pressure, crazy courage, and pure vulnerability! Ahhhhh! (I’m gonna need a pep talk!)

I hope you consider attending this year’s Summit. As always, it will be filled with amazing speakers and educators and artists and musicians. It’s a time where thousands will gather under one roof dreaming of ways that we can better step into the lives of children who are loveable, capable, needed, wanted…who were meant to be on this earth from the beginning of time. Everyone is invited, not just those who have adopted or who plan to adopt. This is for anyone who is up for fighting for what’s good and true.

Hope to see you there!

If you’re interested, you can follow what’s happening on the Summit BLOG.

a grandma…in waiting.

Let me introduce you to Linda Lyzenga. She’s a friend, a mentor, a kindred spirit. I love the courage she possesses…to find more of herself, more of others, more of God. This is such a sweet post. I love that she is allowing the process of becoming a grandma to call out her deep heart, the best parts of who she is. Grateful for how she is choosing to step into her role, now AND when the baby comes, with grace and understanding and intention and acceptance. What a gift she will be to this baby. I’m confident that she will be a grandma who delights in her, nurtures her, reminds her of how good she is…even if it is from afar.

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Congratulations are in order! I’m going to be a grandma. Every where I go these days I see young moms with babies and I want to peek at each little one and then share the good news – I’m going to be a grandma. I am the expectant one. Anticipation is high. They’re going to have a baby girl in April. I can hardly wait; other grandmas that I know say there’s nothing like it. Oh, just wait, they say. Lucky you! First one? You’re going to love it!! *Sigh* Did I say that I’m going to be a grandma? Congratulate me!

Now tell me how to navigate being a long distance grandma. I don’t want to be a long distance grandma. I don’t want to be thought of as the grandma who lives far away. I want to be a grandma that’s available at the drop of a hat. I want to take care of baby girl when her mommy has to go back to work. I want to be there for all those monumental firsts. I want to experience… I want… I want… Oh, I sound like a two-year-old. There are moments some day’s of an almost desperate sense of separation – of longing, loss and loneliness.

Most days I’m fine. It’s not like they moved away yesterday. It’s over ten years ago that younger daughter left home for her great adventure. Off she went – leaving all that was familiar here in Western Michigan to go to a university in Southern California. I thought she’d be back. But then, she got the job; and then, she met the guy. They’ve been married over five years now.

When her sister flew the coup to make a fresh start in Northern Florida, I was left decidedly as an empty nester. I couldn’t be more proud of both my girls. I’m truly happy for the life that is theirs. My girls are not coming home. They both live far, far away. People often say, “That must be hard.” Some days I must admit – it IS hard. Most days, though, there is a special grace that soothes my heart. On any given day when I miss them, I think of how we’ve been able to keep in touch. In fact, is it possible that we’re closer now than we ever were? When the geographical distance seems too great, I imagine how it was when children from past generations left home – never to be seen again after having moved to places far and away. Long distance telephone calls were reserved for strict emergencies. Other communication was relegated to snail mail – a delivery of old news. Today there’s ease in communication with free minutes and cell phones. Email. Facebook. Skype. Packages sent UPS. Special little notes sent in the mail. We’ve had a really good track record of cross country trips and have found a good rhythm of making it work. For this I’m beyond grateful!

But now that I’m going to be a grandma something has shifted in my perspective. Self compassion and self awareness invite me to process why I’m feeling deprived and despairing when this grandchild hasn’t even arrived on the scene yet.

What’s going on?

It’s the anticipated face to face moments that I’ll miss out on. The hoped for shared experiences that simply will not be. Precious memories with that teeny tiny new born seem to be waiting in some kind of vacuum.

More than that, I realize that it’s the fear of not being known – of being missed.

With this realization distilled and clarified, I realize that I have a choice. I can choose to view this new relationship from a vacant place of distance and scarcity of intimate face to face time. Or, I can choose to step into my new role from a place of abundance and gratitude.

With generosity and creativity I can be known as a loving grandma – fully present; engaging – even from a distance – with intention and creativity.

Celebrate with me – I’m going to be a grandma!

Linda is passionate about wholeness and healing and finds her sweet spot in the role of Spiritual Director. Married with two adult daughters, who have flown the coup – far from Western Michigan where they grew up, she’s home alone with her husband of 39 years. Though a life long learner, Linda never had opportunity to go to college until recently and is now working on getting her Associate Degree with hopes to finish it before her husband retires next year and they take off – visiting their kids and exploring the country in their RV. Meanwhile, she enjoys yoga, baking, reading, writing, and hiking. You can know more about Linda through her blog.

healing…a two-way street.

 

“Nothing that’s hard or “bad” for adoptees takes away from what’s beautiful or “good” in a parent’s choice to adopt. Nothing.”

 

Oh, my heart!

I’ve just returned from a weekend spent with 450 beautiful mamas at the Created for Care retreat. Some had adopted, some were waiting to adopt, some came just to support their friends. Lovely, inspiring, challenging, raw, surprising, healing, holy.

Profoundly holy.

I entered into that space a bit weary and looking forward to restoring the parts of me that have become so drained and rugged and discontent, all the parts where love has felt so absent, so depleted.

For those of us who were planning and speaking and leading breakout sessions, we had been praying for all the hearts that were going to enter the gorgeous Legacy Lodge. We asked God to speak to us about what he wanted to share with each woman, knowing that he knew exactly what each person needed. We asked God to breathe new life into each soul, refreshing the places that felt lonely, fearful, inadequate, angry, shameful, worn. We asked God to send his Spirit into each corner and crevice that may be hiding from him, numbed out to him, felt forgotten by him. And he did.

He loved BIG.

I got to see and experience God cover that room…with his love, with his grace, with his mercy, with his forgiveness, with his peace, with his truth, with his shalom. With himself.

Oh, my heart!

I stepped into that space having been invited to represent the heart, the voice, the story, of the little ones not in that room, but yet who were so present in that room. Over 1,000 little souls who were home or on their way home. Over 1,000 little souls who bring so much beauty, so much brokenness, into the lives of each family they are welcomed by.

I was up for the invitation, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure if all those mamas would be up for what God had called me to share. That’s a scary feeling, especially when you know that all those mamas were coming to feel encouraged and equipped and empowered, not jolted or disoriented or challenged. That’s a risky feeling when as an adoptee you desperately want to feel accepted and approved of and liked. That’s a vulnerable position to be in when you know that all those mamas were coming to find assurance and affirmation – that what their Creator had called them to do was right…for them, for their children, for their families, for him.

So, I had to trust…that what God called me to share, my voice, was exactly what I was supposed to offer. And so I did. Unnerving, unsettling, unbelievably frightening!

I don’t know exactly how God will use my voice, my message, my heart, (trying to let that go), but I do know how God is already using the weekend, the conversations, the lyrics, the voices, the love in those mamas…for me.

I never expected that part of my healing could come from the adoption world itself.

I never expected to feel affirmed and embraced and loved through other adoptive mamas.

I never expected the longing and desire and love that adoptive mamas radiate for their babies to connect with my own longings to feel wanted and needed and loved.

I never expected that this one adoptee’s voice would be invited out in such unique ways, and then in return find healing because of what God is doing in other family’s lives, through their stories.

I never expected that having people truly “listen” and respond to the impact of relinquishment and abandonment on an adopted person’s mind and heart would bring a more solid, stronger, securer sense of self.

I never expected that God would turn my words into your words for your children into his heart about how he sees me. (You may have to read this one again!)

But he did…and I’m in awe.

I feel tender, open, moved. I feel ready…for more of him, more of his BIG love, more of his deep healing. And I know it will come because I’m giving myself a little more permission to let go…of her, of him, of what happened. As my hands slowly let go, I feel them opening, little by little, receiving more love, deeper connection, with those who are ready to love and connect with me, especially my husband and my babies.

Oh, my heart!

It’s still raw and bleeding and being gutted out, yet at the same time, it feels more free, more brave, a little more gutsy, ready…to trust. Again. Differently. Wholeheartedly.

Oh, mamas…the ways in which you offered yourselves last weekend, your presence, your posture, it was deeply moving and incredibly healing for this one in a million adoptee. I write with tears and say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you….for listening.” I feel humbled and blown away that God would take my words, my voice, my ache, my fear, my story, and use it to be helpful, even if it was just a little bit, in your journey, your child’s journey. And, please, please know that your words, your voice, your ache, your fear, your stories…they brought SO much to me too. It feels like a two-way street, like this natural and fluid giving and receiving. It feels full circle. It feels like we’re in this together. It feels hopeful.

And, it for sure feels WAY different from last year’s C4C retreat when I snatched a piece of decadent cheesecake and snuck back to my room to hide! I’ve come a long ways, mamas! Get ready, March 2013 women! Can’t wait to meet/re-meet you!

So, to ALL of us, may we remember and “listen” to God’s voice, “Where have you come from? Where are you going? I see you.” We have to name what we’re running from and leaving and fleeing in order to know where we’re going, running to. Because where we’ve been, where we’re going…it matters. It’s seen.

Big Korean adoptee Michigan hugs and love to ya’ll!

PS – Would love to hear about your C4C experience too. Feel free to post your blog posts in the comments or on my Facebook page!

PSS – If you have some great pictures to replace these IG ones, email them to me!

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“Healing is in Your Hands” (Amazing worship by Candi Shelton)

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“Adoption from Both Sides” (a conversation between an adoptive mom and an adoptee)

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Ummm…I may have stopped chatting and started preaching. Oops!

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The new “Charlie’s Angels” (with Amy Monroe & Andrea Young)

 

oh, how he loves…ALL of us.

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“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

It’s a song many of us sang throughout our childhood. The words come easily, the tune, naturally. We sang it. We believed it. We believed that Jesus loved everyone. But, did we learn to love everyone? Did we practice loving everyone? Do we? Now?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 84 this year. Many Americans and non-Americans remember his “I Have a Dream” speech. These words come easily. Yet, the courage and acceptance that is needed to live out his anthem, doesn’t always come naturally.

When I read his speech through more grown up eyes and ears and mind and heart, the phrases and words stand out to me in different ways, new ways, simpler ways.

This is a speech about a person’s dignity, not just about a person’s skin color.

This is a speech about a person’s well being, not just about sharing a meal together or holding hands.

This is a speech about a person’s soul, not just about fighting for equal rights.

This is a speech about having the opportunity to bring forth life…in us, in a nation.

This is a speech about what God dreams for his world.

Dr. King’s speech was profound and stunning and inspiring and dramatic in its day, but there’s something even more profound and stunning and inspiring and dramatic in his speech for us, today.

We live in a time where seemingly there is more fear and insecurity and shame and pride and anger and despair and suffering than ever. “Slavery” was supposed to have ended in 1965, right? So why do so many people today still feel enslaved, held back, unseen, dismissed, discriminated against, judged? For some, yes, their reach for freedom is thwarted by institutional power and policies, but really, when it comes down to it, aren’t these feelings perpetuated, knowingly and unknowingly, by people – their words, their jokes, their smirks, their bumper stickers, their t-shirt logos, their Facebook posts, their sermons, their handbook rules?

Our values, our beliefs, our faith…they pour out of us, sometimes without even a thought or intent. We live in a nation that is “for” freedom and justice. Yet, our actions often times send the opposite message. We want people to value what we value, believe what we believe, be what we want them to be. Life would sure feel easier if they did. But, that’s not real life. We aren’t all alike. We all step into this world from different places, stories that have shaped us and made us who we are today. There are so many categories we put people in, are put in. They keep us separate, distant, disconnected. Boxes and categories and labels don’t produce freedom. They don’t sustain justice. They don’t create together-ness. They don’t promote equality.

So, we have a choice. We have a responsibility. We have an opportunity…to love…everyone.

May we feel a sense of “urgency” in our own homes, in our own towns, in our own country, to create in our own small ways, an environment, a space where people feel welcome, seen, heard, accepted, free…free to walk with dignity and goodness.

May we “refuse to believe” that bitterness or hatred or violence is a means to a just end.

May we face the injustice and unrighteousness and wickedness with “soul force.”

May we have the “discipline” to fight for people’s well being and humanity.

May we come to believe that “…their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And…that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

May we, “not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

May we, “…be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together knowing that we will be free one day.”

Because, “…if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”

No matter what skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, income or weight…“all men and woman are created equal.”

Jesus loves all the children of the world.

Note: Words and phrases in quotations come directly from Dr. King’s speech.

You can read Dr. King’s speech here.

You can read 2 other racism-related posts here and here.