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Part 1: David Hilliard, Black Panthers, and the African American Experience

I was struck by how candid and ‘normal’ or ‘average’ David Hilliard came across when speaking and telling his story of the Black Panther Party. He was so personal with his descriptions, and at times, so scattered that it reminded me of listening to a story told by one of my grandparents. It occurred to me that if he appears so ‘normal’ and ‘average’ – would I have listened to his message without knowing who he was? Or would I have dismissed him as another random, passionate, radical that lives in Oakland? That makes me wonder – I always assumed when I read about the civil rights movement in high school that I would have picked up a sign and rallied the masses, but would I really?

In the moment of a great movement does anyone recognize it? I asked David if he recognized at the time how much power he had, or if he only realized his significance in hindsight. He explained the movement happened so quickly, they were just a bunch of kids trying to keep up. I asked what it felt like personally and he said, “Isolating. It’s lonely when your government is waging war against you; when FBI agents bang down anyone’s door who donates a dollar to the cause. No one wants to be around you.”

It made me ask the question to myself – would I recognize a great movement when it was happening? A righteous movement? If the movement looks like what David does –no I wouldn’t recognize it. I would dismiss it and walk on by, much like I do every week when I get on BART. I wonder how many movements I have already missed out on because the person handing out the flyer near the platform didn’t pass my ‘inspection’ or ‘approval’ – because maybe they were not ‘hipster enough’, ‘too black looking’, or ‘too liberal’?

I’m not talking about popular movements, like gay rights or Occupy Wallstreet, not that their work isn’t important, but the cost of being associated is different. Most everyone applauds supporters. What would happen if after you announce your support to the world people suddenly defriended you, both on Facebook and in real life? What if the police began profiling you, harassing you, and routinely finding ways to put you in jail? Would you still support the cause then? Would I still support causes then even knowing I’m called (Isiah 1:17) ? It’s a question worth pondering.

Facts I Discovered About The Black Panther Party

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A Four Day Tour of Racial Awareness

How do you write about experiences that profoundly change your life? How can you capture in words emotion that has stirred your spirit and shifted your thinking? How do you explain to friends and family the convictions that burden your heart to lead you to make decisions that fly in the face of ‘conventionality’, foregoing the ‘American Dream’ to chase after justice? The frustration I find is, I can’t. Despite how much time I spend writing and re-writing, double checking the thesaurus, and trying to find new ways to convey ‘awe’ – I find it hard to explain. But that’s when I step back and discover, I do not have to. God never asks me to ‘explain’, he asks me to be obedient and to ‘follow him’. That is what I have chosen to do, follow him.

I leave you a series of posts that re-tell stories of people, hero’s, that I met over a four day trip called Journey to the Mosaic (J2M); a  journey that began in Oakland, CA and ended in L.A. listening to stories from African-Americans, Latin-American immigrants, and Asian-Americans of what it’s like living in the United States through their eyes and ears.

Part 1: David Hilliard, Black Panthers, and the African American Experience

Part 2: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”: Systematic Racism in Suburbia

Part 3: Central Valley, Immigration, and Becoming a Well Informed Voter

Part 4: Japanese American National Museum (and what history would like to forget)

Part 5: The Fred Jordan Mission and walking Skid Row

Part 6: The call to use your ‘Privilege’ to eliminate ‘Privilege’

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(Reblog) A Woman’s Place: Where Is the Niche for Single Christian Women in Fiction?

I found this posting by another blogger. I agree with a lot of her sentiments. The list of single Christian women heroines, both in real life and in literature, is lacking. As much as I look forward to getting married I would appreciate more material that focuses on the positives of being single.

A Woman’s Place: Where Is the Niche for Single Christian Women in Fiction?.

My favorite quote: “I don’t need a man to “give me the world” – God already did!”

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Lessons Learned from a Cross-Country Summer Road Trip

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“Stand where the roads cross and look. Ask where the old way is, where the good way is, and walk on it. If you do, you will find rest for yourselves.” Jeremiah 6:16

For the past three weeks I have had an epic journey; a summer road trip across the U.S. using forgotten highways, abandon county roads, and antiquated railroad lines.  When I started out I was naïve and underestimated the challenges, but the successes and the great memories made the experience worth it. Afterwards I felt (well, exhausted, but…) inspired, refreshed, rested, and open to the next season of life.

The ‘plan’ was to: travel with a girlfriend (who was moving to Denver) on highways from San Francisco, CA to Denver, CO making points to stop in Moab, Utah and Steamboat Springs, CO camping along the way. After visiting for a few days in the ‘mile high city’ I was to fly (solo) back home to Indiana to visit family and friends for a week. I wrapped up my vacation by traveling from Indiana to San Francisco via the Amtrak California Zephyr (FYI: total train ride time: 60 hours, only the brave need apply!).

Lessons I learned:

  1. ‘Man makes plans and God laughs’ – We mapped out routes and pegged recreation areas to camp at, but our ETA was ambitious. Once on the road we had to forgo planned stops and ‘wing it’. I’m glad we did! The places we discovered on the road were better than anything we found on Google.
  2. When traveling on Route 6 from Bishop, CA to Ely, NV – stop at the gas station in Bishop, even if you have a full tank just to ‘top off’. Only 175 miles of desert sits between Bishop and Ely with NO GAS, anywhere. We ran out10 miles from Ely and had to call AAA for help. Had we ‘topped off’ in Bishop we would have made the last 10 miles.
  3. GPS is designed to give you the most DIRECT route, not the most SANE – as we found out after traveling on dirt county rounds through CO mountains for almost 2 hours
  4. Roadtrip tunes are essential (See my road trip tunes list)
  5. Make sure you’re traveling with a good friend – this guarantees deep conversations, fun times, and no judgment when you get cranky from time to time (your bound at the hip for 5 days who wouldn’t get a little worn out?).
  6. Make sure you have a code word when you are cranky, ours: ‘I’ve just hit my wall’ and ‘I’m really getting hungry’
  7. Before visiting the ‘mile high city’, drink lots, and lots, and lots of water to prevent altitude sickness. I didn’t do this….
  8. Going home always feels good and its nice to have your mom do your laundry, even if your 30yrs old
  9. When your back home, make sure to do the things you can’t do in San Francisco – like going to a tractor show with your dad, having family dinner at the local American Legend, having late night conversations with your mom, going to the county fair, and letting your step-dad drive you around to see all the renovations added to your hometown
  10. Its only good to visit family for about a week – otherwise self-medication may be required
  11. When riding the Amtrack, spring for the cabin, 60 hours sitting in coach – no bueno!
  12. Final lesson: There is no better way to worship God than by appreciating all of his awesome creations, landscapes, and people scattered across the nation first-hand.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to do a cross-country road trip, I would encourage you to start saving now – its’ something every woman should do at least once while she is single. (I couldn’t imagine it being the same trip if I had a husband and children in tow!)

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Stretching Perspective

Today I had a soul-shifting conviction; I am addicted to seeking approval. To maintain approval I inadvertently shape my life to avoid uncomfortable situations and gravitate toward people, places, and things that are like me. By doing this, I deprive myself of understanding the full character of God.

When something or someone isn’t what I prefer I ignore it and put the God Stamp on my decision. What is the God Stamp? It’s when I say, “I don’t feel_____, so I don’t think I’m being called to______ “. It’s my get out of feeling guilty free card.

Living life based on preferences I create a false reality. I believe I overcome ‘sin’ and serve as a shinning example for others. I fall into a trap of believing I am ‘special’. Of course I ‘overcome’ sin, it’s easy to love my neighbors when they are just like me!

Part of building my false reality also includes being selective about people I allow to enter into my world. “I have to be wise about who I invest my time in”, and by adding the God Stamp  it makes my belief Biblical and true….

If you are currently my friend, congratulations – you made the cut! You are very similar to me: Caucasian, ‘down-to-earth’, educated, fun loving ‘Christian’. If you are not like me than you made the cut because there is something in your personality I aspire to be: fashinista, world-traveler, success early in life, or just infinitely cool.

If you don’t fit in either category, but are still my ‘friend’, it’s because you approve of me in some way and think I am spectacular. For this type of ‘friend’ I go above and beyond to carry out this façade. I never talk to you about my bad days, only discuss what great things God is doing in my life; and if you are younger then me – bestow unsolicited advice to you, because I am so filled with wisdom. Barf! To friends in the latter category, I apologize the most!

How can I truly love like Jesus when I am surrounded by people that are easy for me to love? How can I stretch my faith if I only worship and believe for specific things under certain circumstances? How can I serve others when I only let people in my world that benefit me?

Starting today I am pushing past my preferences. I am no longer seeking approval. I am opening myself up to experiencing a God who is diverse and loves EVERYONE. I’m stepping out of secure environments and embracing cultures and traditions that seem weird and unusual. I am walking across the room and introducing myself to strangers, even when it’s awkward, and even when there’s a risk of rejection. Starting today, I am willing to be stretched!