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by Danny Canales
MANIFESTO STATEMENT

We were created to live in perfect peace with God, our self and one another.

Made For Pax.

Drew Jackson

Drew Jackson is the co-founding pastor of Hope East Village in New York City, where he currently serves. He is deeply engaged in anti-racism work, primarily in church contexts, and is actively involved with the work of peacemaking and multi-faith coalition building for the common good, both nationally and internationally. Drew and his wife, Genay, have twin daughters, Zora and Suhaila, and they currently live in Lower Manhattan. Follow Drew’s poetry at @d.jacksonpoetics on Instagram.

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It starts with a Word. A very good Word spoken

by Creator. Goodness within and goodness 

between, binding us together, all things tethered

by Love.


     Shalom.


But then there’s a breaking, a fracture within

this cosmic bond, knocking protons and electrons

out of orbit. No longer moving in unity, but now 

existing with great autonomy.


     Shattered.


We’ve been lost. Unbound from our identity,

searching for our vocation, working to locate

ourselves within this great wide world.


     Seeking.


But then comes the in-breaking. The very good Word

made flesh and bone, sought us out and made this

shattered world home, all to bring us back to the

beginning---back to shalom.


Slaughtered.


Because we resist with tight fists, holding onto

our way. But Life cannot be held within tombs

and in graves. Once again, fresh breath was

blown into this clay.


     Sent.


To rebind and restore. With new vision for this

mission we were created for. Fully reflecting 

this imprinted Image, as we work to bring

pax back to existence.


     Peace.

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by Mondo Scott
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Where Peace Lives

Lisa Sharon Harper

Lisa Sharon Harper is the founder and president of Freedom Road, a groundbreaking consulting group that crafts experiences that bring common understanding and common commitments that lead to common action toward a more just world.

I am living my worst nightmare. I am a single Black woman over 50. I’m 51.

Starting in college, every year, on New Year’s Eve, I used to pray for my future husband. I prayed for his spiritual development. I prayed for his character. I prayed for his life with Jesus—that it would be rich and grounded in love. I prayed for him faithfully. Every year—in the hours before the stroke of midnight—I prayed for him.

But he has not come.

Marriage is becoming less and less of a mandate in our society. A 2019 Pew Center study reported that, while 59 percent of people aged 18-44 had lived with a partner, only 50 percent had ever been married. What’s more, a 2016 report by Black Demographics states 48 percent of Black women and 52 percent of Black men have never married. I have dreamt of being married for as long as I can remember. Yet, I find myself in the 48 percent. In today’s world, we can’t assume that all 48 percent of Black women dream of being married. Cohabitation is more prevalent and the institution of marriage is held suspect by younger generations disillusioned by and questioning the legitimacy of institutions, in general. That said, marriage remains my deepest desire. And there is something about our deepest longings that ultimately reveals the substance of our peace. 

The word for peace in the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) is shalom. Shalom is a concept that is about more than the absence of conflict. It is about the presence of truth, integrity, justice, reciprocity, restitution, stewardship, protection, service to the other and an interdependent flow of love between all created beings and their creator. Shalom is about the radical wellness of all and between all. 

The clearest picture of shalom that we get in Scripture is found in the first and second chapters of Genesis. The word is not used in these texts, but we see the nature of shalom in the relationships God creates, including the relationship between genders. In the epic Hebrew poem that we call Genesis 1, we see that all people were created in the image of God—men and women were both called and created with the capacity to exercise dominion in the world. In chapter 2, we see the nature of marriage; a union that brings life-long companionship where love and trust and truth and justice and reciprocity and protection and service and stewardship flow uninhibited. God created humanity to desire this radical connection. I believe it is the deepest longing of our souls. Yet, for many Black women in today’s world it never comes. 

How do Black women hold their broken hearts--untouched by the intimacy of marriage? And how do we find peace in the midst of the longing?


The Price of Oppression

My longings have been complicated and even blocked by the lie of human hierarchy, which permeates every fiber of American society. Traumas passed down from generation to generation laid foundations upon which my own generation’s traumas abide. Any shadow of shalom was shattered at least 12 generations ago in African-American families—the day the first Africans were forced onto Virginia’s shores in 1619. Yet, we are human; made in the image of God. We long for shalom connection like all humanity.

Throughout my teens in Cape May, New Jersey, I escaped from the emotional mayhem of my blended family by diving, nose first, into the world of Silhouette romance books—a publishing imprint dedicated to steamy romances that usually involved a Christian woman and a man whose faith was indescript. Nearly every week, I stopped in our local bookstore and bought the newest Silhouette story and spent hours over the rest of the week on a park bench, on the beach or locked in my room with my head buried in a paperback-world filled with white women and men who met, hated each other, felt attraction, tried to fend it off, found themselves in close quarters, couldn’t resist, kissed, felt guilty, ran away, but always eventually found their way back to each other. If life was anything like a Silhouette romance novel, then finding my prince shouldn’t be that hard. All I needed was to be faithful, like the women in the books. Surrounded by white girls who picked up and dropped boyfriends as easily as the ones in the books, I was sure that God would bring my husband. And if he wasn’t Christian, well, as in the Silhouette world, he would become one before wedding rings were exchanged. In a perfect world, it might be that easy. But our world is not perfect. 

Shalom is not without context. 

In Genesis 1 and 2, shalom’s context was the rule of God. From Genesis 3 forward, shalom’s context is a fallen world where two formidable enemies war with God for supremacy—oppression and poverty. At the time when the Confederate Army fired its first shots on Fort Sumter, there were 4 million enslaved women, men and children in the United States. They were worse than poor. They were counted as property. Plus, enslaved people were not allowed to marry under protection of law. Some were able to engage committed relationships under the authority of their owners, but they often lived on separate plantations and had no authority of their own to retain family cohesion. Husbands, wives and children were often sold down river, into the Deep South, to square masters’ debts. To boot, in the wake of the rise of King Cotton and the 1808 end of the Atlantic Slave Trade, Antebellum slavocracy found another way to fill its appetite for free labor. They bred it. By 1820, breeding farms peppered the northern South. Enslaved African men were forced to serially rape enslaved African women to birth profit for their masters. Children were often raised in holding pens by women whose unpaid job was to nurse them. 

Oppression has been the garment of people of African descent in the U.S from the Colonial era through present-day. Each generation of white lawmakers has passed a piece of that garment to the next generation of African Americans. Shalom between genders shattered in my family in 1705 when my first American born ancestor was indentured because she was the product of a Senagalese/Scottish mixed-race relationship, according to court records. She was raped by her master or his son for the free labor that her illegitimate children would produce, according to colonial Maryland law. In the Antebellum era, my 3rd Great Grandmother, Lea Ballard, had 17 children, according to family lore. We believe she was likely forced to be a breeder in South Carolina. She married at least three times, as many as five. Since Lea, every generation of women on my mother’s line of the family has experienced sexual abuse of some sort – including me. 


White Jesus

I met White Jesus two years after I met puberty. In my white evangelical church, I vowed to remain pure—to abstain from sex until marriage. Likewise, I vowed not to be “unequally yoked”—to only date other evangelical Christians—which basically meant white boys or the one or two Black boys I met in that entire world, who always dated non-Black girls.

Throughout high school, college and my twenties, crushes accrued like a chain-linked fence. Some became vulnerable friendships—one step from dating. I could see the other side, but I couldn’t get there. The supremacy of whiteness in my white patriarchal evangelical world placed me, a Black woman, on the bottom rung of the marriage hierarchy. I felt it. Then I saw it, as I looked around at my Black sistahs—all single—wading through the steady stream of weddings and baby showers for our White friends. White Jesus blessed the purity of our white girlfriends with relationships set up by friends and protected by the community. But he left racial hierarchy intact.


It Wasn’t Supposed to Be This Way

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Before there was the man-made scaffolding of human hierarchy called race, there were human beings—one family spread across the world. Before there was slavery and war and poverty and oppression and empire and colonization there was humanity, naked and unashamed at play and work in an extravagant garden with two trees at the center. There was the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil too (Genesis 2:9).

The tree of life was simple. Eat of it and you will live and love and flourish forever in the context of a bonded community. But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil made the humans aware of the only point of need in paradise—God. 

“Don’t eat of this tree, lest you die,” God commanded (Genesis 2:17). Here was the one point in the garden where humanity faced two pointed questions: Do you trust God? And will you choose God’s way to wholeness? The answer would reveal the presence or lack of their love for God.

Ish and Ishshah, the man and woman, chose their own way to peace and forfeited shalom. They ate and, in the doing, revealed a lack of love for God. Love requires trust. Instead, they received what humanity’s peace strategies are able to garner: domination, rape, exploitation, neglect, isolation and separation.

I grabbed at my own peace through physical padding and social isolation. Layers of fat encircled me; muting my inner wail and buffering me from further disappointment. I also immersed myself in mostly white spiritual communities and committed to celibacy before marriage. There, I would be utterly safe. No one would transgress the boundaries of my body in that space—they wouldn’t want my body at all. And they didn’t. And now, at 51, single and without children of my own, I close my eyes and breathe.

I breathe in and catch the rhythm of generations of women in my family. We were all abused in some way—dominated sexually, physically, emotionally. Like so many Black women we carry the scars of white patriarchy passed down through Black and White men. But our identity is not “victim.” Our identity is human—ones created in the full image of God—ones with the capacity to exercise agency in and over our lives and our bodies and our hearts and our bank accounts. As humans we can let God heal our traumatized minds through therapy and our broken hearts through healing prayer. We can carry our tears to our friends and ask them to help us hold them. And we can give oppression the side-eye as we stand full into our broad hips and sway to the rhythm of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and join Toni Morrison’s Baby Suggs, the great Black ancestor who lived through hundreds of years of slavery and called the women to The Clearing—that place where never married and married and use-to-be-married Black women go to be healed by God and each other.   

And in the Clearing, holding hands, we find a shadow of shalom in this ransacked world. We find connection—to God, to self, to each other and to the earth. And we find our power to choose to heal and live and laugh and lean into God’s bosom…and feel shalom.

I am living my worst nightmare. I am a single Black woman over 50. I’m 51.

Starting in college, every year, on New Year’s Eve, I used to pray for my future husband. I prayed for his spiritual development. I prayed for his character. I prayed for his life with Jesus—that it would be rich and grounded in love. I prayed for him faithfully. Every year—in the hours before the stroke of midnight—I prayed for him.

But he has not come.

Marriage is becoming less and less of a mandate in our society. A 2019 Pew Center study reported that, while 59 percent of people aged 18-44 had lived with a partner, only 50 percent had ever been married. What’s more, a 2016 report by Black Demographics states 48 percent of Black women and 52 percent of Black men have never married. I have dreamt of being married for as long as I can remember. Yet, I find myself in the 48 percent. In today’s world, we can’t assume that all 48 percent of Black women dream of being married. Cohabitation is more prevalent and the institution of marriage is held suspect by younger generations disillusioned by and questioning the legitimacy of institutions, in general. That said, marriage remains my deepest desire. And there is something about our deepest longings that ultimately reveals the substance of our peace. 

The word for peace in the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) is shalom. Shalom is a concept that is about more than the absence of conflict. It is about the presence of truth, integrity, justice, reciprocity, restitution, stewardship, protection, service to the other and an interdependent flow of love between all created beings and their creator. Shalom is about the radical wellness of all and between all. 

The clearest picture of shalom that we get in Scripture is found in the first and second chapters of Genesis. The word is not used in these texts, but we see the nature of shalom in the relationships God creates, including the relationship between genders. In the epic Hebrew poem that we call Genesis 1, we see that all people were created in the image of God—men and women were both called and created with the capacity to exercise dominion in the world. In chapter 2, we see the nature of marriage; a union that brings life-long companionship where love and trust and truth and justice and reciprocity and protection and service and stewardship flow uninhibited. God created humanity to desire this radical connection. I believe it is the deepest longing of our souls. Yet, for many Black women in today’s world it never comes. 

How do Black women hold their broken hearts--untouched by the intimacy of marriage? And how do we find peace in the midst of the longing?

Shalom is about the radical wellness of all and between all.


The Price of Oppression

My longings have been complicated and even blocked by the lie of human hierarchy, which permeates every fiber of American society. Traumas passed down from generation to generation laid foundations upon which my own generation’s traumas abide. Any shadow of shalom was shattered at least 12 generations ago in African-American families—the day the first Africans were forced onto Virginia’s shores in 1619. Yet, we are human; made in the image of God. We long for shalom connection like all humanity.

Throughout my teens in Cape May, New Jersey, I escaped from the emotional mayhem of my blended family by diving, nose first, into the world of Silhouette romance books—a publishing imprint dedicated to steamy romances that usually involved a Christian woman and a man whose faith was indescript. Nearly every week, I stopped in our local bookstore and bought the newest Silhouette story and spent hours over the rest of the week on a park bench, on the beach or locked in my room with my head buried in a paperback-world filled with white women and men who met, hated each other, felt attraction, tried to fend it off, found themselves in close quarters, couldn’t resist, kissed, felt guilty, ran away, but always eventually found their way back to each other. If life was anything like a Silhouette romance novel, then finding my prince shouldn’t be that hard. All I needed was to be faithful, like the women in the books. Surrounded by white girls who picked up and dropped boyfriends as easily as the ones in the books, I was sure that God would bring my husband. And if he wasn’t Christian, well, as in the Silhouette world, he would become one before wedding rings were exchanged. In a perfect world, it might be that easy. But our world is not perfect. 

Shalom is not without context. 

In Genesis 1 and 2, shalom’s context was the rule of God. From Genesis 3 forward, shalom’s context is a fallen world where two formidable enemies war with God for supremacy—oppression and poverty. At the time when the Confederate Army fired its first shots on Fort Sumter, there were 4 million enslaved women, men and children in the United States. They were worse than poor. They were counted as property. Plus, enslaved people were not allowed to marry under protection of law. Some were able to engage committed relationships under the authority of their owners, but they often lived on separate plantations and had no authority of their own to retain family cohesion. Husbands, wives and children were often sold down river, into the Deep South, to square masters’ debts. To boot, in the wake of the rise of King Cotton and the 1808 end of the Atlantic Slave Trade, Antebellum slavocracy found another way to fill its appetite for free labor. They bred it. By 1820, breeding farms peppered the northern South. Enslaved African men were forced to serially rape enslaved African women to birth profit for their masters. Children were often raised in holding pens by women whose unpaid job was to nurse them. 

Oppression has been the garment of people of African descent in the U.S from the Colonial era through present-day. Each generation of white lawmakers has passed a piece of that garment to the next generation of African Americans. Shalom between genders shattered in my family in 1705 when my first American born ancestor was indentured because she was the product of a Senagalese/Scottish mixed-race relationship, according to court records. She was raped by her master or his son for the free labor that her illegitimate children would produce, according to colonial Maryland law. In the Antebellum era, my 3rd Great Grandmother, Lea Ballard, had 17 children, according to family lore. We believe she was likely forced to be a breeder in South Carolina. She married at least three times, as many as five. Since Lea, every generation of women on my mother’s line of the family has experienced sexual abuse of some sort – including me. 

How do Black women hold their broken hearts--untouched by the intimacy of marriage? And how do we find peace in the midst of the longing?


White Jesus

I met White Jesus two years after I met puberty. In my white evangelical church, I vowed to remain pure—to abstain from sex until marriage. Likewise, I vowed not to be “unequally yoked”—to only date other evangelical Christians—which basically meant white boys or the one or two Black boys I met in that entire world, who always dated non-Black girls.

Throughout high school, college and my twenties, crushes accrued like a chain-linked fence. Some became vulnerable friendships—one step from dating. I could see the other side, but I couldn’t get there. The supremacy of whiteness in my white patriarchal evangelical world placed me, a Black woman, on the bottom rung of the marriage hierarchy. I felt it. Then I saw it, as I looked around at my Black sistahs—all single—wading through the steady stream of weddings and baby showers for our White friends. White Jesus blessed the purity of our white girlfriends with relationships set up by friends and protected by the community. But he left racial hierarchy intact.


It Wasn’t Supposed to Be This Way

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Before there was the man-made scaffolding of human hierarchy called race, there were human beings—one family spread across the world. Before there was slavery and war and poverty and oppression and empire and colonization there was humanity, naked and unashamed at play and work in an extravagant garden with two trees at the center. There was the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil too (Genesis 2:9).

The tree of life was simple. Eat of it and you will live and love and flourish forever in the context of a bonded community. But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil made the humans aware of the only point of need in paradise—God. 

“Don’t eat of this tree, lest you die,” God commanded (Genesis 2:17). Here was the one point in the garden where humanity faced two pointed questions: Do you trust God? And will you choose God’s way to wholeness? The answer would reveal the presence or lack of their love for God.

Ish and Ishshah, the man and woman, chose their own way to peace and forfeited shalom. They ate and, in the doing, revealed a lack of love for God. Love requires trust. Instead, they received what humanity’s peace strategies are able to garner: domination, rape, exploitation, neglect, isolation and separation.

Our identity is human—ones created in the full image of God—ones with the capacity to exercise agency in and over our lives and our bodies and our hearts and our bank accounts.

I grabbed at my own peace through physical padding and social isolation. Layers of fat encircled me; muting my inner wail and buffering me from further disappointment. I also immersed myself in mostly white spiritual communities and committed to celibacy before marriage. There, I would be utterly safe. No one would transgress the boundaries of my body in that space—they wouldn’t want my body at all. And they didn’t. And now, at 51, single and without children of my own, I close my eyes and breathe.

I breathe in and catch the rhythm of generations of women in my family. We were all abused in some way—dominated sexually, physically, emotionally. Like so many Black women we carry the scars of white patriarchy passed down through Black and White men. But our identity is not “victim.” Our identity is human—ones created in the full image of God—ones with the capacity to exercise agency in and over our lives and our bodies and our hearts and our bank accounts. As humans we can let God heal our traumatized minds through therapy and our broken hearts through healing prayer. We can carry our tears to our friends and ask them to help us hold them. And we can give oppression the side-eye as we stand full into our broad hips and sway to the rhythm of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and join Toni Morrison’s Baby Suggs, the great Black ancestor who lived through hundreds of years of slavery and called the women to The Clearing—that place where never married and married and use-to-be-married Black women go to be healed by God and each other.   

And in the Clearing, holding hands, we find a shadow of shalom in this ransacked world. We find connection—to God, to self, to each other and to the earth. And we find our power to choose to heal and live and laugh and lean into God’s bosom…and feel shalom.

Shalom is about the radical wellness of all and between all.
How do Black women hold their broken hearts--untouched by the intimacy of marriage? And how do we find peace in the midst of the longing?
Our identity is human—ones created in the full image of God—ones with the capacity to exercise agency in and over our lives and our bodies and our hearts and our bank accounts.
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by Mondo Scott
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Peace in Our Bodies

K.J. Ramsey

K.J. Ramsey (BA, Covenant College; MA, Denver Seminary) is a licensed professional counselor, writer, and recovering idealist who believes sorrow and joy coexist. She is the author of This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers, and her writing has been published in Christianity Today, RELEVANT, The Huffington Post, Fathom Magazine, Health Central, and more on the integration of theology, psychology, and spiritual formation. She and her husband live in Denver, Colorado. Follow K.J.'s writing at kjramsey.com and across social media at @kjramseywrites.

I decided to self-quarantine before most people in my community did. The immunotherapy and chemotherapy that keep my immune system from ravaging my body’s own tissues also makes me vulnerable to infections in ways most people aren’t. Usually I can live strong and solid, keeping the pain of my differences fairly quiet on the well-managed sidelines of doctor’s visits, infusion suites, and the bathtub where I soak away my stubborn pain. But sometimes my vulnerability has to sit in the center of my story.

A couple years ago, I was sick from infections for five whole months. So, while my neighbors were saying the coronavirus wasn’t that big of a deal, I was haunted by the memory of not being able to sit up in bed and almost losing my job when pneumonia commandeered my lungs for months on end. The pandemic quickly forced me to reckon with the reality that my body is much more vulnerable than most. Exile is better than extinction. So, I cancelled work trips and hunkered down for the long haul of honoring the vulnerable body I have more than the vibrant dreams I had for this season.

At first, I felt like this was unique. And then I saw photos of mobile morgues in New York City. I saw the tears of a friend whose husband lost his job after they had just started hoping their life would improve. I saw the homeless grief of a friend who lost his aunt to COVID and couldn’t even hug his uncle. We are all living in stories suffused with suffering in bodies bound by fragility. We are all reckoning with the reality of the vulnerability at the center of our stories.

How do we make peace with our bodies and stories? How do we encounter and extend the all-embracing shalom of God in bodies buzzing with anxiety and stories stuck in loops of loss? 

The Word Spoke Into the Silence

We want a God who rescues us from fragility, but first we need the God who willingly acquired it. The only way to make peace with our fragile bodies and fallow stories is to find, here and now, again and again, the God who chose a body that would groan, cry, and die. 

Jesus walked this earth in a body that had to grow from infancy to adulthood (Luke 2:40, 52). He felt the heat of the sun and the sting of death, weeping at his friend Lazarus’ grave (John 11). As he walked toward Calvary, he wrestled with God with such anguish that his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). And having relinquished his will for relief, he descended to the deep end of every human life—death (Matthew 27). Christ assumed every aspect of human life so that we might receive every inch of God’s love.

Ours is not a God who explains himself, but the God who speaks into the silence of suffering with his own Son. The Word made flesh breaks the violent silence of human suffering by offering his own vulnerability as the center of the human story.

The Word Still Speaks

We often want a dramatic escape from the exile of pandemic, but we need a deeper memory than these painful months, a shelter for our stories in the sweeping, mystifying, confounding, liberating story of the people of God. 

When harm happens, we are often silenced by the senselessness of our suffering. Trauma steals our tongues. As Walter Brueggemann says, “the taproot of violence is surely silence,” of our voices being so shut down and shut out that we no longer have any say in the future of our stories. Our lack of control to protect ourselves from pain and shield our families from suffering silences our souls. We want words that make our wishes for control and comfort come true, but we need speech that names the way our stories sometimes seem to silence us. Speech that names where we are instead of wishing it away.

However, the gospel of peace is not the good news of American triumphalism. Trying harder to triumph over our troubles is a script of scarcity. We need a story that stretches past striving, one that speaks into the silence of the senselessness of suffering with honesty, holiness, and hope.

We need the memory of the people of God, a story that stretches across the abyss of all of our experiences of abandonment and anguish and gives us permission for our present pain to be both spoken and soothed. We need David’s laments on our lips and Jeremiah’s boldness in our bones. Our story is theirs. We need Jesus’ whole story in the whole of our weakness, making our mouths say what we most fear, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34) We get to cry to God, “Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days? (Lamentations 5:20). The story of the people of God is a story that holds the horror of God’s abandonment and the harm of being enslaved and exiled. Honesty does not preclude hope; it forms it.

It is from this deep memory of darkness that we can learn to speak honestly and hopefully into the silence of the present darkness shrouding our stories. As we look in the story of Scripture alongside our stories, we begin to see Christ standing with us in our stories, uttering speech that creates light. 

We want to understand why our stories include suffering and why our bodies are bound by vulnerability. So, like the first humans, we reach for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But that knowledge is too big for our bodies to hold. Peace with our bodies and our stories is not the fruit of figuring out the purpose in our pain. It is found in encountering the Speech that breaks the silence of our stories is already with us. Peace is remembered and received in abiding in the Vine of Jesus in the soil of our stories. He himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Rather than making sense of the senseless, Christ’s story of humanness, groaning, tears, and honest cries summons us to re-narrate our stories with willingness to be both honest and here. Peace surpasses understanding, because it is a Presence pulling us into a bigger story not a solution to the problems we fear (Philippians 4:7). 

Peace is never found in pushing past our present circumstances. Rather, it is found in fully inhabiting the present, because God has chosen to dwell here in me in this body and this story (1 Corinthians 6:19). The philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote, “Shalom is the human being dwelling at peace in all of his or her relationships—with God, with self, with fellows, with nature.” In Christ, I am already at peace with God. 

Make Space for a Silence that Speaks

Making peace with our bodies and stories requires situating ourselves in the story where this is already true and habituating our hearts to be soothed by a silence that calms our minds in their anxious anguish to make sense of the senseless. 

Shalom stretches into my story in the quiet hospitality of my heart to welcome the Word that already spoke into the silence of all human suffering. The irony of the violent silencing that severs us from shalom is that it is noisy. We grow in our capacity to hear, tell, and speak the story of shalom as we learn to welcome Christ in the silence of prayer that doesn’t merely plead away our problems but sits with God’s presence in them. 

Actual time sitting in silence, welcoming the presence of Christ that is already here is what makes peace palpable. During the dark days of this pandemic, my husband and I have welcomed Christ’s presence by making space for both silence and sorrow in nightly vigil. While denial or despair tempt us to escape where we are, we light instead candles of honesty and hope. We sit with the God who spoke the world into being, the God who seems to have abandoned her now, and the God who spoke into the world’s great silence with his Son. Our ten minutes of silence give speech to the story we are living by holding the honesty of the harm we see alongside the hope that God hears us. We situate ourselves in the story of God in a silence that helps us remember the Word is with us. 

We want a faith that vaults over vulnerability, but Christ himself made vulnerability the center of his story, so that every place of weakness can be a place of his presence. Here, in our exile, we can stand with deep memory and sturdy hope—with lament on our lips, abandonment acknowledged, and a Word that makes every space we have been silenced a song of love.

From the silent places of sorrow, I remember Peace himself lives in my story and body, uniting me to a power past my perception and life that lifts my languishing. We embrace the peace of God in every part of our stories and bodies not by triumphing or transcending our troubles but traversing them with courage that Christ himself takes every step with us and in us.

I decided to self-quarantine before most people in my community did. The immunotherapy and chemotherapy that keep my immune system from ravaging my body’s own tissues also makes me vulnerable to infections in ways most people aren’t. Usually I can live strong and solid, keeping the pain of my differences fairly quiet on the well-managed sidelines of doctor’s visits, infusion suites, and the bathtub where I soak away my stubborn pain. But sometimes my vulnerability has to sit in the center of my story.

A couple years ago, I was sick from infections for five whole months. So, while my neighbors were saying the coronavirus wasn’t that big of a deal, I was haunted by the memory of not being able to sit up in bed and almost losing my job when pneumonia commandeered my lungs for months on end. The pandemic quickly forced me to reckon with the reality that my body is much more vulnerable than most. Exile is better than extinction. So, I cancelled work trips and hunkered down for the long haul of honoring the vulnerable body I have more than the vibrant dreams I had for this season.

At first, I felt like this was unique. And then I saw photos of mobile morgues in New York City. I saw the tears of a friend whose husband lost his job after they had just started hoping their life would improve. I saw the homeless grief of a friend who lost his aunt to COVID and couldn’t even hug his uncle. We are all living in stories suffused with suffering in bodies bound by fragility. We are all reckoning with the reality of the vulnerability at the center of our stories.

How do we make peace with our bodies and stories? How do we encounter and extend the all-embracing shalom of God in bodies buzzing with anxiety and stories stuck in loops of loss? 

The Word Spoke Into the Silence

We want a God who rescues us from fragility, but first we need the God who willingly acquired it. The only way to make peace with our fragile bodies and fallow stories is to find, here and now, again and again, the God who chose a body that would groan, cry, and die. 

Jesus walked this earth in a body that had to grow from infancy to adulthood (Luke 2:40, 52). He felt the heat of the sun and the sting of death, weeping at his friend Lazarus’ grave (John 11). As he walked toward Calvary, he wrestled with God with such anguish that his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). And having relinquished his will for relief, he descended to the deep end of every human life—death (Matthew 27). Christ assumed every aspect of human life so that we might receive every inch of God’s love.

Ours is not a God who explains himself, but the God who speaks into the silence of suffering with his own Son. The Word made flesh breaks the violent silence of human suffering by offering his own vulnerability as the center of the human story.

We want a God who rescues us from fragility, but first we need the God who willingly acquired it. The only way to make peace with our fragile bodies and fallow stories is to find, here and now, again and again, the God who chose a body that would groan, cry, and die.

The Word Still Speaks

We often want a dramatic escape from the exile of pandemic, but we need a deeper memory than these painful months, a shelter for our stories in the sweeping, mystifying, confounding, liberating story of the people of God. 

When harm happens, we are often silenced by the senselessness of our suffering. Trauma steals our tongues. As Walter Brueggemann says, “the taproot of violence is surely silence,” of our voices being so shut down and shut out that we no longer have any say in the future of our stories. Our lack of control to protect ourselves from pain and shield our families from suffering silences our souls. We want words that make our wishes for control and comfort come true, but we need speech that names the way our stories sometimes seem to silence us. Speech that names where we are instead of wishing it away.

However, the gospel of peace is not the good news of American triumphalism. Trying harder to triumph over our troubles is a script of scarcity. We need a story that stretches past striving, one that speaks into the silence of the senselessness of suffering with honesty, holiness, and hope.

We need the memory of the people of God, a story that stretches across the abyss of all of our experiences of abandonment and anguish and gives us permission for our present pain to be both spoken and soothed. We need David’s laments on our lips and Jeremiah’s boldness in our bones. Our story is theirs. We need Jesus’ whole story in the whole of our weakness, making our mouths say what we most fear, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34) We get to cry to God, “Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days? (Lamentations 5:20). The story of the people of God is a story that holds the horror of God’s abandonment and the harm of being enslaved and exiled. Honesty does not preclude hope; it forms it.

We need a story that stretches past striving, one that speaks into the silence of the senselessness of suffering with honesty, holiness, and hope.

It is from this deep memory of darkness that we can learn to speak honestly and hopefully into the silence of the present darkness shrouding our stories. As we look in the story of Scripture alongside our stories, we begin to see Christ standing with us in our stories, uttering speech that creates light. 

We want to understand why our stories include suffering and why our bodies are bound by vulnerability. So, like the first humans, we reach for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But that knowledge is too big for our bodies to hold. Peace with our bodies and our stories is not the fruit of figuring out the purpose in our pain. It is found in encountering the Speech that breaks the silence of our stories is already with us. Peace is remembered and received in abiding in the Vine of Jesus in the soil of our stories. He himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Rather than making sense of the senseless, Christ’s story of humanness, groaning, tears, and honest cries summons us to re-narrate our stories with willingness to be both honest and here. Peace surpasses understanding, because it is a Presence pulling us into a bigger story not a solution to the problems we fear (Philippians 4:7). 

Peace is never found in pushing past our present circumstances. Rather, it is found in fully inhabiting the present, because God has chosen to dwell here in me in this body and this story (1 Corinthians 6:19). The philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote, “Shalom is the human being dwelling at peace in all of his or her relationships—with God, with self, with fellows, with nature.” In Christ, I am already at peace with God. 

Make Space for a Silence that Speaks

Making peace with our bodies and stories requires situating ourselves in the story where this is already true and habituating our hearts to be soothed by a silence that calms our minds in their anxious anguish to make sense of the senseless. 

Shalom stretches into my story in the quiet hospitality of my heart to welcome the Word that already spoke into the silence of all human suffering. The irony of the violent silencing that severs us from shalom is that it is noisy. We grow in our capacity to hear, tell, and speak the story of shalom as we learn to welcome Christ in the silence of prayer that doesn’t merely plead away our problems but sits with God’s presence in them. 

Rather than making sense of the senseless, Christ’s story of humanness, groaning, tears, and honest cries summons us to re-narrate our stories with willingness to be both honest and here.

Actual time sitting in silence, welcoming the presence of Christ that is already here is what makes peace palpable. During the dark days of this pandemic, my husband and I have welcomed Christ’s presence by making space for both silence and sorrow in nightly vigil. While denial or despair tempt us to escape where we are, we light instead candles of honesty and hope. We sit with the God who spoke the world into being, the God who seems to have abandoned her now, and the God who spoke into the world’s great silence with his Son. Our ten minutes of silence give speech to the story we are living by holding the honesty of the harm we see alongside the hope that God hears us. We situate ourselves in the story of God in a silence that helps us remember the Word is with us. 

We want a faith that vaults over vulnerability, but Christ himself made vulnerability the center of his story, so that every place of weakness can be a place of his presence. Here, in our exile, we can stand with deep memory and sturdy hope—with lament on our lips, abandonment acknowledged, and a Word that makes every space we have been silenced a song of love.

From the silent places of sorrow, I remember Peace himself lives in my story and body, uniting me to a power past my perception and life that lifts my languishing. We embrace the peace of God in every part of our stories and bodies not by triumphing or transcending our troubles but traversing them with courage that Christ himself takes every step with us and in us.

How do we make peace with our bodies and stories? How do we encounter and extend the all-embracing shalom of God in bodies buzzing with anxiety and stories stuck in loops of loss? 
We want a God who rescues us from fragility, but first we need the God who willingly acquired it. The only way to make peace with our fragile bodies and fallow stories is to find, here and now, again and again, the God who chose a body that would groan, cry, and die.
We need a story that stretches past striving, one that speaks into the silence of the senselessness of suffering with honesty, holiness, and hope.
We need a story that stretches past striving, one that speaks into the silence of the senselessness of suffering with honesty, holiness, and hope.
Rather than making sense of the senseless, Christ’s story of humanness, groaning, tears, and honest cries summons us to re-narrate our stories with willingness to be both honest and here.
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by Mondo Scott
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The Listening Peacemaker

Osheta Moore

Osheta Moore, PAX's Spiritual Director, is a podcaster, blogger, and everyday peacemaker. She serves as Outreach and Teaching Pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and Community Life Pastor at Roots Covenant. Osheta is the author of Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World (Herald, 2017) and Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace (Herald, forthcoming).

My seventeen-year-old son was on his walk home from school in our middle-class neighborhood when a police officer slowed down and tailed him and his two friends. His friends, one black and the other white, nervously chuckled and joked that if they got stopped only one of them would end up dead.  It wasn’t my biracial son. It wasn’t the white boy.  It was the black child, the third friend, who has sat around my table too many times to count.  

Black and brown families live in a certain type of hell in America because of racism. When my son’s first response to me, if I check my phone for texts at a stop light is, “Put your phone away, Mama.  If a cop sees you-he’ll shoot you”, the world is surely broken. He’s concerned for me. My brown child worries for his black mother. I too have had to warn him to similarly mind his manners, to avoid the bias of a police officer, to please, please, please do anything he can to make it home safely.  

It’s hell on earth to worry that my son may not be safe and it’s all my fault.  It’s my African American DNA and a heritage of terror that leaves a mantle of hateful prejudices upon his shoulders. 

Sometimes, I feel like the Israelite mamas in the book of Exodus, who begged their midwives to lie to the Pharaoh that they had a girl instead of a boy. I wish I could fashion a basket of tar and pitch and send my babies someplace safer, better, more just.  Because this story of oppression has woven into their psyche like a never-ending, unsettling bedtime story.  They, no we, can’t find our rest, so we toss and turn under this blanket of racism.

Choosing Shalom

When I begin spinning out about racism and the brokenness of the world, it’s really hard to stop and focus all that anxious energy.  But one thing, one calling, one truth in Scripture always gives me clarity: shalom.  

Shalom is us doing our part in small, intentional, ways to help make the world as it should be with nothing broken, nothing missing, and everything made whole. In the words of Walter Brueggemann shalom is a “persistent vision of joy, well-being, harmony, and prosperity;” it’s a vision with “many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness.”

Shalom. The Hebrew word often translated as “peace” in the Bible is God’s dream for the world as it should be: whole, vibrant, flourishing, unified, and, yes, at peace. Shalom is God’s dream for his love to bring wholeness and goodness to the world and everything within it, including you and me. And this includes dreams of wholeness and reconciliation for every person affected by racism. God has made a way for us to be at peace with each other.

Called To Be Peacemakers

After my son and I processed his walk home from the community center, I sat with my Bible, looking for guidance from God on how to be a peacemaker, even though  honestly I just wanted to smash things and cry. And I did find peace.  I found hope, encouragement, and calling as I read the book of Exodus.

I’ve always loved the story of the burning bush in Exodus 3. I love the calling of a normal, flawed, insecure man to partner with God to redeem his community.  

I love the mystery of a burning bush and the nature of Emmanuel, God with us, showing up on earth to commission his servant to action when people are suffering.  

I love the wisdom of God that there will be some obstacles towards freedom, but nevertheless, he is present and will respond on their behalf.    

I loved it when I was a little girl in Sunday School, making  fire with bright orange and red construction paper to remember this story, and I love it as a mama with my kids curled up on our couch while watching ” The Prince of Egypt.”

When we know we are called to be peacemakers in the midst of brokenness, we can learn a lot from Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. 

Moses’ humility in Exodus 3:11, when he acknowledges that he’s just human, is inspiring.  I wonder if I could do well to access my own humility when I’m moved to action against racism. Would humility remind me of my humanity, my flaws, and my good intentions that don’t always pan out? Could I look at my white brothers and sisters with renewed love if I first access humility?  Peacemakers who lack humility often hurt more than heal. 

I’m amazed at God’s anger towards Moses when that humility turns to insecurity and he drags his feet to avoid his calling to be a peacemaker for the brokenhearted. It tells me that injustice angers God and seeing his people restored is serious business. If God intends to empower us to express that fully on the face of this earth, we’ve got to get to work and stop doubting our unique capacity to create shalom around us. 

I’m also grateful that while the bush burns, it’s not consumed. It’s like God is communicating to us, who are sweltering under oppression, that we will find respite, and when we put ourselves into the fire, we will not be consumed either.  The place where we stand and the work we are doing is holy.

I trust that when I don’t have the right words, God will teach me what to say.

Learning to Listen

It’s also fascinating that before God calls Moses - this impulsive, idealistic, young man whose first action in response to injustice against his people ended in murder - to seek justice for his people, he first leads him to the desert and to the profession of a Shepard.

Margaret Feinberg’s “Scouting the Divine” chronicles the time she spent with a shepherdess named Lynne, and, while reading it, I was struck by how well she knew her flock.  She knew their bleats and they knew her voice.  Lynne perfected the art of listening to her charge, just as Moses must have. 

I wonder if God is leading us to a similar approach.  I wonder if the time it takes to listen will be enough to calm anxieties and give us clarity. I wonder if the humility required to listen will build the trust necessary to move forward when we’d rather dig in our heels.

Listening may be one of the most profound and powerful acts of peacemaking we can do today.  And this shouldn’t surprise us because this is who our God is. He’s the Listening God, and he’s asking us to join him in this effort of looking out and seeking reconciliation with open minds, generous hearts, and few words.

I’m listening, white friends, who don’t know how to respond, and I’m sorry you feel overwhelmed. Seek to the Lord, ask him to direct you to one person of color who needs genuine compassion and listen well.

I’m listening, fellow mamas of color, who are terrified for our children and feel isolated in our anger. I’m sorry our children have to learn courage under literal fire.  Let’s cry out with confidence that God is listening and sending us the hands of our sisters to hold. I’m praying our children’s hearts will be full of Christ’s perfect love to minster to their fear and ours.

I’m listening, Christians, who don’t want to acknowledge racism. I’m sorry it’s unsettling to look this darkness in the face, but Jesus looked darkness in the face for you.  In his very body, he suffered pain and abuse to express your great value to God.  In light of this, can you look racism in the face by listening to me and millions of black and brown women when we cry out? When we’re constantly unsettled by the devaluation of the bodies of our black and brown boys, men, fathers, and brothers?  Will you ask God what you should do with such a precious gift?

I‘m listening,  black boys walking home from the community center, nervously joking about dying at the hands of a police officer.  Oh little lambs, I’m sorry and I wish I could gather you all in my arms. They are small and feeble, but they are yours for the holding.  I’ll try to protect you as best as I can.

I’m listening, Lord, and I’m sorry for letting my fear, my pride, and my anger drown out your voice.  Let your words burn within me and let it consume the darkness in my soul, leaving me ready to go and do your will, ready to let your wonders transform the world.  I am your child, Listening God, help me listen well.

Jesus often punctuated his teaching with a line for the listeners, the timid peacemakers in the audience, “those who have ears, let them hear.” When we want to create peace around us, let us have ears to hear.

My seventeen-year-old son was on his walk home from school in our middle-class neighborhood when a police officer slowed down and tailed him and his two friends. His friends, one black and the other white, nervously chuckled and joked that if they got stopped only one of them would end up dead.  It wasn’t my biracial son. It wasn’t the white boy.  It was the black child, the third friend, who has sat around my table too many times to count.  

Black and brown families live in a certain type of hell in America because of racism. When my son’s first response to me, if I check my phone for texts at a stop light is, “Put your phone away, Mama.  If a cop sees you-he’ll shoot you”, the world is surely broken. He’s concerned for me. My brown child worries for his black mother. I too have had to warn him to similarly mind his manners, to avoid the bias of a police officer, to please, please, please do anything he can to make it home safely.  

It’s hell on earth to worry that my son may not be safe and it’s all my fault.  It’s my African American DNA and a heritage of terror that leaves a mantle of hateful prejudices upon his shoulders. 

Sometimes, I feel like the Israelite mamas in the book of Exodus, who begged their midwives to lie to the Pharaoh that they had a girl instead of a boy. I wish I could fashion a basket of tar and pitch and send my babies someplace safer, better, more just.  Because this story of oppression has woven into their psyche like a never-ending, unsettling bedtime story.  They, no we, can’t find our rest, so we toss and turn under this blanket of racism.

Shalom is us doing our part in small, intentional, ways to help make the world as it should be with nothing broken, nothing missing, and everything made whole.

Choosing Shalom

When I begin spinning out about racism and the brokenness of the world, it’s really hard to stop and focus all that anxious energy.  But one thing, one calling, one truth in Scripture always gives me clarity: shalom.  

Shalom is us doing our part in small, intentional, ways to help make the world as it should be with nothing broken, nothing missing, and everything made whole. In the words of Walter Brueggemann shalom is a “persistent vision of joy, well-being, harmony, and prosperity;” it’s a vision with “many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness.”

Shalom. The Hebrew word often translated as “peace” in the Bible is God’s dream for the world as it should be: whole, vibrant, flourishing, unified, and, yes, at peace. Shalom is God’s dream for his love to bring wholeness and goodness to the world and everything within it, including you and me. And this includes dreams of wholeness and reconciliation for every person affected by racism. God has made a way for us to be at peace with each other.

Peacemakers who lack humility often hurt more than heal.

Called To Be Peacemakers

After my son and I processed his walk home from the community center, I sat with my Bible, looking for guidance from God on how to be a peacemaker, even though  honestly I just wanted to smash things and cry. And I did find peace.  I found hope, encouragement, and calling as I read the book of Exodus.

I’ve always loved the story of the burning bush in Exodus 3. I love the calling of a normal, flawed, insecure man to partner with God to redeem his community.  

I love the mystery of a burning bush and the nature of Emmanuel, God with us, showing up on earth to commission his servant to action when people are suffering.  

I love the wisdom of God that there will be some obstacles towards freedom, but nevertheless, he is present and will respond on their behalf.    

I loved it when I was a little girl in Sunday School, making  fire with bright orange and red construction paper to remember this story, and I love it as a mama with my kids curled up on our couch while watching ” The Prince of Egypt.”

When we know we are called to be peacemakers in the midst of brokenness, we can learn a lot from Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. 

Moses’ humility in Exodus 3:11, when he acknowledges that he’s just human, is inspiring.  I wonder if I could do well to access my own humility when I’m moved to action against racism. Would humility remind me of my humanity, my flaws, and my good intentions that don’t always pan out? Could I look at my white brothers and sisters with renewed love if I first access humility?  Peacemakers who lack humility often hurt more than heal. 

I’m amazed at God’s anger towards Moses when that humility turns to insecurity and he drags his feet to avoid his calling to be a peacemaker for the brokenhearted. It tells me that injustice angers God and seeing his people restored is serious business. If God intends to empower us to express that fully on the face of this earth, we’ve got to get to work and stop doubting our unique capacity to create shalom around us. 

I’m also grateful that while the bush burns, it’s not consumed. It’s like God is communicating to us, who are sweltering under oppression, that we will find respite, and when we put ourselves into the fire, we will not be consumed either.  The place where we stand and the work we are doing is holy.

I trust that when I don’t have the right words, God will teach me what to say.

Listening may be one of the most profound and powerful acts of peacemaking we can do today.

Learning to Listen

It’s also fascinating that before God calls Moses - this impulsive, idealistic, young man whose first action in response to injustice against his people ended in murder - to seek justice for his people, he first leads him to the desert and to the profession of a Shepard.

Margaret Feinberg’s “Scouting the Divine” chronicles the time she spent with a shepherdess named Lynne, and, while reading it, I was struck by how well she knew her flock.  She knew their bleats and they knew her voice.  Lynne perfected the art of listening to her charge, just as Moses must have. 

I wonder if God is leading us to a similar approach.  I wonder if the time it takes to listen will be enough to calm anxieties and give us clarity. I wonder if the humility required to listen will build the trust necessary to move forward when we’d rather dig in our heels.

Listening may be one of the most profound and powerful acts of peacemaking we can do today.  And this shouldn’t surprise us because this is who our God is. He’s the Listening God, and he’s asking us to join him in this effort of looking out and seeking reconciliation with open minds, generous hearts, and few words.

I’m listening, white friends, who don’t know how to respond, and I’m sorry you feel overwhelmed. Seek to the Lord, ask him to direct you to one person of color who needs genuine compassion and listen well.

I’m listening, fellow mamas of color, who are terrified for our children and feel isolated in our anger. I’m sorry our children have to learn courage under literal fire.  Let’s cry out with confidence that God is listening and sending us the hands of our sisters to hold. I’m praying our children’s hearts will be full of Christ’s perfect love to minster to their fear and ours.

I’m listening, Christians, who don’t want to acknowledge racism. I’m sorry it’s unsettling to look this darkness in the face, but Jesus looked darkness in the face for you.  In his very body, he suffered pain and abuse to express your great value to God.  In light of this, can you look racism in the face by listening to me and millions of black and brown women when we cry out? When we’re constantly unsettled by the devaluation of the bodies of our black and brown boys, men, fathers, and brothers?  Will you ask God what you should do with such a precious gift?

I‘m listening,  black boys walking home from the community center, nervously joking about dying at the hands of a police officer.  Oh little lambs, I’m sorry and I wish I could gather you all in my arms. They are small and feeble, but they are yours for the holding.  I’ll try to protect you as best as I can.

I’m listening, Lord, and I’m sorry for letting my fear, my pride, and my anger drown out your voice.  Let your words burn within me and let it consume the darkness in my soul, leaving me ready to go and do your will, ready to let your wonders transform the world.  I am your child, Listening God, help me listen well.

Jesus often punctuated his teaching with a line for the listeners, the timid peacemakers in the audience, “those who have ears, let them hear.” When we want to create peace around us, let us have ears to hear.

Shalom is us doing our part in small, intentional, ways to help make the world as it should be with nothing broken, nothing missing, and everything made whole.
Peacemakers who lack humility often hurt more than heal.
Listening may be one of the most profound and powerful acts of peacemaking we can do today.
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