#WhatADoctorLooksLike

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167 reactions. 109 comments. 109 comments! It’s quite a response for a woman’s mid-day, quick Facebook post at work.

She could have referenced an experience from a college class she teaches. Or what it was like to be the speaker at a Breast Cancer Awareness Tea. Or treating patients here in St. Louis. Or how she goes about mentoring medical students. Or her recent submission for the medical column of a local paper. Or her fairly recent, annual medical missions trip to Malawi.

But no. Dr. Hooks-Anderson didn’t pause to tell her Facebook friends about good news. Instead, she wrote:

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Dr. Hooks-Anderson is African American. And despite all she has accomplished and how much she is respected, this was still her reality on Tuesday.

What do you say? No, really — what do you say when you’re white?

I first met Denise when she and her husband applied to our school for their daughter. The Director of Admissions at the time, I asked to hear their story of why they wanted to send their little girl to our community. I should have asked them why they trusted us to educate and care for their daughter.

When I read Denise’s post on Tuesday, I wasn’t yet aware of the Delta story. But I’m aware now as I’ve viewed countless #WhatADoctorLooksLike posts swirling around social media. I hope more swirl around and take the world by storm…

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…Because when it rains, we pay attention. When it storms, we pause and plan before going about our normal routines. We’re more prone to contemplation when the world shields itself from torrents and the weather has halted our plans. We’re less distracted. We’re more focused.

Sometimes we think a little too much, but maybe that’s not a bad thing in this case. For eventually in our pausing and contemplation, we realize it’s not so much about what we think about bias and stereotyping but how our thoughts materialize into behavior.

What do we find when we pause and bravely engage in self-reflection? What is there to discover when we examine our own hearts?  What makes us assume something about a person before introducing ourselves?

Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am.
    Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain.
Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me,
    and guide me down Your path forever. Psalm 139:23-24

While intentional steps are needed to move forward in combating our bias, it’s worth pausing and figuring out what got us here. What’s your story? What were you not told in childhood textbooks? What images were missing in articles you read throughout high school and college? Sometimes what’s missing from the narrative imprints our hearts as much as the noise.

Self-exploration and deep digging and discovery are uncomfortable. But growth is always preceded by discomfort.

We’re a culture that wants to say and do something. Maybe our doing is listening as God reads our hearts back to us. We’ll cringe. We’ll deny. We’ll make excuses and point to those who are “worse” than us. But eventually, soaked with God’s grace and tenderness, we’ll shake our heads in shame and boldly surrender to the truth.

 Like a devoted gardener, I will pour sweet water on parched land,
        streams on hard-packed ground;
 I will pour My spirit on your children and grandchildren—
        and let My blessing flow to your descendants.
And they will sprout among the grasses, grow vibrant and tall

        like the willow trees lining a riverbank.
One will call out: “I belong to the Eternal.” Isaiah 44:3-5

He comes every time. The Devoted Gardner comes and restores and then invites us to join Him in the restoring. He transforms the storm we once feared into cisterns of self-discovery and streams of humility. He pours out His Spirit and grows us up into change-agents whose love is a reflection of His own love for mankind.

Might we say, “I belong to the Lord” and have people believe us.

So what does a doctor look like? One of them looks like this:

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photo source | mario calvo

Race, Culture, and the Church

(Happy to be writing over at the new blog of Greentree Community Church today. The original post is published there.)

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Jesus’ human lineage teaches us that the unconditional love of God is limitless and without prejudice. – Tom Ricks

“Some of us in the 5th Grade Sunday School class think the new Greentree logo looks broken,” my eleven year-old daughter confessed as we walked out of church May 16.

We were walking to our car, and we were excited to dig in, branch out, and live it up. We could sense the enthusiasm of the Greentree staff that morning. Yes, after almost twenty years, God is still working at Greentree. And our leaders are responding to an ever-changing culture and community, seeking to be relevant within Saint Louis.

“It does look broken,” my husband agreed. “And that’s perfect, don’t you think? Brokenness is a theme here at Greentree. Really, it’s a theme of the Gospel. I’m glad we’re at a church that admits we’re broken and need a Savior.”

My mind went to my own interpretation of the logo and my love for the different shades of green displayed. Is God calling us to more? I wondered. Could He be challenging us to get comfortable with diversity within Greentree Community Church?

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And I couldn’t ignore it — the brokenness and the cross, well, they were right there in the middle of diversity. I see it every time I look at the new logo. I can’t help it.

We serve a God who is in love with diversity. He created it. He decorated the earth with over 23,000 types of trees. We know there’s at least 15,000 species of fish in the sea and the list keeps growing. There’s countless variances in mountain ranges spanning the globe. Our Maker intentionally fashioned a dwelling place for people that bursts forth with variance in the natural world. And in the human race.

But it’s been quite a year here in Saint Louis, yes? Painful experiences untold for years are finally surfacing around dinner tables and locker rooms and office cubicles, and I hope, churches. Have we been too quiet?

Discussions on race and culture usually force us to dance to the rhythms between hurt and healing, resentment and forgiveness, misunderstanding and reconciliation. We’re at a point now where we have to choose our path. Are we going to ignore? Or are we going to walk toward deep self-reflection as it pertains to relationships and living in community? There are our neighbors, and our co-workers, and the family at the pool, and yes, even our relatives. Some of them look like us and some don’t. Sin has stained our country’s history and we’re still sorting through the fragments. It’s uncomfortable. It’s our reality. It’s necessary.

“Jesus’ human lineage teaches us that the unconditional love of God is limitless and without prejudice,” challenged Tom Ricks as we explored our spiritual family tree last Advent season. Our counter-cultural God — He woos me out of judgements and man-made religion.

Can you see our spiritual ancestors — the murderer, the adulterer, the prostitute, the forgotten — all in desperate need of a Rescuer? Can you see God choosing people with heaps of baggage? Can you see Him bringing together diverse people taught to hate and mistrust one another as He writes His Rescue Story for generations to come?

The Gospel message, well, it’s different than what we’ve sometimes made church out to be. The Gospel extends beyond masks of perfection, beyond man-made neighborhoods still segregated by race and class, beyond our enslavement to what others think of us. God intentionally wove people into His ancestry whose aches left them longing for the cross.

Are you aching, too? Join us then.

On Saturday, June 6, we’d love to have you at Greentree’s forum “Kirkwood, Race, and the Church”. We’ll gather at 6pm in the North Kirkwood Middle School cafeteria, 11287 Manchester Road, 63122. Together we’ll choose to not look away, avoid conversation, or isolate ourselves. Together we’ll simply listen. We don’t know what we don’t know. The panel will even include a few African Americans who’ve been asked to reveal their experiences of living in Kirkwood and Saint Louis. How can we better engage with those who have different cultural experiences? How can we live intentionally? We’re thankful for all the panelists who have graciously agreed to share their stories with us.

When You Want Your Life to Mean Something (Dr King’s Last Sermon)

Dr. Martin Luther King., with son Dexter, Atlanta, 1964
“… And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

…By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant…” Martin Luther King, Jr., “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, 1968

This weekend I’ll watch King’s “I Have a Dream” until tears spill from my eyes. It happens almost every year.

There are his speaking skills and his commitment to nudge the world and his ability to get off his couch and do something. Justice and equity. Truth. I’ll celebrate progress with you, and I’ll weep with you, too, over how far we have to go.

We want to advocate and uncover and impact our generation just like King, right? We want our lives to matter, too. But this man’s identity was grounded in something deeper than being a change-agent. King embraced the messiness of being like his Redeemer. He focused his gaze on the Servant King who descended into the fragments, stripped Himself of glory, and started washing feet. 

While shouting equity he challenged his followers to whisper humility. So counter-cultural that Martin was… more counter-cultural than I ever realized.

While thousands were holding out their hands in hope, King challenged them to look beyond their oppression and bravely study their own hearts… is it even possible? This last sermon he preached would have touched us today because we all have an insatiable desire to be important. We all crave significance.

King dared them to live their lives differently. Can you abandon living beyond your means? he asked. Can you stop name-dropping? Can you resist the need to be known, the need so powerful it can change your personality? Yeah, he hit the big ones.

He must not have been a people-pleaser.

The ache is still here in the 21st century – the ache to be known and valued and recognized. I stand here today wondering how to navigate it all — making a difference, generating awareness, drawing attention, self-promotion. I’ve been on that downward spiral. Maybe you have, too.

Brokenness weaves the lie into our lives, distorting our definitions of greatness. Take it back, King shouts. Take back the God-given hunger to be great by loving others more than yourself. Be radical by humbling yourself. Do something with that drive that has nothing to do with yourself.

And I wonder about all the pages of King’s story we’ll never know… the chapters read only by his close friends and family before the world knew his name. I see him maybe changing his kids’ diapers… or frantically helping his wife tidy their home before guests arrived… or pushing a neighbor kid on the swing. Busy man he was. I can imagine most of his down time was ordinary just like mine. Or was it?

Without Prejudice

“Jesus’ human lineage teaches us that the unconditional love of God is limitless
and without prejudice.” Tom Ricks @gtccmo

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Next week my girl will play Rahab in a Christmas musical. I’m not kidding. Gone are the years of being an angel with a sparkly halo covering her white-blonde hair. Instead, my sweetie is Rahab, the prostitute.

Do you know her story? Take a look. Besides my Rescuer, Rahab just might be my new favorite nativity character…


Her wandering mind — a pathway to her aching heart.  In the daytime while trying to do regular life. At dusk while anticipating another job. In the night when her work seemed to last forever.

Rahab. The prostitute from Jericho. God’s choice to help His people redeem what was once theirs before slavery. “That woman” with an unprotected heart was about to play the role of protector.

(Bear with me, friend. This really is an Advent post.)

Who would have imagined it?! Our counter-cultural God. He woos me out of judgements and man-made religion.

She hears a knock and welcomes two spies from Shittim, the very town where God’s people began to “whore with pagans” years and years before being enslaved in Egypt.  Yes, Moses really did write those words. The Rescue is all the more beautiful when we get honest about our messiness. How absolutely mysterious Joshua chose two men from Shittim — the memory of Israel’s physical and spiritual harlotry — to recapture their hope. Recapture their Promised Land. Recapture their hearts. Again.

Rahab. She had the perfect job for this plan to unfold.  Two men entering her home looked rather commonplace in her doorway.  But her future of redemption and purpose was anything but ordinary.

“We have heard how the Eternal held back the Red Sea,” she admits, “so you could escape from Egypt on dry land … As soon as this news reached us, our hearts melted…  The Eternal One, your God, is truly God of the heavens above and the earth below.” Joshua 2:9-11 Aching for truth Rahab was.  Fashioned for something greater than man’s empty lust, her purpose found her.  Practically stumbled upon her doorstep.

Can you see the woman captured by shame? Can you see the spies — the former slaves — captured by consequences of their ancestor’s mistakes? Can you see the Maker choosing people with heaps of baggage? Can you see Him bringing together diverse people taught to hate and mistrust one another as He writes His Rescue Story for generations to come?

And what a radical ending… The scarlet cord used to lower the spies from her window served as her protection upon their return with an army. Joshua 5 & 6 The rescue tool she provided really saved her. She married an Israeli and bore a son named Boaz… a son who would later be known for his sacrifice and deep commitment and care for an immigrant, one of society’s outcasts.

What a proud mama she must have been! The one who had been given grace saw her adult son extending grace to a foreign outcast. Without prejudice.

It doesn’t get much better than that. But actually, it does…

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:1-16

Yes, next week my daughter will be Rahab in a Christmas musical. You see, generations after Rahab taught her son, Boaz, to love without prejudice, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger. Jesus, the Immanuel, was from the line of Rahab. God With Us was from the human line of a scorned woman redeemed by grace.

The Gospel message, well, it’s different than what we’ve sometimes made church out to be. The Gospel extends beyond masks of perfection, beyond man-made communities still segregated by race and class, beyond our enslavement to what others think of us. God intentionally wove people into His ancestry whose aches led them to choices we hope our children never make.

When tempted to harshly judge others, challenges Darrin Patrick, remember that all of us violate our own convictions with embarrassing regularity. @darrinpatrick

Merry Christmas to you and yours. It feels different this year, doesn’t it? It’s almost as if you have choose to ignore or choose to engage in deep self-reflection.

Examining our own heart feels more like Good Friday and Easter rather than Advent. But the cross is here now, too. And really, it’s our only hope.

Limitless love. Without prejudice. I dare you. I dare me.

photo source

Choosing to Weep

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It’s an interesting Advent season at best, as the call for justice and equity rises above the hope of a silent night. The voices, long unknown by many, have grown loud enough to spill over into unsuspecting homes this December.

Do you hear them? Do you see them?

Weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

The beauty of city streets donned in lights and holiday bliss serves as the backdrop for masses chanting and marching and looking anything but peaceful. The scene clashes over and over. NYC window displays. A Seasons Greetings banner spread over a Ferguson street.

Silent night. Holy night. All is not calm. And all is not bright.

And maybe the chanting hasn’t reached your neighborhood, but do you see the irony that’s all of our story?! We wrap ourselves in beauty this season when God chose to wrap Himself in fallen flesh. We illuminate our homes and garages with lights as He chose to descend into darkness. We spend and buy and party away when He chose to join a mortal family with nothing.

He descended among those oppressed by Roman rule. He saw the victims and fully embraced the Rescue Plan.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14

But there was more, so much more. Their captivity was greater and deeper than even they knew. He descended for those in spiritual oppression whose hearts were aching and longing during that forever Advent. But He descended here for the numb souls, too. He came for those who were never satisfied but didn’t know why. For those who couldn’t name their ache.

Some were captives of their own doing. Some were reaping consequences of their own sin. Some were bound by wounds inflicted from family and neighbors and the system and society at large.

He came to the mess. In fact, the mess was the reason He came. He came to the mess that couldn’t come to Him.

Maybe the chanting and the marching and ache for truth is more like the first Christmas than we’d like to think.

Israel’s call for justice. The heart’s cry to be rescued from a world we weren’t created for.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

And might we strike that balance, too? The balance between grace and truth? Truth and grace?

Weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

Do you hear the voices? Regardless of your interpretations on why there’s weeping, do see a nation suffering?

Give us the courage, Lord, to enter the uncomfortable. 

Come, oh come, Immanuel, and ransom captives… 

 

 

Photo source: Huffington Post