When you can’t take the brokenness any more, this book is for you: Shalom Sistas

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Upon my return from walking our daughter to school, I wanted to go back to bed once I read today’s headlines about Las Vegas. No. Not more death and violence. It is too much. The natural disasters, and tweeting, and no. more.

Except for Shalom.

Shalom, and the fact that I start a new day job tomorrow (gotta pay the bills!), my margin for writing will grow more slim; and I told Osheta Moore in April I would write a review to help launch her first book Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World. Its official release date is tomorrow. So not today, Satan.

Shalom y’all. This concept changed my Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy about a decade ago. And as Osheta begins Chapter Three with a nod to Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a millennial woman in possession of a life verse or a particularly moving quote from, say Rumi or Orprah, will be in want of a way to memorialize it. Top considerations include (1) a blog, (2) a piece of artwork made from reclaimed wood or restored metal, and (3) a tattoo.” I cannot personally claim millennial status as a Gen X’er, and yet this rings so true. (See photo above. Osheta’s wrist tattoo is a dove.)

I first met Osheta through the closed Facebook group for Ambassadors of Noonday Collection a few years ago. She was hilarious, and when she mentioned her blog, Shalom in the City, of course I flew to it because SHALOM. I read about her protest in Ferguson, critical timing for me accepting my privilege and acknowledging the call toward restorative justice in our country. She was honest and vulnerable and her message powerful. I just had to be her friend.

Then she started her podcast last year. Guys, this woman was taking deep theological concepts and weaving it into simple, everyday peacemaking in a way that mirrored the desires of my heart and the ordinariness of my days. Listening to her felt like coming home. I felt a little less outsider, a lot less scared to keep embracing this “third way” of being in the world, and definitely more willing to stay engaged even (especially) through the hard because O does. We have not met face to face, but a Shalom Sista’s bond is steady and sure, albeit shared through technology.

And now, her beautiful new baby book, taking flight…the timing is just really good. Fancy that.

It is 2017 and Shalom Sistas is the message you are hungering for (even for my brothas). Daily we witness and experience our need for a new way of being together in this world. We could settle for the division and hide away in our discouragement, but I think not. I see you, you want to rise. We know it is time for a new framework of beliefs, a more holistic view of ourselves, of God, of each other, and of creation. Rhetoric and rote answers no longer suffice for our experiences of brokenness, and the call to honor the Imago Dei (Image of God) in all. We have outgrown the container handed to us and these growing pangs compel us toward something more.

Enter: Shalom. Could it be that the “new” we are seeking is actually what has been humming in the heart creation for all time? And we just miss it?

Osheta begins her book unpacking the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking:

“And so when you hear shalom, you immediately think it means peace…which isn’t too far off. Except it’s that thinking that had me angry with God and mourning the loss of our ministry for several years after the storm. What I’ve learned since then is that peace is not a thing to achieve. It’s a way of being.

Shalom is a ‘persistent vision of joy, well-being, harmony, and prosperity,’ writes theologian Walter Brueggmann, a vision with ‘many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness.’ Shalom is ‘the freight of a dream of God that resists all our tendencies to divisions, hostility, fear, drivenness, and misery.’

Shalom is more than avoiding conflict or feeling inner calm—although it can include both.

‘We understand peace to be the absence of conflict,’ writes Rob Bell. ‘We talk about peace in the home or in the world or giving peace a chance. But the Hebraic understanding of shalom is far more than just the absence of conflict or strife. Shalom is the presence of the goodness of God. It’s the presence of wholeness, completeness.’

Shalom is the breadth, depth, climate and smell of the kingdom of God. It’s a counter-story, with nothing missing and nothing lost for everyone who reads it. We become peacemakers when we, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, catch glimpses of shalom, and pull our friends to stand in our line of vision so that they too can see the beauty of the kingdom.

Shalom is what happens when the love of God meets our most tender places. Therefore, we can all be peacemakers, because we can all seek and access the love of God to heal our broken places.”

Does that make your heart beat a little harder? Plus, quoting brilliant theologians like Brueggmann? So lit (said the Gen X’er). She’s read Brian Zhand, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, to name a few, and of course Jesus; also, Beyonce’, thank you chapter fourteen–Lemonade: We Will Show Up, Say Something, and Be Still. Moore is a student of theology, the Bible, people, and life, and she marries it all with charm and insight.

Her book tells the stories of how her and her husband’s urban ministry led them to New Orleans right before Katrina, and losing all their possessions; then to Cambridge at the time of the attack at the Boston Marathon, where they lived in the very neighborhood in which the terrorists sought shelter; and most recently to Los Angeles where they encountered their most intimate and hurtful incident of racism.

She shares heart wrenching details of her suffering from postpartum depression, her struggle for self-acceptance as a black woman, as well as confessions of peacemaking fails, and gritty honesty about her shift to a mindset of forgiving enemies and nonviolence.

One of my favorite stories she shares, tells about the Daddy/ Daughter Dance fundraiser at her daughter’s school. Because Dads “dating” their daughters is weird guys. I’m so glad someone finally said it. Hear me: the time spent having fun together is superb! Teaching our daughters to expect dignified treatment from men/everyone? I got no beef with that. Can we just not call it “dating?” But the point of her story was not just to back me up on that, or illuminate the sordid history of Daddy/Daughter dances, but to share the ups and downs of parenting while embracing the ninth affirmation of the Shalom Sista Manifesto: We Will Build Bridges, Not Walls. I won’t spoil it for you, but Osheta inspires with her imagination for bringing an inclusive, gracious, peacemaking practice to life.

Sarah Bessey says it best in the Introduction (of course she does!), “Osheta’s words here consistently gave me permission: permission to care instead of becoming numb, permission to challenge the status quo instead of going along with ‘the way things have always been,’ permission to honor my awakenings by being fully awake today, permission to bring my full, complicated, and whole self into the work of peacemaking in this world instead of fitting into some weird, stereotypical ‘good Christian lady’ box.” Thanks, Sarah Bessey. (I love you.)

So, maybe now is the time when we close our laptops or click the lock screen on our phones—after hurrying over to Amazon to order Osheta’s book obvisouly. Because what Shalom Sistas reminds us, is that peace and our invitation to be a peacemaker is not just a fashionable philosophy of the moment, but a way of embracing everything with subversive joy. Not in obligatory action, but with small steps and deep breaths of hope, from a place of confident rest, knowing that we ourselves are completely loved, accepted, and that we belong to each other.

We are here for you Las Vegas. Shalom sistas are linking now to mourn, serve, heal, pray with and stand beside you. I am sure of it.

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