Your Voice

[The theme of Voice has been dancing about in my head for several weeks. I ran into this post, written by me three years ago. It is so timely for today! I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you feel you have found your voice, or (like many of us) are you “in process”?]

This post is about your voice. And your seasons.

I am going through a season change… are you? Time to get more involved in some things, and less in others. Can you relate? Thinking through priorities and proportions. This is especially challenging because I am, at heart, both an activist and an artist.

Just what is voice?  It can be a somewhat intangible concept, but by voice I mean the free expression of that unique set of attributes that makes you, you! There is your voice, my voice, God’s voice…

We each have a purpose.  God gives us our voice so we can fulfill that purpose.

I enjoy the gradual unveiling of my children’s voices. And every day I pray that they will learn to hear God’s voice… to love and trust it, to navigate through life guided by it, much as the sailors of old relied on the stars in the heavens.

But the aspect of navigating that has taken me years to learn involves my own voice, and a question (you may find yourself asking the same question): Is my voice effective?

We need to look at all our areas of involvement – at relationships and organizations in our spheres of influence – and ask a fundamental question: Does my voice make a difference? Does anybody hear me? Do they want to hear me?

If I am committed, doing my part, and carefully listening to the voices of others, but having no impact and finding no reciprocity, then that is not a fruitful involvement. It may be time for change. There are likely needs or opportunities elsewhere, just waiting!

Or, it may be time to speak more loudly. But no one likes a shouting match. If you’re in a relationship and have had “the talk” multiple times, to be comforted by a “you’re right” and no change, reconsider that relationship. If you have a friendship with someone who has taken advantage of you repeatedly, and you’ve confronted and received an “I’m sorry” only to be misused again, evaluate if it is truly a friendship. If you’re on a board or team and have expressed the same serious concerns multiple times, to be greeted by “great input” and no action, then reality check. Why force others to listen to you, when somewhere else there is a person praying precisely to hear a voice such as yours? Keep the peace, spread the love… and move on!

Of course, I am not talking about giving up when things get tough… Healthy relationships and organizations will always involve dynamic tension. Love and loyalty are key to managing that tension. But even if you are fighting a fierce battle for social justice, or to grow a business or fulfill a dream, you still have to ask yourself the questions above. Time is short. Before you know it, five years will have passed… and your dreams for tomorrow may have become distant bittersweet memories.

Bottom line today – your voice is invaluable, and there is a predetermined place where it is needed and where there is grace abounding for it to be heard. Relax in that knowledge. Listen, think, pray, speak, be thoughtful about your season change. Then watch that last leaf fall and welcome the new season. And as your senses soak in the change, listen for God’s voice and remember – He is listening for yours!

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Barack Obama and People of Faith

I asked the question about racism because no matter how much we talk about it, I don’t think we quite grasp the absolute evilness of it. As I said in the comments section yesterday, what is so wrong about racism is that is misrepresents God’s intentions to man. It alienates man from God by telling him that the color of his skin is a factor in determining just how much God values and loves him.

In South Africa, for decades the Dutch Reformed Church had as part of its doctrine (I apologize to theologians if this is a oversimplification, but it is in effect accurate) that black people were cursed because of the situation with Ham and Noah (you can study that later!). In other words, the religious leaders, who were supposed to represent God, told an entire continent that it was “less than” others.

Apartheid had a profound effect on my husband’s family, in ways that I can’t even get into here. Suffice it to say they suffered discrimination, had acres of rich wine land (and therefore legacy) confiscated because someone dared to cross the color barrier… And so much more.
On a personal level he had to get special permission to go to white university because the “coloured” university didn’t offer the engineering courses he wanted. The “coloured” schools were inferior, the students had to pay for their own supplies (unlike the white students in the white schools). He saw friends arrested and in fact himself protested through street theatre. His was the generation of the township riots. When he first came to the States, he had a physical reaction of fear even at a traffic stop.

And here is a salient point – he was classified “coloured” not “black.” Mixed race people were considered coloured. What the black people suffered was far more extreme than what he and his family suffered.

And this system was propped up by religious leaders.

Why do I tell the story (and partially and poorly at that)?

South Africa did not dissolve into civil war because of people of faith. What never made it into the news in the States or around the world, is that for years before the dissolution of apartheid, Christians gathered in ground-breaking multiracial prayer meetings to pray for peace. In Cape Town, believers gathered faithfully, week after week, at Table Mountain to pray for justice and peace in the nation. Churches opened in public places, like malls, so all races could attend. All that while, Nelson Mandela sat in prison on Robben Island, reading his Bible and growing in wisdom and strength. God changed his heart from violence to forgiveness. And his ability to forgive, based on the understanding of God’s unconditional love for him, led a nation to a peaceful transfer of power. It was the power of prayer and the testimony of people of faith that started the transformation.

It is up to people of faith to communicate to the world that God’s love is the same for every people group and race. Which brings me to Barack Obama. Whether or not you, or I, voted for him is irrelevant. As I watched him at the concert on Sunday yesterday, it became evident to me that he already is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. That is a figure of speech, true, but it is almost literally true, because it is the weight of the world’s expectations. His responsibility is massive, and to me unimaginable, as the leader of the free world. Make no mistake about it, there is still a “free world” and an oppressed world, yearning to be free.

To bring this full circle to my original point, today there is a statement being made – to a people that were told they were “less than” because of the color of their skin. Try, please, to lay ideology aside to hear my heart. There are little boys in Africa, much like my Peter many years ago, running in the streets barefoot, who will find a new power within to rise above their circumstances. It is no small thing to awaken a continent to its potential.

And we, people of faith, must rise to our potential. We must work night and day to make it clear that our God not only loves people of every skin color, but gives each and every one the opportunity to succeed or to fail, to lead or to follow. Our God is an equal opportunity God… let us be equal opportunity people.

What’s So Bad About Racism?


Peter and I got married only one year after the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, in his native South Africa, was repealed. Had we married one year earlier, he could have been arrested, on arrival at the airport, for marrying me.
We have thousands of words stored within us when it comes to racism.
Eventually we’ll share more with you. For now, we’ll begin with my three word answer to the question of what is so bad about racism:

Racism misrepresents God.

How do you think it misrepresents God? Does that statement make sense to you?

How would you word your reply to the title question?