gail song bantum

blog on identity, leadership, discipleship

Archive for the month “September, 2009”

real talk #2

i know there is a movement among some christians that are into this whole “be poor with the poor” notion of the christian life, aka the new monastic movement. i have a problem with this… not so much with the intent but the hyper spiritual authority/superiority that some folks revel in who participate in such movements. here’s why:

i’ve had my taste of poor. i remember big government cheese blocks. i remember doing homework by candlelight because our electricity got turned off. i remember taking cold showers because we had no hot water (in chicago!) i remember being evicted from multiple homes. i was poor.

that said, though i have had the tremendous opportunity to arise from the suffocating realities that poverty imposes, i often feel convicted because i know that so many others are still there. at the same time, i don’t want to go back from whence i came.

i like nice things…..actually, i LOVE nice things. is that wrong? i’m just being honest.

to the folks that live into the monastic movement, is it really that you’re living poor or is your “poverty” still a manifestation of power? to be able to choose poverty is power. at any point, these folks can choose another way. however, those who are truly victims of poverty often have no out, have no choice, have no sense of hope -basically powerless.

perhaps this is the reason why i was a prime candidate early on to embrace the prosperity gospel. though i am no longer a follower of the prosperity movement as it is generally thought of, i do believe in hope, in blessings, in faith, in a god who desires only good for humanity yet dwells among and with those who suffer.

the truth is, i struggle with this. even the thought of being poor in that desperate kind of way gives me hives. *sigh*



i need you

so, in a previous blog on desperation and worship, i narrated a posture of worship that emerges out of a sense of need or dependence on god – desperation. this sense of need, i believe, arises out of difficult moments and aspects of our stories and life experiences.

however, in a recent conversation with a friend, i was confronted with the reality that some folks may not have a seemingly desperate life situation from which to draw upon and so how would this notion of desperate worship relate to such people? here is what i think:

what a blessing it is for those to have had the opportunity to move through life thus far relatively smoothly -peace in the home, financial security, solid relationships, both familial and friend-wise. yes, we all endure forms of dysfunction but for some, life has progressed fairly uneventfully and with relative ease.

the important thing is that i don’t think desperation should be thought of as necessarily arising out of a kind of nothingness, absence, loss, darkness, etc. but rather an addition of sorts? while i strongly believe that no one should feel guilty for such a life, perhaps the way we all can truly tap into this notion of desperation that i so often speak of is to bind ourselves to the cross so to speak. if it is not our own cross, then it should be the cross of another. this is the nature of the christian life… of community. if it is not our own pain from which we can draw then we are called to bind ourselves to another’s pain, another’s story. this is the story we find in mark 2 of the paralytic man whose friends carried his limp body, through the roof of a house, to the healing presence of christ. his pain became their pain. his hope became their hope. his healing became their healing.

in the same way, i want to encourage you to allow another’s story to become woven into your story. we ought to become bound to one another so much that we cannot tell our story apart from another. this is the beautiful story of the church. be desperate for god! god is the reason why we live, move, and have our being. we ALL are in need of god and each other and i pray that we would not be afraid to live into this reality. may the beautiful cries of desperate worship arise as incense to the one who dwells among, redeems, heals, restores and offers new life. xx

real talk #1

i wanted to share some “real-time” moments/thoughts that i have been experiencing lately that i thought might be helpful (or at least offer some solidarity) to those who may be going through similar situations. at times (usually) they are raw and vulnerable glimpses into my life but isn’t that what keeps us real? i am not perfect. i am not refined. i am merely a sinner who has been redeemed, forgiven, graced and shown mercy through the blood of christ.

so, my friends, a “real-time” moment in all its glory:

real-time #1

for the first time in my life, i find myself in a situation where i have been forced to deal with the “who am i” question. don’t get me wrong, i’ve dealt with many identity issues but this is different….kind of. my identity issues have now switched from the what am i to the who am i. my struggles in the past have dealt with everything from race, class, culture, etc.. but i’ve always had a strong identity in what i did as a musician, leader, minister. those things offered me a kind of security, an affirmation of sorts. it was easier for me to place my identity in the things that i did rather than exposing who i was.

since our move out to seattle a few months ago, i have been given an incredible opportunity to just be…. nothing really pressing for my time or energy except for my family and no real “job” to speak of. i thought this anonymity would be an amazing time to be free and do the things that i’ve been wanting to do for so long. but now that i am in it, i don’t really know what to do with myself. i am not working a job that makes a claim on my skills, my gifts, my abilities, you know….the things i’m good at! rather, it is the everyday mundane tasks that mark and consume my life these days. for so long, i have juggled full-time ministry, 3 babies, full-time seminary blah blah blah… and now i juggle myself -what i should eat, this shirt or that shirt, should i blog or write the book, what color i should paint the walls…seriously.

it is truly a season of patience, of perseverance, of hope, and of incredible faith. i am grateful that god’s presence is in the mundane. in the margins. in the space between the doing. god speaks if we would only be still. this is my season of stillness (and it seems like a long one). honestly, my margins right now are so big that it takes up the whole page! i am learning to be patient and to enjoy being with myself. a friend of mine recently told me that i need to see this time as a gift and not abandonment. god has not forgotten about me, this i know.

my prayer would be that whether your margins are wide or just specks, know that god is with you and in those seemingly insignificant moments. your worth is not in what you do but rather in who you are as a child of the living god.

be full of faith and hope my beautiful friends! xx

jazz teaches us about community


in his recent article entitled tension gives it groove, ross kane offers a profound connection between jazz music and its capacity to articulate the christian life in community.

we all know that real relationships encounter ups and downs and conflicts abound when living life together. so how do we negotiate such a life in community? kane writes,

Despite the church’s expressed commitment to creating a peaceable community through reconciliation, in daily life we often sidestep tension and conflict… Often Christians see conflict and tension as problems to be forgotten or hastily avoided.

For the jazz musician, however, without the tension there is no groove. The sense of movement in a jazz solo depends upon the building up of harmonic tension followed by release. In jazz, the idea is not to reduce the tension or eliminate it, but rather to negotiate it and let the tension and resolution work together to create something beautiful.

what a great analogy! tension can be a beautiful thing. if we could only imagine our lives, our interactions and our offerings of vulnerability as something not to be feared but rather as a collaboration of sorts – each one hearing, adding, receiving, and filling out the interpretation of the other. this is the call of christian community.

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