Series 28: Summer Best of For the Love | Episode 02
[Summer Best of For the Love] You Are Wholly Good: Osheta Moore and Embracing “Shalom”
Our second Summer Best Of guest is a teacher who taught us how to embrace peace with others, but also within ourselves. Osheta Moore is a writer, speaker, podcaster, and a faith groundbreaker. She’s also a powerful leader on racial reconciliation and equality, and through it all, she teaches that God wants each of us to be whole, vibrant, and flourishing. In her book and podcast called Shalom Sistas, Osheta breaks down 12 ways we can turn “shalom” into an action. She shows us how to become peacemakers in our everyday lives—not just with each other, but with ourselves and with God. Osheta shows us that peace is more than just a feeling. It’s the belief that God created us perfectly, just as we are, and the bodies that we live and practice shalom in, from the color of our skin to the shape of our hips, are wholly good.
Laura: Hi, this is Laura, producer of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to our Summer Best Of series. Jen and our team here at the podcast got together and thought through some episodes that we had in our archives that we thought were really now super relevant to the national conversations that are happening. So today’s Best Of episode features author and speaker Osheta Moore. Osheta’s been doing some great work since we last talked, and you’re going to want to check out her podcast, which is launching a new season soon, called Dear White Peacemakers, where she says no topic is off-limits. We’re happy to present Jen’s conversation with Osheta, originally airing in 2019, called “You Are Wholly Good: Embracing “Shalom.”
Jen: Hey everybody, it is Jen Hatmaker, your host of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show today.
Super excited because today we are starting a brand new series, which is called For the Love of Faith Groundbreakers. So it is time to get excited!
Last year, you guys, we did an incredible series around exploring our faith. Honestly we had some of the most profound and thought provoking conversations we’ve ever had on this podcast to date, and you let us know how meaningful that series was to you. We continue to hear that you’re still downloading those episodes, and we heard from a lot of you about how those conversations caused you to think differently or examine what you believe or open the door to some amazing dialogue in your own life, which thrills me. So if you’re new to this podcast and you haven’t listened to those yet, go back and spend some time on our first faith series because it was really, really powerful and I don’t say that lightly.
So, our guests in this sort of second iteration of For the Love of Faith Groundbreakers, are women and men who are taking a fresh or an honest look at their faith experiences. Some of them have questioned some long held beliefs or pushed really hard on what they believe and see if it holds. They’ve all been on various journeys to find Jesus in this very, very weird culture that we find ourselves in, and they’ve all wondered aloud whether the status quo should remain as is. They’ve looked at love from all sides. What does being a follower of Jesus look like? It’s just . . . I have great respect for these trailblazers. I am deeply grateful that they’ve accepted my invitation to be on this show and to share their wisdom with the rest of us.
So I’m gonna jump in and tell you that today’s guest is a wonder woman, and she is powerful in many, many ways. And I am speaking of none other than my friend, Osheta Moore.
So, Osheta, first of all, is a mother of three. She is both a wife to a church planter and a pastor herself. We’re gonna talk about that a little bit. She is a writer. She is a speaker. She is a podcaster. She is a justice advocate. She for a while was a Noonday ambassador.
A big piece of her story started in New Orleans when she met the man she would fall in love with and marry, and since then they’ve kind of meandered. They went to seminary up in Boston. They grew their family. They were church planters. She sort of incubated and birthed her own really powerful ministry which we’re gonna talk about.
She’s the author of the book called Shalom Sistas. The best. And she’s the host of a podcast [also called Shalom Sistas]. We’ll talk about both. These are two avenues that she uses to lead and to teach with women all over the world and spread her understanding of God’s intent for our world that is whole and vibrant and flourishing.
I’m strongly, strongly insisting that you get her book, Shalom Sistas. I’ll have it linked over at the podcast transcript page. Here’s why. Not only is it transformative, but it is this call to deeper relationships with each other, with our own bodies, with God. It’s funny. It’s liberating. It’s thought provoking. She actually has this 12 point Shalom Sistas manifesto for peacemaking. We’ll list those manifesto points actually over on JenHatmaker.com on the transcript page. So these are the same 12 points that Osheta uses as her daily reminders to live the life as a peacemaker, and they’re really, really provocative. Like for example, step three is we will listen to our jealousy. So, I’m gonna ask her about that one.
She’s a really important voice in the work of racial equality and then ultimately racial reconciliation. We’re gonna dive into some of her work there also and she’s a good friend, she’s a good pastor, she’s a good author and a good sister, and I am so grateful to kick this series off with my friend Osheta Moore.
Okay, good morning to my friend, and I am so very happy that you’re here this morning. Thank you for jumping on the show with me.
Osheta: Oh, I’m so excited. This is gonna be fun, Jen.
Jen: I know, I know. You know what? I was thinking about you this morning and remembering the first time that we met in person, like, face to face. Do you remember?
Osheta: Okay, this is gonna be fun because I think I know what you’re gonna say, but I’m not sure. Was it After Eve? Was it that conference?
Jen: Is that where we were? I wouldn’t have no ideas which conference. Is that what it was? I think you’re right, in DC?
Osheta: Yeah, because Christy Nockels was there and you got up and talked about how y’all kind of went to college together or something.
Jen: That’s right.
Osheta: I went for Christy Nockels. I had no idea who you were. I got there and I was like, “Oh my gosh!”
Jen: That’s so funny. Did we . . . Okay, so maybe I’m conflating two memories. Was that where we met initially? Where were we when we went and had breakfast?
Osheta: It was there, because we happened to both be in the hotel and the hotel had that breakfast, like complimentary breakfast. I think we were both . . . We just happened to be making our plates at the same time. You were like, “Are you here for the conference?”
I’m like, “Yeah, I know you’re here for the conference.” So I think that’s what happened, right?
Jen: Yeah, like, “Come sit down. Who are you? What’s your story?”
So we ended up at our continental breakfast together and you were just . . . all your energy was so fresh and raw and new. You were moving into some new spaces and we’ve been connected ever since. So that’s like a long time.
So, I’ve given our listeners a little bit of taste of who you are, kind of what has brought you thus far, but I wonder if you could take us all a little bit back to the beginning. So, back when you were growing up in Texas and what life was like with your family then. I’m assuming that you grew up in a spiritual, religious home because your childhood leads up to you heading off to New Orleans on a mission trip during Mardi Gras. Like, props to your mom for letting you go to a mission trip at Mardi Gras. I mean, did you know that I lived south of New Orleans for like four years?
Osheta: I think I knew that.
Jen: So, girl, I know what’s up at Mardi Gras. That’s the first time I ever had alcohol, because we drank screwdrivers. Me and my friend Julie drank screwdrivers out of her parents’ trunk of her car, which they set up as a mobile bar at a parade.
Osheta: Yeah, wow, Mardi Gras. I remember sneaking out. I snuck out one night to go, and I was so miserable because early in the night some guy spilled beer all in my hair, and you just don’t mess with a black girl’s hair to begin with.
Jen: Oh no. Oh no. I can’t believe he lived.
Osheta: I know. I live here in Minnesota, the beer country, and every time I try to drink beer I can’t get that memory out of my head.
Jen: It ruined you. It ruined you for life.
Osheta: My frame of reference for Mardi Gras was that. Yeah, I didn’t actually come from a very religious . . . or, I guess, a very Christian home. I mean, my parents were culturally Christian. They were like the big holidays, if at that. There’s some weirdness in my home life where my parents are really antisocial and so I never . . . I’m a pastor and a pastor’s wife now. We have people in our home all the time.
Jen: All the time, right.
Osheta: We never had people in my home, and especially people from church in my home. And so for me, being a Christian was kind of almost like my act of rebellion because I wasn’t . . . Like, my parents weren’t really happy with it. They were like, “You’re being really self-righteous because you always want to go to church.”
Osheta: I started going to church when I was about five or six because my mom worked in retail, and so she had these kids. The summer was coming and she didn’t know what to do with us, and one of her coworkers was like, “Well, when you have a gap in your childcare, there’s this church that does this vacation Bible school.” This was back in the day where vacation Bible school was 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and they gave all the snacks and all the crackers and had all the activities. This church did it for two weeks, so I don’t even . . . It was stocked full of sweet mamas who had all the free time, I guess.
Osheta: I was going to this vacation Bible school when I was about five or six, and it was such a stark contrast between kind of the dysfunction and conflict that was in my home and seeing the love of Christ and the welcoming spirit and the joyfulness of these people. I was like, “I want to be here more often.” So, because of that, I started going to church just really on my own. The church bus would pick me up every Sunday morning. And it was Assembly of God church, so that was the tradition I was raised in.
So then I graduated from high school and I remember thinking I’ve been kind of going to church for my own choice all these years, but I’ve kind of have been a Christian because of these leaders that I respect and they are Christians, and I really wanted to please them. And I remember thinking, “I need to go away to a Christian school,” kind of prepared to ask a bunch of questions and really figure out if this is what I want, because I thought . . . I don’t know, I was naïve.
I thought going away to a Christian college would be a place where I can deconstruct and reconstruct or that I would be able to ask questions there, but when I went away to that college, I realized, “Oh, this was not a safe place to ask questions. This is just for me, just a place where I had to kind of reinforce everything that I learned and kind of fit in.”
Anyways, so, I left that school, went to a state school. And the church that I started going to when I was going to University of North Texas in Denton, that church was affiliated with the AG and the AG was affiliated with this school that was hosting the missions trip, so that’s kind of how I was going to this church. I went to a state school where I could ask all these questions, but I was going to this church and they were like, “Hey, we’re gonna do this mission trip.”
I honestly, Jen, like if I did it . . . I was thinking back on that trip and I don’t think I would be a Christian to this day if I had not gone on that trip because so much of what I believed about Jesus, and what I believed about God’s mission, and what I believed about why am I even calling myself a Christian was taught to me in a very comfortable, privileged space where I didn’t have to face a lot of hardship. The hardest thing I was wondering was, “I’ve been waiting. This true love has been waiting. Where’s my man?”
Osheta: That’s my big hardship, but then having to take my theology to a context where there’s actual suffering, where there’s systemic brokenness and then being able to kind of prod my theology and see does this hold up here made me really question who Jesus is and figure out who he is and how I want to relate to him and how I want to communicate his teachings and his goodness, and how do I want to be as a follower of Jesus in a world that’s clearly broken?
Jen: So, I’m gonna pick that thread up in just a minute because I want to pull that forward into your adult life, but I do want to go . . . I want to pause here because your true love didn’t have to wait forever. Let’s just pause at the story on the West Bank of New Orleans, which is where you met and fell in love with your husband.
So, this is interesting because you are black. He is white. Did you ever expect to marry a white guy? Was that ever a part of your . . . Did you see that for yourself or was that surprising? Was that difficult at all in your circle, in your family? And then how did your young relationship find a way to flourish?
Osheta: Yeah. So, I remember . . . So I did know that I was gonna marry a white guy simply because my mom told me so.
Jen: Are you serious?
Osheta: For sure. I was talking to my mom about something and I said . . . Oh, I know what it was. I know what it was. We had just watched Family Matters, and I was like, “Ooh, Steve Urkel’s so cute, Mom!”
My mom was like, “Yeah, he is.”
I said, “I think I’ll marry a guy like him someday,” because that’s all you think about when you’re 12, 13, 14.
Osheta: She goes, “No, you’re going to marry a white guy someday.”
Osheta: I was like, “How do you know this?”
She goes, “That’s all you look at. Go look at your bedroom wall.”
Jen: That’s funny.
Osheta: I was like, “Oh my gosh, my mom is so perceptive,” because it was like Jordan Knight and Jonathan Knight. I think at that point it was Backstreet Boys. It was all white guys, and so I think the tricky thing is I’m from a really small Texas town where interracial dating just doesn’t happen. And so I can’t tell you how many times I was told by white guys, “You’re pretty for a black girl,” or “I would totally date you, but my dad says the races don’t mix.”
Jen: Wow, gosh.
Osheta: Like that was from a guy that we both really liked each other, and we just knew it wouldn’t work. So for me, when my mom said that, it was so helpful because she was giving me permission to fall in love with whoever I fell in love with and that she would accept him.
So I knew that was gonna happen for me. What I didn’t know is that how tricky things would be in that relationship as I’m coming into my black identity.
So I was being raised in a predominantly white community, being raised by two parents who worked really hard to give us a good life, who face a lot of racism and discrimination in their schooling and their workplace. So I got the narrative that you have to be twice as better to get half of what they want. I got the narrative like you can’t wear your hair in an Afro. You can’t play loud music. I got all these messages about my intrinsic blackness is going to hinder me from succeeding and thriving.
What was interesting was I married this guy, this white guy who loves black culture, who was mentored by men of color, who obviously is attracted to black women. So I married this person who saw so much beauty in my black culture. So, what happened early in our marriage was he was always kind of calling that out in me.
Jen: That’s great. Yeah, gosh. You’re just kind of out there in the middle of the river in your own boat trying to figure out which was to row. You just got the right guy and when you got the right . . . I’m thinking of your life right now. I’m like golly, you really married the right person and allowed one another to flourish.
So, fast forward just a couple of years. So, your married life has begun in earnest and then of course Hurricane Katrina hit and you lost everything, which is just . . . You know, moments like that really test our faith. It tests our character. You kind of figure out what you’re made of.
How did you cope? I’m curious how that worked in community when everybody around you is in the same boat? You know, everyone is suffering. Everyone has this immense loss and is staring down this long-term rebuilding process. So, I wonder if you could talk about that experience a little bit.
Osheta: Yeah. So when we evacuated New Orleans, we were thinking we were going to be gone for a couple of days. I was eight months pregnant with our second when we evacuated, and we didn’t . . . We evacuated the year before when a tropical storm came through. It was supposed to be a hurricane, came through as a tropical storm.
When I think about all the hurricanes and all the natural disasters, I’m always thinking about the communities in need, the communities in poverty and how those people, how are they figuring out how to just get out of Dodge. And then I get so frustrated—I’m gonna go on a rant here.
Jen: Do it.
Osheta: But I get so frustrated when people are like, “Why can’t just they leave?”
Jen: Just leave.
Osheta: “Why are they still sticking there?” Or, “Why do they go back?” It’s like, “Oh my gosh, they cannot afford to just pick up.” We literally borrowed money to evacuate the year before.
Fast forward to Katrina, the day before Katrina hits. My husband says, “Do you want to evacuate?”
I’m like, “We can’t afford to evacuate.”
And he was like, “You’re pregnant and if we don’t have electricity, you’re not going to be comfortable and you’re not going to be a nice person, so we need to leave.”
I was like, “Okay.”
We ended up using our rent to evacuate. We are already kind of planning to just go back to our community and help in the rebuilding of Hollygrove—that was the name of the neighborhood we lived in. So I was prepared for that, so the idea . . . This diaspora, like this idea of not . . . Like our community being separated and not ever able to come back together never even crossed my mind.
Jen: I’m sure.
Osheta: I remember when we got to Texas and we realized the extent of the damage, and they were saying we’re not even letting residents in for two, possibly three months, and we didn’t even have two to three months before our baby was coming. I remember having this moment and thinking, “Okay, God. This is gonna be a great adventure.” I could either look at this as, “You are with us on this adventure, and I’m going to be open to anything that happens at this point, or I can shut down and try to be in control of how this thing works and always be pushing against you.”
So when I made that decision, it made it so much easier for me to have conversations with my husband that weren’t based on anxiety but kind of like, “God loves us, we love each other, we’re on each other’s team. What is next?”
The thing that was next for us was he really felt called to seminary, and he had said to me several years before the storm, “I feel called to seminary, but there is two places that I am like not gonna be called a heretic if I go. It’s Fuller or it’s Gordon-Conwell.” One’s in California, one’s in Massachusetts. Wicked expensive, either way.
So when he said, “I feel called to seminary, and I have this grant money, and we have friends who live in Massachusetts who can help us find a place to live,” that for me felt like, “Okay, God was pushing us along.” So when we got to Boston, that’s really where I tried to build community but it’s really hard to build community when you just have a baby, you’re adjusting to a new climate, because I never lived anywhere in the North before.
Jen: Oh, bless it.
Osheta: All my life was in New Orleans and Texas.
Jen: That’s real.
Jen: That’s real. Like I want my listeners to know, that is serious. When you have lived in the South your entire life, you don’t even understand that kind of cold, and for how long it lasts, why won’t it end? So, that’s no joke. That’s an adjustment.
Osheta: Yeah. I had a three-year-old and a baby, and then I found out I was pregnant with our daughter three months later, so it was just, “What?”
So finding community was . . . It was long, and it was slow, and it took a lot of intentionality. In the year after the storm, I really leaned on a church that somebody suggested we go to. That church community just came around us and took care of us. And that was a lesson in saying no and letting people in, because I for so much of my life just wanted to be this strong, capable, smart woman but I just couldn’t after that. So that’s how the church really did take care of me and reflect the love and care of Jesus to me after the storm.
Jen: That makes me feel happy.
Jen: I’d like to hear you talk a little bit about how your marriage and family moved into ministry, because then I really want to get to your ministry and how it began to bloom and blossom and take pretty deep root.
Osheta: You know, when you meet your husband on a mission trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, being in ministry together was kind of like a no brainer. That’s how we met and that was the expectation. Even the fact that we were in New Orleans, we intentionally moved into this neighborhood known for its gang violence because my husband used to be in a gang, and so he has this amazing testimony of how God saved him from gang life and all that. So we understood that community and so we did the whole incarnational living thing.
So moving to Boston so that my husband can go to seminary which I totally . . . Real talk, when we sat down and we said, “Who should we put through . . . Who should go to school, go back to school,” we were like the white guy with the degree is gonna get the job before the black woman. We had to have that conversation.
So when we moved to Boston, and I’m sitting here saying, “Oh, we’re here so my husband can go to school,” it was hard because I love to learn and I want to be in ministry, but I just couldn’t figure out what ministry looked like.
I was going through this whole kind of deconstructing of the woman’s place in the home and women in ministry. I was doing all of that. And I love my children but my children are not my primary ministry and that was that season where I really had to be okay with saying that.
And so I had this moment with my husband right before Lent where I was like, “I’m not feeling . . . I’m feeling like God sold me a bill of goods with this whole calling me into ministry, giving me a heart for ministry, giving me a mind for theology. But here I am with these kids, and I’m not seeing how I can flourish in this.”
So, so much of it was tied into Jesus teaching from the Sermon on the Mount about being a peacemaker and his new way of us living into this world, but for me I always thought, “That’s out there. That’s when I do urban ministry or that’s when I go on a mission trip or that’s when I am in the workplace not reflecting this. What does it look like in my everyday life?” So I spent 40 days really kind of making peace with the idea and concept of being a peacemaker, and that’s how I kind of came into my own as a minister and a teacher and a leader.
Jen: I love it. I love that genesis, that clarity came to you, that real sense of purpose just in the exact moment you would think it wouldn’t. You know, you weren’t doing full-time ministry, You weren’t doing any of the ways that we sometimes think that looks. The outsides of it didn’t look the same and that . . . I have had that experience so many times where I feel like God’s deep purpose for my life becomes instantly clear in the weirdest moment. Like, why? Why am I knowing this right now? Like, how is this the moment in which that kind of revelation comes? I think that’s just how God works and I love it, love it.
So I want to take this idea that you just left us with. So, shalom, obviously it’s the Hebrew word for peace, and it’s kind of your special word. When I hear that word, I associate it with you because you’ve done such a good job of teaching it and modeling it and using it well for years now.
So, it has a lot of depth to you, and so shalom is more than meditative breathing or some sort of hiding in a closet from kids. That’s not what any of this means. That’s not what peace really means.
I wonder if you can talk about your perception, your understanding of shalom as an action, and when did you start to seriously understand the power of shalom? You kind of mentioned it just now, in Lent. And then how did that begin to pay forward into your life from that point when you chose to be a peacemaker over a peacekeeper, and it’s a big difference? I’d love to hear you talk about some of that.
Osheta: Yeah. Okay, so when I spent those 40 days looking at peace in the Bible and really asking myself, “What does it mean when I say that ‘Jesus is my prince of peace?’” It looks super great on reclaimed wood at Christmastime, but does it fit into my real life the rest of the year? Is that just Christianese, flowery language that we throw around about who Jesus is or does that mean something? So when I started looking at that, and I was reading theologians like Brueggemann and Volf and Bonhoeffer. I was reading some of these theologians that kept circling back to this idea of shalom. I realized that my view of peace was a very surface . . . Like you just said, like a meditative, super zen conflict avoidance. I felt like peace was just this kind of surface way of being so that you don’t cause conflict or you don’t ruffle feathers.
Jen: Right, exactly.
Osheta: Or you’re a certain personality type and so you’re just a naturally peaceful kind of person, or you’ve taken a lot of melatonin and it shows. It’s like I felt like there was . . . The way that I was conceptualizing peace was not gonna help me thrive for the long haul and there’s a lot of anxiety around me trying to live into those pictures of peace.
So as I was studying shalom, I was struck by this idea that Brueggemann says, “It’s a persistent vision of joy and harmony and it’s God’s persistent vision of the world as it should be.” And so is this picture of flourishing and goodness and righteousness and justice. And I was like, “Oh my gosh. When we think about the garden and we think about the way God created the world, shalom is knitted into the very fabric of it. It was good. It was good and God’s dream for us is good and God’s dream for us is wholeness.”
And so when I say that I say that I am seeking that peace that surpasses understanding, I am saying I am seeking God to enter into a broken place that I don’t understand but he will enter in and bring some sort of flourishing and wholeness because that is who he is because he loves us so much.
So I started saying that shalom, my work of shalom is always working back to that essential “it is goodness” of the garden. When God created the world, he stepped back and he created everything and he said, “It is very good.” When he said that it’s like okay, God has always had a picture of the world as good. God has always had a picture of our relationships as flourishing and vibrant, and restored.
Not restored but in harmony and wholeness, and because of sin and however we want to conceptualize sin, but because of sin, that’s been broken and we’re not able to live into that. We’re seeing the effects of it in our world, and so when I say that I’m a peacemaker, I’m saying, “Okay, God. I’ve caught that vision of whatever brokenness I’m looking at right now.”
Jen: It’s good.
Osheta: I see that you want some sort of wholeness here. What is the one thing I can contribute to bring about that vision?
Jen: That’s good.
Osheta: I’m stepping into your eyesight, Lord, and seeing the potential for your love to transform that. By doing that, I have been able to think about my practices of peace in small ways that are meaningful. I don’t despise them. I feel like when I am being present for my kid and I’m looking them in the eye, that is the practice of honoring the imago dei. That’s part of that “it is goodness.” When I’m helping a coworker with a tech issue, I’m entering into their frustration and helping them figure it out and feel like are seen and feel like they can do their work, their work that they want to do. So it’s like, oh my gosh, when I’m able to do that, it opens up all the possibilities.
I think that the church, for me, I always view the church as a bunch of have-to and rules. Like my tradition has really honed in on, “Okay, this is the standard, and this is what you have to live up to. And if you’re not living up to this standard then you’re not a Christian or you’re not holy or you’re not in God’s will or whatever,” but I don’t think that that’s the heart of God. I think we need to have a bigger vision of the heart and love of God because that’s what shalom is. It’s so big and it’s so open and it’s so inclusive.
Jen: I love it. You know I love it.
Osheta: I know.
Jen: This is right in my wheelhouse.
Jen: I am grateful for a more expansive view of God and a wider perspective of the way He is moving in this world and how He would just delight to partner in all of us in it, and it’s not these big, huge, on the stage moments. Rarely is it that. Rarely. It’s like it’s the coworker at the copier. I believe this so deeply, that this is on the daily, on the regular. It’s everywhere around us. Shalom is possible at all times. It’s this developing eyes to see.
And I’m telling you, I’ve said this before and I mean it. Don’t ask for those eyes unless you want them, because God will give them to you. He will literally give you vision to see your neighbor differently, to see your children differently, your spouse, your community. It’ll mess you up in the best possible way, but it’s a very real way of following Jesus on this earth that, to me, just feels spot on. I just think that’s what Jesus’s life looked like. It was just in the walking and around. Like in the getting of the water and the going to the thing and there’s the kingdom right there, just ordinary.
I want to talk about your book.
Osheta: Oh, okay.
Jen: Shalom Sistas, which I love the name of it, of course. Both words carry for me this very warm and welcoming greeting. Obviously there is shalom. I, like, come in peace. I wish you peace. We’ve discussed that word, and then sista. You’re my girl. You’re invited. You’re accepted. You’re in my circle. It’s so inclusive and I love it.
So, in your book, you spend quite a bit of time empowering women to be a part of creating the exact world you were just talking about, that is flourishing and unified wherever they live, wherever they are, whatever their life stage is. So, it weaves together family and it weaves together community and faith. It’s altogether.
So my question is, for people listening who may wonder this, is there a particular talent or personality or level of spirituality that qualifies somebody to be a peacemaker? Is there room at the table for the shalom bros, for example?
Jen: What about people who aren’t peaceful? They’re like “hair on fire” types like me. So in other words, can the principles of your book apply to everybody, regardless of their political affiliation or their religious domination or even just their temperament?
Osheta: Yeah. Gosh, I really struggled with this. I think that’s exactly part of the reason why I spent those 40 days, because I feel like I’m just a hair on fire, like you say, kind of person. I am always questioning. I get really mad when I see injustices in the world, and I want to know that that anger is welcomed in the work of creating peace. Can I be a peacemaker and still be angry? Is my anger helpful at all in the work of creating, of making peace? Or do I have to kind of get really gentle and quiet first and then I can call myself a peacemaker?
Jen: Right. Right, right, right.
Osheta: Which is bonkers because we see Jesus actually getting upset when people in the margins are exploited. And we see him flipping tables to overturn systems that hurt those in poverty, that keep people from having a picture of God as loving and welcoming.
Jen: That’s right.
Osheta: We see Jesus actually getting upset about that. And I say in my book that peace is fierce—and it has to be, because violence and discord and injustice won’t go down without a fight. So we need the fighters to enter into the work of peacemaking.
So I would say for me when I am thinking about my practice as a peacemaker, because the teachings and the example of Jesus means so much to me, that’s who I look to as my example for peacemaking. But I love conversations with people from other traditions, from other religions that are like, “Oh, well this is what peace building or peacemaking or shalom . . . that concept of shalom, that’s what it looks like in my context.”
Jen: That’s good.
Osheta: I love that because that means the spirit is at work.
Jen: Oh, that’s good.
Osheta: God is doing something and God is . . . If we’re gonna talk about being unified, we need to be willing to be unified with people that we maybe don’t agree with.
Jen: That’s good.
Osheta: On some of the particulars or some of the non-essentials, maybe. But we are in agreement that the essential is that we want to live in a world that is whole and flourishing and vibrant and unified, and at its best.
So, I think that for me, being a peacemaker has really given me . . . When I think about shalom, at the very core of it is knowing that God is love and knowing that God loves people to pieces. Like you’re made in his image, and so every single person I interact with, whether we agree on politics or we agree on theology or whatever, every single person, God is freaking delighted when they woke up this morning. So how do I live that into my relationship with them?
Jen: That’s such a perfect way to frame it.
I want to talk a little bit about your 12-point Shalom Sistas manifesto for peacemaking women.
1: There is grace upon, grace upon, grace upon…GRACE
2: I Belong to You, You Belong to Me, and We are Beloved
3: We Will Listen to Our Jealousy
4: We are Enough
5: We Will Show Up, Say Something, And Be Still
6: We Will Blame the Hard, not the Person
7: We Will Choose Subversive Joy
8: We Will Tell Stories
9: Our Hands are Open
10: We are Pierced Women
11: Our Bodies Are Wholly Good
12: We Will Build Bridges
In the intro, I actually teased our listeners with number three, which was “We will listen to our jealousy.” Whew, intriguing.
Could you walk us through that step and also step 11 which is one that I think my audience needs to hear every day—including myself—which is, “Our bodies are wholly good.” And just kind of to give us an understanding, a little bit, of how these principles contribute to finding wholeness and flourishing and unity. Like, these are not separate. These do not belong in different categories. This is a part of peacemaking. Can you talk maybe about a couple of those?
Osheta: Sure. So the jealousy one really came out of me sort of wrestling with . . . I have these emotions. My emotions in and of themself are not sinful or wrong. I have heard teachings where it says, “Well, if you feel this emotion, then you’re in sin.” And I don’t think that that . . . I think God laughs at us when we kind of say, “Oh, I feel this way and I shouldn’t feel this way.”
I think God says, “I gave you the ability to feel that emotion for a reason. Like, examine it, but examine it in my presence.”
Jen: That’s good.
Osheta: So when I talk about I will listen to my jealousy, I recognize that I . . . I love when my friends do something great. I love following people that are doing amazing things, because I’m inspired by them. But sometimes that inspiration kind of comes with a bit of jealousy or comes with a bit of, “Oh man. Why can’t I do that?” I for the longest was like, “I’m not being an empowered woman, because I’m not empowering women because I have this little bit of jealousy going on here.”
So I started this practice of, “Okay, what does it look like to think about my jealousy and listen to it in the presence of God?” But this picture of, “I want goodness and flourishing and wholeness and blessing for this woman, but I also know that God has called me to do something and maybe she’s inspired something in me,” so that listening to my jealousy is really saying, “Okay God, this person is doing this thing and I want to celebrate her, but I also feel like maybe there’s something there for me too. What is that?”
Jen: That’s good.
Osheta: And kind of just allowing myself to daydream in the expansive omni-resourcefulness of God. When I’m able to do that, I’m able to see that the kingdom is so much bigger than I am. The mission of God is so much bigger. There’s room for all of us. My contribution matters as much as hers. It really kind of tempers that scarcity. I mean, Jesus said that he’s come that we have life and have life abundantly, right? So scarcity is never part of God’s vision for shalom.
Jen: That’s right.
Osheta: So listening to my jealousy is my resistance against scarcity.
Jen: I love it.
Osheta: Then my body is wholly good. Like I mentioned earlier, just really coming into my identity as a black woman and loving it and owning it was such a journey for me and it was intentional . . . I feel like it was an important and intentional part of my spiritual formation because Jesus took on a body. Like, bodies matter.
Osheta: Jesus took on a specific social location. He was a Jewish, He was a Palestinian man, so that matters. So, if Jesus took on a specific social location, he had a body that was vulnerable, my body, my social location is a gift from God and I need to start looking at it. It’s wholly good, and even the size of my body . . . I’m the oldest of four kids. There’s three daughters. My younger sisters are really thin. Like I’m talking like size zero, size two, size four.
Osheta: Bitties, and they’re really short. They’re like 4′ 9″.
Jen: Oh my gosh.
Osheta: I’m 5′ 3″ and I’m like a size 16, 18, okay? And they’re really fair because my mom was a very fair woman, and my dad is a darker skin, so they’re fair and I’m the darkest. And so for me, coming to terms with, “This is the color of my skin, these are the shapes of my hips, this is the body that I live in that I get to practice shalom in, and this body is wholly good,”
Jen: That’s so great.
Osheta: It’s also helpful in the racial reconciliation conversation because right now, when we are talking about race, there’s this fear that our white brothers and sisters are like, “Is there something wrong with me for being white?” I’m like, “No, your body is wholly good. God didn’t make a mistake in giving you your social location.”
Jen: That’s good.
Osheta: “So how can we practice shalom together?”
Jen: That’s great, Osheta. I love how that . . . It just has a lot of legs. I mean, it may start kind of very centralized to your own personal space, but gosh, that really does have the capacity to grow tentacles out into your world, into your relationships, and to the way that you are perceiving your neighbors and brothers and sisters. I really, really super love how you talk about that.
I wonder if we could talk for another minute because you’re kind of mentioning coming into your identity as a black woman, as a leader of color, as an author of color. So, I read your personal hesitations about becoming a Noonday Ambassador. Big Noonday fan here. We’ve had Jessica on the show. And so Noonday, for those of you who don’t know, it’s a beautiful company that employs artisans all around the world. They make gorgeous jewelry, bags, accessories and then they’re sort of . . . We have a whole group of ambassadors here in the United States that sell them. Is that fair? Is that a good enough description?
Osheta: Yeah, that’s great.
Jen: So, I read that you were hesitant about becoming a Noonday ambassador because—correctly, you are right about this—you didn’t see hardly any other people of color, women of color reflected anywhere in the organization. And so they welcomed you obviously with open arms, but I’m curious how you approach taking part as a black woman in communities or organizations where sometimes you feel like one of the only ones, where it’s like a largely white community or culture. I’d love your perspective on this.
Osheta: Noonday is just an example. This is my posture with in any kind of context because I’m on the board of a nonprofit right now that specifically brought me on because they recognized a lack of diversity.
Osheta: In their leadership, and yet they’re serving people of color all the time. I’m using Noonday but I’m just saying overall.
Osheta: I love, love Noonday.
Jen: Yeah, I love Noonday too.
Osheta: I wouldn’t say every black woman or every black person has to make these decisions. But for me, when I came into Noonday, I decided I wanted to know people’s stories and know why they became ambassadors. I had a narrative in my mind of what the typical white Southern woman who became an ambassador would be. I had that narrative.
Osheta: Or even like the leadership of Noonday. And so I went in really wanting to look for stories and learn people’s stories and learn from their experiences so I could know their heart. Because for me, the very first thing in being a peacemaker when I’m interacting with people is to always get to that humanizing place, like remembering that that’s a person there because, you know, when I do interact with a system where there’s a lack of diversity, there is a systemic thing that I’m gonna eventually talk about, but I have to remember that there are people connected to the system, right?
Jen: That’s good.
Osheta: So that was the first thing that I did.
The other thing that I did was I looked for other ambassadors of color and get to know them and learn, like, why they are ambassadors but also say keep at it. Like, I see you, forming an affinity circle. My husband is always on this, especially right now for me. He’s like, “You need more black women in your life because it’s good to have women of color that you can just say, ‘Okay, that thing on the Instagram feed was a little problematic.'”
Jen: Yes, totally.
Osheta: “We know the heart behind it, but we just need a safe space to say, ‘Oh, okay.’”
Osheta: But the Noonday community has been nothing but warm and welcoming and I love it so much.
Jen: I brought them up because it’s been interesting just to see your thumbprint on the org and other women and just to sort of . . . Of course I’m really good friends with Jessica so I’m listening to the heart in there, just steering, steering in, steering into it, and I’m like, “Yes, it’s such a good example of . . . ” It is possible. It is possible to kind of stay the course inside, where really any organization or any church . . . Again, another place where it’s very racially segregated still. When it’s a season and you have the energy, or it’s a season and you have the microphone, because you’re a pastor.
Jen: It is very, very possible to build bridges here, like Tasha says.
Jen: I want to ask you this question as we kind of begin to land the plane, and it’s kind of broad. I’m curious, how would you say that your faith has evolved? Where have you pressed on old ideas or where has something begun to rub and you’re like, “I need to examine this in the presence of God,” as you said? Or where could you say, “I used to hold this really tightly, and now not so much”? Or opposite. “I didn’t used to cling to this at all and now it’s my everything.”
Osheta: Well, I think that my view of who is in and who is out has been completely obliterated. There is no “us and them,” there’s no “in and out.”
Jen: That’s good.
Osheta: The love of God has just really thrown open the gates and allowed some really beautiful people into my life who have loved me well and who have reflected the heart of God to me in powerful ways that I have never been able to see if I had said, “Oh, you’re a sinner,” or “you’re not in,” or, “I don’t agree with you and so I’m not gonna listen to you.”
Jen: That’s good.
Osheta: So I think that my view of people,I love people so much more that my faith has feet and it’s fleshy and it’s real because it’s attached to this love for actual human beings that I don’t think I had when I had the perfect systematic theology.
Jen: I think there’s a real reason that when pressed on, “Just boil it down for us, Jesus,” he’s like, “Love God and love people.” That’s real and it matters. And it’s not just that it matters, it bears fruit. To me, that’s where I have found so much human and spiritual flourishing in the love of neighbor and friend and person and people. I don’t know how to express my faith really in any other way.
Osheta: Oh my gosh, for sure. For me, knowing people and taking the space to fall in love with them, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, God. If I’m so in love with them, I can’t even imagine how much you love them.”
Jen: That’s great.
Osheta: And then that changes my whole picture of God, so yeah, love God. Know that God is love. Love others. Reflect that love to them.
Jen: Yeah. That’s kind of it. Like if we die when we’re 95 and that’s what we did, that’s how simple our faith was both in knowledge and practice, I think that’s enough. I think that’ll do it.
Osheta: Right, but it gets us in so much trouble because we’re loving messy people.
Osheta: Like we’re loving people that others are like, “Oh, really?”
Osheta: But it gets us into a lot of trouble but I’m like, “Jesus got in trouble. He was crucified for being a troublemaker for the kingdom.”
Jen: Sure did. He loved all the wrong people. Man, he loved every single bad category. There just wasn’t anybody outside of his circle and it’s helpful to remember that religious people didn’t like it then either. This is not new. It is not new at all, and so sometimes when I’m taking stock, because sometimes that disapproval, I’m gonna be honest, it’s pretty heavy. And it feels a little powerful and it has the potential to have an outsized effect on the way that we live and love and what that looks like in practice.
That’s always a real stabilizer for me is to just . . . Jesus always just brings it down to the ground for me every single time. When it all gets weird and I can’t find the anchor and I’m like, “There’s too many opinions flying around,” I can always go back to him and go, “You know what? He really did a good job of loving really wonky people, and nobody liked it.” Like everybody told him how wrong that was and how he was breaking his own rules. So that is a useful . . . to me, north star.
All right, we’re asking everybody in this Faith Groundbreakers series these three questions, and so just top of your head. Just whatever comes to mind, if you could have dinner, if you could sit across the table from any faith hero that you love, who would you pick?
Osheta: Hands down, Stephen Colbert.
Jen: Oh my gosh, that is the best answer. I love it.
Osheta: I respect him so much. I feel like I’m a little bit on the Canterbury trail, like a post-evangelical looking towards the Catholic church, learning from the Catholic church. And his love for the Catholic church, his devotion, it’s inspiring. I want to learn from him. He’s somebody that was raised in a faith tradition, but kind of stepped away but then came back on it because he said the words of Jesus became alive to him, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” That’s encouraging to me because I’m raising kids, and my goal is are they loving people? Not have they said the sinners prayer? It’s hard to . . . Even though I’ve deconstructed and even though I’ve done that work, it’s still hard.
Jen: Of course. Girl, I know.
Osheta: You know? Just being able to hear from somebody that kind of has been full circle. He loves his wife, he loves his family, he’s humble, he’s funny.
Jen: That is such a great answer. I love that. Have you read his books? He’s so funny.
Osheta: He is so funny, yeah.
Jen: His sense of humor is so unique. It’s only his and I adore it.
Okay, how about this? This is kind of a big pool so you can pick what you want. If you reach in and either grab . . . I don’t know, a verse or a quote or maybe a mantra or an idea from somebody else or from a space, really, whatever you want. But if you kind of wanted to pull one thing out and say, “This sort of captures the essence of my faith,” what would you grab?
Osheta: So, Jesus has this refrain. “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” He has this refrain that really stops me in my tracks every time because it is like the . . . It is for me the mantra of deconstructing/reconstructing.
Jen: Oh, that’s great.
Osheta: So, “You have heard it said this way or you’ve heard it said these people are . . . You have lived your life by this standard. But then I come to you and I tell you this.” And the thing that he always says is always so much more . . . like we use the word “expansive.” The heart of the principle, the core value, the picture of shalom, like this is what it looks like actually and this is what I tell you, and it’s always harder.
Osheta: It’s always more complex and requires more creativity.
Osheta: But I think in that promise, too, but I said to you, is this promise that he is with us, that his spirit is with us as we’re doing the work of re-figuring out whatever it is we believe about something. So when I come up against something and I’m still working through it, and I’m like, “I can’t shake this thing that I learned from my past, how do I rethink it?” I always picture Jesus saying, “Okay, you have heard it said this, this, this, but I’m gonna tell you something new,” and I’m always asking, “What’s that new thing, Lord?”
Jen: So good. Oh, that’s so good. I want to write that on an index card and stick it on my wall. That is just a really, really great holder. Fabulous. I love it, love it.
Okay, finally our last question we actually ask every guest, every series this question. It’s Barbara Brown Taylor. Have you read some of her work?
Osheta: I’ve read everything, I love her so much.
Osheta: I can’t wait for her new book to come out.
Jen: She’s just special. She is a sage of our time for sure. So, you know the question she loves to ask, and your answer can be whatever. It could be serious or not. It can be prayer or it can be puppies, so you pick. What is saving your life right now?
Osheta: So, my mom passed earlier this month.
Jen: Yes, I know.
Osheta: Passed on the second, and it’s been really hard. It’s been really sad. And I’ve been wrestling through all the feelings and I know it’s gonna take a long time. One of my manifesto points that’s actually really something that I am coming back to is, “We will choose subversive joy.” Theologian Willie James Jennings has this beautiful reminder. He paints this beautiful picture of how joy is our weapon against despair, and despair meaning the brokenness and the heartbreak of the world. I feel like on some level a lot of us are feeling despair over something, it doesn’t just have to be a loss of a parent.
So, that cute video of that little girl holding a corn dog dancing to Beyoncé that is saving my life.
Jen: Love it.
Osheta: Or, you know, Schitt’s Creek.
Jen: Oh, girl.
Osheta: Oh my gosh.
Jen: I have a T-shirt. I literally have a T-shirt.
Osheta: You do?
Osheta: Oh, I love it so much.
Jen: I’ve seen the whole thing through like three times.
Osheta: So finding joy, choosing to laugh in my moments of when I just want to give into the weight of despair have been really saving my life.
Jen: Oh, that’s so great. This is one of my favorite answers I’ve ever got to that question, and I’m just so sorry about your mom.
Osheta: Thanks. Yeah.
Jen: You know, we’re too young to lose our moms. You wrote just some beautiful things about her online and it was just a lovely tribute. She raised a good girl.
Osheta: Thank you.
Jen: I’m just proud of you and I’m proud to be your friend and your co-partner in ministry. I love watching you flourish and lead well, and I’m just on your side. It’s just kind of a joy to watch you lead out of that wholeness. And so watching you lead out of this real sense of just nourishment and spiritual wholeness is inspiring, and so keep going. Keep going.
Osheta: Thank you. I’ll try.
Jen: Keep raising those babies. Keep pastoring those people. Keep writing those books. We are listening and we are learning.
Can you just tell everybody real quickly as we go where they can find you and what you are working on?
Osheta: Sure. I am loving Instagram these days, so you can find me on Instagram @oshetam, and then my website is Osheta.com and then I’m working on a podcast series called Dear White Peacemakers, where we’re looking at what is white allyship from a place of choosing to seek shalom together, so centering the voices of people of color and the questions that they have or the things that they would want our white allies to know while we’re doing this work together.
Jen: Is it too soon to tell who your guests are in that?
Osheta: I have an ongoing guest. Cara Meredith used to be one of my co-hosts. We did a book club together, so she’s coming back because she just wrote a book on her journey towards being a white ally, so she’s gonna be kind of my conversation partner. My husband might be coming on to talk about what does white allyship look like in marriage.
Osheta: But really we just wanted to have a conversation that kind of addresses some of the things . . . I love that the church is doing this hard work on racial reconciliation, but we gotta be careful that we don’t always center white voices in this new work.
Osheta: So what can we learn from our brothers and sisters as they’re watching our white brothers and sisters just become woke, which I really hate that word, but it’s shorthand.
Jen: Yep, it’s shorthand. We did it.
Osheta: We all know what it means. Yeah.
Jen: I will absolutely link that, everybody, so you can pop over and listen to that. I’m really glad that you’re putting that out into the world. I can’t wait to hear that myself. Thank you for coming on the show today. Thank you for being who you are and I’m just cheering for you, forever, sister.
Osheta: Thank you. I am so grateful to have your leadership and your cheering on and, yeah, thanks for having me.
Jen: You’re welcome.
Osheta: It’s been fun to chat. All right.
Jen:I love that girl. She is a gem. So many little things she said in the interview just lit a little flame in my brain. I am gonna be thinking about so much of that.
So, hey, by the way, if you ever want to just glance with your eyeballs back through an interview to pick up some nuggets, over at jenHatmaker.com on the transcript page, Amanda builds out a whole entire set of resources for you, including the written transcript of every single interview. So sometimes it’s just nice to go back and cut and paste some words, put it into a doc, put it into a text, put it into a Facebook post. I frequently do that. I’m like, “What was that awesome thing one of my guests said?” I will go to my own transcript page and find it. So anyway, use that. In addition to the transcript, Amanda gives you pictures, links to everything. Everything to Osheta’s social media spaces and her book and her podcast. We’ll have it all over there for you just in one handy dandy place. So, be sure to use that resource.
Guys, this series is lit. Lit. I want to jump ahead. I don’t usually make a practice of telling you who’s coming, and so I’m not gonna do it now, but we have some amazing guests in this whole series. We’ve expanded it just a little bit because there’s just too many amazing leaders right now. I’m like, “These are all the people I want to ask, and if they all say yes, then we’re having them all on.” Thus, we have a longer series. Come back next week. We have leaders from every stripe. Every single . . . Every kind of space, every background. So this is not a one note series. I think you’re gonna be really excited to hear from all these different kinds of faith leaders and what they have to teach us.
So, thank you for being a great listener. Thank you for subscribing. If you haven’t already subscribed to this podcast, go do it. It will automatically show up in your phone every single week the minute it is uploaded, and so that just makes it easier for you.
Anyway, listeners, we love you and we’re happy to bring you this series and all the series. and so on behalf of Amanda and Laura, my producer, and her entire team, thank you for being great listeners of this show. We love serving you.
Okay, guys, see you next week.