This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Book review: ‘Shalom Sistas’

Those who have mucked out a house after a flood know how painstaking and messy the process becomes. Worse yet is when the disaster drives you from your home as a refugee, carting away pieces of your old life to transplant them somewhere in the new.

"Shalom Sistas"
“Shalom Sistas”

The description of their Hurricane Katrina relocation from New Orleans to Texas to Boston for author Osheta Moore and her husband, T.C., is a fitting metaphor for Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World.

Their dream of being peacemakers in New Orleans was flooded out: “We were a young family seeking the peace of our city, with degrees in ministry to back it up. It was all very sexy, sensational and incarnational in urban core development. . . . We weren’t expecting to lose everything n the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. We were not expecting all of it to come crashing down.”

Moore’s humble confession of how her shiny vision of peacemaking got tarnished gives her instant credibility. Her vivid and honest writing, laced with holy humor, pulled me rapidly into her journey. How would she partner with God to turn old muck into new ministry?

Moore describes how the Ka­trina experience helped to transform ideal into real and how, through prayer and soul searching, she created a fresh and practical “Shalom Sistas Manifesto.” It is a guide for how to seek shalom when life is anything but peaceful and orderly.

The manifesto is personal — tested in the grit of her life as a mother, writer, blogger (at podcaster and wife of a pastor in Southern California. And it’s also universal, easily translatable for any sha­lom-seeker and shalom sharer.

Introducing her manifesto, Moore says: “A Shalom Sista recognizes that brokenheartedness and wholehearted living aren’t opposites. No, we hold these things in tension. We’re beautiful and we’re broken.”

Moore gives readers an outline of her manifesto, which she fleshes out in depth throughout the book:

Seeking shalom in relationship to God:

1. We are invited.
2. We are beloved.
3. We are enough.

Seeking shalom in relationship to myself:

4. We will see beauty.
5. We will rest (Sabbath).
6. We will choose subversive joy.

Seeking shalom in relationship to others:

7. We will tell better stories.
8. We will serve before we speak.
9. We will build bridges, not walls.

Seeking shalom in the broken systems of the world:

10. We will choose ordinary acts of peace.
11. We will show up, say something, and be still.
12. We will be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.

Moore makes these categories concrete with spot-on examples. One of my favorites focuses on “We will see the beauty”:

“When I was a little girl and could not fall asleep at bedtime, I would play a game in which I’d get one wish, any wish, granted. I’d lie in bed, feeling invisible under the cloak of darkness, and whisper my wish under my breath: ‘I wish I were white.’ . . .

“Because daddy made me feel normal — not beautiful but normal — everything he said was gold.

Perfection. Truth. So when he told me that white people set the standard for beauty and success in America and that I would have to work twice as hard in school to have half of what they have, I took that to mean that my dark skin was bad. A hindrance. A liability. I knew my brown would never be as good as most of my friends’ peach, apricot or white skin. This left me feeling like an outcast from both my white friends and the black kids at school. Because I was an overachiever, at times, I was bullied because I was not acting ‘black enough.’

“Now, more than 20 years later and somewhat accepting of this brown skin I walk in, I still catch myself playing that old ‘I wish I were white’ game. And oh, the adventures, the joys, the privileges, the acceptance I would imagine I would have as Adult White Osheta. Sometimes, all these years later, I still wish I were white.”

She shares with readers how she engages with the manifesto commitment to “see the beauty”: “My skin deserves to be loved. . . . She protects my innermost parts — those secret places where God said he knew me before I was even born. She was there while big God breathed into my little spirit. My skin stretched to contain the mystery of my newly-formed imago dei.

“A Shalom Sista is a woman who looks for the beauty in every person and calls it out because she is convinced that we are all image bearers of God. Because we believe every human is an image bearer of God, we are grieved when our bodies of all kinds are mistreated.”

In many more examples as poignant as this one, Moore journeys through the 12 points in ways that can inspire readers to model the manifesto in their own contexts. Along the way, she encourages us to embrace our ordinary lives and selves. From them, we can mine shalom opportunities out of the mud and mire and redeem the beauty in the brokenness.

Laurie Oswald Robinson is a writer in Newton, Kan.

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