Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some of the Coolest People in Hastings

I was recently listening to an interview with Shane Claiborne, and he shared the following anecdote about two men discussing why pain and suffering exist, " guy said, 'You know, I wonder why God allows all this poverty and pain and hurting in the world?' And his friend says, 'Well, why don't you ask God that?' And the guy says, 'Well, I guess I'm scared.' And he says, 'What are you scared of?' He says, 'I guess I'm scared that God will ask me the same question.'"

Last month, I sat in a conference room with some of the coolest people in Hastings. I don't remember the exact statistic, but in Hastings High School there are 40? (maybe higher) known students who are homeless and parent-less. These teens float from couch to couch, finding their own food, and giving themselves direction.

And this conference room, full of the some of the coolest people in Hastings, don't think that's right. They are passionate about creating a space where the lost, not only find stability and love, but are found.

And it's really beautiful.

Last year I interviewed a volunteer, who said she wanted to be a mentor because, "No kid gets to choose the family/home that they grow up in. But every child deserves a chance." Everyday our office hears stories of 17 year-olds who keep visiting their mentee, even though they have bad hygiene, or they have been abused, or they get defensive and say hurtful things.

And I think I'm among saints.

Sometimes I get discouraged when I hear people comment, 'That's just the way things are.' It makes me sad when I hear how much money goes into Christmas decorations, when people in our own community struggle to afford the basic necessities.

Then, I get a chance to watch humanity elbow deep in the process of redemption. And that's enough to make me hope again.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Within 30 seconds she explained my pain...

Jen and I were sweeping out her basement.

"I think people go through phases of understanding God...

One when they first start to encounter Him.

Then they move into this false confidence of thinking they have Him figured out, phase two.

Eventually, we move to a place where we face serious doubts, but usually during this phase we're afraid to say anything...because we understand just how little we have figured out.

Maybe people in the last phase need to talk more than the people in phase two."

And within 30 seconds she explained my pain.

An everyday occurrence...

I think this is brilliant.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"And then you" by Walter Brueggemann

We arrange our lives as best we can,
to keep your holiness at bay,
with our pieties,
our doctrines,
our liturgies,
our moralities,
our secret ideologies,
Safe, virtuous, settled.
And then you--
you and your dreams,
you and your visions,
you and your purposes,
you and your commands,
you and our neighbors.
We find your holiness not at bay,
but probing, pervading,
insisting, demanding.
And we yield, sometimes gladly,
sometimes resentfully,
sometimes late...or soon.
We yield because you, beyond us, are our God.
We are your creatures met by your holiness,
by your holiness made our true selves.
And we yield. Amen

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Never "Never" Land

I have this bowl of salt on my dresser.

Last summer, I listened to a podcast in which the speaker described the old testament city of Jericho. Jericho is probably most famous for its epic downfall. Remember marching around block forts in the church basement seven times with cheap tambourines and kazoos? Most people don't realize that after the Israelites destroyed Jericho, Joshua cursed the city, claiming any man who tried to rebuild its walls would lose both his first and last born sons. Later, a rebellious king attempted to resurrect Jericho and bore the consequences. However, when the prophet Elisha visited Jericho, some of the people of the town reminded him of the curse. Elisha asked them to bring him a bowl filled with salt, which he threw into the springs surrounding Jericho and cleansed the city of its curse. (See Joshua 6, 1 Kings 16:34, 2 Kings 2:19-22 for the full breakdown).

Obscure story? Is there a point?


The story symbolizes the elimination of "never and always" thinking. The city was NEVER meant to be rebuilt, it would ALWAYS be cursed. Yet, Elisha (a mouth piece of God) contradicted this thinking.

"Never & Always" thinking is pretty common...

I will NEVER find love.

This ALWAYS happens to me.

He will NEVER change.

My parents will ALWAYS disagree with my decisions.

We will NEVER have a baby.

The rich will ALWAYS ignore the poor.

Pain will NEVER cease.

"Never & Always" thinking paralyzes us. We feel defeated before even trying, with the assumption that powerful supernatural forces will keep us from a better reality.

The bowl of salt on my dresser reminds me that change is possible, to believe in possibilities, to hope, and to reject "Never & Always" thinking.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Fate of Bees

I just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery for my book club.

(Note to the girls in my book club: If you have not finished the book yet, you are a slacker and might not want to read any more.)

This New York Times bestseller alternates between the narrative of 12-year old, wealthy youth contemplating suicide and her middle-aged concierge. Both women struggle throughout the book to understand their place in life, and conflicting messages they feel humanity accepts without hesitation.

One chapter still has me thinking. Paloma starts each of her "Profound Thoughts" with a haiku:

Who presumes
To make honey
Without sharing the bee's fate?

Paloma writes: "Living, eating, reproducing, fulfilling the task for which we were born, and dying: it has no meaning, true, but that's the way things are. People are so arrogant, thinking they can coerce nature, escape their destiny of little biological things...and yet they remain so blind to the cruelty or violence of their own way of living, loving, reproducing and making war on their fellow human beings...Personally I think there is only one thing to do: find the task we have been placed on this earth to do, and accomplish it as best we can, with all our strength, without making things complicated or thinking there's anything divine about our animal nature. This is the only way we will ever feel that we have been doing something constructive when death comes to get us. Freedom, choice, will, and so on? Chimeras. We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die."

As I finished the book, I felt really sad...because I think Muriel Barber really concludes that "we are in truth nothing but poor bees."

And when I'm honest, I have to admit that a lot of days I live with the same conclusion: my purpose in life is to find the task, finish it, and not make things complicated by wanting greater meaning. Destiny is written and I might as well submit to the way things are.

I like theology that views Jesus Christ as hope of the opposite.

If all of the Old Testament prophets were pointing to Christ, who disrupted religious people by proclaiming salvation for ALL people...symbolizing a revolution of tradition and the way things were.

Then maybe faith isn't as much about being right, as it is about believing in renewal and dreaming about change.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Love and Community

Today I am convicted.

"The person who's in love with their vision of community, will destroy community. But the person who loves the people around them will create community wherever they go."
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I struggle to love Christians.

My closest friends know well, that this fatal flaw in me is deep and strong.

I'm enchanted with the prospect of a church that accepts, loves, forgives, and encourages the under-dog. But this is the very thing I fail to do for others...and the very thing that prevents me from experiencing what I hope for.

May I become someone who loves those around me...all of those around me.