A Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage has been defined as, “a trip with God, to meet God, together.”  I just returned from a 10-day pilgrimage to Guatemala and El Paso/Cd Juarez.  Below is a link to a piece a wrote up about my experience.  Perhaps God will prompt you to journey with him as well.

“On October 20th, 2019, Coracle sent a team of 12 people on a 10-day pilgrimage, to “take a journey with God, to meet God, together.”  We traveled south to Guatemala for several days, then north via Mexico to the border cities of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The purpose behind our journey was to discover why thousands of brothers and sisters every year make this same journey, albeit under very different conditions.

Even to say others are making a journey is an understatement.  In truth, they are fleeing their homes as a last resort, leaving behind their families, their cultures and their people to seek refuge and justice because they have exhausted all other options….”

To read on, click on the link below…

https://inthecoracle.org/2019/10/a-report-from-guatemala-and-the-border/

The other cheek

As I step deeper into Love and let it transform me I have become aware that I see things differently, read things differently because this Love is different and is giving me a new lens to look at life.  I’m reading through the gospel of Luke right now and came to a place where Jesus is teaching his disciples what Love looks like.  He tells them (and us) that Love loves their enemies, that when someone strikes your cheek, you offer them the other cheek in return.  Love is helping me to understand this differently.

My oldest son gives into the fruit of the flesh with bursts of anger and rage from time to time.  He might have partaken of this fruit through generational sin, maybe.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  But the good news is, some new fruit is growing on my tree, the kind from the Spirit that is uprooting this generational sin.  One day during one of his outbursts instead of offering anger back I let Love step in and it felt like I was absorbing that anger, not feeding off of it like before, and then I was able to offer my other cheek to my son that came in the form of open arms ready for an embrace.  I encouraged him to let it out, that I could take it, Love could take it and when he was done we hugged in a deep hold.

Now my son is certainly not my enemy, far from it, but I think God is giving me an easy start into this whole love your enemies sort of thing.  It was easier to offer love back to my son’s anger because of the relationship we already have established.  I can see how practicing in this kind of Love will help when the real enemies come my way.

I also saw in a very tangible way how God’s love absorbs our anger that we throw at Him every day while like the Prodigal Father, He stands there with open arms ready to embrace us.  In the passage of Luke, I was referring to earlier at the end of this section Jesus states that if we are able to love our enemies, (and do good and lend without expecting a thing in return) our reward will be great because we will truly be children of God.  Jesus says we must be merciful, just as our father is merciful (Luke 6:36).  I think this is because we first let Love transform us so that we become Love itself.

The only way this Love will transform us is if we spend time together, in new ways, in real ways, in quiet, be still kind of ways.  I’m asking more and more every day what it means that God is Love, so that I might be a Love incarnate that can offer my other cheek.  How will you spend time with Love today?

A Person’s A Person

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”

Last night I had the privilege of overhearing a conversation between two friends that centered around human history, our story. My wise friend spoke of the creation of people. When God got together and was setting about creating an image bearer on this creation they had made He formed human beings and the only division that He felt was necessary was one of gender, male and female. And when He was done He declared this human race very good. The creation of the world was complete once He rested.

In college, I remember learning that race, that little box they have you check off on forms, is merely a human construct meant to bring order or division or whatever it is that race does. Last night I was able to connect this lesson with what my friend saying. In the beginning, God felt there was no need to divide His people beyond male and female, and that it would be the joining of two that would bear a fuller image of Himself. And it would have to be believed that the diversity we see in God’s image bearers, that we see in skin and hair and physical stature and features would be a reflection of Him. I mean just look at the different number of species of butterflies or flowers God has created. Clearly, He likes variety. God did not create human races, He created one race, the human race.

I was reminded recently that so often we start with life at the Fall, when everything went bad and needed redemption and we forget that God started with Creation, when everything was perfect and declared good. We seek our identity in the Fall and redemption but before redemption was even necessary our identity was declared Beloved, very good in Creation. That is who we are first and foremost, and that is who every person we come into contact with is first and foremost. They are not a sinner saved by grace or a sinner in need of grace or a sinner that I need to convert and shove grace in their face. No, everyone I come in contact with is Beloved.

This morning I woke up with that quote from Dr. Seuss’s book, “A Horton Hears a Who,” that gets repeated over and over again. “A person’s a person no matter how small.” In the book, it’s talking about the physical size of a person but I began to think of it in terms of the smallness that society places on someone. When we divided ourselves, by race, by class, by ethnicity, by anything we conjure up, we made people small in our eyes and by making them small we thought we could forget about them. We pushed them out, and we sent them away till their cry for help became a whisper to our ears. But if we can slow down and begin to listen we will hear them, our human race speaking to one another, and my prayer is that I will begin to see them as the Beloved and start there, with love.

People over Stuff

What am I teaching my children every time I say, don’t scratch that, don’t break that, the pillows belong on the couch!?  Do I show them that people matter over things?  Yes, we must respect our possessions and treat them well, but when a plate breaks, does my temper break too?  It’s just a plate, and they are a soul, a person created in the image of God to exist for all eternity.

What am I saying to myself when I buy a new shirt, new shoes, new handbag?  Do I value people or do I value stuff?  Who made this and what is their story?  How did it come to be here with me today?  And in turn, again, what am I teaching my children?  Do we have a house full of stuff or a house full of laughter and joy and freedom because the stuff we do own was created with laughter and joy and freedom?  We value our own lives over our stuff and we value the people’s lives who created it over the stuff.

How I react to our stuff decides how they will react to it out in the world.  Someone scratches their car in the parking lot over an honest misjudgment of space.  What do they value, the stuff or the person?   Our children grow up to be the workers of tomorrow, will they value the worker or the bottom line?  We wonder why workaholism runs rampant, but what have we taught our children to value?  The productivity at the end of the day or a life lived in love towards their neighbor and their self?

We are not human doings, we are human beings, created in love so that we, in turn, may love that which the Creator made in his image.  It’s a choice every day to love people over stuff.  There is room for stuff in our lives but only when it is secondary is it able to take a place where it enhances beauty and pleasure and fun.  Whether it is something we create ourselves to able to steward this home we’ve been given to welcome our neighbor and better their life because we put in first priority people, every person.

More and more I’m learning the lessons I want to pass down to the next generation are the values I want my own life to be transformed and defined by.  First I must examine my own heart to see what plank I need to remove from my own eye.  Where am I valuing stuff over people?  Who is my neighbor right in front of me today to love?  How can I use stuff to enhance the beauty around me and the lives of those I’ve been given to love?

Fighting Injustice

 

I have always been in awe of the Civil Rights leaders conviction, bravery and the ability to not stand idly by but to work boldly to confront and fight injustice.  Their story is one that I want to know better and one that I want to pass down to my children to awaken them to the realization that injustice exists in this world and to inspire them to do something about it.  I’ve read these stories, I’ve heard accounts of these stories from afar but this year I wanted to begin to live one of these stories.

Leading up to Martin Luther King Jr Day, a few weeks back, I became aware of a march happening not too far from my home.  A march for peace and justice through the streets and I decided this was the year I wanted to walk too and bring my children along for the ride.  That morning we read books about MLK Jr, his life, his fight, and the marches he participated in.  I shared with my kids that we would do the same, we would walk to say that we saw that injustice existed and that we were not okay with it.

In my head, I knew our half a mile walk would be nothing like the ones of civil right leaders that came before us.  No one would be yelling at us, throwing things at us, there would be no dogs or police with fire hoses.  This would be easy and safe but it would lead to an awareness on the outside and on the inside I hoped. But as the time grew closer I tried to talk myself out of going with the kids; could they walk that long, would it inhibit my littlest one’s nap, what if something did happen like those days gone before?  But then my conviction began to take root and I told myself oppressed people don’t get to have a choice about whether they are oppressed or not.  They can’t decide what might be too hard for their kids that day or live in the luxury of a nap schedule.  If they don’t get to decide then neither do we.  We march because they have to every day.

My own selfishness got reflected back to me a short time later when my oldest son voiced out loud the conversation I was having in my heart, he didn’t really feel like going he told me.  I looked him right in the eye and told him what I told myself, oppressed people don’t have a choice whether they are oppressed or not.  I asked him, did African men and women get the choice about whether they wanted to be slaves?  No, they didn’t and now they are still fighting for the rights that were taken away from them.  They didn’t get a choice so neither do we.  We march.

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I still can’t quite get the words to describe the march itself.  I learned once we were on the walk the route we would be taking was through a neighborhood that was given to and established by freed slaves after their emancipation following the Civil War.  It was a neighborhood that I had driven past dozens of times but didn’t know it’s significance.  Emotion washed over me as we marched and chanted and sang, the elderly neighbors coming out to wave us on.  I didn’t feel worthy of what was going on around me.  I felt that I was walking on hallowed ground, in a hallowed time.

I still don’t feel worthy to be invited to participate in that day.  To sing words of, “we will overcome,” what did I have to overcome?  My life has been easy when I compare it to others, and all because of when I was born, where I was born, to whom I was born to.  Things that I didn’t even have a say over automatically make me one of the privileged few.  Makes my kids one of the privileged few.  But I can still say it’s not okay.  Instead of living each day in a selfish bubble, either ignorant of the plight of my neighbor or worse yet, indifferent to it, I can say it’s not okay.  And I can teach my kids that it’s not okay.

My inner critic is never okay with just that of course and God and I began a conversation on the days after the march.  I wondered if reading books and participating in this march were enough, what else could I do in a tangible way that broke down injustice and brought up the life of my brother and sister?  And then God illuminated my heart to an awareness of how I was already doing that, each day in my home.

During this same time, we were having one of our bathrooms renovated.  The men working on the bathroom were Hispanic and we sometimes had a language barrier between us.  I made a conscious decision in my heart years ago that no matter who walked into my home they would always be treated with respect and dignity despite the barriers that existed between us outside my house.  We invited these men in and asked them to feel like they were at home.

Two days after the march, I finally realized that they had been eating their lunches out in the cold in their trucks.  This was not acceptable and so I insisted they come and eat at our table with us.  I didn’t realize in the moment the significance of asking these gentlemen to come and sit and break bread with me but I left the lunch changed because it was more than just a meal shared, it was lives shared.  Through a few simple questions, I learned their stories, of traveling to America with a hope of a better life.  I learned what my books and movies couldn’t teach me about what life is really like for them in their home countries and why the struggle of moving somewhere they didn’t know the language or the customs would be worth the sacrifice for the life they have today.  I felt that I was on hallowed ground in that moment again.

Afterwards, I realized we don’t always have to go out somewhere else to fight injustice.  Injustice is in our homes and our neighborhoods.  We can choose to buy a different way, think a different way and I realize now, to treat every person we come in contact with respect and dignity and to say that their life matters just as much as mine does through my actions and my words.  We can learn each other’s stories and connect ourselves together so that together we might overcome.