Call to Worship God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 46:1-2
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Contemplation No excuses, just full disclosure and ownership. No ritual ceremony, just impassioned prayer. This is what people do when they have come to the end of themselves. They bring absolutely nothing to the table, and count on God to be everything to them.
There was that moment when I fell on my knees in my heart, and with every bit of my lack of understanding, I invited Jesus to come in. I was five-years-old. And He came in. And nothing can change that. But the process of conversion into being like Him is a step-by-step that we are to live with fear and trembling. Not a miserable fear and trembling, like how I feel on swaying bridges, but rather an honest and transparent, Man oh man, I need You.
Ann Voskamp suggests that we think of conversion as the outrageously hospitable love of God, an unendingly revolutionary process to which we submit ourselves anew every moment of every day.
This calls for renewed attentiveness to the minute particulars of our sweet old world we like to say God so loved.
For starters, this means being present enough to the stories of those who suffer for lack of love (and by “love” we mean all that makes for human thriving: enough food and clean water, shelter, good health care, education, safe and beautiful neighborhoods) to recognize Wisdom when she comes knocking on our door.
We look up a lot. We ask ourselves, “What are we missing? Who are we marginalizing when we say what we say? Are we using language of exclusion or embrace?”
We remember Jesus’ script flipping phrase, “You have heard it said, . . . but I say to you . . .” and have appropriated its spirit of reform for our own time to wonder more imaginatively how what was a concern to our people-loving Jesus in first-century Palestine might translate as walking justly, loving mercy, and living humbly in our own radioactive days.
And Ann also talks about Maya Angelou and how she dreamed up and embodied an artfully practiced subversive resistance even as the backs of hurting people are against the wall. And how she is like Jesus.
And in my other nicely neat and very clean world so long ago one of my students and I got to eat dinner with Maya Angelou at a little round table behind the stage curtain of Centennial Hall at the University of Arizona, and then she read Courtney’s poem out loud to a packed auditorium.
But now my world is full of kiddos who have their backs up against the wall…and every morning at 8:50 they line up and march into first period...the angry little boy who mutters how much he hates me and everyone else as he clings onto his stuffed animal and squeezes through his teeth, Miss, he won’t stop looking at me, or the tall gangly kid who wears exactly the same ripped and stained thing every single day and I have to hold my breath when I lean in close, and when I say, ”Three, two, one, respect,” which means be silent and look at the teacher, he always yells really loudly. And I really want to bring him home with me because sometimes he has the sweetest grin ever. And he can’t sit still. He just roams the class like one of those big cats at the zoo, back and forth, back and forth. And there is the little guy who only writes his first name of four letters on his paper and rocks in his chair with a big smile on his face. And the three boys in the back of the room who neatly grind through every assignment in soft voices. And the yeller with the cool braids who loves being in Nicole’s leadership class. And the girl with rollerskate shoes. And the girl who sneaks out lotions and lipstick whenever I turn my back, which is a lot. And of course Mustafa who loves to sharpen pencils, but he doesn’t really know how to use one. And somehow everyone gets to school too late for free breakfast so I have taken to bringing in granola bars.
I have a snippet of a story for each one of these thirty-four lives because we spent my first week taking standardized tests together.
Yesterday this nice lady came up to me and said she is the resource teacher and she was supposed to be in a class with me every day but she has been too busy filling out paperwork but she is going to start today. So I got to pick a period and this is it.
And as I soak in my new-every-morning-mercy, as I come before the One Who Sees in impassioned prayer, I am at the end of myself and my clever ideas that every single day I try and it doesn’t work so well. How do I get yet another angry kid to take down his brown hoodie and pull off his grey and black beanie every single morning as he walks into the class without it blowing up in my face? And do I choose my battles or deal with defiance?
And I got in trouble with the lady up at the front desk yesterday because I didn’t know what to do with two loud girls who walked in late and would not get out a pencil and Weather Packet and would not do anything but talk in pretty loud voices so I sent them to the office with an escort, and that is not what I was supposed to do. Well, I sent one of them with an escort. The other one just marched out all by herself. And she just got back of in-home suspension for why I don’t know, but can only guess, so I pushed the wall button to announce to the monitor that she was out and about.
And during lunch I called four numbers yesterday on the contact list for a girl who looked me in the eye and said Fuck you Miss, when I asked her to move to the time out table, and finally an older sister answered the phone and she said that she would deal with it, and I wondered what that would look like.
What am I not seeing? Come in, come in, and give me renewed attentiveness to the minute particulars of our sweet old world we like to say God so loved.
And as the kids filed out of class yesterday, each one of them had to define one of the vocabulary words: air pressure, humidity, visibility or temperature. Really? Can that matter one tiny bit?
At least I have the walk humbly part down.
Every single day.
He is my refuge and my strength.