Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stirring up my stew with bits of broken bread.

The Lord's will stands fast forever, and the designs of His heart from age to age. Psalm 33:11

A Cherokee or Ojibwa chief is said to have asked his young braves, "Why do you spend your time in brooding? Don't you know you are being driven by great winds across the sky?" Don't you know you're part of a much bigger pattern? But you're not in control of it, any more than you would be of great winds. You and I are a small part of a much bigger mystery.

Authentic faith leads you to a place that you initially know nothing about. Like Habakkuk the prophet, you have to be picked up by your hair and set where you need to be (Daniel 14:36). Once you know what you need to know, there is no other explanation except that there must be another Power at work in this world. It's not believing doctrines; it's having an experience of being changed or moved to a new place, almost in spite of yourself. Sometimes no one is more surprised than you. All you can do is offer thanks. –Richard Rohr

This certainly has been the word that the Spirit has been pulsing into my thoughts and soul and spirit all week.

I AM God and you are not. Rest in Me.

And yeah, my life has been one massive checklist as I tick off finishing the last day of school, welcoming Miss Simone Rose, and dropping off Nicole at the Phoenix Airport as she begins yet another Journey of a Lifetime to Mozambique, Uganda and South Sudan before riding her bicycle to Amsterdam.  Yeah, a big very long and complicated checklist full of minutia: writing metaphoric thank you notes to each of the staff members, researching the best and yet cheapest international health care insurance, finding Roma’s Import store so I could buy the new parents their favorite dinner of roasted artichoke lasagna, getting that tooth filled, giving blood one last time, the list beats on.

And even though in my head I feel chill and peaceful and check, check, check, I have developed a nervous tic over my right eye for the first time in my life.

And yet none of it matters. Or it all matters in odd little ways that I do not know or understand. Josie and I marveled once again over the mysteries of time and God Is Not Bound and He Is At Work to His Good Purposes and as we drove back past a blistering Picacho Peak and I told her yet another story, this one about dragging 150 middle school students up the back path without any water. And God was our shield and protector big time.

And yesterday Rohr reminded me of the need of brokenness. Powerlessness. TO DO lists will never save us. Well, we are indeed broken, but sometimes we carry one otherwise, trying to juggle all of the bits and pieces like parts of a middle school long-division math problem. Distracting ourselves with the splinters in the other’s eye so that I don’t notice the log blocking my own vision. And the journey starts at that point where I fall down on my knees before My God and Maker and confess my utter need.

But what a journey.

I can so totally relate to old Habakkuk when the angel of the LORD took him by the crown of his head and carried him by his hair; with the speed of the wind he set him down in Babylon, right over the lions’ den with Daniel in it. And he arrived, clutching his stew with pieces of broken bread in it, the stew he had made for the reapers working in the fields. But God had other plans.  

And deniz just sent a possible itinerary for the next week… the week after this one with my checklists full of travel-size sunscreen and straightening up all of my random retirement funds and helping my mom find someone to water her plants and it goes something like this… Mosques / churches and historic district (Sultanahmet) - two full days at a leisurely pace; Turkish Bath - one morning; Bosphorus Cruise and Ortaköy district visit - one afternoon; Grand Bazaar - one day; Visit to the open air (veggie etc.) market - short trip Saturday morning; Turkish breakfasts - as often as you want! Cihangir and Karaköy Districts - one day; Visit to the Princes Islands - one day; Visit to Balat neighborhood - one morning or afternoon; Istiklal Street nightlife excursion - one evening not too late :)

God is doing His thing. There is no other explanation for it.

Thank you, Poppa.

And as we all cradle sweet Simone, sweet utterly helpless Simone who is so very loved and protected it is a very tangible moment once again of what it means to be a child, a child of God.

Thank you, Poppa.

Friday, May 20, 2016

And Audry sang all the way to work, The Deep Deep Love of Jesus.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. Psalm 51:8

The way to arrive and remain within "the force field of the Holy Spirit", which is one way of describing consciousness--is both very simple and very hard: you've got to remain in love, with a foundational yes to every moment. You can't risk walking around with a negative, resentful, gossipy, critical mind, because then you won't be in the force field. You will not be a usable instrument. That's why Jesus commanded us to love. It's that urgent. It's that crucial. Richard Rohr, Transforming the World through Contemplative Prayer

I sort of really tried. Kind of.

So it is the end of the year, and middle school teachers just try to hang in there. They show a lot of movies. And they assign a lot of group projects. We are doing biome posters in Science and Immigration Stories in History. That will get a quick presentation next week following a rubric and end up in the big dumpster behind the kitchen.

My assignment was whispered to me just as the different lines of students were being formed after lunch for afternoon classes, things like capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts sort of dance class, art, yoga, glassblowing. And then there was a sort of motley-looking crew left over, shoving each other back and forth as they leaned up against the cafeteria wall.

The kids who had been uninvited from every single enrichment. You may not come back, ever. No where to go for the next hour and a half.

So I was handed a Monopoly game and pointed up to the Language Arts/History classroom. And with reflection, I almost did it. I was pretty cheerful and sturdy. And counted out lots of piles of money and let the kids draw two deeds apiece to speed things up. And I didn’t complain. And I wasn’t crabby.

And I had a lot of little memory moments of Miss Dorky Middle School Christy who spent two years in the basement of the big house on the wrong side of the railroad tracks in Dayton, Tennessee playing Monopoly with her brother Scottie. Every painful day after another painful day of middle school not fitting in at all angst. We taped all of the deeds to the blonde wood paneling, next to the pool table. And our little secret pride was that we memorized the rent on every single property. With houses.

In sharp contrast to this game, where I had to explain again and again the rent thing and rolling for utilities. The banker cashed in all of 500s and 100s and 50s into ones and fives so he could have this massive wad to shove into people’s faces. And one of the girls kept changing her dice after they rolled so she always got doubles and finally she landed on Free Parking. Another one of the girls asked if it would be okay if she did her homework. Yep.

So inside I might have been a little critical and resentful. And what could have turned into an actually brilliant idea of loving on some pretty discouraged angry kids turned into just moving the minute and hour hands around the clock. Nothing more.

And at the end Mr. Naughty Boy who is not coming back, even to the school that “Never Gives Up on a Child” tossed all of the money up into the air again and again and danced a crazy little dance. And Miss Doesn’t Always Think Before She Acts grabbed the houses and deeds and threw them up in the air. Then stomped on them. And kicked the little pieces under the chairs. And the afternoon spun down into even more glum consequences.

And I could have been light shining in a pretty dim spot. If I had taken the very simple and very hard path of remaining in His Spirit of Love.

I do not think even for a moment I was an instrument of His peace. I was just trying to control the situation with my own vaguely pleasant strength.

And I failed. Miserably.

And who knows what the outcome could have been, had I been a conduit of His grace, His joy and His lovingkindness?

And that’s really all I have left. Eight more days to pour His healing oil on these wounded little souls.

It’s that urgent. It’s that crucial.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. Psalm 51:8

Another day, another opportunity to let these kiddos see Jesus through me… a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.

As I understand the Reign of God, it includes the grace-driven, love-driven transformation of the self and the world. What's more, it recognizes that the transformation of the self and the world are directly connected to each other. . . Isn't it instructive that the spiritual formation of the original disciples happens with Jesus on the road? In effect, the disciples learn by doing. They grow into an understanding of this God of love, this God of compassion, this God who loves justice, this God who makes all things new, by participating as active observers and agents of compassion, justice, and newness. And, yes, necessarily, they pause with Jesus to reflect, ask questions (sometimes stupid questions), and pray. But the spiritual adventure described in the four Gospels does not happen in the sanctuary; it happens on the road, in the company of beggars, prostitutes, and lepers. Richard Rohr

May this be my whole heart prayer today: I love you, O LORD my strength, O LORD my stronghold, my crag, and my haven. Psalm 18:1

With a foundational yes to every moment.

 I believe. Help my unbelief.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I wonder as I wander.

I will confess You among the peoples, O LORD; I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Psalm 108:3

The Voelkel women are putting on their traveling shoes. And in each of our heart of hearts the underlying pulse is to sing praises to Him among the nations. To celebrate His goodness, His beauty and His great lovingkindness.

How does one prepare for the great unknown? And while in truth each day lies before me as a great written-before-the-birth-of-time yet I have not yet turned the page Book of Life it is certainly underscored as I prepare to step into the byways of unpronounceable provinces.

It is one thing to start packing. Um, different styles abound, as Nicole prepares for the Congolese bush by spray painting her tiny tent with gold and green and blue stencils. Mary Anne has researched and found the perfect traveling electric hair curler. I am hand stitching together a baby quilt for Simone who is arriving any day.

And there is the other thing, the promise.

For the LORD God is both sun and shield; He will give grace and glory. Psalm 84:10

And Audry sang to me on my new Mother’s Day music from Cameron:
I wonder as I wander under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

What does it all mean?

Poor on’ry people.

The headlines are full of them in heartbreaking lack of detail. Blurbs of bits. And behind each lead there is a swirling backstory and aches and fears and minor triumphs that are quickly ground up like the morning coffee beans.

Poor on’ry people.

May I know His lovingkindness. Greater than the heavens.
His mercy reaching to the sky.

And a Madeleine L’Engle quote is circulating around Facebook this morning, amidst the bathroom jokes and San Francisco’s homeless crisis:We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.

So lovely.

As I slide on my now quite faded Keens and step out the door.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Today I am to give thanks for things I find in the dark: Stillness, Rest, His voice.

Listen, GOD! Please, pay attention!
Can you make sense of these ramblings,
            my groans and cries?

King-God, I need your help.
Every morning
you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning
I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar
and watch for fire to descend.
Here I am, your invited guest— it’s incredible!
I enter your house; here I am, prostrate in your inner sanctum,
Waiting for directions
to get me safely through enemy lines. Psalm 5, The Message

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, You have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with Your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of Your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Awake O Sleeper.

Alabare, alabare, alabare a mi Señor.
Alabare, alabare, alabare a mi Señor.

The LORD waits to be gracious to you,
Therefore He will rise up to show mercy to you.

For it is God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.”

Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in th e Son. If any of you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

Throughout the year we have spoken about the value of honesty, whether we are researching an argument paper, when a teacher tells us to spit out our gum, when we are posting another comment on Facebook, when we make a mistake and there are consequences to face, or if we ever meet a water fairy helping us find a lost wood chopping ax, these are all opportunities for courageous choices and living in the light of truth.

But there is another kind of honesty, the core from which all of our interactions with people and society and God grow out of, and that is honesty with ourselves, who we are, what we value, what are our hurting and broken parts and what brings us joy. That honesty, that integrity, is called identity. Who am I? Really, in the quiet moments when I am not being slammed and pushed by the craziness of life.

Who am I? Honestly?

And I think in many ways, that is the purpose of El Cinco de Mayo. A pause in the calendar not to celebrate so much a battle between the tiny Mexican army against the big scary French, but it is an opportunity to celebrate who we are and the stories and people who have inspired us, formed us and given us ideas of how life should be lived.

And I have lived many stories that have become part of who I am, honestly. A long night of sitting beside my baby daughter strapped to plywood plank an intravenous bottle, in a tiny hospital in a refuge camp crowded with other vomiting babies and other mothers counting the drops dripping life into their beloved children, and some of the children died. Or the stories told around a fogata under the big bright Mexican starry nights, stories of staring into a machine gun and being told to grow drugs or die, and so my beloved Granillo family left their Chihuahua farm and lived in the dirt under the mesquite trees, chopping firewood to feed themselves for five years before they found a home. And my great-grandpa came to America when he was fourteen years old, and he didn’t speak English and he was all alone except for his little brother and yet he did not give up. And each of us have stories, stories from loved ones of suffering and struggle and facing the enemy and overcoming. Stories from where we came from that give us strength to go to where we are going.

The students in my Spanish class wrote I am poems last week. Who they were, who they are, and who they are becoming. Poems of wondering, of looking in the mirror. Of longing to see family, of facing the uncertainty of deportation, of looking for success and happiness.

And this is truth and honesty. We do not need to be discouraged. We do not need to be fearful. We can let go of anger and unforgiveness. We can be kind and gentle because each person we meet has stories too, stories of hard battles and winning or losing, but still standing up and not giving up. We can celebrate victory, ours and that of all who have gone before us. Our own personal Cinco de Mayo.

And today we celebrate another honesty called Eucharist. A time in the middle of the week to pause, to think, to consider what is true. To sing Somos tus hijos, Dios Padre Eterno. To read, “Though we are given the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself, and when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.” We are image bearers of God. Beloved image bearers of God who will stop at nothing, even death on a cross, to bring peace and hope and love into our lives, that we might serve Him with courage and grace. This is what is true, in the quiet moments when we listen and consider who we are, with honesty. Who I am. Identity.

Prayers of the People (please stand)
Awake O Sleeper, rise from death.
And God will give you life.

Bring newness and change, to this community, O God, that we might serve You with courage and grace. Awake, O World, rise from death.

And God will give you life.