I waited patiently upon the LORD; He stooped to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and the clay; He set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1–3
I am quite sure that the greatest gift thus far on this adventure thus far has been the stories.
One of my go to professional development presentations for Christian schools includes excerpts from Jay Winslow’s sermon, “Can you think without words?” I use it as the opening for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol for Language Learners, and actually I have devised a quite clever powerpoint with examples of how Jesus is the master teacher and checklisted his way through the eight SIOP interrelated components and strategies like building background, practice application and lesson delivery. And while “pictures tell a thousand words,” they also allow so much space for me, myself and I to interrupt what is being said.
And stories are an opportunity to hear the other.
Whether it is reading journal entries from last year’s Intensive English Program. And a few of the stories were about a honeymoon in Paris, but most of them detailed violent pounding on the door at midnight, disappearing brothers, and long lines in the blistering sun hopefully clutching just a plastic bag.
Or hanging around the coffee pot with my coworkers who have worked extensively in Nicaragua, Palestine, and here.
Or the Bishop explaining the history of the IDP camps, and the hefty decisions families make as to whether they should emigrate or return to their smashed up villages.
Or the New Zealand priest who was kidnapped in Bagdad and tortured for nine days and then shipped to Germany and spent a whole year with a smashed spine and hooked up to machines but came back when the 2014 cleansing took place and runs the IDP camps with so much love and energy and joy that he is a beaming light of love wherever he goes.
Or last night I was embraced into the big deep arms of Alan Karim Wale’s family. Oh my goodness. And amidst the three soups and three rice dishes stuffed eggplants and artichokes and leeks and lamb and baskets of bread and yogurt drinks and mint salad and six types of cookies and bowls of candies and a huge tray of watermelon and grapes and peaches and apricots and swirled tea, I heard stories of displacement and NGOs and application processes and mullahs and choosing hope for a future rather than despair.
And Wale’s mother wrapped her arms around me and kissed my forehead over and over and told me to eat some more of everything. And his brother-in-law told me a polite way of saying thank you, but no, and I told the story of “Más frijoles, por favor.”
And I have kind of forgotten how all of this tied into the “new song” verse, but as I reflect on how my train of thought was sort of derailed, I think it must have had something to do with that He hears me. Each me. Each mired me.
Stooping. The LORD God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, stoops from His heights closer to hear our cry. He lifts us out of our desolation. He sets our feet on a high cliff.
And gives us new songs of hope.
The word I hear again and again to describe the Iraqi people who have suffered so very much at the hands of all is resilient. Again and again.
And while yesterday the Bishop declared that the Armenian Christians could not face being collateral damage one more time as he tries to persuade them to return and rebuild the ruins one more time, as I listen to the stories of desolation, I also hear of sure footing and high place hope.
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then should I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?
Though an army should encamp against me, I will not be afraid.
And though war should rise up against me, yet will I put my trust in Him.
Show me Your way, O Lord : lead me on a level path.