27 January 2009


Good people still come to the rescue of those in need. This won't make the 11 pm news. In fact, it won't make any newscast. But I think it's worth the mention that there are people who make choices to help others.
and yes, I just happen to have a personal story to share.

Today was a glorious day in West Michigan. The sunrise and cloud brushed sky scape of early morning hinted at the beauty of the day.
On days like this, people like me, who can ignore the salty, snowy, windshield wiper fluid stained "crud" of winter driving on cloudy days, often acknowledge that perhaps it is worth exploring if indeed a car exists under all the layers of grime. And such exploration can happen with a simple car wash.
Ah, the beauty!
And so, I drove through the brushes and sprays of the automatic car wash.
I could almost hear my car's gratitude whilst layers of winter molted and melted away.

One sits higher in a salt-free car on a sunny day. I confess, and suspect I'm not alone, that when I've just had my car washed, I appear snobby to the salt-infested car "neighbors" near me. I mean, I don't want to drive too close, or pull up too near, for fear that some of their salty debris might migrate onto my like new finish. Time to practice those safe distances I learned in driver's training. (Okay, maybe you don't care THAT much.)

I parked my car with pride next to the sporty, yet, might I mention, salty, grimy Mercedes in the parking lot.
(That's my pride, btw, I haven't taken to smoking or anything!)

So, imagine returning to my car, at oh, 9:30 tonight, and discovering that the very object of my pride, the sparkling clean machine, fails to unlock, due to the aforementioned car wash.

That's where the real heroes of the story emerge: Tony and Joe, our "night crew" at the building I work at. Yes, they braved the cold, found the deicer (sp?), and persisted in turning my key, even when I declared defeat and suggested we crawl through my trunk (my bursting-with-camping-supplies-even-though-it's-winter trunk). They really saved the day. And allowed me the luxury of getting home, here, to my cozy house, to write this silly tale of my pride, and their generous assistance.

24 January 2009

famous people etiquette

So, you know that way when people of importance or some fame come along and people clamor for their attention, take photos, request autographs, etc.? I'm a little outside of that. I mean that I may not care as much about such things as the next person.

But last week, I confess, I really did kinda want a photo with Shane Claiborne, but mostly for the "hey, look at me with Shane Claiborne" sort of shtick which really, well, I don't need to indulge any more narcissistic tendencies.
My classmate and cohort member Linda, now she was much more noble than I. She asked Shane for a note to take along to her daughter's good friend who really, really, really admires Shane.
Thus, instead of a photo with Shane, I settled for a photo of his note. I thought it was great. Especially his phrase practicing the resurrection with divine defiance. I like that.

How about it? Shall we together pursue
practicing the resurrection with divine defiance? What does that mean for today?

21 January 2009

favorite bit

Tuesday's Inauguration of our 44th president marked something significant. I know the conversation swirls about President Obama being bi-racial, therefore not black. But perhaps we can agree about this: he is a person of color. That is a first for our country. And personally, in the ceremony, as I listened on the radio, I found the benediction by Rev Lowery to be a highlight.

Here's some of his language as reported on a USA Today blog:

"Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights icon and a pastor known to speak his mind to power, opened his benediction with the first words of the "Negro National Anthem," Lift Every Voice and Sing,

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears ...

Lowery implored God to help Americans make "choices on the side of love, not hate, on the side of inclusion not exclusion, tolerance not intolerance."

He updated the famous passages from Isaiah, suggesting humanity "beat tanks into tractors." He called for a time, quoting Micah 4:4, when every man shall sit beneath his vine and fig tree and live in peace and unafraid, Amos 5:24, "Let justice roll down like waters."

Lowery also brought a smile to the president with a recitation he's used before, asking God to

... help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

He concluded,

Let all who do justice and love mercy say amen and say amen."

- from Cathy Lynn Grossman of the USA Today

I googled the remarks because I was interested in reading what I heard.
What I did not predict, is that people would be upset about these remarks.

Am I missing something? Are his comments something that need to divide us? Or can we find an invitation within those words to live differently?

Lord have mercy on us, really, so that we would not allow the enemy to win battles that cause us to be at odds with one another. Another great leader prayed once, "Lord, let them be one, as the Father and son are one."

Photo credit: by Ron Edmonds/AP: The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery gives the benediction at the end of the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

19 January 2009

things the media doesn't tell me (us)

I first "met" Tony Campolo way back when in college. Maybe you have experienced Tony's evangelistic heart in a college setting. He definitely is among those who "spur others on toward love and good deeds." I remember praying about whether I should attend "mission year" in Philadelphia, or how I could interact with Tony's ministry.

It has been interesting to read about Tony through the years. He is often described as a left wing, off the charts, outspoken evangelical, among other, not very pleasant titles. He was criticized for giving council to our former US president, Bill Clinton. Honestly, within most "evangelical" circles, he doesn't get much "good" press. That in itself is a post I can't take on today.

But I must say this. Tony dearly loves Jesus. And he loves the church as God called the church to be. AND he loves America, even if he doesn't appreciate all the policies and actions of the country. I appreciated the opportunity to hear his heart and hang out with him last week. Despite what is reported, despite the ways things are reported in an effort to divide leaders and the church, he is a red-letter Christian. I may not agree with everything about this dear man, but I believe his heart and his motivation.

Health update: I didn't get the med center in Philly for a variety of reasons. I have it slated as a tomorrow activity when I get back to GR as I'm still dealing with this low grade stomach (abdomen?) pain. Thanks for your prayers and well wishes!

17 January 2009


Last Friday night, the night before I was leaving for Philly, I nearly didn't sleep. I felt so completely sick in my stomach. As a result, i almost didn't go to Philly. But my Mom always taught me to get up and take a shower, even when u feel sick, and see if that helped. I felt a wee bit better so I came. (Hooray!)
However, I'm not right.
It's the oddest thing.
I won't give you all the details, but it's been a week now and my stomach is not right.
I'm engaging in class and life here but not to the fullest.
I'm not eating "normally" for fear that certain things will trigger something.

So last very night, on the phone with B, he walks through my symptoms on some website (aren't we so glad we can self-diagnose these days?) and wonders with me if I might be having an attack related to my appendix.
I groaned b/c I really don't want appendicitis, of course, nor to be treated away from home.
But I'm not better. (Incidentally, has anyone out there had an appendix "flare up" in any way? Please convey your story!)

So...I'm off to shower (thanks Mom!) and see what the day holds.
Maybe a trip to a med center?

Prayers are most welcome if you're speaking to Papa today.

15 January 2009

I think I "get it"

Here's the thing I've been pondering. It's actually something that I've considered previously especially during the recent presidential election.
I really dislike arguing with people about certain issues and certain things.

Today something Tony said really made sense to me.
He was talking about how he and his wife view the idea of homosexual or gay marriage differently. His wife favors it and he greatly opposes it.
So folks ask them how their marriage survives this issue.
And he said, "it is very simple."

I expected his response to be that they simply don't talk about it.
But that is quite opposite of the truth.
In fact, they go around the country "debating" each other.
They frequently face this topic. And they know each other's position and argument pretty well.

Instead, Tony said this, "we survive because we both entertain the idea that we can be wrong. Need to entertain the possibility that you are wrong, otherwise there is no discussion. You just try to overpower the other person with your argument."

That is what struck the cord.
I don't like discussions where there doesn't seem to be any freedom to disagree with another person. Certainly I've also been in the position where I'm trying to "overpower" another perosn with my argument. That isn't fun.

But to discuss things without a sense of judgment or disrespect, now that is conversation I would value.

Can you relate to this?

I obviously do. And I'm hopeful!


We're sitting at the feet of Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne this very week here in Philly. It's unsettling in the best way.

Here are a few challenges Shane tossed our way tonight:

How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?

Stop complaining about the church we experienced and start living the church we’ve been dreaming of.

Are we willing to take the worst pair of shoes and deform our feet?
(In reference to working with Mother Teresa who did that very thing so that she did not have better shoes than anyone else around her.)

Don’t give your worst clothes to charity. Give the things we think we can’t live without.

The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away.

And that folks, well,
those comments and much much MUCH more are giving me much pause.

How we live....how we view and interact with the poor
...how we treat creation...how we love...just to name a few,

these are the things God looks at. How are things looking for you and me?

11 January 2009

things we see differently

So the other night B and I were talking and the conversation went a bit like this:
Me: "B, so you know how different we are?"
B: hesitating, wondering what direction I'm going with this..."you mean, different like..."
Me: knowing he needed me to bail him out, "I mean in the way we think and process information and sometimes how we relate to people..."
B: "oh," very obviously relieved, "yes, that way..."
Me: "well, I was wondering if I could share some of YOUR life with some of "my" people."

He knew what I was talking about, of course.
Our conversation continued because what he is going through presently, is something I have gone through. And so, part of my motivation and heart, was to communicate, "B, I long for you to have the support and love that I experienced."
And he agreed.
He expressed that even though we ARE so very different, he would be willing to be a bit more, let's say, vulnerable, for lack of a better word, and open himself up to a broader community for his current circumstance.

How is THAT for vague and how is THAT for expectation?

Let me fill in the detail.
December 30 Barkley's bosses did his review and said,
"we're not going to beat around the bush. Numbers don't warrant as many people as we have in your office. We're going to let you go."
That's it.
No discussion.

And so, without any delay, Barkley joined the many many many unemployed folks in the area. It's not necessarily a group one wants to join. But there it is.

In fact, it is brutal and terrifying.
Life is so not within our control.

And God says, "find your rest in me. Trust me."

B has responsibilities and commitments in the area that he really can't relocate. And so that in some ways, that narrows down the search for a job which is helpful.
It also fuels the fear.

Again, God says one thing. Our hearts sometimes surface something else.

Would you, as God leads, please talk to God about this for B?

oh, in other news, I'm in Philadelphia for my class. My online Master's program has a once a year face-to-face requirement where we sit at the feet of really fabulous teachers and speakers. That is a bonus. AND we get to see our dear classmates who we interact with "in the box" from week to week. It is a great and exhausting 10 days.

Oh, AND, it's my last one. Even though I have one year left of school, this is my last J-term (January intensive seminar). And so, even though I'm happy to be here, I'm also realizing that this may be the very last time I see some of my classmates (especially the one in Tanzania, Honduras, England, etc.). It's the reality of the seasons of our lives but it's still hard.
Happy. Sad.
Becoming acquainted. Letting go.
Sharing life deeply, daily will transfer to perhaps facebook interactions with occasional Christmas card greetings. (I'm grateful for the electronic connection, don't get me wrong. But it's not the same...)

So is the journey.

Thanks for walking with me.

06 January 2009


I'm not together right now. Too much going on in my heart and head, I suspect. In the gift of the holidays, I took time away to spend with family and friends and loved the break. It is not without cost, however.
I decided despite having books to read for class and a paper to write this week before my face-to-face "residency" starting Sunday in Philadelphia, I wanted a break from books, writing, classwork, etc. What a treat to feel free to be present to people and experiences over Christmas and New Year's! I received my reward. Now I must pay! The cost is that this week the reading and hopefully writing must ensue.

And that is unsettling. The reading lingers and slowly sinks deep into my heart and spirit. I can't escape the challenges. It is a constant invitation to reflect, consider and live differently. I want to be faithful. Yet what I'm reading asks for much sacrifice. I'm not sure I'm up to the task. Actually, more honestly, I don't know how willing I am.

So here are some things to consider, in my attempt to extend the invitation (b/c you know I hate doing things alone!):

"The church as we know it is a tragically dysfunctional family
in which some children are starving while others have food stashed in their closets."

"One of the most radical things we do is
love the people we live with,
day after day,
mistake after mistake."

"God is not glorified when we try to live together as perfect people...
Jesus was glorified when he loved the one who would hurt him...
we are glorified, that God may be glorified,
when we keep loving one another, even after we hurt one another."

"God is glorified when we keep doing the dirty work,
even for people who treat us dirty."

God is calling us to live differently.
This means laying down expectations.
This demands grace (receiving AND dispensing).
This requires love, love, and more love.

Living for God's glory is not an easy task. Everything in us and around us wars for our attention and energy and resources. We are seduced into thinking if we help ourselves, if we consume more, if we have the latest whatever, if we look a certain way then...

God calls forth such a different picture.

Here 2009 begins. We have these days, these "new" moments to live into our calling and identity of children, beloved children, of God.

How will we live?
Can we love better this new year?
Can we serve more graciously?
Can we live more simply?
Can we pray more earnestly?
Will you help me on that journey?
Can we, will we, help each other?

Quotes from Becoming an answer to our prayers by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.