Friday, October 1, 2010

3 nights in

Love hurts; it grieves, cries out, aches and writhes in pain. Sometimes it hurts so much it wears you out. I walk into the detox center at night and it seems like everyone has a hose and their looking for someone to plug it into and suck dry because they haven't felt love in such a long time. A kind word, an offered prayer - what a lot to a starving man is that.

God has begun to open many doors at work. Last night there were many opportunities to pray, listen to, and share with the men in the detox facility. I'm 3 nights into the job and am on the border of compassion fatigue. We try to walk such a tightrope between our own soul care and living with eyes wide open, seeking the suffering heart of God. He is there, in the midst of those men, longing to be manifested in the lives of His followers. And this is our great task - to be like Christ. Our sufficiency is found in Him - when this is lived out, i think the tightrope becomes a field to run and jump and enjoy. And so we pray for that - we long for Him.

Oh Lord, we daily need your help and grace. Thank you for not always giving us answers - because you always give us Yourself. and that is enough.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Season A

He calls us into His loneliness, His solitude, His feeling. All day long we feel created, we sense pieces of our createdness in each moment. Those days are especially blessed. Autumn brings many of these days, some overwhelming, some simple and subtle. Isn't all change like that? Each new bend, new season, new day carries with it glimpses of God. The leaves are turning, the days are shortening, summer has past, life is moving; the Lord brings beautiful change.

I got a job working with new life ambulance. then i quit. it wasn't where i was supposed to be. my last day one of the patients crashed at dialysis. i read psalm 39 that morning. it was all about the finitude of life. i need to think more about this.

I started my new job last night. I work in a detox facility taking vitals, assisting with medications, and monitoring patients coming off of drugs and alcohol. i haven't seen tracking marks like this before - their veins are wrecked, their minds broken. its sad to see these people - these men and women created in the image of God. i pray for sensitivity, for urgency in my prayers, for wisdom in how much i allow it to affect me. its crazy how helpless we are apart from God - i can't even go to work without His guiding presence. how encouraging that He is with us always - even unto the end of the age. (Matt 28:20) i love this thought.

The shadows are lengthening, this is my favorite time of day! I could go do a hundred different things - or i could sit here and enjoy the fullness of life which is found in Christ. what does that mean? it means waiting on Him. i need His wisdom.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mob Night

I will tell you what happened to me with the hope that in relating the events, I will move from one simply acted upon to one who seeks reconciliation. In writing this, I act not only as a witness but also as judge over the events which transpired. This is not simply a retelling, but also a repenting, for the hate which was so terribly displayed that night lurks within me and within every person in the world, binding us together in chaos. 

       We were four white boys ambling back to our hotel after a tiring day at the local orphanage. The nightly calm had descended as the air grew thick with humidity. A recently risen white moon illuminated the Yao nomads walking home from harvesting the maize fields. The rakes and spades on their shoulders bore signs of age and over-use. An assortment of oversized torn slacks and stained longees hung off their lean bodies like clothes on a makeshift scarecrow. 

       It was these 30 odd men who dragged the screaming man from the bushes and began beating him. He had stolen something, making the one mistake which must never be made – being caught by one’s neighbors. When I questioned people later about that night, they smiled and said, “That is the way here, it is African justice.” 

       The spade could only be seen at the peak of its ascent before crashing onto the helpless man in the middle of the crowd. The field workers swarmed the bowed thief, each trying to land a kick or punch. They seemed to have lost all restraint. We were white and ignorant and sure such madness could not continue. As the four of us broke into the tumult of bodies, I think we all knew we had crossed a threshold where our sense of justice was no longer accepted. 

The tall Dutchman, Coen, picked up the crumpled, bleeding man while the rest of us began pushing the mob away. They were fiends, demons in disguise come to wreak their distorted sense of justice upon the thief. Their black souls were filled with suppressed malice, a malice born of poverty and desperation. Surrounded by injustice, they echoed and manifested that reality in brutal acts against each other, not realizing that they only added to the cycle of violence which they hated. Perhaps that is why we become the things we hate. Men choose hate because it’s easier than love and more comforting than emptiness.

       I pushed a man to the ground, continuing to scream my frustration. All I wanted to do was collapse in their midst and let them pass me by. I saw confusion and anger in their dark faces. The white man, with his high sense of justice, had entered a place he knew nothing about. I gathered all this from the eyes of an old coffee-colored Yao man with a puff of white hair on his chin. He knew I was acting out of ignorance, that I couldn’t reconcile this “African justice” with what I considered to be right. So, when he went to land another blow on the thief, he went around me instead of through me. His puff of white hair blew by me as quickly as a wisp of smoke in a strong breeze. His fist fell twice before he backed off, breathing heavily from exertion and gratification. His desire for justice slaked, the old man disappeared into the mob, swallowed by the frenzy of bodies that pushed forward with death in their eyes.

       They call it “African justice.” These clashes are parochial, obscure, subjective, yet part of an overarching quarrel: the eternal struggle of man against his condition. Devoid of the gospel, injustice has free reign. Viewed this way, Africa represents the oldest, largest killing field in human history. The deep-seated evil revealed on that night cannot be met by development strategies or sanitation, but only by the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have witnessed corruption in the face of a screaming man and seen it mirrored in the dark rage of my own soul. Neither can be excused or ignored. I cannot deny my responsibility to live in His likeness, to bear His image.
       Some say that something under the black skin drives them to violence, a thing “untamable.” If this is true, it is a condition, a disease which infects all humanity. That vein of anger runs through each human community, touching all ages and affecting every soul in the world. The victims become the perpetrators, like an abused son who in blind anger becomes the image of the hated father. One becomes tired of passivity and being acted upon. Eventually, the beleaguered soul awakes and reveals the character of the man as he manifests the tumult inside him. We are what we choose to be, there is no divorce between self and its image, no disjunction of being and action. Actions are glimpses of the soul, and the soul is formed by the circumstances it undergoes. Ellie Wiesel says, “Anyone who describes the future as virgin is mistaken; for it is mortgaged from the first day, from the first cry.”

       Passivity is crushing. The soul must respond in rage, reconciliation, or ignorance. I am a witness of rage, an advocate of reconciliation, and a fighter against ignorance. As we exited the police station we glanced at the silent, bloody thief heaped like a sack of rice on a dirty plastic chair. We had received no thanks for saving his life. Perhaps he wanted to die, perhaps we only saved him to live another day under a hot sun he despised. The cycle of violence will invariably continue, because in Africa, Cain is still trading blows with Abel.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nouwen says, "The real pain is the pain that i find in God who allowed all of earth's suffering to enter into his divine intimacy. The experience of God's presence is not void of pain. But the pain is so deep that you do not want to miss it since it is in this pain that the joy of God's presence can be tasted."

Today, my heart feels heavy and full.
Today, Africa is on my mind.
Today, I remember what a refugee camp really feels like, the smell, the dirt, the permanently homeless, the hopeless gaze of empty eyes.

I read the news on somalia today - half a country made homeless - who is sufficient for them?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Much to Bear

There are days that can only be classified as overwhelming. There seems much to bear, whether in prayer or in how we converse about our "daily lives" when others are buried under concrete. The death tole from the earthquake that hit Haiti yesterday is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands. we just don't have categories for that kind of suffering, an entire country made homeless, what must that be like? And God, where is He? Closer to home we found out the results from moms pathology after her surgery last week, it was not good news. And so we grieve and cry and recognize the gift of a single day and ask for strength to live well, to enjoy the depth of our human pilgrimage.

Some would say He is terribly absent, others that He is especially near. Still more would say that an earthquake is from His hand, and that the many questions that arise from this ambiguous calamity must be asked. Eventually though, we must deliver many of them back to that black box of mysteries, a box which is infinitely deep because our God is infinitely and wonderfully deep.

And we pray, always, desperately. daring to hope.

Friday, January 8, 2010


We are back from the hospital. The initial wave is over. Mom is ok. We can start breathing again; start figuring out how to live with this reality in mind, rather than living around this reality. They kept her overnight because the pain was not subsiding with normal relievers so they wanted to put her on morphine. I spent the night in the lazy-boy next to her bed, which was great because it gave us a chance to finally talk.

And now its back up to Moody for another semester. I’m looking forward to the drive up because it always gives me a chance to think. I need that. I feel like I’m going into this semester a little confused, rather tired, but very expectant. A 6 hour EMT class plus 15 credits at Moody and 20 hours of work will make this a busy semester, but it will also make it full of opportunities. I find that in the rush of the temporal I am forced to sit and wait for the refreshing stillness of the eternal. To wait for Him until He comes. When you envision something so much that it actually begins to change your mood, you are finally approaching faith. A vision like this acknowledges both the depth and pain of our own human pilgrimage as well as a God who is relentlessly initiating death and new beginnings. And there’s hope in that.

I heard a story of an old violinist who was traveling around Europe on his last performance tour. At a show played in Brussels there was a young man who sat awed at the aged musician’s skill. The man was quite sure he had never heard the violin played so beautifully. After the concert he approached the old musician and said, “I would give my life to play like you.”

The violinist looked intently at the eager admirer standing before him and replied, “I have given my life to play like me.”

We will all give our lives to something. I am reminded of the stories of squander in the Bible, the rich young ruler, the widow with her last pennies, the disciples, Jesus’ life. Setting out to be given over to God is in itself committing an act of hope. In “The End of the Affair” Sarah writes in her journal to God, 
“You were there, teaching us to squander as you taught the rich man, so that one day we might have nothing left except this love of You.” 
Lewis has a similar thought in his “Weight of Glory”, 
“Can anything be added to the conception of being with Christ? For it must be true, as an old writer says, that he who has God and everything has no more than he who has God only.”
 Thank you all for your prayers and concern with mom’s cancer. We pray for His peace upon this next season, His immanence in our weariness, His joy in our eyes. Have a great week friends. We live with hope.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

These days...

These have been good days, much needed time with family and friends apart from the stress of work and school. On Christmas I made sweedish pancakes for breakfast, a tradition that has been in the family since I was 5 or 6. Papa taught me to make them and we would do them together each Christmas morning until he passed away 2 years ago. I have tried to carry on the tradition, though I doubt they will ever turn out as good as his. Christmas was small this year with all my grandparents now passed away and Maegan in Turkey. I have been spending a lot of time reading, mostly it has been the EMT textbook but I have found time to finish reading Brueggemann’s “Praying the Psalms” and Lewis’ “Weight of Glory.”

Last week Ryan and I hike Mt. Bierdstadt, a 14,060 ft. mountain just west of Denver (see pictures below). It was breathtaking. We had to snowshoe to the foot of the mountain, but decided to rough it up the rest of the way though it involved a lot of slipping and careful stepping. The icy snow came in handy on the way down when we slid down snow field after snow field, the longest of them being about 200 ft.

Mom goes into surgery on Thursday for her breast cancer. I can’t accurately express all the emotions and thoughts that daily go through my head on this issue. She hasn’t looked at all well this week, which has brought the cancer to the forefront of my thoughts. It is a reality that we live with as a family now. Between the alkaline diet, the oxygen treatments and the unthought-through, well-meaning words of those around us it becomes impossible to pass a few hours without the realization that mom has cancer. It makes me pray differently, makes me think differently, and constantly serves to remind us of how fragile and momentary life is. Running the other day I watched the sunset for a long time and was again reminded of the sheer gift of life.

Our longings are chasms which we don’t know how to bridge, they are reflections for the things which won’t be lost, or taken, or destroyed. There are moments where the present awe of a thing, an image, molds with the secret longing lying dormant in our hearts and ALL OF US BECOMES WAITING, from “the bottom of our toes to the edges of our fingertips.” God works in our life with images and we are wont to revel in them alone, failing to see that the glory is not IN them, rather it comes THROUGH them. I am guilty of this. That is why when I read Donnes “Batter My Heart” I am deeply moved by the line “Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me” but fail to bring it into actuality because I’m not sure I’ve ever been “ravished” by God. Perhaps I am still waiting. I love the words, the idea, but fail to understand them.

Lewis says,

“In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually happened in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.”

Does this “betrayal” come through in how you pray?

Have you been “ravished”?

I’m not sure I’ve “allowed” God this – the ache for it is there, but so is the fear.