Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 4- A Call to Embrace

A friend of mine called the other day to ask what my theme for 2011 is.  For the last seven years or so I’ve operated with themes that keep me on course throughout a year.  It started a few years back in the Fall when the Lord was speaking to me about hope.  I embraced hope as a theme for that next year and each Fall since then the Lord seems to show me an area of my life to focus in on.  One year it was “Rejoice” and I was excited because I was looking forward to celebrating many things.  Instead, that year everything fell apart. 

As I cried and watched things unravel the theme would come to mind- Rejoice.  Rejoicing despite disappointment and pain got me through that year.  Another year the Lord spoke to me about gratitude and not taking things for granted so I chose “Thanksgiving” as the theme.   Every day I would write something I was thankful for on a strip of paper and make it into a loop. I lived each day looking for reasons to give thanks.   By the end of the year I had a chain of gratitude looped all around my room and a grateful heart.  In the process of intentionally practicing hope, joy, gratitude and such, I have experienced my life more fully. 

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Glad Tidings and Great Mourning

A daughter of a friend of mine passed away this month. Since then I have been acutely aware of those who are mourning this season. People I normally don’t think of much have been coming to mind---my sister’s friend who lost her husband, my friend Kari for whom this will be her first Christmas without her mom. Last year I met my sister’s friend on Christmas Eve and now he is dead--leaving behind a wife my age and a small son. 

Kizzy is getting through Christmas without her husband and another friend too because of a divorce.  Others are mourning job losses and being far from home.  And now today, millions of students mourn the defeat of the Dream Act--a law that would make a way for people raised in the United States to earn their legal residency by going to college or serving in the military. After ten years of work, advocacy, and the bill passing the House of Representatives, we missed the vote by five votes. I feel disappointed and sad.  I feel my friends’ grief and loneliness.

It is awful to be surrounded by rejoicing and parties and festivity when you are grieving and mourning.  I have wondered how my friends could possibly relate to the Christmas season this year. Yet, it was in the Christmas Story itself that I found words of mourning, and so somehow of comfort. Matthew’s gospel recounts the Escape to Egypt when Jesus parents fled to another country. As they left, Herod was leaving a wake of destruction and death. Matthew quotes the prophet Jeremiah to describe the scene:

                A voice is heard in Ramah,

                Weeping and great mourning,

                Rachel weeping for her children

                And refusing to be comforted

                Because they are no more. 

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Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 3- "The Crash"

My mom talks of the crash in terms of a year, not a week. She talks about our household being off for a year, my dad distant, stressed and hurting after losing his friend; my mom trying to navigate their upturned relationship and maintain a household. There was much happening around me that I was insulated from by my own self-centeredness and ego.

The morning of the crash I crawled into bed next to mom. Dad was already up and out of the house. Mom rolled over and said, “It’s going to be a hard day for the Ketchum’s.”  It seemed like a strange thing to say first thing in the morning. The Ketchum family definitely wasn’t what was on my mind. Then she told me- the police helicopter had crashed in the middle of the night and my dad’s flying partner and friend, Dave Ketchum, had been killed along with two other men.

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Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 2

I was a headstrong child.  When I wanted to do something it was hard to stop me.  I don’t remember why I decided it was time for me to be baptized but I remember telling my dad that it was time.  I figured if baptism was something you had to do to follow Jesus, then I wanted in.  I was nine years old and we were sitting at the kitchen table, Dad at his spot at the head of the table and me across from him.  “I want to get baptized.” I told him.  “Getting baptized is a serious thing, Crissy, are you ready for that?” 

I don’t remember my exact answer but I remember him kind of trying to talk me out of it, implying that I wasn’t big enough.  Whatever I said must have convinced him because come Easter Sunday I was in the second row of baptism orientation.  I was the youngest one there, and the most excited.  No one else seemed to share my enthusiasm.  I volunteered to be the practice example for crossing your arms.  I raised my hand to answer the questions.  I was ready.

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Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 1

I am often asked, “How did you get in to this line of work?”  I assume they are referring to me living and working in neighborhoods that many people purposefully avoid.  Sometimes others will answer for me, “Oh, she feels called to this ministry.”  Which I suppose is true, if by called they mean compelled or led by Jesus into these choices.

When I think of being called I think of Moses and the burning bush or Abraham setting out for Canaan.  My journey has been more like a series of surrenders, a progression of saying ‘yes’ to the Father’s reign in my life.  Each surrender has led me deeper into relationship with the poor and with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I suppose the first person who taught me to love the marginalized was my mother.  It wasn’t so much that she reached out to the poor but she gave me eyes to see them.  Before school each morning she would pray that my sisters and I would see the kids who didn’t have friends and befriend them.  That’s how I started bringing home latchkey kids and newly arrived immigrants, kids who stuttered and were generally marginalized.  Even when I didn’t reach out or was held back by wanting to be accepted by my friends, I still noticed the lonely kids.  I believe it was because of my mother’s prayers.  I would hear her in my mind while I played at recess and moved about in our classrooms.

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Crying in the Kitchen

This summer I was especially taken with the verses in Philippians where Paul declares, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”  My heart resonated.  My soul cried, “Yes!  Christ is all I need.”  I made plans to simplify my life.  I stopped buying clothes.  I got more creative and made things I needed out of what I already had.  My gaze was set on knowing "Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” 

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So Much to Fix- Let's Get Started

It has been one of those weeks.  Everything around me seems to need fixing.  First the shower backed up and then my car broke down.  My bike had a flat and the gaping hole in my front yard reminded me of the patio that still needed to be put together.  I spent Saturday morning figuring out the car situation and checking in on the plumber's ETA.  Then some friends came over to help lay pavers for the new patio.  Over coffee and egg sandwiches we fixed the big hole one brick at a time.  With so much still broken around me it felt good to get one thing taken care of, to have one thing fixed.

As we look around the situation in our country it is easy to see that many things are broken.  When it comes to immigration one quickly notices that a lot is severely broken.  Wouldn't it feel good to even get one thiing fixed? This coming week we as a nation have the opportunity to fix at least one thing for thousands of young people.  The Dream Act is being considered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill.  Senators will be voting this week.  The Dream Act is a bill that provides a conditional path to citizenship for young people who were educated and raised in the United States and yet have no way of legally working.  Currently there are around 65,000 "Dreamers" living in the US.  These students go to college or serve in our military and desperately want to fully participate as Americans. 

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CCDA- "The Dinner Party"

If you have been to any conference, you know that the best connections happen outside of the formal  conference  activities.  The spontaneous meals, prayers in the hallways, and late night talks with old friends and new are the richness of the Christian Community Development Association.  Yesterday morning Mark Charles pointed out that “the American Church has bought into the false notion that relationships can be between organizations.  Organizations do not develop relationships, people do.”

There were several opportunities this week to remember that and perhaps my favorite moment was a “dinner party” that started with my friend Kevin from New Orleans saying, “let’s get together!” and me replying, “I’ll bring my team.”  Next thing I knew we each had invited about five people who then invited a couple more.  When we finally got everyone in the same place at the same time we noticed a few individuals standing around seemingly with no dinner plans so we roped them in too. 

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Travelogue- Chicago

I came to Chicago this time for the annual Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) National Conference.  Last year the conference was in Cincinnati and on the first day I called my mom to tell her I wanted her to come along next year.  So now its next year and Mom and I just spent our first day together in the Windy City. 

Being at CCDA is like being with family for me.  For three days I get to be with people whom I don’t have to explain my life to and who challenge me to love Jesus and my neighbors in deep, deep ways.  I am always excited and awed by the people I meet and the way God is using them around the country to work our justice and reconciliation. 

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The Song of My Friend Addie

My friend Addie is four and lives in her own little world.  In Addie’s world there is no hurry.  In her world you can wear your clothes backwards and change them every hour.  In Addie’s world there is lots of singing.  There is much dancing.  There is no need to brush your hair.  Addie’s world is a collage of projects and music and make-believe games.  She occasionally emerges from her world and greets my world with a word of affection or a hug or a randomly placed, “buenos dias”.  She may remind you she is four and then revert back to her world of daydreams and songs.

I find myself being jealous of Addie and her sweet oblivion.  Even when her mom gets frustrated with her, it doesn’t seem to shake her out of her own rhythm.  This is something I pray she holds onto.  It seems other people can constantly shake me out of my rhythm; a misinterpreted comment here, a judgmental response there, my own off perceptions of what others think, all cause me to fall in line with the expectations of others instead of living merrily in the space God intended for me.  Right when I think I’ve given up any concern for what others think, it comes back, sneaking into my thoughts and perceptions.

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I love our world- the sights, noises, and flavors of it all. I've found the best way for me to make a difference globally is to be rooted and engaged in my community. Every day is 1 more adventure in loving God and loving my neighbor.


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