I need only to listen

We went out tonight to explore Multnomah village. A mama daughter date, to talk.

  • A decision was before us. I asked what she might need for the conversation. Pen, paper, journal….?
  • I need only to listen”

I stopped, startled by the simplicity of her words.

There are many decisions in front of me, of us. Adult in size and weight, things like housing and jobs and schools. I can get caught up in the task, scrolling through data and going back and forth between supposed options.

  • “I need only to listen”… comes with the whisper of Jesus’ invitation.
  • Cease striving, and know.

Listen.

Advertisements

The road north

One week ago we left our home. The car was packed with all our belongings, enough for a month. The kids were excited, scared, angry, sad. They were leaving behind everything they had known.

We headed west a bit, then pointed straight north. “El Norte”, the land flowing with milk and honey. Well maybe not, but we saw a lot of cows.

What was waiting for us there? I was pursuing a dream of education. But so much remained unknown. Where would we live? What would we eat? Where would the kids go to school? Would they make friends, or would they be too “different”.

Three and a half days ago we arrived.

…and here the story diverges.

There were no borders to cross, no barriers. No fear of my children being separated from me. No skin to flag me for scrutiny.

All the possibilities are still unknown. But I woke up today and read this verse, in a meditation by Richard Rohr:

Go down to the palace of the king and declare, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” —Jeremiah 22:1, 3

And so today we went. Not to the palace, but to a correctional facility in Sheridan, OR. The flag flew over the scene, encased by barbed wire and tall fences. We sat under an Apple tree, overlooking a fishing pond, and sang songs of solidarity. We sang for brothers and fathers and sons, 121 from 16 countries recently brought here from the border. They are missing wives and mothers and children, forcibly separated from them.

And so this seemed right and good to do, our first weekend in Oregon. Standing with Sikh and Catholic and Lutheran and Presbyterian and Quakers, praying as we held the chain links in our fingers. Hannah and I felt a strange sense of belonging, even in this strange cool green world populated with so many white folks.

There is hope for this family, my family, in this move north. We ache for our community in the desert. But, we stand together, with eyes open in curiosity and wonder. What will open before us in the days to come?

And for our brothers and sisters who no longer have the dream, we stand. And we will continue to pray, to protest, to write, to call. We choose to speak for those who have no voice.

My Ebenezer…

In Hebrew the meaning of the name Ebenezer is: Rock or stone of help. Famous bearer: the Old Testament Samuel gave the name Ebenezer to a stone set up in recognition of God’s assistance in defeating the Philistines.

Today we were given this Ebenezer, a very heavy exact replica of a huge look alike on the property of Neighborhood Ministries. The Ebeneezer on the property holds the prayers of children. Kids like those who will converge on the property tomorrow for Kid’s Club, 500 plus a hundred leaders. The stones there are the prayers, hopes, dreams, and unnamed pain and violence of their stories. It is a beginning for them, a naming. Even this small private act gives courage to name these raw things to a person. And we know that the words written on those rocks have been heard by “El Shama“, the God who hears.

But these rocks today were placed one by one by hands dear to us. This was our goodbye. Written on the rocks were words representing a prayer for us. Courage. Risk. Adventure. As each person passed by, they placed a stone. Before it was placed, there were long hugs, many tears, eyes locked in raw seeing.

Here in the desert, in this often overlooked part of Phoenix, we have shared life together. Overlapping three generations now, these thirty years. Neighborhood started as a simple act, really. What if one group of people committed to one distressed neighborhood in Phoenix, for the long haul? We were assigned to this fledgling ragtag group to “grow up” a little. True story.

Today looks a lot like family. Bio family was there, surrounding our boys with tears. Today is Father’s Day, often a day of pain for me. Family can be messy, and this group of people is raw and real. None of the in-the-box church here.

And so I am grateful. Grateful for words spoken, and for those left unsaid. Grateful for rocks held in hands full of love. Grateful that we can carry them with us on the road to Oregon.

I talked with my kids later about why Kit used the word Ebenezer. We had heard that word sung in an old song Come Thou Fount today, a change from the vibrant Spanish melodies.

Here I raise my Ebenezer

Hither by Thy help I’ve come

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home

My daughter recognized it, and sang thT verse. Then she sang another line and it sounded a bit different than the one I heard in my growing up years.

And my heart says yes. Yes, to the God who Hears. Yes, to the God who Heals. Yes, to the God who goes before and behind. Yes. May it be so.

Here’s my heart, oh, take and heal it

Heal it for Thy Home above.

The gift of presence

Leaving is like a slow grief. As we leave this place we have put roots down in together for thirty years, there is pain. Actually, counting childhood, I have been in the desert for forty years. Not sure about the wanderings….

And so we gather with groups of folks we have loved. These are people, young and old and in between, whom we have done life with in raw, bold ways. And in those places I have an invitation before me. Do I dare to remain present? Am I willing to listen with my heart?

Part of me wants to bolt! (And this from an “extrovert”)!

There is something I am startled by in this season. I have “done” many things; written curriculums, facilitated groups, midwifed women, taught classes. These are not the things I am hearing back.

From the teen moms, now grown, the take away is simple. I greeted their babies and drew on their bellies (belly mapping a baby). Greeting babies, so common to me, gives connection to that little human. And I asked permission (may I touch you?). This is life changing for those of us who have been violated.

Not the curriculum, the knowledge, the program. The things that stick are put into words: respect, dignity, permission, voice. And I offered my eyes.

This theme I also heard from my journey-mates. “You gave me your eyes.”

What is that, the offering of eyes, of presence? It is an invitation.

I also hear that I invited story, that we created places that flowed from our own stories. It seems small, really, the inviting of story. But this is radical, revolutionary stuff. When I engage my story deeply, and wrestle with its pain, only then do I have the right to dive into story-waters.

This desert landscape has been the place of my deep wrestling. Everything I thought was true about me, and my childhood, has been exposed in the light. Layers upon layers have been stripped away, until I stood figuratively naked in the arid landscape.

It is only from this place that I have the privilege to hold space for stories to emerge.

These are things that I am invited to notice. I am going to a place, in grad school, where other things matter. Titles, letters behind a name, publications, position….

And in this season of goodbyes none of those things have been spoken once.

Eyes, presence, respect, story.

This is the invitation, to my heart. Am I willing to enter a new place and offer my eyes? Am I willing to be present, in that green and rainy land, to another? Am I willing to offer my story, to create safe spaces for stories to emerge? In a more scripted, techy birth environment, will I continue to ask permission, to honor the yes and no of a woman young or old?

I am listening.

Thank you for gifting me with your words.

And go….

I have been thinking a lot about Abraham lately. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, God is crazy!

He basically tells the patriarch of old, “Get up. And go. To a place which I will show you.”

In case he doesn’t get the picture, God spells it it out. Leave your home. Your people (kindred), your lands. And go….

Not go from this point A to point B. At least we have a geographical locale. Just go.

And so he packs up. His goats. His tents. His wives. His kids. His life. I can picture that.

Can you imagine the questions from the kids: daddy where are we going, how long til we get there, what will it be like, how many more miles, my feet hurt!

So many questions.

So few answers.

It’s a story I can enter on so many levels. After 40 years (literally) in the desert I know about Desert travel.

So much learning into the I. I will show you. I will be with you.

I.

Not the long goodbye yet…

I sat surrounded yet alone as a journeymate was honored. Her long goodbye came far too soon, it feels to me. She lived in a broken body, but her spirit was strong and vibrant. It pulsed and moved with life as multi-faceted as the flowers in her gardens.

Her life calls to a deep place in me.

I know something of broken bodies. Right now, mine is strong and almost supple. But always there is the awareness that it could change in a day.

I am reminded again tonight that all I have is this moment. This breath, this day…

I want to hold my kids, in their teenage push-pull, a little longer than is comfortable.

I want to speak truth. Not the truth/beauty/goodness kind but the real deal. The messy, cut the cliché, truth. The kind that cuts through to harsh realities with grace.

I want to co-create safe spaces; in my home, in my world. Spaces with food that reflects artistry. Spaces where conversation flows like water.

I want to be present. Today.

It’s not the long goodbye yet.

Letting go

This place has sheltered us for 24 years. We entered it as young parents, with a toddler. Our ideas of parenthood and life were clear and strong. We were leaders, planting in the inner city. Everything was in a neat box, tied with a bow.

And so this has been in place of learning, and of letting go. The process of unraveling has occurred here. Much pain has been revealed. There has been an invitation to continue to live into the space. To continue to live into the stories of our growing up years, and the growing up happening right in our house. That is a painful road.

It has been a place of joy. Countless birthday parties, Easter egg painting, games of “ha!”, and cooking experiments galore. Five of our kids have grown up here largely. They are desert kids. We have learned how to blend of family. We have learned to love here.

And so the invitation comes to step out. We say and we hope that we will be back to this desert, to this city, full of people we love. But much is unknown.

What is known is that someone steps out with us. And in that knowledge, into the swirling mist we go. But we do not go alone.

And so far this place, we ask that it would be found by someone who would need a space of refuge. A place to call home. A place for the heart. Perhaps, in it’s very walls, lies the courage and the invitation to go farther in and farther up.

May it be so.

I am not alone

Sitting at neighborhood this morning, I felt waves of emotion. The reality is hitting me. I am leaving this community where I have woven into the lives of now the third generation of this Neighborhood.

How do you begin to form a community in a new place? I know that it starts by being willing to open my heart. And then, the risk is, I don’t know where the journey will lead.

But that is the only way. The reality is, that’s community. I have to be willing to enter with my story, to listen to the stories of others. And it is in this sacred space of story that the bonds began to form.

I am in the midst of the grief, of goodbyes yet to come in the move and now the long goodbye to my dad.

And so this morning the song washed over me.

I am not alone. I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me.

And my heart says yes. This is truth.

It stands in stark contrast to the cry of evil that resonated through my childhood; you are alone.

Truth says, I am.

I will go before you.

You are not alone.

Listen to the song Here

The Lenten Writings: post a guard

“Pilate bends once again to their wishes. He assigns them a guard detachment and the power of royal seal to go and “make the tomb as secure as they know how.” With all their might they seek the security of keeping the truth buried—an effort designed to maintain their own illusions of righteousness alive. They will not let go. They don’t know how to sit with the truthful silence of Jesus’ death.” (Joel Van Dyke, Street Psalms)

The Lenten Writings: floating on my back

The Avowal

by Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain freefall, and float

into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace, knowing no effort earns

that all-surrounding grace.

Source:   “The Avowal” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997.

I remember…

Trying to learn to do the back float.

Arch your back, they said. Look up at the sky. Don’t look down. Don’t tuck your chin. That was hard. Invariably, I would try to see where I was, tilting my head down. And I would sink.

I do that in my journey too. I stop floating. I want to see if I am making progress. Where is everyone else?

And I sink.

Recovery is hard work. The road back into my story has lots of twists and turns. If it were a river, there would definitely be whitewater and a waterfall.

I want to pause, to look around the bend ahead.

And I sink.

Today’s Lenten poem is about just that.

Just float.