Approaching the Holy

holy-ground

Our first task in approaching

Another people

Another culture

Another religion

Is to take off our shoes

For the place we are approaching is holy

Else we find ourselves

Treading on another’s dreams

More serious still, we may forget that God was there before our arrival.

We have to try to sit where they sit, to enter sympathetically into the pains and grieves and joys of their history and see how those pains and griefs and joys have determined the premises of their argument. We have, in a word, to be ‘present’ with them.”

Quote attributed to Max Warren in 1963 

*****

I just discovered this quote, written when I was only three years old. It is an amazing quote and a picture of the cultural humility that is critical in working across cultures, particularly when we are working in faith-based settings. In our fractured world, this feels more critical than ever.

Today, I want to sit with this quote and be reminded that this should be my posture every single day as long as I have breath. 

Rescuing the Shire

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This quote from the The Return of the King, the final volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, resonates deeply with me.* I don’t know about you, but I get paralyzed. And I get paralyzed easily. Show me a wounded child, I’m no good for a couple of hours. Show me two wounded children and the time doubles. Sadness, anger, and questions about the unfairness of life abound. It’s too easy for me to stop in my shock and sadness, and let that be the end of the story.

I think perhaps that might be what separates the “doers” from the “criers.”  I find it easy to cry foul, to rage against injustice and evil, to empathize with tears. But then I watch some of my friends who are doers. They aren’t paralyzed by the state of the world. They aren’t shocked into inaction by what they see, hear, and read. Instead, they find their corner and they do. They act.

They act out of conviction. They act out of love. They act out of passion. Mostly though, they don’t think about those things. They just show up and do what they need to in the moment. Books will probably never be written about them, and they may remain largely unnoticed. But they aren’t doing their work to be noticed. They are doing it because they care. They don’t let the fact that it may seem small to others deter them from continuing to do what they do. They don’t let naysayers get in the way of their activity. They take life one day at a time, one child at a time, one baby at a time, one project at a time and before you know it, they’ve affected all kinds of change.

So if you are shocked and saddened by today’s overwhelming problems, let me introduce you to some people who are rescuing the shire! They come from many places and even more backgrounds. These are no cookie cutter people – but the thing they do share, is that they aren’t paralyzed. These are the rescuers and I want to be more like them. Yes, yes – I also want to be more like Jesus….. but he’s obviously given me these people as examples.

Patti – Patti cares for babies one foster baby at a time. It’s all added up so that she has fostered so many babies through the years that I have lost count.

Carol – Carol works at a refugee center two days a week. The problems are monumental, and there are few solutions. But still, she goes week after week to care for people in Istanbul.

Polly – Polly is my mom. She is 87 – and she teaches English classes once a week to beginners.

Bettie – Bettie is a friend to many international students, celebrating holidays with them, and attending their school events in the absence of family to celebrate them.

Beth and Tara – these two women are midwives who work in Haiti. Daily they care for women who would otherwise get either no or substandard prenatal care and deliveries.

Christy-Lynn & Craig – my niece and her husband went through all the courses and inspections to become foster parents over a year ago. Two days after they were given the official seal of approval by the state, they received word that a little baby needed a foster family. They took her in, and a year later adopted her. They have four children and the oldest is in kindergarten.

Michelle – Michelle is my new hero. Read her story here and you will understand why. Michelle is choosing to heal, and the courage she shows is beyond my words. When we choose to heal, we are participating in the rescue plan.

Dr. Bassam – Dr. Bassam’s dream was to start a mobile clinic in Iraq. He has designed a mobile clinic that goes around to areas where displaced people and refugees are living, offering quality medical care to those in need.

Will – Will is a man at my church. For years, Will has organized Monday night meals for the homeless and disadvantaged. Our church is in a busy urban area, and there are never less than 60 people at the dinner. Will is tireless in his determination and efforts to continue this work.

Robynn – Robynn provides spiritual direction to people who are floundering, or who have lost their way, or who just need someone who can bring them back to points of grace in their lives.

Lois – Lois counsels kids who are deeply wounded. She holds out hope, when all hope seems to be gone.

Tiffany – Tiffany takes in dogs that need rescuing. She lives in a tiny apartment in Boston with her husband, but that doesn’t keep her from taking in a dog.

Jenn – Jenn is my cousin’s daughter. She is leaving a secure job and going to work with international students in Seattle. She is living counterculture to what counts in our society as security, she is going out in faith.

There are so many more people who I could talk about, so many more stories that go behind these brief lines about each person.

I think about these people, each making a difference in a small corner of the world, and I think “There’s hope for the Shire.”

I think too that there are two extremes: one is to remain shocked and sad, the other is to wait until I find something big and dramatic to do. Both result in paralysis. Neither is an option. So I look again to the wisdom of JRR Tolkien:

In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.”

Rescuing the Shire doesn’t have to be big and dramatic – but you do need to show up. And all these people show up. As I think about them, it’s like they are collectively saying to me “You won’t rescue the shire by being shocked and sad, my dear Marilyn!”

What about you? Who do you know who is rescuing the shire?

*The quote is paraphrased for my purposes. The original quote is “You won’t rescue Lotho, or the Shire, just by being shocked and sad, my dear Frodo.”

Saturday Travel Quote – The Mountains are Calling…

The mountains are callingEach Saturday I will be posting a Travel Quote contributed by a reader. The idea came to me on my recent trip to Phoenix when, on the day I left, I posted this quote. This one came from Janet Wachter – an amazing photographer and fellow third culture kid. These will go up as long as you keep them coming so have at it. And a Happy Saturday!

What’s your favorite travel quote? Add yours to the growing list!