Where Our Experiences Find Life

My nephew, Tim, and his wife and baby are moving. They have been living in Mexico for the past two years, and their  time has come to an end. 

When they joined the Foreign Service, they knew that theirs would be a life of hellos and goodbyes; that boxes and moving trucks would periodically turn homes back into houses; and that they would ever after categorize their life as a life lived Between Worlds. 

But even though they knew that, living out that reality is different then anticipating it. In a beautiful blog post, my nephew describes the experience of watching their home become a house. You can read it by clicking here

I’ll end with these words taken from the blog post:

Watching the physical symbols of home go into boxes is a melancholy experience. It means we are leaving soon. But we also know that home is not our stuff. 

Home, for our family, is finding love and belonging in all of the new places that we are blessed to experience.*

*You can follow Tim and Kim’s journey at Far and Away, With T, K, & J

Refugee Quotes

 

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“Unless the world finds compassion for this new communality, learns to make sense of one another’s voices, its humanity will perish.”*

I have been a stranger in many places around the world. In those places, I slowly found a place and a home. It hasn’t always been easy, but there are many times and many ways that I have been welcomed as a stranger and given food and comfort.

It is a gift to be welcomed into places where you are different from those who surround you. It is a gift that you never forget; a gift that you want to pass on.

Wherever they go, the refugee arrives as a stranger with a story. These stories encompass all that it means to be human. They speak of fear and courage; of despair and hope. They help us to see beyond our comfortable lives, and give us a heart to help. If we are willing to listen.

Today I am asking you to listen to the voices of refugees and for refugees. As you read through these quotes, remember this: We cannot sit back, comfortable in our security, because someday it will be us.

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“No one puts their children in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land.” excerpt from “Home” by Warsan Shire

This is a century of dislocation not merely of body and home, but also of empathy, dignity, compassion.”-From Refugees Don’t Need Your Pity

“They have no idea what it is like to lose home at the risk of never finding home again, have your entire life split between two lands and become the bridge between two countries.”
— Rupi Kaur, Milk & Honey

To be called a refugee is the opposite of an insult; it is a badge of strength, courage, and victory.” Tennessee Office for Refugees

“If we lived in a just world, all nations would protect their citizens’ human rights. But that’s not our world. Refugees are just one result of injustice. Crucially, they didn’t cause their plight; rather, they are victims of profound injustice. Because their home nation cannot or will not protect even their basic human rights, they must migrate in search of protection. They are entitled to this protection, as all of us are, simply by virtue of being human.” Patti Tamara Lenard, “Who should pay for the refugees? Here are five possible answers.” Washington Post, February 8, 2016

…If the world measures a refugee according to the worst story, we will always excuse human suffering, saying it is not yet as bad as someone else’s.” Victoria Armour-Hileman

The way a government treats refugees is very instructive because it shows you how they would treat the rest of us if they thought they could get away with it.- Tony Behn “Living Like a Refugee: New York Must Do More to Help Its Homeless”, The Observer, September 9, 2015

So often the world sits idly by, watching ethnic conflicts flare up, as if these were mere entertainment rather than human beings whose lives are being destroyed. Shouldn’t the existence of even one single refugee be a cause for alarm throughout the world?” Urkhan Alakbarov

“While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives.” Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees

*From Refugees Don’t Need Your Pity

Remember! Purchase Passages Through Pakistan and royalties will go to refugees in the Middle East. 

 

Quotes on “Third Culture Kids”

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The study of the third culture kid perspective is not static. Every year, new information and quotes can be found. I’ve compiled this short list of TCK quotes for you today. There are many, many more – but these are some that I have gathered or written the past few years. Please add to this list in the comment section! 

“A British child taking toddling steps on foreign soil or speaking his or her firstwords in Chinese with an amah (nanny) has no idea of what it means to be human yet, let alone ‘British.’ He or she simply responds to what is happening in the moment” (Pollock and Van Reken, 2001)

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One of the quickest ways to damage the heart of a TCK is to outlaw negative emotions (grief, anger, disappointment, etc.). Tell them they shouldn’t feel something, or that they just need to suck it up, or that their feelings show a lack of gratefulness. Yup, that’ll do it. But, and this is the great part, allowing a TCK to experience the full range of emotions is one of the most caring things you can do. It’s also one of the healthiest things you can do. – Jonathan Trotter in 3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your TCK

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“A global soul is a person who had grown up in many cultures all at once – and so lived in the cracks between them.”– Pico Iyer

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The journeying reality of the adult third culture kid is connecting our multicultural past with something that feels meaningful; connecting our invisible skills to a visible occupation.- Marilyn Gardner

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Sometimes it’s very confusing, not knowing where you belong, or not belonging anywhere but feeling that you should. Other times I feel history’s breath on my back and I wonder about the ways that everything got woven together for me to be where I am now.” – Olga Mecking

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“The answer to the question of how long it takes them to adjust to American life is: they never adjust. They adapt, they find niches, they take risks, they fail and pick themselves up again. They succeed in jobs they have created to fit their particular talents, they locate friends with whom they can share some of their interests, but they resist being encapsulated. Their camouflaged exteriors and understated ways of presenting themselves hide the rich inner lives, remarkable talents, and often strongly held contradictory opinions on the world at large and the world at hand.” – Dr. Ruth Useem

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“Seeing a world we loved disappear out a tiny airplane window as the plane lifts off and flies away. If we’re lucky, it circles once so we can take a last full look at a place we once called home.” – Jennie Legate

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“Our generation is in need of voices with storied backgrounds. TCKs who participate in a faith community are equipped to bring about a certain vitality and prophetic voice. They embody a different story to congregations with a single narrative. In this fast paced society of sound bytes and noise, we need the sharpened clarity brought by multiple cultural lenses, a valued asset TCKs possess. They live outside the box, upset the status quo, captivate larger dreams, and compel those around us to examine preconceived notions and to live with deeper integrity and passion.” – Cindy Brandt in Third Culture Kids in the World of Faith

so, here you are. Too foreign for home, too foreign for here. never enough for both. – ijeoma umebinyuo

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There are a group of us who bear no identifying marks. We don’t have the same accent, we don’t pronounce or even necessarily spell words the same way. We can’t tell one another at first glance. We don’t wear the “home team” t-shirt.But when we meet, and we know we’ve met, it’s like we’re from the same place. We greet each other, we carry on, we tell stories, we laugh wholeheartedly. It doesn’t matter the age difference, the nationality, the gender. We connect. – Robynn Bliss in TCK Reunions – An Invisible Bond

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“No generation before now has had so many of its members simultaneously living in, between, and among countless cultural worlds as is happening today.” – Lois Bushong

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“Any third culture kid who lives effectively in her passport country has a moment of truth when she realizes it’s okay to live here; it’s okay to adjust; it’s okay, even if she never feels fully at home, to feel a level of comfort in who she is in her passport country. To adapt doesn’t mean settling for second best. To adapt is to use the gifts she developed through her childhood in order to transcend cultures and to find her niche in both worlds.” – Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging

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“Our homes are not defined by geography or one particular location, but by memories, events, people and places that span the globe.” – Marilyn Gardner

What quotes about TCKs do you love? Please join the conversation in the comment section! 

Resource: Top Ten Tips for Counseling Third Culture Kids

Just be Faithful – a Repost

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Readers – today is a repost. I’ll be going off the blog through the weekend. I am so grateful that you come by and read, comment, encourage, and help me grow. Thank you. 

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“I’m so tired” I think as I’m walking to the subway. Rain is falling and my feet hurt. I’m dragging at six thirty in the morning. I want to cry in this world of cold and rain.

Just be faithful – It’s not like I see the Heavens open and hear the voice of God reverberate across the skies and through my head. It’s just a still, quiet, persistent thought.

Just be faithful.

I’m just back from a refugee camp where 1500 people are displaced — men, women, and children. A place where you beg God to have mercy, where you weep for those who have lost everything. Where you wish you had millions of dollars and a heart that could love harder.

I want to do so much more.

I send a message to my friend miles away in Djibouti, in a place as dry and hot as my world is cold and rainy. “It feels so small” I say. She replies in words that capture a life of being faithful “Know what? It is small. And you are just one person. But a mustard seed is small. That’s the way of the Kingdom. May we always delight in being part of small things.”

Just be faithful.

Those words again. They are so persistent. I must pay attention. Faithful – having or showing constant support or loyalty. Steadfast. Dedicated. Constant. Loyal. True. What does this mean right now? What does it mean in crowds and tiredness? I know well what it means in the quiet with my candle burning and my hot drink by my side. Oh I know faithful then and it is easy. But what is faithful in a refugee camp? What is faithful now – on a rainy morning? 

Just be faithful.

So I think about what being faithful to God means in this moment. In this moment it’s as simple as not taking the handicapped seat. But I want it, oh how I want it. And it’s there and it’s empty and what if some young 20-year-old takes that seat? It’s not for them! It’s for the handicapped and I feel handicapped at the moment. Just be faithful. Don’t take the seat. I sigh and move on down the squished train. Faithful – it means I won’t push my way through, it means I’ll give up self and make sure others are okay, it means I’ll notice the person that needs help. That is all I am called to, nothing more — but nothing less.

Just be faithful.

It means I’ll give a nod and a smile when I don’t feel like it, that I’ll stop and communicate with the marginalized when I see them on the street, that I won’t gossip about co-workers when they make me angry, that I won’t get outraged about what doesn’t matter, that I will communicate in spirit and in truth, that I will love hard and pray harder, that I will love God and love others, that I will read, speak, and write words that honor God, that echo truth.  Just be faithful.

The words continue “Marilyn, I know you’re tired. Just be faithful. With my strength be faithful.” There is now a heavy rain falling and those of us on our way to work are leaving the subway. There is a puddle three inches deep on the platform right before the stairs, just deep enough to seep into shoes before going up to dark clouds and rain. I’m still tired but I walk with One who knows tired, with One who knows pain, with One who knows what it is to live out faithful in this beautiful, broken world.

Just be faithful. The words are lyrical now, they speak through the mist and rain, redemptive and life-giving.

Ideas for #GivingTuesday

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I belong to the early morning crowd. The group that gets up at 5 and is fully functioning by 6:45. The group that is still mostly groggy while on public transit. I used to hate the silence of this group, feel alienated that everyone was in their own world in these early mornings.

Now I understand it. Now I love it. Early mornings are my best thought time. And today my thoughts are caught between the now and the eternal.

Shops began decorating for the Christmas season before Thanksgiving and now are in their full array of colors and products, golds, greens, and reds – the sparkles interrupted only by yellow “On Sale” tags. The stuff beckons. It’s so pretty. It’s got glitter and glam. It says “Buy me, you need me!” The faceless mannequins in the window dare me to refuse, beckon me with their androgynous sophistication decked in sweaters, tights, scarves, and jewelry.

But beyond the mannequins is a lighted star, placed high above the street by the city of Boston. It’s the promise of Christmas reminding me of a birth, of men who were searching for a Saviour, of an event that changed our calendar forever.

I’m struck once again by the constant battle of the now and the eternal. Beyond every mannequin is a star, promising so much more. But the mannequin is on eye level. And to see the star I have to look up.

Today, following the black of Friday and the cyber of Monday, is designated #givingTuesday. A nation needing to ease its conscience? Perhaps. But important none the less. It’s the star beyond the mannequin. The reminder that there is more to the season than the material, more to life then what we see now.


I know that you as readers have priorities of where you give and how you give. I still want to talk about three areas that are dear to my heart – women’s health, refugees, and moms and babies. The first is women’s health and the problem of fistula. I’ve talked before about this problem, about how a surgery costing $450 gives hope and a new life. Hope for Our Sisters is tireless in their ongoing work to bring attention to this problem. Brooke Sulahian – the president of this non-profit organization, has a vision and mission to bring hope to women with fistula. Your donation will not be lost in a pot of money or go to a CEO whose salary is more than many will make in a lifetime of working. Your money will go towards providing the surgery needed to restore health for the woman with fistula. The link below will take you to the website where you can easily make a donation online. Alternately they accept checks.

Donate to Hope for our Sisters


The second area that is dear to my heart is the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria. Many of you know that my husband had the opportunity to go to Gazientep, Turkey earlier this fall. It included a trip across the border into Syria and visiting a refugee camp in “No Man’s Land” between Turkey and Syria. This camp has no running water and no latrines. At last count, the population of the camp was 14,000 people, primarily women and children. There are a couple of ways you can help. The first is through making kits – hygiene, baby, education – I wrote about it here. The link to instructions for making these kits is below. There are so many ways to do this that both celebrate the season as well as move us into action. Have people over for cocoa and Christmas cookies, with a side-helping of emergency kits.

You can also purchase either Between Worlds: Essays on Culture & Belonging or Passages Through Pakistan and the royalties will go toward refugees.

Make Emergency Kits for Syrian Refugees


Another way to give toward the refugee crisis is through Heart for Lebanon. Heart for Lebanon was founded in 2006 as a natural response to the devastation left behind in Southern Lebanon after the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. In 2008 the organization began serving Iraqi refugees and has been involved in refugee work since that time. Through food distribution, schools, and health education they reach those displaced by wars in both Iraq and Syria.

Donate to Heart for Lebanon


The last place I would suggest is a maternity center in Haiti. These midwives are incredible! Every day I follow their work in Haiti. Every day I witness stories of moms being met with love and care as they go through the birth experience. Think Call the Midwife – Haiti Style. Their website says it all: Heartline’s Maternity Center exists to provide expectant mothers in Haiti with excellent maternal-healthcare. When women enter our doors they find love, support, education, medical care, relationship and respect. 

Heartline is bigger than just the maternity center, but my heart is with these moms and babies so I want to highlight it today.

Donate to Heartline Ministries – Maternity Center


There are thousands of other places where your heart may be led to give – I offer the suggestions above because they are the things that grab my heart, as well as being organizations that are small with little overhead and a huge volunteer base for the work they do. The main thing to remember is this:

When we see the mannequin, that faceless, bedazzled mannequin that beckons so insistently, may our Advent prayer be to look up and beyond to the star. 

Scanning the Horizon 


We took off from O’Hare Airport in Chicago in the early morning. On the ground the weather was cold and rainy, but as the plane ascended we flew above the thick grey into golden sunshine. It was beautiful.

It’s an old cliche — that beyond the clouds is sunshine. But it’s true. The sun may hide but it can’t be removed. The sun, stretching across an expansive horizon, always wins.

I think about this as I sit in the window seat of row 26. I look past my sleeping husband to my son and mouth the words “Isn’t it beautiful?” He nods and smiles with knowing. We quietly scan the horizon and then go back to our books.

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In my faith tradition, this season is the Advent season. After the indulgence of a recent holiday, this is a time of fasting, a time of waiting. In a beautiful poem, Madeleine L’Engle calls it the “irrational season.” 
We needs these times in the church. Times of longing and expectation, times of hope.

My friend Laura says it well:

Advent reminds us that we are the farthest we could find ourselves from optimism and bootstrap-tightening. We don’t need a new gym membership. We need rescue. We are plunged into the woes of Israel, their wandering, their panting for life-transforming, globe-spanning salvation. If we are wise — and I pray for renewed wisdom this Advent — we will make room in our overly taxed bandwidth to let the Holy Spirit guide us out of our numbing addictions and down into the thick of it. Let the gnawing ache ring and discover that we are scanning the horizon for the Messiah.

And so I begin this season — this irrational season of scanning the horizon for the Messiah, knowing that when we seek him, we will find. 

Will you join me?

Blogger’s Note: You can purchase Laura’s beautiful Advent book of poetry here!

When the Elephant in the Room is Bigger than the Turkey on the Table!

We here at Communicating Across Boundaries know that this might very well be an awkward holiday season for all of us. Families divided must now come back together around the Thanksgiving table. What on earth are we going to talk about? Here are a few suggestions to promote pre-Christmas “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill toward all men.”

*Talk about the weather! Here in Kansas the weather changes frequently. That allows you the opportunity to go back and talk about it again and again throughout the day. If the weather in your part of the world is more stagnant I invite you to talk about the weather in Kansas!

*Talk about sports! I personally don’t know how to talk about sports very well but usually if you insert, “So…how about those Royals?”, into the conversation, something will take off. Every once in a while you can nod and exclaim, “Yeah!” with authority and a suitable degree of incredulity. (Feel free to insert whatever local team you’ve heard batted around in your part of the world).

*Talk about other Thanksgivings. Remember the time 67 wild turkeys crossed the yard on Thanksgiving Day all those years ago? Remember the time my sister in law and I both brought the same cheesy corn casserole but everyone liked hers better? Remember last Thanksgiving–when everyone came from all over the world? That was such a special holiday.

*Talk about T.V. Has anyone seen anything good on TV lately? Try not to reference reality TV shows as someone might accidentally start talking about the conversation we’re all trying to avoid: Politics!

*Talk about TV in the “olden” days. What show did you use to watch when you were a kid? What time of day did it come on? Who did you watch it with?

*Talk about tattoos. I mean it can’t hurt! If you could get any tattoo what would you get?

*Talk about weird or interesting talents. My husband Lowell can play a recorder with his nose. I can pack a mean suitcase. One of our daughters can impersonate Julia Andrews, the other can swing the hula hoop remarkably well. Our son Connor can talk like Goofy—it’s pretty obnoxious-but it an interesting or weird talent.

*If they were going to make a movie of your life who would they get to play you? This always gets people going in pretty harmless ways!

*What’s the strangest or scariest restaurant you’ve ever eaten at? Why did you go there?

*Talk about Bucket Lists (Unless you’ve got family that are close to kicking their bucket—that might be too morbid!) –What do you still have on yours? Have you crossed anything off recently?

*Talk Thanksgiving Trivia. I hate trivia games. My brain wasn’t wired for them but they do take up conversational space and there are some in our family who are actually quite good at remembering useless bits of information!

            Who was president when Thanksgiving became an annual holiday? (Abraham Lincoln)

            In what year did the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade become a thing? (1924)

            (Skip this one if it’s too close to a political theme!) Which President was the first to give the Thanksgiving turkey an official pardon? (Ronald Reagan)

            What are Turkey chicks called? (Pults or Turkeylings)

            In what year did the green bean casserole first appear on the scene? (1955)

            During Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving / harvest festival, they traditionally eat a stuffed food but it isn’t a turkey. What food do Koreans stuff and eat during Chuseok? (Rice pastry dumplings)

            Where is the only place in Australia where Thanksgiving is celebrated? (Norfolk Island)

            Who do children in Japan give drawings to on Labor Thanksgiving Day? (Police Stations)

*Talk about Thanksgiving! Talk out loud about the things you are thankful for. Acknowledge one another with gratitude. Tell each other about the tiny and the tall blessings you’ve been given. Practice being thankful!

 

We here at Communicating Across Boundaries wish you a Thanksgiving marked by sincere gratitude and deep hope.

 

 

*If you’re still struggling to think what to talk about there are countless websites with conversation starters. Who knew?

http://conversationstartersworld.com/250-conversation-starters/

http://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/Easy-Conversation-Starters-34313495

http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/tag/ages-14-100

**Photo credit goes to Bronzi!

She’s an Angry Elf

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Elf is a well-loved film about a man who thinks he’s a Christmas elf. If you know the movie, you are probably smiling right now. If not, then you are shaking your head and wondering where this is going. Stay with me for a bit, I’ll explain.

There is a point in the film where Buddy, the man-elf, bursts into a business meeting at a publishing company. At that meeting, he  unfortunately and unknowingly, but also humorously,insults a well-known creator of children’s books.

As the man gets angrier and angrier, Buddy makes the understatement of the movie “He’s an angry elf!” 

Today I’m an angry elf. I was on the subway in Boston enjoying the sounds of languages from around the world. I recognized Haitian, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, and English. These are not tones or sounds that alienate me. Instead, I feel completely at home. I am not intimidated and I don’t care that I don’t understand – though I do try and follow the conversations in Arabic and Hindi.

So I decided to put my happy feelings onto that both hated and loved medium – Facebook. I wrote this:

Sitting on the subway in Boston listening to conversations all around me in Hindi, Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, Haitian, and English. This is America.

It was a happy, what I thought was a non-political post. But in our world of divisions and politics, it wasn’t perceived the way I intended. Instead, someone questioned the legality of the people on the subway — those that I was listening to.

And – whether right or wrong – I felt angry. Then, the angrier I got, the more I found to be angry about.

My friends – I am an angry elf. 

I have written below a “Woe to us” piece. I say ‘us’ because for every sin I see in others, I have five more. There are times when I think I should be silent and shut up; times when I need to sit back and pray more. And right after I publish this piece? That will be a time when I need to sit back and pray more. But right now, I need to speak up.

Woe to us who support foreign missions and pray for those across the sea, but don’t invite those who are foreign to share our bread and drink our tea. 

Woe to us who think that our skin color gives us a special dispensation of grace.

Woe to us who spend money on Angel Tree and Christmas Boxes, and yet hate the people who receive them. 

Woe to us who defend evil and dress it in riches and expensive clothing. 

Woe to us who make our nations and leaders into gods and idols, and bow and pledge our souls to those idols. 

Woe to us who hold truth in our hearts, but never hold it up as a mirror to convict us. 

Woe to us who grow fat with with the Word, while others are starving. 

Woe to us – when we withhold grace, when we bask in self-righteousness, when we see ourselves as better than others. 

Woe to me – the angry elf. For I must repent. And I don’t want to. 

May God save us from ourselves. 

And a Happy U.S. Thanksgiving.

To add a lighter note – my friend Karen reminded me of some of the best lines in the film. 

“We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.”

 “This place reminds me of Santa’s Workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”

Refugee Sunday – A Day of Sharing

Each year, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America set aside the Sunday before Thanksgiving as a time to specifically remember refugees and highlight the humanitarian  work that they do through International Orthodox Christian Charities.

Today is the day set aside for 2016.

It is hard to get our heads around the magnitude of the problem. The numbers get larger every day.

The Syrian Crisis is a humanitarian nightmare. On Friday this past week, an area housing several hospitals was bombed. The news reports write of nurses and doctors scurrying to get babies and small children to safety amidst the chaos of bombing. As of today, the few hospitals and health care facilities left in Aleppo closed due to ongoing attacks.

Along with the crisis of Syria are the ongoing challenges that come from people without homes and countries. Around 34,000 people are displaced every day and if we think that we are immune, that it could never happen to us, then we are living in a fantasy world. It takes one crisis to lose a home. One storm. One bomb. One fire. Our lives could change in a fraction of a second.

It’s easy to give up. When we are miles away from the heart of a struggle, it is much easier to ignore it. Perhaps that is why every single refugee we met in the past two years has left us with the same plea: “Don’t forget about us!”

I’ve written before about ways to help, and those ways continue to be useful and effective. It’s a bandaid to be sure, but in my experience God does to bandaids what he did to the loaves and fishes – he multiplies them times thousands.

Another way to give is by purchasing Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging. During the rest of November and all of December, all royalties will go toward refugees.  You can purchase the book here. 

I want to end with a reminder of three challenges that I have given before, but I believe they are worth repeating:  

A Call to Pray: “In the midst of tragedy, I am called to pray. Called to pray to a God who hears and loves, a God who is present in tragedy and accepts our “why’s”, a God who knows no national boundaries or citizenship, a God who took on our human pain and suffering when he ‘willingly endured the cross’.” [from In the Midst of Tragedy, A Call to Pray.]

A Call to Walk Away from Fear: I’m going to repeat what I have said publicly three times this week. Don’t make safety an idol. Choose to walk away from fear. Choose to love as you are loved; choose to offer your heart and your resources to those in need.

A Call to Love: Governments may do their thing, they may close their doors; as a Christian, I don’t have that option.  Period.

 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”Luke 6: 26-31

Click here for more articles on refugees.

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The Simple Pin

Since November 8th, the day that shall live on in infamy, people have started wearing little safety pins. I was unaware of this until my friend Jill explained their significance and gave me one to wear.

To wear a safety pin is to make a statement. Where this began is a little uncertain. There are stories from World War II of Dutch resistance members wearing the safety pin in loyalty to Queen Wilhelmina. More recently, after the Brexit vote in the UK, there was reportedly a woman, who used the twitter handle @cheeahs, who wanted to demonstrate publicly that she stood in solidarity with the immigrant community. Immigrants were treated with suspicion in the UK. The Brexit vote seemed to open up a door for hatred, threat, and violence. Hatred had a voice. What about a voice for safety? So this woman wanted members of the immigrant community to know she was a safe person. She wanted to stand with them. Here in the US people are wearing the safety pin to similarly align themselves with people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, and immigrants.

On Thursday, following the election, our youngest daughter came home and reported a story about her Muslim friend. His mom was nervous to go out of the house wearing her hijab. The world now felt like an unsafe place for her. I know of another young woman, this one white, who is a victim of sexual abuse. Fear and a renewed sense of her vulnerability left her paralyzed for several days after the election. I wish with all my heart that these two women would know that I and so many many others are safe spaces in this new atmosphere.

While the safety pin has been a meaningful symbol to many it’s also been met with eye rolls and it’s share of sighs and “Oh brother!”s. The Internet is full of sarcastic posts and tweets and articles that disclaim it. Perhaps it’s another meaningless attempt by white people to band aid up a fatal wound.

I’m not naïve enough to think that wearing a safety pin is all that we have to do. But surely we have to do something even to communicate hope to those suddenly a feared? Maybe the safety pin is a good place to start.

Perhaps the pin serves as more of a statement to myself. I will do something. I will respond. Maybe it emboldens me to reach across community divide, to smile at a stranger who looks differently than I do, to make conversation with someone I don’t know at the grocery store, on the bus, at the library. Maybe it reminds me that there is always something I can do—something small, something a little bigger, something bold.

My friend Jill is a perfect example. Jill is a gregarious extrovert. She loves people without restraint. This election cycle has been hard for her too. She sees the ostracized further marginalized and it’s hurt her. She hears the racial slurs, the negative stereotyping and she sees what it’s doing to her country, her community, her family.

A week ago, Jill donned a silver safety pin. She wore it to the airport, through security, to the departure gate. In the departure lounge she looked around to see who might need someone to connect with. She approached a black man across the way and commented casually about his t-shirt. He was wearing the team mascot from the same high school where her freshman son attends. They struck up a conversation about teenage sons and sports.

Fully aware of the pin on her lapel, she crossed the lounge again and sat next to an elderly black woman. Jill struck up a conversation. Before long the two women discovered they had Albuquerque in common, and interesting family systems and a love of cookies. After they boarded the plane and were en route to Dallas, Jill escaped her seatbelt and sought out her new friend. She handed her a card with her phone number and address on it. She told Ms. Johnson she would be bringing her cookies. “No you won’t!” Ms. Johnson responded in disbelief. “Oh yes I will,” Jill laughed!

When the plane reached Dallas and Jill was deboarding, the flight attendant made eye contact with Jill’s safety pin and then with Jill. Tears filled her eyes and she reached out and hugged Jill.

Jill sent me this text message: I think the safety pin has meant more to me as a reminder to be bold and seek out others. I was not afraid to look for those who might need a smile. Honestly I have not worn my cross necklaces lately-even before election. It just has too many negatives. But the safety pin felt right-be an ally, just be there, show that you care and are not judging. 

White people wear your safety pins! Don’t pretend to think that this enough…but understand fully that this is a beginning. You’re making a statement even to yourself. We have work to do…. We are going to need all the courage we can get and if a pin can poke our consciences and wakes us up to do something it’s worth it!

I just got another text message from Jill. “I just took my new friend, Ms. Johnson, cookies! It was very special.” Wow! Maybe the safety pin can also serve the same function as strings tied around our fingers, reminders to actually act on our best intentions.

 

You can read more about the pin:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-poignant-reason-people-are-wearing-safety-pins-after-brexit_us_5773da43e4b0352fed3e8368

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/11/11/safety-pins-brexit-donald-trump-election/93639074/

https://www.bustle.com/articles/195044-wearing-a-safety-pin-isnt-enough-here-are-8-concrete-ways-to-be-an-ally

 

Beloved

Due to a WordPress error – the date of this is wrong. It is actually Monday, December 5.

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A light snow is falling as I exit the subway. It’s so beautiful. I stop for a moment and watch the flakes. They are all different, I’m told. Not one the same – each one a beautiful reflection of the Designer’s creativity. Just one more sign of a Creator’s love.

*****

I work with a diverse group of people. One of my colleagues, an African-American woman has become a friend and unknowingly, an educator. Every time we have a conversation I walk away challenged in the best possible way. My friend helps me understand a different perspective – a perspective based on the color of skin and therefore, a life experience that I do not share.She challenges me without even knowing she is doing so.

Last week, we were sitting together at a meeting. As I looked over at her, I noticed that just below the hairline on her neck was a small, delicate tattoo. The tattoo was one word – the word beloved. On the way back to our office I asked her about the tattoo. She smiled and said “It’s just to remind myself of who I really am.” When people want to dismiss her, when they want to deny her humanity, and not allow her a voice, she still knows at her core that she is beloved. When the headlines tell a story of prejudice and discrimination, my friend remembers she is beloved. She knows who she is, and no one can take that away from her.

Beloved – that beautiful word that tells us we are cherished, treasured, owned by love.

Amid the crazy that has become Christmas in the Western world, there is a story that calls us into calm, that calls us into adoration and worship. It’s a story that has lasted centuries, a story that won’t die. The heart of the story is a small baby come into the world – God become man. The soul of the story is a conquering of death – but that story comes years later. The heart of the story is a God who so loved us that he chose to walk among us, chose to confine himself to place and time, to experience the joys and struggles of a life trapped inside a human body. He, who was and is eternity, restricted to impermanence and transience.

He did this to show us how much he loved us, to call us his beloved ones.

It is branded on my friend’s skin permanently; may it be branded on our hearts eternally.

*****

The snow is still falling on a city that is both beautiful and broken. I sigh and move forward, resolute and ready to live as a beloved one.

“The engaged mind, illuminated by truth, awakens awareness; the engaged heart, affected by love, awakens passion. May I say once more – this essential energy of the soul is not an ecstatic trance, high emotion or a sanguine stance toward life: It is a fierce longing for God, an unyielding resolve to live in and out of our belovedness.” ― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging 

 

Rambling Thoughts on Confronting an Idol

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I called my mom before the election with one specific question:

“Mom, when did American politics get mixed up with Christianity?”

I really wanted to know. I didn’t grow up in the United States and throughout my childhood, my parents voted via absentee ballots. I remember political discussions about the U.S. taking place every four years, where my mom and dad would have at least one heated discussion about “their” candidate. 95% of the time, their votes cancelled each other. Never do I remember either one of them talking about which was the better “Christian” choice.

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “I have read that it was when the Moral Majority became a thing. Jerry Falwell and others connected their politics and their faith.”

This was something I escaped during childhood and beyond into my college years. I was far more concerned about the Iranian revolution and the war in Lebanon than I was about U.S. politics, although I would come to learn that U.S foreign policy was critically important when it came to parts of the world that I loved.

But the point is: I never got caught up in the melding of Christianity with the earthly kingdom of the United States of America.

I think its time to confront the idol. America and American exceptionalism have become idols and when we make anything into an idol we need to confess and repent.

“….Nothing is more alien to the Old and New Testaments than to sacralize the unholy, or divinize material things. To regard secular America as some kind of Messiah nation, or geo-political golden calf, is sheer idolatry.”*

When rationalizing America as a “nation blessed by God’ the arguments given are generally material and military and use the book of Deuteronomy as a guide.

Material: America is ‘blessed’ by God because we have more wealth than other countries, because we have houses and bank accounts and cars and college price tags of $160,000 and a plethora of other things unknown to much of the world. How often have you heard someone talk about being “Blessed” with a house? That’s wonderful – but if they had an apartment would they be less blessed? Does the blessing include cathedral ceilings, designer paint, and a pool in the back yard? Is the family of four living in 3000 square feet more blessed than the family of six living in 1000? Or the refugee family living in a tent? We’re on shaky ground when we use material goods as our litmus test for blessing.

Military: America is blessed by God because we have a strong military. Really? Are we using “Blessing” in the correct way?

The book of Matthew speaks a lot about blessing in a chapter called “The Beatitudes” literally meaning “blessings”. As I read it I realize yet again that Jesus again excels at turning things upside down, challenging the crowd who is familiar with an Old Testament view of blessing.  Not once is a strong military or material wealth mentioned. Rather we have a dire list of adjectives that include poor in spirit, meek, mourning, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, pure in heart, peace makers, and persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted….At this point I begin to feel uncomfortable. Are we through yet? No, there’s more – we end the ‘blessings’ portion with more persecution and false accusation.

The list of blessings is long, and drones, bombs, military intelligence, American exceptionalism, Wall Street, bonds, bank accounts, investments are not included.

But the blessings do include peacemaking.

They include seeking righteousness.

They include mourning.

And so I come to this conclusion: America is not blessed. In fact, we are in need of deep, deep healing. 

One of the ways we heal is by confronting the idol of Christian America and American exceptionalism. It has already begun to crumble before us and yet we aren’t paying attention. 

Nations will come and go. Party affiliations will change. Politics will swing from right to left and back again. This is not the Kingdom of God. Every political system on earth was designed by imperfect people who were all about politics on earth and not about treasure in Heaven.

They are not, and never were, designed to reflect Jesus or the Kingdom of God. And if you see any of these as more then systems designed by imperfect people, then I pray that God would heal your eyesight.

My allegiance is to a citizenship far stronger and greater than any nation. My loyalty and world view are defined less by a country and more by a faith. I am called to a higher calling and a far greater identity than that which is indicated by my passport. 

If I ever confuse my identity as an ‘American’ with that of being a ‘Christian’ may I be called out and challenged by those around me. Believing that a national identity is greater than a spiritual identity is quite simply idolatry.

Maybe you voted for Trump. Maybe you voted for Hillary. Maybe you found either choice untenable. Regardless, if you believe in a kingdom that is not of this world then I challenge you that your job is to build bridges with those with whom you disagree. Your job is not to ridicule, to withold grace, to tell people to stop having thin skin, to condemn, to gloat, to despair, to withdraw, to be disgusted. Your job, your mandate is to build bridges and seek the kingdom. 

There will be a day when the Kingdom of Heaven will come, and on that day I know this- all political systems will dissolve into nothing in the light of the Glory of God Himself.

Until then may God heal our eyesight. May he show us his beloved ones of every tribe and every nation. May we not dismiss stories or perspectives. May we be ones who listen and learn, who are willing to admit we are wrong. May we not justify our wrongs or rationalize our sins. May we be people who see beyond the crisis of the day and beyond our own inadequacies. May we comfort the hurting, give grace to the angry, hear the other side, build bridges of peace, and always fight for the persecuted. May we see the world through the Creator’s eyes of love and grace.

*First Things – “Is America Blessed by God”

Blogger’s note: You may recognize some of these posts – I took from a couple different blogs that I have done in the past.

On #InternationalDayofTolerance – Fight for Asia Bibi!

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I’m angry. 

A Christian Pakistani woman is sentenced to death in Pakistan. Her crime? She is allegedly accused of insulting Islam after a group of Muslim women did not want her sharing the same water bowl as them. She offered them water and they refused stating it was “unclean.”

I wish this was hyperbole. I wish that I didn’t have to write this piece. But I’m angry. I’m angry that calls for tolerance don’t include the likes of Asia Bibi. I’m angry that Christians, Muslims, or non religious people who care about human rights are not standing up for this woman, insisting on her release. I’m angry that to date, very few people have signed the petition requesting her release.

Her life is clearly of no value to the United Nations, to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, to Human Rights Watch international, and Amnesty International. This should be headline news every single day until she is released. This should not be allowed to happen. The last article I have seen on this from Amnesty International is from 2014. That’s ludicrous for a group that purports to care about human rights.

Asia Bibi has been in jail since 2009. That is seven years!  But obviously, her life as a woman, as a minority, and as a Christian is not something that people who generally fight for these things are willing to fight for. 

Today is the International Day of Tolerance – and yet I saw nothing about Asia Bibi. I saw a lot of rainbows, I saw hands held ad nauseum across the globe. But no one is speaking out for her.

My question is: Why? Why can’t the International Day of Tolerance include the likes of Asia Bibi? Why can’t the International Day of Tolerance look at the plight of Christian women throughout Pakistan?

They have no voice. They have no rights. There are many like Asia Bibi who day after day are discriminated against without anyone paying attention.

Christian friends – will you speak up?

Muslim friends – I will fight for you, and speak up for your rights any day, hour, or minute of the week in this country because it is the right thing to do. I care deeply for you and your community. You are my friends,neighbors, and colleagues. Will you speak up for Asia Bibi.

Other friends – will you speak up and sign a petition for a woman who has nothing and no one fighting for her?

Here is what I am going to ask you to do:

  1. Sign this petition
  2. Email others to sign the petition.
  3. Share this post

Here is the summary: 

Asia Bibi is a Christian wife and mother awaiting execution in a Pakistani prison. She was accused by Muslim coworkers of blasphemy. More than 150,000 Christians in Pakistan signed a petition protesting the injustice against Asia and other Christians in their nation. Now there’s a way for people around the world to add their voices to those Pakistani voices, through an online petition at http://www.CallForMercy.com.

I just signed the petition, and I hope that you’ll click on the link and sign as well. As of today, 702,760 people have signed. The goal is to have one million signatures to deliver to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC.

Please add your name and speak out on behalf of Asia Bibi.

Folks, this is 2016 and a woman is sentenced to death because of a poorly constructed blasphemy law. We can’t sit silent on this International Day of Tolerance. 

Blogger’s note: The bigger issue is the huge problem with the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan which has come under severe attack but nothing has yet been done to change it.

Election 2016 Detox Plan

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No matter where you live, you are probably completely fed up and exhausted by the U.S Election 2016. If you are a U.S. citizen, you are even more tired of it, even if you were on the winning side. So it’s time to purge and detox. Like a colon cleanse, this list is designed to rid yourself of the impurities that collected in your system. Add your own through the comments — that way we will have more ideas.

  1. Bake. Baking not only fills your home with delicious aromas, it also is a way of creating and getting your mind off that which is disturbing.
  2. Read a book about a group of people who you know nothing about. You will grow. You will learn. You will grow more empathetic.
  3. Apologize to someone who you offended during the election cycle. If you think you didn’t offend anyone, think again. If you were on social media expressing your opinion, you probably did.
  4. Hold and cuddle a baby. Babies will remind you of all that is good and holy in our world. Babies will remind you that God still wants the world to go on.
  5. Don’t post false news and information. There is a plethora of false news going around. It’s worse than it has ever been and it is hurting people. Before you post anything, please do the following:
    1. Read it – People post things without reading them all the time and then they’re upset when others call them out on something the article says. If you post it, first read it.
    2. If it’s from The Onion, The Babylon Bee, or another satirical site, remember — it isn’t real. The goal of those sites is to make us laugh at the ridiculousness of news headlines.
    3. Check the date! There are so many pictures going around from a year ago, two years ago. Check the date and the story. The story may be outrageous, but if it’s an old story, then we already had our chance to be outraged and for god’s sake, don’t make us get outraged again!
  6. Eat homemade bread with raspberry jam.
  7. Put on classical music and let it flood your soul.
  8. Make friends with someone who doesn’t look or believe like you do.
  9. Take a long walk.with a good friend and make election talk off-limits.
  10. Get involved in some sort of service project. Whether it’s feeding the homeless, volunteering at a shelter, making refugee kits or something else, I guarantee that there are organizations that need your time and skills. Winter is a time when social service agencies need all the help they can get. Check with your local homeless shelter, community health center, Salvation Army or other community based organizations.
  11. Limit your time on social media. Hide the posts of people who you feel aren’t helping. Give yourself a one day sabbath. Consider Pico Iyer’s quote “In an age of movement, nothing is more critical than stillness.” In a book called The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. Iyer writes that many people who work in Silicon Valley try hard to observe an “internet sabbath.” For 24 or 48 hours each week they go completely offline to get a sense of focus and perspective, so that when they go online again, they will have the creativity to do what they are paid to do. The irony is profound. They sit in stillness in order to create programs and platforms so that we never want to go offline. Defy the creators of social media and find time every day to be still and away from social media of all types.
  12. Invite someone for a meal or tea.
  13. Play a board game with friends. On Thursday of last week, we played Ticket to Ride India version with my daughter and her boyfriend. It was perfect timing. We didn’t once talk about the election – we just concentrated on building trains from Bombay to Calcutta. It was therapeutic and fun, just what we needed.
  14. Set boundaries for yourself. If you are going to be having Thanksgiving Dinner with people who you disagree with politically but love deeply, then decide ahead of time that you won’t go there. It’s not worth it. Relationships last – politics and elections don’t.
  15. If you are someone who prays, pray that you will be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  16. Read these books to better understand the worlds of others:
    1. Between the World and Me – Ta Nehisi Coates
    2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    3. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (I’m in the middle of this one now – hard but excellent read.)
    4. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
  17. Read the beautiful When Breath Becomes Air and thank God you are alive.
  18. Head over to this piece and think about what it is to love well. What does it mean specifically for you?
  19. Watch The Crown on Netflix. It is an excellent series that follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Watching another country’s system of government that includes a monarchy is a breath of fresh air. The resounding cry of “God save the Queen” and “Bring back the monarchy!” are on my lips after every episode.
  20. Lastly, you will never regret being kind. A couple of months ago I was in a hard spot. I felt hurt and sad about something that had happened. As I was thinking about it, I realized this: I would rather be sad and hurt then bitter and angry any day. Sad and hurt can heal, bitter and angry tends to fester into a wound that needs surgery. So I’ll continue to choose kind.

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”
―  When Breath Becomes Air

That’s all I have. What can you add? 

Loving People Well – Djibouti Jones

Readers, I’m sending you over to Djibouti Jones this morning. She has written a beautiful “post U.S. Election” piece called Loving People Well.

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Here is a just a taste of her beautiful piece:

What does it look like to love well? Listen to broken hearts, serve the needy, give up my tendency toward greed so that my neighbor can be clothed, welcome a stranger who needs someplace to sleep, bandage wounds, take financial and physical risks. I mean these things literally. Placing bunches of bananas near the head of a sleeping homeless man so he can wake to a feast. Giving a woman who just had a miscarriage money for the hospital. Or for drugs, how can I know? I can only know that she has no roof over her head and I have money in my wallet. Risking so much to start a school so there can be jobs and education and community. Caring for my family with zeal and creativity…

You can read the rest here.

I’d love to have you respond to this question in the comments – What does it look like for you to love well?  I would encourage you to be specific. That way we can all learn more tangible, concrete ways to love well.

Friendship, Facebook, and an Impossibly Soft Couch 

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“I miss you and your impossibly soft couch,” my friend writes to me. I smile as I think of her and the hot mugs of tea we would drink as we would sit talking together. There was no clock in sight – time was unimportant. What was important was the friendship, kindred spirits meeting together on an impossibly soft couch.

Our living room couch is soft. As you sit, your body sinks into the cushions and you’re immersed in soft comfort. It’s hard to get up out of a couch like that. You want to stay there forever, especially if the weather is cold or rainy.

Our couch has witnessed a lot. It has witnessed tears and joy; sleepy teenagers and tired adults; long talks with good friends and oh so much laughter. Our couch has also witnessed disagreements, passionate and heated arguments, and stomach-aching laughter.

All of those are easier on this impossibly soft couch. Whether it’s disagreements, arguments, stories, discussions over world events and politics, or secrets shared from the heart – an impossibly soft couch is where these things go down easy.

Facebook is not an impossibly soft couch. Facebook is a hard, electronic, computer or smart phone screen. Facebook witnesses all the same things that my couch witnesses – but it’s not soft and so it doesn’t always end well. You cannot snuggle into Facebook and come out okay. In fact, there are times when you end up so shaken that you have to give yourself a long break.

During the election season in the United States, Facebook was at its worst. From outright lies that were posted to ferocious arguments and accusations, Facebook saw it all. It was not impossibly soft, it was not comfortable, and it left me in need of confession and soul-searching.

Post-election Facebook is looking as though it will follow the same pattern. A pattern of misinformation, explosive allegations, and general meanness. I don’t think that we as a human race will make it through unscathed. I think we will sustain wounds and broken relationships. It will not be a “social” network as much as an “anti-social” network. We are all becoming more like trolls and bullies then any of us ever wanted or intended.

I don’t have a lot of answers except to say that you are welcome to my couch. You are welcome to come and sit awhile. We may disagree – and that’s fine. We may argue – that’s fine too. On my impossibly soft couch, it will go down easy.

Dialogue is best done in relationship, over breaking bread, over coffee or tea — and on impossibly soft couches.