Monthly Archives: March 2014

3/26/14

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“Thirty-four years ago today…” – a phrase often heard in my home, only the number changing. It was the annual birthday greeting for my brothers, sister, and me; for years the first words heard in the morning or, after leaving home, on the phone when the annually-expected call came. “Thirty-four years ago today….”

With four kids in the family, each year marker was spoken four times, at roughly two-year intervals. Because of our moves, those markers were voiced in different homes, different states, different countries: twelve in Minnesota, Texas, and Canada; fourteen was heard in Texas, twice in British Columbia, and in Los Angeles. Three heard sixteen in Canada—one of those in a hospital bed—and one in Germany. And eighteen…only three times spoken.

That Canadian hospital bed was but a precursor to a more permanent rest that would strike before the third of us would reach that magic number of adulthood, the age at which one could drive and vote, the rite of passage so long anticipated. Three months early; three months premature—no, more than that: a life cut short too young, too much left undone.

And so, the “…years ago today” shifted, from June 30 to March 26. Reset. In 1981 it was, “a year ago today;” in ’85, “five years ago today.” For years, phone calls and cards came on that day, bringing with them the burden-bearing encouragement that even a distant friend remembers – and cares.

We remember thirty-four years ago today: the call, the drive, the airport, the bittersweet reunion…the words, “He’s gone.” The memories are vivid, like an old rerun but in HD.  And yet….

Slowly, over time, as the anniversaries drifted into double digits, the phone calls and cards on that day stopped. The wounds of death healed, leaving their mark like an old, familiar scar, but without the chronic pain of an open wound. And then one day, a call – and a realization: “I hadn’t thought about it.” Not a forgetting, but an awakening; the hole in the heart, the hole in life, had become so familiar, so normal, so present that it no longer demanded constant awareness. It’s just there. Life has gone on around the hole; the hole itself is no longer the center of attention, no longer the defining element. Shaping, yes; defining, no.

And as life goes on we celebrate this: his life began…thirty-four years ago today.

Missing Sabbath

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Jesus told a parable about a rich man and a poor man who both died and went to their eternal destinies—the rich man to Hades (hell) and the poor to “Abraham’s side” (heaven). [See Luke 16:19-31.] I wonder if this be a statement on Sabbath—on our need to stop, to rest, to break from our daily activities—as much as it is a statement on care for the poor, or on heaven and hell?

The rich man was well-dressed and well-fed. The parable says nothing of his activities except that he “feasted sumptuously every day.” It suggests that he never stopped; never stopped to look down at the poor, sickly beggar lying at his gate; never stopped long enough to drop even a morsel from the ever-present loaf in his fat hand. Perhaps he did not even stop long enough to shoo the man away…”not in my back yard.” Yet somehow, he knew his name: Lazarus. The name means he whom God has helped. Maybe that was the rich man’s excuse: God would help him, so I don’t need to; or God has helped him, and look at the result. Either way, the rich man neither stops nor stoops.

How often, in our self-important busy-ness, do we not stop to look at those around us? How often do we not stoop to help? We know they’re there, for we must step over or around them each day; we may even know their names; but we neither know nor truly see them.

We know God’s name, too: Emmanuel—God with us. Yet in the never-ending toil of our well-dressed feasting, we miss, too, the very presence and intimacy of God.

Casa Hogar – The Language of Love

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Casa Hogar, Cañon Buena Vista, El Zorillo, BC Mexico

I’ve been to Casa Hogar three times now and each time, I wrestle. I wrestle because I have a savior complex and I just want to rescue them. I want to bring one of the kids home, to give her family, to tuck him into bed at night, to love him.

But wait—is that what they really need? Is that what’s best?

            I wrestle because I want to bring tools and fix their pump and their toilets and their doors. I want to plant grass on their soccer field and fix their basketball hoop.

But wait—is that what they really need? Is that what’s best?

            I wrestle because I want to bring money and take them shopping and let them pick out clothes and toys.

But wait—is that what they really need? Is that what’s best?

            I wrestle because it would be so easy to just fix everything—to give them hot water and new clothes, bikes and books. Or to just bring them home. But wait….

I remember a time when Jesus fixed some things: healed some diseases, made some blind people see. Then he got away for some Dad time, time with his Father-God. And when some people came looking for him, looking for more fixes, he walked away… said he had to go preach somewhere else.

Another time a rich kid came to Jesus wanting to feel good about his future. Jesus told him to sell everything—all his stuff—and give it to the poor. The kid walked away, sad. I guess he had too much stuff to sell. Jesus watched him go. Just watched him. I bet Jesus was sad, too.

Walk away. Wow. Is that the answer? Maybe it is. Maybe the best thing we can do is to walk away—not from the people; not from Casa Hogar; but from stuff, and from fixing stuff, and buying stuff. Maybe we need to walk away from the idea that they need stuff and we have stuff se we should give them stuff. ‘cause, hey—when the stuff breaks….

Jesus met someone else once looking for water. He offered her living water, and that sounded so much better then the well water she was used to. (Living water, she thought, meant a fresh spring.) but he didn’t give her a new pump or even show her where there was a new spring. No, he gave himself. And her thirst—for friendship, for worship, for God—was quenched. He spoke her language…and changed her language.

Maybe…just maybe…what the kids at Casa Hogar need is living water. Maybe they need the warmth of our love more than hot water. Maybe they need our presence more than our presents. Maybe the best way we can love them is to learn their language.