Monday, August 17, 2009

The faith to receive love....

“One thought in John Eudes’ conference touched me very much. He said that to respond to God’s love was a great act of faith. He compared it to people who have felt very lonely and isolated, very rejected and unloved during many years of their life and who suddenly meet someone who cares. For such people it is very hard to believe that his or her care is authentic and honest. It requires a great act of faith to accept the love that is offered to us and to live, not with suspicion and distrust, but with the inner conviction that we are worth being loved.” – henri nouwen in genesee diary

She’s 14 by age, almost 15 because her birthday is next Friday – the 21st she reminds me afraid I will forget it – afraid everyone will forget it.

14 was a rough year for her – kicked out of 3 high schools just her freshman year putting her many credits short of being a sophmore. Two of her sisters got pregnant. Mom lives with boyfriend northside just sporadically stopping by their house southside to pay rent and drop off groceries. Gang drama and boy drama form the backdrop of her days. Stories of getting high, drunk, of being around pointed and loaded guns with bullet holes in the floor of their bathroom as witness. She gets cussed out often and much by sisters, mom, mom’s boyfriend, friends, enemies, and more. She tries desperately to hold onto the friendship with her best friend, to get love from her mom and sisters.

Chaos, no structure, harsh words, survival, be tough, characterize her most of the days of her 14th year of life.

She went to camp last week. She went to Christian camp for urban youth in southern Missouri. She went to camp just two weeks before her 15th birthday.
A great way to mark the end of a rough year.

She loved camp. Her counselors loved her. Other counselors loved her. Her fellow campers loved her. Everyone loved her. She’s athletic, knows the cheers by heart, and can dance – all parts of making her a great camper. She was at a place that embraced her – loved her – affirmed her.

At first she eagerly accepted such love so freely offered. But as the week wore on she became more and more uncomfortable with the place, the environment. She was uncomfortable with the love, with the stability, it began to seem dangerous to her, began to seem to require too much faith in other people. She began to shut down. She began to loose faith in the love freely offered her.

She fought against the stability, fought against the love with stubbornness. She stood in the rain for two hours in the dark of night refusing to speak or move. She refused to eat breakfast or lunch even though her stomach ached for food and was causing her head to ache as well.

My heart broke at her resistance to receive the love offered to her, her resistance to receive the stability offered to her.

Even in her stubbornness and fighting she held it together – made it through camp without getting kicked out even though she had come close several times.

On the way home she found out that her and her sisters were moving northside the day after she arrived home. On the way home the instability and unstructured found her once again.

I pray she remembers the love offered to her. I pray she remembers the stability offered to her. I pray she receives the love. I pray she is encouraged. I pray she goes back to camp next year.


Have you ever been hungry enough that it becomes painful to watch someone else eat while you are not?

Have you ever been hungry enough that it becomes mezmorizingly painful to watch someone around you at a sporting event, fair, parade, carnival, mall, or on a bus eat food while you have nothing to eat?

Have you ever been hungry enough while waiting for your food in a restaurant that you can’t help but stare at the table next to you that got their food and are shoving their faces but you still have to wait?

Have you ever been hungry enough to be tempted to take the food that people have left sitting on their plates at a restaurant?

She was hungry too…

I had brought a youth I work with to a counseling appointment. While she was talking to the counselor I waited in the lobby. There were two other teenage girls in lobby who had both been there for female exams checking for stds and pregnancy. I could tell from what the two girls were saying to each other and on the lobby phone that their lives were hot messes. One was calling to get a police escort to her mom’s house to get her clothes because her mom had a restraining order against her daughter. The other teenage girl totted around with her two younger kids a girl around 6 and a boy around 9. It was easy enough to see that these two young kids were rail thin and used to being totted around and a part of much craziness.

I half listened to the two teenagers loudly talk about their lastest boy drama and half minded my own business. I was texting and reading a book and they vaguely noticed my presence but it didn’t seem to bother them or affect them at all. At one point I remembered that I hadn’t eat lunch but I had an open bag of twizzler bites in my purse so without thinking I grabbed a little handful and started eating them while reading. The moment I popped the first one in my mouth the 6 year old girl who up till that point hadn’t acknowledged me came and stood right in front of me about one foot from my knees. She didn’t say anything just stared and watched me eat. I knew what she wanted and I had to hold my laughter in as I pretended I didn’t know just to see how long she would stand there or what she would do next. She stood there and stared without moving or flintching a full two minutes before plopping down right next to me and giving a huge sigh said “I am sooooo hungry.”

At that point I busted out laughing and said would you like some to which she said an emphatic yes. So I gave her a handful of twizzler bites which prompted everyone else in the lobby to jump to their feet and run over saying can I have some too. So there we were all waiting in the lobby while eating our little handful of twizzlers while they all made exagersated enthusiastic comments about how good the twizzlers were and how they were the best candy they had ever eaten and could they have a little more.

This thin six year old girl who was so hungry she couldn’t sit by and watch someone else eat fed everyone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Good Morning New Day

Sun shining through my window – the morning greeting me with birds voices as they sing me out of sleep, sing me out of night, sing me into morning, sing me into the sun shining through my window, sing me into a new day.

The sun beacons me to set my feet to the ground and dance with thee in the morning
The sun beacons me to get out of bed and play with thee in the morning

The sun’s warm rays on the carpet under my bare feet like the fine sand on a faraway beach
The bird's song in my ear delicate and sweet as to be heard but not disturb as to invite and entice but not to intrude

The rays and the voice in the morning, in the dawn, bring a smile to my face that only they will see as I look out my window on this new day.

The rays and the voice are too warm and too sweet to deny that good is here this morning.

They show me in the morning of this new day that spring is coming
Spring is coming to dance and to play
Spring is coming to me this morning

The suns warm rays carry my hope to me in the morning
The bird’s voice carry my hope to me in the morning

New day come I have my hope
New day I welcome thee with my smile out my window to the street, to the world.

I welcome you good morning that carries the good and my hope with warm rays and sweet voice.

Good morning new day.

Good Friday Vingette

Jesus cried “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

The girls I work with
She gave up her virginity at 13
She got pregnant at 14
She got kicked out of 4 schools this year
She cussed me out in her lunch room
She gives herself to any guy who asks
She is failing school
She dropped out
She doesn’t have the credits to graduate on time
She has been arrested 4 times for breaking curfew
She has gone to court twice for truancy
She steals to get what she needs
She disrespects anyone and everyone in her path
She’s got two fists she knows how to use
She knows a guy who’s got a gun

Jesus cried “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”

Her dad’s not in the picture
Her mom she never knew
Her auntie is a crack addict
Her uncle is a drunk
Her foster parents don’t want her anymore
Her grandma kicked her out for the tenth time this year
Her dad got deported
Her family’s in a gang
Her family sells drugs

Jesus cried “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”

I harbor anger
I cuss her out in my head
I don’t pray
I waste my time
I fail to love
I fail to do as I should
I judge others
I am conceited

Jesus cried “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”
With aching body
With blood dripping from his wrists and feet
As he hung there

Jesus cried “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”
Looking at the people that put him there
Looking at the people who beat him
Looking at the people who cursed death upon him
Looking at the people who denied him, betrayed him
Looking at the people who were guilty but uncharged
Looking at the people
Looking at the people

Looking at the people as it was hard to breathe
Looking at the people as he throat ached for relief

Looking at the people
His heart broke for them
His heart broke for their sin
His heart broke for they were lost, scared, confused, ignorant, wandering, blind, hurting, suffering

Jesus cried “Father forgive them they know not what they do”

Jesus cried for their forgiveness
Cried for their redemption

We are the people
The girls I work with are the people
I am the people

Jesus looks at us
And Cries for our forgiveness
Cries for our redemption

Jesus cries for you and for me as he hung there dying on that tree
“Father forgive them they know not what they do.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Glimmers of Hope...

Glimmers of hope
“Hope chases us. Always.”
Just when I want to give up on people
Just when I want to give up on God
Something catches my eye
Something catches my heart for a mere moment
I catch a glimpse of hope
I catch a glimpse of goodness
I catch a glimpse of love
Just when I feel as if I’m drowning
in the slosh of evil, selfishness, the darkness within humanity
I get a glimmer of hope
I get a fresh breath of air
Just when I think I’ve lost hope
It finds me.

My friend once gave me the quote “Hope chases us. Always.”

Often just when I am fully convinced it does not
It chases me and catches me.

These two girls had hated each other for months.
They had said nasty things to each other – had threatened to fight repeatedly
All over one girl changing the radio station when the other girl’s song was on.
Both had been kicked out for a while due to their seemingly uncontrollable hatred towards each other

But on this night – there were both here.
One came up to the other out of the blue – prompted by no on but herself
“I don’t want to fight anymore – can we just drop it? I’m sorry”
“ok” she replied sheepishly
A hug sealed the truce and love overcame hatred
A glimmer of hope.

My car had been acting up for a couple of weeks now. I had made an appointment to have my car checked out but knew my car may not make it – knew a breakdown might be inevitable. My friend followed me home from work just as she turned the corner away from my house my car broke down in the middle of the one-way road blocking cars and traffic.

A short stocky old woman who lives on the block came out to find out what was going on. She introduced herself as Penny a harsh deep kindness exuded out of her. She grabbed her two grown sons to help us but ended up just handling the situation herself and getting my car to start and then just as quickly as she got my car to start she disappeared back into her house on my block.
A glimmer of hope.

I had talked in excess to my roommate about my frustrations with work and myself. I was feeling so much self-doubt, so much hopelessness, and so much darkness all around. She handed me a letter out of the blue and told me to read it later. I waited a day and half to read it. But eventually read it alone in the house I was house sitting at for the week – it spoke words of great encouragement and truth.
A glimmer of hope.

There are so many more glimmers - a short email from a friend, a text from a youth who asks me how I’m doing, a youth who wants to buy me taco bell instead of me buying hers all the time, a youth breaking up with her boyfriend because he wanted sex and she didn’t, a youth finally living with someone who cares about her…

All of these are my glimmer of hope.
All of these are hope chasing me and catching me again and again.

My thoughts on Inauguration Day......

Inauguration Day.
I have never cared so much.
I have never seen so many Americans care so much.

2 miles of people packed in front of the white house.
All to be part of the celebration.
All to be a part of this Inauguration day.

The 44th President of the United States of America was inaugurated today
Barack Obama

Barack Obama – the son of a father who was Kenyan immigrant and a single white mother who raised him.

I have never felt so much hope for our nation and our world
I have never felt very patriotic – but today
Sitting in a packed community center – packed with people of all races and ages, gender and economic status – together watching the inauguration
I was surrounded by my fellow Americans
I felt connected to them – by nationality but more than that
I felt connected to them by hope, by shared humanity, by inspiration

Elderly women both black and white around me cried tears of joy, awe, and hope.
I felt the tears well up in my own eyes at the sight of theirs.

Two African American men later shared in bible study at church about how their experiences of segregation growing up in the south many years ago deepened the significance of today, punctuated how far we’ve truly come.
I desire to the know depth of the significance as these two wise men do.

We have overcome so much – I must admit.
We have so much yet to overcome – I must admit.

America’s first black president was sworn into office
Just 60 years after segregation.
An African American man became the highest elected official in America
He and his family took up residence in the White House
A house that was built by African-American slaves in our history.

The slave has overcome, has been set free, and is now leader of the nation.

Today we as a nation watched as the man we peacefully elected
Inspired us to believe that hope still exists for us
We still have a future to believe in

Today, surrounded by all kinds of people – I feel connected to
Today I believe that good can overcome evil.
Today I see how far we’ve come.
Today I see that we have overcome so much.
Today I have hope that we can overcome. We can continue to overcome.

We can overcome. We can continue to overcome.

Just last night at a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at my church we all joined hands and sang the song “We Shall Overcome”

"We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

The Lord will see us through, The Lord will see us through,
The Lord will see us through someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

We're on to victory, We're on to victory,
We're on to victory someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We're on to victory someday.

We'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk hand in hand,
We'll walk hand in hand someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We'll walk hand in hand someday.

We are not afraid, we are not afraid,
We are not afraid today;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We are not afraid today.

The truth shall set us free , the truth shall set us free,
The truth shall set us free someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
The truth shall set us free someday.

We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall live in peace someday."

Standing there holding the hand of a 14 year old African American girl I work with singing this song – a girl who has been dealt such a rough hand in this life – the overcoming seems so far off, seems like victory will never come.

Today I know it will, day by day, step by step, little victory by little victory. We shall overcome.

"Don't stress"

I’m so glad that God has a sense of humor – I’m so glad that God doesn’t take me too serious even and especially when I take myself too serious.

God’s humor is humbling without embarrassment.
God’s humor teaches without scolding.
God’s humor allows me to laugh at myself.

I was stressing about nothing. I was stressing as I was driving down the road – the stress causing me to curse, become angry, and drive like a maniac.

I had overcommitted myself and I was running late. I needed to a pick a girl up from school and drive her home and pick up another girl from school and take her to her counseling appointment.

I didn’t want to be late for either – my huge pet peeve over not being late spilling forth with no one around – I was frustrated and stressed fearing my being late and letting both girls down.

I ashamedly admit that I was completely overwhelmed with this silly stress – this insignificant unnecessary stress.

Then on my way to get the first girl from school to bring her home she sent me this text from a friends phone:
“don’t stress shanna it’s not a big deal”

All I could do upon reading this text was laugh out loud to myself in my car. This text felt like it was sent to me by God with a smile on his face and his humor all around.

With my laughter my stress left and was gone and I did all I needed to do with time to spare.

It’s so funny how I take myself far too seriously and sometime I need God to remind me to lighten up, to laugh, to let the stress over nothing go.