Jesus Is A Refugee (poem) reposted

See the  mother on the journey, tiny baby in her arms,
Running from the soldiers who’ve come to rape and kill
She’s tired from the running, desperate, hungry, full of fear—
How can she know God loves her, and that He walks beside her there?

He is there beside her in the dark and in the cold.
He knows what she is feeling, in the Bible it is told
That He was once a refugee. His parents ran to save His life
From the soldiers sent to kill him in Herod’s infanticide.

The way that God has chosen to loose the bands of wickedness
To give bread to the hungry and to help free the oppressed
Calls us to walk beside her in our prayers and in our hearts:
As the body of Christ, the servant king, it makes her burden ours.

But words and prayers are not enough, no matter how well spoken
God’s love requires our presence so He can walk beside His children.
Even though we’re broken, we are His feet and hands.
We stand in need of grace to obey His commands.

Though she sits in darkness, He came to be the light.
Though she now is hungry, He is the bread of life.
Though we turn aside sometimes or don’t know what to do,
We are all called in some way to help her make it through.

He chose to entrust us with His reputation
And to make us His body throughout every nation
As a king become baby, He risked everything
Calling us to embody the love that He brings….

I was hungry and you gave me bread
Thirsty and you gave me drink
A stranger and you took me in
In prison and you came to me….”
Lord, when did this happen?
His answer is quite clear
“When you did it for the least of these
It was for me, for I am there….

Teresa Norman March 2001

 

Afterflash (a poem)

No longer helpless, unloved or alone—
A woman with choices.
Redeemed to the bone.
I’ve come through the fire-
Felt the heat of the flame.
But I am God’s daughter,
Called by His holy name.

Empowered by His Spirit
By grace I can stand,
My face towards the future
Fulfilling His plan.
A channel of mercy,
A bearer of light
Redeemed by His goodness-
I will not fear the night.

The God of creation
Walks each day by my side.
I will trust in His mercy-
There is nothing to hide.
Though chaos surround me
And angry winds roar
I am safe, I am strengthened
For He is my Lord.

The Lamb is a Lion,
The servant, a King.
He is my shelter.
Of His grace I will sing.
He will lead me and guide me-
I have nothing to fear.
Jesus is victor.
He loves me…He’s here!

5/21/93

Yo, what’s up? (ramblings)

Not always an easy question to answer, even when it comes from a very respected, caring friend…sometimes it’s complicated. While I’ve kind of expected the question, I still don’t have an answer I’m satisfied with.

When we first moved to Seattle six years ago, I was surprised how homeless I felt until we found a church. For all of my life, a lot of my relationships and the roadmap for my life had been calibrated in relationship to whatever church community I was connected with. In the case of a small town, the dividing lines between church and community are a little blurrier than they seem to be in the city. You would see people from the church in your community all the time (they didn’t come from a 75 mile radius from a variety of different cities to get there and then disappear for the rest of the week).

I love my church. Not ’cause it’s cool, or popular or emergent or politically correct/incorrect or newsworthy or whatever. I love it ’cause I have found people there who welcomed an outsider, dreamed with me and taught me to dream bigger and walked through the past six years of trying to figure out what it means to serve God in practical ways. They didn’t ask WHY I thought doing practical things to help people in need was important-they asked how they could help! I love it because there are people there who also dream bigger dreams of what it means to live out their faith, sometimes crazy dreams and then some of them don’t just dream dreams, they actually do them! Magnificent!

But, things change. I am no longer dreaming big dreams or any other dreams. It feels really strange to not be DOING anything except working, loving the people in my life, and trying to walk with God in integrity through the encounters my very well-peopled job provides. Now I get to try to figure out how that fits with the bigger picture, and how a small person fits into a big church. I am not a big church kind of person. I have nothing to contribute in this context. I suck at small talk.

Sunday morning church (important for preaching, teaching, worshipping together, having communion, meeting people, welcoming strangers and sharing information) is only part of being the church. There is this whole other life of community that goes on in small groups, Global Presence meetings, men’s and women’s meetings, intergenerational potlucks, kids ministry…..all the things that break a big church down into more bite size pieces so you can actually get to know some people and develop relationships. If I am not going to participate in any of the other things that go on is it really viable/faithful/spiritual to just “go to church” there on Sundays? Is that enough for them or for me?

Last Sunday, I indulged my craving for encountering God in the midst of His people by going to church at a friend’s house and meeting the small community she is shepherding. It was wonderful because it was interactive, non-overwhelming and personal. I learned from the discussion of Luke as I listened to what each person brought and drew out of their own life of walking with God. It reminded me of a line from a worship song that was popular a few years ago: “Come, just as you are…hear the Spirit call. Come and see….” I left revived, grateful that the presence of God is not confined to buildings, but that He shows up wherever He’s invited. I love my church, but I need to find room in my life to be part of a community of believers at this stage of my “work in process” kind of life. Not sure how the pieces fit right now.

So, yo, not really sure what’s up, but prayerfully trying to figure it out:)

“Because you’re always right….the world will know”

Nope, that’s not what Jesus said.  In John 13:34-35 it says … “I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” …. I just got done watching the news and reading some of the posts about immigrants, lesbians, democrats, communists,muslims, republicans, poor people, rich people etc.  The one thing that stands out in what I was seeing, hearing and reading is that too many of us seem to forget what Jesus said was basic-we are called to commanded to love.  Wouldn’t trying to practice love  make most of the inflamatory,  hurtful, hateful dialogue being self-righteously barfed out on each other be radically altered?  Yuck! 

Today’s goal: treating everyone with love, respect and dignity, regardless of ANYTHING else!

I SO agree with Mark Twain when he said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand. ” 

Galatians 5:22 “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!”

God, please help us judge ourselves by the right standards!  Teach us to love as you love!

Betrayal and Job’s Friends (poem)

One of my favorite relatives sent me a message last night that it was her cousin whose ex-husband  killed her at a church in Federal Way this week.  A mom with three little kids….a big loving extended family in SO much pain….what can you say?

If one of the lessons in the Book of Job means anything, it might best to not say too much.  Not think there is an answer to why, or what it means, or how this could happen.   Job’s friends came to “comfort” him and ended up making him feel worse.  They talked too much.  Said things they had no right to say.  In the end of the story, God toasted them for misrepresenting His heart.  The only time they really did Job any good was when they sat in the ashes with him as he grieved.  There is a lesson there about presumption and talking way too much….there is a time to talk and a time to listen.

Years ago, I was present at court while a young friend told of her step-dad’s crimes against her humanity. Going home from that experience, I was struck silent by the depth of his betrayal of her and of her mother.  As a person of faith, I wanted to encourage, but words seemed so USELESS!  This poem was the result…..

The Betrayal

The night is dark and stormy
There’s a cold wind in my soul
Seems like I’ve been torn apart
And never will be whole.

The suffocating weight that rests
Upon my broken heart
Holds me in my silence–
Lord, when will the healing start?

I cast about in frantic hope
That there might somehow be
Someone who can reach out
To break these chains and set me free.

But who can know the torment?
Who can really comprehend
Unless they too have been betrayed
By lover or by friend?

As I cower in desperation
And in fear of what shall be,
A picture comes to mind
I know that You have given me…

I see you hanging on a cross
In agony betrayed,
Naked, torn and bleeding
So from sin we can be saved.

The one who lived and walked with You,
With whom You shared Your soul
Was the person who betrayed You—
All my agony You know!

©Teresa Norman 1988

Daffodils and Uncle David

Easter always reminds me of daffodils.  Daffodils always remind me of Uncle David. When I was about 4 or 5, Uncle David gave me a beautiful book of poetry (it had daffodils on the front and lots of pictures of beautiful flowers).  I was trying to learn to read at that point, sitting on the couch, when I asked my Mom, “What is d-o-g spelled backwards?”  She told me that was God.  I knew this was significant.

It’s even more significant that Uncle David is thus directly tied in my little kid brain to finding out about God.  Uncle David was not on everyone’s A list.  He was, in the terms of the day, “slow” or “different” (not dumb, just not quite functioning at the mental complexity his particular decade and community preferred.  He had gotten in some pretty awful spots when someone misunderstood his assessment of different situations (think “padded room”).  Uncle David spent a good part of his later life shuttled off to a halfway house on Capital Hill in Seattle.  Some of the relatives breathed a sigh of relief, and except for coming to the island to pick blackberries and thimbleberries and huckleberries once a year so I could make him a pie, we didn’t see much of him for quite a while.

Uncle David died quietly at home.  A funeral was planned for our little community, with some folks figuring immediate family would be the only ones who showed up.  Boy, were we surprised!  From David’s delightfully diverse community, carloads of people came to our small town and filled the funeral home.  After the formal part of the service was over, someone from the back spoke up and said, “We would like to say something…..”  The minister let her come to the microphone.  One by one, a parade of people came forward to speak about how David’s simple ability to love and encourage those around him, to do practical things, to serve, to help in any way he could had blessed their lives over and over again.  We sat their dumbfounded, humbled and incredibly grateful for the profound lesson unfolding in front of us. God, in typical fashion, chose the humble of the world to teach us that his ways aren’t our ways.  That we had missed the point entirely by talking more than we listened.  That there had been much to learn from a humble man with no guile who sought to love his community.  I am grateful each Easter, especially, as I think of the lessons Uncle David gave me on living in the grace of God.

The unexpected catch

One night, shortly after he returned from his first season as a crew member on a purse seine boat in Southeast Alaska, my 17 year old son came tearing into my bedroom about 2 in the morning with his eyes about as big as dinner plates.  “Mom, didn’t you hear that?  You’ve not gonna believe what just happened….”

Before bed that night, he and I had been talking about personal choices (temptation, in my outdated terminology).  Like any Mom who loves her kid, I had been trying to explain how important it was to make choices that get the kind of results you want (not ones that get you over your head in messes you can’t get out of).  I think my message had been falling on somewhat plugged ears.  After all, he’d just been in Alaska all summer.  He was all grown up now:)  He’d heard all this before….(lots of times).  He was being nice about it, but he still wasn’t listening….but that was around 10 pm.

My husband had built us a beautiful house on 5 secluded acres at the end of a dead end road called “Sanctuary Lane.”  It was a sanctuary….there were deer, blue heron, occasional stray cows and horses, coyotes, owls, eagles, and a lot of other wild or semi-wild critters in the neighborhood.  Also, seven of our kid’s closest friends, and some of our closets friends, ones  we had purposely bought property with and chosen to raise our family next to. Being a commercial fisherman/boat builder, it seemed there was always a bit of spare fishing net around.  Don’t know why he first thought of it, but the extra fishing net made a really good “pick it up and get it out of the way to weed eat around it” fence around the beautiful, big raised bed organic garden.  We had an incredible raspberry and strawberry patch…

Anyway, while I slept peacefully in the room on the back side of the house, our son had gone to bed and been woken up by the horrible screaming and thumping out in the yard outside his window.  He was a really sound sleeper usually, but this woke him up from a dead sleep with his heart pounding.  He looked out his second story window and could see a ruckus in the moonlight – a couple of big critters running through the yard.  Our little dog, “Jumbo”, who was always up for a good chase, was going nuts running back and forth around whatever was in the garden.  Then he yelped in pain.

Sounds pretty eery at that point.  (Of course, neither his sisters nor  I heard a thing).  He went running downstairs and turned on the porch light to see what the big commotion was.  There were two deer running around outside the fishnet fence, and a horrible noise coming from inside, with Jumbo barking frantically.  Someone had forgotten to shut the gate.  A baby deer, who did not listen to his mom and dad when they said to stay away from the human places, had gone into the garden to get some of the nice tender strawberries.  He now had his head caught in the net and couldn’t get out.

Mommy and Daddy deer were trying to keep Jumbo from hurting their baby, but there was nothing they could do to get him out of the net.  He was caught tight.  If he hadn’t screamed, he was either gonna die there, or stay stuck for a good long time.  But their baby hadn’t listened and he was now going to deal with the consequences of his really bad choice.

Our son went and  got a big knife out of the kitchen, got a flashlight, and went and sat on the terrified little deer and cut him out of the net.  The baby deer was unhurt and managed to scamper to safety, hopefully thinking more of listening to his parents and less of the taste of fresh strawberries.  Maybe he learned something that night? Wonder what the conversation was like in his neck of the woods after that close call…..

So, as my wide-eyed son sat on my bed, I was overwhelmed not just at his quick thinking creativity in saving the baby deer, but with the faithfulness of God.  Even if just for the moment, it didn’t need further explanation that sometimes we can’t get ourselves out of the messes we make.  Sometimes we need to humble ourselves and ask for help.  Crying out for someone bigger than us to come and save us from our foolishness and give us another chance is a great start.

God is not limited, like us parents are, at finding ways to make a point.  Still think someday, I’ve got to find a way to turn this into a children’s book, at least  for the children, and grandchildren of Sanctuary Lane.

Sometimes I don’t like God

It was a shock last week, to admit to myself, that there’s times I don’t really like God.  Our C-Group (community group) was reading a bunch of passages out of Jeremiah as part of our One Year Through the Bible thing, and I was starting to get bummed.  As a Christian, I’ve always known I’m supposed to love, honor, fear, reverence, worship, obey and respect God.  But I had to admit, reading some of the verses about the times God said and declared awful catastrophes for all kinds of people-it seemed so random and unfair! Where’s the justice in all that?  Still, I was pondering this with a little a bit of emotional distance left….until Wednesday.

Tuesday morning, our beautiful little new grandson, Austin, made his entrance into the world.  Strawberry blond, crying, wiggling….all those cute little newborn things.  I was privileged to be there to watch the miracle of new life as he made his entrance and to rejoice that even with all the unexplainable ##*#* going on in the world, God still seems to be in favor of life.  Things were good, and the gratitude level was high, even though there was this nagging question about whether or not it was blasphemy to admit I had some issues with Jeremiah.

Wednesday morning at 4:40 a.m., our daughter called to say their  precious little guy had just been airlifted to a city hospital in severe respiratory distress.  My voice and my words told her we’d be there as soon as we could catch a ferry to pick her up and bring her over to the little man (her husband drove ahead to meet the chopper but she had to wait for the doctor’s to come in and release her).  My heart, however, did a quick trip back to Jeremiah and the God who isn’t always very nice and prayed (begged) with all sincerity, that He would be the nice, kind, loving, life-giving God this time to this one little family who has waited and longed to meet this precious little guy we’ve all already loved for nine months and one day.

Pulling my head and my heart out of maternal/infant mortality statistics I’ve read and focusing on what was instinctual, needed and helpful, my inventory of my available faith level at that point was on empty.  So, I texted some people I knew would wake up, see their messages and pray.  Then we got out of here and went to be with the Mommy.

At the hospital, while we waited for doctors to show up, get out of meetings, and get Mommy on her way, I used Facebook to put the word out to pray. People who don’t even know our daughter and her truly wonderful husband responded and there were prayers going up for this little man, and people sending words of encouragement and hope.  Thank you!!!!!

As much as I would like to pretend that I was full of faith and knew God was gonna make things Ok, I wasn’t and I didn’t.  I was AFRAID that maybe, like so many other people in so many other places who live with loss and disaster each day that has no explanation, that this little family might have to experience that because God was doing something else.  Gratefully, my fears did not materialize and Austin’s doing much much much much better….

Lesson learned:

  1. There are times when your tank is empty, and that’s when the prayers of others who aren’t on empty can help carry you, if you just ask.
  2. The community of  faith will respond if asked and their prayers may touch God’s heart, and keep yours from breaking.
  3. Pray.  Ask others to pray.  Pray some more.
  4. You don’t have to go through it alone….ask for help!  Others can believe even when you can’t.
  5. Don’t forget to give thanks, regularly, privately, publicly and every other way as a matter of habit and discipline.
  6. Maybe, for now, I’m gonna focus on gratitude, and quit reading the Jeremiah sections (one of our amazing friends-a spiritually wise lady I really respect, said there was a time in her life where she couldn’t do a bunch of Psalms at once-they were too violent, and the priest just told her to pick a different reading….God bless him!)

To the two or three people who might read this, thank you.  To all those who prayed for Austin and his family, THANK YOU SO SOSOSOSOSOSOSO MUCH!

Maybe there are times when the fear of God takes precedence over the love of God….and maybe whether or not I LIKE Him is irrelevant?

(PS  I printed out the six pages of comments and prayers ya’all put on Facebook for Austin and his family and gave it to his Mommy and Daddy for his baby book)

Reality Check–Cyber Psalm 15

Our friend, Dan, had a heart attack this week.  Scary.  So that made it doubly cool to get a perspective challenging email from him this morning with this Cyber Psalm from a blog he likes by David Ker, a Wcliffe Bible Translator in Mozambique.   

Cyber-Psalm 15

 NOVEMBER 23, 2007                                                                   by David Ker

What would heaven be like

if books of theology 
were written by children not men?

And what if sermons were delivered by the poor. 


And devotional books were written by the hungry. 


And hymns were composed by the sick and the old.

The Sermon on the Mount requires no interpretation, 


unless you are fat and happy.

If our hope of heaven were colored 


with children’s crayons and felt tip markers.

And our theology of hell were tempered 


by the dying breath of those who suffer.

The hair-splitting and hand-wringing 


of over-educated men in ivory towers 


goes largely unnoticed by grandmothers in their kitchens 


and office workers in their cubicles.

They go on putting silly magnets on their fridge 


And trading forwarded e-mails about heaven. 


Two thousand years of systematic theology 


Disturbs them not a bit!

God is honored and praised  

Hoped for and prayed to 


By myriads who never learned Greek.

Their revelation is not a scroll  

But a hope vaguely imprinted 


On a soul made by God.

The sick and the blind and the poor  

Receive Jesus with gladness. 


The Gospels require no spiritualized application.

Feed us, friend Jesus. 
  

Our stomachs are empty.


You are the one our hearts hope for.

Heal us who are sick. 
    

We ache and we suffer.

Save us in death. 
    

We are dying in darkness. 


Savior Jesus, our hope at life’s end.

Fishers of men…

I’m really glad Jesus hung out with fishermen and chose them on purpose(especially since I’m married to one).  Fishing is not necessarily a real cerebral kind of thing-not  theologically complex, and nowdays not always even politically correct.  However, it’s a very real, tangible, practical and ” in this world while still being part of the other one” kind of thing. 

Fishermen spend a LOT of time and energy (and money) and care getting their nets ready.  Certain kinds of nets fish best in certain waters for certain kinds/sizes of fish….nowdays there’s lots of rules to all this Jesus and the guys probably didn’t have to deal with:)  For the past several months we’ve had a garage full of cork line (corks spaced on a line every so many inches), weed line (I think it helps keep weeds from getting in the net?), lead line (holds the net down so the fish can swim into it and get stuck) and several piles of net.  All of this had to be hung (put together) into the appropriate configuration.   A lot of work and several days later it is now loaded into the holds on the boat. 

Why so much work on the net?  It’s all about how fish look at it.  Is it the right color to go with the water they’re in?  Does it ripple right in the water so it’s not conspicuous-does it seem like it naturally belongs there?  The net is really important ’cause it’s a tool to catch the fish, and fishing is definitely about the fish-not the fisherman. 

But as I was watching the final stages of this operation, I thought about Jesus calling some fishermen to be “fishers of men” and follow Him.  And I thought about how if the net doesn’t look “natural” in the water, fish run away from it.  Nobody likes to think of themselves as a fish someone is trying to catch, but some of the evangelism schemes I grew up hearing sure seemed like nets I would have (did!) run from. Lots of hype, pressure, glitz etc.  Nowdays we’re more politically correct and sensitive, but I guess I’m coming to the thought that God knows what fish are made of.  He knows what we are made of, and it’s OK to reach people in ways that are natural-not contrived. 

There are people in my life that I deeply want to see know God’s love.   I don’t know how God makes that happen.  But I think I see some parallels: the need for boyancy (corks), depth (lead line), keeping the weeds out of my life (weed line),  and hanging in the water in a way that is natural-not contrived.  You can learn a lot from fishermen. 

Standing here beside the ocean

Staring at the sea

Wondering how the God who made all this

Could still choose me

And yet, I hear your voice, Lord,

Even as in days of old

Promising a harvest-

More than my net can hold.

 “Cast your net into the water

Put your trust in Me.

Diverse fish in diverse places-

Trust Me and you’ll see.

It ain’t over yet, My child.

The best is still to come.

As I always have,

I still hang out with fishermen.”

 (From a dream, 8/3/01)

If We Are His Body…..

It surprised me to see all the theological chatter when I tried to look up this poem.  In my simple way, I hadn’t seen this famous poem as being all that complicated.  Rather, I saw it as somewhat awe-inspiring and humbling that God would trust us with being “laborers together with Him” in the world….

 Christ Has No Body

“Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world….”

 Some of the theological chatter said it was blasphemy-that it implied that Christ didn’t ascend to heaven in a transformed body…..bla bla bla.  In my humble opinion, I don’t think the author was trying to yank someone’s chain.  I think she/he/they (there’s some debate on authorship) was trying to make a significant, complex, mind-boggling mystery real, tangible and practical to those of us without MDvs. 

A friend’s blog posed the question recently, “What are you praying for?”  I guess I am praying to recognize Christ in the many ways He shows up- not just in the Bible, or in church, but at work, in the grocery store, on the street, on the docks, at friend’s houses, in the people I meet each day.  I am praying to reflect to those He connects me with that their lives have value because He made them with a purpose and has plans for their good!  I am praying to learn to live out my faith in ways that reflect the miracle that God uses broken human beings to help make grace real.  I am praying that I will learn to be part of the solution and not the problem in the lives of those I am called to love….As I seek to be present in the moment with some friends facing difficult transitions, I pray above anything, “God, teach me to love.”

Legacy (poetic & personal)

Legacy

There’s a little girl in a country church
Watching Daddy today
Wondering why he lifts his hands
And tears fall as he prays….
She’s still too young to understand
How her Daddy’s heart does break
As he’s praying for the wisdom
He knows raising her will take…..

Father God, he’s asking you
For wisdom from above
To write a living legacy
In the heart of the ones he loves….
Let his life, his words, his prayers
Show them how much their Maker cares
And teach them they are precious in your sight.
Help them to walk in your light.

The little girl is older now
With children of her own.
Life hasn’t always been easy
But there’s something she’s always known….
She knows there’s a God in heaven
Who has a plan for good
For her and for her children,
Just like Daddy prayed she would…..
 
Now Father God, she’s asking you
For wisdom from above
To write a living legacy
In the heart of the ones she loves….
Let her life, her words, her prayers
Show them how much their Maker cares
And teach them they are precious in your sight.
Help them to walk in your light…

**************************************************************

Any other accomplishment, goal, task, project or pleasure isn’t gonna mean much if I blow it on passing on God’s hope to those I love.  My prayer probably every day for the last six years in particular (since moving to Seattle) has been, “God, teach me how to make time for people,” but even while praying that, I keep taking on more tasks, which take more time, which mean less available opportunity to build relationships….

I love doing practical things and would much rather act than just have a meeting and further discussion.  But sometimes I’m way over the edge on how many practical things I think I can take on. 

Right now I’m reevaluating a lot of things (tasks/projects/committments)and trying to mindfully, intentionally learn invest in the things that are really important (people!).  Grateful, in the words of Philippians 1:6 that “He who began a good work in my life will carry it on to completion….” I’m definitely a work in process (and not always enjoying the process!)

Domestic Violence Escape Plan

Domestic violence kills people. The following link to a  Domestic Violence Escape Plan  is frighteningly real.  The rules of logic or civilized behavior do not  apply when someone is battering and abusing the people they should be caring for.  It’s hard to decide the “rules of engagement” for this kind of domestic terrorisim.  Someonetimes retreat is the most reasonable option, but retreat to a safe place. 

Yesterday I watched friends deal with an ongoing domestic violence situation.  They had helped a woman and her  kids get to a safe place, and for that service, her husband was threatening to kill them.  I was struck by the similarities between a pastor (shepherd) and a soldier….both on watch, facing risk while protecting their people from those who come to destroy.  As a kid who grew up where violence and abuse of different kinds were commonplace, I was/am moved beyond words to see church leaders like my friends who will stand up, stand in the gap, and say, “No.  Not on my watch, ” instead of taking the easy way out, blaming the victim, or pretending it will all “work out.”    

While abuse degrades, humiliates and makes people unaware of the power and choices they have to affect the outcomes of their lives, care like this, empowers, instructs, encourages and shepherds people.  Some of the most powerful words in English are “I have a choice.”  Those being abused have a choice to get help (hard choice, but God given), abusers have a choice to stop (in that moment before they choose to hurt people they are supposed to love and care for, there is time to stop….it is always a choice)…..the only ones with no choice are the kids, if no one will stand against in the gap for them.

Pastor Deanza did a really good post on some of the statistics on domestic violence….and Dani Moss has a good site with an extensive amount of resources for those trying to find their way  through these issues from a faith perspective.

Welcoming Strangers

…A newly arrived local refugee’s 16 year old  friend used her less than perfect English skills and took him to school herself  and registered him after he had waited a month for the caseworker to do it…. there are many of these stories across the country. 
Resettlement agencies have a government contract to do a checklist of things for a limited time (90 days) for the people they resettle.  That’s their job.  They get a contract (and money) to do these things.  Some of those things include:
  1. Meet people at the airport
  2. Finding appropriate housing
  3. Provide furniture
  4. Sign up for Medicaid  & food stamps 
  5. Refer to ESL classes
  6. Obtain Social Security cards
  7. Registering kids for school
  8. Health screenings
  9. Employment referral

 If, due to caseworker overload, complexity of some cases, how long even making a medical appointment at a public clinic can take, or some other reason, it doesn’t get done, people suffer.  I see two approaches to take to this problem-for someone to hold agencies accountable to do what they contract to do, or, maybe, for the rest of us to accept the fact that it doesn’t ALWAYS get done, won’t get done if something doesn’t change and move on to How Can It Get Done and What Can We Do To Help?!  

Churches are the great untapped resource here.  We are called and commanded to love people.  This doesn’t require a great mind or a theological education.  It requires investing some time, patience, energy and creativity.  (Sometimes it’s easier to just give money).  But it’s a long-term investment that pays off no matter what the economy does or doesn’t do:) .

I found an article in the Covenant Companion this morning on creative ways for churches to welcome newcomers to their lives, their churches, and their communities (see the link). Some of her great ideas included: 

  1. Visit a refugee church (you may not understand the language, but you may recognize some of the melodies and sing along)
  2. Ask them how you can help.  Listen for answers
  3. Read to young kids in a refugee family as English practice
  4. Invite their congregation to join you for a potluck meals together
  5. Invite kids to your youth group
  6. Invite women to your women’s group
  7. Pair families by ages of children and make friends in spite of language barriers (kids will figure it out first!)
  8. Take an ESL tutoring class and tutor a family or help with homework
  9. Practice English speaking with people who don’t speak English
  10. Volunteer to take people to doctors and dentists and agency appointments (make the appointments, help with transportation-someone else may have to interpret)
  11. Help fill out forms for jobs
  12. Invite them to your holiday gatherings, go to theirs
  13. Teach computer skills (donate your used computers)
  14. Help people learn to drive and pass the driving test
  15. Help them understand budgeting in the US
  16. Host a refugee congregation in your building (thanks to Kent Covenant Church for renting space to the Karen Community and several other refugee communities!)

In summary: treat other people the way you would want to be treated if you were the newcomer.

Jesus said….”I was a stranger and you took Me in….” (Mt. 25)


Who am I?

I don’t remember  the purpose of the meeting, but several hundred of us were gathered in the meeting hall at  Langley United Methodist Church, during the days when Tom & Claudia Walker were pastoring there.  Different now forgotten things went on during the meeting, but then Tom and Claudia got up to sing one of their songs, “Child of God.”  This was probably 15 years ago, but my life has never been the same. 

“I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.

My name is Marie, now I can see

What this relationship’s doing to me

Last night he hit me, I fell on the floor–

Just like he’s hit me so often before.

He says he’s sorry.  He brings me flowers…

Things will go fine for a couple of hours…

He says I’m nothing.  He says I’m scum.

Then he hits me because that’s what he does.

I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.

My name is Manuel.  My hands can tell

The story of how you’re living so well.

I work every day but my family is poor

So you can have coffee bananas and more.

The landowners say if I don’t mind my ways

They can find substitute workers to pay.

They say my soul will only be free

In heaven some day, that’s what they say.

 I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.”

There were at least three of us who wept and wept, even after the song  and the beautiful, worshipful, expressive  dance Carol did during it were over.  Something had happened….in this song, by the grace of God, we saw a new reality for how God sees us, even in our brokenness.  He loves us all, even in our failures, poverty, isolation, differentness, or in other groups excluded in their society.  He sees us not as life’s incidences and conflicts had taught us to view ourselves, but with through the lens of the dignity He created us for. 

(Sorry I have lost the third verse (the story of a man being disowned by his family for admitting he was gay-very powerful! ), or the music to share with you (it was beautiful).

Thank you Tom & Claudia for sharing your gifts.  Wherever you are, hope you are well and blessed with the kind of grace you have shared with others.