Not for sale (poem)

Money doesn’t make you a better person-it just gives you better choices.  In some cultures, having no money and no rights makes you a target for traffickers. I first heard of the organization “Not For Sale” shortly after I had met some of my young refugee friends. It made their presentation pretty non-theoretical. I could picture some of the young people I care about and the choices they may have faced if their parents had not chosen to become refugees and take the risk of resettlement to America.

Not for sale…..
Humans as commodities, stocks to exchange,
inconveniences, expendables to be thrown away.
Their lives for sale…choices determined by $.
No! Their lives are a gift. Their lives have value!
Children of God, created with purpose-
whether they know it or not!

They have captured us, adopted us, let us love them.
Priceless treasures beyond measure…
these little sharers of laughter, of humbling moments…
Yahtzee played, meals shared, loving acceptance offered and received.
We talk of woman things and what it means
Of relationships and guys who are good
And those who are not.

Transitions negotiated like minefields….
New experiences played out each day….
We talk of Christmas trees and manger scenes–
Of Jesus, a refugee whose parents fled to safety to keep him safe.

They watched our daughter with her baby
And reflected on a mother who loves instead of leaves…
They have little “stuff”-but their father loves them.
With courage he brought them here in spite of the challenges.
They live in a “big” house (smaller than most living rooms),
grateful their father cooks for them….
Grateful for food. For friends…. for choices.
If different choices had been made,
They could be some of those who are for sale in another land…..

How do you determine the value of a human?
Of their love?
It is priceless.
It should not be for sale.

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The View from the Front

This article yesterday in the Seattle times tells about the struggle refugees are having making ends meet in the recession economy and how the budget cuts are impacting them here in Washington State.  I took some time to read the comments that followed the article, and was made aware of how great some of the hostility is that people hold towards not just illegal immigrants, but also towards those our government has invited to be here.  While I understand financial frustation, and fear that your piece of an ever-shrinking pie will somehow disappear, I am also aware that my friends who are refugees have faced things beyond my comprehension.  The link here is to an article from the Bangkok Post, written by a friend of a friend, highlighting the situation these folks needed a refuge from.

What I Know (ramblings)

While my currently reconfigured life seems to require a crash course education in dealing with dementia after dark with grace, faith, and gentleness, it’s not something I was ever really prepared for.  In stressed out times, I usually revert to some basics learned a long time ago….

1.  A lot of theology, people have argued about for centuries.  Do I care?  No.  There is enough of the simple things I do understand to keep me busy the rest of my life figuring out how to one day at a time love God, my family, my parents, my coworkers, and my friends/enemies/peripheral encounters.  Keep it simple. 

2.  While some people may be inspired by the beauty God created in rocks, mountains, trees, sunsets (and I love those things too), or the magnificent oratory in a good sermon, the applied grace of God that gets through my anxiety/depression/exhaustion/attitudes/questioning usually comes in a song.  Songs change me.  My soul meditates on them and it washes my brain.  I can remember scripture portrayed in a song better than 95% of a lifetime of sermons I’ve heard.  The song that has sustained me this week is on “Year of Grace” by Robin Mark, written by Johnny Parks and Claire Hamilton (check out the album…..every song on it is fantastic!!!!

“All Is Well…..He lowers us to raise us so we can sing His priases.  Whatever is His way all is well.  He makes us rich and poor that we might trust Him More.  Whatever is His way all is well.  All my changes come from Him-He who never changes.  I’m held firm in the grasp of the Rock of ages.  All is well with my soul.  He is God in control.  I know not all His plans, but I know I’m in His hands.  He clothes us now then strips us, yet with His Word equips us.  Whatever is His way all is well.  And though our seasons change, we will exalt His name.  Whatever is His way, all is well. ”

A wise friend once said, “What you magnify gets bigger-let’s magnify Jesus.”

That’s the goal.  That’s the perspective.  That’s the anchor.  Nothing else is gonna make it happen.

The Things You Learn By Listening (ramblings)

Well, it’s been almost two months since we started a new stage of life (one that includes having my 85 year old father living with us)….I am incredibly grateful to have married a man with a large enough heart and enough personal integrity to love those who need it.  He is my example.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride (including an ER visit, a visit to a small country church a lot like Dad’s old church,a couple of holidays with four generations present, lots of paperwork, some bad news, and a little good news-God bless the social worker who did what she said she would!).

Dad’s a good story teller.  If you ask the right question (and are prepared to sit and listen for a while after breakfast), you can hear “the rest of the story….” the stuff that makes parts of family history make sense.  I never knew one uncle was a medic in World War II (giving shots of morphine to guys who were dying and picking up the remains of those it was too late for). Makes him make a lot more sense now…. I knew Grandma had lived with us for a while, but I didn’t remember being a little girl sneaking out of my toddler bed and going to snuggle with her in the middle of the night in the little room off the living room.  I just knew she was always a nice, kind, loving person even to people who were sometimes pretty awful.

In the days when Dad was young, the options were different for family members who had mental illnesses (or angered the wrong person and were sent away).  Counselling, medication, understanding, love and acceptance don’t seem like they were readily available in that cultural/chronological/familial/theological context.  That sucks!  I proudly wear the wedding ring of the black sheep of the family….never knew she was actually one of the “Rosie the Riveter” ladies….the stories I had heard about her before were of the “other” kind.

Sounds like Dad’s dad was a good farmer.  Hard working, God-fearing, German immigrant…wished he had settled on the other side of the mountains where there were mile after mile of prospering farms instead of 10 acres of rocks on Whidbey Island.

I have a lot to learn about loving, listening, caring….appears a lot of opportunities have landed in my newly configured life.  I pray, with God’s help, that I get it right.

God Better Be in Control or I’m in Trouble!

I’ve always been drawn to the passage in Isaiah 58 that is copied below:

 “… this is the kind of fasting I want:
   Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
      lighten the burden of those who work for you.
   Let the oppressed go free,
      and remove the chains that bind people.
 7 Share your food with the hungry,
      and give shelter to the homeless.
   Give clothes to those who need them,
      and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

 8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
      and your wounds will quickly heal.
   Your godliness will lead you forward,
      and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
 9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
      ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

   “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
      Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
 10 Feed the hungry,
      and help those in trouble.
   Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
      and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
 11 The Lord will guide you continually,
      giving you water when you are dry
      and restoring your strength.
   You will be like a well-watered garden,
      like an ever-flowing spring.
 12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
      Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
      and a restorer of homes….”

And I’ve always thought it very wise of God to put in that line about “not hiding from relatives that need your help.”  The path ahead of me has some new “opportunities” to practice what I preach and treat other people (difficult relatives) the way I would want to be treated (even though I am the family “black sheep”) .  In the end, this will be a blessing.  Right now it just looks hard.

It looks hard to tell my father he is going to have to leave my mother and the comforts he has known in the past several years and move off of his beloved Whidbey Island and into our house in Lynnwood.  He never wanted to live in the city.  He knows no one here except us.  This sucks.  The next couple of weeks look really difficult for Mom, him and the rest of us.  Work today is paid mood altering (going and spending 8 hours doing something I have some control over!)….

God is in control.  My head knows that, my heart will catch up.  Grateful for grace yet to be revealed….but still a little bit afraid.

You Never Quit Being A Mom….(poem)

For my unborn child….1/25/1984

My child, God loves you as a father
You are the clay-He is the potter.
You are the work of His hands–
Let Him shape you as He has planned.

He knew you even before He formed you.
Before you were created He called you.
He’s set you apart,
He’s had it planned from the start.
It is for His pleasure that you were formed.

He even numbered the hairs on your head.
All your days are written down in His book.
His angels have charge o’er you
To keep you each day.
Surely He who sees each sparrow fall
Will help you find your way….

(there’s scripture to back up each line and thought of this prayer, written a long time ago…so grateful that God does not forget His promises, and that He helps Moms remember them on days we need hope)

The Fear of the “Other”

Thosepeople are different than us….”, my usually reasonable co-worker said this morning.  She was trying to explain to me why immigration and immigrants and all those “other” people make her mad coming into “our” country.  (Not sure which country her ancestors immigrated from-mine were German, Norwegian and Swedish).  It was hard not to get mad.  But we were at work, so there wasn’t enough time for a full-blown rebuttal of “why so many of my friends and the people I respect are refugees or immigrants” and why I believe our country is enriched by what they bring or that those of us who are not Native American need to walk a bit softly and with humility on this one.  She knows how much we love our “adopted” Burmese granddaughters so, she just wanted to tell me that the Somali refugees next to her house were blocking the driveway with their car and she thought they should be deported. Oh, and, that we let too many of those “other” people into this country!

I’m sorry her neighbors had bad manners, or maybe didn’t have her understanding of property rights.  But stereotyping everyone from every region (except of course, white North Americans who forgot that they too immigrated) is a really bad idea!

Refugees go through a stringent screening process to get here.  Article 1 of the Geneva Convention as amended by the 1967 Protocol provides the definition of a refugee:

“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it..”[3]

Taking a deep breath, saying a pray for those, like my friend, who do not understand the value of diversity, the necessity of compassion, or the richness and beauty to be gained by learning from what each person created in the image of God has to offer.