Posted in Living Peacefully

Peace, Love & Chickens

Each summer, on a few acres of red Georgia clay, we learn just how incarnational the act of peacemaking really can be. Our church-farm dedicates two weeks to Peace and Carrots Camp, a program focused around peacemaking, reconciliation and creation care. We don’t need to look far beyond the property lines of our urban farm, located in Atlanta’s 5th District, to find examples of peacemakers and those who have spent their lives doing the work of racial reconciliation. But what we find particularly stimulating are the opportunities to show children how to experience and enact peace through care of creation.

When we talk to them about making peace, we feature a “Peacemaker of the Day,”someone who has been a voice for peace in the past or present. The children learn about people and organizations like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Ghandi, Dorothy Day, The Heifer Project, and St. Francis of Assisi.There is also a sweet joy in bringing them people who can share with them, in person, stories of ways to make peace in a world that so badly needs it. Children learn that they, too, can can be a “Peacemaker of the Day” in their own neighborhood and school, on their streets and teams.

Of course, the tricky part is that we cannot begin to discuss making peace with children ages 6 to 12 (or anyone else) until we also talk to them about conflict. The children in our small ministry are not strangers to the conflict of this world. We serve children who experience homelessness, refugees, undocumented children, and just those who are hurting like the rest of us. They understand racism and poverty, isolation and marginalization, privilege and pride. Our dialogue wraps around “What do we do when…” each of us bears witness to the ugly conflict, while striving to make peace.

Believe it or not, this is where creation care becomes our catalyst for reflection and change.

Our small farm keeps chickens, goats, sheep, and a pig. Groups of children comprise “farm families” that make rounds caring for the animals during the day. We have found the day hasn’t really begun well until the children have cared for the animals. They will tolerate opening circle and even participate joyfully in singing and games, but they really just want to care for the animals.

When we return from our Farm Rounds, we ask a simple question that speaks volumes. The answers never fail to teach everyone more about the simple intricacies of peace. We ask: Where have you seen peace on the farm today? One day, an answer forever helped me understand our role as co-creators, and caretakers of this world.

In a small voice, a girl answered, “I saw peace today when we were trying to get the chickens back in the pens. Remember when we made a big line and tried to force them back in? But then they would run? It felt like the chickens were playing a game with us. With all of us! It felt like peace to me.”

I believe the chickens helped us understand peace on that day because there was collaborative play with creation. The children recognized the skill and speed of the chickens as they, time after time, escaped their traps. And perhaps the chickens played along because they knew these same children would be back to care for them again.

The children also felt a peace among one another as they performed cooperative problem solving in a way that allowed every member to contribute in a meaningful way. Using imagination and flexibility, they became a community unified in purpose and hope – even if it was only to capture a few stray chickens.

And on the farm that day, peace was seen. There was love one for the other. And there were chickens helping us along the way.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

The Christianity of the Comfortable

Thinking Peacefully

The faith of those with much
Has no room in its heart
For those who have nothing
It keeps its eyes set far away—
A just-in-case heaven.

The faith of the prosperous
Necessitates the dismissal
Of the injustices of those
Whom their prosperity oppresses
To better enjoy what their brothers and sisters lack.

The church of the healthy
Looks away from the anguish
Of the bodies of the broken.
It sheds an enlightened tear in pity
Then turns to more pleasant things.

The religion of the powerful,
Of the ruling nations and races,
Must assume its dominion
Over the powerless is deserved
By birthright or the sacrifices of war,
Or by self-affirming delusion.

The Christianity of the comfortable
Labors to maintain
Ignorance of the hungry.
It cannot stomach
Their discomfiting presence.
It dare not risk its own hunger.

The church afraid to lose these things
Will gladly believe the lies

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Posted in Living Peacefully, The Autism Gospel

Waiting for Peace

It is Advent, a time of waiting. As we wait in places that are dark and uncertain, we hear the voices of the prophets promise the coming of one who will bring Peace, establishing a kingdom marked by Justice and Righteousness. So we wait in silence, desperately trying to block out the noise of the world so we can expectantly wait for our Peace. We strain to listen for words of Hope in these small spaces where we live and work.

For as many years as I can remember, we have struggled with what we hear. Noah’s autism has gifted him with almost super-human hearing, so we often struggle to block or dampen some of the noise in our environments. These environments include school, home, church, restaurants, cars, movie theaters, and anything in-between. Events large and small are painful because he hears so much. Our noise canceling headphones have made us the object of many jeers and jokes. It is just one more way the space we live in is small.

It has occurred to me most recently that all we are really trying to do is hear very certain things, while we exclude other noise. This way of living seems offensive to many. We hear differently, perceive differently and learn differently. There is a beautiful brain between those headphones that most people will never take the time to get to know because it is “other” than themselves.

Likewise, the time of Advent is a time of listening and waiting. It is blocking out the competing messages that promise hope, but only bring emptiness. But many will never truly know it because it is something other than that in which they have come to find comfort. For those of us who constantly struggle to find even the small spaces of acceptance, Advent is familiar.

“The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.”[1]

So we wait for this Christmas Advent and for the great Advent to come. I live in constant hope that sometime before that great and final Advent that we will be a welcome part of a community – something that is not merely tolerated as “other.” But if we live until that day without “receiving the promise,”[2] we will practice Peace while we wait.

 

For God alone my soul waits in silence,

for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my deliverance and my honor;

my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;

pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us. [Selah] [3]

 

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections On Advent and Christmas, 7/31/10 ed., ed. Jana Riess (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 2.

[2] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Heb 11:39.

[3] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Ps 62:5–8.

Posted in Living Peacefully, The Autism Gospel

Healed on the Sabbath

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” 13 And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it?16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?”17 As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. [1]

 

Part of my son’s diagnostic story is that I was once told he would never read, write, or speak. When I report this at IEP meetings, educators often have one of two reactions. Often they smirk and comment on the fallacy of shortsighted clinicians who shut doors too quickly. Others smile sympathetically in realization of just how much work it must have taken to get where we are today.

Today he reads. He writes. He speaks.

For as long as we have been doing it now, it still never gets old to hear him read aloud, or better still to hear him read something that he himself has written. I think this is a small gift I receive for all the tough nights along the way. But nothing – absolutely nothing – thrills my soul like hearing him read God’s Word during our Sunday worship services.

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Printing his scripture out in a dyslexic friendly font makes him feel more comfortable.

Our church customarily invites Noah to be a part of our worship in this way. This week his text seemed particularly poignant. Luke records an encounter on the Sabbath Day between Jesus and a woman with a long-term illness. While the thrust of the passage is Jesus’ defense of healing this woman on the Sabbath, it was other wording in this passage that caught my ear when read in my son’s voice.

“Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.”

Other interpretations of the Greek ἀπολέλυσαι (apolelysai) read “removed,” instead of healed or freed. In the place of infirmity of illness, a near definition of ἀσθενείας (astheneias) is “weakness” or “limitation.” This could easily read “you are removed from your limitation.”

You are removed from your limitation. And in that there is healing.

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Noah starts his Sundays with a walk around the farm where he greets the animals – especially Smudge the Pig.

I feel that we are removed from our limitations each time our church seeks to include Noah in leading our service. Because the truth of it is, his reading isn’t polished at all. His fluency is so choppy that you can’t really follow along. His speech impediment makes understanding him difficult as well. Our limitations – disability, illness, weakness – are still present. But for just a little while, he is removed from them.

And we are healed on the Sabbath.

 

[1] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Lk 13:10–17.

Mother Teresa once said, “Our vocation is to belong to Jesus so completely that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. What you and I must do is nothing less than putting our love for Christ into practice. The important thing is not how much we accomplish, but how much love we put into our deeds every day. That is the measure of our love for God.”

Practicing Love

Ammon Hennacy, a Catholic Worker, said, “Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual.”

Love, Courage & Wisdom