Posted in Living Peacefully

My Call to Courage

I just wanted to hide out. That was basically my career goal two years ago when I took my current position as a Pre-K teacher at a nationally accredited daycare. I even remember saying, “This will be a good place to just lay low for a little while.” I’d been hurt or burned or whatever you want to call it just one too many times in 3 years. So I took a job for which I was eminently overqualified. It seemed kind of like my penance for being a failure at things I love to do.

It’s been a long two years. Don’t misunderstand, I’ve made some wonderful friends. I’ve given it 100% every day and I’ve been successful. But I haven’t been fulfilled. I haven’t really “shown up” the way I am capable of. Then a few months ago I stumbled on someone that I probably should (and would) have had on my radar if I was really living life.

God bless Netflix!! After binging for a few hours on some mindless sedative to desensitize myself to the horrors of daycare, I finished my show. The next recommendation/preview was for Brene Brown’s The Call to Courage. I had only gotten a few minutes in when I realized this woman has been stalking me. More research would only convince me that it is truly creepy how she nails my dysfunction.

20190715_194105

The more I listened to her and read her work, the more I came to terms with the failures I have endured. She described my pain and act of receding into myself better than I could have ever done so. If you haven’t read Rising Strong or watched her Ted Talks I highly recommend them.

***DISCLAIMER*** If you aren’t a big fan, that’s fine – we can disagree. However, I’m not interested in debating any of her research or theories. I’m feeling pretty confident for the first time in a long time so don’t ruin this for me.

20190715_194035

Doing this work and owning my “difficult story,” has been a life changing event for me. So much so that I am stepping out again to lead, dream and minister to others.

I’ve accepted the position as Director of Main Street Preschool at First Baptist Church of Tucker, GA. This half-day program is celebrating its 50th year of ministry to Tucker and the surrounding area. I’ll be training, caring for and mentoring around a dozen teachers. I’m beyond excited to finish my time in my current position and start this new chapter of my life. Now let me answer some questions…

Are we moving to Tucker? Nope. It’s going to be a 30 mile commute one way. You heard me right. 60 miles round trip.

So this must be a pay raise right? Wrong again. I’m cutting back to part-time and accepting a 1/3 pay cut.

Have you lost your mind? I really don’t think so. Sometimes something just feels right and now is one of those times. We’ve always been committed to living authentically and simply. While I’ve been embracing part of that equation, I don’t think I’ve really been practicing my values because I’ve definitely been choosing comfort over courage. Hiding out to prevent being hurt again hasn’t worked. If anything, the hurt and shame of failure has putrified. Only by working through the story, owning it and risking the arena again can I be made whole.

I’m sure we’ll have more exciting things to share as we enter this new chapter of living courageously and authentically. I appreciate your support and prayers as I begin this new part of my story.

Advertisements
Posted in Living Peacefully

A Dream for Sparrows

Dreaming is dangerous business. When one dreams, a risk is taken to open the mind and heart to possibilities unknown. Dreaming most usually requires embracing uncertainty. And dreaming can mean failure. The last time I took a chance on a dream it ended in failure.

For this reason among others associated with it (unwrapped through years of counseling) I have made it a habit not to dream. Instead, it had become my goal to be one who would “live quietly in the land.” (Psalm 35:20) Living a simple, low profile life seemed the safest option for a soul so scarred and afraid. I took a simple job that I am most over-educated and over-qualified for. I work an hourly wage with no benefits and live hand-to-mouth. I abandoned all ambition and goal-setting in favor of subsisting on as little as possible in order to draw as little attention to myself as required because dreaming proved too dangerous a proposition.

But something has awoken a part of me I thought long dead. Recently, as I have been driving my bus full of children along the semi-rural west Cobb County roads in the early morning, I find myself lost in a dream. Maybe it is due to the picturesque landscapes or just due to necessity to drown out the din coming from the seats behind me. I tend to think it happens when I become focused on what I am teaching when I return to the learning center where I instruct Pre-K students until early afternoon.

As the sun is dawning on grassy fields, I try to recall the day’s lessons and skills. My favorite times have become when I am teaching our units on conservation and environmental awareness. I find myself imagining being able to go further than the constricts of my classroom and curriculum allow. I wonder what it would be like to teach these things on the land, alongside creation. And in my mind, suddenly, I am teaching “creation care” together with conservation.

I imagine a group of rowdy four and five-year olds wrist deep in a worm farm. I think about what it would mean to have them compost their food scraps from snack and lunch – or put them aside to feed them to goats, sheep and a pig. I envision teaching them where their food comes from and how to care deeply for that place. I can picture guiding them through planning, cultivating, planting, caring for and harvesting vegetables. I realize in my mind all the real life skills I would be teaching as I did this thing. Before I know it, I am driving the bus through the center’s driveway and it is time to stop the dream.

I still know that it is dangerous to dream. I am happily embracing living simply, quietly  and peacefully in the land. However, day by day I feel myself detaching from reality more often so that I can re-enter this place of my imagination. In that place, I feel peace, happiness and purpose. There is not really an “ambition” attached to this place – only that it be a place of safety where “even the sparrow has found a nest.” (Psalm 84:3)

Very recently, we found a small nest snugly constructed in the corner of our raised herb garden. In it we found five round, pink eggs and a sweet mother bird who has chosen our place of refuge as her own. While some might find this a nuisance, we took it as a high complement from creation that we had been found worthy of such honor. She trusts us. We must be quiet enough, simple enough, peaceful enough for her to find faith in our space.

It feels as if the world at large needs more places for sparrows to find a nest. Maybe it isn’t wrong to dream of becoming that place.

Posted in Living Peacefully, The Autism Gospel

Unmet Goals: An IEP Story

Our Individualized Education Plan turns 15 years old this year. While most of my time now is spent looking toward our immediate future and how we will transition out in just 18 months time, I always get reflective after our annual meeting. This year was no different.

I was surprised to find, as we were cleaning up old language and editing parts of this adolescent document, that many of our goals are no longer needed. We no longer need mathematics goals. His writing goal that was once in place because of such weak expression is obsolete because his teacher notes that he now “writes with voice.” Because he is reading at or above grade level, reading goals could also be deleted. In general, Noah’s 3.5 grade point average has marked him as a success of the Special Education System. This child who was once predicted to never read, write, or speak is now expected to receive college scholarships.

But some of our goals still go unmet. Objectives are still in place to assist with general anxiety in the classroom. Articulation goals may stay in place for Speech because the “r sound” still eludes. And the ever-daunting Social Skills Objectives remain as they have for longer than I can remember.

Among them, “Noah will initiate conversation with peers….”

As the team honestly assessed Noah’s lack of interest in this area, one of his teachers spoke up with a story that still has me pondering. It seems that not long ago Noah witnessed an accident in the hallway. One of his peers accidentally tripped another student as they knelt in the hall to adjust their books. The boy who fell became immediately angry and moved toward the other with raised voice, ready to fight.

Noah’s teacher said, “Before I knew what was happening, Noah stepped out between them and began to try and diffuse the situation. Noah said, ‘We all need to relax. He didn’t do this on purpose. I saw it; it was unintentional. This was just an accident so we don’t need to fight about it.’”

Noah the Peacemaker, unwilling to “initiate a conversation with peers” (a.k.a. small talk), is completely willing to speak into the middle of conflict to stop violence and make amity. Everyone smiled and a silent understanding was reached that perhaps this unmet goal wasn’t the tragedy it seemed.

Noah will speak up when it is necessary. He will speak truth. He will speak reconciliation. He will speak harmony. He will speak resolution. He will speak compromise. He will speak peace.

But he doesn’t do small talk. This goal remains unmet. And I think I am good with that.

Posted in Living Peacefully

Proverbs 30

Let us ask no more of this world

Or it’s institutions and empires.

Let us only seek the One who

Gathers the wind and wears the waters as a garment.

 

Let that Truth be our only shield and refuge

From this place of exile.

We will speak of it carefully but boldly,

Our hope and redemption.

 

Let us only ask that we be faithful,

So we may know neither riches nor poverty.

Together, let us believe that our daily manna

Will sustain and nourish.

 

In this place of humility we can trust

And be faithful to the promise of Resurrection.

Our poverty will keep us mindful of the needy,

That we may be His hands alongside them.

 

Let us speak Shalom into our lives as Enough,

So that we will not consume mindlessly as

The grave, barren wombs and drought blighted land.

Let us not burn through our lives thoughtlessly like fire.

 

Instead, let us dwell on the splendor of Creation

And on our part in its care.

Let us be given to one another fully,

Even as we are fully known.

 

Let our lives always be attentive to the

Smaller things.

Allowing mustard seeds, sparrows,

Bees, and hummingbirds to occupy our ambition.

 

In this way we will live in the palaces of kings.

 

 

Posted in Living Peacefully

Resurrection

What was once shiny and beautiful

now is consigned to scrap,

the discarded leavings of achievement’s better way.

Wasted and abandoned she waits,

having been relegated to an obsolete residue

only success can leave in its wake.

With nothing of value to offer,

forsaken by her trade,

she is without purpose and forgotten.

 

Oh for a moment when

she might be found!

Reanimated with purpose,

recreated to hope again for usefulness,

she could shine out a

promise remembered.

Again loved and made new,

she might be redeemed and restored.

 

Covered with rust

she awaits The Resurrection.

Posted in Living Peacefully

Ecclesiastes 7

for Jason

 

Let us make a life together.

Now at the end of all ambition,

Pride, and shame

Let us make start as we should have done.

 

Let us choose wisdom

Looking not at former better days,

But instead choose an inheritance

Free from the anger of what might have been.

 

Let us not forget our sorrows

But know them, so that we can

Be made rich by sadness of countenance

That will make our hearts glad.

 

Let us remember our riches as we

Dig and plant in simplicity,

Counting ourselves fortunate at the plunder of

Our collective and painful sagacity.

 

Let us listen as the Towhee calls us to

Nobler paths seldom trod

When we were seeking ourselves in

Accolades, acumen and praise of humankind.

 

Let us never pass a day without noting the

Growth of our hands’ simple work

Or the nest of the Warbler

Which needs our protection.

 

Let us be thankful for crooked paths

Traveled with the best of intention

Leading us to places of

Quiet and peace.

 

 

Posted in Living Peacefully

Making Small Talk & Neighbors

 

They pulled in late on a September Saturday afternoon. The house next door had been vacant for months, and we were glad to see a truck roll up the steep driveway that is a twin to our own. It was our energetic Labrador that made introductions, immediately tearing across the short space between houses and lapping the truck in joyful circles. My husband apologetically introduced himself (and Maxine) and welcomed them to our neighborhood.

It was apparent from the dress of the mother and older girls that this family was Middle Eastern. In friendly, broken English the father introduced himself, his wife and children, and shook Jason’s hand. It was a small start to what would become an intentional relationship. It was just small talk.

A few days later, Jason noticed them piling trash at the street. Since we live outside the city limits, we have to pay for a trash service. Day after day, they moved trash from the street to their home, not understanding why it wasn’t being picked up. Jason went over, motioning and mimicking through the language barrier until he made sure they understood to call the number on our trashcan for service.

When I asked Jason how the conversation went he replied, “I just don’t want him to think we’re those kind of people.” He wanted them to know we cared, but the language barrier was so great and our conversation so small.

We noticed the mother or father walking the youngest child, who is around nine or ten, to the bus stop each morning. They would watch furtively over their shoulder and stand several yards away from the other children who were waiting for the same bus. Again, in the afternoon, one of them would wait at the stop – within eyesight of their house – to retrieve her.

It wasn’t until around Halloween that we realized their apprehension was for good reason. While working in our garage one day, I noticed some boys headed up their driveway. I thought it was unusual, but just figured they were visiting the youngest girl. Soon, I saw the boys run across my yard as if the devil himself was after them. This happened a few more times during November, until one day around Thanksgiving I heard one of the teenaged daughters step onto the porch and scream until the boys were out of sight. I ran into the yard to help, but she was distraught and the boys were gone. That day, Jason and I resolved to be the kind of neighbors they needed.

Months passed with only waves and smiles across our yards – but we were far more intentional about it then we’ve ever been before with other neighbors. Then one afternoon my doorbell began frantically ringing. I opened it to find the youngest daughter, distraught and in tears. She’d gotten off the bus to find no one at home and couldn’t get in the house. She wouldn’t come in, but did accept the use of my cell phone. She called to learn that her parents would be some soon and had gotten stuck in traffic. We sat on my front steps and talked about her school, riding the bus, and what she had for lunch at school. Just small talk until her parents arrived.

The next time her parents were gone when she got home, she didn’t ask to use the phone but just sat and talked with me. I told her that I was glad she came to our house when she needed help. She replied, “My parents say your house is a safe place if I have trouble.” I was glad our small talk was working, but I wasn’t sure if they really understood just how much we were glad they were our neighbors.

Then we got the sign.

We put out our sign on a Sunday afternoon with little fanfare. That evening we heard some noise in the yard and looked out to find our neighbors and many of their friends taking pictures of our sign with their phones. Honestly, we just weren’t sure what to think about their interest.

When the doorbell rang the next afternoon, I assumed my friend had gotten off the bus to an empty house once again. When I opened the door, I found two of the daughterstreats with radiant smiles. With arms extended they offered me homemade pastries and this explanation, “We made this for you to say thank you for the sign. We want you to know what it means for our family that you are telling the neighborhood you are happy we live here. These are from Egypt, our home. We made so you know we are glad to be neighbors. We have never seen a sign like this. Why do you have it?”

I told her that we belong to a peace church and that many of us were putting these signs in our yards. When she asked what I meant by peace church, I went on to tell her that we believed in truly loving our neighbors in word and deed. Then, I told them what we believe following Jesus means. They are Muslim, but they smiled and said, “This is what our world needs now.”

We continue to make small talk. Last weekend, they asked us to get their mail while they are out of town in May – at least we think that is what they said.

We’ve made small talk. It’s a small sign. These have been mustard seed moments. Loving our neighbor in small ways that make a big difference, at least on our street.

Posted in Living Peacefully

Child of the Book

 

I was taught to hold it as soon as my small hands were able to grasp it. Miniature covenants filled nursery rooms where I was sent to make friends. We were all supposed to learn to The Book together. It was going to save us.

I hid its words deep within my soul and memory, told that in my darkest hour they would rescue me from fear and loneliness. As a child who was already fearfully lonely, I drank them in trusting they would slake my thirst for hope.

 These things I remember,

as I pour out my soul:

how I went with the throng,

and led them in procession to the house of God,

with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,

a multitude keeping festival. [1]

The classrooms were simple. The teachers were untrained and sometimes unskilled. But the story was enough. It captured my imagination and my faith’s desire. I excelled at knowing The Book. I could quickly manipulate its pages and was taught to use it, accordingly, as my sword.

It was a story unlike any other. Its characters were real and I could see them in my mind. I often wondered about their lives outside the written tale captured on the page. Unbound by time, it bid me come and join its narrative. We were warned that some of our own friends would not continue on this journey along with us. And even though we were cautioned that the price for being a child of The Book might cost us everything one day, I don’t think I ever believed it as a child.

O Lord, I love the habitation of thy house,

and the place where thy glory dwells. [2]

I went on to study The Book with an aim to make teaching it to others as my vocation. Belief in its pages became more nuanced and intentional. My mind was stretched. Theories and difficulties of historical and textual criticism came and were answered in my mind. Questions about interpretation were satisfied and I moved on. Then I learned the largest threat to this child of The Book would come from a place I never suspected.

While the story had continued to compel and speak to me of a new way to love my neighbor as witness to Resurrection Life, for many of my fellow believers it did not. They began to hear voices tell them that this story needed polish in order to be sold, then purchased, by our culture. Soon the story wasn’t to be approached without multi-media support. I was told that children just couldn’t learn it without a video and high-energy game to capture their attention first. Even then, it seemed our culture wanted to hear moral tales that resembled popular psychology more than the story I knew as a child of The Book.

I would soon realize that there was no place for a child of The Book, even within the institution that nurtured them. Yes, I had great dexterity at reaching and equipping people of The Book. And, again, yes I had degreed myself to be at the top of my field. But my love for the story wouldn’t be enough to sway the marketers and captain of this new industry. The Book was a product and it was their job to sell it. My way of telling the story and loving people, just wouldn’t produce enough.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after;

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

to behold the beauty of the Lord,

and to inquire in his temple. [3]

Time and perspective has allowed me to see that it was not me, in myself, that wasn’t productive enough to serve the institution of The Book. No, it is that the story itself is no longer enough. Like people of The Book throughout time, the institution has been swayed by its surrounding culture. No longer set apart as holy, they bow willingly to the idols of success, wealth, intellect and power.

Yet while I can remove myself from this failure, I am still a child of The Book. I feel its rejection keenly. When it is too old to be relevant, so am I. When it no longer sings, neither do I. When the story isn’t enough, I find myself without a home, a stranger lost and alone in a place I pledged to serve yet can no longer have voice.

Maybe this is what my teachers meant when they said being a child of The Book could carry a price. It is lonely and isolating. No longer welcomed by the institution of The Book, I am also rejected by those who spurn it as well. I find myself standing alone between the two, wondering why The Book and I aren’t enough.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree,

and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

13 They are planted in the house of the Lord,

they flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They still bring forth fruit in old age,

they are ever full of sap and green,

15 to show that the Lord is upright;

he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. [4]

As I grow older, I am still a child of The Book and it is still enough for me. Within its pages I find the only instruction that eases the pain of the world around me. But I have no place to serve The Book, no place to bloom. I sometimes fear the time has passed for me to serve The Book and its people. I am bound by age in an Age that can only esteem the idolatry of its time.

These days I often cradle with it open in my hands, letting my eyes roam its pages and feeling them cool beneath my fingertips. Its passages are familiar. They are a balm for this un-healing wound I will carry until these idols fail, or I am called to meet author of The Book.

 

 

 

[1] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Ps 42:4.

[2] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Ps 26:8.

[3] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Ps 27:4.

[4] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Ps 92:12–15.

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 Living Peacefully

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

View original post 119 more words