privilege…or choice

Privilege…or choice

this is raw, and probably going to convey both my ignorance and the ugly places in my heart. but I’m going to share it – in case anyone wants to have a dialogue. I welcome your reasoned feedback, because I am still trying to learn.

my dad had one brother. their father came home from the service and later died in a mental institution. his brother died of alcohol related illness. their step dad was an alcoholic. i’m told a neighbor took him under his wing, so to speak.

my dad was a marine in world war II. he saw the plumes from the bombs in japan. he came home and tried to make a living – he had pretty much sent all his military pay to his mom, expecting there to be something for college when he got back. sorry…

he sold farm supplies. i’m told a kind man he met along the way told him he was smart and should go to college. he asked an uncle for help – who said…NO

maybe a GI bill helped, I’m not sure.

my dad CHOSE – not to be an alcoholic.

my mom taught school – and loved more kids than you can count.

they CHOSE to love each other, they CHOSE to be kind, and they told us if we couldn’t say something nice, or constructive, to CHOOSE to not say anything at all.. and they told us we had to figure out a way to get along, as we were going to be ‘family’ for a long time…i suspect this constitutes ‘my privilege’

they CHOSE for us to work, and we chose to obey. when our hands were only big enough to carry one chicken, or 6 ears of corn, that’s how many we carried. we were allowed to work, just like the men did, but in kid-size ways. the house chores belonged to the kids. so did the run of the farm. they shared the natural abundance of running room, and the meager abundance of finance with neighbors in the country, and from the city. UNDENIABLY…this was a privilege.

my dad stuffed mailboxes – with 50$ here, or a day’s work there – for someone in need.

my mom, in all her free time, when she wasn’t canning or preserving or sewing to make ends meet, chose to champion programs at school that would provide educational, and recreational opportunities for everyone. she is still training leaders. I got to go along…i suspect this constitutes ‘my privilege’

when farming wasn’t enough, my dad got another job. and when he suspected his UPS truck carried drugs – he reported it, even though he could have lost his job, so one more kid wouldn’t be ruined.

i studied…and went to college…and applied for financial aid…and got a job. i dished spinach in the dining hall, and became friends with the rest of the crew. i, too, by some divine mercy CHOSE not to be an alcoholic

i married a man who thinks his job is a gift from God. every day since 1986 – he has chosen to get up at 5 AM, go to work, and give his employer and his family, the best of what he’s got. He feels privileged to play a stewardship role for the environment.

He chooses to pay his taxes. so do my brother, and my 2 sisters, and my brother and sister in laws. and their taxes help pay for roads, and schools, and healthcare, and food. and they hope the government will be smart about how they spend that money.

my younger sister takes care of people in need – like with depression and stuff like that. she saves their jobs, and cares for their families. She’s a CPA – go figure…i suspect she thinks that is part of her ‘privilege.’ she is also funny an plays the piano like a warrior angel – just in case the world needs a little more beauty.

my other sister manages little kid sports, and scout programs, and volunteers with habitat for humanity – in her free time. at work she handles all the finances for second language school programs and assists harried moms and teachers.

my brother supports disabled adults employment, and fundraises for MS. At work he fixes machines and problems, and takes care of his team – advocating for their health benefits. he takes wounded vets hunting, and listens to their stories. if he saw you on the street, and you were hurting, he’d pick you up. i suspect he considers that…his privilege.

my dad had white skin…he was never a slave…i suppose you can guess the rest. He made a CHOICE

 

Question to ponder:

what color is a neighbor ?

what if I started with the title, privilege…and choice? Would it read differently to you? It does to me. How does that help, or hinder the thought process?

 

jfig/2017

 

 

 

 

Tuesday mornings…prayers for the journey

Beach Combings …

The Sea flings up her dross

waiting for traveler

“Find me…” this beauty whispers,

lifted out of hiding by the foaming of the waves.

I run to you, knowing that your love will see me through this gathering storm

Cling to grace, knowing it will part the waves that push my craft off shore.

Bend -u- double winds hush to calm

By turn, God-breathed light warms, then fire bakes:

eel grass to paper; tree to kindling…all blown away

lest we be convinced to worship this sun.

“Brace yourself,” the gale answers my Job question…

Brace yourself in heaven’s resounding “I am.”

Smooth warm pebble turns in my hand,

Round and round to feed my palm the reminder

That tomorrow will bring a new dawn

I run to you, knowing that your love will see me through this gathering storm

Cling to grace, knowing it will part the waves that push my craft off shore.

jlf 6/15

A few weeks ago, as anxious thoughts mounted, I retreated to the beach to find God’s comfort in the care of loved ones. Three of my four children were off, one to canoe the wild rivers of northern Minnesota, one to the jungles of LA, and the third moving toward a scheduled class trip to Israel. In spite of God’s persistent faithfulness, I feel better when I can see my hatchlings…

The offerings of the beach reminded me, that the wind and waves of life’s storms, under God’s precise and careful restraint, reveal the hidden beauty of a thing. So often, we long for the safety and well-being of a loved one. God takes it one solid step further into the well-being of a soul.

God speaks , in Job 39, of how the young of the deer, “thrive and grow strong in the wilds,” and the freedom of the wild donkey though his home is in the wasteland. God understands, more KNOWS, the subtleties of what each of us encounters. He knows what obstacles we will encounter, and what shape those obstacles will give to our character. He knows where the pitfalls lie that too readily fit the shape of each foot.

Me…I’ve been sizing my children’s shoes too small, for too long, for years. Enough such that my tallest daughter, has the smallest feet. So much for my human understanding, of what is required to shape a life that mirrors God.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” These words from Jeremiah 29: 11 to the Israelites, follow God’s instructions to them about how to live IN the place of difficulty and challenge, applied in captivity. They are followed by this assurance, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Lord God, You who see and understand all, we rejoice in the power of your voice to unleash or quiet the storm. We rejoice in your knowing the dust of which we are made, such that you can reorder the grains of sand to reveal YOUR beauty, hidden in us. Thank you for the honor of bearing your image.

Protect us from the confusion of trying to create any other image to wear. Free us from the pursuit of false beauty that would shackle us to this age, rather than free us into eternity with you.

For those under our care or instruction, would you give us again, the assurance that you know exactly what you are doing? Instruct us in our role so that we can participate in the purity of your plan. We pray in Jesus’ name.

tuesday mornings…

The past couple years have been something of a mid-life, mid-journey crisis. I long to soar outside the bounds of time, energy and self-centeredness to make a difference in this world. In particular, I was seeing gaps in my capability to be a present friend in times of trouble, or present enough to even be aware of trouble on the horizon. Around the bend from that, was the ever-active voice in my head,  “You are not doing enough…in your community; nor in the world.” There are caregivers out there; moms, teachers, pastors, youth leaders and their wives(a whole superhero category unto themselves); who seem able to rally to a steady onslaught of needs, all while maintaining a good sense of humor. I am not one of them. Perhaps you are not either. This post is for us… I’m not going to talk about that ‘comparison thing’ we do, just share one compass-bearing of hope and help that God gave me midst that particular crisis.

One of my friends was in trouble – the collapse of a mission, scary, kid-stuff trouble.  Another friend, who is one of those superhero types, organized 40 days of prayer and fasting around the needs. (I am not good at fasting either, just in case you were wondering.) But the situation was so desperate, my ability to help so small, that I signed up to fast and pray every Tuesday during that 40 days. This did not turn out to be a major accomplishment on my part. And how God used it for my friend and her family is their continuing story. What it was for me, however, was an opportunity – to see God at work, to listen for his truth, to align my heart and mind with his purposes, to fill one tiny hole in the gap of his love and care for them. My time at prayer became an AMEN to what He was already doing. It was a privilege to say Amen, over and over and over. Like that old-time discipline of writing on the chalkboard after being caught-out in some misdemeanor. 100 times… Amen…Amen… Amen.

After 40 days, it just seemed easier to keep praying, about all the people and places in the world where the need is great, and the help small. For friends and family hanging onto hope under the see-all lights of despair.  About seemingly hopeless, and helpless situations brought about by the oppressions of poverty, sickness, evil in our world. One can hardly turn around without encountering desperate need, on every side. It is truly overwhelming to anyone who wants to be of help.

Tuesday mornings. Compass bearing: prayer. What are the landmarks?

  • I think God gave me a portioned task; one that I could do. In the midst of all the other demands that are never-ceasing in the life of a caregiver, I can focus and pray about these issues one day per week. I can be consistent, even if I don’t have the energy to be perpetual. Is that the only day I pray? No, but it is the day I always (or almost always), pray for these friends, at home and across the globe, regarding these issues.
  • Prayers are grounded in scripture, which lays a foundation of truth. upon which strong stuff grows, even in the most desperate of situations. Isaiah 61 reminds me of God’s intent. Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 reassure me of His power. Copyright law prohibits me sharing these verses in entirety here, but they are like pavers of gold, if you want to build a prayer walk. If your situation is one to which sin-leads-to-death applies, Ephesians 1 describes resurrection power. If you seek to countermand injustice, Isaiah offers hope and a dream for the future.
  • Finally, I am not advocating leaving someone’s side, for your prayer closet. But barring some other God-appointed role, I am confident that His filling of a hole in the wall of his kingdom with the putty of truth-filled prayers, is an offering of eternal value.                   Tuesday mornings…Godspeed

Lest you be snXlowed by Lent, or other seasons of life

Great Aunt Ruth…I call her that because it’s fitting, even though she is officially just, “Aunt Ruth,” by the branching of the family tree. I called her this morning to ask how she was getting along, given that she lives in a retirement community and I hadn’t talked with her in awhile. By some over-inflated sense of my place in the planet, I thought it might cheer her to hear from me…given that she lives in a retirement community, and per her calculation,has most recently celebrated the 5oth anniversary of her 39th birthday. I wanted to make sure she was doing okay, given that she lives in a  retirement community – ALONE – and travels with a walker.

On first try, I missed her. She was out to lunch with her book group, which was attended by the author of their latest read. When she returned my call, she informed me that she had been compelled to be on her best behavior because she disliked the book. Immensely. The chairman of the book group had exacted the behavioral promise days before, given that the author would be in attendance. But I got the full story when she returned my call. The book choice, for this group of octogenarians, was one in which the heroine (there are no main characters for Aunt Ruth) had been a lesbian who had attempted suicide but been kept alive for the birth of an ill-conceived child. Aunt Ruth found the author interesting, and not one to judge prematurely, will now have a  friend at the retirement center save his newspaper so she can read the author’s weekly column. She got right down to that, and the first column featured zombies. I called her because she lives in a retirement center, and I though she might be feeling a little, out of touch….

The next conversational topic was the projected family reunion, which she assures me is on her calendar. (I don’t have the dates yet.)

The third topic was the paring  down of her schedule, which has been hindered by an invitation from the activities director  to join the education board of a summer theatre program. This is not at the retirement center, but for school aged children: “I just could not say, “No.” They have, upon you-know-who’s suggestion, named the program, Gettin’ the Show on the Stage, since the program focuses upon the staging aspects of theatre production.

She has also thinned her schedule by going to inactive status in a parish ministry. (She still gets together twice a month with her most recent client, for lunch or an outing – she just doesn’t do meetings or paperwork anymore.)

Her taxes aren’t in yet…she has about 1.5 hours prep work remaining. She is admittedly dragging her feet due to frustration with current policy.

By this time, I was beginning to feel ‘updated.’ She asked about my children. We voiced concerns over the demands on another family member.

And last but not least, in true Aunt Ruth from, she brought up Lent: “When a friend asked me the other day if I had considered giving something up for Lent, I told her I had given up thinking about, giving up chocolate for Lent. Furthermore, it is working very well.”

With a shared round of laughter to bolster our quiet  ‘I love you’s, we said good-bye. Updated + cheered: Aunt Ruth is more than  ‘okay.’

jlf 2/13