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

 

 

 

 

Echoes…

Midst December’s relentless march into longer.. hours… of darkness…, we introduced a series on hope, with the metaphor of a crevasse  reverberating with the echoes of need and plenty, have and have not, in an effort to find light in the darkness. To somehow bridge the gap.  Here’s a spring perspective, dedicated to Miss t. and fam, for their resilience.

In FEBRUARY of 20__ (who can keep track anymore) I stared at the puddled floor of the Firs Chalet drying room, at my children’s boots. Heavy fans thrummed steadily in some attempt to stir the heavy air, but nothing stirred the moisture-laden boots (and sopping socks) that lay miss-matched and askew in the middle of the entry. We were at the chalet for a homeschool ski retreat, with a variety of families, many of whom had more children than we, and better established plans of training them up than we. These were lovely people, with lovely children. I’m totally serious…l.o.v.e.l.y. I held in one fist, my aspiration to be a good parent and in the other the big question, “How?”   My mesmery (I know it’s not a word, but it should be) was broken by one small voice crying, “Mom, you pick them up…” as a wee body darted past and clumped up the stairs. I’m not sure in what, because I had the boots… I replied in a loud, pained voice, “I am not your servant” And midst the ongoing thrum of the fans, the stillness on the stairs, the as yet unanswered, ‘how’ in my head, I heard the echo, “Oh, yes…you are.” Oh, yes, you are; yes, yes, you are… a servant. It was clear to me, that it was not in the act of picking up boots that my children were responsible for themselves; nor in having exactly the same parenting style or plan as these other successful couples, that I was to serve; but in laying down my expectation of parent, to pick up their need as child. Everything from love that dares to discipline to clean socks to reassurance in the dark falls under serve. Oh, yes…I am

It is finished… A brilliant friend surprised me the other day, by asking me to pray for strength; “strength to make wise decisions; ones that you would encourage in your 14 year-old, like going to bed at a reasonable time instead of staying up late to watch a movie, when you know what will be asked of you tomorrow.” I knew exactly what he meant, because as the years lengthen, I find my capacity thinning (too bad it’s not carried in my…hmm). It occurs to me , that it may not be the capacity in which we serve, so much as our willingness to find it a privilege, whatever the task, that fills our cup for the next effort. Some people seem to naturally overflow with this enthusiasm for service, but not me. I wanted to be SOME.Body; not just anybody. As the years went on, and I became less impressed with myself, and more impressed with what God was working in my kids and in and through other moms, that left-handed fist started to slip its grasp a little. I realized that it was going to be pretty difficult to carry the cross, if my hands were full of, well, ME. Gradually, the cross became a place, not to launch myself from, but a place to drink life from, because every time I let myself die there at Jesus feet, God filled me up with something he could use. Wow! And if I got stuck looking at the crumpled up remnants of the old me, He quietly echoed, “It is finished.

Last Sunday, I got to visit our stunningly beautiful daughter Laura (someone else’s words) for Mom’s weekend @ WSU. The homily at church was about Peter. Poor Peter… who got tangled in the circumstances, like so many of us do, and denied knowing Christ. Well, he outright lied, didn’t he??? After rereading the Gospel accounts (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and John 18), I wonder if there was not an echo of truth in Peter’s words, “I do not know him;’ an echo that we share in the passages of life in which we cannot see Christ. For he did not yet know the Risen Christ. It seems obvious that we deny Christ, if we remain in our sin, with no attempt to move forward into his redemption. But perhaps as believers, it is often not the dying Christ which we deny, but the risen one. I do not know him, in the places where we have not yet allowed the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, to pull us up out of the grave clothes. Voluminous grave clothes, in which we sometimes hide with our failings, our fears, our weakness, instead of allowing Jesus to gently fold them away. What are we afraid of, when it is finished? Peter, who had limited success walking on the water, ran undeterred through it, to get to the Risen Jesus; to see who this was that he did not yet know…And Jesus commissioned that thrice-failed Peter, by the same power that raised him from the dead, to feed sheep. Love me, Peter, and feed my sheep.

The echo of Jesus’ coming, rolled across the hillside from his birth, to his resurrection, commissioning shepherds with a message – an echo from the chambers of God’s heart… may it find a home in yours.

Steel Magnolias

…sitting in prayer time this morning after reading the headlines of Ann Voskamp’s blog, http://www.aholyexperience.com and feeling challenged to pray for my sisters. I bolstered my attitude with a worship song, and landed at the cross…for several run-throughs. You can listen to “At the Cross,” by Hillsong, on youtube or http://www.worshiptogether.com. What a great reminder that NOTHING can separate us from God: not our confessed failings or just who we are or the challenges encountered in the daily journey to wife, or mother, or sister in Christ, or big monsters like illness and special needs and abuse and Mistakes. Jesus tore the veil of separation. We just have to walk through…That’s what makes me think of Steel Magnolias – that the seasons of life bring so many things to walk through; and girls are good at walking and talking, holding hands.

IMG_3002With style.

But the BIG walk-through, is remembering to walk through at the foot of the cross, like some cinematographic feat of stepping right through the image, and having it close behind us protectively as we rest at the feet of the risen Jesus. It’s done – his tearing of the veil. His covering over of all the coulda-woulda-shouldas, and the things we wish had do-overs. His propitiation (sorry, I had to throw that in there) for all the things that need more than our fixin.’  It’s done, just for the asking.

Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

Because we are emotional beings, we tend to get caught up in the angst and celebration; the ‘woe is you,’ and the ‘Baby, you can do it.’ One can read about such celebrations of sisterhood, but so often, we don’t ‘feel the love’ of it until we are way into the woe…  We are separated by miles or the business of taking care of home and family, or juggling responsibilities. ( Is it the ‘Year of the Multi-tasker yet?) As one both organizationally challenged, and born serious, I feel pretty helpless to try to lighten another’s, not to mention anothers’ load(s). That is until Hillsong sings reverently, and I belt out  jubilantly, in the privacy of my home, “What can separate me now?” and realize anew that the long list of beautiful, amazing sisters – who are steppin’ out in fear and trembling just like me- are covered by the same promises:

Romans 8:29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn [fn14] among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, [fn16] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

scriptures taken from NLT, courtesy http://www.blueletterbible.org

My hug can’t reach them today. but this whispered, triumphant prayer can. It’s so simple – holding each up,  in the middle of my weakness, in the ever-so-small palm of my hand, to an all-powerful God: God, wash over R, and A, and K, and L, and K and LD, and MP, and M and C.C.C. and K and H and K and K and FEG and J, and K and D and K ( wow, that’s alot of K’s) and M and AP and everyone I forgot today and our own four beautifuls… and all those crying inside, ‘God, send me someone please.’ God wash over them,  with your grace, and your strength, and that amazing Jesus welcome, “Come sit by me…” Wrap them up in your whisper of hope that is real; more real than any disappointment, or mind-blowing, exhaustive chore, or fear of what tomorrow holds. And the sisters will say/sway, A.M.E.N. Amen, God, to what you are doing. Amen.

jlf 2/12

Change of Heart

Thank-you, Kathy Hill, for tweaking my heart… For 10 years of Little Miss Sweetness’s life, the primary focus of my caregiving seemed to be providing safetyand nurture, and meeting her basic needs out of a wealth of mother-love. Intermingled in there, was the role of providing opportunities for her to develop interests and friendships, but her attention span was challengingly short for her to engage for long. She continues to be passionate about those who regularly people her world, and a variety of canine and other four-legged friends; squealing with delight to encounter any of them, whether at church or school or in the grocery store; but for the most part, anything else fails to hold her attention for long. As Little Miss Sweetness has becme more adept at handling her own mobility safely, and navigating social venues, it has become increasingly important to access opportunities for her to grow in her understanding of, and enjoyment of the world, to facilitate interconnections between her and the rest of the planet. It has also increased our ‘conspicuous quotient’ considerably; and while I enjoy being the center of attention, I like to reserve that for when we are ‘looking smart’, not when we are piecing together social appropriateness. We used to fly under the radar as just a mom and a large baby…no more. So while Little Miss Sweetness wrestles excitedly with whomever new she gets to meet, ‘mom’ wrestles’ with how we look. To a certain extent, I’ve slowly stopped wanting every possible opportunity for growth for my daughter, and started hoping we can just get through the church foyer without creating a scene. A scene for whom??? I used to think the whole world was a stage for lucky children…

I’m not sure when my attitude changed. (It was probably always there to a certain extent; that wanting my parenting to be validated by the behavior of my children. We have long since let that go by the wayside – and I have a much greater sense of appreciation for parents who wrestle with exactly where to draw the boundaries. When I see them doing so with patience, they get my vote. ) I find it challenging to switch roles, even in my adult mentoring relationships, from the needed, to the needy and back again. Juggling expectations then letting go at just the right moment to allow someone to fly is tricky in the best of weather. This is accentuated in my relationship with my teenage daughter, who while beautiful in so manydetails of appearance and character, also needs me to provide many details of personal care. And she is beautiful…sensitive to the expressed feelings of others, aware of their need to be drawn in. She is delighted by humor and babies and living things. She is resilient to a fault. She’s happy. And she is appreciative. All in all, not bad for a teenager! But some small part of me, that while I cannot forget she is mine, all mine in the daily demand, has forgotten that she is mine , all mine, in the delight, the privilege to embrace in a mother-daughter dance. My husband, God bless his soul, keeps a loving view of who she is, and when I confessed my sorrow at this angst, he was quick to affirm the efforts I’ve made to create opportunities. Just recently, we took advantage of a non-school day to go out for breakfast – it’s what I would have done with my other girls, and we had a blast confusing the waitress with our fumbled ordering. My fumble, her gain! There is hope. But I am grateful for Kathy, who said in not so many words, “God does not see my disabled child any differently than He sees me.’ If that’s true, then I guess I don’t get to do so either. And if I am pressing along because this is what I have to do, rather than because this is what I am privileged to do, then I have missed a beat somewhere. I have missed seeing Jesus in Little Miss Sweetness, in someone’s invalid grandmother, or in a neighbor’s mother with mental illness. Our special charges are not measured by capabilty or fluency or even sit-still-ability, but just as one created by, and belonging to God, as fully as you or me.

I am reminded of a time in marriage, when I lamented the need to walk through one of my husband’s struggles alongside him, compalining all the while, “Why should I have to do this?” (I will probably have to do a full confessional on selfishness some other day…right after the one on arrogance.) In some moment of grace, I was able to catch a glimmer of truth; that it is not my chore, nor obligation, but rather my privilege, to serve one so loved by God. It’s part of why I share this post – not because I’ve figured this serving thing out – but because I’ve felt the struggle of it, in many of  the relationships in which we are called to serve one another. It is sometimes easy to bend one’s head to the task, even obediently; but forget to still one’s heart to the privilege. Godspeed.

jlf 2/4/13

Holy Ground

After receiving a heartfelt prayer request this morning from a friend, and commiserating about our tendency to try to run the show, fix the broken, and move mountains via our own weakening strength, I am reminded of the import of recognizing when one is on ‘holy ground.’  As a mom, I have sometimes been struck by the audacity of trying to wear too many hats, interchanging them with split second timing. There are days I literally start chuckling to myself at how ridiculous a picture it makes. Flip, flash, swoosh, swish and I end up reeling,  disoriented, from the whirlwind. As moms, we are called to be teacher, nutritionist, counselor, protector, provisioner, driver, friend, mentor, guide, discipliner, #1 fan, and discipler. Yeh,  WHEW!  On such momentary role changes, one often feels ill-equipped for the job. When a child is struggling, for reasons of sin, or genetics, or illness; or is made vulnerable by his own or others’ unwise or malicious choices,  our confidence moves from, “This is just what I do,”  to, “Lord God, what should I do????? As we rummage through our wardrobe for the wisdom hat, or the civil defender hat, or wait, maybe the exterminator’s hat?, we feel the pressing angst to ‘FIX!’ while carrying the weighted fear of “Have I failed, and if so, is it all beyond repair??? At times, the grief hat, is more than we can stand up under.

Joshua 5 recounts an encounter, at a time when Joshua and the Israelites are poised outside the walled city of Jericho. They have  circumcised themselves anew, and celebrated the Passover after crossing the Jordan River, at God’s second walling of the water. They ate, not manna, but the fruit of Canaan. It was a time of celebration, of dedication of themselves, of receiving the fulfillment of God’s promises, of looking forward. At the risk of gross oversimplification,  a moment that encompassed many of the daily commissions that raising children to be disciples of God holds as well; a great mixing of victory, defeat, re-purposing, redirecting, ect. Perhaps there was a bit of an adrenaline rush on that Jericho plain, that at least a few things were going right! And perhaps also the grave realization that a wrong move could result in years of grief and the need for restitution or repair.

Joshua encounters a man, drawn sword in hand. His focus forward-seeming, he gauges the implications for the coming battle, “Whose side are you on?”  Whose side are you on???? I wonder if we too often take a pugilistic stance in the everyday skirmishes of life. ‘Are you for my kid, or against him…you just try and get near him…’ There’s no doubt that guerilla warfare is an integral part our caring for those under our protection and within  our circle of influence. While we may realize we are doing battle, I suspect the recognition  is not with near the frequency at which we are, or perhaps should be engaged (speaking to myself here). But against whom? Often, I think a greater  oversight, is in our spotting of the enemy.

We live under the daily potential to abide, or dwell in the unchanging promise of life and blessing as the children of God. He has  promised his continual presence, as we move forward from last week’s failure, to encounter tomorrow’s battle. We move forward with the hope of victory, the reality of past failures, the grief of remembered long journeys wrapped around us like so much battle garb – and we wonder who is for us, and who against, and how finely drawn are their swords? Caregiving,  by nature, is often unexpectedly laden with Goliath-like odds.

Joshua’s man stipulated that he was neither on the side of Joshua, nor the enemy, and that he was in fact, the commander of the Lord’s army. The commander of the Lord’s army, doing what, exactly? Without hesitation, Joshua falls to the ground in submission to God’s plan, and upon asking what he is to do, is told to remove his shoes for he is standing on holy ground. God’s first command, in that place between history and moving forward, bypasses a focus upon the enemy and calls for Joshua to recognize God in his holiness. As he does so, Joshua submits to God’s chain of command as well. After all, Joshua was a leader in his own God-given right, just as you and I are positioned by God as parents and teachers  and caregivers and mentors. But the tasks are God-given, and the methodology is his.  The enemy question is answered with a, ‘This isn’t about you or the enemy, this is about God, and who He is.’

As we move, history-laden, to encounter tomorrow’s battle, perhaps it is not our shoes we need remove, but our hats  – all of them –  in reverence and hope that much of where we spend our days is holy ground. Take off our hats and preconceived notions, and bow  in recognition that save the promises of God, we are ill-equipped to teach and care and provision and disciple. Take off our hats and kneel in hope that the “Same power that raised Jesus from the dead,”‘ (Eph.1:19 NIV) is available for our need today. Take off our hats and earthly agendas so we can better see that our enemy in hand-to-hand combat is not our child’s friend of questionable influence, or my spouse in his differing viewpoint, or the aloof administrator. Nor is it the Jericho-like walls of the medical system; but rather the one who opposes God’s holy purpose to receive each of our loved ones unto himself in intimate relationship, a  reality that he has made possible through the saving blood of his Only Son.

Somehow, having an unclouded picture of the enemy, and an accurate assessing of one’s own strength diminishes panic. Just after the Jordan River crossing (Joshua 4:24 NIV), Joshua told the Israelites, “He (the Lord your God) did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

It is as if he says to us, ‘I did this – this yesterday victory – walled up this mighty wall of water allowing you to cross, so that you would know whom to fear… where to place your awe… ‘ Take off your shoes, you are standing  on holy ground. Take off your hats, you abide on holy ground.