Big Things

 

 

Last week, I watched my 9 year old swim out to an anchored platform on a lake, climb up the mossy ladder and jump off again. By herself. Two days later, I took this picture. It was 9:30 pm and the water was pitch black, but their feet did not falter. They flew off the end of that dock like there wasn’t a giant lake monster lurking just below the surface. Then they taunted the monster by swimming out another 50 feet and diving down to see how deep it was. Their laughter echoed across the lake.

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These kids. They’re not scared of monsters. They’re going to be alright.

Which is why I am going back to work.

You can imagine the amount of prayer that has gone into this. Staying home with my kids has been the greatest gift of my marriage. I feel so blessed and grateful to my husband for making these 5 years happen.

But I always knew this was a season. My babies aren’t babies anymore. They jump off docks into dark water with complete confidence.  We’ve given them a solid foundation of me. Now they need to learn about we. How a family is a team and works together to get things done. How this mama is more than laundry and dishes and coffee dates. I have loved that life. I have seen the bounty and goodness of that life.

But it’s time to move on. Jump into the dark waters. Dive down and see how deep it is.

I’m ready.

Today is Yom HaShoah

Night

One year when I was a 10th grade teacher, my colleagues and I built a heck of a unit around Elie Wiesel’s holocaust memoir, Night.

We were so proud of that unit as we planned it. The novel was the centerpiece. Then there were ancillary short stories, movie clips from Band of Brothers, Schindler’s List, The Devil’s Arithmetic. We wrote quizzes and essay prompts that mimicked the exit exam. We made photocopies and lesson plans and a culminating project. We prepared profiles of real Jews who had experienced the Holocaust to pass out to the students, and on the last day, we would tell them if their person survived or died. We stole that idea from the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

We made it as thoughtful and authentic as we could. Then we set out to teach it.

That first year, I was pregnant with Gabe and I skipped the part with the babies. I skipped a lot of stuff that year, because I just couldn’t.

The second year, I made myself sit with it. That was the first year I got a parent phone call about the book, a mom concerned that the story was affecting her student too deeply. Does it have to be THIS book? I was right there with her. I didn’t skip the part about the babies and I had a baby at home.

I also had nightmares.

The third year, I was pregnant with Kate. This was the year we decided to mix up the movie clips, so I sat at home one Saturday and watched The Pianist and Sophie’s Choice, back to back.

Keep the baby quiet.

A son and a daughter. Choose.

I didn’t sleep for two nights.

That year, I cried when I read the part about the babies. I cried when I read the part about the hanging. I cried when we watched the clip in The Devil’s Arithmetic where the mother refuses to leave the baby she has birthed in secret and they are sent together to the gas chamber. I hugged the student who laid her head down on the desk and sobbed. I didn’t write referrals when kids said “That’s fucked up” in class or when a young man stood up in class, threw his book across the room and said “This book is fucking stupid” after we read the part where the son steals food from his own father and leaves him to die.

But when the unit was done, I asked to be transferred out of tenth grade. I couldn’t do it anymore.

Last week, I saw a picture on Facebook of a teacher friend. Her students were all crowded into a small space—the size of a boxcar. She was standing on a desk over them, reading from the book. They’re still doing it, I thought. God bless them.

I get how this sounds: Like we’re all snowflakes who can’t handle the truth, melting at the first suggestion of genocide. Protect the children from this history. Teach it to them, but don’t teach it, teach it. Don’t read about ten year old boys taking three hours to die from hanging while other ten year old boys watched. Don’t talk about babies ripped from their mother’s arms and thrown alive into a bonfire.

We’ve come so far, that mom told me. Do they really need to be exposed to the horrors when we’ve made sure as a society it will never happen again?

There it is. That right there is why we taught the book in the first place, why we built such a confrontational unit, why we created a place for the kids to sit in the bald faced truth of what happened.

The danger of being 80 years away from something is that we think we have the luxury of choosing to pass the information on or not.

We don’t.

Look around the world today. Hatred lives. And not just There. Here. So high school English teachers all over this nation pick up that book every year and walk through the horrors of the Holocaust with a new group of students so that the kids will know.

Today is Yom HaShoah, Day of Remembrance. We can remember the victims of the Holocaust and pray for the peace and repose of their souls. We can ask forgiveness in the name of our ancestral family and friends who did not know or did not do enough. We can pray for generational healing.

And we can all make sure our kids know—at whatever level is appropriate for them—that when we don’t love each other enough, when we don’t remember that there is no such thing as other people’s children, when we see the world as us vs. them, we invite Evil to walk among us.

Resources for parents and teachers

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Museum of Tolerance

My Girl Martha

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Two Sundays ago, the Gospel reading was the Lazarus story from John 11. It’s only glancingly about Lazarus. He died. They buried him.

It’s more about Martha, who came running out to meet Jesus and speak some truth right at Him: If you had been here, he would not have died, which is a conversation we’ll be having later. Right now, you can fix this.

She barely waits for an answer before she gets Mary up and sends her out. She readies the folk. This is Martha. She’s a doer. This is her Messiah and she knows he’s going to do something to make them all feel better. She trusts him.

Mostly.

Because the next thing Jesus says is “Open the tomb” and that is one step farther than poor Martha is prepared to trust.

She points out the obvious, in front of a crowd no less: “Lord, by now there will be a stench. He has been dead four days.”

Or in the Douay-Rheims: “Lord, by this time he stinketh.”

Some people may wonder what Martha was thinking, calling out Jesus in public. Not me. I know that Martha was wondering what Jesus was thinking.

Martha is my favorite Bible lady, the worker bee, acts of service, everything’s under control half of the sisters who were so close to Jesus in his ministry. I relate to Martha. Every time we read the other Martha story, in Luke. I always mutter under my breath in stubborn solidarity “Sure, I’ll sit down and listen but don’t complain to me later when you’re hungry and there’s no food.”

I relate to Martha’s flaw as well—her desire that her plan be God’s plan, instead of the other way around. I get it. I do it. I even think it’s reasonable sometimes.

Why can’t my way be His way, if we’re headed to the same place? Why can’t we follow my directions instead of his?

The answer is a hard one to stomach for Type A gals like Martha and me: It’s because the big picture is BIG, too big for us to see. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead that day in preparation for what was to come: his own death and resurrection.

Jesus loved Martha. And he loves me and all my fellow worker bee, acts of service, everything’s under control sisters and brothers. I know this because he gave us Martha, in the Gospels of Luke and John, so we could see for ourselves that it isn’t wrong to question with an open and honest heart. Only to not listen to the answer.

And can I just say that for me, if there was any doubt to the claim that Jesus was the Son of God, it evaporates in the moment Lazarus walks out of the tomb and Jesus doesn’t cut Martha some side eye.

That is SUPERNATURAL self-control right there.

#Candles4hope

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From my mom, Terri.

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. ~ Oath of Office for the President of the United States

I am so scared.

I have lived 70 years in a country in which I felt free to live my life, achieve what I worked for, practice my religion freely.   I knew that the United States was something special and that those in power knew it, too   There were good presidents and some not so good, but for the most part they were intelligent, informed, and concerned about the country and its people.  They understood the need to follow the constitution as a legacy from our very beginnings.  They realized that we are a great nation, but one of many that make up this world and we need to collaborate, not dictate.

In the last 9 days, it feels like an alternate universe.  “Alternative facts” not truth.  Closed borders.  Arguing over silly things like who had more people at the inauguration.  Pronouncements one day, that get altered the next because no one seems to speak with a background of knowledge or understanding.  It’s like a few of them read the Clif Notes, but no one bothers with the book.  Top appointments appear to be made not with experience in mind, but with billions in the bank as the priority.  White House spokespersons will lie, embellish, interrupt or bully to get their message out.  Rude attitudes as they tell their story, not the true story.  Anger at the legitimate press who are our means to clarity and are trying to help us understand.

I come from a blue state, and have a Democratic representative and 2 (women) Democratic US senators.  I am confused and concerned about how to  get my voice heard.

My husband is in a men’s fellowship group and they are reading a book by Ronald Rolheiser called The Hidden Longing.  He read this passage to me last night.

 “In South Africa, prior to the abolition of apartheid, people used to light a candle and place it in their windows as a sign of hope, a sign that one day this evil would be overcome.  At one point, this was declared illegal, just as illegal as carrying a gun.  The children used to joke about this, saying: “Our government is scared of lit candles!” Eventually, as we know, apartheid was overcome.  Reflecting upon what ultimately brought its demise it is fair to suggest that “lit candles” (which the government so wisely feared) were considerably more powerful than were guns.” 

I got up, went to the cupboard and got a candle which will sit in my window to symbolize my hope until I am no longer afraid, until all will again be welcomed to the US and I figure out how to more actively speak my mind for all to hear.

Light drives out darkness. Hope trumps hate. Will you join me?

We Will Rise

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On Sunday at Mass, our visiting priest from Tanzania told this story:

A farmer was given an egg. He didn’t know what kind of an egg it was so he put it with his chickens and waited to see what might happen.

The egg hatched. It was an eagle. But the eagle didn’t know he was an eagle, so he grew up as a chicken.

One day a wild eagle landed nearby and said “Friend, what are you doing among the chickens?” And the eagle said “I AM a chicken.” The wild eagle shook his head. “No, my friend. You are not a chicken. You are an eagle. You can fly. You can hunt. The world is yours.” But the eagle said “I have always been here, in this coop, eating corn and termites. I know nothing about those other things. I am a chicken.”

The wild eagle flew away. But the next day he came back. “You know what life is like as a chicken, cooped and corn and termites. Come with me for one week and see what life is like as an eagle.”

The eagle agreed to one week, and the two eagles flew away. For a week, the eagle flew as high as the heavens and saw all the world below him: mountains, oceans, prairies, lakes. He hunted fiercely and visited nests built in the tops of the tallest trees and clinging to the steepest cliffs. He saw all the vagaries of life and death, beauty and pain, courage and fear.

But at the end of the week, he went back to the chickens.

The wild eagle flew after him. “What are you doing?” he asked. “You’ve lived the life of an eagle! Why would you go back to the chickens in their coop, eating corn and termites and never having the chance to fly???”

And the eagle said “I like the chickens. I belong with the chickens. I am a chicken.”

The world calls us to be chickens, content in our cages, heads down, eating what we are fed.

But we are not chickens.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are beloved children of God.

We are eagles.

They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
    they will soar on eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
    walk and not grow faint.
Isaiah 40:31

The Church needs to BE CHURCH

 

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A few weeks ago, Glennon of Momastery announced that she is in a relationship with international soccer super star Abby Wambach.

Since Glennon writes from a (fairly fluid) Christian perspective, this caused somewhat of a ruckus. Glennon’s announcement follows on the heels-ish of Jen Hatmaker’s statement in support of gay marriage last Spring. The Christian right is a wee bit peeved at the Christian everyone else. Articles about false prophets and cafeteria theology abound.

Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Melton are not preachers.

They have built faith support communities online and in packed hall after packed hall, but they have never claimed to be building church.

Do some people go to church on their social media? Yes, yes they do. I agree with folks that this is a problem.

But whose problem?

We just elected a man who flies publicly and proudly in the face of Gospel values. And 90% of our church leadership either stayed silent or supported him. By “our church leadership” I mean all the churches, not just mine.

It was incredibly short-sighted. I don’t go to church at Momastery, but I regularly read the comments and so I know, there is a bloc of Christian mamas out there and we are AWAKE.

We raised $1 million dollars in 31 hours, at $25 per person—that’s 40,000 individual donations, in 31 hours—to help Syrian refugees in Europe. We didn’t care what the candidates or our preachers were saying about Muslim refugees. We saw starving children and we moved.

These same sister mamas filled arena after arena last year for Women of Faith. We brought our children to Christian concert tours, like Toby Mac’s Hits Deep tour, and sponsored other mamas’ children through charities like World Vision and Food for the Hungry.

Accuse us of cafeteria theology all you want, but we’re not overly concerned with theology. We want Gospel. We want boots-on-the-ground faith that walks the talk. We hunger for Jesus, and we bring our time, talent and treasure to the table.

Theology is important. But we’re on the move and bursting with a desire to shine a light in the dark. So if you really want us to listen to your sermon on the Ten Commandments you have to show us you know that Jesus linked them inextricably to the Beatitudes at the Sermon on the Mount, and you better be able to walk and talk.

But if you want us to sit and git your latest rant on abortion, immigration, gay marriage, liberals, etc, we’re not coming. Our babies are going to be grown-ups any second now and the world is not ready for them yet. There’s work to do.

We’ll come to church, but you have to BE CHURCH. Otherwise, the world is bleeding and we’re in charge of bandages.

River Rule

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Last week, I went on a retreat.

I can’t tell you much about it because of the River Rule, which is the very coolest thing ever. So I’m going to tell you about the River Rule itself instead.

There’s a village on the banks of the Zambezi river where (the story goes) once a year all the women of the village get into boats and pole themselves gracefully across the currents to an island. The island is sacred and holy space, far from the banks of the village, protected by the waters of the mother river.

Once the women step foot from the boats to the land, the River Rule is invoked. Nothing that is said or done or felt on the island can be communicated to anyone ever. And no judgement is allowed. It is a place for truth, hard ones and easy ones and funny ones. And we know truth can mostly only live where there is safety.

It is a privilege among the women of the village to uphold the honor of the Rule. It is a gift they give themselves and each other, once a year, to honor the challenges, heartbreaks and joys of their lives as women.

Are you like me and you didn’t know how much you needed that until someone said it out loud?

I forge ahead in truth most of the time anyway and try not to count the cost. I told my mom just last night that so often when I speak about my postpartum breakdown, I see the fruit of it almost immediately in the women who reach out for help or fellowship. But there’s always a small part of me that worries about having that much truth, even truth that has proven so helpful to others, floating around out there.

To know that I am being heard and not judged and that everyone around me is striving to understand me with love and prayer in their hearts?

You guys, it’s a gift beyond explaining.

The River Rule is not unique to the retreat I attended. In fact, it appears in the Urban Dictionary, sans the village story, as a way of saying “This needs to stay right here between us”.

So I have two things:

If you’ve been feeling called to a women’s retreat, consider this your answer from God, that yes, you should go. Just go.

And think about instituting a River Rule with your friends. It’s a gift that can push friendship to sacred sisterhood.