Tuesday, December 28, 2010

There IS grace and beauty in bordertown, Mexico

I love the feeling of coming home. Everyone is so excited to see me, hear my stories, and share together.
I felt especially blessed this past Sunday morning, Sunday December 26th. A few weeks ago I'd told my church I would be in town for Christmas, and would love to share about my experience thus far as a YAV with PHPC; and so I was invited to do the children's sermon for the day after Christmas! Which- most of you know, I absolutely love interacting with children, so I couldn't have been more excited!
You can listen to the service from that day, December 26 here: http://podcastphpc.org/
The sermon and the music are both really good, so I highly recommend the whole sha-bang! I'm on there being introduced at about 46 minutes into it.

Elizabeth preached on Isaiah, 63:7-9

I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the LORD has done for us—
yes, the many good things
he has done for Israel,
according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
8 He said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will be true to me”;
and so he became their Savior.
9 In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.

Here's the scripted version of what I said (more or less).

Yesterday, you celebrated Christmas, and probably received some neat presents from your friends and family.

I want to tell you about a gift of a different sort. This is a gift you can't touch, but you can feel. You can't see it, but you can witness it. You can't own it but you can share it.

(as an aside- one of the children goes "JESUS!" really animated-ly right here)

This gift is called grace. Currently, I'm serving as a YAV, and I volunteer at a place called BorderLinks. I've witnessed a lot of grace in my time along the US/Mexico border. A good amount of wht I do while on the border is interpreting peoples' stories from Spanish to English. I hear a lot of stories about people who have been lost for days in the desert- without food or drink, abandoned by their travel companions. For one reason or another, they find themselves dropped in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. And, there to greet them are Sister Lorena and Father Neeley- with a hot plate of food, a welcoming handshake, and a place for those weary travelers to rest their head and feel some sort of safety and solitude for just a brief, passing moment. A place where no-one will heckle them, put them in hand-cuffs, no coyotes to bother them. To me, these two, Sister Lorena and Father Neeley, embody grace. They never ask, "why were you deported," "why were you imprisoned," "where is your family?"
They simply give.
They give food, warmth, and welcome. They love unconditionally.
You heard Elizabeth read from Isaiah, "in their distress, he too was distressed. And the angel of his presence saved them."
Sister Lorena and Father Neeley are those angels of presence. They share their God given gift of graciousness with others. In Spanish, there's a word for a God given gift, "don."

What are some god given gifts, "dons", you have that you can use to show God's grace to another?

I believe that you can be a sign of god's grace to others, and you can use your "dons" to share His grace. You can be the "angel of presence" spoken about in Isaiah. Here's a better example of how. Look at your hands. Hold your hands up high. Pat your friend's back. Shake a neighbor's hand. Pull someone up.
Your hands can do all of that and more. Your hands, my hands, his hands, and their hands, are vessels to share God's grace to others.

Let us hold hands and pray together.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

simpler living

"The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge but less judgement; more experts, but more porblems; more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life' we've added years to life, not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We've conquered outer space, but not our inner space. We've done larger things, not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've split the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, nut not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer to quiet to kill. You can choose to listen, or hit delete." - Bob Moorehead

Dorothy Day says it much better than I can:

"One of the greatest evils of the day...is [the] sense of futility. Young people say, 'What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?' They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time, we can be responsible only for the action of the present moment. but we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes"

"Love cast our fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love them."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


"We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community."- Dorothy Day

To give a bit of background: Our 1229 (what we've nicknamed our YAV house here in Tucson) community has decided to revisit our Covenant and Statement of Purpose as a community, three months into our year together. To better understand where we are each coming from as individuals, we have each taken a night to tell our stories. In sharing these, we each tried to communicate an answer to the following two questions: "What has made you who you are" and "What has been important to you in your life."

What follows is an excerpt from the journaling I did just prior to telling my own story, as I sat in the hammock trying to make a cohesive, linear, bulleted answer to those earlier two questions.

"Trying” as the operative word in that endeavor.

My experience so far here in Tucson and in Mexico has been as an ear and a shoulder. An ear for stories, and a shoulder for those to lean on. Today it is my turn to share- to tell my story, to try and make sense of it all.

In my three months here, I have been continually moved by the different faces of desperation. I am beginning to know that look all to well- the one of simultaneous confusion, hurt, loss, and fear. I see it at here in Tucson, at the Operation Streamline proceedings, on the faces of those 70 people pleading ‘guilty’ in unison. I see it in Mexico, when at Grupos Beta, a federally funded program in Mexico for repatriated migrants, on the faces of those who have just been deported- some after a few days in the US, and some after having spent almost a lifetime here. I see it on the faces of the women we speak to at a women’s shelter in Nogales, while hearing their stories of being lost in the desert, abandoned, violated.

Perhaps these moments move me because I hope that our moment together, our brief embrace, our passing conversation, can serve as a hand extended, helping to pull her upward. A passing sign of hope.

What has made me who I am are the hands that have pulled me up, when I thought I had lost all hope. Emotionally spent, desperate, angry, lost and confused- at seventeen I had no words to express myself, no inkling of how to relate to another, but Chris was there a smile, a hug, and a lifetime of patience. I was broken and falling fast- he was there with arms outstretched to catch me. He had just the right words to say, just the right mix of shoulder for me to cry on and humor to help me laugh again. Those mornings where getting out of bed was a grand feat to be accomplished were made easier knowing that I could call him for an encouraging word or a small affirmation to get me on my way.

More friends outstretched their hands. I was eventually pulled up. It’s not the desperation of that moment that resonates with me now- it’s the strength of the arms pulling me up, patient with me as I tested the waters of how to be myself again.

Five years later, when Chris passed away, I circled through the stages of grief. I crept into myself- stopped answering the phone, laid in bed hours longer, shut myself off from my friends that were trying so desperately to be there for me. There were moments of anger- with myself, with him, with everyone around me. Again there were moments when I wondered if I could smile again.

But, you know what- I did. Just like I learned when Chris extended his hand to me and helped me learn how to smile again five years earlier, friends and family continue to outstretch their hands to me, and help to lift me up.

I am who I am because of the community that supports and surrounds me, because of the community that loves me.

A blog about blogging

It's an interesting experience writing for this audience- an audience that includes my mother, cousins, sisters, brother and father- who have all been witness to crucial moments in my life, toppling emotional turmoil, and other stepping stones along the way; an audience that includes my college and highschool friends- who have seen yet a different side of me, been along for the ride, and at times where they may not have known, been the hands pulling me up; an audience that includes members of my church back home- those who have seen grow, but as a face in the crowd, from the bouncy three year old who went to church for skittles, to the fifteen year old who went to church for a sense of belonging, to the twenty-four year old who feels something calling her back there, but can't quite name the sensation; an audience that includes other YAVs elsewhere- perhaps looking for some sort of window into life in Tucson, or perhaps searching for some sort of reassurance that there are some other struggles and triumphs along this journey in our year together; an audience that includes some college professors, who have seen me both put forward an effort and delve deep into an academic triumph, and putter around with some words on a page to make something work that just may be good enough to turn in; an audience that includes some people whom I've met in passing, who upon hearing about what I'm doing as a YAV, feign some interest and ever-so-politely take down my blog address, who have no real inkling as to who I am, what struggles I may face, or what experiences have brought me here.

And then, dear reader, there is you- perhaps you fit one of those boxes I just tried to put you into, but perhaps you don't. You have come to my blog for reasons I can only try to know, but can't figure out- perhaps you're searching for some sort of understanding of what life has been like living in Intentional Christian Community with four others, sixty miles north of the border, in work that regularly takes me to Mexico. Perhaps you're simply looking for something to do while doing your trading at work today, and happened upon this updated blog.

No matter your intentions, I am completely understanding that I do not know them.
Point being- I need to stop writing for an audience, and start writing for myself.
I have written many drafts, saved on this little computadora of mine, that I have failed to post- usually the reasoning being one of the following "this isn't directly related to my service here, why would someone want to read this?"

Or, more typically, I write.

I write how I feel;
I write about what has made me question my faith;
I write about was has broken me.

I write for a cathartic release.

And then, read it and realize that in putting it on this blog for all to see, I'll be exposing myself. My soul will, unquestionably, be broadcast naked.
Raw and bare emotion- I've discounted those as too much for this little blog of mine.
But, if I just paint you the picture of what I'm doing here in Tucson, and how my life has been as a part of Intentional Christian Community, I'm creating a wall between my experience here and your understanding of it.