Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Caritas Village. Picture it, Sicily, 1923... haha, okay, that's from the Golden Girls.

Seriously, though... The Caritas Village--or just 'The Village' over here--is my place of rest for the next half-hour or so. I'm sitting on a lime green (very comfy) couch, with a glass of water, and a stummy (stomach + tummy = stummy) full of their delish chocolate chip cookies. To my right is a crooked picture of MLK, Jr. and a big statue of a pitbull with a chain around its neck. This piece of art, which just arrived here this week, apparently, is representing the pitbulls who fall victim to dogfighting in this neighborhood, I assume. anyway. To my left is tons of artwork (all by a guy named Frankie) who has captured the Bing in his artwork. Lots of it is that kind of artwork with stuff on it.... is it decopage? I don't know. Objects such as used cigarettes, bus passes, crushed Colt 45 beer cans and a condom or two, representing the struggles of the neighborhood, but first you notice all the bright colors he uses in his art. I think this is because Frankie knows there is beauty underneath it all. Straight in front of me is Josh, whom I just met, and the African-American mailman, who is stopped in here for a break and conversation. I only point out their racial difference to point out what you often find in here. Lots of black and white sitting around tables (which also means Africans, because we have some beautiful Burundian refugees in the Bing!) chatting it up about politics and mowing the grass and this and that and this and that.

I am reminded why I love it here. This little haven, the Village, is the picture of what most of us hope can happen on a much larger scale in Memphis one day. But we know Jesus likes to start one-by-one, with personal conversations and relationships (which also mean disagreements and racial tensions) but if you want the beauty, you've gotta take the mess.

Some of you have seen this place; we bring all our Family here, but I wish you could come, too.


Yesterday was hard; Below is what I wrote.

Peace to you, Family.


I’m feeling frustrated. What am I going to do when he calls back on Monday? He will call back. And if he doesn’t, he’ll show up at the front desk, and I’ll hear my name paged that a young man is looking for me. He’ll probably have tears in his eyes—fake or real, I won’t be able to tell—and I’ll feel my heart start to bleed and wonder what in the world I’m supposed to do.

What if his story is true? And how much does that matter? I’m thinking of how Jesus would respond (or rather, how He is going to respond through me.) Jesus would have responded. In what way, I am unsure, but he would have responded, even if with an admonishment to “go and sin no more,” or a place to lay his head for the next week. How can I, with all my inconsistencies, help this man and his family? How can I use the resources I have to really help this man?

There is this enormous, self-imposed pressure on my shoulders to fix everyone’s problems, particularly because all the questions and needs come directly to my office, at my desk, on my phone. And time after time, I don’t have answers. There is the occasional referral I can make, but time after time I hear, “I’ve gone down the list; I’ve tried everyone.” Many are good at this. Yes, many people who call consistently make bad decisions and rely on other places (specifically churches) to come to their rescue and provide a free service for them.

How can we empower and enable folks, build relationships with them, without constantly providing a crutch? Aren't we supposed to be meeting temporary needs, too? Isn't this the door to enter someone's world and help them more? And what about those who will never choose a better lifestyle? Don't we still get to love them, frustration and all? Is this possible when we feel so disconnected from the outside world? Is the whole church feeling this way, or just 4488 Poplar Ave.?

The harvest is plentiful. And today, I feel like the workers are…. Few. To say the least.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

burning in Memphis

As Sara Groves looks over the past couple of years, she recalls from where she's come and where she is now. From "hugging the wall" to this: "I want the wick to be gone; I want the wax to be gone. I want to burn down to the ground." She wants her kids to see her, not hugging the wall, but running with her head thrown back.

down to the ground, down to the ground.

We're singing songs more lately, ones we wrote well, ones we wrote hesitantly, many that take our listeners and ourselves over and over on our journey. This is what I like about our songs. We don't forget where we've come from--who was there, and who isn't anymore; what stones were thrown, what seeds were planted; what minds were closed, what hearts have since opened.

I hate not feeling completely safe going for a walk in my own neighborhood. I take myself on guilt trips for wanting to go walking in other neighborhoods, ones that are quieter, safer. I am staying with a friend for a few days, and it's a nice break to go outside by myself, on a walk. But the obvious difference is that there aren't as many people outside. I've gone from one extreme to the other--from people sipping their brown-bagged bottles in the noonday sun (day after day after day) to those who are so busy that there isn't time to sit on porches. This is perhaps misjudgement on my part.

But I've decided it is okay not to feel guilty anymore. I just want to go for walks. I am praying for courage to walk in the mornings in my own neighborhood, to begin making Binghampton my home instead of a place where I feel like such an outsider. It's all perception. Other people might perceive me as an outsider, but I want to stop perceiving myself that way. Self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't want to fall victim to it.

the healthy don't need a doctor; welcome to Memphis.

Friday, June 6, 2008

full house = full life

Our house has been very full, as well as our lives. Many have passed over our floors, cooked in our kitchens, slept on our air mattresses, played our instruments, sipped coffee on our porch, played games on our floor, and laughed 'til they cried. They are....

of Dutch descent...

very good at Scottish and Australian accents... (and guitars and lyrics)

now spending their days in Hatty and Africa....

and introducing us to the world of High School Musical (1 and 2!)

You don't realize what little space you need to live in until you have to share it with others. I've had to bend and stretch in ways that I didn't want to. For instance, I really like organic milk (who doesn't love antiobiotic-free cows?) But you can't afford organic milk when your houseguest goes through a gallon every 3 - 4days. (and that's just ONE GUEST.)

Some of our visitors stayed for 4 days, some stayed 3 weeks. Some were difficult, some were more joyful.

All were a blessing.

God is continually revealing little bits and pieces of our calling in life, callings that I believe are present for all Christians, and callings on our lives as individuals and a couple. I'm reading a terrific book, that is answering many of my questions about how to take care of each other, both physically and spiritually. Hospitality is on my mind a lot lately, and God is giving us many opportunities to flesh this out. I wonder, are these opportunities present for us all the time? They've come across our paths, quite effortlessly. Do we routinely ignore the call to take care of each other? Are we doing it best we can? And what does this look like for each of us?

I look forward to including each of you, my brothers and sisters, on this intense journey, as we are forced to re-evaluate everything we've been taught and shown about individualism and privacy and self; about sharing, community, and selflessness.

Join us......