Saturday, April 30, 2011

Our means are everything.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.Image by mattlemmon via FlickrI'm currently re-reading a book that's been on my heart since the eruption of people power movements across North Africa and the Middle East in recent months.  "Christian Peacemaking:  From Heritage to Hope" by Daniel L. Buttry tells the stories of peace movements biblically and historically and I find my imagination inspired and challenged as I read.  I could spend a whole lifetime re-learning history and allowing my patterns of thought to be healed and changed.  And then I could use another whole lifetime to apply what I've learned, to try and make the world a place that looks more like God intended.

My husband and I are just about 9 months into parenting our little honey haired baby boy.  Saying yes to marriage and to motherhood, has, for now, simultaneously meant saying 'no' (or 'not right now') to travel and spending time in communities in various nations as I'd been doing previously.  But I'm realizing that I have a massive opportunity to allow the ideas that swirl in my mind regarding peacemaking and international conflict and how humans should relate to each other find skin - in the ways that I treat my child.  Buttry emphasizes Mahatma Ghandi's core belief that means (rather than the end) are everything, and if we take care of the means, we are bound to find the end sooner or later.

Our means are everything.

"Nonviolence was not just a tactic to achieve political, civil or economic goals; it was a means in line with the explicit end of a human community marked by friendship, understanding, and justice."  Buttry referenced Martin Luther King Jr's shared commitment to nonviolence during the Civil Rights Movement.  Dr. King chose nonviolence not only because it could bring desperately needed change in the US in the way African Americans were treated, but because the use of violence, coercion and force are not ways that anyone should be treated. 

I have dreams of living in an area of conflict as a witness to peace.  I don't know if this will actually happen in terms of making a home in Palestine, Iraq or Nigeria (or a long list of other possible places).  Maybe.  But I do have a baby quickly growing into a little boy (who will soon be a teenager/man/husband/father/influencer) who's imagination is young and free, and he's learning from everything that he sees me do and say.  My husband and I have very important decisions to make in how we parent him.  Will we use coercion, force, even violence?  Or will our parenting be marked by 'friendship, understanding and justice?"  What if using force brings the desired 'end' (obedience?  a 'good' child?) quickly?  I'm not even sure I want a 'good' child.  I'd rather have a compassionate, sincere, loving child who's able to empathize with others and think creatively to solve problems in ways that honour everyone involved.  How can our parenting choices get our little baby there?

I'm sure we'll make mistakes - lots of them.  But we're going to do our best to walk down the road to peace, unsure of what the end will be.  But our means are extremely important - maybe even everything. 

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

we try with colours to draw

emerging artists in India
we try with colours to draw
what is in our hearts
what fears
what anger
what hatred
what emptiness

so we can finish and
see and tear it to pieces and
say we are healed.

but You hang our sketches
on your fridge and gaze

                                                                                       with such love that is
                                                                                       our only hope.

                                                                                       [10 July 2009]

Monday, April 25, 2011

and we like it this way

there is nothing more adoring
more joyful
more trusting
more innocent
than the face of my baby
when he wakes in the morning.

he grunts softly, rolls to his side
and reaches for me
with closed eyes and
a hungry tummy.

i'm there, inches away
in the space we share
for warmth and sleep and dreams

then he crawls up on my belly with dancing eyes
(so much like my own)
and smiles, laying his round head on my chest.

we like it this way.

someday he'll have his own bed,
and his own everything,
his independence propelling him increasingly
away from me.
one day he might share sleep with a wife,
his own child nestled close to her.

But for now he's just a baby
my baby
sleeping in the curve and safe
of his mama, like so many other
babies in the world.

and we like it this way.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jesus still has his scars.

 [November 2007, India.  Trying to make sense of things.]

Yesterday I spent two and a half hours reading through the story of
Jesus, according to Luke, with the women that I'm doing life with
right now.  We needed to hear the story again, we needed to hear the
words of this man that we're following and see how he lived, how he
loved, what he cared about and what he hated, how he prayed, what he
taught, what he felt.

I choked on tears as I read about his death.

The crowds who shouted Hosanna because of the deeds of power they saw
couldn't follow him to his time of ultimate weakness.  They chose the
murderer Barabus instead.  They weren't ready for the revelation of
love and power through the Lamb that is slain.  Peter was ready to
kill for Jesus, but he wasn't ready to die with him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday.

Usually I'm a calm, composed person.  I wouldn't consider myself too reactionary or dramatic, at least not on the outside.  But there is one thing I really, REALLY, really cannot handle:
(sleep = joy)

My son screaming in the car.

We had a beautiful sunny day visiting friends in Sydney - good conversation, yummy baramundi, sweet blonde baby crawling around on the floor and eating cucumber on my lap - so good.

Then we attempted to drive home.  And our sweet baby began to scream.  He had survived the 90 minute trip there really well - possibly even enjoyed it.  He was not ready to be strapped back into his car seat a few hours later.  By the time he was really upset there was no safe place to pull over - it was dark, the roads were steep and winding.

You invite the weeping.

An Iraqi woman walks between Soldiers as they ...
[5 July 2009, a psalm]

"with weeping they will come"

You -
Almighty, Huge, Victorious, Glorious

invite the weeping, those
with labour pains, the blind
the lame trembling
you invite our treasure
in earthen vessels, you
invite our failure and our kites.

Help me be clear, be like water,
be like tears and stories and listening and hours.
Help me to invite weakness to come
from the shadows and be named
in all of us.

We turn to You, God of all weakness
on the cross, in the world
weakness whispering power stronger
than strength.

Lead us into your Likeness.
Lead us to your cleansing, flowing
rivers of weakness.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

scared again, and thrilled

[May 2010, pregnant with Saf, engaging my advent]

I have a baby in my belly right now, as I write.  I felt a foot last night, up near my ribs, as I was falling asleep.

A year ago Chris and I were in Perth, right after our honeymoon, and we were pregnant then too. We were scared, and we were thrilled.

A year later there's 31 weeks of a different baby inside of me, big enough to survive on its own.  The ultrasound lady said, 'You're having a boy.'

I feel scared again, and thrilled.  In seven to eleven weeks we'll be in a whole new world.  I'm going to be in labour, be the one on the inside of the pain, the one who gets to nurse the baby when it's born and keep it forever.

I've had to filter out all the hell I've seen, all the quiet babies I've held.  I've had to remember that God's heart is for us, is to deliver us, is to carry us through the desert like one who carries a child.  Why will I have a big ball to sit on during labour and some women a cold metal table, or a dirt floor, with no one to comfort them?

Things are not right in the world.  But God doesn't want to increase my suffering to make things fair -  She wants to see the valleys filled with newborn songs.

28 weeks, anticipating my own newborn songs

Love is homeless.

 [June 2008, missingness and too far away]

Love is homeless (with room for the world).

He stumbles in unshaven and smelling
of affection.
He unpacks his bag.
I can hear him in the kitchen making breakfast,
He sings himself to sleep at night.

I listen, aching.

After some time and warming he invites me
to the home he's made in my abandoned space
into the stories I've told a hundred times
into the songs no one was meant to hear
into the cartwheels and scars
into the vineyards grown from mustard seed
confessions of hope and fear.

He invites me into myself
and I have nowhere else to go.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

I. Slavery

[September 2007, in the sky, headed to India]

I pulled a torn scrap of paper from an envelope in my journal.  I opened the paper and read 'seeing a family weeping, carrying their baby girl wrapped in a towel, dead from a traumatic home birth.  Come Lord Jesus.  25 January'.

I took out another scrap: '29 December, 15 year old Laxmi, HIV positive, her baby girl born with her heart on the right side of her body and dies a few days later.'

Another, 'the beautiful old women, mothers and babies, crippled and blind men begging on the streets. My lack of action, true compassion and understanding…helplessness and one rupee coins.'

II. Faith

[November 2007, a busy hospital in India]

I met a woman of faith the other day at the hospital.  The antenatal ward is four large rooms filled with metal beds covered in sheets, pregnant moms sitting and eating rice with their own mothers (who once carried them with the same feels they now experience), maybe taking a walk out into the courtyard but always returning to their beds, even for months.  The women are there because of some kind of risk in their pregnancy--maybe high blood pressure or continual vomiting or a history of miscarriages.

A couple students and I visited the ward to practice abdominal palpations.  I greeted Latha as she laid on her bed talking with her mom, and asked if we could do a quick check-up.  She agreed and I went to find her case notes.  I saw the letters and numbers written at the top in red: G4A3.  The amount of pain in those marks is enough to fill a lifetime--this was her fourth pregnancy after losing the three other babies in utero.  She had been married for twelve years and was thirty-four years old.

III. Delivery

[November 2007, a busy hospital in India]

I welcomed a little one  from the hidden place of her mother. In early labour she was quiet through the pains, smiling in the relief.  The pains increased in intensity and frequency and she would grab my hand and cradle her face with it while Sarah rubbed her back.

After some hours her distress was inconsolable and the irresistible urge to deliver her baby had arrived.  The birth was magnificent and I laid the fresh babe, covered in vernix and possibility, on her mother's chest.  Deliverance.  She sang her first song (and I pray she keeps on singing).  In my heart I called her Khesed, the ancient Hebrew word for God's steadfast love.  I put her mother's hand on Khesed's head and showed her that Khesed had the anointing of Eve. She turned her head and refused to look.  Her first child had also been a girl.

Later, I held Khesed in the newborn room and couldn't believe how gorgeous she was.  I spoke her name over her and prayed.

As painful as it is to see a mother disappointed with the birth of her daughter, I felt the Spirit say that my own deliverance is often not what I want.

The story of God's people is rife with deliverance, whether it's the exodus from Pharaoh's slavery, a blind man healed on the roadside, a crowd fed by some bread and fish, and God's vindication of Jesus by raising him from the dead.

in this fragile place, we are.

painted by my good friend Shannon Spencer
in this fragile place
we are.

held together by barely
and another question
and the tender faith of an artist
in the work of His hands.

and loved, we are.
even to our fraying and
crumbling and this
is the mystery of imagination
wed to dust.

(only God could possibly.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011


[2 Nov 2007drenched in the middle of India]

 Strange how hard it rains now.

I stood in the downpour of the last remnants of rainy season desperate to find an auto rickshaw.  I pulled my purple dupata over my head and within a few minutes I was fully soaked, and it was dark.

Kids were running barefoot holding hands and a mom walked with her babe on her hip, saree hiked up around her knees.  An old man rode a bicycle, holding a piece of cardboard over his head and lightening flashed over us.

Rain is the great equalizer.  We were all wet.

So I sang a Patty Griffin song to myself as the auto driver strike caused the number of autos on the road to be basically none.  I wasn't sure if the rain was all of God's grief finally unleashed on the earth, or His blessing.  I guess even the tears of God would be a blessing to this thirsty planet.

'Strange how hard it rains now rows and rows of big dark clouds but I'm still hanging on underneath this shroud.

pretty flowers planted neatly on top

[psalm 20 Nov 2009]

I don’t think 3 months of lectures on pregnancy
and birth was a good way to grieve the loss
of our little baby.

I said what was “true” numerous times, cried only
enough to stay alive and let all the anger and
confusion and shit get shoved down very deep
and then bought pretty flowers to plant
on top in a neat row

so everyone could feel better and move on
to follow a god who moves quickly so we
need to keep up.

But the ugly reality eventually surfaced
and covered over and it felt like all the
bleeding was coming again
out of my mouth came these words
I barely recognized
more real than “true”
more me than anyone
more good than beautiful.

And now my secret treasure of pain and lies
was dug up and I gave it away to
bigger more beautiful and kindest God,
who was there all along.

Now I feel wrecked and torn,
I feel empty, really empty,
I feel desert with barely any water,
I feel lost.

But I feel God’s acceptance,
even His welcome.

He calls the barren to loud shouts of joy.

He calls the barren to loud shouts of joy.

He is the expectant one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Palm Sunday

 [4 November 2007; a busy maternity hospital that serves some of the poorest women in India]

I held a perfect little boy the other day, newborn and beautiful.  But he didn't have breath.  During the birth we knew he was expected to be dead and we spoke as many words of life as we could.

He arrived silently and limp.  His mother cried when we put him on her chest and she touched his perfect face and looked away.  I cried too.

Later, in the newborn room, I weighed him and held him in my arms, listening to his silence.

I wanted to yell and shake him, or let loose a piercing wail to defy the silence of his perfect body.  I had never seen a stillborn baby look so perfect, so capable of being alive and crying and growing and loving.

a poem for Lent

[2 March, 2008.  South Sudan]

there is this space in me
just small enough
that i cannot reach or
understand or

barely, but it is
and just warm enough
just soft enough
just small enough

and when i feel like this:
my doubt and fear are tossing
and swallowing and stealing
and slapping my face with wave
after wave and my eyes are
captured by the high places
I clung to before and my words
to myself are that He couldn't possibly
or Love
and I have given myself to my drowning

still there is a space in me
just warm enough
just soft enough
just small enough

and He sees.

and as I choke on salty waves
and tears and disbelief
and my hair is tangled and
matted with hopelessness

that small space calls to Him
and waits

In His heart is a seed
and this space in me is
just warm enough
just soft enough
just small enough.

He calls me 'steadfast'
(though I am not)
and plants a seed,
just small enough for me.
just small enough that I cannot reach
or understand
or destroy.

but sometimes I can feel it grow.

Mama Sudan

[2008: 3 months in South Sudan with some of the world's most courageous and beautiful women - I was found and loved in a time of disorientation and need. I spent many evenings sitting by the fire with Miriam, listening to her stories from 20 years living as a refugee in Uganda, the glow of her wisdom warming my skin. I was the one in need.]

the wild welcomes the day once more
and i am here, in this sacred place
orphaned to the sky and trees and dusty roads
and i can hear her sing to me.

such reckless grace of sounds and light
to let my dirty feet explore
her soil and touch her children with these
half-formed words and selfish hands
and dance her rhythms with feeble knees.

the fire warms us both
as she strokes my hair and sings.
in this black of night and fear and stars
I can feel her rescue me.

I am the child, the refugee.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

my baby is demanding (like most).

my baby is demanding
(like most).
he trusts in my undying affection
to make all of his needs
and all of his wants
completely known.
and heard.

no hidden agendas
or expectations that I'm a mind reader.
he never puts on a tough exterior
or shoves his true feelings behind
a stoic mask.

[although i'm usually a little tired
and sometimes wish he could change his own nappy occasionally]
for the most part I appreciate his
his submission.
his fierce expectancy.

his smiling nakedness and continual confessions of need
for love and milk
confronts my own apparent

I smile when I'm actually hurting.
I don't speak up when I'm nearly dizzy
with confusion.
I even push my husband's hands away sometimes
when what I want most is
to be held.
and warm.
Not often enough do I ask for help
or cry
for someone
to come.

Teach me, O God, the ways
of my son.
And the ways of yourself who came
to us
with the tireless needs of an infant.
You who nursed in your mothers arms
and woke her with your cries in the night
after night
after night
after night.
And then stared into her eyes with complete
and dependence.

Teach me to confess my humanity
and often,
expecting to be heard,
to be welcomed,
to be loved.