Saturday, December 7, 2013

stop day & motherhood

Stop day.  It is a generous village tradition.  When the guest population is low enough and the staff is weary enough our leaders proclaim a ‘stop day’ as gift for everyone who lives in the village.  Even the most consistent and reliable daily rhythms of the village, like meals and worship, stop for one entire day.

Last year we were given a few stop days, but Micaela and I missed them due to our own travel out of the village. But today we actually are here and have been working hard and were very ready to live into this stop day. I brewed rich coffee and cooked up a warm breakfast for the other residents of our building; we all huddled together in our unheated space.  For some reason, our building has not received heat in the last day – and with outside temperatures hovering around 5 degrees, its cold in here.  Cold enough to sleep in a hat, wear two pairs of socks and watch a movie under two warm, blankets.

My little one put Spanglish into the DVD player after breakfast.  She knows just how to reel me in and distract me from the laundry that needs doing and the book that I want to read. I’m not a huge movie buff, but this is easily my most frequently watch movie (there is one sex scene…and no, she is not allowed to watch it).  The characters pull on all my soft and scarred heart strings.  The story follows a single mother dancing the line of motherhood, romance, identity and priorities. And while I’m not a big crier, the conversation between mother and daughter at the end always pulls a few tears from my eyes.  My favorite lines…

            “I live for myself.  You live for your daughter…none of it works.”

American women, I believe, actually the feel the same as Hispanic women about weight: a desire for the comfort of fullness. And when that desire is suppressed for style and deprivation allowed to rule, dieting, exercising American women become afraid of everything associated with being curvaceous: such as wantoness, lustfulness, sex, food, motherhood; all that is best in life.

“Caring this much about your kids is sanity, and being that sane can drive you nuts!”
   “She expressed regret that she had to ask me to deal with the basic question of my life at such a young age. And then she asked it. Is what you want for yourself to become someone very different...than me?"
Much gratitude for days open enough to stop, reflect and huddle for warmth. Turn off your phones, turn down the heat and give yourself a stop day…its rejuvenating. 


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thievery & Cluelessness: trademarks of Christianity

Advent 1
Holden Village
Micah 4:1-5
Matthew 23:24-33

Grace to your from God, our Creator, and peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ who will come and steal your friends from the fields and snatch you up like a thief in the night.
This is it, this is always it.  Every year the church year begins with readings straight out of the left behind series.  Apocalyptic scenes fill all of our readings for tonight, apocalyptic visions and predictions of what the end of time, the end of the world as we know it will look like.  According to Isaiah it’s unfathomable.  I find it unfathomable because Isaiah says that all nations – every single nation that currently is building boarder walls, wrongfully detaining foreigners, every nation with refugee camps and exiles, every nation with tribe hurting tribe or gang hurting innocent by-standers, every nation with corruption and homelessness and oppression of their weakest citizens – every single nation will find itself quiet and faithfully scrambling up God’s mountain…together. 
There on God’s most holy mountain will they learn from God, they will be guided in a different and new way of being nations and holy miracles, they will learn war no more.
If Scripture is inviting us into a choose your own apocalyptic-ending adventure book…I choose this one!
Another option is the ending offered in Matthew’s gospel and it is alarming.  There are people side by side, two by two.  Jesus first brings up the Noah story and rightly sets it in the apocalyptic frame of endings and death where it belongs, instead seeing cute little animals on the toy shelf or on the boarder around your baby’s nursery.  Two by two creation marched through that apocalyptic story and two by two they are in the field, one is kidnapped.  Two by two the women are in the kitchen, one is taken suddenly.
Like a thief in the night, Jesus breaks in.
We could easily make some assumptions about the texts here – and many faith traditions and a well-selling book series certainly have made some assumptions about the text here.  We could assume that one of the people in the fields was bad, the other good…naturally, the bad one was left to work endlessly in the field.  We could assume that one woman in the kitchen had faith and the other not so much…obviously; the faith-less-one was left behind.
The text is mysterious and puzzling, and that could be exactly the point for us.  The assumptions we love to make, the conclusions that are easy to jump to…they are not here, they are not a part of the story or of Matthew’s gospel.
The hope here, the pin point of light that we get to gaze upon this night is as Socrates once said, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” We do not know when, we do not know where…that is for God’s understanding so far above our own. 
Like a thief in the night, Jesus breaks in.
The openness of not-knowing carries us back to Isaiah’s mountain too.  In order for the nations to come together on that mountain, in order for them all to begin the hike towards God the nations had to admit to not-knowing.  Leaders of nations, citizens of nations had to cough up the difficult reality that their ways of governing, their ways of winning, their ways of living and being loyal to borders was not working, not even close.
Isaiah does not paint the scene before the nations get to the mountain, but I imagine it had to include some confessing, some realization that there could be better ways of living and executing justice instead of people.
So, in that spirit of un-knowing the nations gather on God’s mountain.  Not knowing what they will learn, not knowing who they will be after the mountain – yet step by step they approach God in humility and peace.
We know plenty about not knowing and I’m afraid the time of not knowing is not quite over. Even if you’ve been coming to the village for decades or if you are still one your first trip up this mountain, you did not know what construction season would be like. We did not know what the ramp down from construction season would be like.  We did not know what a guest-less Thanksgiving would feel like, or how it would work to invite friends and families of villagers and contractors alike.  We do not know what the next three weeks of no guests and all staff all the time will feel like.  Many in the room do not know what guest seasons feels like or how quickly the new construction seasons will come riding around the corner.
And for most of everyone in this room, the trip down the mountain – be it this month, next year or sometime after that, we do not know where we are going, we do not know the time or the place or the hour. 
If the village is good at anything right now, we are brilliant at not knowing.
There is freedom in the unknown.  Wide open spaces for creative newness to being to stir and move and take on new life. If we can follow up a new mountain like the nations in Isaiah, if we can claim that our ways of living are not always life-producing, in fact they are often destructive and harming…if we can stare in the mirror and name that difficult truth – then there is room and possibility and something new already swirling.
If we can hear a gospel word like the words from Matthew and imagine Jesus, the crook, stealing away beings and bringing them to God…and then believe in the God who is also in the field with the working one, also in the kitchen with the woman gone and the woman remaining…then we are imagining a God who works in mysterious and unexpected and delightful ways.
Like a thief in the night, I pray that Jesus is always and constantly and forever breaking in to our lives.
Shane Claiborne is a Christian author who leads a new-monastic community in inner-city Philadelphia. Shane and his community read the words from Isaiah, and imagined new things. Their work and living is so inspired to hear about it is to see the finger prints of the Holy Spirit all over everything.  In the not knowing something new emerges…listen to Shane describe one aspect of his life and ministry in Philly…
“It doesn't get much cooler than beating an AK47 into a shovel. We are starting to make a habit of it.
Our first weapon-conversion was on the 10th anniversary of September 11th. A welder buddy of mine took an AK 47 and transformed it LIVE, into a shovel and a rake, as part of our "Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream Event". It was so much fun we couldn't stop. I even finagled a free welding lesson from my pal, thinking I might we might keep the sparks flying. And we have.
A year or so later we heard about a group of blacksmiths who had also started melting down donated guns to make tools, after being troubled by the fact that some of the metal from the Twin Towers was used to make a battleship. Inspired by the prophets' vision of "beating swords into plows", these Mennonite metal-workers started turning guns into garden tools. They call themselves RAW tools (turning "war" around and forging peace) -
Before long we had all teamed up... with the prophetic juices flowing, dreaming of what we could do with the next donated handgun or semi-automatic. Folks started sending in their own creations from around the world - weapons disarmed and turned into art, or tools, or guitars.
Now we use one of the hand trowels from that AK47 in our garden here in Philadelphia... where we tragically see nearly one gun death per day.
It just feels good for the soul each time we beat a gun into oblivion... it feels like the world is a better place with one less semi-automatic.”[i]
Advent the time of preparing for the Christ child.  The time for waking up to something new. To claim not knowing in the face of old, old problems leaves space for another voice, another way of being.  To claim not knowing brings silence for God’s voice, for walking up the path to the mountain to learn God’s way.
And there, in our greatest unknowing, in our befuddled beings is Jesus…breaking in like a thief in the night ushering us into the loving ways of God.
Thanks be to God for the thieving, conniving ways of the coming Christ.  Amen.