Volunteer Appreciation Day

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The gals at the Housing Projects threw a luncheon for us last week. They set the tables, they brought homemade food and handmade crafts. They told sweet stories about the transformation taking place in their lives, they sang us songs…. It was a rich time. My heart was so full, I didn’t want to leave. The thought of THEM serving ME, US— it just is too much.

 

Two years ago, I sat on a bench with a homeless woman in front of Walgreens in one of the nicer neighborhoods in the area. She wasn’t very talkative-probably used to people asking her awkward questions. I tried to say something that might bless her, but I don’t know that I did that very well….

 

As I walked away, I mumbled LORD, what are you going to do about all the homeless people here?   I heard an almost audible voice say to me I’m waiting to see what YOU do.

 

Later that week, I asked Him the same question about the children who are kidnapped daily and sold into trafficking rings- right HERE in my own beloved state of Tennessee. I shook my head at God- WHAT are you going to do about these children????   Again, I heard His Voice,  Well, I’m waiting to see what you’re going to do.

 

THEN I looked into my daughter’s eyes and wondered what her little friends from Preet Mandir Orphanage are up to right about now on the other side of this planet. When we left them in Pune, India, they were all little peanuts. But now, they’re all teenagers like the one sleeping in the next room.  What is to become of the older orphans of the world?   What will you do to care for them Lord??   And once again, the answer came to me clear as day, My Dear Child, I’m waiting to see what you will do to care for them.

 

Finally, I think this simple minded girl is starting to get it.  I thought we were supposed to hear some big clanging bell as we’re seeking to find our “calling into justice work.”  But maybe we’re to adopt the Nike slogan instead- Just Do It.  Maybe it’s a matter of responding to the needs right in front of us. I don’t need to conduct years of market research and raise thousands of dollars to minister to the homeless. I can just go to the Mission down the street and start sharing the Love and Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ right here. Yes, this feels right…..

 

Likewise, I don’t have to go to strip clubs at midnight to minister to young girls who feel trapped in a vicious cycle based on low self worth. I can meet a friend for coffee at a local truck stop every week and spread the Light of Jesus there to the lonely. I like it.

 

AND orphan care does not necessarily mean I have to travel to the ends of the earth; I can minister to the once-orphaned in my own home and encourage others on their adoption journeys.  Recently, what this looks like is this; sitting in the back of the juvenile courtroom to pray while a friend and a judge figure out a plan to help her adopted son. What an honor this is.

 

I think that instead of waiting for the clanging cymbal, I am going to walk through the doors as they open in front of me until they slam shut on my face. Oddly enough, I’ve not sensed a single door closing; I only sense God’s pleasure as I join Him in what HE’s doing in and around me. And these “missions” are not just projects to check off my list anymore. They’re people that I can’t help but fall in love with. The new Matthew West song confirms what I’ve been learning over the last 2 years.

 

Matthew West – Do Something Lyrics

Send “Do Something” Ringtone to your Mobile

Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”
We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still


Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/matthew-west/do-something-lyrics/#TgTVz96WQBiO7frH.99

 

 

 

 

 

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LOOK! I made this!!!!!

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I have never even been able to draw even stick figures well. But I’ll never forget my 2nd grade art teacher at PS 186 in Queens, NY. She always encouraged me and made me feel like I actually COULD!!! God bless the teachers. Marya is a great one. She taught me how to emboss on metal. (Doesn’t that sound SO cool!?????)

The cross has always brought extreme feelings of ambiguity to me. It’s empirically beautiful but it also represents unfathomable pain and anguish. We are often reminded of the physical pain (“passion” actually means “suffering”) Jesus endured out of love for you and me…. but I wonder if it was even more agonizing for Jesus to face the betrayal of His friends and especially the turning away of His Father’s Face.

My family and I went to see “The Thorn” this past weekend. I loved seeing how Jesus, after looking half dead from being beaten, gets BACK up to receive even more lashings with the dreadful Roman whip. He wanted to take the full gravity of wrath upon His Sweet Self and not leave one drop for me. What a Champion. Such a BraveHeart. He is RISEN indeed.

Free Fallin’

DSC_3449My friend Marya and I missed our last “Create” time at Together. We knew we were leaving the gals in good hands at the Housing Authority. Amy led the charge while we went hang gliding for Marya’s birthday!  🙂    What FUN!!!  Now, almost a week later, I still can’t get the images out of my head when I close my eyes. Few things are as inspiring as FLYING.

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We, The Fragrant Broken

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It takes anywhere from 170 to 250 pounds of lavender flowers to produce 1 pound of lavender oil. In order for this transformation to take place, the blooms must be plucked at their peak, pressed, crushed, frozen and pulverized to achieve optimum quality. Once the oil is aged and stored properly, it is useful for countless purposes, serving as a balm for sore muscles, an excellent balm for skin and scalp, bruises, cuts, scrapes, hair loss. It’s also known for its calming effects for Alzheimer’s patients, kids with ADHD and a sleep aid for those with insomnia and a host of other psychological and neurological benefits.

Another essential oil-jasmine- requires 24,000 blooms to produce just one ounce of oil. But it’s not just essential oils that must be “broken” to be most effective; many other things require this “breaking/crushing process” such as lemons, grapes, garlic cloves, herbs, muscles and glow sticks. There’s also something to be said of the human heart.

Until my heart was broken, I was basically a sleepwalking  dead person, But now, after failures, disappointments and bad choices have added a few more shades of gray to my crown of glory, I can say that life didn’t turn out like I thought. I have been crushed and hurt by tainted relationships, betrayed by some I was sure I could trust, devastated by death and shook up with fear. Indeed, life has not turned out as I wanted it to..

But this is what makes me like the lavender oil. I see myself in the sweet oil-I am, like the plant, the fragrant broken.  Picture a chunk of coal in a dark cave, just waiting to be chiseled off. Inside is a diamond in the rough. anxious for the Light to burst in, shatter the darkness, causing it to sparkle.

After my “breaking,” I am better than before. My heart has more capacity now to contain all the emotions; the good, the bad, the ugly…I am also more compassionate, sensitive to others and their needs and I’m quicker to listen, slower to speak. The sparkling, fragrant broken.

I Hated White People

rainbow-blue-sky-22356754Growing up in New York City meant being exposed to all different ethnic groups.  The beauty of this sparkling mecca is its people in all their radiance.  We lived and moved about with others from different places and somehow shared the space.  I played with children in the courtyard made up of every color in the rainbow and we never left someone out when playing a game of tag or Hide n Seek because of their skin color or religious beliefs. It never even occurred to us.

We never talked much about racism.  Everyone treated everyone equally. It wasn’t until we were a little older, old enough to understand….  that we made something of our differences.  Up till that point, they were celebrated.  We enjoyed each other’s food, families, homes…..But all of a sudden, our differences became divisive.  I am not sure exactly when the line was drawn, but I remember at one point in my later childhood, I made a conscious decision to hate any human being with white skin.

Maybe it was because deep inside, my strong desire to be white was never satiated. Having white skin would mean instant respect from my peers and relatives.  In India, even the lighter skinned Indians were treated with more dignity than the darkies like us.  Dark skin was never attractive where I’m from.  Meant you had to work out in the fields.  People who did hard labor were much lower on the totem pole than the fair skinned elite.  My dream of turning white never came true and it became clear that I was stuck with my boring “poop” brown for the rest of my life.

As I grew, my dad told me stories of our Mother India being stripped of her natural resources by the British. Every time he said “the British,” there was venom in his voice.  He hated the British and  I quickly learned to hate them too.  British people were white. So I started to clump all “Whites” into a large generalized race category along with most Americans.  And I vowed to hate them all for the rest of my life.

But it was hard to keep a silent vow that hateful when I was surrounded by love.  It’s been said that the only thing that can ever overcome hate IS love.  I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes.

In our basement apartment in the late 1960’s, we had roaches the size of some of today’s cell phones.  The studio space was so small and crammed, we barely had a path to walk from the kitchen to the beds.  It was all one room and it was very dark all the time.  Even though the 4 of us were together often, I felt very alone and invisible.

My refuge was Mrs. Mather’s apartment. She and her husband Ralph lived upstairs from us and were always kind to me.  They never turned me away and they always had food to share.  They came downstairs every afternoon and asked if we needed anything.  One day, I gathered up the courage to whisper in Mr. Mather’s ear “I really need a bicycle.”  When Mr. Ralph brought one home for me, I was elated.  He spent hours with me every day after school, teaching me how to ride that bike.  I didn’t know what to do with all this generosity and attention but I was so grateful.  Mr. and Mrs. Mather loved me and they happened to be white.

Harriett Lerman was another neighbor who frequently came to visit us in our dungeon.  She was sensitive to the needs of the immigrants in our neighborhood and felt compelled to teach my mom how to speak English and how to drive on the right side of the road. Miss Harriett had big bouffed hair and always had her nails done.  She made eye contact with me and smiled. Her daughter, Stacey, became my best friend. I felt loved by both of them and they happened to be white.

Mrs. Golden was my 3rd grade teacher at PS 186 Queens.  She told me often that I was bright.  I didn’t know that I enjoyed reading until Mrs. Golden challenged me to read a new book from the library every week.  She was short and had a soft voice.  She called on me to read out loud to the class at least once a day.  I never suspected she was trying to help me practice my English; I only knew I felt special whenever I was around Mrs. Golden and she happened to be white.

And there was Robin.  Robin stood up to the class bully for me.  When Janine threatened to kill me one day, I was paralyzed with fear. Police appearances were common at my elementary school. Kids routinely got taken away in an ambulance during recess.  Robin walked me home several days in a row.  Once, when Janine slapped my books on the ground and put up her fists, Robin stood in front of me like a shield. Janine put her fists down and we all walked home.  Robin saved my life that day and Robin happened to be white.

These girls and women made it impossible for me to stick to my vow of hatred.  Many others came after them and reminded me of their kindness.  Some of my favorite people in the world are now white.  Some are Black.  Some are Brown.  I can’t say that I don’t see the differences in our skin color- I do- but I appreciate the differences again.  Like the young girl in the courtyard, soaking in all the colors of the rainbow.

Mama, When My Brown Skin Gonna Turn White???

Wish I would have known how much easier life is when one accepts herself the way Maker deems fit.

Here I was uncomfortable in my own brown skin at age 5.

I have struggled with not knowing how or where I fit in, (not often; just in certain circles around school and church and recovery groups- where I spend ALL of my time-there, and Whole Foods…)  My being “a misfit brown person” has been a big issue for me.   Not really Black, not really White just Brown.

When I was 5, my parents moved our small family oceans away from our home in India to New York City. Surrounded for the first time by children who had porcelain skin, I remember feeling so “other.”  The ones with blonde hair and blue eyes really freaked me out. That can’t be REAL- surely that’s a doll.  Not a human. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. Where I came from, the lighter you were, the better you were. It was a status symbol.

As for me and my own coloring (dark boring poop colored brown in the Crayola Big Box,) I was not exactly accepting.  I came home from school one day and asked my mom when I was going to turn white.  I thought that if I lived there in Whitelandia for a while, my skin would turn white too.  I wanted that very much.

A few years later, I was all,   Now, I want to be Black. The African American kids I befriended were the coolest kids in school and their features were striking -bright eyes, big white smiles set on dark skin-what could be more beautiful?  I started listening to their music,  dressing like them, talking like them, walking like them, wearing makeup 2 or 5 shades too dark…  I thought, If I hang out with Black people long enough, I’ll become Black.  I wanted that very much.

Decades later, when I started working with young children in the Housing projects through Vacation Bible School, I was always a little more wrapped up with what they thought of me than how to love on them-(one of the symptoms of codependency from which I am being HEALED!!!!)  What started as a program to help transform kids in the projects ended up transforming me.  I became the “project” that needed transformation the most. In spite of me and my self absorption, the Lord used that time and mutual outpouring of love. Now those wide eyed children are in their 30’s and have families of their own.

What is she?  is a question I’ve overheard a lot over the years.  I didn’t know the answer to that question for a long time, but I know now and I’m here to say–what I am has little to do with my race or skin color. Since  joining the BIG 5-0 “Club”  I’m much more accepting of my brown skin than I ever was. It’s the shade my Maker thought would look best on me.  I’ll go with it.

As I’ve allowed space and time for my soul to gaze at Jesus, He’s been depositing truths into me —THIS is what I see in you.  These are the creative components of myself I’ve wired into you.  I love the way your unique “writer’s voice sounds in my ear.  I love the way you are, brown skin and all. This is who you are and I love you completely….

When you’ve soaked in truths like this for a while, some of it eventually seeps in through any color skin, through bone and marrow, through brain matter and muscle tissue… like a good soft Oregon rain seeps into the earth.  And after a good Pacific Northwest rain, there will be sweet fruit and bright flowers and lush green carpet to walk on barefoot.  ANYONE who has spent 10 minutes in “God’s Country”  knows this.

The thing I’ve noticed, having spent time in Oregon; is that the fruit trees never seem concerned with being “fruitful,”  the rose bushes don’t seem preoccupied with putting out ridiculously GORGEOUS plate sized roses, the fields never seem too worried about providing soft lime colored grass- all they do is just open up to receive the rain.

This is what I’m learning to do with the Loving Gaze- to just open up and receive it.  Funny thing is, the more I receive it, the less concerned I am about being accepted as  “Mis-fit Brown,”  and the less concerned I am with that, the more fruit I see in myself and others and the more loved and accepted I feel for just being me.

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Finally at home in my own brown skin

Black, White, Brown-All Mingled Together

Handprints on the back side of our mosaic

Our Hands – and this is JUST the backside of the piece- isn’t it GORGEOUS????  All the colors of the rainbow mingling….  Note some of the fingers woven together like a skin tapestry.

My little drama-troupe-flower-bud is blooming in a new way. The local Housing Authority has opened up space for us to “create together” once a week with some precious women in the ‘hood!  These moms are hungry for opportunities to play, to express themselves. I am SO excited to be a part of helping them find their collective “voice” – of course, with a little help from my friends.

My dear artist chums Amy, Marya and Jennie will be there doing their thing.  (THANK GOODNESS- I am utterly challenged when it comes to all things ART. If all ya need is a stick family standing in front of a square house with smoke bubbles floating out the chimney, then I’m your girl.)

Every Friday, the legit artists will be teaching us how to make a mosaic, collage, and work with different kinds of paint. I’ll have the easy part- leading some improv games and directing a drama.

It’s funny to me that the gals seem even the least bit apprehensive about the whole idea of acting; they’re all so naturally “dramatic” telling stories about their kids, their husbands, their jobs, life in the housing projects-in a sense, they’re acting all day long!!  I’m like, What’s there to be nervous about?

My writer friend (Stacy) recently reminded me to see beyond the art to the connection the art brings. Here we are; a group made up of women every shade of skin color, who share in common little more than a bond of faith-but what a bond that is.  We sit around the table and something magical happens when we’re creating a handmade treasure together-it’s not about the creation itself (although I must say, with some guidance, even I am not as artistically retarded as I thought!)

The real beauty is that as we’re busily cutting fabric or paper or getting paint all over our freshly polished fingernails, someone will start sharing about a struggle they’ve had with this loss or a wayward child…  I sit back and just listen- there it is- hearts open up and we share and we feel these things deeply because we’re women and women are wired like that.  The tears come.  And we always laugh. Release happens. THIS is what it’s all about.  This is why we show up week after week!

Amy Sheehan’s the one who introduced us all to each other.  A pioneer in (ummm, how you say?) heeding God’s call?  Doer of the Word?  Lover of Souls?   She has been speaking the language of love effortlessly for years while quietly meeting the needs of people around her.  Amy has been welcomed into places where few white girls have been welcomed before  🙂  and racial reconcilation is merely a byproduct of her relationship building.  She is fierce in the caring department, relentless in her pursuit for every one set in her path.  Maybe it’s her contagious laugh, or her out of proportion smile, or her genuine, nonjudgemental  curiosity that makes you feel like you are her absolute favorite-you just know that you are loved when you’re around Amy.  (SO like Someone Else I know and love.)

These gals know that our friend Amy and her God can be trusted.  And because they trust these two, they trust us.  The photo above is a mosaic of our hands- brown mingled with white, mingled with black – (Isn’t it GORGEOUS?????)   And this is just the back side of the actual piece.  The handprint signatures turned out almost as beautiful as the front, to be hung on the wall of a church downtown.  Just wait till you see the actual mosaic!  It’s breathtaking!!!  I’ll post a photo of that soon.