Monday, January 20, 2014

Little Ebony Girl, Gettysburg, and Martin Luther King Jr.

You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know. ~ William Wilberforce

Procrastination comes naturally. But this weekend, Osheta got me thinking it's time to put these words in the world. This morning, I stopped at the coffee shop and Griswold Tyng's Lincoln was staring at me from the wall. "Write," he said with his stare. "I worked hard over words, now it's your turn," Lincoln seemed to say. I share these words, while still struggling to find them and call them forth. Words often fall short, but still, it is a privilege to work them out.
You skipped up to old Abe.
An idea, he's not yet a person.
Once, he was flesh, blood, and bone.
Now he sits, a soul, resolute.
Did he know his fate?
Did he know what he'd give to lead?

With firm chin, he says, he'd do it all over again.
~ at Gettysburg September 2013
President Obama, left out the "under God" in his Fall 2013 reading of the Gettysburg Address. To be fair, he read one of five versions that did not include "under God." His omission causes me pause. How often do I step out from under God with my words and my actions? What choices do I make at the expense of others? Who might I look to in order to lead me in a better way? Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I wonder where is the man and woman who will live their life for others, and do I have that kind of courage?

While in Pennsylvania last fall, we visited Wheatland where President Buchanan made his home. Buchanan is often harshly judged for his lack of conviction while president. Maybe he did not so much lack conviction, as lack the heart Abraham Lincoln possessed. Buchanan used his head, not his heart, and his head told him to stay out of what would surely conflict his heart. He was a childless bachelor. He had no stake in the future except his own interests. Visiting Wheatland, one gets the sense that Buchanan's legacy is one of self protection and self preservation. Buchanan didn't have much to give, because he didn't invest much. Abraham Lincoln invested all of himself in his presidency and in our young nation. Lincoln's family suffered for his convictions and ultimately he did as well. Abe put his life on the line for his convictions, just as the soldiers at Gettysburg did.  

Today, where is our nation's heart? What are our convictions? Where is our desire to seek out the truth and live by it? C.S. Lewis said, "If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."

This past fall, our nation also remembered JFK. We mourned a man who held great promise for our nation during turbulent times. Yet, how often do we truly mourn the men and women who lost their lives at Gettysburg? Might we ask if they've left us a legacy or a lesson? Do we talk about Gettysburg with our children? Do we talk about the cost of war around our tables? Maybe one of the most important things we can teach our children about Gettysburg is that war comes at a great cost. There is a reason so many visit Gettysburg. The number of lives lost at The Battle of Gettysburg is mind-numbing and the ground still cries out. How can we be a people of peace with so much violence in our past? The process that leads to peace is often painful, but the cost of war is far greater.

150 years after Gettysburg, I read Gather at the Table. I was struck in a new way that peace costs. Peace is expensive, and peace can be very painful. Yet, the path of peace is the only path if one hopes to have a future.
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." ~ Gandhi

The path to transformative peace for communities first begins by transforming us, as well as our neighbor. Peace cannot be demanded, and lasting peace only survives when it is desired by both parties. When we hear the call to peace, let us walk in that way. Let us understand that peace is an ongoing process, and it will ever require vigilance to a narrow and harder way.

It has taken me 41 years to connect ideas about peace into a coherent way of thinking. Many years ago, God began a conversation in my heart and mind regarding race, slavery, oppression, and truth. This past year, I read three books that have been very influential to that conversation in my heart: My First White Friend, Confessions on Race, Love, and Forgiveness, Inheriting the Trade, and Gather at the Table. All three books are powerfully thought provoking. Reading them, along with visiting Gettysburg, I came away with a renewed awareness that our nation was built on the backs of African Americans and the injustice done to our fellow human beings was long lasting, horrific, and needs to be addressed in every human heart. 

I live in a predominantly white community with a Ku Kluk Klan past. I live in a state that voted "no" to allow African Americans to come and settle. We are so open in the West to new ideas and change, but have we made peace with our past? Have we apologized for our past?

Slave Trade 

We rode your back to success. 
We rode you until we could ride you no more.
Yet, you rose out of the dust.
You called forth life.
You called us to live, and to let you live.
Forgive us.  

~ Kim fall 2013

Having lived rural North Carolina for five years, we looked on as outsiders do at the race dynamics in our small town. We bought a house in a new neighborhood. There was not one African American family in the development until the year before we moved back west. This family did not socialize with anyone in our neighborhood, and I don't think anyone socialized with them. If they were ever welcomed by anyone in the neighborhood, except us, I'm not aware of it. Visiting with them could be awkward. I look back now, and realize we were treading new ground and breaking up old patterns. We were breaking the rules. Certainly, they were breaking ground in their lives and the lives of others. They were plowing up a new hallowed ground for themselves. They were plowing up change in our lives. They were planting new seeds in us. Did their move into the neighborhood feel like a move up for them? Did we make them feel welcome? I don't know. I hope so.

Buchanan walked Wheatland in Lancaster, PA, but Lincoln worked his way in and through our hearts. He prevailed upon the hearts of all men. There were some great men who talked about the wrongs of slavery, but they were unwilling to make personal changes in their lifetimes. They were unwilling to stand against the lies and deceptions that made slavery possible. That Lincoln took a stand and stood firm is what makes Abraham Lincoln so singularly unique in character. While he had his own reasons and conflicts, he was able to look into the future and take a stand for justice - for all. He understood that a future worth living must be based on equality. He was willing to do whatever it took to walk slavery out of the dark and the enslaved into the light. He put the life of the nation on the line for it, and his life too. And I ask myself, "what in this world am I willing to live for? What I am willing to give up my life for?"

“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”~ William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce walked land across the Atlantic pond, while Lincoln walked western shores. Surely, Wilberforce's voice echoed across the pond while Lincoln was yet learning to walk. Born to fortune, Wilberforce used his life to free people. Lincoln, born to poverty, chose to represent a people with no voice when elected our president. They both found their life purpose and plan. They both acknowledged the Creator and knew they needed to live to give. They fulfilled their purpose in their generation. Will you and I fulfill our purpose in our generation?

 If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It it since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this (world). ~ C.S. Lewis

Today, who will live with vision and purpose like Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Lincoln, and JFK? We need more people who say, "I have a dream", and are willing to put something behind those words. We are a people wandering in a wilderness. Let us look up. Yes, let us look within as well, but let us look up. Let us find God's vision and dream to live by. Let us fulfill our God given purpose within our generation. For," he has told you what he wants, and this is all it is: to be fair, just, merciful, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8 Living Translation)

Pumpkin Pie at School

Little girl with ebony skin,
like a black emerald, she shone.
Attentive she sat, at the end of the bench.
Does she believe that is her place?
Or, is she leaving room for escape?
The other children?
They had to be told once, twice, three times, how to make pumpkin pie in a bag.
Not you. You knew.
You listened.
Smart listening little girl.
Why do you listen so well?
Do you believe pale whites hold the key to your success in this pale town?
Do you listen out of fear, or out of love?
I pray we love you well.
I pray your path is paved with peace.
I pray that fear will never take hold of your heart.
I pray you will keep on listening.
For you already hold the key to unlock the door of life.
In listening well, you are entering your own life. 
Make pumpkin pie. 
Every day, craft a life for yourself.
Keeping crafting, growing, learning.
I hope not to let you down.
Indeed, may we live like sisters,
in our town.

~ Kim fall 2013

Read in 2013, and still pondering:

Inheriting the Trade by Thomas Dewolf

Gather at the Table by Sharon Morgan and Thomas DeWolf

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Praying into the New Year

Isaiah is calling me in the new year. He's a good travel companion on the God hunger road. 

 That’s how you led your people!
    That’s how you became so famous!
Look down from heaven, look at us!
    Look out the window of your holy and magnificent house!
Whatever happened to your passion,
    your famous mighty acts,
Your heartfelt pity, your compassion?
    Why are you holding back?
You are our Father.
    Abraham and Israel are long dead.
    They wouldn’t know us from Adam.
But you’re our living Father,
    our Redeemer, famous from eternity!
Why, God, did you make us wander from your ways?
    Why did you make us cold and stubborn
    so that we no longer worshipped you in awe?
Turn back for the sake of your servants.
    You own us! We belong to you!
For a while your holy people had it good,
    but now our enemies have wrecked your holy place.
For a long time now, you’ve paid no attention to us.
    It’s like you never knew us.

 ~Isaiah 63:14-19 (Message Translation)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Quiet New Year Moments

The New Year rang in with stitches and a banged up tooth for brother. Thankfully, he's recovered. I'm hoping he's a bit more cautious about high speed tag when navigating a spider web of ropes underneath. 

Speaking of rope, he's making lots of knots with The Ashley Book of Knots. These skills should come in handy for the The Survival Birthday Party he will have in spring. A skilled Search and Rescue Coordinator will be coming to teach a bunch of boys (and a few girls) how to make fire, cook food, and build shelter. Bring it on!
Sister's really enjoying The Jane Austen Devotional. If you know a Jane Austen lover, this is a lovely gift. Highly recommended!  Gymnastics class has begun once more, and it's fun to watch her enjoyment and bravery.
We are quietly doing what needs to be done and enjoying moments of rest. Spring will soon arrive. Shoot, it's already time to prune the fruit trees!  I'm writing as I have time and God's been gracious with His encouragement. More details to come. Maybe :-) Currently, I'm working on a submission for The Faith and Culture Writer's Conference in March.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What Can I Believe?

 O God, I am so fragile: 
my dreams get broken, 
my relationships get broken, 
my heart gets broken,
my body gets broken.

What can I believe,
except that you will not despise a broken heart,
that old and broken people shall yet dream dreams,
and that the lame shall leap for joy,
the blind see,
the deaf hear.

What can I believe,
except what Jesus taught:
that only what is first broken, like bread,
can be shared:
that only what is broken
is open to your entry;
that old wineskins must be ripped open and replaced, 
if the new wine of life is to expand....

~ Ted Loder