April 2013


I’m finding myself a little breathless these days.

Rushing, planning, considering. It can feel sometimes like life is just about dodging obstacles.

But it’s not. I’ve been reminded, yet again, that it’s important from time to time to stop and take a breath. To slow my pace and step carefully and look around. To raise my head from whatever it is that I think is rushing toward me and to really see where I am. Right now.

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Today I am slowing my pace. I am taking my time as I travel this sunrise-to-sunset. I’m conscious of the words I’m writing and the clothes I’m washing and the food I’m cooking. Being present, as they like to say these days.

Today I am stepping carefully. I’m watching where I put my feet, trying to avoid damaging anything in my way. Carefully lavish with my words and my hugs, and cautious of what might bruise or hurt or crush.

Today I am looking around. My eyes are fresh to the view. These big/little people in my life. This home. This work. All these minutes of sacredness and love and joy. I’m overwhelmed by the scenery of my life. Truly.

This is my journey today. Not a breathless race. Not urgency or emergency or a great long list, but a renewing, restful walk.

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.

Psalm 23: 1-3 (MSG)

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Is life zooming by you in a blurry rush? If life was an ice cream cone, how would you eat it?

Today you can ponder these questions with me over at How to Homeschool High School, where we’re considering whether an ice cream cone is meant to be licked or gobbled. Press this to join the conversation.

See you there?

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We had to hobble our goats. They’d figured out how to climb over the snow banks and jump the fence, and once they’d tasted freedom, they were sold on it.

We’d see them in the yard and the boys would go out and chase them back across the snow banks. But once they started getting on the highway, we had to do something more drastic.

Let’s just say duct tape was involved.

It was hard for me to watch the hobble-y ones at first. They stumbled and hopped awkwardly and they bellowed that weird, otherworldly goat bellow.

But you know, it didn’t take long before they were able to get around quite well. Not like goats are supposed to be, but they adapted, and they were safe.

There’s a pile of sermon-y life lessons in there. I’ll let you find your own.

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It’s bad grammar, I know, but it sounds better than, All my friends are smarter than am I.

Either way, I think they are. It’s a good thing. They make me think. Here’s an example.

One of my friends, let’s call her Sheena, was visiting the other day. Sheena was here for a class we were taking together, and she stayed with us. It was SO MUCH FUN, because Sheena is hands down one of the funniest people I know. She makes little old introverted me feel like a barrel of laughs, just because her fun-ness rubs off on everyone around her.

She’s funny. But she’s also kind and good-hearted and sweet and caring and loving and concerned about all kinds of evils in the world.

Which is why I wasn’t offended when she called me simplistic and naive.

Actually, she called my world view simplistic and naive, but whatever.

Sheena thinks big thoughts about big issues. She is definitely one of those smarter-than-me friends. She’s heavily invested in things like human rights, particularly as they pertain to all the stuff we hear in the news these days regarding the implications around our country’s treaty issues. She calls herself a settler, and lives and works as a teacher in Fort Qu’appelle, Saskatchewan, which is where, as I understand it, Treaty 4 was signed.

Sheena blogs at Treaty Walks where she writes beautifully about this treaty journey she has been on for the past few years. She’s been on radio talk shows and is friends with lots of journalist and political-type people, and it’s all really cool.

So we’re sitting around my kitchen table, talking about The Lord of the Rings and the goats and her girls and my boys and inevitably the topic of First Nations people and settlers and Idle No More comes up.

And in my simplistic and naive way, I say something like, you know, that I don’t think race needs to be such a big deal every time a white person and a First Nation person encounter each other. Like, why can’t it just be me and her, race-defining-adjective-free, sitting down and having a cup of coffee together and talking about our kids? Why do I always have to be so conscious of the fact that I am privileged white woman and she is historically wronged First Nation woman?

My friend Sheena gave me lots of reasons why that isn’t possible. She gave me examples and we talked history and culture and I see her points. I do.

But, dang. Does it have to be that way?

Is it really simplistic and naive to think that can change? Can’t I behave as if it has already changed? Can’t I ignore all the garbage and just see the person in front of me? One person at a time. One relationship at a time. Sure I’ll make mistakes. Sure I’ll misunderstand culture and history and put my foot in my mouth. But isn’t that the process of changing things?

I appreciate so much people like Sheena. People who delve into the issues and take brave stands and march and write letters and make speeches. People who walk their talk.

I think there’s room, though, for those of us who are just walking. Not with heads in the sand or anything. Not ignoring the fact that there are problems. Just approaching them differently.

Howell Raines grew up in Birmingham, Alabama during those days of riots and hangings and civil unrest. Black and white. Somewhere in all of that, it was his relationship with Grady, the family maid, that informed his ideas about race and equality and influenced his writing and his life. In his 1991 Pulitzer Prize winning essay Grady’s Gift, he wrote this…

Gradystein Williams Hutchinson (or Grady, as she was called in my family and hers) and I are two people who grew up in the 50’s in that vanished world, two people who lived mundane, inconsequential lives while Martin Luther King Jr. and Police Commissioner T. Eugene (Bull) Connor prepared for their epic struggle. For years, Grady and I lived in my memory as child and adult. But now I realize that we were both children — one white and very young, one black and adolescent; one privileged, one poor. The connection between these two children and their city was this: Grady saw to it that although I was to live in Birmingham for the first 28 years of my life, Birmingham would not live in me.

And this…

There is no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black person and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which such a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism. Indeed, for the black person, the feigning of an expected emotion could be the very coinage of survival.

And this…

Every white Southerner must choose between two psychic roads — the road of racism or the road of brotherhood. Friends, families, even lovers have parted at that forking, sometimes forever, for it presents a choice that is clouded by confused emotions, inner conflicts and powerful social forces. It is no simple matter to know all the factors that shape this individual decision.

As a college student in Alabama, I shared the choking shame that many young people there felt about Wallace’s antics and about the deaths of the four black children in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in September 1963. A year later, as a cub reporter, I listened to the sermons and soaring hymns of the voting rights crusade. All this had its effect.

But the fact is that by the time the civil rights revolution rolled across the South, my heart had already chosen its road. I have always known that my talks with Grady helped me make that decision in an intellectual sense.

This is the power of relationship. This is the beginning. This is how it starts. The marches and the clashes and the political stuff… those are necessary and important. Those are the things that make the news.

But the real game-changers, I think, are born out of meaningful relationships.

They might not be equal relationships. They might not be well understood or even socially acceptable and will likely involve a lot of fumbly mistake-making.

But relationship, two people sharing words and tea, that’s where it begins. At least, that’s where it begins for me.

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It’s really quite a story. The way He brings all those people out of Egypt and into the wilderness, providing and teaching and shepherding them. Providing leadership and community and even food from heaven. And they cross again, another river to another place, and it is chapter after chapter describing it’s taking. Battle and blood and bounty, till the land is bare and waiting.

Ready for the division, word after weary word, the assigning of property. You get this and you get that and here, I’ll take a little from what I gave you and give it to them, until it’s right. Like my children trying to share a treat evenly among themselves.

I skim though it, all those chapters in Joshua, stopping every now and then to wonder at a sentence or two. The daughters who were also given land, the Levites and how did they feel anyway about not having any land of their own, and Joshua set apart with a city just for him. Till it’s done. The land is divided. The mission has been accomplished. The journey is over.

I keep reading, and I’m shocked by what God does next.

After all this time travelling and all these promises of a homeland and a place to belong and be a community of people, chosen and loved… after making sure the land is free of enemies and then settling everyone into their own spaces… just when you think it’s all perfect…

He sets up places of refuge.

Places of refuge.

Because He knows. He knows that communities, no matter how well-designed, no matter how longed-for, no matter how sanctified, are not always safe. And knowing all that, He planned ahead. He established safe havens. Sanctuaries.

Today we have community like crazy. We have churches and tribes and support groups and online forums.

There is no end to community, easily join-able and un-joinable. Click this and you’re in, click again and, boom, you’re out. Come and go, participate or don’t, friend or unfriend on a whim.

There’s all this community, but where are the places of refuge?

Yes there is Jesus and prayer and Sunday mornings and lots of church-type stuff to turn to. But sometimes, (can I just say this?), I need some Jesus skin I need a face-to-face. I need a hand holding mine.

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Maybe you need that, too.

Today, maybe, we will be for each other a place of refuge. Because sometimes community is a big and crazy place, and people can get hurt there.

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I’m blogging today at How to Homeschool High School. We’re still discussing homeschool graduation over there. I’m wondering today about the homeschool parents. Is graduation for them, too?

Click here to hop on over and join the conversation.

What do you do with all the bad news? All the sadness, thrown up all over whatever media you choose to view it on. Television, internet headlines, blogs, Facebook. Horror waiting around every bloody corner.

Children committing suicide – left and right, it seems. War on foreign land, bombs too close to home, innocence in the crossfire. Rehteah, Gosnell, Matthew, finish line devastation. Horrific story after horrific story. Depression. Anger. Desperation. Sad, sad, sad truths of inhumanity, cruelty, greed.

And that was just this past week.

What do you do with all the bad news?

You do something good.

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Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.

Brennan Manning

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