the fire within

that glint you see in her eye
is only a spark
compared to the fire that burns within

she is our future,
the place where our paths all converge
and her story
is the one that we’ve all been waiting for
to right the wrongs
we’ve protested and fought against
for far too long

her flame can take out
the strongest of them,
the ones whose hearts are soiled
with a taste for power,
and it can burn those who
aren’t ready
to join her on the journey,
the ones who try to veer her off her path

she is intent and focused
and what she dreams of one day
will be
because that flame from within
is blazing the way
for her to speak and be heard
write and be read
lead and be followed
listen and understand
dream and create
act and inspire

such fiery heat can scorch
but for the one willing
to walk alongside
and encourage
and feed her soul
and make her laugh

that one will never feel the cold

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“The will to make it so”

A year or two ago someone who knew we were helping serve at the Sunday night suppers for folks in need asked me, “Yeah, so all those folks y’all are feeding–they are all either drug addicts or alcoholics, right?”

Ummm, no.  No more than all of us with houses are NOT addicts or alcoholics.  Not everyone.  Not all.

I didn’t say it exactly like that, but I did tell him that if I were on the streets day in and day out, I’d have to be on drugs or drinking just to cope.  I don’t think I could get through the fear and uncertainty and hard things that happen without some kind of mind altering substance.  I just don’t.

Today at our Sister Circle we had a new sisterfriend join us.  I remember her from the Sunday night suppers, but this is the first time I’ve seen her since then.  She said she’s been around there a lot, so I guess we’ve just been passing each other.  I invited her to join our group, and she did.

Once again our sisterfriends who have been coming for a while were gracious and patient listeners.  Once again we heard stories about how often it is one’s own family who can be the most hurtful.  Once again, the tears and the unknowns and the sense of being overwhelmed.  And once again, I got mad.

This young woman is on the streets.  She was kicked out of the last place she was staying.  The reasons don’t matter and I’m not sure how true they were anyway.  Suffice to say, it’s going down to at least 30 tonight and one more soul is on the streets.  One of my sisters.

Breaks my heart.

She’s tried the local shelter.  There are no spaces available.  She told the story of a night they put her out at 11 p.m. because her urine test showed drug use.  She had admitted it upon admission earlier that evening.  Said she’d been clean for a day or two, but it was still showing up in her system.  I asked her if Rehab was a possibility.  She said she’d tried to go last night.  She wants to be clean.  She wants to be off the streets.  She’s scared and it showed.  Her only family said no, you can’t come here–maybe because of her prior drug use.  She shrugged and said she didn’t know for sure.  She was tearful.  As we continued our conversation in the group, she put her head down on the table and fell asleep.  Bless her.  It was warm and it was safe.  Two things I take for granted just about every single night.  But not this one.

It doesn’t make sense.  The shelter is full, but even if it’s not, you have to be sober to be there?  To get sober, most of the people I know need help–they need rehab.  But rehab’s full.  So there’s no way to get off the streets?  A young woman who is at risk for so much to happen?  And there are church buildings, God’s houses, sitting empty all over town.

Oh me.  I can hardly believe what we are doing to each other.

And today there was more that didn’t make sense.

Yesterday World Vision made an announcement. They are changing their employment policy.  Because they employ folks from all different Christian backgrounds and because some denominations have begun sanctioning same-sex marriages in the past few years, they decided to defer to the authority of the churches and allow Christians in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.  No other changes to their otherwise fairly rigid code of morality for their employees. That’s it.

I’m not opening up a discussion about same-sex marriages here.  My Daddy raised me that you don’t discuss religion or politics with folks, and I’m already really close to stepping over the line, so we’re going to leave that subject for another day.

Here’s where I am headed with this.

Do you know about World Vision?  I knew in general, but not the particulars.

Here’s just a small bit from their website.

Our Impact

Poverty is complex, and so are our solutions.

With 44,000 staff members worldwide, we bring sponsors and donors alongside children and communities in nearly 100 countries. The map below shows our work across issues — from health to disaster response — integrating lasting solutions to the root causes of poverty and sharing God’s hope for a brighter future. And we stretched donations with grants and corporate gifts-in-kind to make every dollar donated achieve $1.15 in impact.

Here’s another number to throw at y’all.

4.3 million–the number of children World Vision has who are benefitting from the sponsorship program.  These children come from all over the world in 1,650 communities.

Wow.

That’s some serious impact right there.  4.3 million children whose lives are affected by this program.  This program which states:

Our vision for every child, life in all its fullness.

Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so.

So now because of their new policy change, folks are, to quote my oldest, “losing their minds” and calling them out, threatening to and actually cancelling their sponsorships.  Of these sweet children.  Who have NOTHING do to with this at all.

Are you kidding me?

When all of this hit the fan yesterday, my oldest stepped up and let the world know that she thought this was ridiculous.  She wrote:

“It is so sad to me to watch people quit sponsoring children through World Vision because of their stance on same-sex marriage.  You’re going to end a relationship with a child in need because you disagree with a company?  Get your priorities straight.  Jesus said to love.  Through ending your sponsorship you are letting your prejudices overwhelm your calling to love.”

Yes.  Yes ma’am.  One of my prouder moments as a Mama.  I’m so thankful. She gets it.  Priorities–choose relationship above all else.   Her Maemae would be so proud.  Mama didn’t play when it came to children and taking care of them.  Daddy either.

My girl wrote me later today, very upset, and I wound up using the “I” word.  “Someone just commented that the kids sponsored through World Vision are going to hell because they hire gay employees.”  Her hurt and frustration was obvious.  Wanna get me upset?  Do something that I can’t make sense of for my children.  I told her I was sorry that there are idiots in the world.

And apparently Dr. Bill Cosby agrees.

Well enough of that attitude.  That just pours fuel on their fire, doesn’t it?

Still, I agree with the author of Rage Against the Minivan when she says:

 “If we want to serve people, we should not make distinctions about who we serve, and we should not deny those we serve out of disunity or division. It’s astounding to me that Christians would take food from starving children because a gay person might have helped in getting it there.”

This evening I was sitting in a little storefront near the railroad tracks.  I heard the train before I saw it.  It was LOUD.  Blowing its whistle for all it was worth.  It was working it.  And then I saw it.  I was expecting a long train with all that racket.  And instead?  Just an engine.  One.  All by itself.

But you know what?  The tracks didn’t pull up and go, “Nope, you’re not enough for us to stay here for.”  The rails still lowered.  Traffic still stopped.  And we all sure heard it.

The fact that it was only one really did not affect very much at all.

I’m mad.  I’m mad that a sisterfriend is on the streets tonight, scared and worried, because she’s caught between a rock and a hard place.  She must be clean to get a spot in one place, and to get clean she must go to Rehab, which is also full.  And so she will probably continue to use.  I am pretty sure I would as well.  There’s only so much you can close your eyes to and still be okay.

I’m mad that people are choosing to tell the world their indignation over another’s sexuality is more important than helping a child–a child they were already helping.  The child is suffering through no fault of his or her own–which is what the sponsorship was all about ending–the needless suffering.  Right back to square one.

But what my oldest is teaching me, and what that little train showed me this evening, is that even if I am the only one who feels this way, I have a voice.  I can speak up.  And I should.  Someone will hear.  I can start the ball rolling.  I can stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.  How can I choose to do otherwise?

And in the midst of all the controversy and bashing and fussing and pointing fingers, I can do what we were first called to do, what we were created to do.  I can love.  Love others, love those who are like me and those who are different.  Love those who agree with me and those who frustrate me to no end.  Love.

Tonight, as I remember not to take for granted a place to lay my head in out of  the cold, I also want to hold in my heart the words of World Vision–“the will to make it so.”

Changes are needed.  Love and understanding are needed more.  May we all be set afire with the “will to make it so.”  Even one little train car can stop traffic for a moment.  All by itself.

Amen.  Love to ALL.

 

 

 

 

The Most Important Question I’ve Asked My Children

If I could start every day with a welcome given by David LaMotte and end it with a benediction given by this same talented singer/songwriter, I could never say I’d had a bad day.  Figure out how to make this happen, and you can hold me to it.  His words and the grace and light they share…..tears, y’all.  Listening to him perform last night, I held it together through his song about his grandparents’ home and going back to visit it, and that took some doing.  My Granny’s house is the one place I yearn most to be right now.  I even held it together during his bathtub song, but for that one I was holding in a huge guffaw (I so like that word!), so it was a little different kind of self-control.  But at the end, when he said, “You are (fill in the blank), and you are loved,” over and over, something let go and I was crying.  (The funny thing is that in talking with friends, the “You are loved” part is what stuck with us and what we all remember–isn’t that telling?)

His “World Changing 101” workshop this morning was full of simple and wise and mind-blowing thoughts and questions that begged to be asked and thought about.  I am still working to wrap my brain around so much of what we talked about, and I know more of these thoughts will show up here in the next few days.

This morning David shared with us the work he and his wife Deanna are doing in Guatemala.  They were there for their honeymoon in 2004.  They visited a school while they were there.  They were not looking for a mission, but while visiting they saw needs that they thought they could help with and PEG Partners was born.  That is usually how it happens, right?  When we least expect it?

He talked a little this morning about how they are working with schools in Guatemala on critical thinking with literacy.  David said that these children were going through years of school without ever being asked what they thought about a story or book.

Wait.  What?

I have to admit that I didn’t hear everything he shared for the next few minutes, because my head was spinning.  What would that even look like?  I can hardly fathom it.  I grew up with Mama reading to us, asking us questions, making her voice animated for different characters.  She brought books to life and let us ask questions, which we did, and she asked us questions about the pictures, about the story.  It was interactive.  I cannot imagine anything different.

But what if it were?  What if no one had asked me what I thought?  We are currently reading an intriguing book about the Revolutionary War as a read-aloud.  Our Princess, Cooter, and I have all been tossing out our ideas as to whether we think the schoolmaster is completely trustworthy.  When we finish a chapter, and I share the title of the next one, they are eager to offer their ideas on what might happen.  When discussing battles, Cooter is especially fond of second-guessing General Washington or General Howe and offering his own ideas of how to plan the next attack.  This is not something I planned.  It’s just something that has happened.

It was during this head-spinning/mind-blown/in my own world moment that I realized that very possibly the most important question I ask my children is, “What do you think?”

When we are heading home from a play at the Grand or from their Sparks Stories bible time, I usually ask, “What was your favorite part? What did you like?”  Sometimes, when Cooter’s a little cranky and nothing suits him, I’ll ask, “Well, what would you have changed?”

When we sit down at supper together, one of us asks from time to time, “What was your favorite thing today?”

Princess is an avid reader.  She can often read one of the books in the Fairy series, her favorite chapter books, on the drive between finding the treasure at our local used bookstore and pulling in our driveway.  When she’s extra excited about one, she loves to share about it.  There’s no need to ask her, “What did you think?”  She’s already telling you.

Cooter and his Star Wars obsession has now moved on to include Indiana Jones and Harry Potter.  No, he hasn’t seen any of those movies either.  But thanks to Lego and their videos and well-done marketing ploys, he knows some of the edited storylines, and he is FASCINATED.  He talks about each one of the three storylines non-stop.  All. Day.  Long.  Sometimes all three at once.  There is no need to ask him, as I once did, “What did you think Buddy?” or “What do you think will happen?” because you already know.  He told you yesterday.  And three times the day before. And last week.

My point is this.  Asking our children what they think, what they enjoyed, what they anticipate will happen, what they would have changed–all of those things do help develop critical thinking.  This is a skill that will serve them well in this world that needs people who can think and plan and problem solve.

But it also does one other thing.

Perhaps the most important thing a question can ever do.

It says to a child, a person, a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, another human being–

You have a voice.

Please share it and I will listen.

You matter.  What you think matters.

And that is something this world really needs.  People with strong voices and thoughts and hearts who have been encouraged and empowered to speak out.

If we teach our children what is truly important in this world–the very things I’ve heard David LaMotte share and talk about for the past two days–faith, action, love, kindness, justice, mercy–and we teach them that their voices are valuable, worthy of being heard–I think, just maybe, we might be on the right track toward healing broken hearts and mending broken fences.  And silencing the sounds of war and the cries of those enslaved.  By ending all of those things.  And somewhere in there, I suspect, there will be laughter.

At least with my crew around.

If you have littles around, take time to ask them an important question.  If not, ask anyone who’s around.  And then really listen.  We all need to know our voices count.

Love to all.  Carry on.