Friday, December 05, 2014

Rise up; it's time.

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while,
'He who is coming will come and will not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.'
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Hebrews 10:32-39

Up until now I haven't felt it was appropriate to write about Ferguson and the subsequent deaths of other black males at the hands of white police officers, because it was much more important to make space for black voices to be heard (some articles here: 1, 2, 3). However, as a person who is not black, I think it's time for me to write to speak to my fellow Christians who are also not black, but wondering what to do. What does it mean to stand "side by side" with our black brothers and sisters as they endure such aggravated trials and tribulation?

Before we begin to build a straw man, talking about whether Michael Brown or other men who have been killed were "innocent," I have to say up front that it's not about that. Michael Brown is dead. Eric Garner is dead. This notwithstanding at the hands of another fellow human being. This is not a time to be discussing the ethics and "necessity" of corporal punishment, and trying to "justify" police officers using physical violence against "criminals." These men are dead, and it's a big fucking deal. I'm not sure how I can emphasize this enough.

A week and a half ago I participated in a march organized by several local black pastors in partnership with the NAACP and Garfield High School. This was one day after the ruling on Darren Wilson (not to indict him for the shooting of Michael Brown). As we headed west along Union, a group of 200 people or so, I was ultra-aware of the fact that when we would chant "Hands up, Don't shoot," for the black males walking alongside me, this was a lived reality. And I started to cry. For these men, being in public, unarmed and vulnerable (literally with their hands raised in surrender) knowing their peers have been gunned down and choked to death by men wearing uniforms very similar to the ones donned by SPD officers 'escorting' and observing us along the way, was quite honestly, eerie.

When we arrived at the U.S. District Court, we stood on and around the steps of the building listening to several speakers from the black community who expressed extreme frustration, anger and at times, despondency. At one point, a pastor assumed the mic, saying, "I just want to first of all thank those of you who are not a part of the black community for showing up today and being a part of this." By this time our group had grown to probably 400 or more people, and I had noticed (with great relief) during the march that yes, there were indeed white hipsters and white older adults and mixed kids and male Latinos and young Asian Americans throughout the crowd. This is good, though I don't think the black community should necessarily have to thank us for being there.

It has been written of the Body of Christ: "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26a). What does it mean to stand "side by side with those who were so treated"? Listen. Care. Pray. Show up. 

For it has also been written:
"Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
     the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. 
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
     in secure homes,
          in undisturbed places of rest" (Isaiah 32:16-17).
 May we cry out to God until this is fulfilled on earth for all his people.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Remembering Grandpa

"I miss that old guy."
-Grandpa's best friend

Sometimes grief robs me of words. I'm full of sorrow, and yet the ability to articulate that sorrow completely escapes me. It's not a constant sort of despair that I feel, but an intense sadness that will hit me at certain moments causing the tears to flow.

In his last days, Grandpa's only reservation about leaving Earth was his concern for the well-being of the family. "I just want to make sure that you will be okay," he kept repeating with labored breaths from his nursing home bed, as the oxygen machine nearby chugged along. "We're going to be okay, Grandpa," I would reply, even though tears were falling on my face. I held his hand. "Don't worry. We'll be okay."

I know that we all are going to be okay, but in the meantime, it's been tough. My major frustration is not being able to talk to Grandpa anymore. Talking with him was the best. "God, I just want to talk to Grandpa!" is a frequent prayer of late, even though I know praying these words will not magically bring Grandpa back in his bodily form like some sort fairy godmother. And yet, while he was alive, Grandpa was like a fairy godmother to me, always willing to listen and to love. Gosh, I miss him!

Mourning is an ache and a longing for that which I can't have. I just wish that I could simply hear his voice saying, "How's things?" as he was wont to do. I wish that I could correspond with him in letters, even... tie up an envelope to a string hanging from the sky that will be lifted into the heavenly realms for Grandpa to open up and then reply to in his methodical, slightly rightward leaning script. I wish that in my dreams I could go to a cafe that's halfway between heaven and earth, so I can have coffee with Grandpa. Oh, what I would give for just 10 minutes of conversation with him!

God has promised provision for those who grieve: to "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair" (Isaiah 61:3). I eagerly await the fulfillment of these promises in my life as I experience all of the discomfort, ups and downs that come with loss. I know that it's a matter of "fix[ing] [my] eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). In enduring this temporary pain of grief, I look forward to the day when I will be joyfully reunited with my dear Grandpa in heaven, when I can tell him everything and he won't ever go away.

"I want nothing but the best for you," he managed to say on that Friday night at Kline Galland. He needn't have verbalized it because he spoke this over all of us granddaughters with every act of love, service and sacrifice he did while he was with us on earth. I know that Grandpa would have laid down his very life for us (1 John 3:16b) if need be. And in many ways, he did.

 
Shirt reads: "Lifetime Achievement in Grandfathering"

I miss you, old guy. Can't wait to see you again someday.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Grandpa

I wanted to call you today
And maybe just sit and watch the game.
I wanna tell you about the books I'm reading
And pray with you.
Maybe if I open the door to your room
You'll be there waiting for me.
But all I see is your white leather armchair
And hate that you're not in it anymore.

Followers