On Faith, Life, and Refugees

A guest post by Andrea Bailey

We are not listening to each other. I hear conservatives accusing liberals and other conservatives that they have bought into liberal biased media hype. I hear liberals accusing conservatives of being hateful and intolerant, all the while not listening themselves. I hear those genuinely concerned for truth asking questions and being overwhelmed, not sure who they should trust. I hear so many proclaiming boldly which media sources can be trusted and which ones cannot, authoritatively dismissing legitimate questions and reasonable discourse. I hear fear and pride.

If only it were so simple. If only we could know with certainty which sources to trust. If only that source could outline all the answers. If only we could trust that facts and news could come to us without bias or could be completely neutral.

Speaking to those who seek to follow Christ, at this intersection of faith and life, there are no simple, axiomatic solutions. We must seek wisdom. The application of truth requires wisdom and is never simple; rather, its progress is often slow and it requires discernment, effort and humility to learn.

For those who claim the name Christian, how do you know truth? Where do you turn for truth and the wisdom to live it out? How does that truth teach you to stand in these matters? Is truth ever just rational or logical belief? Is it not also experiencing God in the details of our physical lives, authenticating and revealing more fully that which we also know and confess?

It seems possible that in these matters of loving others, we have erred too much on the side of reason. We have not experienced truth in that way which helps us to fully know it, through our physical, everyday experiences, entering into the physical, everyday lives of those we are called to serve.

Where do we think we can experience the grace and mercy of God more than in entering into the struggles of those whom He has taught us to love? But have we entered in?

Christ spent his time with the poor, the marginalized, the broken, the suffering, the sick—these are the ones he most often gave the gift of His physical presence. Loving others carries a cost but did Christ not show us how to love when He came to show His love for us?

God’s love for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sojourner is undeniable throughout Scripture and His commands for us to care for them cannot be dismissed. And so it is needful to consider how we were taught to love.

Are we only supposed to love and welcome others when it is safe for us, or doesn’t cost us too much, even though the ones seeking our help are suffering or dying? When God calls us to love the sojourner, did He say only if they believe in Me and it will not threaten your safety?

I recognize that this type of thinking has the potential to conflict with national security, but does it have to? Can we rally for stronger security measures while still advocating for our government to give us the ability to welcome those who are suffering, in accordance with the teachings of our faith? Does our faith allow us to ignore the sufferings of others in the name of national security?

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Of those who are no longer allowed to come safely to our shores, is it possible that they might also have learned and believed the Good News—that God loves them and welcomes them to believe and be healed? Is it possible that they would have believed, especially in a land where they are shown welcome and are given the freedom to believe? But for now they cannot come. For now they cannot hear. For now, is it not more likely that they will think of America, that Christian nation (as it is believed to be), as a nation who worships a God that does not care that they are suffering?

To love is to sacrifice.

As Christians, can you claim to value and cherish life and then stay silent while it is denied to those who are in danger of losing theirs? Have you supported and sacrificed when those seeking to care for the ones who have already lost so much in this life, need help?

Let’s bring it closer to home—when you see a young single woman, trying to care for her child on her own, have you helped? Or have you referred her to government programs and then supported policies that make her life more difficult?

When you see adoptive or foster families struggling, sacrificially loving children who have lost or have suffered, have you entered in? Have you given of your own time? Has it cost you anything to help care for those lives which you said you were for? Has it changed the way you live?

If we have not entered into the lives of those whom Christ taught us to love, sacrificially giving of ourselves, is it possible that our unaffected lives mock their suffering? It is possible that our unaffected lives are the very thing which cause them to doubt God’s love for them?

And so today, to all who claim the name Christian, I invite you to enter into the lives of those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we more fully experience that which we know. Only in entering in can we more faithfully demonstrate the love of God for those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we see the power of love in the face of fear because only in entering in can we know more fully that perfect Love which drives out all fear.

 

Andrea Bailey directs a faith-based ESL program serving refugees and immigrants in her local community.

Lost Books and Potatoes in the Trash Can, or How Details Can Overwhelm

I fished through Henrik’s toy bin, my eyes finally catching the round wooden disk that had no business amongst the sock monkey and blocks.  I slipped the coaster under my coffee and smiled.  Life with an eighteen month-old.

He’s sort of predictable.  He loves playing with the coasters and the potatoes and his shoes, and he rotates those things among several cache points around the house.  One of those cache points is the kitchen garbage.  If we can’t find something we sort of dread that it’s in the city dump.

IMG_2443This morning, pre-coffee mind you, I tried to help Reuben locate his school library books.  Instead I found an overdue one from our public library (sigh) but no sign of the others.  I dreaded two things; one, that I had returned books to the wrong library and two, that Henrik had thrown them away.

Life has a lot of details.  An aching amount of them.

Reuben’s school agenda has color-coded checkmarks each day, the colors representing his behavior.  The color key was clearly explained in one of the five hundred papers the kids brought home.  For now I’m just sort of hoping green means good, because I had quite a truckload of details hit me that first week of school.  Seriously.  Important papers about their passwords for different math sites they were were supposed to use, picture day packets, letters from their teachers explaining what days they had spelling tests and how much they were to be reading each night and on and on.  I understand it, I do, I don’t even question it, but I do know that I cannot do this all well.  Not at once, anyways.

I will be that mom who the front desk receptionist sees breathlessly sprinting a violin into the school with a baby bouncing on my hurrying hip.  I’ll be the one calling my local library to see if some school books were accidentally dropped there.  I’ll be the one fishing through a toy box for a coaster.  Because that’s what life looks like right now, and no color-coded dry-erase master calendar organizational pinterest-inspired command station could even save me from this madness.  Why?  Because Henrik would throw potatoes into the files and Edison would draw pictures on the board and I’d probably end up using the space as a soap-curing table ;).

It might surprise you to learn that I’m actually a highly organized person.  My kitchen is so well-ordered that if you look close, you’ll see my spices are lined up alphabetically (only because Henrik can’t reach them yet, mind you).  I do not like, nor welcome, chaos for chaos’s sake.  But staying on top of all the details in my life feels like trying to bail water out of a canoe in the midst of a full gale.  Or like someone dumping truckloads of marbles in through my window, which I try to sort into like colors and keep out of the baby’s mouth while more trucks wait their turns.

I can’t keep up.  I forget things, the kids forget things.  We borrow grace like it’s going out of style, and pay late fees with an apologetic smile.  But whenever we consider the ways we are failing, it’s a good practice to think equally about what we’re getting right.IMG_1825IMG_1836 IMG_1850 IMG_1926 The thousand and one ways that we’re living well in the midst of gale-force winds and unruly amounts of marbles tripping our steps.  The holy moments which pepper our days as fiercely as the details do, if we can stop a minute and see them, removing our shoes in awe.  Life is happening beautifully and fully in spite of our imperfections, our mistakes, our inadequacies.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  II Corinthians 12:9

 

 

Just One

IMG_1075 It was one of those taking-stock days where my hands settle on their thinking spots on my hips.  One.  Just one life on this terrestrial ball and then a gallop through time-without-end.     One.

There’s something about stepping back from the tapestry that makes you notice the threads dangling, the ones that didn’t quite get woven in.  They made a good start and then were left.  Dropped.  Those projects that were started with enthusiasm and then an interruption happened and a malaise set in, followed by apathy and then a bit of shame.  It’s unfinished presence rebuked every time eyes settled on it, so it was packed in a box until later.  There it waited, like a sin unconfessed, out of sight.  When the itch to start a new project began, the skeleton in the closet would rattle it’s bones in indignation.

The dress was started back before all the babies came.  White cotton with tiny blue flowers.  It could have doubled as a Little House On The Prairie costume if you added some puffed sleeves.  I was in a stage where I thought maybe I should start making my own clothes and dressing as romantically as I wanted to.  It got half done.  And then it sat.  Ten years.

I lifted that dropped thread and I resolved to have one less skeleton banging about.

It was hard.  Some of the pinned pattern pieces had gone missing in the interim, some things had been cut a bit wrong and needed reworked.  Three hours later the dress was done.  I slipped it over my head and pulled the long zipper up the back.  It looked about ten years behind the times, but done.  I wondered as I turned side to side before the mirror if it could be redeemed with a chunky belt or something.  No.  It was done and it made me look quasi-Amish.  I’d donate it to a favorite thrift shop, where no doubt a conservative lady would happen upon this homemade dress and see potential, high-necked, low-hemmed potential.

That thread was woven in.  It didn’t bring any blessing into my life; it brought an expenditure of yardage and a pattern.  Hours of work.  Guilt.  More work.  Then being given away.  Not all the threads have to have clear meaning.

For the second time today I paused below the peonies cascading over the stone wall on the way to the bus stop.  I buried my nose in the petals and took a deep scent drink, closing my eyes and hoping I didn’t inhale an ant.  I’d already smelled them this morning and there wasn’t really a reason to smell them again.

I grabbed a cluster of honeysuckle as I walked.  When we got to Main Street to wait in the hot June sun for the kids’ bus, I shared the honeysuckle nectar one bloom at a time with Henri.  He seemed amazed that these little flowers were sweet.  A man passed by on a bicycle and looked over his shoulder at me, standing there sipping from flowers like a bee, and he winked a wink full of meaning that I wished I didn’t understand.  My eyes shot down to the sidewalk, down to the strewn petals, sucked dry.

Just one life, this side of the grave, and I smelled the peonies deep again because it struck home that I don’t know how many more breaths I’ve got, or how many Junes.

The truth is, I don’t know how big this tapestry is going to be, how far done it is by now.  But I want to make it beautiful, I want to make it finish well and be whole.  To work in even the odd threads, the ones I can’t figure out, the ones I can’t see adding anything to the finished work.  The thing is, I can’t even see the whole tapestry at once; it’s like I’m an ant crawling over a Van Gogh piece; I see colors and patterns but not what they’re supposed to be.  I can’t step far enough away.

Reuben had been doing handstands on the sand.  And then he wanted to stand right on his head.  For a few brief seconds to look plowed right into the earth like a missile.  Meaningless maybe, maybe not.  Odd thread for sure.  But woven in, just like the honeysuckle nectar on my tongue while the June sun beat down.

 

Thirty-four Reasons

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Surprise birthday party in Peru; one of the most festive-heart warming-delightful birthdays ever.

Thirty-four years, 1,000’s of reasons why I’m ever so grateful, but let’s go with thirty-four, eh?

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1. My parents, Sharon and Richard, who love one another unpretentiously, simply, and well.  Their strong marriage made for a secure and loving home for us kids.  Speaking of us kids…

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Photo Credit:  Amy Miller Coe

2. My big sister Michele and big brother Ricky.  These.  Two.  Oh, the shenanigans.

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3. Best friend of all time, Kristy Plummer.

4. Finding God and falling in irreversible love with Him.

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5. A year in the mountains with these people where a heart-held faith grew strong.

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6. Marrying this man, this very good man.

7. Friends in Canada, friends in Pennsylvania, friends in Montana, friends all over the world…too many to list.

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8. My babies, my dear babies.

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9. Family.

10. Fresh salsa.

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11. Life in Costa Rica.

12. The simple pleasure of playing board games with the closest of friends.

13. Playing in the ocean….for….hours.

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14. Big, old Mexico and how much I’ve gotten to see of it.  And taste of it, mmm.

15. Living in Chile for six years…are there words for that sort of gift?

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16. Silver medal in women’s lightweight doubles in the 2009 Chilean Rowing Nationals with my friend Carmen Gloria Bustos.

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17. That dear Carmen Gloria, who taught me to push through the wall of pain.

18. Avocados.

19. Snorkeling with bright fish.

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20. Flying through the water with a massive wing span in gorgeous Chile for years and years.

21. Teaching the Bible and seeing God move in people’s hearts; glory.

22. Every. Mashed. Up. Dandelion. That my children give to me with love all shining in their eyes.

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23. These ladies, these Hostetter ladies, and our many memories together, including going to an observatory in the desert in the middle of the night, pictured here!

24. Parmesan, gouda, cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack.  All cheese.

25. Bazaala Mubili Anania Kiggundu, our Compassion child in Uganda, who is a blessing to us.

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26. Road trips, like this one above, to Torres del Paine, to the Strait of Magellan, to the….

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27. The uttermost part of the earth, Ushuaia, Argentina, most southern city in the world.

28. Backpacking, camping, hiking, ambling in the woods.

29. Banana splits.

30. Good, deep reads.

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31. Honduras and waterfalls all-out-of-proportion.

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32. Cusco and all that terra-cotta magic.

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33. Machu Pichu, a dream fulfilled.  And that none of my children fell down the cliffs.

34. This life, this imperfect and holy and beautiful life.  Ah, God, thank you.