Spring Break

THIS is the News: Holding Hands with the Mexican Gardener

          My last day of Spring Break---Friday---I  made a mistake. I started the day reading the newspaper. Soon, I was sunk in a slough of despond:  the crashed plane, airstrikes in Yemen, airstrikes in Tikrit,  Nigeria's impending conflict, melting ice in Antarctica . . .  But one hour later I stood 20 feet from that spot, holding hands with the gardener, the roofer, and my husband. The headlines for the day changed completely.

             It happened like this. It was our last day in California where we were visiting our sons. The doorbell rang. The gardener had come, and he brought with him a man to repair the roof of the house we were staying in. We've come to this house for three Spring Breaks now. I know the gardener, "Carlos," originally from Mexico. I know he is a pentecostal Christian. Each time we come, we talk about the Lord joyfully, stumbling between English and Spanish.  

            Today Carlos brought "Juan," a man originally from Guatemala, to come look at the roof.  Juan was wearing a t-shirt with a verse from Psalms. We began to talk.  Out under the sun, by a ficus tree full and lush, green grass under our feet, we asked about Juan's church. His face lit up. "Pentecostal," he says, eyes bright. "God is real!" he says, leaning in closer to me, with excitement and authority. "I was born again in 2008. I found the Lord. It was a miracle." 

             Now He is just back from his first trip to Mexico to share the gospel. "We went on a campaign, my first! I preached the gospel!" he says, blinking, as though he can still hardly believe it. "People came forward to know Jesus!" He shakes his head in wonder. "I preached the gospel! But----I am nothing. We are nothing. It is all Him. It is the Holy Spirit."

              The Holy Spirit is moving even now. "Yes, yes," I say, nodding vigorously. I tell him I have just returned from Chicago, preaching the gospel as well. And how the Holy Spirit moved. We stand there, bathed in wonder together that we are each doing this. That we get to speak the word of God. That God is so great He can use even us, even us . .. . 

             But all is not well. Carlos is not well. He stands with his head down. He is sad, unresponsive, his eyes lidded, his brown face a mask. We ask him what is wrong. He tells us. 

         He stopped going to church. Something has come between him and his pastor. He broke up with his girlfriend. He did wrong. He feels guilty. God is far away. 

       We shake our heads in sympathy. Juan looks at us standing there. "This did not happen by accident. God is with us---God is with us NOW!"

"Yes," I say. "Can we pray for you now, Carlos?" 

             He nods his head. I put my hand on Carlos' shoulder, hold Duncan's hand. Duncan holds Juan's hand, Juan puts his hand on Carlo's shoulder. Carlos prays, his voice beautiful and lilting, Juan repeating every phrase after him. For minutes I cannot count, they chorus the most beautiful words in Spanish that I know, these kinds of words, and many more: 

Jesus, tu eres el Senor
(Jesus, you are Lord)

Te queremos
(We love you)

te encantara esta hermano
(You love this brother.)

Ayudar su hijo.
(Help your son.)

Curese. Perdonan. Restauran.
(Heal. Forgive. Restore)

a traves de la sangre de Jesus Christo
(through the blood of Jesus Christ)

Por el honor y la gloria de Dios.
(for the honor and glory of God.)

Carlos silently weeps, his shoulders shaking under my hand. 

           When he leaves a few minutes later, he is standing straight, his face open.  

      I go back into the house. I put the newspaper away. It wasn't the news of the day. Here is the news, and here are the headlines every day of our lives:

You are not alone. 

God's people are everywhere.

God's spirit is so strong it joins gringas and roofers and Alaskans and gardeners, North and South, brown and white into a circle of prayer. 

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.

God loves you and wants you back. Always. 

God is ready to heal and restore any who are broken and lost---and He wants to use YOU. 

                             But this is not done. I am home in Kodiak now, just arrived last night. I come home to read the local headlines and find this----broken relationships, abuse, trust betrayed, a faith community unraveling, splintering, dissolving  . . .   

       I am saddened, confused, angry, heartbroken. But I will not stay there. I will not forget Juan, Carlos, Duncan and I under the tree, hands tight, hearts joined. I will not forget this truest of all news:

No one is alone. 

God's people are everywhere.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

God loves you and wants you back. Always. 

God is ready to heal and restore any who are broken and lost---and He wants to use Us.



Coming Home, and Why We’re Hungry for The Hunger Games

Spring break is over. I left this:

And returned to this:

It’s a lot more exotic and exciting to leave home than it is to return home. But the rightness of being returned to our Place ... don’t we know this?

Our last night in the California desert, before we boarded our first plane home to Kodiak, my 16 year old son and I (and about 7 million others) saw “The Hunger Games.” (And if you haven’t, no spoilers here.)

My longing to return home--and the heart of the movie are not so very different.  I put aside all cynicism about marketing and globalism to ask, Why will tens of millions, more, stream to this movie?

Because we are hungry, all of us, for this taste of where we really belong, and of who we truly are.

***We hunger to be someone who stands against the madness of mob rule:

Just one man, one woman can set a self-obsessed, blue-haired world on fire.

***We are hungry to see the powerless---us---change the world. How do we accomplish this? Not by ruling others, but first by ruling over ourselves. Wisdom and self-restraint (and maybe a skilled arrow or two) unleash an immeasurable force into the world.

***We are hungry to see the hideousness of “entertainment” that demeans us exposed for what it really is—the enemy of our humanness and our God-given nobility.  Even the numbest among us feel a creeping distaste for the media’s desperate attempts to catch and hold our eyes.   

***We are hungry for the exaltation of the ignored, the impoverished, the silenced ones,

And for the humbling of the powerful, the abusers, the manipulators.

***We are hungry for the truth of who we really are: not a craven  crowd entertaining ourselves to death: 

---but people made in the Imago Dei, each one, spirit and body, filled with the very breath of God.

The world of "The Hunger Games" is disturbingly close to our own.  And yet within it, we find a way to live rightly and purely, a way to carry love and to make a home among violence and cruelty, even if it should cost our lives.  

My hunger is satisfied--for now. 

And yours?