Adventures AWAKE

A pithy little blog encouraging creative adventures of the Christian spirit

Space, flame, transformation…and marshmallows July 7, 2010

It’s camping season. Maybe that’s why when I saw this poem on a friend’s blog, it seemed right to swipe it. That and maybe the fact that, as my husband says, “we Piersons don’t camp…we golf.” It has left me somewhat longing for those growing-up days when my family would load our backpacks for a trek into the Rocky Mountain wilderness. Ahhh nature. After a few days on the trail – clothes caked with dirt, fish slime, and the smell of hours by the campfire – we’d find our way back home. One of my favorite memories is still sparked with the whiff of an open campfire. Hence, the pull toward Judy Brown’s  poem, Fire:
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on logs,
then we come to see how
it is fuel, and the absence of fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time. 
A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

(San M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, Editors, Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003, p,89.) 


Nature. It gives me breathing space. And, in that space is the breath of God. Why too often it takes me getting out of the house to remember that, I’ll never know. This poem floods my senses with all the goodness of God’s creation right outside my door and, more importantly, reminds me of the Divine purpose for space — creating and maintaining it –  in my life with Him. His air and raw material combine in careful balance to create energy, warmth and reaction. Without building empty space into a fire’s structure – the careful placement of each timber and twig — nothing catches. The flame dies.

As long as you’re along for this mental hike, let’s take another step: The prose also begs me to cozy into the fiery embers of the space between. I imagine myself a marshmallow within those spaces — being changed into a treat to be savored. I am transformed by my time in what’s set apart. While in life I don’t relish the refinement of fiery trials, I actually prefer my marshmallows a tad singed.  The open fire somehow develops the flavor into a toasty, charred-wood sweetness that is unmatched by any other heat source. So, what am I doing to position myself for change?

Fires are built-in anticipation of their function; sometimes we build them for heat, cooking, atmosphere…marshmallow roasting. Whatever the purpose, it is only when we draw near its glow that we — as marshmallows or those in need of warmth – are changed.

Want an adventure? Build a fire. Think about your life’s construction; its space and flame (or the lack of either). What gives you “breathing space”?  Think about what you can do to stoke your fire for God. Most likely, the result will ignite things and draw others close. Make some space to think about fire as it relates to God’s essence, holiness, refinement, and the activity of the Holy Spirit. Meditate on  John 21:7-19. What did the campfire add to the story?

Space and flame in all you’re called to~

 

Under the Influence March 24, 2010

“At some point in your life, you need to decide if you are going to impress people…

or influence them.” 

~ Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission

I’ll be honest, sometimes when I sense someone is wanting to impress me or others I end up left with a bad taste in my mouth. (I know I shouldn’t judge…) I don’t want flash, I want substance.

But what am I doing on a daily basis?

Am I going through my day bent on impressing certain people? — or am  I working on my influence? Substance is an awfully mundane topic but it’s absolutely essential if I am who I say I am. And, it doesn’t happen by accident. Substance is the fall-back of character. Despite the sometimes tedious nature of establishing it, truth be told I want it to be the foundation of my parenting, my work, my art, my spiritual life…virtually, everything. When someone has influenced me, I move closer to their way of being. I’m not just like them while they’re around; that would equate to a reaction to peer pressure. I become something different and it sticks. For whatever compunction, I leave part of my old ways behind. Thinking about it, when I’ve sought to impress someone I tend to be a copy of someone — or something — else. And, who wants to be a copy?

 As I gain life experience (a.k.a. “get older” but not that old), I’ve realized that without examining my days through the lense of influence, whether I want to admit it or not the quality of them is diminished. It’s kind of like my sudden need for readers. I can get away without the age-exposing eyewear but I know I’m missing detail. I’m aware things aren’t as sharp as they could be. (Thank goodness WholeFoods sells really cute ones, now).  I want to be sharp — capturing every brilliant detail of God’s creative plan for me.

 

Want an adventure? Consider whether your life has centered on impressing people or influencing them, lately. What difference would it make in how you’ve been approaching things? Ask a friend if he/she notices one characteristic moreso than the other in you. True strength resides in humility. Humility undergirds lasting influence. And, that kind of  influence can change the world.

 

Crisis March 16, 2010

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”

~ Dick Clark, CEO/Merck Manufacturing

Want an adventure? Pray in a new way: With a friend, on your face, in a journal, outside, out loud, using promises of Scripture, in silence, in a song. Here’s a thought: Ask God how. (I’ve been doing that a lot around here, lately). Then, share  your experience — good, bad or indifferent — with someone. It will encourage your prayer life and theirs!

Ephesians 6:13-18 (The Message)     Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

 

Smudged souls March 13, 2010

I saw a lot of beautiful people in India. Physically, just beautiful. Dark-eyed, exotic, bright-smiled beauty. But I couldn’t help noticing all the babies with — what looked like — big birthmarks on their sweet faces. At last it occured to me that I might ask.

One of my gracious hosts explained to me that parents often smudge their children so the gods will not think they’re beautiful and want to steal them.

Don’t all parents think their children are beautiful? Certainly, Father God does. Shouldn’t we all walk around with smudges on our faces?

What saddens me is that most of us don’t walk around with an awareness of our beauty — the glory of Christ — but, instead, a profound awareness of the ugliness within. We spend days reflecting upon the smudges (scars, really) on our souls; the tax of sin waged by the enemy of our Father. We want to hide the mark Christ has made on us before the world.

Want an adventure? Look in the mirror of God’s word for your beauty today. (Check out Psalm 149:4, Ephesians 2:10, 2 Corinthians 4:18). Get lost in His love for you. Stare his beauty in the face. Get the image of your face smudged with His unconditional love and Fatherly pride. Think of how He wants to empower your pretty soul to attract others. We are marked by Him for His glory.

 

The ailing nation of India March 9, 2010

I recently returned from a trip to India with my oldest daughter. Beautiful, exotic country. Amazing developmental potential. Seemingly limitless foreign investment. Archaic social infrastructure. Never have I — as a woman raised in the West — witnessed, imagined or experienced such oppression.

As it is in India, what today are referred to as “slumdogs” — the 250 million subcaste members (meaning sub-human, below the four acknowledged/”legitimate human” castes under the feet of India’s 1.2 billion people) — can not vote. They are Dalits. Translated, their name means “broken underfoot.”  They can not hold property, they can not better themselves. They are frequently enslaved, murdered, beaten and raped. Sadly, it’s not just the stuff of Hollywood. I have heard it compared to the Apartheid movement of South Africa. The difference: In South Africa, the majority blacks could legitimately vote along with their minority white counterparts. Apartheid was overturned. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated…

Today, I received an email which shared excerpts of a letter sent to Nancy Pelosi in 2007 and, again, in 2010 to First Lady Michelle Obama.  Here are some excerpts authored by Dalit women:

We who have signed our names to this letter are the Dalit women of India. We are history’s longest standing oppressed people group, and by all reports the largest number of people categorized as victims of modern-day slavery.
 
We are also known by the demeaning labels “untouchables,” “outcastes,” and most recently “slumdogs.” We have been born “untouchable” according to the hierarchical social system of India, which considers us impure, subhuman, godforsaken, and deserving of our present suffering in this life because of our bad deeds in a past life. In this hierarchy, we are placed below animals. We have been told—and most of us agree—that it would be better if we had never been born.
 
There are 250 million “untouchables” in India today. We are denied education, healthcare, economic opportunity, and basic civil liberties that other citizens in our country enjoy. We are dying from AIDS, malaria, TB, and other diseases that we could prevent with vaccinations and proper care. Few of us own land or our own businesses. Most of us do not have access to clean water and are forbidden to draw water from the wells in our villages. Hundreds of thousands of our children as young as five years old work 12 or more hours a day, six or seven days a week. By the time our children turn eight, they are already slaves in their own minds.
 
Our lives and the lives of our daughters can be among the very hardest in India. We know that the only thing worse than being born a Dalit is to be born a Dalit female. We are raped as girls. We are sold to religious temples as prostitutes as young as age four to be used in sexual acts of worship. Some of us who will live to become widows will choose “sati,” throwing ourselves on our husband’s funeral pyre to spare ourselves a life of begging and starvation on the streets of India.

Let’s hope the letter gets read.

This is not myth. I was there. My daughter was there. Thanks to burgeoning Bollywood and the overflow of outsourcing from developed nations, India could more than afford to take care of their own. But sadly, because the Dalit are not considered “human,” they will never be cared for within this outdated, inane system. And the only thing worse than being a Dalit? Being a Dalit woman or girl. Look into the eyes of a four year-old who has already been dedicated to serve as a temple prostitute and consider the system that would allow it to happen (while it is theoretically outlawed, the state still gets a cut of every holy trick turned in a temple). I even saw a soda sponsorship banner draping the entry into a temple of prostitution we toured. On all levels, it is officially sanctioned trafficking…and it is wrong.

In his book, Truth and Transformation, respected Indian-born activist Vishal Mangalwadi put it best when describing the Western perception of these people based on what was seen in the 2008 movie Slumdog Millionaire: ” The film powerfully portrays the evils that dehumanize the “filthy” rich and the powerless poor in India, but it does not even pretend to explain how such evils can rule a democratic country. Neither the film nor its hero has any strategy to fight evil. In fact, the film has no hero. Viewers feel good only because blind luck helps the lead character win millions and his beloved.” The hero wins millions of dollars, but what of the hundreds of millions of other Dalits? His girlfriend is rescued, but what becomes of the girl who is infected with HIV by a man carrying the virus who — in keeping with Hindu tradition — is “allowed” have sex with subcastes in order to maintain the virtue of his betrothed?

During my brief time in India, I routinely witnessed men put before women for all levels of need. We saw a woman beaten for preparing the wrong food for a group of construction workers. Female infanticide is also a regular practice in desperately poor villages. Newborn girls are given a rice cake to choke on or poisoned due to the economic hardship they present their impoverished family. It is hard to believe but even within their own subcaste, Dalit women are considered at the bottom; they are only slightly better-off than Dalit widows, disabled and orphans. Despite the appearance of making a progressive climb, India embodies a sick system, an ailing nation. I believe that if enough external pressure is brought to bear, things can change. But, as with South Africa, it will not happen without pressure…

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world ~ James 1:27

 

Want an adventure? Create change. March 8 was International Women’s Day…but Dalit life continues to go on. For the month of March, celebrate women — your mom, your sister, your daughter — by thinking about this deeply disturbing system. What can you do? Really. What does your faith mean in the midst of all that you know? Contact organizations like International Justice Mission, Operation Mobilization or The Dalit Freedom Network. The system can’t change until brokenness is acknowledged.

 

Expressing Inexpressible India February 25, 2010

India in a word:

Joyful                          Tragic

Colorful                      Dark

Beautiful                    Dirty

Bold                             Invisible

Healing                       Painful

Hopeful                      Hopeless

Crowded                    Alone

Spiritual                     Spirit-less

Organized                   Chaos

Progressive               Archaic

Lifecycle                     Survival

Simple                         Complex

Surrender                   Fight

Dependence               Isolation

Hot                                 Frozen

Memories and Lessons:

  • Wrong versus Different
  • The varied countryside
  • Insane organized chaos of traffic (HA!)
  • People EVERYWHERE
  • Color!
  • Smoke
  • Circumstance of women, widows and orphans
  • Un-common “common-sense” health care
  • The price of Hindu “enlightenment”
  • Never-ending naan
  • Feeling conspicuous
  • Tasting oppression
  • Illustrations of loving the culture’s unlovable/AIDs and transgendered
  • The plight of the Dalit and Devadasis
  • Washing muddy clothes back home
  • The brainless balance of Bananagram at the end of the day
  • Tata trucks, trash-eating cows, wild barking dogs

 

Blessings:

  • Indian children
  • Joyful people
  • Unmatched time with my own beautiful, growing daughter
  • Generosity of heart, prayer and wallet
  • Enduring thankfulness for the entire experience
  • New friends from an untiring and fun team
  • Operation Mobilization Staff
  • Witnessing commitment and new meaning of sacrifice
  • New meaning of unconditional love
  • That “what to do now” feeling…

 

James 1:22-27

22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. 26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Matthew 25:42-45

42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

How should we then live?

~ Francis Schaeffer

 

Not to decide is to decide.

~ Harvey Cox

Want an adventure? Don’t ignore the question. Serve someone, somewhere. Whether it’s half way around the world or next door, commit to go out of your way to make the most out of your life for “the least of these.” Look for where your talents and giftings intersect need. (Note: You’ll know you’ve hit the spot when the anticipation of serving becomes energized – not burdensome). We’re built for it.

 

 
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