Saturday, March 31, 2012

Living our lives in gratitude

Henri Nouwen writes, "gratitude is the opposite of resentment and return is the inner movement from resentment to gratitude. Gratitude for the gift of your life is your response to God's abundant love....Life is a struggle and choosing to live the struggle gratefully and humbly as a child of God makes all the difference between a fulfilled life and an empty life."

Wherever one lives, whatever our circumstances, we have the choice to be angry/bitter or loving/grateful.  Birmingham brought these choices into sharp focus as our team worked closely with our African American hosts. A distinct and wonderful joy is created when one works wholeheartedly for the Lord and His people. It was good to leave "fingerprints of love" in the siding, the moldings, the cabinets of Mary's Habitat house. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The next "great generation"

Mary Patterson, on whose Habitat house we worked last week, was born and married within less than a quarter mile of where she has lived. Her life spans the "Jim Crow" era, the civil rights movement, and the election of an African American president. I realized as we talked with her that she is the next "great generation." The social and cultural changes she has seen are comparable to moving from stage coaches to jet travel. 

I cannot presume to know how she has adjusted to these changes, nor presume to know how I would have behaved had I been a white college student in Birmingham in the mid sixties. I only know that walking through Kelly Ingram Park where the young blacks were attacked by Bull Connor's police dogs and pinned down and washed away by fire hoses, where four young black girls were killed in the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church on Sunday, September 15, 1963, deeply touched me. Truth, love, justice, and forgiveness are not abstractions; they are everyday decisions and actions.

Mary and her sister look toward house where Mary was born

This statue replicates what the marchers went through.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Serving as His hands and feet

Meg and I accepted the call to be His hands and feet in Birmingham, Alabama last week.  We flew out of PDX on March 18 and left Birmingham on March 24. Sponsored by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, we worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a house for Mary Patterson.  Mary, an African American woman in her mid seventies, has lived through the turbulence of "Bombingham" in the sixties, and the tornado that destroyed her house last year.

She was in her house with two of her great grandchildren when she heard the warning sirens over the noise of the wind and the rain. She took the children into her bedroom closet where they prayed the Lord's Prayer over and over again, as she thought, "Lord, I ain't got no one but You." Suddenly all was silent--the center of the tornado was passing by.  The house shuddered, the sun came out, and her grandchildren left the closet and reported, "Grandma, the kitchen's gone." Much of the house was missing. The trees were sheared off in the backyard, but had not fallen on the house.

Habitat began building her a new house in early March.  It will be dedicated on April 4. Mary chose to stay in the neighbor where she was born and married.  As she said, "I don't need a mansion, Lord.  You've prepared a mansion for me with You."

Friday, March 16, 2012

All is being purified

I love what Martin Luther says here.  When I was "young," I thought I had made in knowledge and maturity. Now I am humbled by how much I don't know, yet I am still excited by how much more I am allowed to grow and to learn.  And that ultimately, I am being cleansed of all that is irrelevant in my relationship to God.
"This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise.  We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.  The process is not yet finished but going on.  This is not the end but it is the road.  All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified."  Martin Luther

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hearing the Word

If we believe God spoke our universe, our world, our selves into existence, then how do we listen to Him?  Here is what Henri Nouwen says:

"The Word of God is not a word to apply in our daily lives at some later date; it is a word to heal us through and in, our listening here and now.

The questions therefore are: How does God come to me as I listen to the word? Where do I discern God's healing hand touching me through his word? How are my sadness, my grief, my mourning being transformed at this very moment?  Do I sense the fire of God's love purifying my heart and giving me new life? These questions lead me to the sacrament of the word, the sacred place of God's real presence."  Henri Nouwen

Saturday, March 3, 2012

God's Nature

"The love of God is not created--it is His nature...'Feed my sheep.'  Jesus has some extraordinarily peculiar sheep: some that are unkempt and dirty; some that are awkward and pushy, and some that have gone astray! But it is impossible to exhaust God's love, and it is impossible to exhaust my love if it flows from the Spirit of God within me...."  Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest"

As His children, we are loved so that we can share love!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

BSA Troop 514 at the 2012 Klondike Derby

The weather at this year's Klondike Derby at Mud Lake across the road from the Anthony Lakes Ski Area was as bad as the worst I have been at since 1984.   The ski lifts did not run all day because of the high winds. And our Troop 514 Scouts were the best I have seen at an event like this.   Their cooperation and collaboration was outstanding.  They were a delight to watch work together.  They had slept in their snow caves Friday night and awakened to seven inches of new snow.  They competed on the Klondike Trail for three plus hours in snow and wind that at times created zero visibility.  No one complained or whined; they persevered and did the tasks they needed to do.  It was a real life challenge--an experience in survival that built confidence and character.