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Faith + Vulnerability
When our Suburban Homes are Large, our Hearts are Small, and Refugees Forgotten
January 31, 2017 at 7:17 am 1
This post originally appeared in November 2015 at Erika Shirk's website.    Welcome home, gather round all ye refugees, come in. Oh refugee, I did not cast you out In death and broken ground, Salvation springs My body and my blood, the healing that you need Come and receive” Sandra McCracken, “All Ye Refugees” // I’m sitting quite comfortably in this warm home of mine. It’s newish to me. The pangs of moving 1000 miles away from the longest place we’d ever lived since we became a family still, always, linger. And yet here I am, doing all those routine things: walking my children to school, going grocery shopping, shouting too much at my boys’ soccer games. In the throes of transition, I feel like I’m living in two universes, where home is both here and somewhere else. Home feels a bit like putting down my phone or glasses and being unable to find them. I don’t know quite where I belong without either. I wander around trying to find something I have no definite memory of letting go. I’m watching the United States map change colors: each state colored to oppose or welcome the new plan for the US to help resettle refugees. Twenty-six governors vow to tighten their borders like cinching in their belt. It’s too dangerous, they say. It’s not our place. It’s a Trojan horse, letting them in like that. Them. I realize of course that immigrant policies, national politics and international crises are things much more complex than I am making them here. But I do know this: problems only magnify when we start to see us as somehow wholly different from them. And must we surround our nation, our homes, with watertight walls? Are we so very scared that we cannot let them in because they might hurt us? But, we must ask, who are they? They are the poor, the needy, the fatherless and the widow. They are at the very heart of the gospel. Jesus gathered a rag-tag group of fishermen, he did not run from women of disrepute, he did not turn in disgust from our disease, or dishonor or shame. He saw the widow, the child, the orphan and the leper. And he had compassion. His heart saw that we were like sheep without a shepherd. We are the homeless, the refugee. It is Jesus who comes from a far-off country and made his home with us. It’s a fact that’s at the heart of the Bible. Giles Frazer writes for The Guardian that “For the moral imagination of the Hebrew scriptures was determined by a battered refugee people, fleeing political oppression in north Africa, and seeking a new life for themselves safe from violence and poverty. Time and again, the books of the Hebrew scriptures remind its readers not to forget that they too were once in this situation and their ethics must be structured around practical help driven by fellow-feeling.” The Bible is clear: our homes cannot be castles. Our homes – whether our nation, our physical dwelling place, our economic policies or any other number place of belonging – cannot be simply about us. For our homes were never meant to serve ourselves. We count square footage and upgrades to garner our worth in the same way we count our kids’ soccer goals and progress reports. We invite others in to our homes to “entertain” rather than show true hospitality. We make our homes all about us. It’s important for our spaces to reflect us and it’s not a bad thing necessarily to upgrade your kitchen. But when our homes stop being a place to welcome the wanderer, I wonder where we think we’ll find home exactly, where we’ll find belonging. Or if we’re just burying ourselves in the trappings of home but never quite belonging. When we wall up our homes and hearts and build castle walls of impenetrable self-centeredness, what use is Jesus exactly when he says he goes and prepares a place for us? That home that Jesus says he’s making for us feels a whole lot less valuable than the granite countertops in front of us. What use is a Jesus who we wall out with economic belt-cinching and say that he (like the refugees) isn’t quite safe to let in and really change our categories? For yes (like Lewis says), Jesus isn’t safe, but he is good. Will our homes be safe? Because as Jesus makes his home in us, he uproots cobwebs of shame and doubt and all the ways we wall others out. He turns over tables and plants a seed of his upside-down kingdom right in our hearts. And you better believe that Jesus making a home is more than a pretty little image, an abstraction that makes us feel good. Because Jesus never does a background check to see if we check out first before building us a home. Because no one measures up. We’re all homeless wanderers, set adrift on the hem of someone else’s mercy. We’re all refugees, wandering around since Eden, trying to make and find our true home. IMG_0926 And Jesus sees us; his eyes warm with empathy, in our squalid, homeless state. He sees us, as devastated internally as the refugees sleeping on concrete are externally. We have no roof over our head either. There is nowhere we quite fit. We, too, are longing for home. This Jesus runs to meet us. He says “My son has come home!” He places rings on our fingers and the clothes of the family and throws a feast. But sometimes that Jesus just feels a bit too unsafe to have under our roof. So home escapes us, like my lost glasses, and we keep searching for the missing thing that promises to make things okay, to feel like we have things ordered, so we can really see. The refugee crisis is complex. Yes, it’s a risk to welcome people, from refugees in a far-off country to even welcoming your neighbor truly into your life. But both are necessary. How could we do anything less? How can we stay walled up and impervious to our own refugee status? How can we ignore that Jesus built his tent right in the midst of our finitude? How can we forget that his body and blood house us, that our experience of the Eucharist welcomes and clothes us, gives us sustenance? How can we turn our backs on those that cry out for home? How can we not do something? Refugees aren’t safe and neither is Jesus. Both are messy and turn our world upside-down. But isn’t that right where we find home, in the mess right in the middle?
Feel free to engage in the comments, send me an email, or I'd love to grab a cup of coffee if you're local (or on Voxer if you're not). If you disagree or have questions or concerns, let's talk. Let's learn civility and kindness here.  Resources: World Relief International Justice Mission International Rescue Commission US Office of Refugee Resettlement
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Faith + Vulnerability
A Prayer for Inauguration Day
January 20, 2017 at 9:57 am 0
Dear King of Heaven, On this day when another man takes over the highest office in America, our nation is deeply divided. And all of us have been brought up short by this election. We confess that we have trusted leaders and politics to be our God, instead of you. We have made America our god. Forgive us.  We confess that we are fearful. We are afraid for what policies may be enacted that do not have love and justice as their driving force. We are afraid for those who are weak and marginalized, that the voiceless will not be heard. Oh merciful Father, increase our faith. Show us your light. Help us to see how we can be agents of a Kingdom that breaks every barrier based on race, politics, and socio-economics. Grow our compassion, help us to see the good in all those who are made in your image. Help us work for justice, compassion, mercy, and love for our neighbors, no matter how they voted.  God, your Kingdom is one where the last shall be first. Humble us so that our empathy for others increases. Grow our discontent over injustice so we become good neighbors. Let us be like Jesus: challengers to greed and to immoral ways of living. Both the rule-followers and rule-breakers couldn't understand a Kingdom that said the way up is down; the way to live is to die; the way to peace is not through a sword. Let it start small. Help us to listen to our spouses, friends, children, neighbors. Then, let it grow. Help us to listen to one another. Help us to listen to those who are saddened and scared today and those who are rejoicing. Let us not demonize someone made in the image of God because they think differently than we do. If so, we will have only given in to hate. And, "darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only love can do that." Increase our love. May love keep the revolution you began going.  Oh God, you who set the stars spinning into space, rule over all. May we be faithful agents of your Kingdom. May we take refuge under your wings, knowing you rule, see all, forgive, and comfort. Amen.  
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Review
We run toward what others run from: A book to give you hope
November 23, 2016 at 3:37 pm 1
American friends, as we come to Thanksgiving tables tomorrow it's easy to feel despondent about the state of the world. When systems seem so broken -- not to mention our own lives -- where do we go to find hope? And how do we get out of this mess? How do we have hard conversations when our views differ dramatically from one another? Is there hope for communities -- is there hope for the church -- to learn how to be a bridge? Could we actually be known for how well we love, in both grace and truth? Will there be grace when we fail miserably in those attempts? Will we be able to hold grace and truth in glorious tension? Will people be willing to reach across the aisle to do so? How do we know when and how to speak? befriend Enter a lovely book by Scott Sauls, a Presbyterian pastor in Nashville: Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation and Fear. I was cranky at first reading it because I wanted something longer, meatier about such issues -- not something that felt like short, pithy articles in the book's twenty-one chapters. But as I warmed to the format, I saw its immense value to speak into our American culture right now, right in this tenuous space of American history. Sometimes, too, we need small doses of how to live out of love when the stakes are so high. We need to learn how to be civil. We need people who are willing to be guinea pigs to have hard conversations. We need places where we can learn to listen and then how critique sharpens each person, each organization, each party. We need to see that we are all human and we have much to learn from one another.
  After America’s recent election, we’ve discovered (again) how divided we are. It is not simply that one-half of the nation disagrees with the other, but that each half is afraid of the other, as noted by ABC News. In a climate of fear, Scott Sauls’ Befriend is a timely book. Its subtitle, “create belonging in an age of judgment, isolation, and fear,” speaks to a human desire for community that transcends divisions based on race, class, socio-economics, politics, and sexual orientation. It plots a way forward for the church. May it be true of the church that we ask more questions, we learn and practice empathy, and we fight for justice for the oppressed. May it be true that we seek to grow in compassion for those who voted against us. May we seek to love not only the marginalized but also not vilify the rich and powerful, the bullies and perpetrators (who are also subjects of Sauls’ essays). How else could a watching world see that we are Christians, except by our love?
  Read the rest of the review here.  Purchase the book by clicking below:
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