Wednesday, February 1, 2017

courage in the face of fear

As the past few weeks have unfolded, I think a lot of people have been shocked. I think people were hopeful that things said in the campaign would not be realized. Each day has brought a new executive order that makes my breath catch in my throat. I’m not even really sure what to say. I look at my students and I don’t know what to say.

I teach character education as one of my electives. Our character trait for this month is Courage. We started watching a documentary from PBS called the New Deciders. It’s from 2016 about four different minority groups who were working to influence have their voices heard in the election: black millennials, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, and Latino Evangelicals.

At first, my students protested, saying that watching a documentary about an already-past election was old news and something reserved for social studies class. I explained that voting and being active in your community, standing up for what you believe is right, and standing up for people who have not historically had a voice in this country, is courage.

They kinda just stared at me. We got started with it. I would pause it every few minutes to explain something.

And yesterday, one of my friends told me her fiance was prevented from visiting her/coming to the US on a business trip because of the Muslim travel ban. He’s a Palestinian refugee who moved to Jordan and lives and works there, and has international engineering work. He has a work visa to come and go legally to conduct business for his family.

And I talked to my friend this morning about the situation in Turkey and talked about the arrests that have been happening where adults were separated from their children, and the children were left alone at their house with no one to care for them.


We ended up talking a lot during the documentary, especially when they started interviewing Arab Americans. My kids had lots to say. And lots of questions.

And lots of questions I can’t answer. My kids come from families that came here for a better life. For better education opportunities. Better work opportunities. Safer neighborhoods for their kids to grow up in.

The hope that their kids would be judged not by the color of their skin, the accent that they speak with, or the clothing that they wear, but by the content of their character.

And my kids truly believed that they would receive that. They have talked continually how they think the Civil Rights movement was so long ago, so why are things not different for them? For an eleven-year-old, 63 years since Brown vs. Board of Education seems like an eternity. In the grand scheme of civil rights, it’s not long. But for a child, it is. To them, 63 years should have been enough time for them not to worry about how people perceive them.

Some of the judgements they’ve experienced, and some of it is the generalized recoiling from what they hear on the news. Thankfully, I don’t think many of them have been targeted for specific things.

I’m not really sure how the next few weeks will be.

I’m not really sure how to have these conversations with my students about courage and diversity (the character trait for this month).

I’m praying for my students. I’m praying for their families. I’m praying for my colleagues and friends and their family members who are trying to visit. I'm praying for refugees that had been approved and spent the little bit of money they had, and then got to airports and were denied. I'm praying for immigrants on green cards and student visas who went home to visit their families and now can't return.

I’m praying for peace and justice. And I'm praying for courage.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mountains of Spices

Several years ago, I read "Hinds' Feet on High Places" by Hannah Hurnard. I'm pretty sure I also read the sequel "Mountains of Spices." Regardless, I was probably in middle school, so when the snow days at home and no work prompted me to find a book in the house to reread, I picked up "Mountains of Spices."

I've only read the first five chapters so far and found such sweet refreshment. 

The book opens with this verse: Song of Solomon 8:14

Make hast, my beloved, 
and be like a gazelle
or a young stag
on the mountains of spices.

With this passion, we encountered the transformed main character from the previous book, "Hinds' Feet on High Places." This book is about her life as she returns to the valley from where she came after her experience of finding the Shepherd-King and having the flower of love planted in her heart.

As she reenters "normal" life, Grace and Glory is known by her new name, and people from the village and her very own family grapple with what such a changed identity means. She is no longer Much-Afraid, but crowned with Grace and Glory, and walks and lives in sweet confidence of her Lord.  

I love this book because it deals with the challenges of returning from mountain-top experiences and the sweet intimacy with the Lord that spurs us onward. Grace and Glory continually seeks out the Shepherd-King in order to maintain communion and to grow in how to practically help those around her.

We experience mountain-top experiences, where the revelation of the Holy Spirit burns freshly in our hearts, and where communion with Jesus is easy and quick. 

Yet, we eventually return to daily life. I go to work. I pay bills. I visit friends and family.

AND, God is good. And God speaks into the moments when I don't know how to share His love with someone, or don't know how to respond tenderly when someone responds to me harshly, or when I don't know how to be faithful to what I know from the mountain-top.

As I read this book, I'm encouraged to read more of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, the Book of Job, Psalms, the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, and read of the romance of Jesus' pursuit of us. As Jesus seeks my heart, I fall more in love with His heart, and He aligns my heart with His desires and transforms my heart.


The passage below is one that I continually return to, as I hear to song that Jesus sings over me, encourages me with, and pursues me with. It is with this song that Abba Father calls me Daughter. It is with this song that God is in charge at the center and that God is my King. 

Zephaniah 3:14-20

4-15 So sing, Daughter Zion!
    Raise the rafters, Israel!
Daughter Jerusalem,
    be happy! celebrate!
God has reversed his judgments against you
    and sent your enemies off chasing their tails.
From now on, God is Israel’s king,
    in charge at the center.
There’s nothing to fear from evil
    ever again!

God Is Present Among You

16-17 Jerusalem will be told:
    “Don’t be afraid.
Dear Zion,
    don’t despair.
Your God is present among you,
    a strong Warrior there to save you.
Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love
    and delight you with his songs.
18-20 “The accumulated sorrows of your exile
    will dissipate.
I, your God, will get rid of them for you.
    You’ve carried those burdens long enough.
At the same time, I’ll get rid of all those
    who’ve made your life miserable.
I’ll heal the maimed;
    I’ll bring home the homeless.
In the very countries where they were hated
    they will be venerated.
On Judgment Day
    I’ll bring you back home—a great family gathering!
You’ll be famous and honored
    all over the world.
You’ll see it with your own eyes—
    all those painful partings turned into reunions!”
        God’s Promise.

May God bless you and keep you, may He make His face shine upon you, and give you peace. Amen.
Shalom, Rose