Tuesday, June 29, 2010

another post-bedtime conversation

Israel is, as of this week, afraid of the shadows that our neighbor's motion-sensitive light cast through a tree onto his wall. We've talked over and over it. Shadows can't hurt you. Shadows are just different colors. Shadows can't touch you. Look! You can make YOUR shadow, too! Here's MY shadow. There's the tree making the shadow. It's STEVE'S tree, so it's okay. It's Steve's light, so it's okay. Once it helped to have the dog sleep with him. Once.

Israel stutters a lot, but I'll omit most of that. Suffice it to say his end of the conversation took a lot longer for him to say than it will take for you to read it. We'll just pick up in the middle of the action here....

"But I'm afraid of the shadows."
"Israel, there are things in life that are worth being afraid of. But shadows are not worth being afraid of. They can't hurt you."
"But I am afraid of the shadows."
"Well, you're just going to have to find courage to deal with that, then."
(I should mention here that the light that makes the shadows on Israel's wall was not even on this evening and I had demonstrated that, in fact, there were no shadows on the wall.)
"But...I jus' want to cye because I want somepin'."
"What do you want?"
"I jus' want somepin' to make me feel better."
"Well, you have Jesus to help you feel better and me and Daddy and your bear and your blanket...and Eden is in here with you, so you're not alone."
"But I want to cye because I want somepin' to make me feel better."
"Well, what would make you feel better?"
"A cow would make me feel better."
"A cow would make you feel better?"
"Well, you can pretend there is a big cow in your room, then."
"But, but, but...there ARE no cows in my room...they're just in the barn. Maybe I can have a BUNCH of cows to make me feel better."
"Well, then, you can pretend there are a bunch of cows in your room."
"And maybe horses make me feel better, too. They live in the barn."
"Think about cows and horses, then, and go to sleep. Good night!"

Of course, now he was up again, 15 minutes later, and eventually prayed, "Jesus, can you help me not be afaid of the tees?" Then he added, "And the cows help me feel better, too...!"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"it was a beautiful day"

I had planned for Sunday to be a day about real beauty. I'd been studying the materials put out by Dove (the company that makes the soaps) and had planned a "Real Beauty" workshop for the girls in our church and women who volunteered to serve as their mentors for the day. But I had no idea exactly how much real beauty was in store for me for the day.

I was in and out of the church service while I made preparations for the workshop, but I think I was able to witness some of the best parts about it. When I came in the gym where we meet, I saw we were welcoming two new members into the Family. At a time when I have been studying about absent fathers and the missing roles of men in our culture, I saw a group of faithful men gathered around, praying for a brother. It was enough to make me think about tearing up. I also saw the birth mom of my friends' daughter praying with her new-found family in Christ. How amazing to see a child sitting with every kind of parent she has as they become family in an even more real and meaningful way! I'm not a gifted enough writer to tell you how beautiful and unlikely and perfect it was. I need a metaphor.
By this time, I was feeling a bit bombarded by beauty. It was time for communion and Pat was having to hold one boy back from rushing forward first. "And a child will lead them," I thought. "But don't beat me there. I don't want you reaching the goal before I do. I want you to stay on here after I'm gone to keep it going." The thought of some of the kids we work with being the ones we will depend upon to lead us forward often scares me, but not that day. Sunday, anything seemed possible. My thoughts were interrupted by one of the girls I love coming up to me at the start of communion. "Do you want to commune with me?" ABSOLUTELY! I was greeted by two other girls I love who spontaneously wanted to hug me (a first!) and we all went forward to share in the Lord's Supper. I love this practicing for the meal we'll all share together at the Lord's table once we're all done with this rehearsing.

For now, I am happy with the rehearsing. Like I said, it's almost too much for me. I don't think my frail body could stand up to the force of the real thing. Already I go dumb and nearly mute at the sight of the foreshadowing. I'll need a stronger space-suit. For the time being, though, it was off to another rehearsal. So I set up another table and looked over my notes to make sure it was all right. We waited for the girls to come. We wondered if they would actually come after all the home visits made and the personal invitations and the support of moms. Most of them show up, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was saddened by the ones who didn't. I text, I call, I send scouts looking the streets for them. Some just don't make it. We go on and it was...beautiful. I was able to witness women affirming girls for their particular, real beauty. We celebrated our families -- both blood and spiritual -- and the beauty we get from both. Moms wrote letters to their daughters about why they are beautiful, which is its own kind of beauty. My hope for the day was that the girls would know they are loved in their community for who they are and they would be encouraged to be exactly that. I felt incredibly blessed for the help of so many women who are interested in pursuing that same goal for joining me in making food, planning activities, and making visits to the girls' houses. And I felt truly blessed by the girls who agreed that spending an afternoon together would be fun! It was a lot of work that had a great pay-off. (Let me know if you're interested in learning more about this. All the Dove materials are FREE!)

I returned home to find that my neighbor had volunteered more of his time and effort and initiative to build a sandbox for my kids. They were happily playing in it when I walked in the back yard. I joined them and we were quickly joined by two 6th grade girls. It was some of the most leisurely, not stressful time I've spent with kids from the neighborhood in a long time! We played outside in the sand until dinner, when there came a sudden thunderstorm and apparently also a tornado somewhere here on the southside of town. Our little family was mostly bewildered by the siren and looking out the windows to see what in the world was happening. (We'll know better next time.) The storm was brief and followed immediately by a bright double-rainbow! We ran outside to stare into the sky. It was almost too much. I called friends. "Go look to the eastern sky!"

Before I moved to this neighborhood, I'm pretty sure I could count on one hand the number of rainbows I had seen. But it seems we see a good 2-3 a year here -- big ones that stretch over the whole sky! Of course, biblically the rainbow is a beautiful sign of promise. And we need signs of promise here -- big, unmistakable ones that cover over our whole neighborhood and run through entire 24 hours blocks of time. We need them and we get them, I think, because there are also so many storms around for everyone to see. We need reminded that the storms are a brief part of bringing the promise. Days like this keep me going from promise to reality, cherishing the pictures of future things in the beauty of the current things. I'm not the only one calling my friends. New, bewildered faces join the group of us here looking toward the eastern sky, astounded by the beauty around and above and coming.