A New Practice in Remembering Others: Lazarus & the global millennial

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I found a Catholic prayer candle at Goodwill a few afternoons ago.

It hadn’t been lit yet, so all prayers resulting from its wick’s glow would be the first.

On the front, San Lazaro, Saint Lazarus, Saint of the Poor.

I took the candle home and placed it on the kitchen window by the sink, the window overlooking our neighbor’s side yard.

Our new home doesn’t have a dishwasher, so doing dishes isn’t just work, but an event, a challenge to keep the kitchen organized and clean.

So I light the candle and I say hello to Saint Lazarus. I remember the story of his life, the way he and Jesus cared for another like kin.

I can hear the boys arguing in the living room behind me, their voices rising and falling again as they move on, playing together.

I scrub the bowls clean and place them on the dish rack to my right, wondering what it means to be poor, to not be poor, to be poor of spirit, to be poor of heart.

I rinse the knives and forks and spoons and say thanks for what I’ve seen and known in my days, but there is Lazarus, speaking to me with his eyes, reminding me that I am not alone, because my people, my generation, my living– it’s not just mine. It’s a global reality.

In a collection of essays by young Syrians, I remembered what Lazarus’s life meant.

I remember the beggar sitting outside the rich man’s house;

I remember the way we listen to what we want to hear and avoid what we don’t;

I remember our obsession with Mercedes and Frank Lloyd Wright and the iPhone-newest;

we are bombarded with sales racks and celebrity gossip and religious piety;

and it becomes easier and easier to avoid the eyes of Saint Lazarus, his presence and his challenge to never forget the ones who are far away and walk a terrifying path.

“The first full day at Saarbrücken was very hard on me. I had to wait in lines for food and papers. But I had to just deal with it. I am no longer in my house. I am not sitting in my kitchen with my family, waiting for my mother to prepare a nice meal. This is my new temporary life now.” —Hassan Jamous, 24.

And so I grab the towel and begin to dry those extra dishes that couldn’t fit on the dish rack, and I see faces this time, hear names and imagine stories playing over and over again in my mind.

I am a millennial– a western millennial, a Native American millennial, a female, mother, partner, worship leader, writer millennial.

But what do generation gaps mean for the rest of the world? I look at the eyes of Zozan Khaled Musa, 25,  and realize that while I sit here and drink my coffee in a coffee shop in Atlanta, she sits in Germany as a refugee, with hopes and dreams for things that are similar to my hopes and my dreams–

a young woman my age who knows wisdom and grace because she has walked so far and so hard to get to where she is today.

Or Rena Khalid Moussa, 29,  a year older than me. I see her, too.

Please read their stories.

Light your candle and remember.

To be better world citizens, we remember that we are not the only citizens, and that we belong to a whole creation of others– every generation coming after the one before, every life marked by sweat and tears and the hope for connection.

It is so good to remember what is beautiful, to look around us and bask in thanksgiving, to give ourselves over to gratefulness every single day.

But a practice is demanded of us, one that has existed for centuries and will never die out as long as there is suffering lurking across the earth–

we practice lighting that candle and we practice stepping outside of ourselves and if we’re lucky, we learn to take our children and our friends and our churches and our everything along with us,

and there the world’s borders are broken, and we find that every refugee belongs to us and we to them,

every brokenness is ours,

every poor heart is our poor heart,

every glorious reality is shared between us,

and the eyes and spirit of Saint Lazarus tell us again that the way we are resurrected day after day is by knowing that life exists outside our tombs and broken places, where we find each other at the light of the new morning.

 

 

 

Snapshots: lily pad lake

“Limiting the resurrection either to the past or to the future makes the present risenness of Jesus largely irrelevant, safeguards us from interference with the ordinary rounds and daily routine of our lives, and preempts communion now with Jesus as a living person.” -Brennan Manning

For Mother’s Day we took a late afternoon trip to the lake– a small one tucked near our town, the perfect surface and size for kayaking.

The boys wore white t-shirts and swim shorts, and we had snacks packed for dinner.

Travis sent me into the water first. I had forgotten what the stillness of lake water stirs in me. I kayaked away until Eliot was a little blue speck of boy screaming, “MOM!!”

I paddled a few feet and then stopped, pulled my knees up to my chest and watched the stillness.

This place reminds me of Uganda, of being on the Nile River and not fully understanding its beauty.

And on the water it’s me and it’s Him.

I thanked Him for this town, for these friends. And I asked to see His kingdom around us now, while longing for the wholeness of a new earth. I longed for the wholeness.

I scanned the edge of the lake with my blue kayak, where the trees sunk into the mud and branches sat under the surface of the water, stoic as rapids passed by overhead.

Then I saw them: a tiny sea of lily pads, their faces toward the sun.

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And I approached them with the caution of a curious child, my first thought being, what creatures lurk beneath? will my kayak get stuck here?

Close enough to their edges, I saw the green of their surfaces, and their stems reaching down into the depths of the water.

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And I thought, I want to be like the lily pads. My eyes to the sun, my roots plummeting down into deep sustenance and pure water.

The lily pads had life, have life, will continue with life, and that’s exactly what I want here as we close a 4-year season and open up a 5-year one.

And back at the quilt on the grass under the shade of the tree, Eliot played Christmas songs on the iPod and asked if Bilbo Baggins was riding in a kayak, too. Isaiah curiously dug in the picnic basket for the many treasures it contained, enthralled as only an 8-month old can be.

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These moments are what Manning calls our ordinary rounds and daily routine, our communion with the living person of Jesus.

If I saw Jesus in a lily pad yesterday, what might I see Him in today?

 

Snapshots: at the farmer’s market

Last week, the local farmer’s market opened for the season.

If there is one thing that gives this city constant beauty, it’s this market.

Vendors gather along all four sides of the downtown “square” to sell glorious flowers, fresh fruits and veggies, homemade soap, hand-crafted items, and more.

Musicians cover every corner and compete for the spare change of passers-by.

Our first summer here, I grabbed my guitar and found a quiet spot near a woman named Beth.

IMG_0201It’s been my favorite venue– singing while little kids dance by, parents not far behind; the shared bond of man’s love for rhythm and voice. Perhaps my best tip was the half-eaten muffin from the teeny blonde boy, who just loved me that much.

Now that Eliot has embraced the fullness of his extroversion, he asks about the market more than once a week, and he knows that it’s a party waiting to be joined.

IMG_2860We show up and tune our ears toward the live music, and head straight to the source–indeed, music is a source of life for both Eliot and me. He sways side to side as the music plays, and he points to the cello, the violin, the guitar of the jazz quartet as they perform their last song of the set.

 

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We found our lab, Charlie, there.

I discovered Celosia, or Cockscomb, the flower that resembles a brightly colored brain– my favorite flower.

 

 

 

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Eliot discovered the bubble machine outside the jewelry store, and takes at least 10 minutes every visit to play in them.

 

 

 

The beauties found here have made this town a blessing to live in– a town where diversity brings celebration, where Saturday mornings belong to everyone:

the executive who needs a few extra bell peppers for a dinner party;

the vegan mom who wants to make kale chips for her toddler;

the exchange student who wants to experience a new culture;

the 20-something who has a weekend date for coffee and a morning walk;

the family of four who comes out for fresh air;

the 3-year old boy who has his dancing shoes on.

It’s the city that loves its local farmers and supports their work with happy hearts and generous pockets.

This year local politicians set up tables trying to buy votes with lollipops and balloons, and I get to kindly say, “We’re moving in July,” as Eliot shoves the root-beer flavored candy into his mouth and the politician’s wife smiles.

If I can spend the next 9 Saturdays in the open air of the market, I will be absolutely content. So, here’s to a house of fresh flowers and meals of sustenance, straight from the green earth.

 

For more posts from the Snapshots series, click here.

Snapshots: His Name is Jon.

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Our first son started out with two names.

We walked into the packed gym, my belly swollen and my ankles puffy; he was due in a month or so, but I felt the ache in my body like I was going to give birth any moment.

This was  a late birthday present: a Switchfoot show, a much needed date after 8 months of severe sickness and fatigue.

We prayed about what this show might speak to us, because Jon Foreman’s music has always spoken to the deep places of my heart, spurring me on toward writing my own music and finding what my own heart has wanted to say in the deep darkness of life.

A woman noticed how uncomfortable I was sitting on a flat bleacher, so she offered me a reserved, padded, plushy red and wonderful stadium seat on the front row beside the stage.

It seemed like hours before the guys came on to play. Then I felt the stirring, the deep pulsing that only music can speak into someone’s soul. In junior high, I sang one of Switchfoot’s songs for the talent show. Years later, I remember standing in my sister’s kitchen, doing dishes, eating a snack, listening to words sink deep and remind me that God is alive in life, God is alive in music’s beat.

During the set, Jon Foreman usually comes down from the stage and walks through the crowd while he sings.

That night he meandered off the stage and his gait was steady. He came right to me, right to my bursting belly and to my husband at my side. And he stood there for a minute as “Restless” began to play.

And whether he meant to or not, he was singing a blessing over us there, over my son, over his life. I asked God to speak to us that night as we drove to the venue. I asked Him to give us something to hold on to, something that could speak into the life of the little boy in my tummy.

And there, Jon singing over us, even for just a few seconds, blessings poured forth, and God spoke. He reminded me that my son is His, that from the beginning He is claimed, that His life is something worth living, something mysteriously, beautifully and specifically crafted by hands of grace.

All that in a few seconds of song, in a few seconds of eye contact and humanity shared between souls.

His name was Eliot Micheal.

But then, his name was Jon.

And Sunday I asked him if his name was Jon. I looked down at the bulge and held my hands to the skin and asked him. He kicked, giving the affirmation that only a crazy baby in a tiny womb can give.

A month or so later, Jon Eliot Micheal was born. He came out crying, of course, came out with words for the world. We brought the iPod and let the sound fill the room:

I can hear you breathing,
I can hear you leading
More than just a feeling
More than just a feeling
I can feel you reaching
Pushing through the ceiling
’til the final healing
I’m looking for you

I am restless, I am restless
I am restless, looking for you
I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore
I’m looking for you…

And his cries stopped. And he listened to that song that I held to my womb for a month, the song that was part of his namesake, part of his journey, part of his life to come. So while the song belongs to Jon Foreman and the guys of Switchfoot, that song has claimed us as we have claimed it; and the name Jon has claimed my son as we have claimed the promises that seemed to pour through the walls of the tiny gym that evening.


 

For more posts from the Snapshots series, click here.

Snapshots: an unexpected adoption

She comes to the side door to pick him up. A rhythmed knock followed by a high-pitched, “YOO-HOO!!!”

He dashes about the house, throwing clothes on and shouting, “Suzan’s here!” He runs out, greets her giant Buster dog, and takes off down the drive with a quick good-bye wave of his hand, no looking back.

She’s his Suzan. His other grandma. His best friend & partner in crime.

They go on walks when it’s warm. They jump in puddles and examine oak leaves. They collect rocks and gather acorns. They smell flowers and chase dogs.

A team.

They play at her house when it’s cold. He’s got a toothbrush with his name on it. He eats her pretzels, drinks her cocoa, washes her dishes. He vacuums her rug and feeds the bird, does puzzles on her carpeted floor.

He is gone for hours on end, and when we pick him up, he begs to go back. How can so much love be poured out in an afternoon of fun?

Though we may not understand it, Eliot does. Their love spreads across the neighborhood, from William’s front door to Anita’s terra cotta pots, and on to Margaret’s for more cocoa. They are inseparable, and it’s a reciprocated joy.

Suzan, retired from teaching, and Eliot, the most curious little toddler on the block.

A team.

When we talk about moving, we can’t look at each other. When we talk future, we talk about airplane rides and weekend visits and blown-up air mattresses.

Because, it seems that Suzan has adopted a 2-year old, and it seems that a 2-year old has adopted Suzan.

And that team can never really be split apart, not when telephone cords stretch so far.

For more posts from the Snapshots series, click here.

Snapshots & Fortune Cookies

“We must always have old memories and young hopes.”

I’ve written this quote by Arsene Houssaye down again, because the words still weigh heavy and pierce so deep.

After filing taxes, we went to eat at Hunan Manor– of course, to celebrate that in a month we will have some money.

This piece of paper slipped out of Trav’s fortune cookie, and he handed it straight to me:

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This, in 9 simple words, reflects my life right now.

These next 5 months will absolutely flash by,  and we’ll be gone, on to new hopes.

But, like a gardener, I want to dig my fingers deep into the soil of this life season, and see the fruit of my work spring forth.

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I’m going to write on some “snapshots” of our time here– places we’ve frequented, people we’ve adored, experiences that have transformed us.

Because I need to process, and in saying good-bye, I need closure with the place where I bore my babies and drank good coffee and ate mexican food.

It’s the place where we fell in love with neighbors as they fell for our kids, where our gardens didn’t always grow, but we still planted.

Because one day, this place will become old memories.

We will dig fingers into unknown and new soil soon, young hope in every pulse.

Old memories, young hopes.

Please join me as I reminisce; a scrapbook of the heart, a journaling of life sweetly lived.