Thursday, November 27

letter to North Korea

Heavenly Lake, at the top of Chang Bai Mountain, on the border between North Korea and China.

North Korea, you are in my thoughts today. While I celebrate my second Thanksgiving feast of the week with plenty of food to spare, you hurt with children that are much shorter than your brothers in the South because you don't have enough food for your people. The scraps my relatives took home to their dogs would be a welcome meal for you.

North Korea, I knew nothing about you just 6 years ago, but I have come to love you without even setting feet on your soil. My eyes have seen you across the river; my hands have touched the leaves of your branches as a tourist on a bamboo raft; my heart has been broken in hearing your stories. I've wept at the injustice that is life within your borders. I pray for you and long to learn from your people, you diamonds that are being formed out of the pressure in the dark and hidden places.

North Korea, I don't know how life will lead me next. I don't know if I'll ever cross the river to experience the chill of your winter, the relief of your spring, the green of your summer, or make kimchi with your fall harvest of cabbage, but the lump in my throat and the tears welling up in my eyes tell me that my heart is with you. You are my sisters and my brothers, my aunts and my uncles, my grandparents, my teachers, my friends.

North Korea, you have my permission to reclaim the parts of my heart that I've closed off out of fear that my hopes may never be realized. I've tried controlling our future together, but I know that release is the best way to open the future up. My life has been shaped by knowing Koreans - your brothers and sisters - south, north, east, and west of your borders. The world has been taught to fear you or to pity you, but rarely to love you. I love you and am telling you tonight that whatever is in store for us, I can't forget you.

Inspired by this letter to Africa that I saw back in August.

Wednesday, November 26

Early Thanksgiving

My sister, her husband, and my nephew came to Austin as part of their whirlwind Texas Thanksgiving visit. Laura brought the Chinese outfit I bought for Wesley before he was born and we took a few (or a lot) of pictures.

This one is a favorite. He looks like he's learned some Tai Chi moves inspired by the Chinese outfit.

They took off this morning for more visits, but I'll see them again this weekend in Abilene and on the farm, so you might be seeing some more pictures! My grandmother said today after they left that she thinks Wesley is pretty much all things good. (That's not exactly what she said, but I can't remember the list of adjectives she used.)

Sunday, November 23

bothered but not alone

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?
-Ray Bradbury
I've kind of been trying to avoid being bothered lately. At least, I have put myself into positions where I go through daily routines and not much more. I guess I kinda feel like I deserve to live for a little while without being bothered, but then I look at pictures like the ones I looked at this morning of refugees from the Congo and I realize again that I need to be bothered. My worship this morning was different, like I've learned it can be when I'm remembering other people and not worshiping for my own sake.

Tonight, after an introspective walk just before dusk, I was feeling like one of the boats in this picture (taken in Qingdao, China) - beached, stacked up and not doing what it's meant for. I was writing about that in my journal, not even understanding my own feelings, when my friend in California called. I got to know this friend in China and we are on the same page in so many ways. Her call came at the exact time I needed it. We talked for an hour and 17 minutes, but it just seemed like a few. I couldn't ask for anything more than a nice long talk with a friend who understands what I can't even really put into words.

Have you heard the story that Jason Upton tells about Martin Luther King Jr. in connection with his song "Not Alone"? May those of you who are feeling bothered, confused, or stuck on the beach when you're meant to be on the sea, know that you're not alone.

Monday, November 17

Advent Conspiracy

I linked to this last year and thought as we're quickly approaching (or already in) the holiday season, it would be a good time to remind us about this again. This video does a good job.

Go to the Advent Conspiracy site for more inspiration!

Saturday, November 15

Stand Down

I haven't taken any pictures in a while, so I took a few at Stand Down today. It's an event to give haircuts, blankets, clothes, food, entertainment, etc. for the homeless and others who need it.

I didn't roam around too much. Mostly just watched this gospel group perform. They were fun.

I asked these two kids to ask their dad if I could take a picture of them. He gave me the okay and they were quite willing to pose a little for me! After I took a few pics, they asked me to give them a few pushes on the swings.

school stories

The part I love about substitute teaching is meeting new kids almost every day. If I'm working as an inclusion teacher, I also get to learn from the different teaching styles of teachers. I'm getting way more chances to learn from other teachers than I ever have before.

The younger the kids are, the more fun stories I take away from the day. A few weeks ago, I subbed in two different kindergarten classes for three days. There was one kid named Happy-Ethan. At first I thought that was some kind of mistake, but that was what he went by and that name, written with the hyphen, was what the teacher had written on his nametag. When I called him to stand up to help me with calendar time, one little girl in the circle said in a high voice, "Isn't he so cute?" And, of course, he was.

In the other kindergarten class, there was a kid named Jameer. I called him Jameel by mistake and he said, "You can't call me that! That's my Daddy's name!" In that same class, there was a girl named Breanna. I said her name too quickly when I was calling her out to come sit down and missed the last a. She said (with her hand on her hip), "Did you just call me Breahn? That's my twin BROTHER'S name!" I had no idea that it was so popular to name family members only one letter apart.

In that class, there was also a little girl who would take every chance she got when I was squatted down to her height to play with my hair. It felt so nice I didn't want to get up again, but I would soon have to deal with another situation somewhere in the classroom.

This week, I'm in the same second grade classroom all week long. It'll be nice not searching for jobs every day, but I'll miss the variety too.

Saturday, November 8

post-election thoughts

I read two blogs this morning dealing with post-election thoughts. One of the writers I know, the other I don't. I recommend reading both if you have a few minutes.

The first reminds us of the global perspective of our presidential election and how many people of the world feel like their prayers have been answered. I think that's an important perspective that we Americans are often quick to forget.

The second, which is a blog I came across through links from other blogs, addresses the fact that we were able to peacefully elect a black man 43 years after black people were killed even trying to vote.

Since my allegiance isn't first to my country, I didn't get too worked up about this election, but I happily soaked in the excitement and hope that was in the air on Tuesday night: white people at The Tavern who commented that the cameras focused on the black people in the audience, saying that they deserved it, it was their time. Honking in the streets. Collectively knowing that we were witnessing history. The next night at church, hearing the disappointment from many and fear from some. I'm still not sure how to reconcile the two of those, but I know that there is a lesson for us, especially us evangelicals, in it.

Saturday, November 1

inside looking out

In January, I posted these pictures on my blog that I took at Christmas. I didn't think about it at the time, but looking back, I realize they represented my feelings as someone on the outside looking in.

Now that daylight savings time is over and we're in the beginning of November, the holiday season is here again. Over the course of this year, I feel like I've stepped into the house of American culture again in many ways and am now on the inside looking out. It's not a good or a bad thing, just a different perspective. This time, the rooms are different and the foundation's not as sturdy, but in many ways I'm back to where I started from. I took the pictures above from this inside perspective.

I'm thinking about this quote again, that I first quoted back in June, by Richard Rohr:
We have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place there. We have to move out of business as usual and remain on the threshold where we are betwixt and between. There, the old world is left behind, but we're not sure of the new one yet. That's a good space. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible. It's the realm where God can best get at us because we are out of the way. In sacred space the old world is able to fall apart, and the new world is able to be revealed. If we don't find liminal space in our lives, we start idolizing normalcy.