Carriers of the Story

It has been four years since our last roll down the west coast and we were excited to reconnect with some of our kinfolk Oakland, California. We were meant to park our bus in the Bekaert’s driveway but found that the already tight squeeze was made impossible by surrounding parked cars. Nic had a “Plan B” for us to park with a friend down the street who owned an auto shop. We were super grateful for the hospitality but the initial let down of not being next door to our friends, on top of trying to get remember our city street smarts, left us a bit unhinged. All that to be said, after the first day, we found our bearings and started to engage with the colorful world around us.

We began our week by making scones and tea for our host, Tane and his wife, Keo as a thank you for allowing to park in their lot. Over the course of the next few days, we visited with them several times, sharing story and encouraging one another.

Tane, shared a bit about his hard road growing up in Oakland. He said his life was consumed with anger, with self and he had very little hope. Then, he had a moment where time stood still and everything came into focus. He was riding in his car and flipped on the radio to a station where he heard a sermon about God’s forgiveness through Yeshua. Forgiveness was not a word that was familiar or comfortable for him. However, in that moment, it all began to sink deep into his being and he knew he needed this forgiveness and he knew he needed to offer this forgiveness. And so he began to move towards this truth, one step at a time. He talked about how this forgiveness transformed his mind, strengthened his marriage and family and gave him a vision for the future. He was a top end mechanic, working at a dealership and had always wanted to start his own business. So, he and his wife began to pray and things started lining up. In May, they bought the mechanic shop on the corner of Foothills and 27th. They call it Community Auto Center, a name that symbolizes everything Tane and Keo are about; community.

We also had inspiring conversations with Keo. Born in Cambodia, fleeing as a child during the war, Keo shared the journey of faith that led her towards healing and reconciliation. A part of that journey was a trip back to Cambodia with a handful of other Cambodian women. The trip offered the ladies an opportunity to reconnect with culture, to heal past wounds, to encourage and be encouraged by their families and fellow Cambodians in the reconciliation process. This process requires deep lament and also a movement towards Thanksgiving. In his book, Out of the Depths, Anderson suggests that “laments are really expressions of praise, offered in a minor key in the confidence that Yhwh is faithful and in anticipation of a new lease on life.”

Though out the week we had non-stop visits from many of Tane and Keo’s friends and neighbors. We found that in many of their stories, as refugees, that they are still actively living out lament, stuck in a posture of deep sadness and for some, anger. Having been to Cambodia and experiencing the subtle transition from lament to thanksgiving amongst the locals that we met, we were able to participate in active listening, allowing the speaker to really confess the horrors, pain, and sense of betrayal they still feel bound by in their lives.

Yet, when they learned of our visit to their homeland, light-filled their eyes and they wanted to hear a new story. It was awesome to be able to encourage them by telling them stories of our friends, their fellow countrymen, who have walked through the same horrors of war and who continue to live in a hostile world but who have hope. We shared stories of those who, through the power of forgiveness have begun to mend relationships with those who once were their oppressors. We shared stories of those who live out this hope by loving God and loving their neighbors. Thought it all, some of them were inspired to begin to move towards healing, towards forgiveness, Thanksgiving, and hope.

We travel full time, all over the world, we sit with people and listen to their stories. If nothing else, we are finding that the further we go the more these stories interweave. There is a tie that binds us all in love and it is an honor to carry these stories for such a time as this. It is an honor to be welcomed in as the stranger and find such rich treasures waiting for us.

If you’d like to learn more about Cambodia’s recent history with genocide and war we highly recommend the Netflix movie, They Killed My Father.

During our visit to Cambodia, we spent much time with Craig Greenfield and the Alongsiders, learning and listening. We visited the Killing Fields and asked anyone who was willing to share their story.  We were struck by our new Cambodian friend’s tenderheartedness, sober-mindedness, and their joy. We were encouraged by their commitment to making their world a better place by serving one another, caring for the hungry, the wounded, the warring, and the dying. While there we learned a sacred song, one that resonated so deeply in our souls that we have carried it with us and share it with those longing for healing and restoration in our world. It is a song that was actually written by a Mennonite named Tom Wuest, who visited the Alongsiders prior to us and was so inspired that he wrote a whole album of sacred songs. This was one of them. It is called May Your Kingdom Come and it is a prayer based off of Yeshua’s prayer;

9 …Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matt 6.9-13)

You can download Tom’s song at https://tomwuest.bandcamp.com/track/may-your-kingdom-come

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Re-membering

Re-membering
 
Like a thief in the night, betrayal has come and it's all out war. 
 
Time stands still in the wake of denial, as the bombs hit the floor. 
 
Disheveled and dismembered, our sundered bones are flung here and there as a high pitched hum rings in our ears. 
 
All is an echo of what once was. 

Harmony is silenced, completely silenced, broken, paralyzed by the nuclear lie that your life matters more. 

But, you are me. We are we. And the betrayal affects us all. 
 
We, like the sea-pen roaming the ocean floor, polyp attached to polyp, each with a purpose, not one less, all attached to the core. 
 
Some say forgive and forget but we know that the forgotten prolongs captivity.

Remembering is the secret to this redemption we all long for. 

So come one, come all, bring your missing, dead, and broken pieces.

It is this 'Re-membering' that will heal our wounded souls. 
 
May we re-member so that our collective melody, harmony and deep bass lines can all be restored.

Betrayal is one of the most relationally debilitating experiences one can have. It evokes feelings of rage and engages that dark part of the soul that longs for revenge, power and control. When one is betrayed, they are wounded and without the proper antidote their wounds can fester into victim stance, whereby one believes he or she is always morally right, is not responsible or accountable for their actions, and is entitled to sympathy from others. Looking through an habitual lens of victim stance leads to perpetration, for a victim is consumed with regaining lost power and will eventually take it from others in some manner. Thus, the one betrayed becomes the betrayer.

So, what is the proper antidote?

In his book, Sin, Fr. Hugh Connolly talks about the idea of “re-membering” as a process which calls to mind the deepest convictions and possibilities of people, encourages them to heal forms of dis-memberment and to work toward a better, more integrated society. In order for re-membering to happen a sincere sense of humility is an essential for both betrayer and betrayed. That is, to see past what others do to us, we must be willing to “look in the mirror” so to speak.

For the betrayed, although it is counter intuitive, resting in this humility empowers the victim, as it keeps them from falling into the trap of becoming the betrayer.

For the betrayer, confession, admission and acknowledgements of responsibility and ultimately of personal depravity are necessary purgative, purifying and ultimately healing acts.

When both parties take these positions, a healing tone is set and the cycle of discord can be broken thus allowing for re-membering, reconciliation and restoration.

 

Cutting To The Heart

And, you thought being cursed by the spirit of death and hades was bad… Let me tell you, the heart is deceitful above all things and will lie like a dog. Oh! Those stinking self protective and self promoting old habits of the heart that start out subtle and then scream like the wind.

The author of Hebrews writes that ‘What Abba is after is writing His word on our hearts!’ 

This cutting into our heart. Oh man, it hurts and I’m having a hard time sitting still. However, for the love of Yeshua to be authentic in us, it has got to cut to the heart.

Recently my father, Jerry Price, sent me these words of encouragement to keep swimming upstream and a nugget of wisdom regarding spiritual warfare. May you be encouraged and challenged as well.

“God is in charge, I know. There is one thing to consider. The spiritual battle is not about flesh and blood but about principalities and spiritual wickedness & rulers in high places. It’s everywhere & comes in different formats.

*Physical violence where others would do us harm;

*Social marginalizing where others try to isolate us (and Jesus) as something irrelevant;

*Psychological games people play to confuse the believer and create an emotional sense of danger but is nothing more than intimidation to control our hearts & minds;

*A spiritualism that promotes idolatry to replace God and give a person a false sense of hope through prostituting our souls for personal satisfaction;

*An intellectualism that promotes an arrogance that communicates others are less than the one who prides themselves in their ability to debate;

*And a shaming from religious practitioners who would condemn believers for being hypocrites that don’t measure up to standards – in their view – that promotes a twisted sense of perfectionism, which doesn’t need God.

Take all of that and stir things up with Jesus and an upright life, you have spiritual warfare. Because, you see, the motives of the heart are exposed and people will harm us in any way to keep Jesus from being the light of the world.

ALL of the above comes from the darkness of depravity. Thus, the spiritual battles we face can actually be in the recesses of our own minds which is why David prayed for God to ‘search my heart and see if there be any wicked way in me.’

And, this I know, we won’t be able to escape the war if we’re alive in Christ and swimming upstream…. Any old dead fish can float downstream.”

I am finally getting to the end of myself. There is hope in the air and the fog is lifting.

 img_0582Abba, forgive me for allowing my heart to be over taken by weeds of bitter discontent and ego driven victim-stance; for a thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Give me your spirit of discernment to recognize when I am being deceived, thus trading away Your lifelong gift in order to satisfy my short-term appetite. Soften my heart as I reflect on your tender mercy. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light that shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. May the light of the world shine bright in my fragile soul. In Jesus name, Amen ‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭12:14-17‬, John 1:1-5)

Oh! That we would not rest until the heart is totally transformed!! May you be liberated today to investigate the depravity of your own heart. May you seek the great physician in healing areas that paralyze you in being the Kingdom come. And, may the amazing grace offered through Christ’s sacrifice transform you from the inside out.

 

Maybe This Is The Storm That We Won’t Make It Through

“Below the street,” is a term counselor, Jerry Price, uses in his teaching on “twisted thinking.” It represents going deeper, being more transparent, removing the mask. You have to go below the street if you want to find out what’s really going on, if you want real change.

Well, for the past two weeks I have had a bitter root taking hold of me. Fears about things that might happen to my children to harm their minds and faith. Fear of what our future holds, how we will sustain. Little thoughts of discord, here and there, about my husband. Anger brewing, to the point of tiny outbursts. Stupid little moments would arise where I would feel he was not protecting me or the kids and I would blow up at him. Things that were totally out of his control or things that I misunderstood.

For instance, a few days ago we stopped in at a local youth center. We got out of the car and my husband made his way a cross the street. I was still back at the car and shouted, asking if we could get a business card out of the trunk for the director. Looking back, I’m sure my tone was harsh, as I felt he was abandoning me by going ahead so quickly. He responded, with a slight shift of his head and plainly said, “no.” He then stated that the case was buried under all our luggage. I really didn’t hear his whole comment but everything in me went hard and I began to yell at him, scolding him for speaking to me that way, like I was a child. He was a bit taken back and begin to explain that he was just stating a fact but I read it so differently. We didn’t really take time to work it out then and there but rather kept walking into the building; greeting the director only moments after this outburst.

After our meeting with the youth director (which went fine, by the way. Amazing how we can put a mask on and just soldier on when we want to) we returned to the car and just carried on with life but deep down I knew something was going strangely wrong. Harmony was absent, but who’s fault was it?

I could feel a storm brewing, and remembered Jerry Price’s teaching in our  More Married sessions, where we learned about “storming” and how it’s a natural process in relationships. However, we learned that when we don’t enter into the storm we go back to a dysfunctional “norm,” and stunt our growth, keeping everything on the surface. However, if we engage the storm and allow it to clean house, so to speak, we come out in a new form; a form that allows deeper connection and harmony.

Investigative, I scoured through the gamut of reasons to why my heart was so hard. From dire straits “this is it, maybe this is the storm that we won’t make it through,” to the more rational, “this is definitely a storm, how do we make it through?”  I began to move from focusing on what my husband was doing wrong to what I was doing. I considered that maybe it was hormonal or maybe it was the change in my diet, maybe it was living out of a suitcase in a foreign country or the uncertainty of life and feeling out of control. What ever it was, self loathing crept in every time a little blow up would happen. I felt more and more insecure and I began to feel extremely isolated.

I’m practiced at “white knuckling” and was able to fend off some of the outbursts; keeping them at bay, specially when we were around others. And, I even choked out a few prayers. However, all I could get out was a whisper of “help me.” What in the world, I hadn’t felt this way in years. What was going on?!

 

Then the final straw broke. We were planning on going out to a local coffee shop to work on web stuff.  We had spent a comfortable morning, sharing breakfast and getting ready for the day. I was lingering and at a certain point in the morning, my husband announced that he was going to get in the car. That was it, just a simple announcement and I flipped out. His declaration seemed abrupt to me. I began to bark at him, “What? What about the computer… and the bag…and what about the kids…are the kids ready?” I panicked, trying to reel the words back in. He stood there looking at me like a deer in the head lights, asking what he was meant to do? He asked, what did I want him to do? No words came but rather I began scurrying around gathering the computer and bag, yelling at the kids and we all clumsily made our way to the car. Once inside the car, we all sat utterly stunned. My mind was racing, what is going on with me? Why am I so out of control? And, then I saw it plain as day, a manifestation of my past began to come forward.

My husband sat patiently, quietly, and then the vision became clear. Seems that when he announced that, “he’ll be in the car” it triggered a memory from my childhood and my dad saying this to my mom and then leaving the house. Then for the next 15 or 20 minutes my mom would hurriedly try to get all of us children out the door. I don’t really know what was going on between them but from my little person perspective, it seemed that my dad abandoned my mom to do all the heavy lifting. I made note of this at that young age and developed a belief system about men based on that belief.

I began to weep. I was paralyzed and didn’t know what to do next. Seriously, everything could have gone south at this point. He had every right to admonish me but he didn’t. Instead, he began to speak gentle words of truth over me. He declared harmony in our relationship and then he asked if he could pray for me and not is a sappy patronizing way, but in a genuine I care for you way. I wept even harder and said yes. What followed was an experience I can only describe as supernatural. His petition for Abba’s mercy, power, discernment and his declaration of Love began to envelop me to the point that the hard casing around my heart shattered. I felt immediate relief. I could see clearly now, all that had bound me up.

Look, working to get below the street was no easy task, as my ego was bruised and my natural tendency was to try to hold face. However,  the more his love covered me the more my pride was laid low. His was a true act of grace; the kind of grace that bleeds for another. The kind of grace that trusts the repentance process, that leads the recipient back towards Abba’s original intent for our lives. Not the cheap stuff, not the fabricated kind that says, “it’s OK, you’re just living your truth, you can be an ass and we’ll all get by” but the kind that says “this isn’t who you’re created to be and I will cover you in order that you might actually have a moment to reflect without the distraction of self-protection.”  It was in this moment that I could see my twisted thinking errors, my stubbornness, victim stance and manipulative thinking. I could see that my own ability to “fix” them was not enough. I began to pray silently along with my husband, weeping for forgiveness, thankful for this relief and new hope.

freedomLook, we don’t always get it right, but in this situation, my husbands humility and grace, is a beautiful example of how we are called to care for one another in the body. His faith carried me to the cross and in doing so, carried me into the presence of God. He fought for me, stepping out-of-the-way and allowed Abba to heal me. Had he allowed his pride to get in the way, we would probably be at ground zero, still storming. His willingness to fight for me and surrender his own pride set a wise tone that allowed me to surrender my own pride, see clearly and fight for us.

In the end, we stormed and can now get on to enjoying the new form. Everything is above the street. For now. 🙂

 

Carmen and Peter

One of our last weekends in Australia (April 14/15, 2012) we spent with a sweet group of people from Box Forest Wesleyan church in Hadfield, VIC. While there we met Carmen and Peter, two of the most joyful and precious kin you could meet. They were both in their early 60’s with a  noticeable spring in their step.  Honest folks with constant encouragement and thanksgiving flowing from their lips.  They we’re not pretentious or pious, rather they were humble and sincere. Peter, a shorter stocky bloke, shared with enthusiasm about his rockabilly days and guitar playing. He told the story of his “coming to Jesus” and how he now has a peace and joy in his life.

Carmen, who had listened to our message of reconciliation approached me the following day and gave me an envelope full of notes she had taken through her journey of reconciliation. There were some in her hand writing and others on printed papers. I leafed through them on the plane ride home and found myself admiring her simple faith. This precious woman had shared her deepest mantra’s with me. Her foundational values found in these writings are layman and sincere.

These were some of her statements on forgiveness: (I image them up on her fridge or hanging on her bathroom mirror as reminders)

~Are you refusing to forgive your child. Forgive them, or you will never be free to enjoy the relationship God wants you to have with them.

~Are you struggling with a parent who abandoned, betrayed or abused you? Forgive them and release them. Otherwise, you’ll spend all your emotional energy keeping them in the prison of your resentment.

~You’re tied to the past through the umbilical cord of unforgiveness. When you forgive you cut that cord. When you refuse to, you remain tied to a memory that can hurt you for the rest of your life.

~Learn how to receive forgiveness from God and also from those you have hurt. Then offer that same forgiveness to those who have hurt you. When you can do that, your heart will be tender, your spirit light, your mind free, your vision clear and your speech filled with kindness. What a way to live.

This last one is my favorite, for it is only when we look in the mirror and understand our own impact on others, our own pride, that we can really understand the grace offered through forgiveness. Laying down our fear, self-protection and pride equals freedom and real community. The taste of forgiveness is honey to the lips and water to the soul.

Reckless Words; The Struggle to be Real

The burden of the future has become to heavy for my weary soul. My fears and anxieties have bubbled over and the acidic residue has seeped out and burned those around me as well as myself.

My own words taunt me. “Reckless words pierce like a sword… You pride yourself with moral standards, teaching the world as their commander. Hypocrisy bleeds from within. Oh! for the state of sin.”

I want to walk my talk. I want to be authentic but my heart is exposed when conflict arises and fears heightened. My mouth exposes me and I am a hypocrite. I bow to the lowest common denominator and venom spews from my lips (or in the recent case, my keyboard) I could blame the send button, but I’m the one who pushes the send button.

I realize this is contrary to our current culture of “self love” but the honest truth is that when I am consumed with self and protecting self, my pride takes over and I become a double tongued snake. I become a reflection of the short sighted, ill-tempered, weak, ugly, jerk of an enemy. And, I hurt people I love and really anyone in the way.

“My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.” I John 3:18

The Light exposes the darkness, thank God. Although it is painful to look in the mirror and see this truth, the isolation and condemnation I have felt over the past week is more painful. I want out of shadows. No matter what uncertainty comes in this life, the idea of realizing that I’ve hurt another to feel more in control,  and doing nothing about it is no life at all. And so, I cry out for mercy. I cry out for forgiveness. Thankful for the provision of the ministry of reconciliation. Longing for reconnection with God, my fellow man and self.

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” Colossians 3:13