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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The Slow Heal

IMG_1535As much as I love an instant, fire from heaven healing, there is something very special and tender about the process of "slow heal." It reminds me of those encouraging words in Isaiah where Abba Father says "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty..."
A few months ago I left my husband and kids behind and flew from Australia to the US to help care for my mom. She had been fighting Lymphoma and was in her 10th week of an alternative therapy. Things were looking good but then one day she feel down her stairs and broke her pelvis. Her pain was immense but worse than that, the fall had shifted something in her psyche, and what erupted was a waterfall of emotions. Even with all of the precious care administered by my dad and sister, by the time I arrived, she was in a state of black and white thinking and all hope seemed lost. I made note of the fatalistic thinking and observed that as long as life moved steady she was fine but at the first road block, deep frustration and anger emerged and what followed was a total shut down, which would then exasperate her physical healing.  As much as I wanted to find a solution for her physical pain I sensed that her emotional state was blocking the healing and had to be addressed first.
After an initial assessment, we quickly began to establish new ground rules regarding the tone, pace and energy input/output in the house. Helping my mom to see the fragility of her emotional state was the first step towards healing. We worked on identifying and removing stressors, including topics that triggered emotional melt downs. Things like politics, Facebook, TV, and any conversation that involved logistics had to be shelved. We learned new ways to communicate emotions through journalling and focused on prayer and meditation as immediate “go to’s” when feelings of being out of control consumed. The more my mom engaged this emotional healing process, the stronger she became physically. However, the stronger she became physically the more the rest of the house would relax back into old patterers of relating thus raising the energy level in the house. And so, for Dad, Mindy, Josiah and myself, we would have to move more tenderly, allowing space for mom to drift in and out of her different emotional states. For a time, we had to put aside our own need to feel validated or justified, to be heard or understood. We had to diligently and aggressively zero in on, and isolate the pain so that healing could truly come. Whenever we would break from that commitment a relapse would happen and we would have to refocus. Consistency was essential.

IMG_1528As we all worked towards finding and maintaining a spirit of peace, mom began to improve. She began to see clearly, taking captive her thoughts, releasing her expectations of a faster pace, journalling (although, still not natural) and allowing the Holy Spirit to nurture and heal her inner brokenness. Our focus became all about “The Slow Heal.” We could feel it coming, hope was in the air, but the discipline and dedication that it took on all of our parts to continue to stay the course was difficult at times. The pay off was worth it and as we crossed over the hump, mom really began to recover. I was able to leave knowing that the spiritual ground had been tilled, cleared and ready for planting. And, I departed confident that just as the passage in Isaiah encouraged that once the rain came, that much fruit would come to bear.

I am amazed at all of the ways that the Spirit brings healing and especially thankful that I got to be in the front row for this one. My mom is precious to me no doubt but what was most encouraging was to see that she is precious to the Father. I think it totally rocks that for now healing has come to her body but even more than that, to see that at age 70, God is still after my mothers heart. This was the most encouraging part of the whole process. To me, that is what the “Slow Heal” is all about, that beautiful, mystical process of spiritual refinement. For the reality is that these bodies of ours will eventually fade away but the ancient text promises that our spirits will continue to soar like wings of eagles.

Recently my mom wrote an update about her healing. Here it is…

“Yay!!! Good numbers today set for another 6 months and I’m cleared to spend the summer in WI with my darling grandkids. Watch out Door County, here I come.

It is so good to be able to give my own update. When I fell in Feb I suffered a compression fracture to my pelvis but in the first few days I came to understand my whole body including my brain was effected. This changed our approach to helping me heal.

You all have been such a big part of this process. Just knowing you were saying my name to God, stopping by, sending meals. flowers,cards and words of encouragement have been a lifeline. Thank you so much.

Jerry is my #1 hero….he stepped into the role of caregiver, taking care of my needs even when I could’t get out of bed. A real test of our wedding vows we make almost 50 yrs ago…wow that’s a long time ago.

Melinda Kay supported her dad cooking cleaning and assisting me as needed. Sweet Joziah Marquez has been there cheering on my little accomplishments and giving me hugs. Nate, Heather, all 6 of the Price and the Hollands encouraged me on face chat.

IMG_1511Then 6 weeks ago Jana Holland flew in from Australia and relieved the team. What a blessing. She brought her great cooking and nutritional knowledge plus the understanding of the value of energy input/output in all our relationships. She’s back in Australia but a part of her is still with us. Thank you Jana for taking time out of your schedule to come and thank you Craig Holland, Banjo Graciana Holland for sharing her with us. Love you all.

Most of all…thank you God for the ways you work in our lives because there is still much work to be done loving people as you love us.”

And, that last line just sums it all up… “There is still much work to be done.” That is an encouraging and hopeful thing to hear my mother say.

More Than Meets The Eye

We are not blind to the chaos and injustice that we see all around us. We write about the hope that we see, we write about the delight that we experience in this life, but we see the ugly. We see it in the nooks and crannies of the city streets, we see it in the media, we see it when we sit at a table with others and hear their stories of betrayal and disconnect. We see it clearly and it breaks our hearts. There are times that the burden is so heavy I want to scream out. I want to cry to the heavens, Lord have mercy!!

I see an Empire system that builds armies and weapons of mass destruction, waging war in the name of peace, and bringing justice seems to fall short, offering mercy to some and the hand of death to others. I see a system that continues to oppress the down trodden, making it impossible for some to walk freely in their own skin. I see a world that is unprincipled, dog-eat-dog, a world that doesn’t fight fair. It’s not just “them or those people” either as this Empire system seeps into the everyday life. Heads held high as a sibling smites one another or a husband and wife who build a marriage based on lies or discord. This Empire wages war in the depth of our very own hearts.

What if by buying into this system, suggesting this is just the natural order of things, we are being duped? I hate being duped! What if there is another option? What if we we’re created to live a different way? What if there really is such a thing as “Thy Kingdom Come?” And, what if it is available in the here and now?

Scripture says that Jesus prayed those words. He prayed “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And, by praying this, He teaches us that the two aren’t so far apart, he prays it and then we see through out his life that he does just that. He brings heaven to earth. We see him heal the lame, give sight to the blind, freeing those oppressed by the bondage of addiction, self-centeredness and/or evil spirits. And, then we see him fulfill his covenant to humanity by laying down his life so we might live this kingdom life as well. In the beginning was the word, and the word was God. Everything was created through him, nothing – not one thing came into being without him. It is what the new convent of his blood on the cross was all about, a focused center: One man dies for everyone. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life. A resurrection life, a Kingdom life, a far better life than people lived on their own.

Empire suggests that only a select few have this option, and that man will judge who comes and goes. But, Thy kingdom come, says that no one who trusts God, heart and soul, will ever regret it.

IMG_9391As we move towards a Kingdom mindset, we find freedom from the fear and pride that keeps us locked into making sure we are on top and not on the bottom; for to be on the bottom would surely mean death, and if not death then isolation and rejection. This freedom results in a confidence in God’s love and empowers us to pray and live out “Thy Kingdom Come” as we wait for the final frontier.  The ancient text says that Jesus will return and when he does he will rule the world with peace, a peace that passes all understanding, peace without the sword. The ancient text says that living water will flow from the city center bringing life to all, and the lion will lay with the lamb. It says that his rule will once and for all set the captives free.

I realize I’m probably part of a minority, but I’m holding on, not because I think I’m going to get something out of it, but because I’m convinced that the God of all gods is who he says he his and his purposes shall stand. I’m convinced that God’s grace is real and nothing can separate me from his love.

And, so although we live in this world, we do not wage war as the world does. Instead, we expose this empire, this Government of Condemnation, by smashing it’s warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulses into the structure of life shaped by Christ. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt system by “living out” thy kingdom come, loosing the bonds, healing the broken-hearted and setting the captives free, bringing peace and love, resurrection power and the ministry of reconciliation to all we meet.

Yes, these are hard times, but we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.

As the encouraging words from James, Jesus’ younger brother say, “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye.”

Mystery Of The Unknown

fear-title2You know that panic feeling you get sometimes when you feel out of control. You know, it comes in the middle of the night and you wake abruptly, believing that a giant spider is lowering itself down on your head! Yeah, me too.

I studied communications at UW Milwaukee back in the 90’s and one of the theories we studied was the Uncertainty Reduction Theory. It was developed in 1975 by Charles Berger and Richard Calabrese, is a communication theory from the post-positivist tradition. The basic gist is that people have a need to reduce uncertainty about others by gaining information about them. Using verbal communication, nonverbal expressiveness, information-seeking behavior, intimacy, reciprocity, similarity, and “liking” we gain information about another person or a society. What is learned allows for one to feel a sense of control, which may lead to feeling connected.

We all do it. Uncertainty is unpleasant and therefore motivational; people communicate to reduce it. We are comfortable in relationship or society when we can predict or explain it. The idea of entering the mystery of the unknown is just not our natural disposition.

As we get closer to ditching the bus, We have been weeding through irrational fears. Personally, I’m consumed with gathering information about some of the places we are going to, so as to feel more secure, safe and comfortable when we get there. The fact is however, that I might find a sense of security by researching and I might have a great track record assimilating into new experiences. I might have good intuition and be able to read situations but ultimately I have no control. And as soon as, I admit that fact, the fear I’m struggling with looses power and I find a peace that goes before me.

People ask, are you scared of running into unrest in some of the countries you’re going to? They ask, are you scared of being a target or someone trying to kidnap your children? Are you nervous about not being able to speak the languages and getting ripped off? Are you worried about not having modern amenities or getting sick? Then, they usually follow-up the question with a story they have heard about someone who had some traumatic  experience over seas and what to look out for in those places.

All of those questions are fear based and I’ll admit we’ve asked them too. We live in a culture that is driven by comfort and security. Yes, we want to be comfortable and secure but we have found that as we question our cultural construct and push past our natural instincts, that we are able to see something more to this life. No longer do comfort and security sit in the forefront of our existence but rather faith and adventure have risen to the top. Faith that God goes before us, weaving us together with humanity for the purpose of exchanging gifts and talents, so that those we meet along the way would see that reconciliation and restoration to both God and others, including their enemy is actually possible. And, adventure has allowed us to see the Glory of God in all it’s splendor, from the beauty of creation and the diversity of nature, to meeting people from all walks of life, learning and gleaning wisdom from them about God’s faithfulness in their culture and traditions.

We are willing to give up much of our comforts and security because we trust we are right where we are supposed to be, breathing in every moment. And, if for some unseen reason, tragedy were to come our way, our hope would be in the one who has brought us on this grand adventure of life. Of course, we will continue to work out this sense of uncertainty, as its human nature. However, we hold tightly to our unbreakable spiritual lifeline. We know that grounding is the only thing that will make any sense in times of trouble.

What’s that old hymn, My hope is built on nothing less…

I’m sure that will be ringing in our ears as we continue forward.

~We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.~ Hebrews Author Unknown, but probably is Priscilla. 🙂

Prudent or Foolish

IMG_2674Recently, Graciana’s wisdom teeth started to give her problems. We tried a number of home remedies but eventually the pain was too much and we needed to find a Dentist. Sourcing healthcare on the road has its challenges, but we have experienced amazing provision and miracles, so we knew that it would eventually all work out.

While in Fredericksburg VA, our host family referred us to their dentist and he was able to get it us the next day for an exam. While there he found that her teeth were growing in sideways and needed to be removed. He was kind enough to refer us to his friend and fellow colleague, an oral surgeon. We were a bit stressed about the diagnosis, and the cost of things to come, but we were thankful for the openness of both doctors in fitting us into their schedules right away. As we walked into the oral surgeons office for the prelim, we fully expected to walk out with excellent care but a mammoth bill. Instead we walked out with excellent care, opportunity to share faith and an appointment to have Graciana’s wisdom teeth removed in the morning. On the way out of the door the Doctor let us know that we need not worry about the cost of this procedure, that it would be a gift!

What?!

The coolest part of the story, was that the night prior we had a conversation with our host,  about how our faith has been and continues to be instrumental in our decision to live the way we do. Our host, a lawyer, really struggled with the idea of letting God have control of our lives on a practical level and the thought of living the way we do terrified him. He asked all sorts of questions about how we deal with the “catastrophic” or when things go wrong. We answered simply that God had proven faithful in taking care of our needs through miracles and through acts of kindness from others, and that we believed the same for this situation. Also, that when things have gone wrong, there was always an amazing story of healing or reconciliation, even during times that seemed to be the end of us. He said, he couldn’t discern if we were “prudent” or “foolish.” And, honestly, we wonder that sometimes too.

None the less, after the series of events that transpired at the Dentist office, we came home with a report of God’s faithfulness. We shared that even though we were distraught about the potential debt that God had gone before us and ‘practically’ cared for us. This really blew his mind, and quite frankly, ours too!  God had plans to care for us but more than that, to care for our host by revealing a character that is faithful and good.

We have a deep gratitude for all that God has given us. Living in pure grace, it’s important that we not misinterpret ourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to us. And this, is what we hope we leave our host with, that the only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

The Clock Maker

antique pocket watchAs the hands of time move freely around the face of the clock we find harmony in our day. But say there is a catch in the second hand, and it ceases to move the way it is meant. We may not notice at first, but when an appointment is missed because our clock has let us down, we would surely take it to the clock maker to repair the glitch; for the watch can not repair itself. So it is with the heart of man. We are created to function in love, justice and truth and when there is a glitch in those areas it takes an open mind to seek healing through community and creator.

Recently we rallied with another bus traveling family on a large plot of land adjacent to a nature preserve. The plan was to come alongside and neighbor with the traveling family of six and the property owners who had a family of four. We arrived Easter weekend, just in time for a Seder Celebration (Jewish Passover Fest) held in the barn on the property. Our hosts, welcomed us with bright smiles and open arms. Once we settled the bus we got our musical gear together and made our way over to the Seder, where we shared in community and song with about 50 kinfolk from the surrounding area. That evening we met a handful of the crowd and were excited about the week ahead.

In the morning we all gathered in the bus for coffee. Immediately, conversation and story ensued and over the next 48 hours, barely stopping to eat or sleep, we all shared testimony after testimony of God’s faithfulness in our lives. Even the children were invited into the conversation and we were all blessed by their willingness to share. At one point, we all made note of how the week felt like a mini-retreat and by day three, we were so filled up with goodness and satisfied in community that we were ready to enter into “task” with a mind full of grace. Our plan was to help with some much needed maintenance and building projects on the property, as well as, prepare for a wedding the next weekend.

As the tasks were being completed, many started to realize that there was a relational storm brewing. And yet, we continued on, waiting, praying and all sharing our hearts openly. It was near the end of the week that a meeting was initiated and we all gathered to discuss the “glitch in the second hand” so to speak. We had all tasted the beauty of that initial connectivity and although the tendency would be to move back towards the beginning by brushing over the conflict, our hearts were stirred for more. We all agreed that we were divinely put together for this moment and recognized that God was offering, through these relationships, liberation and restoration. And so, over the course of the next few hours we fought towards unity as we hashed out interpersonal communication issues, ever aware of the masters presence through it all.

Honestly, we have all traveled this road and there are times it does not end with liberation or restoration. Some times it ends with pride and closed thinking. But, this moment was different, this was difficult and unnerving at times but in the end, this was life giving. In this situation, we all chose to move through the storm, with confidence that God was going to put us back together. What we found, as the glitch was being repaired, was not just function, but hope. That hope ushered us into a weekend of wedding celebration, which as we look back, was quite symbolic of the joyful “times” to come.

“The end of the matter is better than the beginning and patience is better than pride.”

“Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!”

As we continue on, we give humble thanks for the ways we are woven together with kinfolk, and the willingness of others to to allow us to be used in a way that encourages and liberates.