Surrender14: Walk Alongside

The opportunity to sit at the feet of a stranger is a gift. It takes an exercise of willingness, a movement of the mind and a softening of the heart for both the listener and the giver. When these moments happen there is an intense infusion of unity into the body and both walk away knowing that God is the one who weaves this body together.

As a family, we seek out these opportunities to be both the listener and the giver. And, thanks to a friend, David Neville Cook’s (Anglican Oversea’s Aid) referral we were gifted with a chance to be stretched further than we ever have been. We reached out to him asking if he might know of any kinfolk we could connect with while we were in Australia, specifically we wanted to learn from and about the Aboriginal people. He put us on to the ¬†Surrender Conference, a gathering of all sorts of folks doing amazing things in their communities, from hospitality to refugees, to creating sustainable/recycled goods, living side by side with folks in some of the poorest parts of the world to intentional communities. We wrote the directors and asked if we could be involved in any way and they said yes! The theme was “Walk Alongside” which suited us, being that that is really what we do as we travel, connecting with communities, to learn from them and walk alongside, sharing in whatever way they desire.

Photo credit to UrbanSeed.org
Photo credit to UrbanSeed.org

The day began with an Aboriginal welcoming ceremony in the courtyard. The Elder from the Wurundjeri people¬†welcomed us to his country and there was a traditional blessing, dance and then the floor opened for others to say a thank you to the elder. Many other Aboriginal people from all over Australia stood to say thank you for welcoming them onto his peoples land. Then others followed including a Cornish man, who gave a blessing. A group of New Zealand¬†MńĀori’s shared¬†their Haka dance, there were folks from Africa that offered a word,¬†Matt LaBlanc Director of IEmergance,¬†representing his Canadian indigenous people and gave a traditional thank you, and there were many more. ¬†To experience the depth of culture during this ceremony was an honor and the perfect way to start our weekend journey learning and listening.

We played plenty of music but the goal was to be present and allow the Spirit to work in our hearts and minds.

14 yrs ago Craig and I merged our cultural backgrounds, foods, music and customs, ideals and beliefs. Craig’s music collection is enormous, eclectic and one of the things that attracted me to him. He introduced me to the music from his land. Bands like the Dirty Three, Nick Cave, and some of the beautiful indigenous music from Australia. I fell in love with one particular band from Victoria called Tiddas,¬†which is Koori¬†for the word sisters. Their music was filled with emotion, tender harmonies and intense lyrics that told the story of their people. One of my favorite songs that they sing was a traditional called Inanay. I learned the song and began to sing it to our daughter at a very early age. I introduced the song to my mother and the three of us would showcase the song in three part harmony at family gatherings and performances. The song had become an interracial part of our journey as mother’s and daughters. And so, as I was sitting across the table from Tracie and Denise, two aboriginal women, I asked them about the song. Wondering if they knew the history or origin? They knew it and were pleased that I did too. It is a song sung by mothers to their children but they were unsure of the origin or language as there were over 250 seperate Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia.

Wycliffe AustrailaThrough the course of the weekend, we listened to different folks share about all different sides of “coming alongside.” We heard advocates from Wycliffe share about the 35 year journey of translating the first ever indigenous scriptures in Australia, which mean¬†30,000 Kriol-speaking indigenous Australians (and countless generations to come) now have the ‚ÄėHoli Baibul‚Äô in their own heart language.

I went to a session on how good intentions are not always in the interest of those we are trying to care for. I¬†heard a woman named Hannah share her story of growing up bi-racial, her mother was Irish and her father¬†MńĀori. She shared about¬†difficulties that it brought but also the joy of being able to move cross culturally with understanding and grace.¬†We learned from many Aboriginal people how folks have failed in the past at “coming alongside” of them and were gracious in sharing traditions and customs to better help their “Whitefella” counterparts to have a better impact.¬†Personally, it was difficult to listen at times, as pride would well up or my own victim stance would try to cloud my ears. Insecurities would seep in when I would have conversation and at times I felt like a fumbling little child. However, I pressed on, releasing my need to be in control and literally made room for the new information in my brain.

Surrender 2014Meanwhile, Craig was also connecting, sharing story, listening to and meeting new friends. The kids were also taking it all in, each in their own way. Our daughter, is more of an observer but found herself in a position where her heart was moved and experienced a very personal moment with God. Our son, is more hands on and always looking for mates to hang with. He brought out his drum during the first late night session and was invited to jam with a mob from the Gold Coast. (Mob is a traditional word for clan or tribe) It was a joy to see them include him like a brother all weekend. They included us too.

As we were jamming, I became aware that they were rehearsing for Indigenous night, where all of the clans would share their music. And, as it turned out they invited us to share the traditional song I mentioned earlier. What an honor to be included in their special night, to be able to feel like we were part of their mob.

At the end of the day, us Hollands really do believe we are one body. And, when we can begin to look deeper into the tie that binds us all together we see a richness of culture, creed and custom. We see the blood of Christ. We see reconciliation as a miracle and not something we can white knuckle. We see the body as God sees the body and that is worth more than our pride or opinions about politics and borders and who’s who, and what’s what. It’s a beautiful thing to experience a little bit of heaven on earth. It’s a precious thing to be apart of this great big tapestry of humanity.

PS. We captured a little video of us singing Inanay and will post it soon.

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‚Ķ and the bag‚Ķand 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. ūüôā

 

ECM and Casa Shalom

IMG_8380In the center of the East Central neighborhoods of La Mesa and Trumbull there is a light that shine brightly. This¬†highly transient, low-income neighborhood is vulnerable to devious activity but with a deep commitment to the ministry of reconciliation and a persevering spirit, East Central Ministries offers an alternate reality to one of Albuquerque’s most violent and poverty-stricken areas.

ECM was developed in the spring of 1999 by John Bulten as a inter-denominational missions ministry in Albuquerque.¬† John spent the first two years walking the streets, talking to our neighbors and the relationships that he built during that time continues to be the foundation of the ministry today. In the summer of 2001, ECM moved into a boarded up building that was being used as a drug house. They renovated the property and opened with two community programs, ‚ÄúWings of Eagles‚ÄĚ youth leadership program and the Community Food Co-op.

Over the past years ECM has evolved in several directions and has become a vital part of the community. However, ECM primary focuses continues to be to¬†build long-term lasting relationships with their neighbors. This is a unique approach in a ‚Äúsocial service‚ÄĚ organization because they actually encourage people to participate in their programs/community on a regular, long-term basis.¬† They are committed to long-term development and economic projects within the community as well as providing community led classes and initiatives.

We met John when we arrived for our tour. His welcoming presence and enthusiasm for his work and neighborhood was apparent. We met Morgan who runs the Urban Farm, Becky and Katina who facilitates the community youth programs, Louise, Shirley and many others who live at the Housing cooperative, Casa Shalom. We also met Bob who manages Common Goods Thrift Store and the staff at the Community run health care clinic, One Hope, which is the primer work site for medical students at the University of New Mexico.

There was a lot going on at ECU! We observed vibrant life and a people with a commitment to continue to work out relationship struggles. That openness to seeing cracks, discord and seeking reconciliation was most encouraging to us. It’s one thing to care for the community around you, to have great programs but we believe to be a people willing to nurture and seek reconciliation in the most intimate relationships brings true life to the community around us. We know that commitment is what will sustain them through the years. We are blessed to have met these “Tillers” and look forward to more times of community with our new Albuquerque friends. We also encourage you to connect with them along your way. Visit¬†http://www.eastcentralministries.org for more info. Give them a call, they are your global/local neighbor.

Engaging Poverty

There is a bit of a culture shock that happens when we get into a big city. Mostly because of the poverty that is overtly apparent. We see it in smaller towns but it’s much more hidden. It stirs such a deep emotion in me, deep to the core. A feeling of helplessness and contempt. The system is broken. I am broken.

I recall back to our time in Minneapolis in Sept. We decided to offer a week of service at the CCDA conference on Reconciliation. We had no work that week and were broke so we decided to busk (play music on the street corner with our case open for tips) We have never really busked as a family, so it was a bit of an uncomfortable experience, however we all buckled down to make some money for dinner. We picked the spot right in front of the Target because it was shaded and had a few spots for folks to sit. We started playing and crowd seemed to really get into it. A few coins started to trickle in but after about ten minutes we realized that we had set up our profiteering efforts smack dab in the middle of the homeless. We felt sort of ridiculous knowing our intention wasn’t necessarily to help anyone but ourselves. ¬†However, we decided not to move because we were exhausted from the uncertainty of it all and though we’d just finish up with thirty more minutes of songs. Then a middle-aged black man approached me, he smelled of alcohol and was wearing a leather jacket. He handed me a piece of paper, on it a poem about salvation through Christ. He said he wrote it. I asked him to read it. He did in sort of rap style. I knew, as he was reading it, that he wanted something in return. I waited and sure enough about ten minutes later he came and asked me for the money in our case. I hesitated but then bent down to grab out a few of the dollars. He smiled and walked away. A few minutes later he waltzed across the street holding up a pack of cigarettes, waving them in the air and smiling at me. Such an awkward interaction. ¬†Connection failed.

Recently in Denver, I was shopping for groceries. I had our last $20, but we’re always at our last $20 (it’s like manna, just enough for each day) none the less, it was all I had and I wanted to use it to get ingredients to make a Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake for Craig’s birthday. I was at the back of the store and a woman in her late 50’s about 5’7, long dark brown hair in a low pony tail, maybe Native American or Hispanic, jeans shirt and pants approached me and asked if I had $2.00. It was a flash of a moment and I instinctively responded, “no.” She turned and briskly walked away. I immediately felt like a jerk, I totally just lied to her. I turned to follow after her but she was gone. Connection failed.

I’m still processing these moments, but the hypocrisy is apparent. I’ve grown up with an understanding that caring the poor is of the upmost importance and I have a heart to serve. However, the challenge comes when I am just going about my daily business and a ‘pop up’ moment, like the examples above happen. I hope that next time I would engage more and really understand the questions. Both experiences were brief and I wonder if I had taken the time to really communicate with these people if we both would have been able to see clearer, to see the tie that binds us together. So, until next time, I wait… understanding my own depravity, thankful for the grace given me and hoping that in times where I’m engaged by poverty it opens more opportunities for connection success.

Revival

revival¬†|riňąvńęv…ôl| noun, an improvement in the condition or strength of something:¬†a revival in the fortunes of the party¬†|¬†an economic revival.‚Äʬ†an instance of something becoming¬†popular, active, or important again ‚Äʬ†a new production of an old play or similar work.‚Äʬ†a reawakening of religious fervor, esp. by means of a series of evangelistic meetings:¬†the revivals of the nineteenth century¬†|¬†a wave of religious revival.‚Äʬ†a restoration to bodily or mental vigor, to¬†life¬†or consciousness, or to sporting success.

The ecumenical community in Sedan, Kansas, a town of about 1500, called and asked us to come and offer “revival” to their community. Both raised as “PK’s” (Pastors kids), insecurities and unknown expectations of what a revival even meant ran through our minds.¬†All sorts of preconceived notions and past experiences flashed before us and our first reaction was to say no thanks. The challenge; to give it a go or try to control our situation, keeping ourselves in a box, safe and pride in tact.

When we launched on this journey one of our major ideals was and is to be open and available. Obviously, being mobile, we’re much more available and so that doesn’t tend to be a hinderance but openness, that’s more of a daily surrender. It’s easy to just do what we do best and stick to the straight and narrow but we long for more, we long to experience living and breathing life. We long to be stretched beyond our limits, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We have breathed in the fresh and pure air out here on the open road, we have and continue to experience deep reconciliation in our most intimate relationships, we have and continue to see our children flourish and conquer things that we and they never imagined they could, we’ve participated in helps, serving and life with a multitude of communities and have tasted the fruit of those connections. When it comes down to it, we have and continue to experience revival! And so after further conversation, we said yes!

Father Marcus Cunningham of Epiphany Episcopal Church was our host, referred by friends, Bill and Teresa Sergott in Wisconsin (we love referrals!). Marcus, his wife Anne-Marie and his family welcomed us with open arms and show tunes. Yes, we settled in and found a kitchen full of youth dancing and singing show tunes while making dinner. Our children were immediately taken into the fold and they were at home. The Cunningham’s welcome set a great tone and we felt as if we were visiting family or old friends. We shared a similar sense of humer and stories of our history, all of which brought us to the moment we were experiencing with one another.

There was much work to be done, however. And so we hunkered down in our bus and took a crash course in theology 101.

We began to orchestrate three nights of what we hoped would be a breath of fresh air for these kind folks, focusing on faithfulness, community, reconciliation and ultimately on the “Tie that binds” us all together. We wove together songs of old, like How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace and introduced Hollands songs, as well as, The Exchange and No Other, songs by friends, Glenn Kaiser and Mike Troxel. We testified through our personal journey and shared insights from the living word. We offered opportunities for folks to get creative and explore through practical exercises that emphasised community and trust. The photo above was taken during an exercise where each person was given a block of fabric and each row a needle and thread. Participants were asked to sew their swatch to the next persons and so on. The end result was a tapestry of all the participants pieces. The idea was to show how important the “thread” was and how our role as the piece is to be willing to be connected. Finally, we listened. We learned about the town’s history and the different journey’s of local kinfolk, we heard their pain and their joy. We soaked in the stories and offered prayer and counsel.

Every evening before our session we would dine with a different pastoral leader from the town. We meet with the leaders of the First Christian Church, the Assemblies of God, the Baptist and the Episcopal churches. We broke bread and we found common ground with them all. It was encouraging to witness their commitment to one another and willingness to lay down their personal agenda’s and position for the greater communities sake. Really, it is something to make note their willingness to come together and trust us, just a family of folkies making our way, best we can.

Later that week we performed our Australian Folklore workshop at the local elementary school to K-6 graders. We shared in meals with the Cunningham family, helped with a gardening project, went to a high school football game and enjoyed the 25th Anniversary production of Les Miserables.

We are thankful for this opportunity to study, to share and to be an encouragement. We are thankful for a community that was willing to use us to the fullest. In the end, whether it’s an organized or individual effort to offer revival, we have concluded that it is a good thing. We are excited to have found this new muscle and will continue to offer that breath of fresh air where ever the need might be. Open and available.

 

Hidden Community

At our deepest core we are all connected and getting to that base line and trusting it’s really there is one of the keys to understanding reconciliation.

How many of us have longed for community, had group discussions about how and why community is important, read books about community building and built empires on the ideal of community?

We enter into these ideals but because we live in a society that has mass produced, fabricated community, we find our desires wanting. We find communities plagued with secrets, betrayal, unkept promises, clich√©s, failure, and rejection. So, we continue on, maybe wounded and bitter, and prescribe a new set of books, discussions and ideals about what “community really looks like.” The cycle continues until we are potentially left with a deep¬†skepticism and ultimately isolated.

An underlying story I often hear when I meet kinfolk and why they have moved into an individualistic approach to life, involves failed connections with friends and/or spiritual family during difficult times. Stories of an upbringing in a community that was rigid and controlling or maybe feelings of abandonment from a taunting God that was distant and harsh. I’ve even experienced this failure myself and in the times of deepest dispar have often felt alone.

However, I have had the privilege of experiencing a grace-filled and faithful God who not only is patient and kind but actually already has this community built. Once I recognized that there was a baseline of connectivity that we all share, all created things, ancient passages about knitting together of the body and when one falls we all fall, when one is honored we are all honored and love your neighbor and most importantly love your enemy all started to  make sense.

And so, I restate, at our deepest core we are all connected and getting to that base line and trusting it’s really there is one of the keys to understanding reconciliation.

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.