The Welcome

IMG_1632Lunch was scrubbed off of the dining room table, and the long, shouty process of putting the toddlers down for their naps was in full swing.  I popped the banana-chocolate chip muffins into the oven and vacuumed the floors and rugs, tucking toys and spoons and socks and whatnots into my apron pocket while I worked.  Our rooms slowly relaxed into peaceable order and beauty (I cannot abide a tight and fussy beauty, but a gentle one I adore).  I did not present a perfection, but removed distracting static.  At its best, this preparation is a gift of love, at its worst a wild vanity parade.  Today was on the better side, so I had a calm heart.

I was to see two dear souls at three.  At two thirty the babies had all succumbed to sleep and I brewed some rich coffee and heaped the still-warm muffins in a wooden bowl, and arranged delicate sand tarts on a pewter dish.  Tea and coffee accruements were brought to the low, cozy coffee table in anticipation of warm conversations and refreshments, feet tucked under us on the plush sofas, hands wrapped around steaming mugs.  The hour ticked past three and I thought to check my messages; see if anything went awry.

I’d missed one from my friend; sadly they couldn’t come as transportation had fallen through.  I looked at the celebratory and cozy spread and mourned the loss of all the delightful catching-up and companionship it had anticipated facilitating.  What a grief to not see these dear friends!

Gladly, it has been my habit to “accept all things as from God’s hands”, so I promptly decided to keep the feast and give it as a gift to my children; to welcome them home from school as warmly as I’d hoped to welcome my friends.  Shamefully, their welcome is usually a quick hug and then a chore list and a harangue about the places they’ve decided to dump their backpacks and shoes and lunch boxes.  I rarely quiet myself enough at that hour of the day to truly be present to them, dinner preparation being in full swing.

They sat down around the coffee table in frank amazement at the deliciousness laid out for them.  Tea or coffee?  Their days’ events came out easily, without me fishing; one son smiled wide and declared that I was “the best mom”.  He truly felt welcomed, warmed, treasured.  I felt sad that this sort of thing was such a rarity; though, I give myself grace; my fly-about madly-cooking days are also works of love, just differently felt, differently received.  This was special.

I was reminded how essential it is to care for our loved ones not only in industriously tending to their physical needs, but sensitively to their emotional ones too.  To welcome not only guests, but the ones who live under this very roof.

 

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On Faith, Life, and Refugees

A guest post by Andrea Bailey

We are not listening to each other. I hear conservatives accusing liberals and other conservatives that they have bought into liberal biased media hype. I hear liberals accusing conservatives of being hateful and intolerant, all the while not listening themselves. I hear those genuinely concerned for truth asking questions and being overwhelmed, not sure who they should trust. I hear so many proclaiming boldly which media sources can be trusted and which ones cannot, authoritatively dismissing legitimate questions and reasonable discourse. I hear fear and pride.

If only it were so simple. If only we could know with certainty which sources to trust. If only that source could outline all the answers. If only we could trust that facts and news could come to us without bias or could be completely neutral.

Speaking to those who seek to follow Christ, at this intersection of faith and life, there are no simple, axiomatic solutions. We must seek wisdom. The application of truth requires wisdom and is never simple; rather, its progress is often slow and it requires discernment, effort and humility to learn.

For those who claim the name Christian, how do you know truth? Where do you turn for truth and the wisdom to live it out? How does that truth teach you to stand in these matters? Is truth ever just rational or logical belief? Is it not also experiencing God in the details of our physical lives, authenticating and revealing more fully that which we also know and confess?

It seems possible that in these matters of loving others, we have erred too much on the side of reason. We have not experienced truth in that way which helps us to fully know it, through our physical, everyday experiences, entering into the physical, everyday lives of those we are called to serve.

Where do we think we can experience the grace and mercy of God more than in entering into the struggles of those whom He has taught us to love? But have we entered in?

Christ spent his time with the poor, the marginalized, the broken, the suffering, the sick—these are the ones he most often gave the gift of His physical presence. Loving others carries a cost but did Christ not show us how to love when He came to show His love for us?

God’s love for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sojourner is undeniable throughout Scripture and His commands for us to care for them cannot be dismissed. And so it is needful to consider how we were taught to love.

Are we only supposed to love and welcome others when it is safe for us, or doesn’t cost us too much, even though the ones seeking our help are suffering or dying? When God calls us to love the sojourner, did He say only if they believe in Me and it will not threaten your safety?

I recognize that this type of thinking has the potential to conflict with national security, but does it have to? Can we rally for stronger security measures while still advocating for our government to give us the ability to welcome those who are suffering, in accordance with the teachings of our faith? Does our faith allow us to ignore the sufferings of others in the name of national security?

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Of those who are no longer allowed to come safely to our shores, is it possible that they might also have learned and believed the Good News—that God loves them and welcomes them to believe and be healed? Is it possible that they would have believed, especially in a land where they are shown welcome and are given the freedom to believe? But for now they cannot come. For now they cannot hear. For now, is it not more likely that they will think of America, that Christian nation (as it is believed to be), as a nation who worships a God that does not care that they are suffering?

To love is to sacrifice.

As Christians, can you claim to value and cherish life and then stay silent while it is denied to those who are in danger of losing theirs? Have you supported and sacrificed when those seeking to care for the ones who have already lost so much in this life, need help?

Let’s bring it closer to home—when you see a young single woman, trying to care for her child on her own, have you helped? Or have you referred her to government programs and then supported policies that make her life more difficult?

When you see adoptive or foster families struggling, sacrificially loving children who have lost or have suffered, have you entered in? Have you given of your own time? Has it cost you anything to help care for those lives which you said you were for? Has it changed the way you live?

If we have not entered into the lives of those whom Christ taught us to love, sacrificially giving of ourselves, is it possible that our unaffected lives mock their suffering? It is possible that our unaffected lives are the very thing which cause them to doubt God’s love for them?

And so today, to all who claim the name Christian, I invite you to enter into the lives of those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we more fully experience that which we know. Only in entering in can we more faithfully demonstrate the love of God for those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we see the power of love in the face of fear because only in entering in can we know more fully that perfect Love which drives out all fear.

 

Andrea Bailey directs a faith-based ESL program serving refugees and immigrants in her local community.

Make Room

There were red lentils spilled across my floor and the perpetrator was in tears.  I had ripped a bag of wheat berries and those too littered the tile.  Babies crying and I really just needed to get the coffee going; I craved that warm fragrance in the air and the promise of a moment sitting down and sipping.  Two emotionally-charged family issues were taking turns churning in my heart.  Both babies wailing at once and the phone  rings.  My friend whose daughter would be taking sewing lessons from me on the line asking if I’d like to re-schedule as they hadn’t procured fabric.  “YES” shouted my rather frazzled heart, but my mouth formed other words of “No, come, we’ll figure it out”.

I swept up lentils, tended to my fussy babies, and prayed; it’s the simplest prayer and all-encompassing:  Lord, have mercy.  It doesn’t mean only “Lord, forgive me”, it means, “Lord, HELP!”, “Lord, let Your good intentions in this moment of suffering bear fruit!”, “Lord, protect me from sin and error”.  I love this useful prayer which has helped millennia of Christians.  Because sometimes I’d just rather run away from my day and hide in a closet.  With chocolate.

She sewed along a marker line I’d drawn on the fabric and gleefully examined the small stitches.  “I did it straight!”, she exclaimed, and I smiled.  She quickly learned to work the machine and soon had finished both a doll blanket and a small pillow.  We shared a plate of cheese, crackers, and apples together with my friend and her other two children and there it was; that sweetness, that undefinable feeling of Christ’s Presence among us.  I had been able to pass on a simple skill to an eager learner, mess and all.  We figured it out, God giving timely grace.

I was glad that I had not heeded the fear that had lurked in my heart this morning, when everything was going wrong at once, the fear that said, “Look, you can’t even manage this day and these children well; you certainly have nothing to offer to another”.  My foe doesn’t attempt grandiose temptations much anymore, but sly, practical ones.  “Because of this hardship, you really shouldn’t expect of yourself to help with _____”.  So it goes.  I am learning to hear that cajoling, wheedling, whining, nag for the enemy that it is.  I cross myself, I pray “Lord have mercy”, and place my thoughts elsewhere.  As I’ve heard it said, you can’t control whether a bird lands on your head, but you can control if it builds a nest there.

Over on Facebook and in the news there’s been quite a bit of ugliness about the refugee situation following the attacks in Paris.  I have been appalled by what some fellow Christians have said.  Behind a lot of the blistering words is fear.  Fear that some bad guys will get in; that they’ll hurt us.  That we won’t have enough aid to help the hurting, wounded, and needy among our own citizenry, much less refugees.  Sure…if we waited for the government to do all the work, we’d be in a bind.  But…we’re the church, we are the hands and feet of Christ; how can anyone stop us from giving?  It’s devastatingly simple:  give sacrificially, make room in your hearts and lives for others’ needs.  A complex problem can have quite simple solutions, if we decide that helping one person at a time might actually change things, instead of whining about the problem from our sofas in tandem with the talking heads, casting blame and pointing fingers and really doing nothing to help.

And what if they do hurt us?

We remember that Christ washed Judas’s feet knowing that he would be betrayed unto death by him.  We remember God’s mercy on Saul, the murderer and persecutor of Christians, how God made him into Paul, a man who would go on to give his life in martyrdom.  We remember our own sins, our own failings, and we cast a more merciful gaze outward.

We need to make room; our brothers and sisters are coming.

Come, we’ll figure it out.daily2