The Blog

Thoughts, Stories and Adventures from Transformation City Church.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Deeper than Words

There are many things I bemoan in this life, in our U.S. culture.
The divisiveness.  The unrelenting messages we’re fed that we don’t have enough, don’t make enough, and just plain aren’t enough.  The fact that our children are growing up faster and faster, forgetting how to play younger and younger, captivated by screens, tainted by over-sexualization, ingrained with violence.
I mostly lament these things. I pray over them.  I  take whatever small steps I can in my own life and in my family to stand against them.
But every now and again I catch a glimpse that rescue is coming.
That redemption is, indeed, always at work beneath the surface of the day to day.
Last week, that glimpse was in a Zumba class, of all places.
Ben and I work with a wide variety of kids.  All kinds of backgrounds and passions, talents and abilities, heartaches and shame.
But when the music started, none of these differences mattered.
The pretenses, pride, shame and fear were all left in a collective heap by the door.
All as one, feet shuffled, hands clapped, bodies moved.
One, two, three and four. Five, six, sev-en, eight.
We relish the moments when the proving and fighting ceases, when the kids get to step out of the grown-up boxes they’ve been shoved into, or stepped into willingly.
It’s amazing to watch a young person become a child, even if for a moment.
We all got to believe, even if only for an afternoon, that we are free.  That we are in this together.  That we are loved and accepted and okay, even if we miss a step or clap off beat.  Because there is something bigger we are all engaged in.
A divine dance that weaves and works its way in and out and up and down.  Shuffling and slow at times; pumping fists and shouting loud others, but always, rhythmically moving us further along this road of redemption.
And sometimes, maybe, I see that more clearly in a Zumba class with 30 kids than I do in the text of my Bible.
Sometimes there are things that reach beyond words, that are too weighty to be contained on a page.
Sometimes you need the words to put on skin and bones and be set to a different tune to be able to finally see what was staring you in the face all along.
“The creative life invites us to envision and discern what God is trying to accomplish in the world.  It employs the intellect but also takes us beyond it, down into the deeper levels, to the realms of intuition and imagination.  The creative process, in its many forms, involves bringing back the treasures of those realms and offering them to the world.”
(Jan Richardson)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Did You Forget?

He’s exactly what you would expect of a 6th grade boy.
High energy, an alternately charming and maddening blend of extreme silliness and budding sarcasm, an affinity for jokes involving rude body noises and a distaste for homework.
He can be tough, he puts effort in to his “devil may care” demeanor.  
Tried to cover up his tears when the class watched a documentary on poetry.
He’s an older brother, people look up to him – and he knows it.  He tries to be cool and put together, in his own 6th grade way.
“Did you forget about me?”
He asks with an edge of sarcasm on his voice, but I hear the truth underneath.
We keep a running list of students we work with in our after school and Sunday morning programs who would like to be mentored by an adult in our church.  
This boy has been on the list for over a year now.
“Did you forget about me? Kevin told me he would find me a mentor a year ago!”
My heart broke a little.
The excuses are easy when they’re just between you and your calendar, exchanged through phone calls and emails.  
“I’m way too busy right now.”
“I just don’t have the time.”
“I don’t really ‘do’ kids.”
“I’m just not interested.”
But now I am staring this boy in the face with nothing but excuses in my hands.
“I’m sorry, but the people who could be your mentor are just too busy, they don’t like kids and they’re not interested in you.”
It won’t work.
So instead I try to explain the process.  I make excuses for my peers who have all survived middle school, figured out the secret to long division and are no longer (as) mystified by the opposite sex.  My peers who have so much to offer this boy, even as they make excuses with plates that are too full and hands that are too empty. 
“Well, you see, there are lots of kids who want mentors and not always enough adults who are able to mentor.”
The words sound hollow even as they roll off of my tongue. 
He smiles but his eyes are sad, proof that he understands more than what I just said. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Best Remedy

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles."  
- Anne Frank 

Special thanks to Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center for putting together a wonderful experience for our Summer BLAST students! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Picking Perspective

The summer had been blisteringly hot, but this day trumped them all.  The thermometer climbed past 95 degrees fahrenheit with out breaking a sweat, the rest of us on the other hand, were dripping.

This was the day we had planned to take a group of children from our neighborhood to go berry picking.  When the time came, we piled ourselves into our very unfortunately not air conditioned cars and made the 45 minute trek out of the city to the berry farm.

Having the windows down while driving 55 miles per hour on the highway helped alleviate the heat a bit, but as soon as we took the exit for the farm the lively conversations in the back seat stilled and the windows started to creep their way closed.

"What are you doing!?  Roll the windows back down!  It's hot!" I exclaimed.

"NO WAY!" cried the children, "who knows what's out there!"

They gazed at the cornfields with trepidation.

"You never know, some monster might pop out of there and kill us!" one little boy cried.

"And if something happened there's no one  around for miles!  Nobody would even know you were hurt!" added another.

As a country girl transplanted to the big city, I was bewildered. 

The country...not safe?  

I had grown up hearing about how dangerous the city was. How there was so much violence.  How there were so many people around something bad was bound to happen. 

The city was to be feared and avoided. 

But these kids were expressing the exact opposite sentiment.  I had never seen any tremble at the sight of a cornfield before. 

It made me realize how much of what we consider to be safe a matter of perception.  We trust what we know and what is familiar to us.  I am still more leery of the city streets at night than I am a cornfield or hiking deep into the woods, but this doesn't mean that those places are inherently "safer."  It just means, they're more familiar.

Upon insisting that, no, absolutely no horror-movie-esque monsters were going to rise up out of the corn and eat them, the kids exited our cars and picked berries to their hearts content.  

This was three summers ago, and we've taken kids back every year since then.  This year, we had to split the kids in to three different groups and take them on different days because so many of them wanted to go to the farm.  It's less scary each time.  The windows stay down, they even wandered into the cornfield with a farmer this summer to learn about how the corn grows.  

It makes me think that perhaps we all need to go a little bit out of our way to hang out in places that make us a little uncomfortable, and maybe even a little bit scared.  Go. Find those places. Pick berries while you're there.  See the good.  Find the things that are sweet. And then keep going back.  Over time you just might find the place that you feared just wasn't so scary after all.