Friday, May 25, 2012

Hunger Flames

This from Lena:
OK, so the title is totally contrived, but it got you here, right?

An alumni from our Chi Alpha ministry years ago (for those of you who don't know us very well, we cut our ministerial teeth In Chi Alpha Campus Ministries and loved that ministry dearly) just celebrated his birthday.  I found myself thinking about what it was that delighted me so much about this person.  When I comb through the archives of my mind (and Spanish acquisition has diminished them considerably), what sticks out is one of the first times he came to our meetings.

Now, you need to understand that we were Jesus Culture when Jesus Culture wasn't cool.  We were (are!) die-hard Pentecostals.  This does not mean that we jump.  It means that we love the presence of the Holy Spirit, believe that what He brings is worth waiting in the upper room for.  That what He brings is going to equip us to make a difference in this world, and that without His move, we are powerless.

Our worship times were characterized by a deep sense of the presence of the Spirit.  When this particular student arrived, he took to it like a fish to water.  Like Mozart to a piano.  Like Justin Bieber to the heart of pre-adolescent girls.  He laughed, he cried, he acted like a hungry man who had just found a KFC in the middle of a desert.  And it affected all of us.  His hunger was palpable, and it drew the rest of us deeper in, made us value His presence more.

Have you ever been in a supermarket next to someone who is excited to find some great fruit?  One person starts looking, sees that maybe the mango is just right, and lets out a little squeal of culinary anticipation.  Pretty soon all the housewives are acting like they got to have some mango, or they are going to die.  One person's hunger or anticipation of something good coming affects everyone else.  Everyone around them starts thinking, "If I don't move, I am going to miss out!"

Hunger for God is like a fire that shoots out sparks all around.  It is infectious.  It makes spiritually bored people wonder how they got to be so disenchanted with church life, and makes them long for the first flush of love with God in which they were willing to do anything, go anywhere.  Those sparky people stir something of longing inside of us.  How I love them!

So I want to dedicate this to all you sparky people out there, whose hunger for God fans into flame passion inside the rest.  Keep flame-throwing.  There is bound to be some nice, dry wood around just waiting for a spark.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Blue-eyed Barbie Longings

This from Lena:

I have a very clear memory of the day I went to see Aladdin. I was with Bill, and without any warning, I started tearing up. When I looked at this Disney princess, I was seeing something I had never seen before in a princess movie. I was seeing someone who looked like me! Dark, full hair, darker skin, dark eyes---and beautiful. But even more than that, by being made a heroine, her beauty was receiving collective cultural approval. Valued. Wanted.  The power of it surprised and embarrassed me.

So often when I walk through the streets in brown-eyed, brown-skinned Peru, people stop me to tell me how beautiful my daughters are. They are absolutely right! My daughters are fabulously lovely. They will exclaim, “She is so beautiful! Just like a Barbie!!” And they will say it with a starry-eyed, dark little princess at their side. Usually the little one joins in on the adulation, so culturally adapted to this “white is beautiful” idea that it doesn't even occur to her to be offended that she is being overlooked. I imagine that she is carefully considering what she can do to look more “Barbie”--fully knowing that her own eyes can't change their color, that her hair won't take the blond color well. I often reply, “...and your granddaughter here...she is very lovely, also!” It doesn't really change anything, but it feels right to say.

Most of the time, you cannot even find a single Barbie in the store here who has some color to her skin. The only place you can find a doll who looks like a native Peruvian is in the tourist areas, and in general, Peruvians don't go there to find dolls that look like them. The message is clear. Barbie is beautiful. Lovely young women with thick, raven-dark, straight-as-a-rod hair longing for it to be blond. Creamy, clear skin—and wishing always that it were lighter. 

It seems to me that this makes about as much sense as a daisy wanting to be a geranium. All day long, the daisy says to her Maker, “Why didn't you make me a geranium?!! I could have been pink or coral! But here I am, stuck with white! Who wants to be just plain-old white?!!” It feels bad to even write that, because God clearly loves to create diversity of beauty. He can't even seem to stop Himself! His creation itself seems to resists the boxes we try to put them in. (Example: try to explain to me exactly what a platypus is.)

I so want to cry out against this way of thinking, but I only have to scratch beneath the surface to find traces of this sort of thinking in my own life. I am an American, and for many years now we have collectively chosen—and rightly so—to declare all colors beautiful. But I still have geranium longings. “God, I love all this daisy stuff You gave me, but can't I have some geranium leadership skills? I want to preach like that rose over there. You couldn't have made me a bit more like that patient gardenia?” Thinking this way utterly misses the point. God loves His garden, and He makes no apologies for not making every flower exactly alike. To demand to be made different from His original plan is sorrowfully thankless—a rejection of His great loving design and unique favor over our lives. A fresh bouquet thrown in the trash. I am not as far from blue-eyed Barbie longings as I sometimes think.

I want God to so impress me with this truth that I stop insulting His goodness to me.  I want to get to a point where I am so well-aware of the blessing I have been given in my own design that it hurts me (because it hurts Him) before I even finish my inner complaint about how I am not like this or that one.  I want to let thankfulness take it's place, and be able to appreciate my own unique beauty, even as I marvel at what He has put in those around me.

I am including a shot of a beautiful garden of beauties in this post. God hand-picked his palette for each one.  It was taken in our garden this weekend as they were preparing for a banquet. It just seems right!