Plane Coffee Mom

Chatting about Mission Aviation over coffee

Tag: poverty

Safe Places

Safe places: places like your mother’s lap when you were young, the attic that kept you warm while out of sight, the friend who listened to your dashed dreams with tears in her eyes, the closet where you hid when a stranger knocked on the door, and the family that embraces you. For some of us, inside four walls is safe while for others a wide open field or a trail in the woods feels more secure. The one thing that is constant is that we all need safe places, and when we are in danger we look for them.

Our physical location is important and so are the people who surround us. Safe people create safe places. As I read the Gospels I see Jesus as a Safe Person for those who were broken or seeking. Even Judas was given access to walk with Jesus for several years. I think part of the Church’s calling is to be a safe place, a place of refuge for those in need and pain. Yet sometimes it is not so.

Years ago a young woman told me about a time when she was searching for God.* She was raised in a good family, but she felt abandoned and life was painful. Her questions were deep and hard. She knew God had the answers and she went on a quest to find Him. Not being part of a local Body at that point, she simply visited churches. Not during services, but when she thought she could find a quiet place to seek God on her own. A large, ornate church in the middle of town caught her attention. However, it was locked. A small, friendly-looking church on a side street called to her. Unfortunately the door was chained shut. At one church she found an open door and a place to pray. Soon someone came to question what she was doing, and she quickly left, no closer to answers than when she entered. She tried Sundays, but they were little better. The loneliness she experienced in the throng of worshipper was deeper than the pain of being alone. At another church she arrived early and sat in a pew only to be asked to move by an older gentleman because, “this is where I always sit.” At another church she was followed around as she made her way to the restroom before entering the auditorium: she had simply stopped by and wasn’t dressed for Sunday service. The man who trailed her wore a gun only partially hidden, obviously protecting the normal crowd from people like her. As she traveled, she stopped by church after church, and she couldn’t find what she was looking for.

Eventually she found solace and a connection with God in public parks, standing among the trees and wandering the lonely paths. It wasn’t church, but God seemed to be there. One day in a distant city she drove by a beautiful park. The beauty of God’s summer was on display in well-tended flower gardens and properly pruned trees and shrubs. It was beautiful. When she had some free time, she drove across town to enjoy the park and find rest and answers for her weary soul. A large gate welcomed her, and she had barely begun to walk the well-trimmed path when she was approached by a monk, “Welcome. How can I bless you today?” he said. It was a Buddhist temple, not a park after all. This was not God’s place. She left disheartened by the fact that she had been offered more blessing and welcome in this place than in the places where the God of the Bible was preached.

This story brought tears to my eyes and hot anger to my heart. Why can we not do better? What have I  locked up that should have been open, what have I carefully saved that God wanted to spend? What am I bearing arms against, either mentally or physically, that is meant to be welcomed? What do I need to lay down in order to bless the hurting with open arms?

We are the Church, and how we choose to manage our buildings and spaces communicates profoundly to a hurting world. May we be a safe people who create safe places.

*details changed to protect privacy

The Street Corner

We recently took a trip to Seattle and Garry dropped me off at one of my favorite coffee shops. I ordered a drink and did some people watching. Beside me was a guy with a guitar and dreads laboring over a small notebook. I noticed how the barista acted like the bar was a shield between her and the customers. In the corner sat an older man working diligently on his computer between smoke breaks.  I did some writing. I enjoyed the experience, and Garry was due to pick me up soon. Due to the parking situation I decided to wait for him outside.

I stepped out of the welcoming coffee shop and on to the street corner. It was a handy place to stand because I could see traffic in so many directions. But it was cold, and in less than two minutes I began to feel awkward.

A younger guy who was high on something stumbled by. A well-dressed guy kept eying me  while acting like he was doing something on his phone. A scantily dressed woman walked by, swinging her hips and trying to catch the eye of the guy just down the street. Two guys sauntered by, holding hands and looking into one another’s eyes. I looked behind me and saw a small band of poorly dressed young adults apparently fighting over something they were examining from an old grocery bag. An older lady, shabbily dressed but with steps of purpose, walked by carrying her groceries.

Garry didn’t come.Both our phones were nearly dead, and for just a moment I imagined what it would be like if he never came back. Seattle with no money in a less-than-desirable neighborhood. Suddenly I knew that my few “good ideas” about downtown were sorely disconnected from reality. I imagined how hard it would be to actually get out of this neighborhood if you were born here. I imagined what kind of help you might need to get a better job, how much effort it would be to change your self-perceptions, and the long journey to better habits. The complexity of the conversation hit me hard.

Soon Garry came and we returned to our safe world. The mental photos and haunted feelings remain as a reminder to pray for so many who are caught and for those who reach out to them.

Wondering & Revolution

My grandmother used to say she was tormented in her mind. These days I feel with her, the nagging doubts, the questions, the wondering. In her case, I don’t think she knew the way out. In mine, I know. I must simply take the journey that it requires.

The journey? Looking the doubts, the questions, the wonders in the face and telling the truth about them. And then, living the truth. This moment, this day. And if getting from here to truth is a journey all its own, I take the first step.
IMG_0698
What do I wonder? I wonder about world poverty and the distance between affluence and starving. I wonder about how many clothes are in my closet and how much food we consume every day. I wonder at the millions of things we have access to and the way we use them.
And I see that there are things that can be done. And at some level, I think we must first take care of our own: we must live responsibly in our small circle. We must invest in people in ways that matter and provide what those closest to us need. We must set priority for the generations: a way of thinking and living that can outlive us.
This process of living well is living one step above those surrounding us, maybe. Maybe it is feeding our family healthy food, a value that can be repeated by neighbours and friends. Maybe that is followed by whole, local foods that enable the local small businesses to survive. Maybe this step is accompanied by building community where God calls us…. living with abandon for the least of these. Enabling them to not only survivie but pass on what they learn and what is invested in them. Maybe it grows to volunteering locally.
And maybe worldwide change is powered by our personal revolutions: because our revolution will lead some in our community to actually go overseas and repeat the process. Maybe what God says about the family, the church, and the state is actually true: we grow world leaders in homes with real families and real neighbors and true friends. And for each of us, our circle can grow organically and the world can be changed. Maybe.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: