Rise Up in Love

In my tradition Lent begins today. A six week season leading up to Easter.  A time to slow down and listen for the ways in which that great mystery we call ‘Spirit’ is speaking into our lives.  Sometimes the Spirit guides with a nudge, sometimes a slap upside the head.  Even so, we often miss the cues.

Many of us are over stimulated and over scheduled.  Certain politicians foster anxiety and division by telling us whom to fear.  In the wake of such busyness and noise…how do we tune in to the ways in which God speaks?  Is there a way to get in sync with God’s eternal rhythm?

Last week I went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Nicaragua.  Our team of ten spent ten days living in Apontillo, a rural, isolated village in the District of Matagalpa.  Our team worked alongside local leaders installing 40 water filters and staffing a health fair where we screened for anemia in children.   We fell in love with the people.

We were hosted by AMOS: Health and Hope  http://www.amoshealth.org/ a faith-based mission that empowers communities to develop best practices to ensure basic health care for all.  Ada Luz serves as AMOS’ Health Promoter for her community. She is the only accessible health provider for her community of 1300.

On Mondays and Fridays she sees up to 40 patients who may walk three hours to see her.  The other days she walks the mountainous terrain to visit those pregnant, newborns or those in poor health.  She’s always on call for an emergency.

It was humbling and inspiring to see how Ada Luz with the support of her community take care of each other.  A sense that ‘we are in this together’.

Such a witness is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in Matthew 22: 34 – 40, in response to a question: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus responds: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’.  This is the first and greatest commandment, And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In Apontillo we had fewer distractions…no cell reception, no WiFi, no politicians and  cable news chumming the waters of fear.  Rather, we had time to listen, pray, reflect on Scripture and be inspired by the humble service of people like Ada Luz.

Now back in the ‘real world’,  I want to hold onto what I learned and the neighborly rhythm we experienced in Nicaragua.  I want to spend less time being fearful and more time being generous.  Less time excluding and more time including. To hold onto the eternal truth that what  truly matters is ‘love’.

photo-nica-team-2017
Nicaragua Mission Team with village friends and Ada Luz (in center wearing white).

Maybe like me, you are a follower of Christ.  Maybe not.  But we all need time to slow down.  To look around and know that we’re not really all that different.

For me the Season of Lent reminds us to be mindful, to focus on what truly matters.  To put into practice that which Jesus says is foundational for how to live and be.

Buddy Bench

Think back.  You are 13 years old in Middle School.  It’s Gym class and teams are being chosen.  The best athletes are chosen as team captains.  One be one they begin to choose who they want on their team.

You aren’t particularly fast or tall and your hand- eye coordination isn’t all that good.  You watch as your classmates are chosen and you hope (and pray) that you won’t be last.

Remember what that felt like?  If you were fortunate enough to be the one selecting or the one usually chosen first, you too remember the lesson: Don’t show weakness.  Don’t fall behind.  Don’t be chosen last.

Of course such feelings don’t end with a 7th grade gym class.  The longing to fit in, to not lose face, to be accepted by others persists.

This past weekend I watched as a group of middle and senior high youth built and painted a bench.  This bench is special.  They call it a ‘buddy bench’.

photo-buddy-bench

The buddy bench is being placed at several church camps.  The bench is for anyone who feels alone, struggling, sad, alienated.  It is intended to be a safe place. Where you can sit and draw strength from the words of love and encouragement that have been painted by your peers.

More than words, the buddy bench is an invitation for people to come and sit with you.  A place to sit and remind one another that in God’s eyes no one is chosen last.  In God’s eyes each of us is beautiful, strong, gifted, unique.

Why?  Because each of us is a child of God.

Ever felt like you didn’t fit in? Ever have someone break your trust?  Ever been cast aside?  Ever been picked last…or, not at all?

This buddy bench is more than a place to sit and rest.  It is a metaphor that calls us to reimagine our place in the world.  To see oneself and others as worthy too.

In this unusually nasty political season where our so-called leaders revert to bullying, shaming and blaming their opponents…it’s good to remember that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Good to remember that we each deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.  To know that there’s a place on the ‘buddy bench’ for you and me.

Note:  For directions to  see a Buddy Bench at Grotonwood or Oceanwood Camps  in Massachusetts and Maine,  go to: http://www.tabcom.org