By Lupe Carlos III
I walk this uneven path once again, like I have for years, decades.
Millions upon millions of steps and hundreds of miles.
I come here to gather the gifts offered me.
I come here to celebrate.
To stay in relationship with all things.
To quiet my mind, free my spirit and reconnect with creation.
I walk the meadows, the mountains, the forests, the deserts,
the cities, the shores, the bluffs, under the bridges and into the gardens.
I keep all these images in my heart to sustain me.
I collect them for a time when I won’t be able to walk stony paths and boulder fields any longer.
A time when my feet won’t obey, when my sight fades, when my body aches, when colors dim.
I save them for next year, always next year.
I save my pictures for a time when wisdom is more important than knowledge.
When service is more important than comfort, friendship more than wealth.
Until a time when I can only walk among these images in the quiet warmth of my home.
When words that have tumbled in my head for half a century get polished into poems.
I jam the images into the slide carousel in my heart.
No time to cherish all of them, now is the time to collect.
This is the time to line the nest with the sound of ice crunching underfoot,
with images of deer haunting vales while the sun rises over rushing rivers.
The time to freeze all these moments into prayers of thanksgiving.
I walk this uneven path once again. like I have for years, decades.
This morning, in the half-light of dawn, I wear the heavy pack of fatigue.
With ravaged knees, aching back and unsure feet.
My jangly arms and hands complain about lifting. My shoulders want to stay in bed.
But I just left the bed because it was no relief from this incessant, barking dog in my body.
In my lifetime of wanderings I’ve grown to expect angelic visitation, every time I’m out.
I hear there are angels who wear white robes, halos and play harps.
But they’re assigned to other people, not sinners like me.
My angels are inky black, raucous, ruffians with NO qualms about stealing anything they can lift.
For, what is an angel if not a winged guardian that dispenses wisdom?
I’ve learned to understand the angelic language, though I cannot speak it.
I’ve accepted that I’ll be the focus of their pranks when they gather to jeer the tourist.
On this morning, literally out of the blue, one of these angels appeared.
At arm’s reach, silently staring, it cocked its head side-to-side.
On this morning, this angel has an injured wing that it could not fold behind its back.
Instantly, I knew it was sent to me.
Probably from heaven.
Or wherever angels go when they’re not out robbing pet food dishes, and stirring up all sorts of trouble. All while using their outdoor voices.
Listen, watch… sometimes their language is silent.
I spoke first, I’m sorry that you’re not well. I see that you’re hurt.
It just looked at me.
I’m not well either.
It blinked once and rolled its eyes at how obvious I was being. Why else would it have flown who knows how far on an injured wing just appear to me?
Some say that God has a plan for our lives, I offered, in desperation for something to say.
It finally spoke… I’ve read, “The Super-Secret Book of Life and Blueprint for All Eternity, by God”, that’s part of the training. On page 1,518 it says, Lupe must get sick and suffer. Plain as day.
Are you in the book too?
Yeah. But I pretend I didn’t see that part. You should too. Suffering is for people holier than you are. You’re ill equipped for such a commission.
(Side note: These angels aren’t very good at following rules, AT ALL. They aren't real pious but they are authentic and blunt, I’ll give them that.)
That seems, I don’t know, “sinful” somehow to not suffer when it’s God’s plan for us to be as messed up as we are.
Life is a donkey shaped piñata, my friend. If you make it black and white, you’ll miss out on all the colors. Besides, it feels the same to be hit with a stick either way. Am I right?
If you insist on suffering you’ll have to trade laughter, joy, magic AND mischief.
You’ll have to give up coming here, where angels shoot dice, buzz unsuspecting trespassers and hone our pick-pocket skills. You’ll miss all the fun.
You’ll have to give up making pictures.
Wait a minute.
I didn’t fully understand that I would have to surrender laughter, joy, magic AND mischief. I’d have to surrender collecting pictures, and visiting my angel buddies.
I didn’t understand that I even had much of a choice.
I can’t choose to not be ill.
But at the risk of being disrespectful, since God went all out of the way to inflict me, I’ve decided not to suffer from it. I’ll have to ask forgiveness when I get there.
I named the angel, “Am”. It thinks, therefore…
We became friends over the course of a couple months.
Am posed for photos, which I thought was generous.
I’ve not seen Am for a few weeks.
True to life, I didn’t know that the last time I saw Am would be the last time I saw Am.
Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to thank Am with offerings of peanuts, stale corn chips and cat kibble.
I’m not worried for Am. Am stayed as long as I needed.
Am is probably out dropping Trickster wisdom on other wanderers.
Besides, even if page 1,519 of “The Super-Secret Book of Life and Blueprint for All Eternity, by God” says that Am must go home to glory, I’m pretty sure Am will just ignore that part and still be out there conducting angel business.
By Jim Segaar
Refugees. Street kids. I have something to learn from both of them.
I was struck today in Adult Learning at SFBC, when Mona Han answered a question about psycho-somatic symptoms during her talk about refugees in. Someone who works with refugees locally asked a question about severe physical pain, malaise, and other symptoms felt by the people she worked with. Mona Han didn’t miss a beat – she knew exactly what the question was about.
Refugees go through a three-month honeymoon period after being settled in the area, she explained. For a few weeks they are happy and thankful to have a roof over their heads, to not feel imminent threats of violence, to be safe. But as time goes by, that honeymoon period fades. They begin to realize that they are living in a culture that they do not understand, and that does not understand them. They get important-looking letters in the mail that they are unable to read. Their kids – able to learn English much quicker than their parents – move to a position of power as interpreters. They find themselves settled in an area where rent is cheaper, but social acceptance of non-Caucasians may not be the norm. Is it any wonder that depression sets in, that pain seems overwhelming, that life seems impossible?
For some reason, Mona’s answer reminded me of the kids I used to see who slept on the sidewalk by the downtown Seattle Nordstrom store. Apparently Nordstrom sidewalks were considered a safe place, a desirable location for kids to spend the night outside. And I remembered the United Way presentation I heard while working at Nordstrom about those kids, how for them living on the sidewalk outside an upscale department store was safer than being at home. On the sidewalk, they weren’t physically, mentally, or sexually abused the way they were at home. On the sidewalk, no one kicked them off the block for being gay. They found more security sleeping on concrete in front of a store window than they did in their own bedrooms.
I learned in time that I don’t understand what it means to be a street kid. Yes, I ran away from home once – for about 4 hours. And when I was escorted back by law enforcement I wasn’t whipped or banished or punished. My parents and I just mumbled apologies to each other and continued on with our lives. I wasn’t chased out of the house. Despite the fact that I felt alone and not understood, I still felt safe in my own bedroom.
And these days I am learning that I don’t understand what it means to be a refugee. Few of us in the United States do. We don’t know what it means to flee our homes, our cities, our countries with nothing but hope for a better life someplace else. We aren’t the “lucky” ones who get to move to a culture that is totally foreign to us, to live amid people that we can’t talk to, to be caught up in the whirlwind of modern life in a land that is not our own.
And that brings me back to me. To us. To the U.S.A. How do we treat those street kids, the ones who inconveniently block the sidewalk because they are afraid of their own parents? How do we treat families who literally are running for their lives? Do we see them? Do we talk to them? Do we seek to understand them, to show them the love and acceptance that they have risked everything for? Or do we ignore them, wish they would just go away, even fear them? All because we don’t understand them. All because we’ve walked easier paths in life than they’ve had to deal with.
How would we behave differently, feel differently, if we were the refugees, the street kids, the ones literally running for our lives and the lives of our families? Can we not see that there but for the grace of God go we?
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist