Love and Joy in Diversity

land j wedding 2“What means diverse?”

It was a question posed by a three-year-old who had not yet mastered the sentence structure of English yet was driven to master its lexicon.  Where had he heard this word, I wondered, and what had activated his curiosity to the degree that he would remember it and ask about it later?  I knew what the word meant, of course, but I wasn’t sure how to explain it on toddler level.  I don’t recall what I told him, though I do remember stumbling with some inadequate definition that I hoped would appease him.  I was pretty sure it didn’t.

It was the early 80s and “diversity,” neither the word nor its social implications, had become part of the daily news cycle as it is now.  Since then, technology has made our world smaller, and our nation and neighborhoods have become more diverse.  Legislation and court rulings have brought about much social change.  While many celebrate what they see as progress, others curse perceived threats to their values and religious freedoms.  For some people and in some situations, diversity has become a minefield.

But love conquers all.

And children grow up.

Earlier this year that three-year-old, now an adult, married the man of his dreams (assuming he even dared to dream of a time when such a thing would be possible).  The guest list of family and treasured friends reflected various racial and religious backgrounds, all gathered before a glorious Hill Country sunset.  The music was classical, the wedding service formal, all followed by a celebratory meal of down-home, Texas barbeque. This union, officiated by female clergy, created a multiethnic family and as much happiness as I have ever seen or felt.

This means love.l and J wedding 1

This means joy.

This means diverse.

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Peace in Self

lg pc magnet crop

Imagine Peace.  Anyone driving behind me receives this directive.  What happens after that is up to them, but at least I have planted the seed.  The other day a man stopped me in a grocery store parking lot and commented, “I can’t even begin to imagine peace.  For my whole life there has been a war going on somewhere.”

I had to agree with him.  Nations wage war or threaten war against each other.  Groups within nations engage in bitter conflict with weapons, words, or both.  When you consider all this, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to imagine a world free from conflict.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed, particularly if we define peace as “world peace.”

As a child in my school choir, I sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin with Me.”  It was a huge relief when I realized I was not single-handedly responsible for creating world peace.  My job was to live peacefully, moment by moment, with the rest of God’s children (still not an easy task but much more doable than stopping war all over the globe).  My twelve-year-old self could easily imagine that kind of peace.

And I can imagine it now.  I explained this to the man in the parking lot.  I said, “I’m going to keep trying.  It’s my job.”  He shook his head in what seemed like skepticism or disbelief, but he was smiling.  I choose to believe he will try too.

I hope you’ll join us.

Hope in Community

snow 2017

It’s been almost a year since I posted to this blog. It’s Advent season, however, and a few dear readers have let me know they are revisiting Waiting for Jesus.  I am truly flattered and inspired to return to this space.  Thank you, friends.

 

Optimism isn’t my strength.  I don’t consider myself a pessimist, but I’m pretty good at imagining a worst-case scenario or completely overlooking the silver lining.  Of all the Advent themes, HOPE is the most difficult for me to generate.  But hope floats.

Besides fire, I can’t think of anything less stoppable than water.  With a year’s worth of rain falling in a short, five-day period, Houstonians watched helplessly as the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey rose in every direction.  Homes, businesses, even lives were washed down the drain like last night’s bathwater.  But hope floats.

Before the rain had time to slow down, the heroes of hope began to emerge.  Anyone with a tall truck or a jon boat sprang into action and began moving people out of the water and onto dry ground.  Before long, our Louisiana neighbors came with their boats, and others flocked in from states even farther away.  Because hope floats.

First responders, city officials, and news crews worked around the clock with little time for food or rest.  Celebrities, sports heroes, even presidents raised money to help rebuild once the storm was over.  When people feel supported, hope floats.

Schools, churches, convention centers, even a furniture store housed people who had no other dry place to stay.  Donations of food and clothing poured in.  A few folks complained, but most spoke of their gratitude for safety, shelter, and basic needs met.  Hope floats.

Once the water receded and clean up began, everyone pitched in: the kid next door, the relatives from across town, the church people from all over the country.  Neighborhoods looked like war zones with debris piles as far as the eye could see.  Cleaning products, sheetrock, trustworthy contractors, and other necessities were in short supply.  Hope bubbles just below the surface sometimes, but it always floats again.

For days, there was no regular television programming, only news coverage with constant weather reports and seemingly endless video of displaced people, devastated homes, and submerged landscapes.  It was difficult to watch, yet impossible to turn off.  Houston has always been known as a large city with a small-town personality, but watching so many helpers, living in such close quarters, and sharing so many meals took our sense of community to “a whole ‘nother level.”  We even decided to alter the way we capitalize the name of our city, hoUSton, if only for a while.  When times are tough again (I hope it won’t be any time soon), hope will float up on a capital US.

Sometimes hope floats so high it spills over leaving extra that can inspire a World Series win or be loaded into a plane and sent to far-away places like Puerto Rico.  Hope floats, but it also flies.

Things are returning to normal for many.  Some will continue to rebuild their homes and lives for months or even years.  Some, particularly those who lost loved ones, will learn to live with a new “normal.”  My prayer is that the rest of US will continue to help and not become complacent in the comfort of our normality.  Hope floats, but it can always use a boost.

There was snow in Houston yesterday.  Social media was filled with pictures of children playing in the snow, dogs playing in the snow, a 290-pound defensive end playing in the snow.  The city was energized and more beautiful than we have seen it in a long time.  Hope floats down from the sky in fluffy white flakes.

It finally feels like Christmas.