Tag Archives: love

an open letter to my students

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An Open Letter to My Students on the Eve of the Orlando Shooting.

June 12, 2016

Dear Students,

You likely woke up today as I did: late. You may or may not have turned on the news as is my morning wake-up custom, coffee in hand and multiple snoozes later. Within moments it became clear that there was yet another mass shooting while we were sleeping. This morning’s shooting at a gay night club in Orlando. Over 100 dead and injured.

I remember thinking ‘My soon-to-be godson is to be baptized today. My responsibilities seem yet-again larger now.’

I’m late to the service by a few minutes this morning; I know you’re not surprised. I stood too long at the television in my bedroom, clenching the wooden ledge on top of the dresser left in the room by my great, great-aunts who were the unusual of their era; they were highly educated, remarkably fashionable, and unusually independent women from a time where that was not allowed. No doubt they were recipients of both celebration and judgment. The dresser left in the bedroom of this house they used which I now sleep in has new fingernail marks as of this morning, left accidentally as I should have been dressing for a baptismal service but was instead being washed again in the blood of others.

“I also remember this, and wish I did not,” as Didion once said. I remember that I was not surprised.

Yet another killing, this time the largest mass shooting in our states’ history and the largest terrorist attack on US soil since my freshmen year of college when I sat in a lecture hall of Blanchard at Wheaton and watched the towers fall before my eyes.

I remember this morning thinking that I was surprised that morning as an 18-year-old hopeful, but that I am not surprised now as a 32-year-old hopeful. And it is the hopefulness of my better wiring which has been wanting to talk to all of you all day long today, even though you’ve managed to sneak away from me for the summer. I’ve managed to talk to you in one of our random, side conversations all day long in my head regardless. Then I decided that I hope you might hear it.

Many of you value your faith deeply; I do as well. Because of this, those who believe differently from you are owed your love and honor. The faith you claim has told you so; the faith leaders you are bothered by have challenged this. Follow your faith.

Many of you think
public policy,
issues of social policy and social welfare,
wealth and poverty,
emails to your governors and senators and representatives
(unanswered as most of them go…which you will remember),
childhood development and influence,
family structure and complexity,
group norms and roles,
mob mentalities and social capacities,
and research formulas and findings
aren’t connected in any real way
to your deep desire to help those who are in need.

The crimes of today should remind you that these things are all connected.

The language and now law signed in by Governor Bill Haslam in Tennessee that allow therapists to legally hate and discriminate by refusing counseling to those of the LGBTQ community affected by today’s mass shooting is an issue of policy, welfare, wealth and poverty, legislators who listen and those who ignore (and are paid to do so, which you will remember), legislation and its [silent] funders, biological development and its influences, structure, complexity, norms, roles, mob mentalities and social capacities, research and its findings…

This language and this legislation and these legislators and these voices are the authors of the men and women who will come into your offices and onto your caseloads wounded, orphans of those killed by this morning’s violence, orphans of those who had parents who lived lives of silence or submission to a norm, or stood silently in the back of your sanctuaries on mornings like these as you went to church and thought it was a regular Sunday morning.

I felt the need all day long today, now pushing the clock to make it honest, to let you know that I expect the world of you.

I am pretty sure I have told you this. You will be the best.

I expect a whole other kind of world from you. I expect you to wake up on days like today with the news of the moment and the heart of a saint that is both willing to break the rules and willing to break the norms to dig your fingernails into the wooden ledge on top of the dresser and be late for something planned and appropriate because you decided you had to stand up and speak out for something possibly inappropriate because it puts all of our humanity at risk.

So in class, when I hound you and harass you and rap at you and sing at you and yell at you and take points from you and even when I feed you in an effort to buy you, please know this: I do all these things so that some day, some Sunday morning when someone is waking up and committing to go to church and pledge gratefully to be a godfather for a young man or young woman who has not yet learned to distrust the world…

I do all these things so that you will remember that it will never be okay for us to not be surprised at this kind of hateful news that greeted us this morning.

I’m counting on you.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

 

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waiting to see

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We can’t bare it anymore.
We are waiting to see what you do
and we are waiting to see how you move forward.
Your self-definitions based on hatred and bigotry and xenophobia
don’t resonate with us anymore
or maybe they never did, but we are telling you now.
They don’t resonate with us
because the people we live with and work with
are people harmed by your xenophobia and bigotry and hatred.
And we take that personally.
You taught us to take harm personally.

So now we are working and walking
slowly in the world,
hoping to find the place and the people
who can’t bare it anymore either.
Especially not in his name.
We are looking for the people who
just like us
find themselves captivated by a story
a little bigger,
a lot bigger
than a story of againstness
a lot bigger
than a story of notness.

We are working and walking and hoping and looking
for each other.
We are the people who are leaning into a
more kingdom-minded future.
A future where the gospel grows thick
in the soil of surprising gratitude
and hospitality
and willingness
and welcomeyness.

We don’t hate our neighbors.
We aren’t afraid of them.
We love them,
and we’re following a Christ who taught us to.

So we are waiting to see what you do.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr

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moving forward. always.

It’s all a mess, of course.
We run into it knowing that we have a plan
We run into it knowing that we have the knowledge
to fix it
to solve it
to make it better
We burn to fix it, to solve it, to make it better
So the fact the we have the change to
put the plan into action
and use our knowledge to make it better
must mean that all will be well
because
we are ready
to make it well.

But then,
we wake up to the news of
all gone wrong.
all unexpected.
all that is against all we’d hoped for
worked for
longed for
waited for
prayed for.

It’s in that moment
of course,
that we realize it’s all a mess
and we begin to wonder if plans and knowledge
and we begin to wonder if the burn to solve it, to fix it
are an existential mocking of sorts.

And yet
even waking up to the news of
loss
death
murder
backward
pointlessness

we can’t help but rub our eyes and
do our best to face forward
and look upward
and work to put our plans and knowledge
back to work
knowing that we may not actually ever get what we hope for
but knowing even more that
we are not willing to hope for less.
Even in the mess.
So we move
forward.

always.

and so we are bold to pray.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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st francis prays again

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It’s a feeble attempt, really. If I weren’t sure of the willingness of God himself to accept my feeble attempts, which sometimes I am not actually, I wouldn’t attempt this. But, nevertheless, herein is my attempt at praying the Prayer of St. Francis (or whoever it should be attributed to) for myself. Again. (This post is about five attempts later.)

First, my own version; followed by the Prayer of St. Francis.

God help me, I am capable of making noise for many things
but I beg that you would help me make music toward your shalom.
Where people pour out ugliness and fury, help me be a gardener of acceptance and mutuality;
Where there is a history and presence of war and oppression, help me be a gardener of forgiveness and willing hospitality toward the other;
Where things are wrong and closed and tight, help me be a gardener of truth and honesty and humility;
Where there are darknesses and questions and fields of belieflessness, help me be a gardener of possibility and flowering questions;
Where there is hurt and damage and isolation, help me a gardener of healing and hope and communitas;
Where there is hopelessness and maps that speak only to the end of the road, help me be a  gardener of new roads and new paths and unseen forks in the road;
Where their is pain and illness and struggle, help me be a gardener of life and health and work;
God, where the things we feel in our darkest moments feel more real than anything we can touch, make the things of you touchable and bright and real enough for the moment.

Help me work less to feel more whole than to speak wholeness to others.
Help me work less to have the answers than to feel the questions of others.
Help me work less to know I am a part of the circle than to move the circle out so that all are included.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in becoming poor that we become rich.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in wiping the tears of others that our own tears are dried.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in letting go of all we hold on to that our shame is released.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in giving up that we find we have given nothing to gain everything. Forever.

God help me, I am capable of making noise for many things
but I beg you guide me to make music toward your shalom.

Amen.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-St. Francis, or whomever it was.

djordan
Chapel Hill, NC

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just right, right now

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I have this great desire
to look you square in the eyes
in the way that looks
beyond and through your eyes

to those places where you are
asking questions
raising doubts
blaming yourself
doubting your capacity
questioning your integrity
and holding your own peace hostage

to the ideas that you,
and others for you,
have created about

what you are supposed to be by now
what your past really means about you
how you really should feel about this
what you really should do about that

I want to look you in the eyes
in the way that looks
beyond and through your eyes

to those places that hold the truth

and when you think all’s lost
because the truth is finally known
because you have to admit
that you aren’t who you want to be
that you aren’t who you hope to be
that you aren’t what you think you can be

it’s those moments;
that’s when I want to grab your arms
between your shoulders and your elbows
and shake you like your life depends on it
and shake you like my life depends on it

it’s those moments;
that’s when I want to grab your arms
between your shoulders and your elbows
and look you in the eyes
and beyond your eyes
so you know the truth about who we are is known
and it’s mutual.

And then,
I want to take a deep breath
and pause
and let you know

how incredibly proud God is of you
how incredibly pleased God is with you
how incredibly jealous God is for you, and
how incredibly restless God is because

you are still too afraid to say
the refrain he’s been waiting to hear you say
for quite some time now:
“I am just right. Right now.”

I have this great desire
that you can look yourself in the eyes
and say, “I am just right. Right now.”

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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as fast as it was spoken | on ephesians 4

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sometimes we try to breathe it back in as fast as it was spoken
as fast as it was typed
as fast as it was thought, even, because our thoughts streak across our faces like billboards

and sometimes we want to take it back because it should not have been said
and sometimes we want to take it back because it should have been said but we weren’t ready to say it
and sometimes we want to take it back because
we don’t know if it should have been said or not, but the words came out before it could decide

and to say that we are to “speak the truth in love” seems, really, like a cop out
roll your eyes if you wish, but get serious. truth in love?
in those moments where we find ourselves terrified to tell the truth
to speak the truth in love makes some sense, but not enough to give us wisdom on
what to do when those words have flown out of our mouths
slow style
matrix style words flowing out of our mouths and hitting our minds, sometimes, just after the listener’s ears.

but we know, of course,
that we are called to speak the truth in love
instead of being tossed about here and there and everywhere
by craziness
by drama
by frustration
by insecurity
by scheming
by manipulating
by ripping apart another because it’s all that one in pains know how to do.

and so we know
even when it makes no sense
that we are called to find out what it means
to speak the truth in love,
maybe even more so to listen to the truth in love
so that we can grow into the strong and full people of the new kingdom
ligament by ligament.

sometimes it is too late, because the words have already flown out of our mouths
the words have already been typed
the words have already been thought
and we can’t pull them back in
the slow motion button doesn’t work.

but sometimes, we pause early enough
and a third way emerges.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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life and love: a guest post by james jordan

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Below is the reading written by my brother, James Jordan, which I had the privilege of reading at their wedding ceremony on May 3 at the Renaissance in downtown Chicago. Well done and congratulations to my brother, and new sister-in-law Emily. Thanks, Jamey, for letting me post. 

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For some reason, we always pick one of the most important days in our lives to attempt to define two of the most nebulous words in the English language: “Life” and “Love.” But we do it today, not just because this is the marriage of two equally hard-to-define people, but because it’s also the marriage of Life and Love.

People say, “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy.”
But it’s also hard and it breaks. It takes work and effort.
“Love does not boast, or dishonor others.”
But it can make you angry and cry.

Life is sickness and health.
Life does you part.
But it’s life that has a way of bringing you back together.

Love is a well-earned, slow-motion run through flowers and butterflies; flexing the muscles you made carrying each other.
Love is exhausting, like the end of a party.
Love is every shared sunset you watch through your toes.

Life is all the possibilities of all your experiences coming together every instant that you’re alive together.
Life is you being there. Wherever you go.

Love makes you better than you are.

It makes you do things for someone else you would never have done for yourself. Love makes you realize suddenly that you’d trade all the things in your house, all the things you own or ever wanted, old habits and comforts just to have one person beside you for whatever eternity you decide to embrace. Love makes you realize in your heart of hearts that nothing matters more to you, nor has anything before.

People say, “life is short,” when life is literally the longest thing you will ever do.
Love, like the love we’ve tried so hard to describe today, should be at least as long as life.

If not longer.

James Jordan
Chicago

 

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with our necks on the line

MARCEL MOULY "La Vague d'Etrave II"2003

In all the complexities
we hold out hope
that we are thinking
and choosing
and doing well.

but we do not know, of course, if we are.

In all the dramatics
we hold out hope
that we are acting justly
being filled with mercy
and taking steps with humility.

but we fear, of course, that we are not.

Yet even in our unsureness
the tasks wait
the issues wait
the choices wait

injustice waits
cruelty waits
arrogance waits

and we cannot stall
until we feel we are sure enough to move
because work
and lives
and hope is on the line.

So we hold our breath
and step into the unknown
and act and choose and do
our best attempts at
justice and love and mercy
hoping we have chosen well
while willing either way to put our necks on the line
to have acted.

djordan
Pine Tree

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“Thank you for your prayers, we are tired of war” | a guest post by Caroline Powell

Caroline Powell is a dear friend of mine and native of Cape Town, South Africa. She works with The Warehouse, also dear friends of mine seeking to see the church be a transformative presence in the community in issues of poverty, injustice and division. Caroline has been sent on sabbatical by The Warehouse, in Caroline’s words, to seek kingdom “stories of hope and people of peace.”I’ve been following her blog these last several weeks, and this post is one I’ve enjoyed the most.

Join Caroline on her sabbatical journey at www.thelongwindingroad.me, and in the meantime, thank her for joining the guest voices here at mosthopeful.com. Her words are always words with which to spend considerable time and generous thought. Thank you Caroline. 

“Thank you for your prayers, we are tired of war” | a tribute to the DRC

When I was planning this trip, one of the first places I desired to visit was the town of Goma, on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) side of the western border between DRC and Rwanda. There were several reasons for this. In Cape Town, I study with and enjoy the friendship and encouragement of several Congolese people, through connections at college, church and my work at The Warehouse. I have been fascinated with and deeply troubled by the story of this part of Africa for some time. I have met some very inspiring residents of Goma through Amahoro-Africa who run awe-inspiring initiatives through their churches in their town, and I longed to see first hand what they are involved with on a daily basis.

Getting there and fulfilling this dream has been a different story but one that has invited me into a deeper sense of love and committed prayer for this nation. Advised by Joel from Goma, that I must  have a visa before trying to visit the DRC, I went about filling in application forms and getting invitations letters from my friends in Goma. Once this was done, and all was sent off to the embassy in Pretoria, the waiting game started. I was convinced that visiting this region was to be part of the plan for my trip and especially felt that I would love to go there to encourage my friends by receiving their hospitality – visiting them despite the fact that at times, there are more people leaving the DRC than coming to visit for a holiday. I prayed about it and felt that, while I would take no unnecessary risks at all, if it was a time of peace, I would strive to spend a portion of my trip there.

At about the same time as I was planning for my visit, rebel warlords in the region were planning their next move and just as my passport was arriving in Pretoria for processing, war was breaking out in the very region I was hoping to visit. My passport got stuck at the embassy for too long, as they were in crisis mode due to the conflict and it became clear that this was not to be part of my journey. I called the visa agency and asked them to send my passport home to me. I wrote to my friends, thanking them for the great effort they had gone to in writing invitation letters, scanning signatures and planning to host me. With a deep sadness in my heart I explained that I would not be visiting. With a hope that they did not sound like empty words, I said that I would be praying for them.

A kind reply came back to me, sharing sentiments that they hoped there would be a chance in the future. It was signed off: “Thank you for your prayers, we are tired of war”

Very few words on a computer screen have affected me as deeply as this simple, sad greeting. In much the same way as I might say “I am tired of being cold” at the end of a long winter in Cape Town, they stared back at me. A stated fact. We are tired of war. A fact that I cannot imagine for my own context and yet a fact for countless numbers of people on our planet.

I have just returned from visiting the town of Gisenyi on the border of the DRC. I had arranged to meet my friend Joel on the Rwandan side of the border that is shared between Gisenyi and Goma, and as I travelled from Kigali towards Lake Kivu, the lake that shares is shores with the two cities, the man seated next to me on the bus pointed out a large tented settlement. “Transit Camp” he told me. We were passing one of the many refugee camps that exist, sometimes temporarily, but often permanently in this part of the world. I have made friends in the past few weeks with people who grew up for many years of their childhood in a camp much like this.

Joel met me at “Grand Barrier”, a not so grand piece of road that makes the enormous difference between living in a land at war and a land in times of peace. This same piece of road operated in the opposite direction during the 1994 Rwandan genocide as thousands of people fled their homeland. Then, the transit camps were on the others side. Today, for me, it is a cul-de-sac on my long and winding road. A country that I can only dream of visiting. Homes, less than a kilometer away with rooms and beds where in more peaceful times, I would have visited and slept. Joel took me on a walking and moto tour of his town from the safe side of the border. The two towns are separated by a stone wall at most in some places, even less in others. They are reportedly the two closest border towns in the world. He showed me the region where his family home was destroyed along with thousands of others during the eruption of Ndiragongo in 2002. I took a photo of him with this still active volcano in the backdrop. He pointed toward where he now lives with his family. We walked and talked- of church, recycling, youth ministry, war, upcoming life events and hope. And then he returned home and I went back to Auberge de Gisenyi and watched some of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations on TV in French.

It is my hope that this essay, as insignificant as it is in the grand scheme of things, will serve as a tribute to the Democratic Republic of Congo and her courageous people. There are too many wars like this one in the world for us to pray individually and with understanding for each one, but sometimes, as the case is with me in this season, God brings one thing to your attention, and all you CAN do, is pray. DRC, I pray for hope, peace, courage and patience for you. I pray too, that one day I will be able to enjoy your hospitality on your soil, not just from over a stone wall.

Amen.

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