Tag Archives: the kingdom

gracefully critical

gracefully-critical

Recently on vacation, the most stressful part of planning for the trip was not packing, arranging the house details, getting work squared away; the most stressful preparation was choosing which books to take when I knew I would have a week of incredible views, delicious food, and nothing to rush for other than finding a place to sit and read.

I had been saving Becca Steven’s new book, Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth Telling, for the trip and it definitely did not let me down.

The book’s author, an Episcopal priest on Vanderbilt’s campus, founded Magdalene, a residential program for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets, in 1997. From this work and the reality that getting clean and off the streets isn’t enough to support a new and whole life, she and the community around her began Thistle Farms, a social enterprise run from top to bottom by members of the Magdalene community, and involves making oils, candles, paper and more from the highway-found, stubbornly resilient and ultimately delicate thistle. As the women work in vats of oils and in meetings of scent-testing or tubs of paper-making, they are both creating an income, adding quality products to the market and community, and telling a story of healing and hope through the thistle.

Already a fan of Stevens after hearing her speak a few years ago, and following the work and even more so the spirit of the work at Magdalene and Thistle Farms, I’ve learned much about the nitty-gritty of what it means when Stevens says, “It takes a community to put a woman on the street, and it will take a community to bring her home.”

In our work at Area Relief here in Jackson, it’s that push for working to see the delicate beauty in what others have overlooked as weeds that is at the core of who we are. We aren’t great at it, as we often look at ourselves as much as those around us, as wasted and useless. But once we begin to work in the grace and hopefulness that whispers of the kingdom add to any story, we begin to find that we are becoming a part of healing community, seeing others healed as well as ourselves.

What struck me the most when reading Steven’s book was her uncanny ability to be gracefully critical. It is no butterfly and sunshine story of human trafficking, abuse, molestation, drug addiction, fundraising, second-guessing, and ultimately losing many battles to drugs and sex and objectification. It is no easy work no matter how ethereal our ways of speaking. There are power players to be called out, habits to be carefully questioned, ways of operating to completely burned up. And yet Stevens manages to tell the truth about all these issues in ways that lead the reader to want to be more hopeful, more loving, more compassionate, more trusting, more free in the promise of kingdom come.

The hard work of seeking first the kingdom is not child’s play, and yet we’ve been charged to work at it as a child. Truth-telling and healing all at the same. Silence in the face of injustice is not God-honoring, but neither is pessimistic cynicism. Stevens’ work is a strong and beautiful reminder that the kingdom comes through the action following graceful criticism.

And the kingdom does come.

djordan
Juneau, AK

To order the book, CLICK HERE.
To learn about Thistle Farms, CLICK HERE.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

rule-breakers and peace-makers

Although we think we are all alone,
we are all overflowing
in the margins;
we are filling up the outer-spaces

left by the normal
rule-keepers and
peace-keepers

left by the normal
answer-takers and
non-troublemakers.

We find ourselves recklessly seeking
and moreso even recklessly wondering
what it means to be rule-breakers and peace-makers.

So we wonder around
thinking we are on our own
working toward kingdom come
only to find that the road toward
the kingdom is filled with
rule-breakers and
peace-makers and
law-changers and
question-askers and
justice-singers
story-tellers and
kingdom-bringers.

And it is in this work
that we bump into our counterparts
who have been feeling,
also,
that they are all alone.

But in their work
and in their grieving
and in their praying
and in their hoping
they have bumped into us
and we have bumped into them

and the pity lessens
and the courage strengthens

and we find ourselves joined by so many others
living and trying to live
in the margins
pushing toward
the kingdom come
on earth as it is in heaven.

djordan
Pine Tree

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

laughter and tears | when the work is thick and the nights are long

The conversations where serious things are turned around and around, or stories long buried are finally brought to the surface, or where we hear ourselves say for the first time the things we’ve wondered about the world for a long time…those conversations are rich and true and thick. No doubt.

But when the work is thick and the nights are long and the task is still both right at hand and also waiting long in the distance, there is nothing better than the kind of sturdy laugh that makes you leave your seat to catch your breath or keep from ruining your seat altogether.

And the people I end up shaking my head in grateful disbelief about most often are those people who I have been sitting with at tables or counters or back yard fire pits and have found myself in the middle of both. There is a precious few of women and men and even children glowing by candlelight in one setting or another who have marked for me the occasions where all we are able to do is weep and also the occasions where all we are able to do is belly laugh.

And it is with these people that I have told the most truth. And have heard the most truth.

And it is with these people that I have been the most alive.

djordan
Pine Tree

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

in the middle of a meeting

we often find ourselves in meetings
sitting around tables
clicking keys on laptops
and scribbles of doodle and words soon forgotten
written on pads and scraps and notebooks
we find ourselves in meetings all the time

and we love our work
and we are used to being tired
and we are used to being grateful
and we are used to working hard
and we are used to hoping our hard work is a part
of something that looks like the kingdom in our midst

and we are used to sitting in meetings
sitting around tables
trying to plan and execute.

What we are not used to, though
is the every now and then meeting that leaves
our hearts thumping louder than the keys,
scribbles and doodles and imagination racing
through our minds too fast to come out of our mouths
we are not used to these kinds of meetings
even though they happen all the time

with new partners and new friends
with new dreams and new imaginations
with new needs and new visions
with new prayers and new hopes

where we realize, for those brief moments,
the rules have changed
the ideals have changed
the agenda has changed
the reason has changed
the meaning has changed
the implications have changed

the group of women and men sitting around the table realize
together
that something from another realm is happening
smack dab in the middle of a meeting with
clicking keys
scribbles
doodles
pads
notebooks
and ourselves.

the kind of meetings we often find ourselves in.
And so smack dab in the middle of a meeting
we give thanks.

djordan
S Church Street

RELATED POSTS
in the shadows of great ambitions | failure to imagine | crack our great ambitions | calling out in the darkness

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,