Thursday, June 24, 2010

I don't have to possess her, to love her.

I remember like it was yesterday the afternoon when my wife and I--with our four year old and eight year old--stepped away from the embraces of family and other loved ones who were as close as family, and began our journey to live beyond the sea. Arriving at our apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine, we quickly took a vital tool out of it's box. It was a clunky, early edition FAX machine.

Not many years before that, snail mail was the only communication option besides hyper-priced overseas telephone calls. We were thrilled that we could place a freshly typed letter onto the moving wheel, and watch the machine swallow it. And to know that simultaneously, in my childhood home on the other side of the world, a copy would roll out for my mother (or into other homes of friends from our first and current church) to read and share. Hi tech it was indeed.

Just now I arrived home from a hospital visit in Indianapolis. My wife glowed a smile as she told me of her conversation with our exchange student daughter who had safely arrived home. I sat on our couch, punched up our skype program and dialed. Soon I was looking face to face with this dear girl. Her beautiful sister and mother looked on and shared our greetings. Shamelessly we shared "I love you's."

Funny, I thought, I'm not sure we ever spoke these words before our airport separation. But they are real and true now, and we all know it.

My weeping has stopped (for the most part). I am content that she is with her family. She is safe and well. I don't have to possess her, in order to love her. Probably some wisdom in that line for all of us.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Exchange" Daughter and The Pains of Love

I have often been afforded the agonizing honor of sharing in the last hours of a person's life. I've written about these moments before, but my grief this morning is of a different nature.

Just an hour ago, my wife and I left behind our "daughter for a year" at the airport. I haven't sobbed so much since a dear friend died a few years back. My heart is crushed. Making her scrambled eggs one last time, carrying her luggage to the car, and driving her down the hill (as I did so many mornings on the way to school or one of the many activities she was involved in) carried such a sense of finality. She is ours no longer.

I remember the first week she was here I introduced her to someone as my "daughter for the year." She looked me in the eyes with her determined gaze and responded, "I will be your daughter forever."

No, I am not her father, and she has a wonderful man she calls Dad waiting to welcome her home. And no, she is not my blood daughter. I have one of those that I treasure beyond what any words can say. But as I sobbed my good-byes this morning--as I let go of her at the airport security line--my heart broke as I never thought it could.

Koba Sivsivadze, oo vas yest chudesnee dochka! (You have a wonderful daughter!) But it has been my honor to care for her for the past year. Thank you for trusting our family to watch over her. She will change her world in everything she does, as she has changed ours in this little town in Indiana.

And I hope you don't mind me saying, while understanding my lesser role, Gvantsa will also be my daughter, forever.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A divided Church, purity or pride?

We hear a great deal about sustainability these days. More and more, I find myself questioning the sustainability of the Western church's trajectory.

Can we churches continue to split-hairs and divide ourselves one from another in order to distinguish ourselves as the most Jesus-like or the coolest? How long can we compete with one another on the grounds of having "better worship," "stronger teaching" or "purer doctrine?" Must we--like a centrifuge--continually throw to the fringes everything that cannot cling to some enigmatic standard or another? Must we purify ourselves of other sincere Christ seekers and followers?

Is this sustainable? Are we all straining at gnats and swallowing camels (insisting on our own peculiar standards, and ignoring Christ's call for unity)? Surely this is not what Jesus meant by, "I pray that they may one..." Is it not time for humility and unity?

We have developed rules to follow and items to believe which define for us the true followers. So who is it that has the best set of beliefs? Are all the rest of us lost?

Thank God, Jesus did not lift the standard so high when asking disciples to follow him. "Follow me" was all he required. His followers didn't even believe he was the Messiah at first! (And then only when God's Spirit revealed it--not a clever emotional sermon followed by a "sinner's prayer.")

I'd guess on judgment day he'll trash most of us and welcome the wise few?

No? You don't believe that?

Question: Then why not swallow our pride and unite with others who are on this journey of following the ONE?

Answer: Because Jesus alone isn't enough for us anymore. And that being true, beneath what banner could we possibly agree to bow?