Monday, July 31, 2006

Red Lake V: Diversity in the Body

There is a worship song that sings, "Take me to that place, Lord, to that secret place where I can be with you; you can make me like you! Wrap me in your arms! Wrap me in your arms! Wrap me in your arms!" I think on these words and wonder: What does it mean for me to be like you Father? How can you wrap me in your arms when I am too soaked in my own putrid filth and mire? What does it mean for me to pursue a life devoid of earthly dealings and yet full of your life giving bounty? How can I journey with my brothers and sisters on a road that is too narrow for any of us? How do we unite and proclaim a gospel of love in which I remember John's words when he says, "[...] love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action. This is how we shall know that we belong in the realm of truth, and reassure ourselves in his sight where conscience condemns us; for God is greater than our conscience and knows all (REB 1 john 3.18)?

This I think is a glimpse:

As the stage vibrates with the bouncing of the chosen children who have come to serve the Red Lake community this week, I sing and drum and dance in jubilance knowing that they could not possibly know or accept the truth which God has been growing in me as of late; they too would have to journey a similar path to the one that I have walked in order to be convinced of the beauty of Christ's bride. This particular group knows what it means to worship. They have tasted the meaning of giving ones heart in ardent and joyful praise to their God, they have served in a manner fitting of the kingdom of God, and they have begun to open their minds to the love that Christ speaks of and John reminds us of. I see them here in trueness as they pour out their thanksgiving to God, not for earthly spoils and treasures, but because he has been faithful to them in their search to be humble servants of Him. These people, these kids, they are vibrant and free; they are the body of Christ.

In contrast to these who are charismatic, I find myself dwelling on the thoughts of the week previous to this one. It was then too that Jesus began to open my eyes to the vast, eclectic, and diverse nature of His body. See, it is not that the charismatic are any more sincere or ardent in their love and expression of faith, but it was that they are allowed, through the culture of their faith, to be free, open, and expressive with an exclamation of praise; they could dance; they could spin; they could scream; they could bow. But what other groups lack in expression, many times, they redact by means of genuinity, for it was the week prior to this one that I saw a group of Catholic kids, on the opposite end of the spectrum, pour themselves into the work of the kingdom in a way that I had little seen surpassed by any groups in the two summers of work in that community. And in the midst of a chaotic and expressive session of worship, I knew that these two groups, had they been coincidentally joined together on a trip, would not have been compatible in their faith expression and may even have been hostile to one another. Even still, in the vibrancy of the worship scene, I could not help but dwell on the sincerity and beauty of a hymn sung A Capella the week before by a more structured crew. It is in the depravity of cultural walls and the hostility of organized denominations that I might find disenchantment, but ever so subtly does the Father remind me of His sovereignty and His undying devotion to all who would proclaim his truth. He reminds me that I have glimpsed the notion of the earth full of His glory; though separated by qualms and brokenness, that it is by His name His children are unified; that the earth, including the sovereign nation of Red Lake, will know and does know Him by our love, not our take on Calvinism/Eucharist/ baptism/insert-secondary-issue-here.

I look on the faces of the kids that we are touching in this place, and I think on the families that we are doing work for and it is here that love as a petty appearance of words begins to lose its meaning and endows itself in the trueness of action. I fear for the decrepit aura that surrounds the future of the children that have touched my life and I know what it means to love in truth. What if the kids fall at the hands of the darkness that has engulfed their community? What if Eugene finds himself in a life of violence because of the gang culture that seems to confront him in every aspect of life? What if Jeff loses his vivacity and joy as he is swallowed up by the biting cynicism, brutality, and anger that he is attacked with daily? What if Zack, one of the most intelligent eight year olds I know, never realizes the potential of his mind because of distraction and lack of opportunity? What if the beautiful Angela finds herself tied to a man who can barely take care of himself because she bought in to the lie that her only worth is in her sexuality? What if Andrea never realizes the beauty of her smile and laugh, because she is too worried about finding her next fix of alcohol or meth? What if Flower loses herself in an addiction of eating as she deals with the abandonment of her mother and family? What if some of these families have to live the winter out in houses that lack windows and doors? How will some of them live with the shame of a house that is in shambles? What joy would be lost if the love of Christ was never known here?

My Photo

--What if ...we lose? What if there is no hope? It is here, in this fear, that God reveals His faithfulness and sovereignty in His love of man as one remembers His promise to Israel, in Jeremiah, to never leave nor forsake them if they would only seek Him; as one remembers His promise to never leave or forsake us. Here, through the diversity of His body, He opens the door of realization to know what loving in truth really is. It is here that the body and bride of Christ can be unified in commonality as they raise a banner in their own lives and denominations that proclaims the end of apathy and shouts out conviction which would end the plague of darkness that sabotages the hearts of men. It is the bold and coercive doctrine of truth that would proclaim the love of Christ. It is the secret place where Catholic and charismatic, broken and healed, bold and meek, poet and priest can be with Him; can be made like Him; can be wrapped in His arms, wrapped in His arms, wrapped in His arms.

Red Lake IV: I Couldn't Make This SH#T Up!

1.) See comments

2.) One day a Kids Club kid who is half Mexican and half Indian says to my Area Director “ I’m not Indian; I’m Mexican!” To which my AD promptly chuckled, and I said, “Well, its kind of true,” and I thought, “YESSSSSSS! Mexicans”

3.) One of the older Kids Club kids was in trouble and I happened to walk by with my kids club staff when one of the Adult leaders was chewing him out saying to the child, “So you’re telling me you didn’t just punch this other kid and say –um- blanktey-blank-blank-blank!?” Curious and surprised at the laughable censorship of the situation, both my Kids Club staff and I turn to the kid and asked him what he said. He replied, “Um…I mean…all I said was… he was beating on my brother…so…I mean…I said ‘get off my f---ing brother you f---ing savage!” I literally almost cried trying to hold back my laughter. Don’t worry! He was reprimanded…maybe I should have been.

4.) It has become the joke around the Catholic Mission on the reservation (from the lips of Father himself) that you will wait five minutes for the indians, ten minutes for the elders, and fifteen minutes for the Youthworks! staff. On one particular occasion as I was leaving mass Father shook my hand and whispered, “We will need to get you a watch!” I shook my head and chuckled. Presently, the Indian lady behind me grabs my arm, pulls close to my ear, and whispers, “Don’t worry, his watches are slow!”

5.) It is 11:30 on Sunday morning, and my staff and I have been sitting in the back of the sanctuary mainly because we showed up about twenty minutes late for mass and we came armed with caffeinated beverages which aren’t allowed outside the fellowship hall. Anyway feeling sheepish and a little distracted by the noise and raucous of a few new children that had come to mass that day, we tried to avoid the eye contact of the Father who was presiding over the service because we knew that these combined things may have been slightly distracting and frustrating for him. Suddenly during the Eucharist celebration, a cell phone goes off continually ringing for a couple of minutes. Father seemed particularly angry at this point as he gazed out into the crowd. Finally, it stops ringing and mass continues. Afterward, we are leaving the sanctuary, and much to our great relief Father did not seem that angry with us as we shook his hand at the door, when a phone begins to ring once again with the same tone as the one in the service. With a reddened face, Father lifts up his robe revealing the lay clothes underneath, reaches into his pocket, produces a slick looking cell phone, and silences it. Shocked and stunned, my staff begins to chide him ferociously, and he replies, “But I played it off pretty good didn’t I!” – Hilarious!

Red Lake III: Strange Moments

There are a few moments in life when the ridiculous seems only too familiar. These are my strange moments in this great sovereign nation.

The Mennonite Woman – As it turns out there is actually a fairly large Mennonite population in Minnesota. Who knew? Anyway, I do not actually know very much about their culture or their beliefs other than they seem “Amish-esque” (if you will excuse the strange euphemism) in appearance and practice.

They do seem a little less conservative as I have noticed that many of them actually have vehicles, deal in real money, and do things of that nature, but one can always peg them in the stores because they make all their own clothes and what not.

The strange occurrence begins one day as my Site director and I are traveling from the local store in Red Lake to return to the site, and we pass a Mennonite couple selling various fruits and things out of their car. Intrigued, I decide I would like to get out and support them. So as I approach, the woman (large and gruff in appearance) is neatly arranging baskets of raspberries.

Not particularly interested in raspberries but still not wanting to walk away empty handed, I ask her how much for the baskets. I see her large, dirty, dry, and calloused hand begin to tremble a little. She began to mumble something, and it becomes very apparent that she does not speak English very well. Also, there is something else lying dormant in her reaction; she portrays a nervousness that somehow makes it all seem extremely awkward. As my mind quickly races through the different reasons for this intensity, her husband (also large and dressed humbly in a flannel shirt, overalls, and a straw hat) lumbered from around their mid-sized truck with a barrel of squash in hand. He pauses for a moment to spy the scene, and it dawns on me that this woman, beyond her lack of English skills, is also extremely nervous to talk to a man who is not her husband.

The Husband dropps the basket and hulks his way to the merchant table. He points his bloated and worked hands at the differing sized baskets of raspberries and loudly says, “These two and half! These three and half!” I gladly hand him a five and pointed at the smaller of the two.

As I return to the car I pause and reflect about the scene that had just occurred and think, “I just bought raspberries from a polish speaking Mennonite man whose wife, being probably three times my size in (mostly likely) sheer muscle, was completely intimidated by me and had immediate cultural biases toward me, on a closed Indian reservation in the middle of a summer of intense ministry – This is weird!”

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Red Lake II: The Sovereign Paradigm

“When you’re on our land, you need to obey our rules!” The stern face of the police officer only reinforced the guilt and pallid face of truth of my unworthiness to serve the God I love. My head hung low that day as I knew that my stent at being a good steward with the things that God had given me had been wrongfully neglected, and that I had truly been negligent with valuable property.

There is an old myth that no one ever gets pulled over on the rez. The police there are to busy handling bigger problems (or more actually living in a strange anticipation between the more hefty things that they have to deal with such as the rise in gang activity, alcoholism, and meth busts – its only a matter of time) than speeding and traffic, but when you cut a cop off so you can pass the person in front of you because they are going the speed limit, it is pretty blatantly obvious that you are going to be pulled over. It is the worst feeling in the world when that car flips around and those lights go on, but what is worst is that as the policeman took my information I became dreadfully aware of the strange paradigm that faced both of us. Red Lakers truly do believe themselves to be a foreign country when they are on their land, and it became painfully clear, as I sat on the two lane road, that this may in fact be a much greater ordeal than would normally be expected as I treaded less than lightly on this land that was sovereign and free; I found myself sickly stricken with the realization that I had been an unruly guest in an all too alien home. If only I had been more committed to the stewardship that had been preached to me before; if only I would have not let go of my tenacious hold on integrity; I had let my self get lethargic and apathetic in that arena; I made a mistake.

I told Jesus I was sorry, and in fact, I could think of nothing more sincere in my heart at the time. The Spirit, as always, comforted me in my time of distressed, and I knew that this meeting was no accident, and that my unworthiness only revealed His worthiness all the more. The officer grilled me sternly about the rental car that I drove, but there also seemed to be surprise and awe in his interaction with me. It dawned on me then that it may not have been normal for him, beyond the roadside questioning, to have someone be so compliant with him; to have someone ready and prepared with paperwork; to have someone openly admit that he was in the wrong and so willing to accept the punishment due to him.

“Mr. DeHarte, I’m not going to write you today. We appreciate what you are doing here, but when you are on our land you have to obey our rules! The speed limit through here is _5, so please watch your speed.”

“Yes Sir. Sorry Sir” I mustered meekly as I realized the ramifications of not only my actions but also the fact that he knew who we were and what we are doing here, and that Jesus had used this opportunity to share a little of his light through his unruly servant.

Why in my darkest times does a glorious Father reveal Himself all the more fully in love? Why when I am the most obviously broken would He choose to shine all the more brightly through me? Why would He choose one no better than refuse to carry out such a grand responsibility? There are times when I am forced by the ship wreck known as my sin-nature to adore him all the more for being a flower in the middle of my garbage heap and for showing me how to do the same; that’s a convoluted way of saying I have no clear words to express His beauty.

The gospel of John tells us of a time when Jesus served His disciples by washing their feet. He tells them that to do the same, to humble themselves to the uttermost to serve, that this is the “path of blessing”. It turns out that when I try to do this that my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak—sorry.

“My God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit.”