Sunday, September 30, 2007

Juarez Reflection: OOOOOHHHH!!!!

This is one of those moments that make you say… "REALLY?":

So we have a community contact over for dinner the other night. It was a fantastic time! She brought her two children over while her husband was at work, we made her dinner, and she (being a baker) made us brownies. However, there is one moment of the night that is most memorable. Over the joyous laughter of the interns, the children, Youthworks! staff, community members, and the sizzle of grilling chicken I was cooking on the stove, came a distinct and familiar sound. It was a snap. The snap of a mouse trap, in fact. The Interns have become very acquainted with the sound since we moved in. It has been a constant battle to keep the rodents out of our food and off our counters, and to that point, and currently, we had been winning with various glue and snapping traps. I am usually the only one excited over the death of the creatures whom I have humorously dubbed "El Mickey Diablo" or "Mickey de los Muertos".

So, naturally I turn to take account of my victory, but am dismayed to see that it is not a rodent I have caught. No, it is a child. There at my feet in our small apartment, is a young toddler with a torturing grimace upon his face and a mouse trap dangling from his four fingers. And then…the scream. It was the kind of scream that has to build first. It takes time to develop its full intensity, which is probably why none of us thought much of the snap at first.

Well, the lad is okay. Mousetraps aren't actually all that powerful, but they do sting – believe me. Needless to say it has been an encouraging, eventful, and sometimes crazy week of community interaction, and (hopefully) we will remember to set the mousetraps off before we have kids over again.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Juarez Reflection: Joy in Darkness


Morning breaks on the dry desert surrounding of the small hill on which our block house is situated, and the air feels thick as my body breathes in the dusty air which mingles with the smoke from a trash pit two blocks over.  As I stand on the porch, which is set just off the side of the apartment, sip softly the cup of coffee I have prepared to shake the last moments of sleep from my brain, and look at the impoverished ragtag neighborhood just below, a small black cat leaps, almost alights, atop what is left of a standing wall overlooking this small valley. His tiny frame is accentuated by the sheen glow of his fur as it soaks up the dawn's first gleaming rays. Immediately my thoughts are taken back to the women's shelter we had visited the day previous, and I remembered the small child that spun in ecstasy on the floor. I also remembered the mother whose daughter had been abducted only a few days before and the mother in Mexico city being treated for the wounds she had suffered after being sexually assaulted on her way to work.  In this moment, I see the cat and the child interwoven. One gives glory to God in her youthful revelry, and the other does so merely by displaying dumbfounding beauty in creation. All of this is in strict opposition to poverty, degradation, injustice, and need.  I finish the last sips of my coffee, breathe deep the tainted air one final time, I turn to go inside, and I pray for wisdom. I ask that I might know how to be the child dancing in the face of oppression; be that perfect creature of beauty in a disjunct and decrepit environment; bring joy to this seemingly dark place.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Rosebud: Fury

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From fury, one returns to fury; angst to angst; hell to hell. The siege of rage entreats upon my soul.

Often, when I need to clear my head of ridiculous human drama, I go running. So I did. It was dusk. I chose a road that was guaranteed to deliver solitude. The dust rose to my face filling my lungs with brown mucousy mud. Around me the echoing belching of canines burned louder than the music from my headset, and I was troublingly aware of their presence and the fact that they were uncontained. Many, territorially, kept steady on the invisible line in which they drew between myself and them; a warning only. Soon, I came upon one who, like a crack of luminous thunder, came suddenly close to me appearing from no where. Drawing his territorial line with the path of his racing legs, I thought no more of it as I passed to the farther side of the road. In the next stride, as my heel went up, I felt it smash hard against something in the upward motion. It was the dog. Upon this realization, I had no more than an instant’s time in which to process before I felt the sharp sting of the dog’s teeth as it sank hard and deep into the flesh of my leg and was gone. Bleeding, and with a desire to chase and murder the creature, I had no choice but to run the several mile trek back before treating the injury.

From fury, one returns to fury; angst to angst; hell to hell. The siege of rage entreats upon my soul.

Rosebud: The Wind

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“Get inside! Get inside!” I yell to the seventy plus people, that I am somehow in charge of, running to find protection from the pounding wind. I look back to see the caravan of white vans swaying methodically – melodically- to the erupting chaos of the coming tornado which is rising around them. I stand in the portico of the emergency wing of the hospital, tense, fervent, and soaking. I can feel the rain, as if a rush of river, flowing and dripping off my arms and limbs. I am overwhelmed by the duty that forces me to be here, and I am confused by the calling that gives me the authority over these people. Why send a ragamuffin to lead the infantry? Why, when you need a general, do you choose a beggar? Why was I here? What was God’s purpose?

Here, for a brief instant, the glorified Christ entreats my mind, shining and beautiful. I can see him in a garden – he is in a garden near Gethsemane, and he stands amidst creation vindicated. My emotions play a fickle tune akin to a dirge of mourning, for I realize that I am nothing, and I stand as a prime example of unmitigated and unceasing failure, unworthiness, and morose need. What purpose is there in Him fighting for a world born with a noose upon its neck? Why in the hell would He die to bring peace to an unfaithful line of children? Yet, here I am, I realize, sitting at the metaphorical transcendent table on which the Eucharist is served; I am here with the great multitude of siblings, quibbling, sneering, fighting but also loving, respecting, and enjoying each other; each breathing deep the air of the father’s house; each sitting accepted as a beloved heir; each embodying an identity of child – of accepted. A son never earns his title – he is born that way. No, a son only ever moves in a necessary way to fulfill his IDENTITY as a son, and in the process, he moves to fulfill a commission to become a father; he is ever fulfilled as a part of the whole, the family, and yet ever becoming fulfilled within the whole. And So, there stands Christ in this instant – glorified, deified – calling me to lay down that ideology that would be legalistic and strictly kharmaic, and he beckons me to rise, as the son that I am, to stand with Him in the new Eden; dwell in being; be a part of new creation; to live.

I am brought back to the moment, and the wind continues to rush and sway. The hordes of people run to make it in to safety, and I usher the last, and excruciatingly slow, man into the building. I turn to view the last of the scene. The trees swaying, dancing, move a little faster and a little more intensely for a second, and then suddenly, a line of them near the end of the parking lot flip back and fly forward in the force of the wind, cracking like a whip. Nature’s fury, this time a tornado, has come calling for a visit, and the rush thunders like a troupe of elephants racing toward some archaic battle front, and the trees bend and crack as they are forced to lay down in the immense power of nature; chaos. I enter safety with the wind and wild behind me, and I move toward the people which God has given me to lead and manage; I move toward my identity; I move toward my being.

Rosebud: In the Night

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The echoing silence of the prairie grass dancing along the plain melds my soul into a confused mix of euphoria and anxiousness as the height of danger is intermingled with the sheer exhilaration of trust, faith, and adventure. My breath is harsh as I struggle to maintain some sort of weekly exercise which, this night, takes the form a jog around the Pine Ridge housing facility. My mind sways as it fights the burning and incessant call of my body for sleep – it is only my determination, or perhaps stubbornness, that keeps me out in this tar black night. Inside rest the little heads of all those whose burden is mine to bear for the summer – those who, unbeknownst to them have become my tiyospate…my family. The night is clear and the stars beam down infinitely. In the distance, I can hear the unceasing cry of one howling rez dog. Soon, another echoes his cry, and within seconds there is a howling chorus filling the once still air; animal; demonic. Time after time, I remind myself of the words of Paul when he says we will be mastered by nothing, and I entreat upon the Lord to keep me safe from the prowling pack moving through the untamed grass merely a few feet beyond. Besides, to flee would be death.

As I round a corner fighting the fear that would forsake my sanity, I am met with the stark outline of a strange figure. In the dark stands a person. For a moment, I envision the burning fury of a demon crazed mad man plagued with alcoholism, meth, and rage – my personal homicide. This, however, is not the case. I realize that it is actually a small child here playing in the dead of night. He shines a laser pointer on my chest, and, wondering his intent, I pause to see his movement. No doubt imitating something he had seen on television or that which had been modeled for him in his home, he points two fingers at me and makes a strange noise. “Bang, Bang” he shouts, “Head Shot!!!” My slaughter is a joyful game for him. His laughter fills my soul with dread, and as he passes into the light I can see no hope for him, no light of his own which might give peace and justice to his lost innocence.

My time in the night is over, and my safe harbor beckons. As I head inside, extreme sadness overtakes my heart because I know that the only refuge from the horrors of home for this child is the dim styngant arms of night.