Monday, November 24, 2008

Theology of Being - A Dream of Flowers

A Dream:


And the flower, having danced its dance, having connected with what it is to be a wild prairie flower, having grappled fully the contrast between simply fulfilling a destiny of the subjective self and taking up the seat of being to dwell completely in its existence as a flower, one finds (for the sake of metaphor) that the glinting streams of spring’s light are fading as a new and boding aspect of its being harbors on its brink - death and winter see their way to the horizon like a viper sliding on ice.



And, as if you the reader, were actually in some grand dream – slipping from consciousness to consciousness, the scene changes. One no longer stares at the flower in the wind. One no longer sees the onset of winter. So, as the glinting light of Spring fades into the cold and daunting pervasiveness of death, darkness and nothing else are the only things that can be seen for but a moment, when suddenly the first flickers of light begin to shade this abscence, this negative space, like sparklers on parade, and what begins as simply a fervent and yet erratic spark gives way to blindness of a different sort – to overwhelming light. The only thing perceivable is that rustling of cloth and the padding of bare feet as they take their steps onto rock and dust. You are aware. You think, and you are.


Your awareness reveals to you two men, seemingly full of vitality, sitting calmly at either end of the bed in which the Crucified Christ once lain; the guarding cherubim of that sacred place where God dwelt; the form of that to which was cast of gold atop the sacred Ark of the Covenant. When the eyes, finally adjusted to the awareness of light and following the foot tracks made in the dust, dart up to the entrance of the tomb and out to the bare and scarred back of the true king of Israel framed by the doorway, breathing in the fresh air of the garden, and soaking in the praise due him by even a single blossom, one realizes that he is witnessing the single most anticipated event in the entirety of creation. The king is ascending his throne. It is a procession. Christ, once crowned with thorns, walks amongst the praising creatures of his new and marvelous tabernacle; his new and marvelous creation; his renewed, impervious, and marvelous body. And one can almost hear the very grass and all of nature in their seemingly silent effigy screaming at him from every corner of the earth, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”


He turns to make eye contact, smirks and winks subtly, lowers his head as if waiting for an applause to quiet itself before some great inauguration, turns once more to admire this exploding newness, and then he passes. He moves out of the framing door and into the wild in order to will and to act in the manner He sees fit; in order to breathe life into everything; in order to let heaven intersect with earth; in order to let this new and Romantic tabernacle of nature release the thick curtains of dogma that man and creature might dwell with and in the risen Christ; that humanity might realize the words of Paul when he tells it that one can take up this seat of newness as well participating - one in BEING with the risen and victorious Christ - in this resurrection here and now as if heaven itself were descending upon Jerusalem; in order to free humanity up to BE those trifling humans He has made them to be.


And suddenly, the dream makes sense. The reader sees that the flower is real. One sees that the flower is a metaphor. The flower, caught up in the winds of its being, reveals itself and the human, and this tension is not merely a Socratic juggling of words but a real mystery in which one can “work out [his] own salvation [,]” and yet realize that “God is at work in [him as well], both to will and to work for his good pleasure”( RSV phil 2.12-13). And it makes sense that what philosophers can only gawk at with their existentialist jargon was the Christian message all along – that we ARE, and that is okay; That we ARE, and God loves us; that we ARE, and God continues to work in us; that we ARE perfect, because Christ, who is our being, is perfect; that we ARE, and Christ not only “saved” us from sin but put to death, like a sweeping Passover cloud, any manner in which we might be found blemished; that we ARE participants of this new creation, and we can walk with confidence in the positions of honor given us by the Almighty creator, just as no attention was given to the proverbial stains of the prodigal as he took his seat of honor at his father’s table; we ARE free…we are free to once more walk quietly with our God in the freshness of Eden and to drink coolly the river waters of a real spiritual life unbound by those nooses of religio-systemic squawkings.


God reveals to us the flower. God reveals to us our being. God reveals to us himself.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Juarez Reflection: An Ink Blotch

As the steam rises from a boiling pot of the sweet milky drink in this Mexican school kitchen, an elderly lady the people call Herman Santa (or “The Holy Sister”) meshes the corn flour mixture with her moist hands, preparing the gorditas for lunch that day. She hums a Spanish love song to herself in the absence of a radio, and the other women buzz languidly about the kitchen, setting their stations for the hordes of kids that would soon bombard the cafeteria for lunch. The smell of cooking meat, the heat of the propane powered stoves, and the chattering women give way to a feeling of normalcy and rightness as the morning overtakes this simple block and concrete lunch room.


A small cat passes by the barred window that allows the early morning light to stream through, and as it peers into the kitchen with its tail flicking from side to side; a sense of calm presides over the kitchen like a cosmic blanket settling lightly on fresh sheets. Then, its head jerks suddenly hissing as it turns to flee, and a flock of pigeons take flight agitatedly. The harsh whip of a military helicopter, with its high caliber rifle manned and at the ready, blows pass the school and its surrounding neighborhood darkening the room as its turbine wings wheel through the air daunting and low– circling and circling.


While I sit quietly cleaning the dishes and hoping for the return of day, my mind can’t escape the image of a grand and masterful painting with an ink blotch on it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Juarez Reflection: I Saw A Storm...

I saw a storm. It was not at a distance, and its green hue shaded everything. I think, if I were to have focused on it, it would have been violent and tumultuous. I would imagine it in a snapshot, and there would be a young woman shivering in its midst, gripping her arms as she huddles into herself trying to find protection from the cold. Her hair would have been slowly dancing like a young virgin upon a pagan altar, and my entire being would have felt a cold shiver of upheaval, rebellion, in the dark presence of this storm. But, this is not the terror that haunts this dream. This is not the terror that stalks me even in the daylight…


Three men descend, resolved, from the dusty Mexican hill. An older man sits with his hands in his lap, enjoying a cigarette, letting his taped cane rest against his crooked knee, and his eyes are shifting slowly like the dangling rain clouds of a summer prairie storm; like a caged beast, hoping to break free his cast iron chains to dine a succulent jugular. My eyes wander back to the three men, and the blue bandana that one of them wears, sears into my mind. I turn to my companion in the truck to continue our chat. We have just pulled up, in the newest truck of our fleet, to the bottom of our hill in the impoverished landscape of the Juarez barrio. My mind is clouded by the warnings of my bias; I try to quiet the stereotypes in my mind, convincing my psyche to let go of the initial negative thoughts I had of the three men; I try to find the grace with which my Father views them – inviting them to dine on the supple Eucharist feast. I have only a moment to transgress these thoughts before the blue bandana blinds my vision as he flings open the cracked door of my traveling companion. He makes certain to cock the handgun he is pointing at us as he screams in Spanish for us to exit the vehicle. A hand seizes my wrist as one of the three opens my door to usher me out.


My companion and I sit dumbfounded breathing the carbon-monoxide of our truck as it speeds away. We head up the hill slowly as we try to catch our breath. The old man sits grinning and silent. He catches our eye and nods as the flash in his eye mimics the fierce tempest within him; there is a hole in the fence and this beast shakes free his chains to feast.


The harsh dry air, filled with that satiating dust, sears my lungs as the passing light of the bright and brilliant day gleams out from the setting sun. Time fades as the dark radiance of the blue bandana sets itself through terror into my psyche, and my spirit longs for the time when the tapping of my heart could find a peaceful tune of pattering rain; in which this fear would pass and it could once more see a stilled portrait of death and smile.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Juarez Reflection: Like a Bullhorn in a Library

Her swollen eyes rolled toward me in salutation, and I could see that the anguish which they expounded was not from any sort of physical pain but rather from her intense psychological distress; from the breaking of her spirit.


Hermana Jenny said hello to me quietly as I brushed past the hordes of people to enter the kitchen of “El Comedor.” Every word spoken by Jenny was tightened by her quivering lips, and her eyes rolled and swayed from side to side as if she were intensely checking some list or roster for a missing item. In reality, one could tell that she was probably going through her recent purchases trying to figure out what thing she could have scrimped on – what luxury or extra dessert or fashionable article of clothing or ice cold venti latte had lead her empty handed to a place of need.


Over the clatter of talking folks and the banging of dishes in the kitchen, Jenny’s desperation screamed out like a bull horn in a library. She hadn’t brought enough food. There were so many hungry mouths and too many empty spoons. She knew in her heart that, like the multitudes on only crumbs and a prayer, her flock would be fed this day – even if it meant there would be a screeching metal sound as the spoons brush the bottom of the pan. The pantry, however...


There wasn’t enough.


She couldn’t give them their meager portion of rice and beans.


Some would walk away downtrodden and worried about tomorrow.


In that clamorous kitchen, she sat alone in her dark subjective prison, panting and sweating under the weight of her cross.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Juarez Reflection: Becasue I Was Enticed...

 As it is, bug stories are far too frequent in Mexico to be of any great value, however, since I have been enticed to relate such a gruesome tale, I will share one of the more recent events involving one of these grotesque creatures:


One evening as the interns return to their barrio home set cozily in one of the hillsides of the Colonia Fronteriza Baja, they notice that there is a copious amount of water dribbling down the hillside and spilling onto the street. As they ascend, toward their house, they realize that the water is coming from their home. Curious as to why, they rush toward the door to see that the copper piping, actually being of great trade value – especially to someone with an addiction or a hungry family, had been torn out of the wall and taken from the spicket and the hot water heater.


The water, though pouring out like a river raging, was being rightly blocked by a well placed stick which jammed most of the flow keeping the gushing stream from spilling out. As the two lady interns, head inside to put away the groceries, as well begin organizing and cleaning the roach infested kitchen, the male intern as well as the Area Director stay outside to see if they can temporarily fix the problem. As the male intern readjusts the casing that was supposed to help protect the piping, he sees the stick neatly placed in the bowels of the copper tube. As he is leaning down to examine the scene in the dimly lit area, something becomes jostled. Water by the buckets full, by the gallons, comes flying out onto the intern and the patio.


Soon after, as the male intern, soaked to the bone, rushes to turn off the main water line, an emphatic and terror filled scream erupts from inside…


While the male intern begins his inquiry of the running water, the two lady interns enter their simple home on the hillside, set on their mission: the eradication of cockroaches. Armed with bleach, cleaning solution, aerosol cans, and if need be bug bombs, they set to work trying to make the kitchen and living space in their small abode safe for the storing of groceries. After taking all the dishes out of the cupboards to be sanitized, it becomes evident that the task before them would be a daunting one. Every cupboard opened and every drawer emptied, revealed even more creatures scurrying from the light, but the two ladies knew that the biggest mystery would be the small crack of darkness that separated the sink cupboards and the food cupboard right next to it. What ominous creeping thing could possibly be dwelling there? What darkness of life could live to seek an abode in that shadow? What mystery, with dark blinking eyes, would be watching them at that very moment?


The girls set their faces toward finishing this great work. Raising their cans of aerosol, they doused the small crack with a mighty spray in anticipation of the mythic battle about to take place with this creature of the night. And though their hearts were stout, no amount of bravery could prepare them for the onslaught they were about to face. As the smog from the deadly gas slowly dissipated from inside the crack, a slight scurrying sound accompanied the hordes of cockroaches that rushed out from the crevice, crawling and pining over each other, the floor, and the counter tops like a teeming cauldron of some black witch concoction. They zagged in every direction toward any shadow they could find, and chaos erupted as the panicked interns began hopping about in terror and resolve. One by one, the interns began their slaughter of these creatures, and the continuous sounds of spraying and crunching intermingled with each other as of some sharp violin in a horror movie as they gassed or crush each and every one. The ladies screeched and yelped and screeched and yelped as their hearts raced ever faster, and the battle raged on in a cloud of noxious fumes and deafening splats.


Having had to lay flat in the dirt to shut the water main off, and having had many attempts to "ghetto rig" the water system so that everyone could have showers that night, the male intern enters the home to see why there had been so much ruckus. He stands in the doorway to the kitchen dripping from his entire body, and there is mud caked to his face and side. He is barefoot, having shed his shoes in order to keep them from getting dirty. The lady interns stand there bewildered. Each of them is holding a half-empty can of insecticide with a multitude of oozing cockroach exoskeletons lying at their feet; the corpses of their victorious battle field.


They all connect eyes. They are blinking fast and breathing heavy. They laugh.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Jaurez Reflection: A Theology of Being? 1

There is a whisper in the wind as it blows through a field of wild and vibrant flowers set high in the back hills of a rolling country side. The animated colors vibrantly dance and swoon through the arms of their love, the wind. To spend the vast portion of their days lost in the frail rhythmic sway between them, leaves a mark on their being that is more incumbent than the long strings of borrowed time in which they would suffer to be trapped in daily – playing for themselves merely the contingent truths of this moment to that. But here, in this primal movement on the hills, there is something more…something deeper. There is some great connection to Earth; there is some primal truth that connects them with the heartbeat of what it means to exist, thumping and pounding in a syncopated pattern from the deep cavern chambers of the life of being. What does is mean to be? What is it to exist? How do we allow ourselves to be enraptured in the fullness and frailty of the deepest existence? How do we engage a reality in which we are one in being with Christ? What does it look like for a child of God to sit confidently at the Eucharist table, a whore and yet a child? How do we take up the question of being as we uphold our identity as Christ's children?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Juarez Reflection: Blessed is the Man Who Trust in You.


As the truck rumbles and bumps down the narrow and unpaved Juarez street, I cannot help but think to myself in trepidation that the outcome of this particular venture will turnout to be one of discord with my personal well-being. That is to say, I was pretty sure I was going to get my ass kicked. I look to Fransisco, who sits my opposite and watch his face as the dim street lights pass on and off it as we whiz by them like the dull glow of air bombs flashing in the midnight sky of some pilot on an ill-destined raid party. He smiles nervously back, apparently thinking the same. He is preparing himself for the worst.

My mind wanders back a week earlier to the beginning of this horrid mess, and I can see the outside of the church I was working on. We had a group come from the States to help us finish some work on the new staff housing we were building. As the leader of the site, I had of course fifteen different things I was trying to manage at one time, and this particular morning was no different. Until I realized my passport was no longer in my possession, I actually remember very little about the morning other than the fact that as I slowly placed said passport into the backpack I was carrying, instead of my pocket where it would normally be and would be the most secure, I thought to myself – “Make sure you grab that later. It shouldn’t be in there.” Then, around lunch time, as I am searching for tools, I notice that I am no longer wearing that bag, and I have no idea where I set it.

That night, after several frantic searches of the church property, an interrogation session with some of the adolescent boys who had been on site that day, and a nervous phone call to the American consulate in Juarez, my mind began to have little rest as worry permeated its inner reaches like a sponge soaking in the last remnants of bile and blood from a butcher’s table. Days passed, my hope had long faded, and I cursed my psyche for its betrayal of trust in my Lord, for every morning I awoke to a fresh sensation of imprisonment. I felt a constant nagging to run from this place and never return offset by the inability to do so, because I feared I would be unable to cross back into my homeland without proper documentation. I begged God to medicate me in the Spirit, to remind me of his mercies, but these moments were few and far between. Then, as I sat praying in the dingy yet Spirit-filled kitchen of one the churches we were using, pleading with God to remind me of the Peace and Hope I am supposed to have in Him, the impossible happened. One of the interns I was working with, walked in holding the primitive looking Mexican cell phone, and stared at me in bewilderment.

“We found your passport!” She said.

“What?!”

“Someone called A--- (a community friend) from the phone you had in the bag!!! They found your bag in a store somewhere!! They want to meet to return it!!!”

My mind snaps back to the moment as my nose stings from the thick dust caused by the truck coming to a halting stop. From the front, I can see a child standing cradling his small rusty bike. He comes to the side window asking who we are looking for. By this time, the road has gone to the outskirts of the neighborhood, and the street lights have ended. He motions for us to follow him, and we creep along slowly behind continuing to anticipate the outcome of this horrid situation. As we pull up to the dimly lit barrio home, Fransisco and I turn to face it with our guards raised. Without warning, seven or eight large stalky Mexican men begin to file out from the woodwork, each from a different part to stand at the pallet made fence.

My heart begins to race, and I wait for something to happen, and soon the crowd parts as a frumpy, worn, middle-aged Mexican woman comes to the front. This is Maria, the woman we had been unsuccessfully trying to meet for nearly a week now since she first contacted our community friend. She hesitantly hands the bag over, sheepishly admitting that her family had pressured her to sell the passport on the black market, and accepts the meager reward I offer to her and her husband. We make small talk for a bit – a lovely exchange. Then we leave grateful for the protection granted to us. Later that night, I hold the passport in my hands, and my eyes begin to well with joyful tears, not at any sentiment of relief or weak hearted-ness really, but at the glorified name of Christ who gives dew and sun to the lily as well as sustenance to his beloved.

And as the new sun rises the next morning on what would have beeen my continued accursed mind, His Spirit gently flows into my own like the small trickle of water running down hill from a heap of snow in the brisk spring of the Colorado mountains, and He gently reminds me that as Psalms states -

“Blessed is the man who trusts in you.” – Psalms 84

Friday, April 11, 2008

Juarez Reflection: From the Fisherman's Grip

 

As I exited my vehicle this evening, I was struck by the familiarity of a disturbing scene. Just beyond the front bumper, were two dogs struggling with each other and making a ruckus. I stopped to take in their interaction and realized that the aggressive male dog was in fact doing everything in its power to overcome the other for sex. Both dogs snarled and bared their teeth to each other, and the female often attacked the male dog – biting, scratching, clawing, desperate. She screeched in pain as her body was often jarred in a position of defense struggling time and again, successfully and not, to squeeze out from under each piercing violent advancement of the pursuing animal.

I turned from the perverse scene knowing the outcome. Though much larger, the female will eventually be unable to thwart the persistant pounding heart of animal instinct, and she will soon be pregnant with one of her many litters as she lies tired and defeated in the unsheltered street. The other will leave to scrounge for what little bits it can steal whilst continually prowling for another breathing thing to fulfill its driving mechanical needs unaware of the despair caused to a puppy plagued with mange, disease, starvation, and neglect.

And now, as I stare out at the interaction of this city, I see each rooftop and disquieted human, each drug addict and federal police officer, each wisp of feces and pile of rotten garbage, and each rooster crow and bolstering mega-phone as it paints the very face of this brimming cup of human calamity.

It is like a bowl of dampened worms slithering over each other to get free from the certain death of a fisherman’s grip.

Juarez Reflection: The Fiercest of all Horrors

 

The flashing police lights turn just ahead of us, and I slow in observance. Following the flow of traffic, we pass creeping by, and I lock my gaze on the woman's corpse, rigid with rigormortous, and she is surrounded on either side by police men with their patrol vehicles. Her back arches stiff seemingly from the pain, she wears a blue blouse over black shorts with one shoe kicked off, and her teeth bear in the grimace of her face.

The image seers into my psyche like this unrelenting desert sun, and my shock comes from inside myself as I search for the wells of compassion and empathy within only to find them blown and dry as they gradually fill with sand. My spirit collapses torturingly slow under the immense weight of desensitization, and I search desperately for the arms of my Father as I cower and stare timidly into the sunken eyes of apathy – the fiercest of all horrors.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Juarez Reflection: To Kneel in the Darkest Place


Breathless, the two men meet eyes. Hesitant to do the inevitable, they stand for a second, allowing the sweat to drip slowly down their beards. “Who will it be” – each wonders. Will the beloved disciple lay it all on the line to enter the tomb on the Sabbath even though both know it is forbidden, or will Peter, the ardent Jew, seek to redeem is past betrayal, by diving headlong into discrepancy with his faith? Perhaps to his shame, John admits that though he had clearly beaten the dogmatic Peter to the tomb, it was not he who could over come the presets of his faith and embrace fully his love for the Rabbi he had devoted himself to these last years. It was not he, who was loved, that could find himself justified enough before the bloodied throne of grace to kneel in the darkness and receive the light; he could not strike the pharisaic voice enough to embrace the true priest; he could not follow his king into the darkness.

At times, I watch the setting sun casts its rays beyond the sierra mountains of Juarez, and as the dwindling rays wrap slowly and diminishingly past the decrepit cross set high upon the building of one ministry here, I envision the days light setting solely upon myself, blanketing me in a shroud of complete night. Here, in my mind, I kneel at the slab in the tomb where my fallen king had once lain beaten and dead. His blood trickles on the floor near me, and I can see nothing for the darkest place is here. I can feel the torment of my being as it stands toe to toe with the very presence of evil – the very presence of death. Yet, upon me comes the greatest hope, for though my nemesis, darkness, stands my opposite, within dawns the light of life; from my interior comes the everlasting morning; from inside begins the never-ending day.

And as I am taken back to the rising coldness of night and the descending sun of Mexico, I wonder if I will follow merely because I love Him even when it makes no religious sense; even at the sake of conformity; even when it leads to the grave. I wonder if I can know this light that can reach the furthest corner of Tartarus – this light that would allow me to stand in the presence of God even when I kneel in the darkest place imaginable.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Juarez Reflection: Indwelling

 

There is the smell of smoke and excrement intermingled with the freshness of spring as I stand tiredly holding a dripping paint brush. I am painting a mural on the outside of a kindergarten. I am alone and silent. My thoughts wander in the last hours of daylight…

What is the nature of indwelling sin? Does it have the face of a man who would beat the woman he loves more than anything in the world? Does it look like a young man so deprived of any encouraging word that he must seek his dominance through violence and rage? Does it have the look of a girl who believes what is said about her worth, so she solicits the stares of middle aged men on the market streets and border bridges? Is it a mother who cannot fathom trying to fight uphill to provide for the family she already has and so bounces from whatever beds will give her children a meal? Does it look like the person who, even in the midst of poverty, is so consumed with an adherence to material things that he would vandalize, terrorize another to prove any sort of boundary between the two? Does it look like an American missionary making vast assumptions about the faith of another based not on any spiritual aspect, but solely upon their physical dwelling; when one assumes the character of another's spirit or level of inherent happiness and peace because of the d├ęcor or placement of their shack? Perhaps it is actually more when a large group of people seeks to appropriate the practice of others in order to justify their own unsatisfying and unwarranted pharisaic cravings. Maybe it is when tolerance…no love takes a back seat to dogma and pride. Maybe it is when I actually hinder others from believing the stark liberation of this thing called the gospel because I refuse to not simply practice but believe it. Maybe it is not when I am being inadequate of pardon, but more truly when I refuse to believe that I am so pardoned; when I lay down what it means to be truly spiritual for the interplay of a man made system; when I skip over life's chapter on the peace of the indwelling Holy Spirit and focus on those of the ever present darkness; when I forget the Apostle Paul's urging to remember that I have the same Spirit as Christ.

Dusk falls upon me as I drive home, and with the last streaming rays of sun I struggle to suppress the thought that I should leave this place. That life at home would be much easier – not from any sort of facet of comfort, but as a retreat from the poignancy of my vast inadequacies. I struggle to remember Christ and the peace of His Spirit. I struggle to remember my salvation. My heart wrestles to recall the place where I might be free and encourage others to be the same. I climb out of the truck and examine the paint splotches upon my clothes. I take note of the aroma of food filling the trash-filled streets where families struggle and play.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Juarez Reflection: Flame

 


The chilling wind bites into my hands and grabs hold of the bones in my fingers. I can feel my joints slowing as I push for every step further. I am fighting with my mind, trying to convince myself that it is fine to be out right now. I generally like to go out earlier in the day before the Chollos or gangsta-wannabe’s come out to play soccer or loiter about. It is not that they are ominous in general, but having never really seen anyone keep a regular running schedule in this neighborhood, I have become somewhat of a pseudo-celebrity for the kids and family, which means, of course, the attention of the older youth is exacerbated; sometimes they just need someone to mess with. At the moment, they are occupied in their game of Futbol and pay little attention to me. As I round the bend to one of my final laps, I see a figure ahead of me. It is a young boy holding a bit of a large stick. I come closer behind him and whisper, “¡Con permisso!” Obviously having startled him, he turns and raises the stick ominously ready for attack. I smile at him, and I say, “¡Hola Chavo!” as I pass by. I see his face relax, and he continues to poke around the trash and bushes. Continuing on my way, I see a group of his friends coming to join him. I continue around the outer fence of the school for another lap.

As I come around once more toward the place they are playing, I see that they are continuing to dig and prod in the neck high line of tumble weeds that is nestled between a high hill and the outer fence of the school. Finding this strange, not only for their careless attitude toward what grimy creatures could live in those dark branches but also for the fact that they are downright prickly, I proceed with caution at the sight of their actions. As I pass by at a very slow pace, I realize the malicious nature of their activity, for there at the height of my knee I see the kindling flame of what would soon become a blazing brush fire half a city block wide. What can I do, but be dumbfounded. I continue to run, wondering what, if anything, anyone would do in this neighborhood. No fire truck is going to come here to put out a brush fire. No police are going to look twice at a potential arson until the damage is done. No one is going to care about these kids’ safety. It is just the same as the time I saw a man being beaten in the street, and I knew no police would bother to think twice about helping a Chollo. And it is the same as the time it took the police three hours to show up when we had a theft at our place. Or the time some community contacts kept vigil over a house in their neighborhood all night because the police refused to come when a woman was being beaten by her husband outside.

I watch from the other side of the dusty field for a few moments as the fire rages and the kids scramble up the steep cliff embankment to try and escape the fire. No one even looks or thinks twice from the Soccer game. A few Chollos meander to the side to watch the flame, but most are enraptured with their game. Waiting for a bit, just in case, I head home humbled by the sometimes thick and striking presence of injustice in this place, and in the true fashion of Joyce, my eyes burn with anguish and anger.

Juarez Reflection: So There We Were...

 

Every good story starts with…

So there we were winding through the streets of Juarez on our typical Wednesday morning routine. Jenny Tapia sat just to my left smiling and humming contently in her quiet way as she always does. Suddenly, as we are dodging every large crack, crevice, and pothole that composes the street, there reared up in front of us a very peculiar looking creature. Truth be told, I thought it was massive black furred possum looking to attack our vehicle.

“uh…um…” I said, slowing the car and glancing at Jenny inquisitively.

“What is that?!” she muttered disgustedly. “Its standing on it’s HEAD!!!”

As we passed what we could only describe as alien spawn, we realized that the dog drinking from the street had played an optical illusion on us making it look like it was either some ominous otherworldly creature or it was literally doing an Irish jig on one foot. I glanced at Jenny who immediately burst into an uncontrollable and hysterical laughter that did not end until we reached our destination, the Comedor. Even over a week later, she admits chuckling: “Every time I think about it I can’t stop laughing! It was standing on one leg! It was like it was doing tricks for us or something!!!!”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Juarez Reflection: I Saw A Storm, But I Did Not Fear It

 

I saw a storm, but I did not fear it. The rolling fields of thigh high prairie grass gently lapped against my body which was vividly green against the backdrop of the dilapidated barn house. Many cyclones dropped from the dark sky in the distance; they split as many from one – plodding and planning. Each swirling column spun a cloud of dark debris reminiscent of a black smog from the ASARCO smelting plant – thick and noxious. With anger and ferocity, it was as if a caged lion bearing the brunt of a captive life, walked the thin line of his cage searching for holes in the gate; searching for an opportunity to strike; waiting for his turn to pounce.

The warm breeze kept me calm as I made my way toward safety in the cellar, but I never rushed or hurried because I had no trepid feeling of immanent danger though it sought to be the death of me. No wind had come nor any downpour. There was a storm on the horizon, but the calm preceding it did not just warn me of its immanent danger. No, it enraptured me in the peace of preservation. It kept me calm not only in the face of dying but also in the real possibility of it. It was a peace unwarranted of any word or phrase. I made a slow gait to the barn house smiling in the headwinds of death.

And as I awake to the morning chill of Juarez, I seek to know the meaning of this dream – why the brooding vehement animosity of the storm might seek my end. These passing thoughts fade as my day begins and the joys and trials rush upon me. The days pass on and the week moves through whatever mundane attributes it can muster, and all the while my mind fades from this encounter. Then, on a day full of rain, I climb tiredly the hill on which we live, and I shake the coarse dripping mud from my jacket which I had obtained from digging tree trenches at one of the ministries nearby. I stop and peer up. There, at the top, is a red faced elderly Mexican man surrounded by nearly ten horse drawn policemen and a silent frustrated staff member. Profanity and rage spew from the man’s mouth as he curses the police and the staff who struggle to remain calm in the mounting danger of the heated confrontation. The man is a raging storm, a caged beast, hoping to break free his cast iron chains to feast a succulent jugular.

The pattering rain falls steadily and splatters on the muddied steep road as the steaming breath of the chocolate police horses protrudes from their nostrils. Time fades while the darkened rain clouds roll in, and the tapping of my heart finds a peaceful tune which could see  this stilled portrait of death and smile.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Juarez Reflection: Homage to the Night


A black cat stares down at me from her perch on the concrete level above as I work out in the small area we call a court yard. It is late, and behind her a full moon casts its daunting glare on the girl's bedroom window as it peers out from the frosty desert clouds. Juarez is quiet tonight. Even the dogs are paying silent homage.

Juarez Reflection: Like the Sun

 


Before leaving for Christmas break, I find myself in the dingy inner room of a women’s shelter handing out stockings to the eager little children and their moms. A young girl peers eagerly at me, but I know the mere idea of a gift is foreign to her; she does not know what it means to receive; She cannot understand provision. I show her all the things in her stalking and try my best in pleading with her to understand that they are hers to keep. I desperately want her to know that she gets to have all these gifts not watch as they are taken from her by the other children. I find a small bottle of bubbles and open it for her. She stares inquisitively as I dip the small plastic utensil into the bubbly water and bring it to my lips. As I produce a large and dripping monstrosity which rises but for a moment and then sinks quickly to the ground, I see something incredible. The young girl, having never seen a bubble before, throws her hands out shaking, widens her eyes, gyrates her entire body, and lets out a near deafening screech! And it is not only this first time but every time she sees one. For almost a straight hour, this ecstatically intense noise fills the deadened scene of the shelter. I am convinced that if joy could be bottled, it could never be as real, refreshing, or invigorating. It is as if the young girl is the sunrise, and her excitement is beaming off a single drop of dew as is streams through a spring’s morning cloud like the rays of the sun… There is something profound here I think.