Monday, March 30, 2015

Chosen by God: to Sit on a Donkey

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day that the kingdom of God clashed with the kingdoms of this world in one of the most simple and yet jarring statements, when Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey. It was simple in his understatement of power and jarring in that he simply refused to play the game. Jesus, a master of the third way of power, doing what he did best, what he would spend that week in Jerusalem doing, not answering the question, but rather finding a better question for us all to ask ourselves. Jesus refused to side with the Romans, the Zealots, Herrod, or the Pharisees. Jesus instead chose to display a lack of power and therefore show what it truly means to be chosen by God. I think that Holy Week is a perfect time to look at that one special question, as we are led up to the cross, a cross which Jesus says we should take up daily, what does it mean to be chosen by God to carry that cross?

In an Open Secret Lesslie Newbigin says, in reference to what it means to be chosen by God, “Again and again it had to be said that election is for responsibility, not for privilege.”

I have never seen Jesus’ metaphorical donkey ridden by anyone as well as it was ridden by Mama Zach. Mama Zach, an amazingly strong woman, was the eighth wife of her husband, and has children that were born from 1957 – 1987. Mama Zach is also a strong Christian who would wake her children up to go for prayer at 5:30 am. If her husband happen to be up when they all returned from prayers he would beat her for trying to indoctrinate his children, he wasn’t a Christian. This never did stop Mama Zach though. She continued waking her children up, taking them to prayers, and getting beat upon her return. This continued for years, and while I do not advocate staying in an abusive relationship or intentionally marrying someone with the goal of converting them, Mama Zach is a testimony to what it means to be chosen by God to change someone’s life. After years of this treatment, before he died, her husband was saved and helped her to build a church on the family’s land. He also completely changed how he treated her, the rest of his wives, and all 52 of his children. She bore her cross, and understood that to be chosen by God was a responsibility to continue to live as a Christian, faithful in any situation, and the truth that makes many of us, in many different contexts uncomfortable, that to be chosen by God does not always many an over abundance of blessings for us, but to be a blessing to others. It is a difficult thing for many of us to accept and learn, and almost no one I know has ever mastered what one of my friends calls smiling through the tears.

Ezekiel 14:9-11 “As for the prophet who was seduced into speaking a word, even though it was I, the Lord, who seduced that prophet, I will use my power against him and cut him off completely from my people Israel. The prophet and the enquirer alike will bear their guilt, so that the house of Israel won’t stray away from me again or make themselves impure with any of their sins. They will be my people, and I will be their God. This is what the Lord God says!”

This picture in Ezekiel, of the chosen of God being chosen for suffering and being given over as a sacrifice so that not everyone is lost, is not the picture of God’s chosen ones that we normally have in mind. The Prosperity Gospel is on the rise with a pastor recently asking for $65 million from his church for a private jet. The elitism of the US claims that the blessing of God is synonymous with wealth, affluence, and power. Yet this week, this Holy Week that starts with our Lord riding in on a donkey and ends with his crucifixion as a common, political traitor is a good week to pay attention to what we as Christians are truly being chosen for, and it is not always the comfortable path of blessings that we make it out to be.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Child's Car Seat and My Morning!

Let me just start by saying that it has been one heck of a day and it is currently 9:09 am. The morning started off well, the kids slept through the night for the first time in like a week and a half, I was able to get up, get a new solar unit I just bought ready to take to a pastor who is going to use it to start a business charging mobile phones, have some prayer time, shave my head, and get ready for the day. It didn’t last long. I walked out with the kids to get in the car and head to school when I found out that the tire I fixed yesterday was flat again. This put us 20 minutes behind schedule, but that was recoverable, which is important since I am spending part of this week as a solo parent and am also flooded with school work, proposals, liturgy to prepare to consecrate the church in Gamasara on Sunday, and all on top of the normal work load. We were almost back on schedule when one of the kids I take to nursery school as part of a carpool group vomited all over the front seat. I am now sitting sipping on coffee and waiting for the car to be cleaned. Back to square one with little chance of getting the tablet fixed and ready for a volunteer coming in two weeks to work with churches on communication technology or visiting Vulnerable Children, a group here in Mwanza that works with street children whom I am hoping can help us take our parent training and reintegration ministry in Tarime a step further, and no time to meet with Tunza and set up a meeting space for the writer’s workshop that will be here in three more weeks (one week of which I will be in Nairobi). For those of you wondering, you may also be getting a glimpse of why I don’t blog much anymore.

All of that though (and you can call it whining if you want to because it probably is), to lead up to my main point. Since we got to nursery school late I left at the same time as a nanny that was dropping a child off and I gave her a lift back to her house (running late or not we still have to take time to help others out)…and she sat in the car seat. Granted the front of the car was still full of vomit so she couldn’t sit there and there was only a small space between the two car seats in the back, but, I just…Why? This has happened to me a lot actually, and while I understand that most of the people who choose to sit in the car seat have never probably used one themselves for their kids and understandably should question what it is, but why squeeze an adult body in a kid’s space in the first place? It brought to mind a conversation I had with a friend at the end of February. He told me that the poor pick the best, worst choice. He didn’t mean that they make bad choices, just that they are often only presented with bad choices and therefore try to pick the best, worst choice. Sitting in the car seat is preferable to walking…they have conditioned themselves to be resigned to the best, worst choice. It is a pattern of survival of mental and emotional health that the world around them tries to daily grind into dust.

This is why Amartya Sen wrote Development as Freedom, because while poverty is an economic state it is also about the freedom of choices, not the best, worst choice, but real choices about good education, good health care, and a life that gives a person more dignity than sitting in the child’s car seat, which in all reality is an apt metaphor for any development work done that treats the recipients as children to be cared for instead of adults to participate in the growth and flourishing of their own lives. This is why, even though most of my day looks like it will be spent playing catch up and deciding what can be moved back a week or two so that the essentials can be completed, I am excited beyond belief that this morning I plugged in and tested a solar unit that will go to help a pastor start a business. It is not a gift, this is the second round of money donors have given us as small loans. It has already been paid back once and is now going to someone else, who will have to use this new business tool to pay back an interest free loan as well. But having that choice, being an active participant in the development of himself and his family…that is what development is about.