Peace

Netflix is sending me Farenheit 9/11 today in the mail. I may be the last person alive who hasn’t seen it. Andy (my dear hubby) had one simple statement to make when he heard it was coming. “It’ll probably really piss me off.” And it probably will. My peaceful, Mennonite thinking, “war is wrong” attitude lives juxtaposed with his veteran status and patriotic pride as an American. He doesn’t agree with the state of our current war in Iraq nor does he see the killing of innocent people as acceptable. He does, however, agree that war is an option and that America must defend itself. On this point, we may never agree, and we have decided that it’s best not to broach the subject very often. It causes quite a bit of dissention in an otherwise amazingly peaceful marriage.

Andy doesn’t understand that I am not proud of being an American. Living overseas all my life and looking back at my country of birth through the eyes of another nation probably contributed greatly to my overall view of the great USA. I do feel lucky to have been born here and to carry the privileges that brings. But, patriotic I am not. To me it seems there is a lot of anger wrapped up in patriotism.

We as a nation have not conducted ourselves very maturely for a few years now and what’s there to be proud of? We have more than anyone yet can’t be satisfied. We are slaves to fear. We possess the land as though it is ours to rape and wonder where the farmland went. We often declare ourselves a Christian nation and politicize God as though we are the chosen people and the rest of the world can go to hell.

So, when Farenheit 9/11 hits my DVD player, I’ll try to keep my mouth shut. I want to respect my husband’s feelings; I don’t have to agree. I just wonder what it takes to convince someone that other people’s children hurt just as easily as mine.

The Love of the Father

In early October, 2006, a man walked into an Amish school armed with rifles, pistols and deep pain. No one will ever understand why he chose to execute a group of young Amish girls; we don’t need to. It is the aftermath of that day that will live forever in the lives of so many people all over the world and the consequences of his deeds are far reaching in ways that no one expected.

Three nights ago, Andy and I witnessed God’s healing and grace in action. We were invited to visit with a little 8 year old girl who bears the scars of that day in October. I will call her Miss S. Andy was one of the people who treated her that day. I remember the evening after the shooting, he was telling me how feisty she was. With the extent of her injuries, he tried to intubate her to help her to breathe and she kept pushing him away. He desperately hoped that meant she would make it through. She did. And when we walked into her kitchen she ran up to him and laughingly said, “I look better than I did the last time you saw me!”

As we sat in their living room, we heard her father’s stories of how brave she was, how miraculous her healing and what an impact she had on the staff at the hospital who worked with her. He told of daily visits to the hospital, relying on others to drive them. Only on Sundays were they unable to be with her. Aunts, grandfather and parents; someone was always with her. As he spoke, tears threatened to fall, but he had a never ending smile on his face as he watched his daughter. Their family also lost a daughter to a bullet, but they do not dwell on her pain or death. They focus on the miracle walking around their house.

While we were there, two other families stopped by to visit. They didn’t know we would be there, it was just their normal visiting night. God planned it though, I am sure. One couple lost their daughter that day. Another man was a first responder and a member of their church and knew the girls. He had been the first to aid the little one Andy took care of.

The living room was crowded with chairs for the 8 adults and we counted nearly 12 children from age 12 to 4 weeks running in and out of the room. Listening to the Amish men speak of their experiences that day and reliving their roles was so healing for us. They asked questions of each other. “Where were you?”  “What happened next?” and “When did you find out who passed away?”.  They discussed helicopters, the speed of the police cars responding and the dynamics of the whole event in very factual terms. I felt as though I was sitting in a group therapy session. Nearly six months later, and these parents still pour out their memories and questions to eachother in order to unload their grief.

The most incredible moment for me was a conversation between the first responder and a mother whose daughter had died. He said he had been struggling with the fact that he could have identified each of the girls and let their parents know which hospital their child was sent to or what their physical condition was. But he didn’t, and it wasn’t until much later that night that parents knew the fate of their children.  The mother of the slain girl looked at him and said, “If I had known what had happend to (her), that she had passed away, I would have left the school and gone home. Instead, I stayed with my friends and waited. I am glad you didn’t tell me or I would have been alone all day.”

In our Sunday School class we are studying what Mennonites believe. Woven into all that discussion is the idea of community as a place to study scripture, learn and work together. These Amish families that night embodied that perfectly. They relied on each other to hold them up each day and listening to them talk together for hours about thier experiences was healing for them and for Andy and I.

Miss S never stopped smiling or kissing me after she opened the gift we brought her. Her father noted that the hospital wasn’t able to take the “silly” out of her when they removed part of her brain! His obvious love for her was palpable.

Both of her parents repeatedly stated that without God carrying them through they would have cracked up. They have received hundreds of letters and cards from around the world from people who want to live their lives differently and with less anger now that they have witnessed forgiveness and grace from the Amish parents. To them, that makes it all worthwhile. They even received word of a country closed to the Bible that was allowed to view footage of the event and send their condolences through their government controlled mail system. The idea that the murder of little Amish girls in rural Lancaster county touched the lives of people behind a communist curtain was amazing to their parents and made God so much more evident in the aftermath.

Miss S’s father asked me if I thought the effect of this would continue or if it was just a short lived “one day” ripple of grace. I told him that I think that his children and the children in his community will be testament to Christ for the rest of their lives. I believe that.

The love of a father for his children so close to the love of The Father for us. Amazing grace and peace where there could be so much anger and fear.

The new school building is nearly ready and the kids are excited to use it. That building itself is a testament to faith and trust.

We healed that night a little, I know Andy did. So did the parents we met with and the children playing around us. Miss S has a brand new baby sister to love and 6 brothers to take care of her. She is a little bit of a celebrity and a very happy little girl. Her scars are hidden with a new head of hair and her vision is returning to normal. She bears little outward scars of the fearful events of that day in October and inwardly, I think she’s just fine.

This week was a week of introspection for me. So o…

This week was a week of introspection for me. So often I feel like I am walking on the fringes of life lately. Andy is so fantastic about getting everyone up and moving in the morning while I sleep in. I find that my body is exhausted all the time. This thing of healing takes so much energy and you don’t even realize it until you can’t stand up any more! He is an amazing man and some day I’d like to take him on a cruise; but he gets seasick, so the thought will have to count!

Theology is such a heady issue. I’m reading about and discussing the Non Violent Atonement theories; reconciling my peace issues with my fight-back instinct; Orthodox vs. Pentecostal vs. Mennonite….phew! It could get to be a full time job debating these things. And this week, I’ve discussed all!

I am yearning for a church that doesn’t rely on heritage for it’s theology. At the risk of offending people I love dearly; sometimes being Mennonite does not attract me much. It’s like being born Jewish. It’s what you ARE… and the faith, peace, smiles, dress, theology, acceptable behaviors and all those trappings are assumptions that you make for your life and assumptions that others make for you. Why have any questions? Why digress from “the path” when those before you have it all planned out? The problem I see is this: It is far too easy to fall into the label of Mennonite and have no idea what that means to others! If I tell someone I am a Mennonite, they often automatically and immediately trust me. And then ask me where my covering is! If I simply tell them that I am a Christian, they often automatically and immediately distrust me and wonder if I will judge their words and deeds out loud. There are many people in my community and circle of peers and friends who don’t know that Mennonites are Christians (the way THEY understand Christianity). They see Mennonites in the sterotypical role of simple, peaceful and quiet. Not someone with real thoughts, ideas or any connection to modern culture! Most of the Mennonites I know don’t have a large circle of close friends outside of that church…and I find that sad. I would say that my best friend is not a Mennonite; not an anything…maybe closely Quakerish….but ultimately not entirely happy with that either. And, she enjoys a great Merlot on occasion!

But, I think there are some Mennonites who would say that those that are not “Mennonites” would be so far into “the world” that their salvation would be in question. I remember as a younger person thinking that if someone wasn’t Mennonite that they weren’t
“saved.” I don’t know why; that was something I sucked in from my upbringing in a strict legalistic family and being surrounded by evangelical missionaries full of Child Evangelism fever! If I behaved a certain way; wore a certain type of clothing; listened to (SHOCK!) rock music and maybe on occasion had a glass of wine I was headed straight to hell! The rules and legalities became central to my salvation and Christ crucifed was a great story to make me feel totally depraved and when JUST AS I AM played…..boy I was on my knees!

I am grappling with the idea that Christ is an unresolved issue in my life. The formulas laid for me; the Sinner’s Prayer; the promise of Heaven as a place in the clouds…is so far fetched and unreal. So childish and simple. But…Christ, the Son of God, bore for me the sins of the world that I might be reconciled to God and be One with God; Atonement through the crucifixion and resurrection/defeat of death that Christ endured…that is something to think about! And, it doesn’t matter if I am a Mennonite, Baptist, AOG, CMA or whatever denomination I think I want to be….He ultimately came for Me as a human being. How cool is that!

I just want to love my God and learn of Him more each day. To revel in the awesome power and glory he reigns in! To humbly bow, on my face, beseeching Him with my little needs and know He cares.

My Bible has become a frightening thing for me to pick up some days. It almost breathes. It jumps on the shelf and skitters around asking me to open it! I hold it and love each page. It is the living and breathing Word of God!! I need a new one (mine is disintegrating) and I cannot bring myself to buy one. Not only because I am broke and can’t afford it, but because I’d have to break this new one in and it wouldn’t be “alive” yet! I cherish each word; each day something new from oft read phrases jumps into my heart.

And that happens no matter how Mennonite, Anabaptist or whatever you are! God doesn’t really care; he just asks for faithfulness, passion and mercy for others from us.

He simply asks for Love.

Let that break your heart for a minute.