My wife and I went on our first Mexico house-building trip with Amor Ministries as college students in 1985. The trip opened my eyes to the suffering of families who live on the Mexican side of the California/Mexico border. Many of these families have traveled north not only to find better opportunities for their families, but also to escape oppressive and violent governments within their home countries ( Guatemala, Honduras. El Salvador). On that first trip my wife and I made friends with Victoria, a woman in her mid-sixties who was raising her grand-kids in a chicken-wire, cardboard, and blue tarp shack while her daughter and son-in-law picked strawberries in California. That trip taught me about the economic and global injustice of our present world, as well as the beauty, creativity, and resiliency of Mexican and Central American people. Mostly, I remember feeling the similarities between the families I met in shanty towns along the Mexican border. These were families with parents who loved their children just as much as families in the U.S., families who were seeking a better life for their children, just like any family would in the U.S.
I am so ashamed of the anger, resentment, and vitriol directed toward immigrants seeking a better life in America just as my immigrant Italian and Scottish ancestors did. Particularly, when this latest surge of immigrants involves high numbers of children.
This coming January, Amor is hosting it’s first Global Gathering for college-age young people who are seeking to begin working to create a different world. Young people will gather from across the United States, Mexico, and the United Kingdom to not only talk about a new world, but actually begin building. I hope you can join us. The motto for this event is: “Bringing Young People Together to Disrupt The World.” I have the opportunity to lead contemplative prayer at morning and evening gatherings. To learn more go here.
One of the great honors of my life was being asked by my son Noah and the student leadership of Ashland High School to give the commencement address. Thanks to Jereme Dittmer of Catalyst Video for taping and editing the speech.
I have a variety of events in the U.K. May 10-15. I hope my U.K. friends will join me at one of the following events:
I’ll present at the Transforming Youth Ministry Conference in Birmingham (maybe the most diverse city in the U.K.) on Saturday, May 10 sponsored by The Church of England (thank you Helen Tomblin for all your work on this).
On Sunday May 11th, I’ll lead a retreat on Radical Compassion in Preston (way up in the north of England), sponsored by Greenbelt. The retreat will include music led by North Carolina musician and activist David Lamotte. My good friend Andy Pratt is the organizer you can contact Andy to register at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, May 12th I’ll lead a day-long workshop on “Sustaining your Spirituality for the Long Haul,” at St. John’s College in Nottingham.You can get registration information here. Thank you Sally Nash for your work on this event.
Tuesday May 13-15th I’ll be at the National Diocesan Youth Officers Conference for the Church of England in Lytham (outside of Manchester). Thank you Susie Mapledoram, Mark Montgomery, and Helen Tomblin.
I hope to see many of my U.K. friends during my visit.
Another sign that young people need a chance to breathe, feel, come home to themselves…particularly within a world in which we are continually tethered to the “distracting present.” Check out this article (sent to me by old youth ministry buddy Randy Kuss) on the use of meditation and quiet in a troubled and violent school district here. Of course, kids in untroubled neighborhoods need this just as much….
Though we may not always sense it, every young person has a soul that waits for God. The soul is like my aging neighbor who often sits out on his front porch. He doesn’t own a computer. He has no understanding of the technological gadgets that fill the eyes and ears of young people. But he knows the seasons. He knows the black oaks, sugar pines, and fir trees that line our street. He can tell you when winter’s breaking up or when a summer rain is gathering over the horizon. He has wisdom to share for those who take the time to talk with him, and a listening ear for the person whose sorrow has grown too heavy to carry. My aging neighbor knows how to be grateful and he knows how to grieve. It’s not unusual to see his eyes fill with tears over a small gesture of beauty and when he laughs it comes from the center of his chest.
What makes my aging neighbor remarkable is that he is still in touch with his humanity. His capacity for wonder and gratitude hasn’t been diminished or discarded. He knows how to look and see and feel the sights, sounds and activities of our neighborhood. He notices and comments on the little changes people make in their yards. When he sees someone who looks tired or lonely or worn he invites them up to his porch. My neighbor is still in touch with the presence of God in the world, so when a hardship or struggle is shared with him he often responds, “I’ll take it to the Lord in prayer.”
Inside every young man is an older man like my neighbor, witnessing and savoring the sorrows and pleasures of life. And inside every young woman is an older woman, a wise woman, who watches in wonder at the life around her. Sometimes my work as a parent is just to help my kids notice this wise soul within, to trust this soul, to spend time on the soul’s porch—because that’s the place where God is met and trusted.
I contributed to a series of (brief, 750 words) articles on Patheos.com on the subject of “Passing on the Faith.” You can read my article as well as thoughts by Monica Coleman, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Jones, and others here.
This Thursday June 27th from 7 to 9pm at Temple Emek Shalom in Ashland, Oregon I’ll host the summer installment of The Hearth: Real Stories by Regular Folks. Stories of lost love, discrimination, self-hatred, fist fights, alcoholism, teenage pranks, and other tales of suffering through the adolescence years. Money will go to Creekside Music Camp. If you’re in the area show up and feel what church might be like in the future.