(GH) War and Bread

This is what I wrote last year around 9/11. It’s still on my heart. Originally posted on livejournal on 9/11/11.

I’ve shared my story in the past. So this isn’t a story directly related to 9/11, but it is a story that’s been on my heart all week. Three stories, actually.

We–my mom, sister and I–were sitting in a nice restaurant in Central Asia, with native people, and we had just finished a fantastic traditional meal. My sister asked our friends to share one bit of their culture that they would like Westerners to know. They thought for a few minutes, and then began to go around the table. Most of them talked about women’s rights and about hospitality.

One man shared a story with us. There is an old tradition, he says. When two people (families or towns) are warring, it used to be that a woman could stop the war. She would bake bread in her home, and then take it to a woman in the other side. The people would cease fighting, because the woman had been so brave and had earned so much respect.

My sister asked if an American woman brings bread, can the war stop? We all laughed. No, they said, because the terrorists do not honor tradition.

The image of that tradition is beautiful and horrifying to me, as I think of a little woman in her chadar, clutching bread still warm from the oven, going into war with a silent gift of peace.

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(Old) From My Journal: Arrival in the Country

(Originally posted on June 17, 2011)

Mom and I are waiting at the gate of our guest house to catch a taxi to the airport. The taxi should get us just before 2:00 a.m. It’s 1:30 a.m. now. Time ticks by. I stand with the gate opened a crack, staring out into the surprisingly busy street. I feel jumpy. I feel like I’m staring into something significant, but don’t know what. I feel like my next move will change everything. I memorize the twisty design of the gate, the handle, the shadows. Time passes. 2:00 a.m. comes and goes. I convince Mom to leave me by the gate while she calls for another cab. It is interesting to me how I can be calm with my mom here, even in circumstances where I’d have been trembling in my sandals without her. But I wonder if I underestimate the courage God’s given me. I don’t feel courageous. I wonder if people face something terrifying and think, “And now I have to be brave.” I don’t think I’m thinking that. I just wonder, “What will help most now?” And then I act. I am constantly looking for ways to help.

But right now, I really am jumpy and—unnecessarily—afraid. I think of the verse in Isaiah—God is our shield and protector. Refuge and strength. Mount us up on Eagle’s wings. I just repeated this to myself again and again. Refuge and strength. Refuge and strength. God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. I think I learned that in VBS. Thanks, VBS.

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(Old) A Snapshot: The Boy and the Rose

(Originally posted on June 8, 2011)

The streets of this city are thick with dust—dust underfoot and in the air, on your skin and in your lungs and eyes. It’s almost impossible to escape the dust.

But there are roses, too. They bloom out of the hard brown earth and burst into beautiful colors—pinks and reds and purples. They are bold and vibrant and laughing, even when the dust tries to mute them.

There is a boy, about fifteen, on his bike. His hair is dark and close cropped, his clothes old Western hand-me-downs. He is about to turn onto the street clogged with dust, and he squints his eyes in protection as he watches for cars.

He has twined a beautiful pink and white rose around the head tube of his bike, so that the bloom peaks up at him over the handlebars. Before he pulls out onto the filthy street, he looks down at his rose and he smiles at it. His smile is like the rose—bold and vibrant and laughing.

Another day, there is a man riding with the traffic. His head is covered in a scarf, but his gray beard is long and dirty. Every now and then, he glances down at the handlebar of his bicycle and smiles at his red rose. Its green leaves stretch out as if to embrace the man and the cars and the dust. They stretch out in invitation and in victory.

(Old) God’s Glory

(Originally posted on June 7, 2011)

So, I’m going to be posting some about my trip. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the place, but I think you guys would enjoy hearing some of the stories.

God’s glory is a concept I’m only just beginning to understand. All my life, when someone used that phrase in a prayer or at the pulpit, I’d inwardly roll my eyes. For me, “God’s glory” was a stamp people used on their speeches to make themselves sound spiritual. “We need to raise money for this church so that with a new building we can further show God’s glory,” etc.

But in the last few months, God’s glory has taken a new meaning for me. I was lying awake in what many people would consider a desperately dark country, and I was thinking about God’s glory, and I finally began to define what it has come to mean.

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