Border stories … thoughts on refugees

DSC_0942Can I be blunt?

I usually try to finesse words, make a little romance, ask the syllables to play nicely together in straight and pretty lines for a quaint bedtime tale.  But, tonight, there is tear gas, and babies are crying, and people are sleeping in the open. There are living, breathing humans who will soon be picking their way through kilometers of undetonated land mines into Croatia. There is a dad with two kids who walked on a broken ankle with a tiny hand in each of his to reach a gate before it closed.

And for what? Why? What is the moral of this story?

There are so many theories out there about why the Middle Eastern world is leaving homes and uprooting families to make a terrifying journey to Europe: Economic. Religious. Extremism. War. Prophecy. We all have our theories and our fears. Continue reading

third space

IMGP1505There is a pink cherub skip-jumping a merry jig down Tkalciceva Ulica. She is anchored to her mum by one chubby hand while the other bounces a fall bouquet. The bounty is no doubt intended for a luncheon with friends but sans anchor, both cherub and flowers would be quickly lost in Zagreb’s sea this Saturday morning.

Buzzing voices marinate with the tinkle of spoons on coffee cups. The smell of expresso is in the street. It all pulls you toward a paradoxical space of intimacy amidst the crowd, if you can find a spot to sit and sip.

And, it seems like Jesus can’t find a seat.

IMGP1498 - Version 2IMGP1507IMGP1556This is not a crowd of tourists having a weekend go in Zagreb. They are locals who have rolled out of their Saturday bed, made an effort to look nice, and trekked to the centre from wherever they live. It’s like a Sunday morning scene that makes a church pastor salivate.

Come and get your Jesus fix here.

IMGP1413 Get rest for your merry souls. Forgiveness for your dirty deeds. Relief for your addictions, and your depression and your loneliness.

But, they don’t.

And the Church can’t figure out why we are empty. In Europe. In North America.

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They don’t come. Get fixed. We are empty.

I wonder if it has anything to do with our people projects?

Because fixing people for heaven is a task that you designate and delegate and execute.

I don’t think people want to be executed.

They want to be wanted.

They want to open the door and be greeted with a kiss on both cheeks as the cherub passes the bouquet and linger over coffee because they are important to you. If you want a picture of the quintessential Europe, that’s it, right there.

Simple like that.

Honest.

Authentic. 

PoznanBut sometimes I get the feeling that we, as the Church, lick our lips like a lioness set free to cruise through humanity while they sit and sip their coffee in the kiss of the Adriatic sun.

Maybe they sense the danger, you know?

Because it is one kind of frightening to be swept away in a sea of people and another kind of scary to be counted as a number for an organization.

And that is what church feels like to this generation; an organization counting their number.

IMGP1552 - Version 2Nobody wants to be a number.

Or a project.

As if, with some measured time and the right ‘how to’ manual, I could renovate you and put you on the right track to Jesus.

Ironically, there are churchy articles and books that tell us how to connect with people. And, the problem isn’t that they exist. But, maybe why they exist should cause us to be concerned? Because, it implies that we don’t remember how to connect with people. Have we forgotten how to see someone as more than a countable commodity in our pews?

IMG_2992Three years ago, missionaries made Zagreb their home. 

We don’t have a mega-church.

To be brutally honest, I don’t imagine that we have the kind of church growth strategy that makes it into those ‘how to’ manuals. 

We have a Nazarene family becoming fluent in language and culture, putting their kids into Croatian school, practicing hospitality, carrying flowers into homes and finding seats in cafes.

Just like the Croats on the street below Dolac Market, in the third space, where it is public and intimate and anchored to the sea of humanity.

I like that – the intercourse of our lives birthing a relationship that cares for the other instead of using her. 

It isn’t my space. It isn’t your space. It is our space. Neutral. SharedAnd, we are hosted by the Holy Spirit in the Third Space.

He is that Third Space:

The Holy Spirit filling us, inviting us, to HIs table, and there is no Us and Them, because we are all  lost and lonely and desperate and in need of an anchor.

It sounds like, well, it sounds like what we all always imagined church should be, before Church became about the best outreach strategies.

Back when we saw people as people; not projects, not numbers, not potential Christians, not target audiences, not even people going to Hell if we don’t intervene.

It seems like there might be a table opening up in my life with a friend motioning for me to join her there. There is a place for you too, for all of us; a Third Space, where grace speaks and the coffee flows, and the pink cherub jigs her way down Tkalciceva Ulica.

Could you bring some flowers, if you come?

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when we have faces – Croatia in Focus

Danube shoes

jewish shoe memorial

It is a rainy afternoon and I am snapping photos from a little golf cart that tours Krakow, Poland. It has no sides but still shares the busy, traffic-jammed streets with real vehicles, leaving me with a feeling of vulnerability. I shiver and grasp my camera securely. The spring rain still has the bite of winter making me wish for a second layer. The Jewish Ghetto of Krakow seeps into my bones.

I have walked the streets of Auschwitz and Birkenau, turned my eyes from the plethora of photos that speak the last desperate syllables of life on this planet, seen the cases of hair, dolls, shoes, spectacles, that once belonged to someone just like me. That once belonged to 12 million souls like me. And, one of the questions that always worries me is simply, ‘How did they not know?’
Continue reading

a face in the trash

eastern europe neighborhoods

half-baked laundry

It was Christmas morning 2000 and the apartment was quickly filling with people. There were gifts under the tree, two sweet toddler cherubs waiting for the big event, tummy tickling aromas coming from the oven, snow picturesquely falling in a gentle haze. All was as it should be. And, I? I was half submerged in the large silver trash dumpster in the parking lot of our large apartment complex.  Continue reading

sing

IMGP8772Somewhere between Zagreb and Budapest, where the farmers gather the fruits of another year’s sweat and tears, there stands a church in the midst of a ripe field. Every ear is straining toward the sun, the heart of each plant bursting in readiness for transition. And in the very midst of this lavish testimony of the farmer’s care, his blood, his sweat, his tears, there stands a church. She is empty now; though an earlier era found her full of laughter, and weddings, and the messy life of the community that reveled in the sanctuary of her arms. Does her lonely presence, her upright carriage against a darkening sky, only know the lament of an almost forgotten era or can she yet sing a new song? Continue reading

come on to Zagreb!

IMGP7783It is time for another trip. Zagreb, Croatia.

Dave and Betsy, put on the coffee.

No need to pack your bags. It is a short, 3-hour drive from Budapest. Grab a drink and a snack for the ride, your passport, and let’s go.

We will be seeing Dave and Betsy Scott and their sweet cherubs JJ and Emma. The city is IMGP7782beautiful, the drive promises to be breathtaking. It is worth your time. Come on!

Zagreb is the capital city of today’s Republic of Croatia.  A former eastern bloc country that was part of Yugoslavia during the Communist era; today, Croatia is well on its way to becoming a tourist magnet. Zagreb’s streets retain an old-world Slavic flavor found in the outdoor cafes that lend themselves to long chats over a cappuccino. The coast is a beautiful array of sandy beaches and brilliantly blue Adriatic seas. Continue reading