Sunday, June 27, 2010


This has been a crazy week, full of many activities (including a family wedding). But I didn't want to neglect to report back on the Pow-wow that I attended with the kids as part of the WCRC this past Tuesday at a park downtown.

I was super excited to show my kids this part of our national heritage--which is often portrayed in one way that is far from the truth. To show them the pageantry and beauty and faith that is inherent in native culture among native peoples. There is a beautiful understanding of Creator God that has been paired with a knowledge of Jesus' salvific work and the ever present Spirit that is central to life as a Native person. In Utah where I grew up, there were often displays of the cultural heritage of that place. Every summer, our family traveled to a festival of sorts where we would see renderings and depictions of that life. These sorts of things are not as openly a part of the heritage here in the Midwest, although still an integral part of the development and history of the area.

The ceremony was on a hot Tuesday afternoon--all the 1,000 delegates were in attendance, as well as member of the 4Tribes and the community. It was a hot, bright sunshine-y afternoon. First there was a worship service. We sang in Amazing Grace in Cree, we "Got up & Danced" with the Holy Spirit, we listened to praise and worship that was not in my language. The stories that are told with drum and voice are both varied and unique, although it is hard to imagine that it can truly be that way.

We listened to a sermon. And I was bothered by it. Because as I listened, I heard anger--a lot of it. At the church for failing the native peoples of this land (which it did), for people for standing by abuses and stereotypes (which we do), for a lack of desire of the current church to engage or minister to and with the native peoples that are among us, for a lack of compassion (which is evident). I am still bothered by the anger that I heard. Not only as a white woman whose people came and stole land and am guilty of all that I was accused of, but also because the anger was not appropriate to the unity of the situation. But I feel that perhaps that anger was not out of place because she was simply pronouncing truth, and this was a truth that condemned some. And her truth reflected what has been experienced by those she loves and her ancestors. Again, I have been changed, and not in an expected way.

I guess God shows up everywhere, doesn't he.

It was remarkable to see how many of the ceremonies of the Native Americans truly embody our One God: that the Holy Spirit is acknowledged as present and active--in the drumming, in the dancing, in the fellowship.

One cool thing about this whole experience is that unlike other pow-wows, the dance circles were open to everyone. They were "Inter-tribal dances" which allowed any person at any time to join in the circle and dance. So we did. The girls and I--but it was also hot and crowded in the circle. But during that time we met two girls from Indonesia, a woman from the Netherlands, and blessed by smoke (symbolising the presence of the Holy Spirit). (Man, I really did have compassion on those people who were wearing native costumes--they were heavy and hot in that blazing sun.) J really enjoyed watching the drummers (the lead drum had just been award the 1st place prize in "Pow-wow Idol" meaning that they were the best drum team in the nation.)

I am glad that I got to share this with my kids. I am even more glad that it had a natural rhythm--that there wasn't entertainment in every moment, so it gave my kids an opportunity to be kids--lay in the grass, roll down the hill, meet a new friend, observe the people around us from all around the world.

And at the end of the event, as we were getting ready to leave, the kids found the fountain to play in. That makes everything great.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Little Piece of Heaven

What can I possibly say about these past few days? A lot, but words are not quite what I want them to be. They don't express how awesome this reality that I have been living in is. I'm pretty sure I can't fully express these past three days, but I will try. Honestly, it will probably sound like rambling.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I have volunteered at the World Communion of Reformed Churches. My job has simply been to be hospitable and kind to the many visitors who are here from around the world. Although my work has been limited (a total of 12 hours), my life has been changed.

For me there is such joy in watching people of faith from around the world live as one body. That's what a lot of this was for me: observing interactions, allowing freedom to interact. On Saturday I watched a world cup match (Ghana v. Australia) with people from those countries. One group reserved, the other not so reserved. It was joy for me. I have built three small relationships (small to them, perhaps, life changing to me) with a woman from Hungary who is a pastor's wife to a Hungarian congregation in Allen Park, Michigan, a pastor from Guyana (that's at the northern border of South America)--Winnie is wonderful! , and a pastor, Tial, from Myanmar. To learn about their countries and lives through conversation and questions is an honor for me (and something that I have always found easy to do). I have learned I have a place to stay if I ever visit Guyana and where to visit if I have the privilege of traveling to Myanmar. I have met and had brief encounters with men and women from Switzerland, Kenya, Kiribati, Canada, United States, Korea, and France.

I have seen (if only in brief form) the work and struggles of the world church--and I am humbled by them. Within minutes of conversations with different peoples, major issues are brought up: the environment, food and hunger, woman's equality, and economic justice. I can no longer live here without thinking of "there" Pastor Winnie asked me what happens to the extra food at the opening reception. I answered truthfully (but sheepishly) that it was thrown away. And she mentioned that she had people in her church who needed that food. Yet, here I live in the midst of such excess.

The delegates at the conference are doing very hard, emotional, tedious work. There has been much discussion about the equality of women as represented by the churches who are part of this world body. Initially I thought "what's the big deal?" But I have since learned, that there are churches and countries where women are not important, celebrated or respected. They have neither rights nor representation. And although this is not on my radar, as a member of Christ's body, unified by his blood, it should be. For even if I cannot act upon the things that I know, at least I can live with a grateful awareness.

And then there was worship.

Oh the worship! How can I possibly describe it? A taste of heaven, perhaps, but those words seem so inadequate.

There is something beautiful and holy about 3000 gathered together to worship our God, to honor Christ with communion, to welcome the Holy Spirit. I am emotional just thinking about it. 3,000 people singing "Hallelujah" or "Praise to the Lord" in their mother tongue. People diverse and distinct unified together by our Salvation, being challenged to go forward and be unified, to do justice, to show God's light to this world. Hearing God's word and knowing it is true for all of us. Seeing the children of delegates and knowing that we build these bonds of unity for our own children--that they might know that God works in many wonderful and mysterious ways in many parts of the world, in the old and the young. I can hear the trumpets and drums and choral voices--as hints of the glory to come. I see dancing and raised hands and singing and clapping. God was present, and I believe God was honored.

There is still more to come. God has been using many things in my life to hone my thinking on what it means to live as a member of his world church. I am eager for tomorrow when I take my kids to the Pow-wow downtown (and hopefully take pictures and be part of the dance circle). I am hopeful they meet some of my new friends.

On Sunday, about 20 delegates from the conference attended church with us at Oakdale. I was able to bring a special greeting to certain delegates from the island nation of Kiribati (which was an honor for them to receive). I shook every person's hand and truly welcomed them. But what impressed me the most is when I sat down, J whispered in my ear, "Mommy, I shook one of their hands and said hello."

There is a part of me that thinks that that is what all this is for. To teach my kids that they are part of a larger body, that they are part of the world church, that God loves them and they can give that to others. And if in all my volunteering that is what they learn, God will receive honor and I will be a proud mommy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude no one could count, from every nation, people, tribe, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. And the cried out in a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God, and to the Lamb who sits on the throne."

And that's what I'm doing this weekend. Nope, I am not predicting my own death or even Christ's second coming. I am spending the weekend worshipping Creator God with a great multitude. From around the world.

And I am SO excited.

What's going on? Well, two ecumenical bodies who represent Reformed churches around the world are dissolving and merging to create on representative body of Reformed peoples. The Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) represents 75 national church bodies around the world and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) represents about 200 national church bodies. Joining to make the World Communion of Reformed Churches, this body will represent 80 million Christians world-wide. From every continent (well, except Antarctica) and many nations.

(Want to learn more? Check out the website for specifics.

The meeting to both dissolve the two previous bodies and join together a new group is taking place here this weekend. And I get to be a part of it. Nope, I don't have any official role--I'm not a delegate or steward. I am a volunteer. And in this capacity I get to meet people from around the world: show them my college (where everything is taking place), my town, my church, and my family. About 1,000 people are arriving from around the world: Latvia, Uganda, Malawi, Indonesia.

Two highlights everyone should know about (and kick themselves if they live here and can't find a way to experience this). First, Sunday at 4 p.m. is an ecumenical worship service at which over 6,000 people are expected to worship our one God! 6,000 people unified in worship, 6,000 people singing praises to our Holy God. The Holy Spirit poured out on all of us. A mess of languages, peoples, nations, and tribes worshipping together. A true glimpse of heaven. I won't miss this opportunity.

Second, on Tuesday afternoon/evening there will be a Pow-wow downtown where people from around the world will experience our land's cultural heritage. The Pow-wow will be attended by Native Americans and First People's from both the US and Canada. There will be a drum-line and dance circle. I am attending as both a volunteer and a parent. I get to show my kids that God works all around the world--they get to meet people from everywhere, experience God's spirit, and show them part of our nation's heritage.

Yeah, some of this has been inconvenient for my family--I am paying for childcare for some of my volunteering and Eric is giving up golf to volunteer with me on Father's Day. But I wouldn't miss this for the world.

The world is coming here.
And I am going to meet it.
Praise be to God!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pursuing a dream

So I hereby publicly declare that I am pursuing my dream.

Sort of.

For my entire life I have dreamed of being a published writer. Actually, to be specific, I dreamed I was such an excellent writer who had such mastery of words that I was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Now, I just dream that I can complete a piece of writing.

But to that end, I am actually doing something about it. I am now meeting regularly with a woman who is interested in writing and words. Every time we meet we will each have something written to share with the other for critique, enjoyment and ideas.

It is fun yet scary to think about having someone critically read my writing. Honestly, I think, "what if my writing really stinks--'cause in my head I think it might be the beginning of something good."

To practice my writing skills, I have actually started writing. Because in the end, I can talk about how i love to write all I want, but it is the act of putting pen to paper and letting the words flow that makes me a writer. I try to write every week. Sometimes it's great, sometimes its horrible. But at least I try to write.

But here comes my problem. I don't know what to write about. If left to my own too long, I always come back to two topics (which while they are worthy topics, they don't always have to be my focus in my writing): parenting (both that I am doing and that I experienced) and faith. And usually, it is the intersection of those two things.

So I would like to ask you, dear reader, have you a brilliant glimmer for me? Some inspiration? Some fantastic thing I should write about? Ultimately I know any writing will have to come from my head, but I don't mind gleaning any ideas I can (isn't that what Ruth did to survive in a difficult time?)