20 October 2013

Katherine and Tim

They make a good pair.

“And another set of questions nagged, about profound and juxtaposed inequality - the signature fact of so many modern cities...Some people consider such juxtapositions of wealth and poverty a moral problem.  What fascinates me is why they’re not more of a practical one.  After all, there are more poor people than rich people in the world’s Mumbais.  Why don’t places like Airport Road, with their cheek-by-jowl slums and luxury hotels, look like the insurrectionist video fame Metal Slug 3?  Why don’t more of our unequal societies implode?...In the hours that passed, I arrived at a certain clarity...I had little to lose by pursuing my interests in another quarter - a place beyond my so-called expertise, where the risk of failure would be great but the interactions somewhat more meaningful...The slumdwellers I’d already come to know in India were neither mythic nor pathetic.  They were certainly not passive.  Across the country, in communities decidedly short on saviors, they were improvising, often ingeniously, in pursuit of the new economic possibilities of the twenty-first century.  Official statistics offered some indication of how such families were faring.  But in India, like many places in the world, including my own country, statistics about the poor sometimes have a tenuous relation to lived experience.  To me, becoming attached to a country involves pressing uncomfortable questions about justice and opportunity for its least powerful citizens.  The better one knows those people, the greater the compulsion to press...There being no way around the not-being-Indian business, I tried to compensate for my limitations the same way I do in unfamiliar American territory: by time spent, attention paid, documentation secured, accounts cross-checked...When I settled into a place, listening and watching, I don’t try to fool myself that the stories of individuals are themselves arguments.  I just believe that better arguments, maybe even better policies, get formulated when we know more about ordinary lives.”  
 - Katherine Boo (Author’s Note: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity) (finished yesterday)

“Do you know how Satan tempted Jesus? [turn this rock into bread, throw yourself off this cliff]...He’s trying to say, I want you to be like Merlin, and I want you to be like Superman, because the powers of Superman, the powers of Merlin, made them in-vulnerable, made them impossible to attack.  You couldn’t spear Superman, you couldn’t nail Superman, you couldn’t kill Superman, because their supernatural power made them in-vulnerable.  Jesus’ supernatural power does not do that.  The grand miracle was the incarnation in which God, the glorious God, the Son of God, became vulnerable.  When the woman with the hemorrhage touched Jesus’ garment, do you remember what happened? How did he know that she had been healed? He said ‘power went out from me’ - he felt weak.  In other words - his strength went to her.  Her weakness went to him.  Isn’t that interesting?  Do you know how often, when Jesus Christ did a miracle, it made his enemies more angry at him so finally when he raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11, his enemies said, “now we’ve gotta kill him.”  Jesus’ supernatural power not only did not make him in-vulnerable, it made him more vulnerable, more spearable, more nailable, more killable.  Why? The very last verse tells you.  How does Jesus deal with our brokenness?  He bears it.  He bears it...not just the disease, all the brokenness, death itself, the curse of us turning away from God, the disintegration, the weakness the suffering the death that is our lot now, fell on him on the cross....strength through weakness...Jesus Christ saves us by becoming weak, by going to the cross and dying for us....how are we going to bless the country, the neighborhood, how are we going to bless the world? How are we going to deal with cancers and slums? We have to become weak and to pour yourself out and to do the great works that Jesus did, is to give your money away, is to give your time away, is to give your heart away, but that’s what we have to do. 
Rodney Stark, who was a great historian, and who wrote a great book called Rise of Christianity [tells of eyewitness accounts from the plague in the early centuries of Christianity]: 
‘The doctors were quite incapable of treating the disease, the people became afraid to visit anyone, and as a result thousands of people died with no one to look after them.  Indeed there were many houses in which all the inhabitants perished through lack of any attention.  The bodies of the dead were heaped one on top of the other and half dead creatures could be seen staggering about in the streets, the catastrophe became so overwhelming that men became indifferent to every rule of morality, many pushed sufferers away, even their dearest, often throwing them into the road before they were dead, hoping to avert contagion....Most Christians in the plague showed unbounded love and loyalty never sparing themselves and only thinking of others, heedless of danger they took charge of the sick, attended to their every need, ministering to them in Christ and many departed their life serenely happy for they were infected by their neighbors and cheerfully accepted their pains.  The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of elders, many in nursing and curing for others transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.’
Where do you think they got that idea from?”
- Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, [“Healing the Sick” : Matthew 8:5-17] (listened to today)

bearing each others brokenness...Katherine Boo did.  No indication she believes in Jesus... “the profound and juxtaposed inequality” she wrote of and her perplexion at how the walls we insulate ourselves with don’t just collapse on top of us...we as Christians, yes, but also as humans in general, do not love our neighbors by creating walls of insulation/protection/security/peace/beauty...but by going and crossing those lines of “expertise” and comfort that Katherine speaks of, where “the risk of failure would be great, but the interactions somewhat more meaningful”...those lines that protect us from the brokenness and suffering of others...those lines that put us not only at risk of failure, but also put our lives themselves at risk...our “happiness” at risk...our contentment with the status quo...and from experience, when we do, we not only have the honor of bearing the burdens and brokenness of those around us, but also learning from and experiencing their glory...this ingenuity Katherine writes of, their sense of humor, their intellect, their simplicity of life, their creativity, their beauty amidst their brokenness.  Getting into the muck of ordinary lives instead of cruising by on the Airport Road past our luxury hotels and glossy billboards with photos of starving children...the better we know people, the stronger our desire to press into and against the injustice and suffering in their lives.  Jesus could have used his power/position to make himself “in-vulnerable” as Tim points out - preventing all possible harm/threat, but He didn’t...quite the opposite.  Maybe I should take note.

11 October 2013

What's in a voice?

Pittsburgh, PA NLDS Game 3 (October 2013)

What's in a voice?
I have known the sound of nothing so long
Since I was just a flutter
from the tenderness of her "shhhhh...."
to the distress of her "[sigh]......"
from the stern holler of "HEIDI!!!"
to the delight of "Heidikins!....."
her inquisitive questions
her seldom shared life suggestions
There's reason
There's reassurance
There's familiarity
There's functionality
There's correction
There's compassion
There's conversation
Then it creaks and groans and slows...
threatening to halt
A word here, a throat cleared there
I want to pull it back
back from the ALS abyss
A voice, you say?
Would by any other name sound so sweet?
Not hers.
It's just a name - letters, sounds, syllables - you say?
Yes, but it's hers.
It's just a body - bones, muscles, joints - you say?
Yes but it's hers.
It's just a voice - tones, pitches, vibrations - you say?
Yes, but it's hers.
God made this name, this body, this voice.
and He made them hers.
He made my name, my body, my voice.
and He made them hers.
What's in a voice, you say?
It's hers.