the wind blows wherever it pleases…

Spirit-filled adventures

Catching Up May 25, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — beccasuerho @ 4:09 pm

About two years ago I wrote a post warning you, my beloved readers, that I would not blog much during grad school…and I am proud to say I kept my word. 😉 Now that I’m nine weeks away from completing my program, and am feeling the weight of things lessening, I am venturing outside of my den of books and papers to offer some reflections and highlights from the past 24 months. I’m seated at my dining room table in the middle of the day, sunlight streaming through the gray clouds, hot tea and vanilla candle at my side. Pull up a chair and join me! 

August 2015

I started my new job at Whitworth University as Assistant Director of Student Success, and also began my master’s program in Spiritual Formation and Leadership. That was a hard month on the job! Because students weren’t on campus it felt like there wasn’t much to do yet…or maybe there was enough to do but it didn’t seem to have any context since I wasn’t yet working with students. I read a lot, got to know the history of my department and began trying to find my place within the campus culture. 

We spent lots of time at the Spokane River, soaking up the last days of summer…


September 2015

My parents were able to visit! Jon and I enjoyed showing them around some of our favorite spots in Spokane–hiking, farms with cider and donuts, a beautiful garden. Jon also got hired to work part-time at Whitworth as a Digital Content Assistant in the University Communications department, creating and managing video and social media content (much like his job at Fresno Pacific). 


October 2015

I remember October feeling difficult. I was still struggling to find my place at work, and had strong urges to escape the constraints of my job and go exploring–the fall colors and crisp air always generate wanderlust for me! I was also struggling to balance work and school…I remember many a night coming home from work and heading straight to the back room to do homework, while Jon cooked and served dinner, cleaned up, and tried to occupy himself. I think our schedules made us feel very lonely at that time. 

On a lighter note, I took a quick trip to Michigan to be in Jessica’s wedding, a dear woman who has been a friend of mine since second grade! My dad officiated the wedding and it was truly an honor to be part of the celebration. 

    
November 2015 

We celebrated Thanksgiving with friends in our home in Spokane…our first time away from family for a major holiday! The five of us were pretty proud of the delicious food we made. In my graduate program, I became very interested in different spiritual practices that I hadn’t been acquainted with before. The idea of following a church calendar for liturgy, Bible readings and celebrations caught my interest and has been something I continue to think about. 


December 2015

 Jon and I stayed in Spokane for winter break and enjoyed quality time with one another. We took long walks in the subdivision behind our apartment complex and had great conversations about our dreams and hopes. We’d experienced so much change in the preceding months! It was good to reconnect and enjoy a slower pace of life.


January 2016

I had my first residential course for grad school in Scottsdale, Arizona. My cohort of fifteen people and the cohort ahead of us met at a lovely Franciscan retreat center and enjoyed phenomenal teaching by one of my favorite professors from college, Nate Foster. This was the first time my cohort had meet in person, and we had a wonderful time expanding the relationships we’d already built in our online courses. One of our course texts was The Making of an Ordinary Saint: My Journey from Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines, written by Nate. It was based off of Nate’s experiences with the spiritual disciplines written in his father’s classic book, Celebration of Discipline (Richard Foster). I loved our conversations about how the disciplines create spaces in our lives for us to hear from, connect with and worship God. 


February 2016

We traveled to Fresno for a quick weekend trip…Jon’s sister Rachel married Erik, and we were thrilled to be there celebrating with them! It was good to see that side of the family again, and it was a beautiful wedding. 

My friend Morgan also came for a visit! She and I met in the fall of 2010 and have been friends ever since. It was such a treat to have her travel across the country to spend time with us in our new home. We enjoyed coffee shops, geocaching and hearing about her (at the time) new boyfriend, Tim. (They are getting married this August!) 


March 2016

Our dear friends Chase and Emily Conklin came up from Fresno Pacific for a few days! Emily worked for me as an RA for two years at FPU, and then “took my place” as an RD on the team when I left. We really love this couple and it was a joy to spend time with them in Spokane. 


April 2016

Our friend Steven came up from Fresno for a visit…we always love having him around and–at the time–were really hoping he would move up to Spokane over the summer. Spoiler…he got a job in Residence Life at Whitworth and now lives up here! We now have five of us who worked at Fresno Pacific together and “transplanted” up to Whitworth/Spokane. 

Jon and I also took a trip to Portland, partially funded by some generous friends! It was my first time in the city, so Jon got to show me around his favorite places, and we discovered some new ones together. 


May 2016 

Jon and I headed back to Michigan for a very special celebration…the wedding of my younger brother Josh and his high school sweetheart, Maggie! The bride and groom were stunningly gorgeous, the wedding ceremony and reception were beautiful, and we were so blessed to have the time with family! 


June 2016

Life (thankfully) slowed down a bit here…students were gone for the summer and my class work was a bit lighter in preparation for our trip to Guatemala. Jon and I found a quiet, beautiful campground not far from Spokane, and quickly became addicted to camping together. So fun! I also made a trip to Orlando with some colleagues for a work conference. Tough life! 😉 


July 2016

This month was one for the books, so full of so many good things! I have an eleven month contact at work, so July is my annual month off. Jon’s mother, Valerie, came up for a visit, and we were so thankful for the time with her. We got to show her around Spokane and just enjoy her company again! While she was visiting we began looking for a new apartment, since our rent was going up. We found a beautiful two bedroom, two bathroom apartment just a mile away, and made plans to move at the end of the month. Valerie’s visit was followed by a brief overnight visit from two students at Fresno Pacific..these guys had worked for us in Residence Life and were on their way to Canada for a vacation. It was a blast to reconnect with them on their way through town! The next day Chris and Mandie came into town from Fresno…Mandie and I worked in the same office at FPU and still catch up on a weekly-ish basis now that I live in Spokane. We were so thankful they were able to make the trip so we could see them in person again! A few days after their visit Jonathan and Rachel came to town…Jonathan had also been a coworker of mine, and he and Rachel now live in Texas. We cherished our time with them and their willingness to fit us into their trip to the Northwest! After they left we had a few days to pack up the house before I left for my second residential class, this time in Guatemala. I spent 11 days with my cohort in a country I had fallen in love with during college, and came away with meaningful memories and lessons (see the previous four posts on this blog). While I was gone, Jon moved us to our new apartment! 


August 2016

Unpacking boxes, moving in. And I aged another year. 

We enjoyed a visit from Jon’s dad and his dad’s wife, Richard and Rhonda, too! It was nice for me to get to know them more and to show them around our town. It was amazing to realize that even with all the visitors from the past six months, we never got tired of showing people around Spokane! There is so much beauty and character around this town! 


September 2016

I was invited to a small, 24 hour event in Houston, put on by Renovare. My friend and professor from college, Nate Foster, now works for Renovare, an organization started by his father which exists to equip people and churches for life with Christ through spiritual formation. It was a very rich time of connecting with other believers and learning more about formation in the church. In September I also began my first foray into adjunct teaching at Whitworth! I am a Core 150 D-group leader. All students are required to take Core 150, 250 and 350 during their time at Whitworth. Core 150 is a history of Christianity in Western Civilizations…we begin with Abraham and work our way through history, all the way up through postmodernism. It’s a fascinating course! As a Discussion Group leader I meet with two classes of students (20-26 students per semester) once a week to facilitate discussion and learning around the content provided in lectures. I grade over 200 assignments per semester in addition to leading the discussion group times. While it’s been difficult to manage the grading on top of my job and my graduate school work, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the classroom experience (and the extra paycheck!). I’m learning a lot and getting to interact with even more students than I usually would, all of which are blessings. I’ve completed two semesters of adjunct teaching, and this fall Jon will join our discussion group team! We look forward to this adventure together. 


October 2016

We enjoyed another visit from my parents, as they had a conference that brough them to the Northwest. We also had some of my dear friends from college visit with their daughter–Kayla, Brian and Addison. Once again, we loved have quality, in-person time with people we love! 

Some friends blessed us with tickets to a wonderful marriage conference in Seattle…Jon and I loved having an excuse to get away together and found the conference extremely valuable. We took an extra day just to visit the Seattle Zoo (I just LOVE zoos), and that was pretty special for me. 


November 2016

Jon and I got to drive down to Northern California to spend Thanksgiving with his family at a lovely campground. It was so good to see everyone again (most of them live in Fresno) and to be back in that beautiful state! 


December 2016

Thanks to Dan and Bri, the Rhodes family received another beautiful baby boy! Jon and I flew to Southern California to be with my parents, Dan, Bri and the kids. Barrett David Rhodes arrived just a couple days before we got there, and we delighted in getting to meet him! Wyatt and Olivia are at such fun ages, as well, and Jon and I took them on a day trip to the San Diego Zoo while we were there. It was good parenting practice for us, because NOTHING went as planned, but it was worth it to have some quality time with those cuties! 

I went to a conference for work on Trauma Stewardship, a fascinating topic I hadn’t heard of before. I learned a lot about the importance of creating sustainable rhythms of work and self-care when you’re involved in work that consistently brushes up against other people’s trauma. It was powerful stuff! 


January 2017

I had my final residential class in Hillsdale, Michigan at Camp Michindoh. This time my cohort was the older crew, and we enjoyed meeting and welcoming to the newer cohort to the MSFL family. We had some excellent teaching around the topic of hospitality and welcoming the stranger, and it was pretty poignant to all be together for the last time. 

February 2017 

A relatively quiet month! I am increasingly feeling more at home in my work at Whitworth and I am so thankful for my supervisor and coworkers. I’m part of an excellent team and feel honored to learn from people who have been diligently serving college students for years. 


March 2017 

Jon got hired for full-time work at Whitworth! He is the Training Develoment Specialist in HR and so far is loving his job. I’m so proud of his patience and persistence during the job search, and so thankful the opportunity to remain at Whitworth opened up. We love working at the same place, sharing lunch breaks and holiday time and commutes. He works with a great department and is now located a bit closer to my corner of campus. Hooray! 

In March we also spent almost two weeks house- and dog-sitting for some friends. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in their beautiful home and we absolutely love their dog. It was like being gifted a “stay-cation” for free! 


April 2017

We celebrated Jon’s birthday and Easter with a trip to one of our favorite cities, Portland. We spent two nights in the city and two nights at the coast. The ocean time and the time in the car together were good for our souls, and we were thankful to have the means to get away together! 

My parents were also able to stay with us for a few days while they were in the northwest for a friend’s ordination…it was so fun! 


May 2017 

This brings us up to the present! Jon and I took a trip to Michigan for my graduation ceremony, where all but two of my cohort members were able to attend. I celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom for the first time in years, and got to hear her speak at a Mother-Daughter event! Jon and I took a quick trip to Washington DC to see my friend Morgan and so Jon could see the capital again. (The last time he was there he was only six months old). Lastly, Dad invited me to be part of a southern michigan conference event called Ignite. I was one of three speakers and was privileged to be able to speak about some of the things I’ve been learning in my graduate program. We had a wonderful time with my parents that week and were sorry to leave so soon. 


I have nine more weeks of my graduate program and am looking forward to my first “quiet” summer in years. While I have July off, Jon will still be working full time. I plan to slow down, rest, and enjoy the sunshine. As someone else put it, I will need the time to “let my brain ‘un-cramp'” from these two years of study and work! Jon and I anticipate lots of camping, and we will travel to Portland for a half-marathon over my birthday weekend. It should be a sweet season of rest! 

Thanks for reading! (And even if you didn’t make it this far, it was a good reflection exercise for me!) We’ve had a full two years and are grateful for all the friends, family and beauty surrounding us. Until next time! 

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Justice Pilgrimage August 18, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — beccasuerho @ 1:38 pm

On my first visit to Guatemala, Joel Van Dyke situated our group on the edge of a cliff overlooking the city dump. With sights and sounds assaulting our senses, hearts and theologies, he told us that we don’t go to the poor because they need our help; we go because God’s grace dances in the lowest places, and we desperately need to be part of God’s grace.

This conversation from five years ago prepared the way for my experience in Guatemala this summer. “Grace is like water—it flows downhill and pools up in the lowest places” (Rocke and Van Dyke, 18). If I believe this is true, I cannot separate my spiritual formation from living justly.

For some time now I’ve really been embracing the idea that everything is spiritual. Christ can be met anywhere. I’ve found this to not only be a liberating thought, but one that encourages creative connection with the Spirit. As I consider my lifestyle and beliefs in light of this course, I want to lean into a moment of self-awareness: sometimes “everything is spiritual” can be my excuse to pursue only those things that bring me delight, calm, or entertainment. If Christ can be met anywhere, I’d just as soon meet him in nice places.

One of my convictions developed through this course, though, is that God has a special attentiveness for the poor and oppressed. God’s heart is for them, with them, in them. If my spirituality does not encompass meeting Christ in “low places”–places that are difficult, complicated, without privilege, overlooked–then I am missing a huge part of God’s heart. I am shielding myself from the full measure of delights and suffering that come from binding myself to the whole Body. I am imbibing on cheap grace.

Just as wanderers can enter into pilgrimage from different starting points, I’ve encountered several helpful starting places in this journey toward justice. Here I will outline six: prayer, failure, Scripture, creation, community and conversion. There is no silver bullet for social justice, but these tools act as guides on the trail as we step deeper into God’s awakening Kingdom.

Prayer

In the words of Paul the lessor, “If you want to work for justice, first get on your knees.” Praying for issues of justice and for people oppressed by injustice helps us enter into suffering with the heart of Christ. In fact, “an understanding of the importance of entering into one another’s sufferings” is one of the consequences of justice outlined by Campolo & Darling (41). I loved our times of prayer together in Guatemala…liturgical prayer, clearness committee prayer, lectio prayer, intercessory prayer for our brothers and sisters fighting injustice, and confessional prayers. These experiences not only led me deeper into God’s heart for the oppressed, but awakened my imagination to landscapes of prayer I’ve left little explored.

Prayer is also crucial to sustaining the work of justice. Those who try to take on every issue of injustice will burn out or compromise the ethos of the work. In prayer we keenly listen to the Spirt, waiting to be led into the right work in the right season. We are also able to discern a call to rest instead of work; within this balance we can be powerfully humble servants for the cause of justice.

Failure

“For most of us, learning to do anything requires the willingness to fail” (Martin 10). The inevitability of failure has also become a dear signpost for me in the journey toward justice. Martin compares faith development to muscle development: when you build muscle, you execute repetitions until your muscle can no longer perform; this is called a failure point (8). Your muscle has pushed itself as far as it can imagine going, so to speak. The next step is crucial: adequate rest (61). The tired muscle needs rest because that’s when it rebuilds–stronger. The next time the muscle is tested, it’s able to go a little further, and a little further, and a little further.

Just like someone who plans to develop muscle, those who desire to develop their faith must expect and plan for failure points. Martin suggests that often folks hit a failure point when they first encounter overwhelming injustice; there simply is no space or category in one’s current theology to accept that kind of shock (43). It’s a failure point, and it’s necessary. The failure point represents an opportunity to pull back, rest and consider what we’ve seen. From there we are able to re-engage injustice with a little more strength, perspective and tenacity.

Scripture

As I “confessed” in Guatemala, I’ve taken an informal hiatus from Scripture in the past few years. While I am not proud of this, I do want to be honest about it. I became just educated enough to sense that the way I had learned Scripture was too imbalanced, privileged, North American and Protestant.  One of the gifts I received in Guatemala was the opportunity to read Scripture through the lens of justice. The few times I have done this, well-rehearsed verses have nearly popped off the page at me, brimming with life and challenge and rugged beauty. When I read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, it was like new words were forming on the page in front of my eyes:

Love never gives up, even though the issues are complex and the statistics staggering.

Love cares more about the oppression of others than personal convenience.

Love doesn’t want for the sake of acquiring, but considers need.

Love doesn’t strut—how can it? We are all implicated in injustice.

It doesn’t have a swelled head, but walks humbly.

It doesn’t force itself on others (rushing in with solutions), but lifts them up.

It doesn’t keep score of the sins of others or revel when others are stuck in a lower social status—progress and redemption are more important than self-preservation.

Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything for the sake of shalom.

Love trusts that redemption is God’s initiative,

And expects that the best is yet to come.

Love mixes every one part despair with nine parts of hope,

And keeps going till justice reigns.

I believe Eric referred to this phenomenon as “dislocated reading”—the idea that moving ourselves away from geographic or physical familiarity or comfort will cause words to carry new meanings, depending on our environment. While my theology hasn’t always encompassed “an awareness that Christ in in the poor and oppressed, waiting to be loved and served” (another “consequence of justice” outlined by Campolo and Darling) I am finding that Scripture has always been ready to shed light on these truths to those who have ears to hear ( 41).

Creation

Reading Psalm 148 in the middle of our time in Guatemala felt strange or disjointed at first, but upon further reflection it became an incredibly appropriate testament to the totality of God’s justice. Too often we humans have exercised dominion over creation for our own purposes and as expressions of our own power, rather than stewarding creation with the humility and care befitting servants and friends of the Creator. But nonhuman creation is more than simply another victim of injustice; we can look at sister volcano, brother lake, and sister tree as ancient witnesses of God’s just reign. They bear witness to the Creator in ways humans do not, and they are co-worshippers with us as we participate in God’s unfolding Kingdom. In Romans 8:18-21 the Apostle Paul describes a “pregnant creation” which, along with us, is experiencing “birth pangs” as we await the total release of God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven (The Message).

Community

“Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead” ( The Message, 1 John 3:14). Community turns out to be an effective practice course for pursuing justice. If we cannot interact with our loved ones, coworkers and neighbors with a spirit of love, we should consider our motives for pursuing justice in other arenas. If we do not seek to understand and learn from our differences with those near us, we should hesitate before assuming we will effectively serve the oppressed in other cultures. Furthermore, community helps keep us accountable, balanced and grounded. In both my spiritual direction session and in the Cohort Clearness Committees I found that we did not need to process our work with injustice (per se) so much as we needed to process issues back home. Finding freedom in these contexts, with the help of my community, liberated me to be even more attentive to the experiences at hand in Guatemala.

Particularly in North American culture, it can be tempting to make social justice an individual pursuit; we may be overwhelmed by the prospect of mass social change and resort to just making a difference “one person at a time.” While there is nothing wrong with this approach, Remple asserts we cannot be content with just that if we seek systemic justice. He calls for shifts in culture that produce sustainable consumption and  “…demonstrate an abundant life can flow from human beings…who draw significant sustenance from being…within a community” (An Economy for the Earth, 30).

Conversion

We’ve worked with several guiding models in this class, and I’m engrossed by how they seem to spill into one another like intertwining circles or, better yet, as I imagine the dance between the Trinity. First, in Micah 6:8 we have these words: “act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly.” Second, Dorr offers a three-pronged concept of conversion: personal, interpersonal/moral, and societal/political (cited in Campolo and Darling 17).

I’m particularly caught by this idea of moral conversion—having my heart turned toward others in a fundamental way, letting concern for my neighbor move me as an expression of God’s Spirit within me. While it may not always happen in this sequence, moral conversion naturally bleeds into a concern for the sociopolitical structures in which people live. This type of conversion leads us to the remaining two “consequences of justice” named by Campolo and Darling: “a call to challenge institutionalized religion” and “a plan for the world as it should be” (41). I am on the lookout now, mapping the processes of these conversions in myself, paying attention to how God is transforming me, and preparing to engage injustice in the ways I am called.

These six starting places have stirred up so many ideas for action and contemplation. As I consider my “next steps” in this particular season, there are two main ideas I want to articulate.

One of the more significant pieces of the trip for me was an extended conversation I had with Nina and Eric about race and privilege. This year I’ve begun to do some work on these areas, trying to name the ways in which I experience privilege so I can be more aware of how others may not experience it. In June I read Understanding White Privilege by Frances Kendall, which helped me engage these issues more deeply than I had done before. My conversation with Nina and Eric was a powerful next step in this journey; I was able to recount recent experiences where I saw privilege misused (either by myself or others) and gain valuable feedback—feedback that was both honest and gracious. This special time in Guatemala is serving as an impetus for further reflection and growth for me as I explore what justice looks like for the privileged and the unprivileged—particularly those in my North American context. One practical way I will be exploring this is through my arrangement to have more regular conversations with Nina about race and privilege.

This ties in with the broader practice of contemplation. Merton asserts that contemplation is crucial to the task of remaining human (215). I am drawn to expressing  the practice of contemplation in a few different ways: first, in leaning in to the Examen and letting that become at least a daily rhythm. I continue to be convinced that the work of justice must start with a listening ear, a heart courageous enough to know itself so it can listen to the cries of the oppressed without motives of self-preservation. In regularly identifying my consolations and desolations, I want to be aware of how the Spirt is leading me to consider justice in new ways.

A second expression of contemplation is simply having a new lens for looking at the world. Vander Meulen calls this lens “epiphany eyes,” or an ability to notice injustice where privilege and familiarity blind us (62). As is to be expected, this first week back from Guatemala has been full of moments where I see things around me I hadn’t see before. One of my tasks moving forward is to keep seeking things that will help me hone that awareness: articles, the news, books, lectures, conversations, songs, Scripture, meditation, Examen, etc. I was recently given the image of a one-way ticket to capture the idea that we embark on these journeys knowing we are constantly heading toward a new destination or reality. This process of learning more about God’s heart for justice isn’t and can’t be just an educational excursion. It needs to lead to a new way of looking at the world, a new way of engaging the world, a new way of understanding self as part of the whole. Certainly on this journey progress may be delayed or set back, but the overall trajectory is forward with the Spirit.

 Works Cited

Campolo, Tony, and Mary Albert Darling. The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice. Jossey-Bass, 2007.

Kendall, Frances E. Understanding White Privilege: Creating Pathways to Authentic Relationships across Race. Routledge, 2006.

Martin, Jim. The Just Church: Becoming a Risk-taking, Justice-seeking, Disciple-making Congregation. Tyndale Momentum, 2012.

Merton, Thomas. Faith and Violence; Christian Teaching and Christian Practice. University of Notre Dame Press, 1968.

Remple, Henry. “An Economy for the Earth.”  Global Wealth, from Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics, 2007, pp. 60-64, https://sauonline.arbor.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-2121181-dt-content-rid-5210015_1/courses/SFL671_SU12_E1/Global%20Weath %2C%20Do%20Justice-Keep%20it%20Simple.pdf. Accessed 12 Aug. 2016.

Rocke, Kris, and Joel Van Dyke. Geography of Grace: Doing Theology from Below. Street Psalms, 2012.

The Bible. NIV/The Message Parallel Bible, Zondervan, 2004.

Vander Meulen, Peter. “Do Justice—Keep it Simple.” Global Wealth, from Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics, 2007, pp. 60-64, https://sauonline.arbor.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-2121181-dt-content-rid-5210015_1/courses/SFL671_SU12_E1/Global%20Weath %2C%20Do%20Justice-Keep%20it%20Simple.pdf. Accessed 12 Aug. 2016.

 

 

 

Relentless Hope 8/3/16 August 16, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — beccasuerho @ 12:18 pm

I have felt the weight of transitioning back to “normal” life after Guatemala in almost every fiber of my being. I am exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. I feel as if I need to ration out each day’s energy carefully, lest I run out too early. Much like Janet shared in her blog, I also feel the gift and weight of seeing the world through a different lens: my heart and my senses are heightened towards issues of justice, privilege and oppression.

In the midst of this new and powerful turbulence I am brought back to some crucial points from this course. First, spiritual growth is predicated on the idea that there will be times of failure—an inability to act because our theology or experiences have not prepared us for a certain truth—and there need to be times of rest (Jim Martin writes about this beautifully in The Just Church). While the Spirit has been inviting, I have had to give myself permission to rest and be restored by simple delights: quiet evenings with my spouse, less frantic production at work, plenty of sleep. As unconventional as it may sound, these are crucial practices for sustainable growth in the Spirit-led life.

Second, I have to give myself time to “unpack” the memories and lessons of this experience in Guatemala. One such memory came this evening. I was telling my spouse that one of my take-aways from the trip is starting to read Scripture through the lens of justice. The few times I have done this, well-rehearsed verses have nearly popped off the page at me, brimming with life and challenge and rugged beauty. I remembered that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 was one of those passages for me.

I share these meditations with you from a taut and tired heart, befuddled by the enormity of injustice but driven by our hope in a relentlessly loving God.

Love never gives up, even though the issues are complex and the statistics staggering.

Love cares more about the oppression of others than personal convenience.

Love doesn’t want for the sake of acquiring, but considers need.

Love doesn’t strut—how can it? We are all implicated in injustice.

It doesn’t have a swelled head, but walks humbly.

It doesn’t force itself on others (rushing in with solutions), but lifts them up.

It doesn’t keep score of the sins of others or revel when others are stuck in a lower social status—progress and redemption are more important than self-preservation.

Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything for the sake of shalom.

Love trusts that redemption is God’s initiative,

And expects that the best is yet to come.

Love mixes every one part despair with nine parts of hope,

And keeps going till justice reigns.

 

References:

Martin, Jim. The Just Church: Becoming a Risk-taking, Justice-seeking, Disciple-making Congregation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2012. Print.

1 Corinthians. The Message. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004. Print.

 

 

La Limonada 7/30/16 August 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — beccasuerho @ 12:32 am

La Limonada (a blog written for MSFL but reposted here!)

Today our bus driver, Eddie, maneuvered some tight spaces as we made our way into the heart of La Limonada. “Developed” may be too organized a word to describe how this community came to be over the past six decades. Composed of ten neighborhoods, La Limonada exists in a once-lush ravine, populated by Guatemalans whose lives were turned upside-down by a horrific, 36 year civil war. According to Lemonade International, it is the largest urban slum in Central America, though it is only about one mile long. La Limonada is known for its high levels of violence, mainly perpetrated by the ten gangs that rule the ten neighborhoods.

It would have been downright foolish to have entered La Limonada except for the fact that we went with Tita. Tita is a Guatemalan who has been working in this community for the past 21 years. She and her team have already built three academies and are opening a fourth academy any day. Based on a holistic model of community development, Tita and the teachers focus a lot of effort on violence prevention through love and before and after school education.

It’s a Saturday so the children are not at the academy. We fold ourselves into their little wooden desks and listen with rapt, astonished attention as Tita describes the community dynamics. She tells us that by age 7, the reality of poverty begins to hit the children hard, and many turn to gang involvement early on. While the children do attend public schools at the edge of the ravine, Tita and her teachers find that their before and after school programs at the academy provide more education and development for students. In the academies children will receive their only meal of the day, as well as limited psychological services, hygiene education, and attention from loving adults. While the three existing academies serve 500 students, it is still less than 1% of the child population of La Limonada. And of these 500 students, nearly 100% have experienced or are experiencing sexual abuse.

We stagger under the weight of such realities.

After a week of conversations like this, we are becoming familiar with the sense of being overwhelmed….

And yet.

We can’t let the immensity of the problems excuse us from partnering with the God who is already at work in the darkest of places. Our professors Paul and Mary remind us: if you want to go about the work of justice, begin by getting on your knees. And that is how we began today. We surrounded and placed loving hands on Tita and her teammate Lucia. We allowed the tears of Christ to fall from our eyes, mourning the brokenness yet clinging to the hope that “though the wrong seem oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”

Prayer is that centering act that frees us to be humble in our pursuit of justice. In prayer we are invited to not take our finitude and ineptitude too seriously, but to take the merciful, powerful love of God very seriously indeed. From such humility flows action that is just and a creativity fueled by love.

Hope stirs in La Limonada.

If you want to learn more, visit http://www.lemonadeinternational.org/.

 

Fail, Rest, Repeat 7/8/16

Filed under: Uncategorized — beccasuerho @ 12:31 am

Fail, Rest, Repeat (a blog written for MSFL but reposted here!)

“For most of us, learning to do anything requires the willingness to fail. An unwillingness to fail can be a significant barrier to learning….Any significant growth in faith will require risk and even failure.”

Jim Martin’s words about faith and failure have become a crucial guide for me as I consider our upcoming experience in Guatemala, but also as I contemplate the long-range trajectory of my faith journey. Martin compares faith development to muscle development: when you build muscle, you execute repetitions until your muscle can no longer perform. This is called a failure point. Your muscle has pushed itself as far as it can imagine going, so to speak. The next step is crucial: adequate rest. The tired muscles need rest because that’s when it rebuilds–stronger. The next time the muscle is tested, it’s able to go a little further, and a little further, and a little further.

Just like someone who plans to develop muscle, those who desire to develop their faith must expect and plan for failure points. Martin suggests that often folks hit a failure point when they first encounter overwhelming injustice; there simply is no space or category in one’s current theology to accept that kind of shock. It’s a failure point, and it’s necessary. The failure point represents an opportunity to pull back, rest and consider what we’ve seen. From there we are able to re-engage injustice with a little more strength, perspective and tenacity.

As a recovering perfectionist, I am eager to incorporate this understanding of failure points into my life. I am trying to do that in little ways as I absorb the readings for this social justice class. It would be easy to compare myself to the work others are doing in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. It would be easy to defend my lifestyle by becoming critical of others’ methods in pursuing social justice.

Instead, I am trying to approach this material with my hands spread out and upward–ready to receive the stories, the calls to actions, the staggering statistics. This is a season of active learning and contemplation. I may very well hit a failure point at some point in this process–overcome with rage, fear, sadness, or all three–but I hope I will welcome that failure point, take time to rest and reflect, and then extend my hands again, ready to receive.

 

Always Beginners 7/8/16

Filed under: Uncategorized — beccasuerho @ 12:30 am

Always Beginners (a blog written for MSFL but reposted here!)

In January 2011 I traveled to Guatemala with Spring Arbor University as an undergraduate. At that time we explored many of the same areas Cohort 19 will be exploring in a few short weeks. As I consider our upcoming journey I am very eager to re-encounter the beautiful country I fell in love with five years ago, yet at the same time, I am acutely aware of how different this will be.

Five years ago I was barely scratching the surface of what it means to love justice. I knew it was something I should do, but it felt very intangible; I didn’t know how to practice justice where I was. I always assumed I would live abroad some day in order to fulfill the biblical mandate of caring for the poor, since I didn’t see much need in America. Sounds rather trite and naive, doesn’t it?

A lot has happened in five years. It seems I’ve been in constant transition since my last trip to Guatemala, but the MSFL program has helped me find ways to practice a lifestyle of reflection amidst the constant change. While I can’t claim to be significantly more knowledgeable regarding issues of justice, I can say I’ve grown more adept at listening to and learning from the world around me. I think this is how a love for justice must start–with an open ear.

In their book Geography of Grace: Doing Theology from Below, Kris Rocke and Joel Van Dyke identify a “three-step plan” for redeeming injustice, and the first step is crucial: Consider It. Our “aid” to others will prove hollow if we do not begin with a student posture, a willingness to hear and learn.

One of the things I love about Spring Arbor’s cross-cultural experiences is the lack of a designated mission project. While service projects certainly have their place, trips like the one we are about to encounter are times of consecrated learning. We go to breathe their air, walk in their streets, hear their stories and resonate with their heartbreak. Often we find that it is within these periods of listening and learning that the Spirit prompts and guides and teaches in fresh ways.

As we read and reflect and prepare for our journey, I am seeking an attitude of attentiveness and a posture of listening. No matter how much I think I know, I do best when I remember that we are all–always–beginners.

 

The New Normal July 18, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — beccasuerho @ 2:13 pm

About 50 weeks ago I wrote a post about our move to Spokane. At the time, it seemed to represent an unexpected series of busy summers…2013 involved me welcoming two roommates into my little campus apartment, lots of hosting of friends and family, and getting engaged. 2014 was our wedding, 2015 was moving out of state and starting new jobs. Now, smack in the middle of another busy summer, I’m beginning to think this is the new normal. And really–I’m quite okay with that.

So far this summer has included a conference in Orlando, the news of another Fresno friend joining us at Whitworth this summer, and multiple visitors. Valerie (Jon’s mother) visited for a few days, followed by two FPU students who crashed at our place on their way to Canada. Next came our dear friends Mandie and Chris. While they were visiting we put down a security deposit for a larger apartment located one mile closer to Whitworth. Jon and I decided that since we tend to host friends and family so frequently, we might as well rent a place with a second bedroom and bathroom (read: no pregnancy announcements here!). Lastly, our good friends JY and Rachel visited for a couple of days. We’ve felt incredibly blessed by these friendships and great family relationships, as well as our very accommodating work schedules. We look forward to more visitors!

My spare time between guests has been spent reading for my upcoming Guatemala trip. My Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Leadership program takes each cohort of students to Guatemala for a course in Social Justice. In preparation for the trip we consume a good handful of books, articles and podcasts including Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton, The Just Church by Jim Martin and Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice by Daniel Groody. My mind is quite full and eager to have lengthy conversations with my cohort about this material. I’m also eager to sit under the tutelage of folks who are already living lives committed to justice for the poor, overlooked, and marginalized. Especially considering the recent socio-political events in our country, I am traveling to Guatemala with open ears, ready to listen and hopefully learn a little bit more how I can act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God and others.

Today, tomorrow and Wednesday Jon and I will be packing and cleaning our apartment. Thursday I’ll fly to Guatemala while he’ll begin house sitting for some friends. When I return to the States around August 1, we’ll be in the middle of turning in our keys, moving our belongings to a new home, and (for me) starting a new academic year.

I’m learning that I thrive amidst such frequent, significant changes–macro changes, if you will. I’m also learning that I need the steadiness of rituals, rhythms and habits to fuel me on a daily basis; micro rituals. It’s the same as the link between contemplation and action: both are required for healthy humanity. So I’m leaning into this new normal…and signing off to go pack up a few more boxes.