Remembering Home

One of the themes behind my blog’s inception was being content to “Live Home Free” – both on a temporal level as I accept my current transient lifestyle and on a spiritual level as l continually move towards embracing the truth that “this world is not our home”.

For the last 3 weeks I have been hooking up with Lisa-John Baker’s Five Minute Fridays. It wasn’t what I planned to do but her words have inspired me. It has put me “out there” and that scares me; it also has me writing every week and enjoying it. Today’s word is a timely one for me – HOME. Not only because it ties back to one of the reasons I started blogging but because this Friday I am writing while visiting the city of my birth: Johannesburg.

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START
From outside the country and places across the ocean there are many who wonder if I am crazy to return to a country who hasn’t been getting very good press recently and whose statistics of crime, violence and xenophobia support that view. From people within her own borders, this trip is the first in a long time that I have not encountered normal South African optimism. So in many different ways this trip has been clouded by layers of negativity.

But…
The city skyline, far from beautiful or favoured in the country, evokes in me a deep response of affection. There are friendships and relationships here that shaped my life. Much of the fabric of my story was woven in this place and so I come back eager to feel and remember.

This city is a vibrant one, full of colliding African cultures; businesses and people always pushing to be seen as “world class”; with progress and promise alongside poverty and hopelessness; here the depressing is humorous and the ordinary courageous. This is not a city where people live small… it’s life on the edge …exciting and exhausting at the same time. The smell of a Highveld early morning, the dust laden sky, the faces, the languages and accents all comfortingly familiar.

It is not only the physical that confronts me here me but also my spiritual Life. This is where my eternal Life began. In this city, I took my first small steps of faith and had my first experience of community/ family within the church. Here in Gauteng, I developed the courage to stand for what I believed in: my faith against my non-Christian family and for justice against the then apartheid regime.

The memories run deep as does the nostalgia of the physical…In coming back, I am reminded again of the complexity and the roots of who I am!
STOP

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What Mama Did to What’s my Legacy?

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01I grew up in a family where story was important. My South African, Jewish and Irish ancestors were all about honouring the courage of the previous generations. These were men and women who didn’t just survive but made hard choices and because of them helped their country, themselves or their families towards brighter futures. These accounts were always told with awe, great detail and self-depreciating humour. There were stories of escape, war time bravery, name changing to avoid persecution, self-sacrifice and long journeys across oceans. Each character inspired me …..and as I look at the fabric of my life can see their stories deeply intertwined with who I am today.

So when Lisa-Jo Baker in her blog asked: “How do we moms want our kids to remember us?” it got me thinking about what I remember most about my Mom and what legacy I am leaving my own children?

The greatest bequest my Mom left me was the understanding that relationships were more important than being right, that living a life of forgiving others and loving (in spite of hurts) allows one more freedom. Then there was her courage to try new things, and fail, which was also so evident in the way she did life. These characteristics, coupled with a wonderful ability to tell stories and laugh at herself made her a special friend and a fun person to be around. I long for more of these qualities in myself and hope that somewhere a glimmer of her outlook is passed down beyond me to the next generation.

My kids are old enough for me to ask them what they think the lasting impact my life (so far) will have had on theirs…. and so I sound them out slightly and there are no huge surprises… …They know I am terrible with money, a demented back-seat driver, cannot read instructions, get my left muddled with my right and can drive them crazy with some of my more controlling behaviours. These are the things they laugh about when they are with one another. On a positive note, they say I have taught them to value people and their stories. I have stood up to injustice and moved in a direction not necessarily embraced my family and peers. This they admire as they struggle with their own issues of identity and fitting in. They have found it uncomfortable at times but through my example (and messes) have come to understand that having authentic relationships is worth the journey of open, honest communication and pain. Each one of their lives has, both positively and negatively, been impacted by my journey of church and faith. We don’t talk about this today but I hope that my transparency in wrestling with my faith will be the greatest legacy I leave behind: where our kids understand they have the freedom to question and struggle with the complexities of believing and still have a deep, intimate and personal relationship their heavenly Dad.

Reg Grace Carl

Holding onto Memories

Recently, I have been thinking a great deal about the passing on of stories and family traditions. It was triggered by the funeral of a friend’s Mom. In listening to the eulogy for this grandly-peaceful and courageous lady I realised that there was so little I knew about her and I was disappointed by how many chances I had missed to learn from her life and wisdom. The finality of the grave always means the end of opportunities to know a person better and to love well. As a result, there is often a period of self-questioning & doubt.

More recently there has been a special family wedding which underlined the value of interfacing with the memories, quirks, stories and life lessons of those who went before. Without doubt, my own personal focus in all of this is a result of my personal bereavements. The chance to ask questions of, to listen intently and to learn from the wisdom of my parents, uncles and grandparents has gone. Furthermore, my memory for their stories has not held up well. I am disappointed I didn’t create more openings to sit quietly, that I didn’t pay more careful attention or keep better records of the history we did discuss.

It’s a loss of the detail and the story that I find myself craving.

The good news is that the substance of my family of origin is still alive. The values of my ancestors continues to speak to me. I do not have dates and names memorized  I cannot remember the detail of their challenging lives and there are many questions I thought to ask too late BUT there is an intrinsic part of who they were that continues to echo in my current circumstances. This essence was present at the family wedding I attended and I see the character of my friend’s mom in my friend’s warm strength. The genetics and the witness of the lives, courage, compassion and faith of our predecessors is part of how we live our lives now, how we parent and the hopes we hold onto.

The implication for me is that that the passing on of story and meaning is often caught more than remembered. This is both a challenge and a consolation. Perhaps even more so now as a parent. The comfort is in the fact that even when there is no access to relationships for factual memories, meaning is transferred. Nonetheless, it also means that the way lives are lived, our values and family functioning is part of a legacy that cannot be measured and will touch future generations in both positive and negative ways – therein lies the challenge!

Many Countries in the Same Space

I was fortunate when in London in September to see Yoko Ono’s Exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery: Into the Light. It was a free exhibition as part of the London 2012 Festival. Incredibly interactive it had an underlying message of love, peace and freedom. I was fascinated by the charmingly primitive nature of her work.

Some of her simple concepts resonate with where I find myself in my world right now. On one canvas were the words:
many rooms, many dreams, many countries in the same space
Another, ‘Three Mounds’ was exactly that – Mounds of dirt, each labelled as Country A, B, and C (attempting to blur the invisible frontiers between countries at war).
All of this has me thinking about how under the surface the difference between countries is less than we think…….
…that people across the world are connected more than we realize…..
It has me contemplating similarities and the common ground we share:……in relationships, love of beauty, hope, pain, joy and the pursuit of Love.
It has inspired me to focus more on people’s shared stories
and to concentrate less on the tension…
and more on the harmony fashioned by the opportunities of my own life!

How do continual mobility and Church fit together?

These musings have drifted across my mind over the last few weeks. Maybe it’s the reading that I’ve been doing (books that I have had a long time but for some reason never read until now). Maybe it’s because I have been working with a team on the idea of what to value in terms of spiritual formation. But all of this has had me mulling over these matters….
Traditional church believes people need a system to grow spiritually and function together as a community and a cause.
But what about those of us who don’t fit into a box?Those who work unpredictable shifts, those who move a great deal, who nurse an ill spouse and cannot participate in organized churches. What about my Third Culture Kids who aren’t anywhere long enough to call a church “home”. What does this premise say about us? How are we to operate? How can we experience transformational Life?
And how does it relate to what scripture teaches?
Which is that: all believers are equally equipped with the necessary spiritual resources for knowing God and ministering to others.
If I believe that He is living His life in and through me as part of the body of Christ, His church, wherever I am and with whoever I come across each day then surely I am part of His Life and have a purpose whether I belong to a formal group of believers or not?
Said another way:
·         All of us have an equal “calling” to know God and He allows us to grow and be transformed by the power of His Love in many different ways.
·         We are also equally called to make Him known within our ordinary lives and amidst the people we connect with each day. Furthermore, because I believe that I am a unique, personal conduit of His life in this world and that I was born to live supernaturally doing His work by His power, this is something I can expect, as I depend on His Spirit.
What does all this mean for me?·        I sense I am joining a group of believers who are not part of organized church and that don’t believe they need to be in order to grow spiritually and function according to their calling.

·         I believe am being called to participate in a way of being the church that is transportable, not restricted to a location or a particular group of people.
·         I see this as an ‘intentional’ process and know that in many ways it will require a new focus and an ongoing willingness to be ‘present’ in all situations to my Father’s voice.
·        This excites my heart and offers me hope in my current stage of life.
I am not trying to say that I have a new way of doing Life that is “right” or should replace organized church. But I am sharing a bit of where Father is taking me in this season. Perhaps it will offer hope to those of you who (for whatever reason) are struggling with being part of an organised church. I think there are some of us out there who are not called to “belong” to one group and who have the privilege of carrying His love and His hope into the world in a different way and that this can be as exciting, meaningful and transforming as participating in traditional structures.
“Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
Galatians 5:25 (NLT)