re:california part I

I returned from California about three weeks ago.  I wanted to write about ten blog posts right away but decided to wait.  Let the experience become part of reality first.  I had too many words. I wrote down every detail while I was there.  Every conversation, every feeling, everything I noticed.  I went because I needed a break from reality.  I needed a break from Ohio, and winter, and (don’t get me wrong, I love my kids) but I needed a chance to be with my own people.  I needed a break from all of the white and all of the English.  I went to stay with my sweet Mexican friend and her Spanish family.  When I first met Xio she said to come visit her in California and her mom would make me authentic Mexican food.  I decided right then that was too good an offer to pass up.  It took a couple of years but did it mostly on an impulse.  She picked me up at the airport in the middle of the night and took me back to her little concrete house in Long Beach outside of Los Angeles.  It was Easter weekend.  I spent Good Friday on the plane combating airsickness and meditating on the concept that God died because of me.  God had felt sick, just like I did on the plane.  God understood.  God was here in the air with me and He was there with Xio and her friends in Los Angeles.  We touched down.  I went home to the little concrete house in the ghetto.  I woke up early.   My Spanish is terrible.

I could write a hundred blog posts about the next six days but I want to stop here on Easter.  It was the most beautiful Easter I have ever had.  A true celebration.  My sweet friend goes to a Filipino church and for Easter morning they were having an outdoor service.  We drove up a mountain to a park full of trees and flowers.  Los Angeles sprawled across the valley below, silent in the fog of the early morning.  We sat at tables with the loveliest people.  Everyone with a smile and a story.  Old people and young people, some who grew up in Los Angeles, some who came from somewhere else, but everyone there for the same reason–to celebrate the fact that God is not dead.  We sang in several different accents, we heard the gospel preached, we shared some delicious Filipino food.  There was laughing and joking and welcoming.  I made so many brothers and sisters.

We went home and I spent the afternoon with Xio’s adorable Mexican mama.  I cut cucumbers and radishes and onions.  She made salsa, she marinaded the meat in citrus juice, she talked to me in Spanish and I talked to her through Xio.  More friend came.  Spanish friends, Filipino friends, Los Angeles friends, me–the kid from New York.  We ate a meal.  We laughed.  We talked about eyebrows, and Mexico, and food, and what is Ohio like.  I told them how much I loved the mountains in California and that there are no mountains in Ohio.  I told them where I grew up in the forests of upstate New York.  City kids don’t understand how country kids make friends.  We laughed a lot.  I don’t know when I laughed so hard.

I have never felt like I belonged somewhere so much.  I felt God’s love so powerfully through the sweet people around me, through the laughter and the advice-giving.  We took some photos.  We gave compliments.  We told stories.  My new friend, Jen, slept over with Xio and I that night.

This is one of my favorite  days of my life.  I loved seeing God’s people and being with them and laughing.  I loved knowing that we come from different worlds but still love the same beautiful God.  I’ve prayed for them every day since and cannot wait to be with them again whether it is in Los Angeles or in the presence of God.  But either way, we will sing and laugh together again.

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re: people

I grew up in New York State and spent an OK amount of time in The City.  Not tons of time.  I don’t like The City that much.  It’s like an anthill–too much movement, too much activity, too much noise, and work, and anonymity.  There is no identity, just movement, flashes of clothing and clips of accent.  There is no story, there are no eyes.

I was sitting on the steps of a library in Queens.  There was a Christian group across the street passing out tracts and engaging people in conversation. A man sat next to me, lounging on the steps all decked out in gold fabric.  He was watching the Christian group with an attitude of frustration, not hostility, just frustration.  His turban was orange and purple and his beard tumbled over his chest.  His eyes were bright green.  “I am a Muslim.” he said and began telling me about his beliefs and his life in Afghanistan before he came to New York. “I am a Christian.”  I said, a little reluctant to identify with the group across the street.  I asked him more about Afghanistan and his family.  We just made small talk for a while.  He continued to scrutinize the group across the street.  He had to leave.  He said it was nice to meet me and to remember, “We’re all people.”

We’re all people.  I brushed off the encounter and frankly forgot about it while dealing with the Subway transportation back to where I was staying.  It really didn’t even cross my mind again until lately.  I’ve been getting to know Jesus better and better. Getting to understand His attitudes and how He dealt with people, how He loved them.  I’ve also been working with teenagers and realizing that one of the biggest problems with people is that we fail to realize that our friends, relatives, and enemies all have the same depth of feeling and story as we do.  We’re all people.  I am not the only person.

We are all people.  We are all made in the image of God.  We all have hopes and dreams and feelings and stories and insecurities.  Jesus saw people this way.