I am with you: dry, empty and forgotten in the forest.
I can only ask you once again
to hang onto the memories
and bring with your strength,
a new landscape for spring.
Liz Herrera loves to learn, read, have a good cup of coffee and find creative ways to combine her passions: communications, urban ministries, social action and mixed media. Liz is a journalist and has served alongside the team of CTM Guatemala since 2006 and worked for over 12 years among marginalized populations with churches and non-profit organizations. This poem was first published on her blog on November 20 2012.
These are the courageous words of Huck Finn in Marks Twain’s classic Huckleberry Finn. Huck is a 13 year old white boy growing up in pre-Civil War American South, helping a runaway slave, “nigger Jim” escape to freedom. Huck’s declaration is the moral center of the story and a beautiful illustration of Good News.
The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law made it illegal to aid or abet a runaway slave and required that every U.S. citizen assist in the capture of runaways. Huck believes (as he was taught) that by helping Jim he will not only suffer the wrath of the law, but also the wrath of God himself. Huck is convinced that he will be sent to hell for helping Jim escape slavery.
Suffering under the weight of this moral dilemma Huck decides to write a letter to Jim’s “owner” Miss Watson, and turn in Jim. By returning Jim to slavery Huck would free his conscience and his soul from eternal damnation. After writing the letter Huck begins to reflect on his relationship with Jim, their journey together down the Mississippi river, and the deep friendship they had formed along the way. Yes, Huck had become friends with Jim. This realization does something to Huck – something for which his upbringing, culture, theology and even his God had not prepared him for – that “nigger Jim” is not just a runaway slave. Nigger Jim is a human being. Unthinkable!
Huck is completely undone by this realization. He tears up the letter, convinced that by doing so he is condemning himself to hell. As a result, Huck’s adventure takes a huge turn. Huck is undergoing grace – the kind that empowers one to risk it all for the sake of those we love. The kind of grace that frees us to forsake our culture, our religion and even our God when they keep us from doing good.
“All right, then, I’ll go to hell,” Huck declares.
Salvation has come and it has come to both Huck and Jim. They are of one piece. Their stories are bound together and inseparable. These fugitives become radically united symbols of freedom in their rebellion to the powers that hold them hostage.
“Let it be.” These are words of faith in their most distilled form.
The angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her that she will bear the savior of the world. Mary is understandably confused. She asks, “How can this be?” And then, after some consideration she says three very simple words that changed her life and the course of human history. “Let it be…” (Luke 1:38b)
The Beatles song, Let it be, was written in honor of this event.
“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom. Let it be, Let it be…”
As a rule, CTM is an active network that makes things happen. We come out of the prophetic tradition and are very much concerned with issues of social justice. Nobody has accused us of being overly contemplative. Perhaps that is why the words of Mother Mary are so challenging. She reminds us that transformation is not something that we can will or work into existence – ever. It is always a gift. At its most fundamental level, the transformative power of the Gospel is something we accept, receive, and let it happen.
The problem, of course, is that Mary’s words, like so many words in Scripture are easily distorted. In the mouths of the main-stream, “Let it be” can easily become a cover up for the status quo. Itcan easily mean, “We like the way things are, so let it be.” On the other hand, in the mouths of the marginalized, “Let it be” can easily become an utterance of despair, resignation and fatalism. It can easily mean, “We are tired and things will never change, so let it be.” Mary’s words (the Beatles too) resist both temptations. They offer us another way.
As I see it, the key to understanding Mary (and the Beatles) is in the word “it.” When she says, “Let it be,” the “it” that she is referring to is not the external conditions of the world she inhabits – a world enslaved by violence. The “it” that she is referring to is the goodness and grace of God’s favor on the world she inhabits, and the mystery by which that favor will be demonstrated in Christ. God’s favor is the “it” – the only “it” that we are called to accept and let be.
Check out this clip from the movie Across the Universe. It beautifully, if painfully highlights the tension in Mary’s words. The scene is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the tumultuous 1960′s when the Beatle’s wrote their song. Hear it as a prayer – a prayer for God’s favor. Hear afresh the words of Mary this Christmas, as God’s favor in Christ draws near again, “Let it be.”
Serves as director of Center for Transforming Mission
Bumps into Reality by accident, most of the time
Heard God laugh once
The trailer for the documentary film Reparando shows quick-shot images of leaflets falling from the sky, crowds of people fleeing the police, tattoos on the back of a gang member in Guatemala City, arresting images of human remains on forensic examination tables, and the “Doll Lady” picking the arm of a baby doll from the garbage in a dump. Could there possibly be anything redemptive coming out of a film featuring that kind of imagery in a trailer?
After 2 ½ years of work, a vision that was birthed during a conversation with gang members in a Central America prison has come to life. On a visit to a gang unit with the chaplains we support in Guatemala City, Scott Moore was deeply moved by the stories of the young men he met that day. He describes it as being able to see stories in the eyes of the young men hiding behind the threatening war paint of their tattoos. He felt responsible to do something in response to what he had seen and the vision for a film (which now has the name “Reparando”) was birthed.
Weaving through the story line in Reparando are people and ministries who are a core part of the Estrategía de Transformación (EdT as the name given to CTM‘s work in Latin America) missional community in Guatemala City. Reparando seeks to lift some of these stories up and place them before the world as examples of God’s scandalous and magnificent grace leading to transformational outreach in some very hard places.
Robert Capon writes, “Shamelessness is the supreme virtue of the Incarnation.” I think Capon is right. To cave into the accusing voices of shame is to drain the Gospel of its power. In a word, God is shameless.
Recently, a friend told me the story of when he used the “f-word” in a religious gathering. (I would spell out the word for clarity but, ironically, most internet search engines have a higher morality than I do and would block it). He used the “f-word” to ease the shame of someone in the group who accidentally said, “damn,” and felt terrible for doing so. Can you see the picture? A guy of questionable moral fiber accidentally said, “damn” at a bible study and felt ashamed for doing so. My friend, who has sworn maybe twice in his whole life, saw that the man was ashamed and immediately threw out an awkwardly placed, ill-timed, and altogether forced “f-bomb” in hopes of covering the shame of the shamed one.
Alexamenos worships his god.
One of the earliest known depictions of Jesus, is the Alexamanos Graffito, dating from c.200 AD or earlier. It is an early parody of Christianity. It was discovered in 1857 in Rome and is now in the Palatine Antiquarian Museum. This wall carving is much like the graffiti we might find on a bathroom stall today. It shows a man with an ass’s head being crucified and a youth raising his hand, as if in prayer. Continue Reading…
Friends at Dry Bones, a ministry among homeless youth and young adults in Denver, sent me an email asking for donated cameras. Here’s why:
“For years, we have longed to have our kids chronicle their lives providing insight to the everyday struggles and successes they live. Survival, boredom, love, and hate is all around them and often experienced in ways words alone cannot explain. But a photograph! Now that speaks to the heart.” Continue Reading…
Beautiful Angle is a guerilla arts project that pastes and staples 80 hand-printed, Tacoma-themed art posters a month in public places around the city of Tacoma, Washington. It’s not intended to make money, but the project does sell posters. It’s not intended as a ministry, but it does minister to people, through the often-uplifting words and images, through successful fundraisers for non-profits and through artwork donated to charity auctions. Continue Reading…