La Americana

January 13, 2011

Sr. Wantabee’s payin job is working in ESL. She has a “life time California credential” but Minnesota does not recognize two states in the union – California and Texas because they teach weird things like ESL! Duh. She returned to the U of MN at a ripe old age of 58 and got an additional liscensure in ABE, Adult Basic Education, to make her legitimate in teaching. The U of MN accepted her years of teaching bilingually in Kenya and so the Board of Education accepts the U of MN stamp of approval – but only for 5 years. Sr. Wantabee now must earn 125 CEUs (continuing education units) before June 2012 to maintain her liscense. It’s time to get serious. So…

Wednesday she attended a movie discussion group on the movie “La Americana,” led by an immigration lawyer. Sr. Wantabee did not consider herself oh so knowledgeable on the subject so thought she’d check out this 3 CEU credit.

“La America” is about a woman in Bolivia who has a daughter she must provide for and decides to enter the USA illegally and works in cleaning work. After she gets across the border, her daughter is hit by the school bus and ends up in a wheel chair. The mother meets a man who loves her and they send funds to Bolivia for the girl’s medical expenses. What does the daughter want for her 15th birthday but the return of the mother. The mother returns to be reunited with the daughter who she discovers has a fractured hip and a frozen leg that can only be dealt with through high medical expenses. Eat or help the girl. The movie ends with the opening scene of the woman leaving her compound again to try to return to the States again to get the money for the treatment of her daughter. “I wanted to be a good mother but…”

It was a very gripping human tragedy story, highlighting the reality of people living in poor countries. In fact, how many similar stories has Sr. Wantabee heard except that Kenya does not border on the USA. She was deeply touched.

Sr. Wantabee did not consider herself an knowledgeable about immigration and Latinos but in fact, she has a British husband and gone through the whole immigration lawyer process with him loosing his green card and becoming naturalized. She has two adopted Kenya children who also live in the reality that a policeman can stop the card for some reason known to them, ask for ID, look at the face, ask if they were born in the USA and take them to the police station for a whole check.

In the discussion room, Sr. Wantabee sat there, married to a Brit and with two Kenyan children. The teacher to her left is third generation American of Hispanic descent married to a Frenchman. A teacher to Sr. Wantabee’s right has a Costa Rican son-in-law. The presenter is an American married to a Scotsman. We all realized the precariousness of their living situations, in the midst of the paranoia of the “alien” but they are so integrated into our identity.

At age 64 will Sr. Wantabee get those 125 CEUs to prove to “the system” that after teaching for 40 years, she is qualified to continue part time in to retirement? It remains to be seen.

At a deep level, Sr. Wantabee understood “La Americana.” “She too wanted to be a good mother….” “She wants to be a good teacher…” “She wants to …”


December 26, 2010

One of the blessings and problems of Christmas is all the memories – of Christmas past with family and friends that have passed on, of Christmas present without significant people, and Christmas future and it’s vision of what might be by next year. This Christmas, Sr. Wantabee could not help but think of the two little ones, the infant demises, that did not live to see Christmas day and the dashed hopes of their parents. So close and still so far.

The parents were inconsolable. The grief in the hospital room so thick. There were no memories to fall back on, only dashed hopes of twins that would play soccer with their father, of babies to be carried on the mother’s hip, of a life that would not be lived with the parents on earth.

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of Christmas is that it provides us with a memory, a memory of a savior who was born into a world about as chaotic as ours. Foreign powers and economic problems. Unfair rules displacing people. Where is a person’s home? In a stable? Into that world the Christ child arrived, seemingly as impotent as we are to resolve the issues of his day.

But memories bring comfort and joy because they somehow give us incidents that we can tie our thoughts into. The Christ child survived the horror of the “slaughter of the innocents.” He too experienced a foreign culture. He too lived with a questionable past. And he grew to adult hood, to Easter.

Sr. Wantabee looks at his story finds hope. Not the happy ever after hope that somehow God will wave a majic wand over our world and correct all the problems and suddenly people will love each other and life will be fair. It is the hope of Emmanuel, God with us, in the midst of struggles. God gave us a memory to carry us into the future, he holds. Thank you!

Houston, We Have a Problem!

December 20, 2010

Sunday was Sr. Wantabee’s last 24 hr. on call at the hospital. She had the priviledge of preaching on Matthew 1:18-25, the barebones Christmas text. It’s not the cute Luke text with shepherds and angels and inn keepers but straight to the point.
Matthew starts with the lineage. These are the “good guys” but Mary has to go to Joseph and have the DTR (define the relationship) talk. Or perhaps Joseph went to Mary with his and everyone else’s observations. Mary was pregnant and not by him. Houston, we have a problem!
It’s a common story we can identify with. Not the pregnancy out of wedlock perhaps but the DTR discussion. The doctor comes in and says, we need to talk. The boss invites us into the office for a talk. We open our bank statement and realize there has been identity theft. We get our savings statement and realize our retirement is gone and we will still need to work. Houston we have a problem. It’s not just Joseph and Mary this Christmas time but it is all of us. It is over in Afghanistan but it is also in our homes. Things do not always turn out the way we planned or wanted or dreamed of. Sr. Wantabee met with a couple at the hospital who had to have a C-section. Something was wrong with the 32 week pregnancy. In fact the child, the dream, the hope, the first child died. We are devastated. What to do?

Joseph had three options. He could just have Mary stoned. Anger is always a choice but does it resolve the sense of betrayal? Does it create relationship or destroy it? Problems can be hid in the closet but they will still creep out as the most inconvenient time.
Rather Joseph decided on option two. As a “righteous” man, he decided to dismiss Mary quietly. Denial! As Sr. Wantabee thought about this, she pondered, since when is dismissal in small time America a quiet thing or a kind action. Mary was labeled and would live her life as a prostetute! Denial does not solve a problem but only ignors it. It is not “righteous” but makes a person think he is “righteous.” God does not deny our problems and we continue to scream, “Houston, we have a problem!”

Third option is the angel who whispers in our dreams, “This is of the Lord. Do not be afraid.” God does have a plan for salvation and the name is Jesus. But we want the solution now. We want the happy ever after now. We want things resolved now. We want the job now. We want peace now. We want love now. We don’t want to wait. We don’t want to lean into our plights, trusting that somehow God is working for our good. that’s hard.

Joseph decides to lean into his situation and names the Christ child, “Emmanuel, God with us.” God is with us, not above us, not below us, not pushing us, not pulling us, but walking with us as He works out Salvation.

Which way are you leaning?

The Pharisee

June 13, 2010

Today Sr. Wantabee got to give the children’s sermon at church. The story is Luke 7. Everyone is talking and trying to figure out who Jesus is. The youth driving in her car were chatting. “I like that Christmas Jesus but if he was a carpenter, why wasn’t he making chairs and supporting himself?” Who is this guy that one story before in the same chapter raised the dead son of a widow and who three stories before cured the sick servant of some Centurion? The Pharisee decided to invite him to dinner to check Jesus out personally. She related it to the World Cup going on now and everyone watching their TV and wondering who is going to win. All the gossip was about this Jesus at the time, trying to figure out if he was the new prophet to free people from Roman rule.

In any case, the Pharisee prepares a meal, Jesus arrives and shortly after a party crasher comes in. A woman of the night. How do you deal with party crashers she asked the youth. Let them have a beer, avoid a scene, and hope they disappear, right? But the lady in red did not disappear but started sobbing and crying until tears covered Jesus’ feet and she used her hair to dry them and poured perfume over them. Can you feel the social tension in this scene? This is not a cute little Christmas story. This is Jesus sitting between a Pharisee checking him out with some lady wailing at his feet and the room watching. What did he do?

As usual, he deflected the tension with a story. A banker had a visit from two customers. One owed $5 on his account but had misplaced his card and couldn’t pay but perhaps by the weekend. The Banker waved the fees and gave him an extension. The next guy came in and his house was to be forclosed on. He was unemployed and could not guarantee when he could make the next payment. The banker made an executive decision and told the man he would not forclose. Who would be forever grateful to the banker, the man with a $5 debt or the man who still had his house for his family? The youth knew for some of them live in that dynamic. The man with the house would be forever grateful to that banker that helped him.

Then Jesus turned to the Pharisee and pointed out that since he came to dinner, no water was given to wash his dusty feet, no kiss on the cheek, nor lotion for his head by the Pharisee. The woman of the night, though, had washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed his head with her perfume.

Sr. Wantabee challenged the youth, was Jesus concerned about social protocol? She did not think so. Jesus was saying that the woman who was forgiven much had engaged Jesus personally. The Pharisee who probably felt he had little to be forgiven of, had not engaged Jesus in his person but sat back and evaluated him. Likewise the audience – the disciples and other guests watched the encounter like many people today. If Jesus won the debate, pat him on the back. If the Pharisee won the debate, join his side. If it is convenient and to our benefit to present as Christians, we do but if it is socially embarrassing, we melt into the woodwork.

And so the challenge is who we identify with today during the Pentecost season: the Pharisee checking Jesus out but forgetting the basic social protocol/sins of omission, the woman of the night caught in blatant sin, or the uncommitted bystander? For any of these people, Jesus was in the room wanting to engage with them!


May 17, 2010

Sr. Wantabee met with her little ole people this morning and did the dry run of her Wednesday talk on promises. They all nodded at the childhood chant of “cross my heart and hope to die” but allowed that they had never “stuck a needle in my eye.” They were not so sure about becoming a blood brother with anyone. But we all hung our heads knowing we were not so good at keeping promises and we were prone to wander and needed a guide to keep us on the “path of life.” She shared that this weekend her daughter came home from babysitting totally irrate. The person had come home drunk with “friend” and could not even write the check. The next day there was a call asking for forgiveness for the “slip from the path,” “the mistake.”

This week we celebrate on Wednesday, the Ascension or return of Christ to heaven, and then Sunday we do Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. Rather than argue about speaking in tongues or the nature of the Trinity, the focus for the Sunday is on the fulfillment of God’s promise given in Ezekiel and Joel that His Spirit was going to come and stay with people and Christ’s promise in the Upper Room that the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, was coming. The promise of the Spirit living within us is a promise to never be forsaken, never to be lonely, never to have God lie to us, and always to be guided, even onto death.

The little ole people always like to say Psalm 23, they remember it. “Ye tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for thou are with me…” Indeed, the Holy Spirit is right there inside us, keeping us company during that scary hour, guiding us, and comforting us.

I’m glad God keeps His promises!


May 12, 2010

Next Wednesday Sr. Wantabee is going to speak at chapel at the Homes, for the little old people, trapped by wheel chairs. Sigh. It will be the Wednesday before Pentecost and so she thought she would do a lead in to Sunday’s service. Pentecost celebrates the coming of the “promised” Holy Spirit recorded in Acts 2, but actually promised back in Ezekiel and Joel and in John by Jesus after the Last Supper. Promises bring a taste of bitter joy to Sr. Wantabee’s mouth as she thought about all the broken promises. But the church celebrates Pentecost as the fulfillment of a promise. That conveniently sidesteps the need to explain the Trinity which probably is of no interest to the elderly whereas the assistance and continual presence of the Holy Spirit probably is a great comfort — perhaps that is why the Holy Spirit is called “The Comforter.” But going back to “promises,” how are the promises of God different from the promises made by people?

Sr. Wantabee thought back to young childhood and how we used to chant, “cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” We were swearing by our heart and our eyes that what we said was true. How many of us lied knowing we would never be required to “stick a needle in our eye?” Then there was the heroic cut of the finger and exchange of blood with an equally heroic friend that symbolized that we would be friends forever. What was that friend’s name? Hmmmm. Life moved on.

Sr. Wantabee thought of her trip to the States, driving from Los Angeles to New York and how her 10th grade son stuck a tape in the car deck as they drove out of LA and into the desert, “I Swear” by the moon and the stars in the sky….I’ll be there. That was the song for his girlfriend. Perhaps if eyes and blood were not constant enough to remind us of a promise, the stars in the sky would be. Did he marry her, you ask. No. Then she remembered the beloved Christmas movie, “What a Wonderful Life” where the uncle wrapped a string around his finger to remind him of…what??? and the money was lost, and a wonderful angel got his wings. Darling.

No, human promises fail because humans are human. We usually mean what we say but most often our humanness gets in the way. We move. We go to the next stage. We forget. Life changes. Human promises are pretty flakey.

As we move to adulthood, we develop more stable ways of ensuring truth. We give rings at weddings. Rings are made of gold, a precious metal, and are round, symbolizing eternity. We swear on Bibles in courtrooms. We place our hand on our heart for the pledge of allegiance to the flag. All are attempts to create credibility ad commitment. How do Godly promises differ? Tomorrow we will ponder that.

May Pole

May 1, 2010

Today Sr. Wantabee is speaking at a Mother Daughter banquet. This is a wonderful time to rethink one of her favorite parts of the Bible, the blessing the elders give Ruth, daughter-in-law of Naomi, who is to marry Boaz. Life is so messy, this story is so messy, and the blessing is messier yet!

The elders at the city gate, turn to Boaz, after the deal is cut and it is agreed he will redeem Naomi’s property of her deceased husband (this included Ruth, a piece of property to be inherited or bought!!) and give him a three fold blessing.

1. May she be like Rachel and Leah who built the house of Jacob.
Was Boaz already married and they are blessing poligomy? Was not Jacob tricked at the wedding, thinking he was marrying Rachel, he woke up to find Leah in bed with him and had to work 7 more years for Rachel. Truly these two sisters were happy together? And yet they somehow stuck it out (perhaps had no other alternative) and gave Jacob 12 sons. Sr. Wantabee would like to think it is the blessing of unity among the household of Boaz.

2. May she find honor like Rachel who was buried at Ephratha and be famous in Bethlehem.
What does that mean. Rachel, the beloved wife, died in child birth and was buried in Ephratha which later became the city of Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus. She was not buried in the family tomb. Leah, the legal first wife, was. In the furnace of relationships often parts of our dreams must be buried and given up. Sr. Wantabee had thought for 25 years in Africa, a struggling church worker and teacher, she would someday return to the USA and be recognized for her talents, what she had discovered in that crucible, start a new phase of life as a returning missionary. No. That dream has died. In the 25 years she was gone, missionary changed from “brave pioneer facing the challenges of Africa” to “crusader forcing one’s will on someone else, destroyer of culture, or worse yet, ‘evangelical’ guardian of moral codes.” No she had to bury that dream. At those death places Jesus is able to reach in and be born, comfort and redeem. She would call this point, integrity.

3. May she be like Perez born to Tamar of Judah.
Now this blessing is messy. Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah, married to all three sons who did not give her children and who died, finally dressed as a prostitue and deceived Judah into sleeping with her and twins were born. The first reached out and a scarlet string was tied around his wrist but then he withdrew his arm back into the womb and the other twin came out, Perez, the overcomer. Perez is synonomous with overcomer, someone who is able to overcome all the things that would hold her back. Victory!

So today is May 1st, May Day. As a child, we would hold colorful strings and dance around a May Pole. Is not a blessing something like that? The women are the May Poles and Sr. Wantabee would bless them with three strings:
-May the God who created you and who loves you, bless you with unity as you love each other in the messiness of relationships.
-May the God who saved you and resurrected bless you with integrity and you deal with the realities of life.
-may the power of the Holy Spirit give you victory over all that would hold you back from becoming all God created you to be.

The Pig and The Calf

March 5, 2010

February 14th Sr. Wantabee had the privilege of preaching on the Fox, Herod who wanted to kill Jesus, and the Hen, God who wanted to gather his Jerusalem chicks under his wings, but they would not. The sly old leader gave Jesus over to be crucified and the mother hen gave her life for her chicks, Christ was crucified. The tables are turned as the silly hen becomes the hero and the beautiful fox becomes the villain. March 14th Sr. Wantabee will venture into the pulpit again but this time to ponder the pig and the calf. Will the tables be turned again?

Perhaps you know the story. It is really very common. A father has two children. One dreams of the wonderfulness of life “out there.” “Out there” might be getting to drive the family car without parents, getting a job and apartment, finding the right boyfriend, marriage, a pay raise. It is something that seems achievable if only the obstacles of now were removed. This child demands his inheritance and ventures forth to conquer the world.

The other sibling dreams of “right here” becoming the answer. Prince charming will come by; hard work will bring good tax returns, whatever is going on will transform him into the person he dreams he will become. This child follows the “system” and doesn’t “push the envelope.”  The “out there” child demands his inheritance and heads off to find his future. The “right here” child stays within the system and works dutifully. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fox and the Hen

February 27, 2010

Sounds like an Aesop’s Fable, doesn’t it? Yesterday Sr. Wantabee led a Bible study with her little ole people on Luke 13:31-35, where Jesus cries over Jerusalem. Jesus is warned by the Pharisees that Herod wants to kill him and he turns to them and says, “Tell that Fox….” and then he turns and gives one of his famous soliloquies, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I longed to gather you under my wings as a hen gathers her chicks….” What do we have here? Jesus crying, Herod the Fox, and God the Hen! Wait one moment, you might say. When is the hen ever the hero in a story? Didn’t Henny Penny lead her friends astray into the den of Foxy Loxy when she thought the sky was falling? Being “chicken” is not an adjective we aspire to! So what is going on here. Let’s dig deeper.

Why do we cry? The people answered, sadness, fear, pain, loneliness. Yes! There is a discrepancy between what is and what we know could be. Tears respond to death, to danger, to injustice, to abandonment..all of the above because we know it is not right. Jesus cries over Jerusalem because Foxy Loxy is leading them and not a Hen who wants to gather them under her wings. Hmmm. Read the rest of this entry »

Sr. Elizabeth Fedde

February 25, 2010

Today Sr. Wantabee was reminded in chapel at Luther that she is walking in the footsteps of Sr. Elizabeth Fedde who came to the United States as a Deaconess from Norway about 1850. Tomorrow is the day when the church remembers her. She was called to work with Norwegian sailers in Brooklyn, NY, who were sick and did not know English. She started a hospital that was the first responder to 911, by the way, and soon had a Sunday school going and other projects. On her vacation, she was asked to start a hospital in Minneapolis in a house donated by a businessman and she gathered some sisters to do that. That was her vacation. And, oh yes, she started an orphanage in Iowa too. Back in NY, she realized she needed to create an ambulance and so bargained with a company that was going electric and got a horse and designed a carriage and painted it white. In a time when women were assigned to the kitchen and having children, she approached the state of NY for funds for her hospital. She worked in the United States for 12 years. What have you done in the last 12 years to help those less fortunate than yourself?