Summer Fellowship Reflections Part 3

Coming together in conversation is a theme in all these pieces I’ve been receiving.  Conversations that have expanded past my individual conversations, to the power of witnessing large organizations, world leaders, churches, non-profit organizations, corporations, and foundations coming together around a common purpose. One of the powerful examples of this was observing a day of meetings for an international coalition that is working on child nutrition issues (http://www.thousanddays.org/). I sat wide-eyed as we heard from ambassadors, presidents of NGO’s, the president of the World Bank, UN members, Secretary and staff of the State Department, Melinda Gates for the Gates Foundation and others, all coming together to discuss how to improve nutrition for pregnant mothers and children under the age of two in the 20 most undernourished countries in the world.  Each group brought their own expertise, interest and angle. All came together under the common purpose and met at the table to look at how to move this work forward.  I got teary as I heard the fourth person that morning talk about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and the studies on how infant nutrition has a profound impact on a child’s ability to develop.  If the voices that represent these major initiatives can come together in the same room to talk about changing children’s lives. . . anything is possible. Change is happening and we can each be part of it.

Piece number three. Food is part of my calling and ministry. I think I’ve known this over the years. It’s shown up in my deep love of gardening, in the faces of hunger and poverty I’ve seen in my travels, in the high I get every time I’m let loose to sort food at a food bank.  In Swedenborgian theology, bread, and food in general, represents love, and you can quickly make a variety of connections around the importance of food, love, faith, church and spiritual and natural hunger.  Being at Bread for the World for the summer, and being exposed to the DC scene in general, has been invaluable in expanding my view of the importance of policy and advocacy around food.  From the Farm Bill, to international aid, to commissions on nutrition, the core human need of sustenance is woven through policy and politics. As I grow in understanding my role as a voice in the public square, I simultaneously find myself narrowing in and feeling out where specifically I’m being called to serve.

On my last Tuesday in DC I had two opportunities that helped me to see and articulate this in myself as I watched my heart jump.  Bread for the World hosted a brown bag lunch with a presentation from Food Resource Bank on their work to rally people in the US to use agriculture to raise money to support agricultural efforts in the developing world. I was intrigued as I heard a woman from Kansas describe her church coming together with two other churches in the area and facilitate the farming of 20 acres of land that raises thousands of dollars a year that that then enables local sustenance farming in communities in other countries.  I found myself leaning forward in my chair as Javier Ramirez and Casto Mitha, farmers from Bolivia, talked about their work to bring traditional and innovative farming techniques to their village, and described how nutrition and general wellbeing have been drastically improved in a few short years due to a few simple initiatives.

Later on Tuesday afternoon I had the honor of getting a tour of Miriam’s Kitchen, an organization that provides high-quality meals and support services to the homeless men and women in Washington DC. Deputy Director Catharine Crum generously came and spent an hour with us, sharing the story of Miriam’s Kitchen, showing us around the facility, and introducing us to their guests and volunteers. I could wax on about the various pieces of wisdom, insight and inspiration that I gained from this hour, and maybe I will in some future post. But succinctly I’ll say: I saw a ministry at work that captured my heart and threw another possibility into the swirl of “What’s God Calling Me To?” Soup that is simmering right now.

This question of “What’s God calling me to?” might be a good one to wrap this piece up with, as it is the thread of this summer experience, and I believe of all of our lives in general.  I look back across the years and see how the Lord has been leading me from conversation, to experience, to doors opening and doors closing, all building on one another and moving somewhere. It’s trite but true to say the path twists and turns and doesn’t look the way I’d pictured it.

But it’s from this image that I can also say with amazement, gratitude and confidence: it is clear to me that there is a loving Force greater than me that is guiding and a stream of Providence and I can flow with or fight against.  I look at the parts of my being and calling that have been highlighted for me this summer: The call to write. Stepping into the faith/policy conversation. Being a preacher. Social-justice work. Developing a Swedenborgian social-justice movement. Integrating feeding and hunger issues into my ministry. At moments these seem like isolated entities. How do they fit together with my long-time callings to church planting? To pastoral work? To creating nurturing spiritual community? To raising up leaders to plant more churches? To sharing the transforming theology and spiritual work that I’ve been blessed to stumble upon?  How can all these things be part of one human’s little journey on this earth? And that’s where the Divine continues to invite me to take a deep breath and feel the swirling slow down for a moment. If these pieces are all part of me a creation of God’s and an instrument of the Divine work, then it’s not up to me to know what the puzzle is going to look like in the end. My job is to be on the look out for the areas where the blue of the sky meet up with the purple of the wildflower. My work is to notice the edge piece that holds the definition of what’s continued inside. My task is to wake up each day and ask, “What is it today, Lord?” and then have the strength, courage, humility, tenacity, gratitude and laughter to do it.

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