August 12, 2010

My hands are painted on a wall here.


There was a time in my life when I had beautiful, flowing words. I used to be able to fill paragraph after paragraph with idiosyncratic details, paint pictures with letters, and come at least somewhat close to revealing my heart with written words.
I'm afraid I don't know how to do that anymore.
I want to sit on my roof, look out over this city I feel tugging on the strings within me, and change it with a song. I want to say a word and know that this place will be changed. If painting these walls would bring new life I'd paint all day, I'd paint all night.. until my eyes grew heavy, my arms weak, and my heart light.
If I could bring light to this place with a song..

If I could bring that child back to life.
If I could promise you a tomorrow without needles, without gunshots, without fear..

We were hanging out on the porch the other day. A guy, probably in his low 20s, walked by and, noticing that we're a little out of the ordinary for this area, said, "hey, what are you guys doing out here?"
[insert elevator speech followed by "we're just trying to clean this place up a bit. what do you think about that?]
"Clean this place up? What would you do that for? I'll tell you what, when I was 13 I was mugged and beaten, when I was 14 I was shot, and at 15 I was stabbed. I'll tell you what, this place should just be burned down. Just burn the place down. Nothing good has happened here in years. Nothing good happens in Camden. Just burn it down and start over."

And he walked away. Waved his hand as though saying "the heck with any of this," and walked away.

I was painting a wall with some kids in a summer program.

me: so do you guys like Camden?
9 year old Zuli: no.
me: how come?
Zuli: too many gangs. too much bad stuff on the streets.

A few minutes later 12 year-old Desmond, far too cool to paint anything but reaching for a brush nonetheless, told me about being approached by a gang member on the street a few days prior.
"He wanted me to join their gang. I told him no and ran."
He wasn't proud. He wasn't scared. He was just saying.

Two weeks ago the head honcho of drug trafficking for the Nine Trey Headbustas set of the Bloods in Camden was sentenced to 14 years in prison without parole for conspiring to murder a gang member. He was caught with 500 bags of heroin, about three pounds of marijuana, approximately 2.5 ounces of crack cocaine, two handguns and roughly $10,000 in cash.
Juan Vargas is 27 years old.

Tell me how this happens. Or better yet, tell me how to make it not happen. Someone tell me..

Tell me there is hope for Camden. Tell me those beautiful 10 year old girls giggling as they pour too much soap into a trash can of water and splash it all over the wall they can't wait to scrub and paint will make it out of here. Tell me they're going to become something. Tell me they aren't going to be the next one to be caught between a bullet and its target.
Dear Daughter, hold onto your innocence.
Naomi, you will become president one day.
Desmond, keep running away,
but know that you shouldn't have to.

August 1, 2010

In 6 months..

I've realized that I don't want to live a life of counting - days, weeks, months, jobs, goals, hours, landmarks, conversations. There are so many things I want to do in this life, but I don't want to get them done and then check them off but rather to simply live each and every day for what it is and what it brings and what I can give to it. I wonder if it's possible to live outside of time.. to be barely conscious of the days passing. If it's possible, I would like to find out. I'd like to find out what it's like to work to accomplish something rather than to fill the hours or receive a paycheck. I'd like to discover what it means to be present in each and every moment; never rushed, never checked-out, never wishing I was somewhere else.
There has been a heightening point of tension for me. It lies where my deep, often times painful love for the world collides with my intense love and longing for the very essence and fullness of Jesus Christ. In the ten years since I first experienced this Jesus I've found myself high with excitement, passion and zeal and I've found myself desperately clinging to what I've known to be true when nothing has made sense. I've held dirty, malnourished children in my lap and danced in multi-million dollar churches. I've been judged for the lifestyle I've chosen, from recklessly pursuing the heart of God, to living with pot-heads, to graduating early to pursue God's will for my life to, now, taking up residence in the ghetto (and so many things in between). And every time the judgement has come from Christians.
The questions began to wander in and out of my mind as I found myself frustrated with the walls Christians were putting up, with the "black and white" lines that were being drawn in areas of what were to me very gray, or dependent on the person doing them and the state of his/her heart. I suppose why I'm writing this now is simply to say that in the last 6 months I've been living closer to the non-christian world than I ever have before. I've made mistakes. I've misrepresented Christ. I've been frustrated with the stereotypical view of Christians and have therefore tried my best to change it, but still I have come out in the wrong. I've robbed God of His beauty.

(unfinished but publishing anyway..)

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