Saturday, July 5, 2008

Junkyard Jesus

I began this blog in December 2007 to highlight a book in the works about my 4 year old son's journey with leukemia linked to corporate abuse of the environment. His cancer awakened me to an existence of evil not eons away in an dark abyss of hell, but a very present operating system living incognito as my neighbor.

As I pieced together the remnants of my faith as my son's health deteriorated, it was hard to accept that children die as collateral damage everyday from chemical trespassing and involuntary exposures unleashed by our ever growing psychotic behavior of doing business as usual. The dehumanizing agony of realizing that my son was the sacrificial lamb of government and industry made me appreciate Jesus more.

Athens Banner Herald writer, Jason Winders, welcomed me into the blogging world in January 2008. Where did you come up with the words "community activist" to describe me, Jason?

I would had much rather been labeled a Jesus freak who believes every church in Athens should be speaking out against the dumping of our collective waste on our brothers and sisters next to the landfill.

Or maybe a radical Christian who expects environmental health agencies to stop lying and deceiving about the unrefutable and irreversible harm being done to our current and future generations.

And I would had been flattered if you penned me as a junkman's daughter who came to realize her Dad's salvage yard could be as spiritual as any misguided ministry amassing wealth for a personal kingdom rather than doing the Father's will on earth as it is in heaven.

No sooner had Jason made his New Year's introduction of me as a fellow blogger, my writing suddenly stopped. No more entries as if I got a severe case of writer's block. My cyber journal, that ceremoniously began on the anniversary of my son's diagnosis with leukemia, came to a standstill when my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February. He lived less than 4 months. I spoke on a beautiful spring day at his graveside services in late May.

And now, therapeutically, back at the keyboard, this entry is yet another disturbing reminder that cancer is a merciless disease claiming itself as triumphant in my life. It hasn't taken Micah yet, but holds him hostage and forced him to look on as it devoured both his grandfathers that he revered and adored. It continues to taunt and dare me to take on its power and greed. And if I was the greatest community activist in the whole world, I would want to run and hide now shaking in my shoes with fear.

But I'm a Jesus follower believing perfect love cast out fear. It's a radical vision taught and embodied by the GodMan. I compare it to lessons learned in my Dad's junkyard:

1. A junkyard is not the end of the road, but an opportunity to be useful in a different capacity. Dad pointed out vehicles we'd encounter on the road in our small hometown that had made doctor visits to his junkyard. A door and tire here, a starter and hubcap there. Once he stripped and sold all the operating parts he could off a junk vehicle, the remainder would be crushed and made into something different. The transforming love of Jesus is doing the same spiritually taking away the old and creating in us new.

2. A 65 Chevy transmission won't fit a 2005 Mazda. The goal is to restore each to their fullest potential, but not all makes and models are interchangeable. The same with human beings and how they accept spiritual teachings. No religious leader, male or female, that has ever lived or living today is without flaws. That includes the Pope or Reverend Billy Graham. No doubt the controversial pastors of the current presidential candidates fall short. Why shouldn't they being mere mortal men? Jesus gets human restoration right everytime because He wrote the operating manual. His ministry is of reconciliation and unity. He reunited us to Yahweh, our Creator, and backed up His words with His blameless life...and volunteered death....and life resurrected.... and everlasting.

3. Invest in junk. My Dad had a lucrative business turning trash into treasure. He sat down one day before his death and gave me the 411 on recycling limited resources. It was easy to see the economical and environmental profitability. Jesus poured Himself into the sick, sad, and broken hearted. He called His followers to have a permanent relationship with the poor, prisoners, widows, and orphans. Oppression, which devalues the sanctity of life, is a consistent enemy of the Christian to be fought wherever it rears its ugly head--- be it at an unjust landfill in Athens Clarke and Oglethorpe County Georgia, or ethnic cleansing in Africa.

I found it coincidental when my Dad passed away that another descendant of a "rag and bone man" (a British term for junk dealer) discovered his grandfather had given him a 2,400 year old Persian gold cup of great value. The cup had been the object of target practice earlier and left stored under the bed. A good reminder we can have misplaced value right under our noses sometimes. A spiritual analogy as well that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.

Dr. Bill Sheehan, a waste management expert, passed along this thought that God recycles and the devil burns. Bill never claimed to be a theologian, but an ecologist. I think a good theologian is also an ecologist. Jesus was. What would Jesus drive? I think he would probably still wear sandals and walk, take mass transit, and bike. But I think he would appreciate a visit to a junkyard.