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Brave Benjamin

I have come to realize my favorite thing about cooler weather. There are many. The slight bite in the air that causes you to hug yourself a little tighter. Scarfs. The inside warmth of a long run in a cool breeze. Cold nose-tips. The appreciation of how hot tea feels as you sip it slowly. Cuddling. Being able to fog up a window with your breath and then using your finger tip to draw the shape of a heart – then smiling in spite of yourself. Cuddling. The strange security that extra heavy blankets bring in a bed when you are sleeping alone. Cuddling. And ……….


Dancing. Dreaming. Laughing Fire.

It ignites my soul in a different way. Brings me more in touch with the breath of my spirit. Warms me from the inside out. My thoughts dance with it – as does my fingers on the keyboard.

I love it most especially here. In my secrecy of hide-aways. My friend, Danny, always knows where to seat me when I come here in the fall or winter – the table right in front of the Fire.

Fire……….Fire……….. Fire………..

I had a rare jewel of an opportunity today. A first. Sitting around a table in a public housing apartment. Me and Claude and Frank and Benjamin and Claude (the older one). Four brave and very strong boys from 7 to 18. They are refugees. Refugees from Congo and Burundi. Their stories of strength and war and refuge and rescue would cause the strongest of us to be broken. But they smile and they laugh and they live and today –

They Drew. Heartache and Hope.

“I cannot draw. I do not know how to draw.” Benjamin. Oh, Benjamin. He is a personality rolled up into a little man in the form of a 12 year old. Trying to slyly and quietly leave out of the side door.

Gathered around one small table in one small apartment in the middle of inner city life…….Talking to them about the Hope of healing from the Heartaches they have been through and the promises of God. Reminding them that He was with them in their heartache. Benjamin wanted little part of it. He was uncomfortable and embarrassed and, on more than one occasion, tried to leave. “I cannot draw. I do not know how to draw.” He must have tried to leave 5 times. Smiling and smirking each time – but underneath his smile seemed to be something more.

“Benjamin, it’s ok. Just sit beside of me. Will you sit here. Just be beside me.” (I have deceptive tactics. I admit.)

Having just come from a wonderful worship service at MidTown, they were pretty wound up. Marisa had coordinated rides for these families and Cissy had sweetly gone by to pick up some art supplies for us. As I told them stories of the other children I have worked with in Africa and after they watched me draw my own saddest memory – they begin to understand and settle a bit.

I watched as they drew Heart Wounds. Saddest memories. Times that they were most afraid. I watched as they drew:

Guns. Men with Guns. People running away. And I watched as they drew God in their picture. I always have them do this as a reminder that, although He may seem so far away at that moment, He is never further away that our next breath. So they drew Him. Sometimes as a heart. Sometimes as a long-haired person (don’t ask me why…. apparently God is a hippie : )

And I watched Benjamin.

“Benjamin. It’s ok. Look – I can’t draw really well either….just draw whatever is in your mind” Tactic number 2. But I wasn’t lying. For someone who does art therapy – I am a lost art. Except when it comes to stick people. I rock at stick people : )

“I need a pencil. A pencil.” (All we had were crayons, and he was using as many excuses as he could find)

Finding a pencil in my purse I gave it to him. It quickly broke and this was excuse number 16 to get out of dodge. I gave him a pen. I didn’t pressure. Just invited. There is a difference. A beautiful difference. I gave him space and went on to encourage the other boys to draw what Peace or Forgiveness or Love looked like. I watched as they drew Hands Holding. Two men embracing. Hearts. Birds. Rainbows. I smiled.

Looking over at Benjamin again – I was pretty amazed. For some boy who didn’t know how to draw, he had suddenly developed a skill. He was drawing a bus and people running away. Running. Away. Faces were sad. Frowns and then he drew

Fire……….. Fire………….. Fire

Behind the bus was a tree and the bush and a man who had set a house on Fire. It is a theme in many of the pictures that I see. Fire. It is common place. Three main themes I always see. 1. Burning Houses. 2. Dead Bodies. 3. Guns and Bullets. The stories behind their eyes and behind their smiles and behind Benjamin trying to leave – speak loudly. He told me his story and then I asked if he could draw what he thought Hope would look like. He went straight to it.

Rainbows. Holding Hands. Hearts. Yes, he is quite the artist, Mr. Benjamin.

As I left, he was close by my side. You could tell he was proud of himself – as was I. And I told him so. And as I walked away, I thought that we are not so different. God sitting beside of us. Encouraging. Loving. Listening to us as we make excuses not to deal with our pain. “I can’t draw, God. I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I am not capable. I don’t know how.” God, in His wisdom.

“It’s ok, child, just sit beside of me. Just be beside of me.”

Trying to escape. Trying to look away from the very thing we must face head-on in order to find Healing. In order to find Hope. Gently coaxing us – He is there. He is always there. Actually – never further away than our next breath. If we would only –


But we don’t. We hold our breath believing somehow that it will go away. Wanting it to just go away. We are blinded by the Fire. Feeling it’s heat all around us. Trying to escape out of a side door. Sometimes slyly. Sometimes boldly. Sometimes blindly – we look past the very thing that will bring us relief:

His Hand. On my way to the car – I notice someone holding my own. It is Brave Benjamin. He is a character. The things he has seen in Congo in his short life there will stay with him for years and years. But, much like us, it is in facing them and feeling them and grieving them and reaching out for that hand to hold that will somehow make the fear subside.

I leave and he waves and I wave and I feel my heart become warm. Yeah. Almost like its on………

Fire : )

Lord God – I thank you for this day of warmth. Of, yet again, learning much more than I teach. Being refined by your own fire much more than I mold. Finding your hand even in blinding flames. Humbled. Again.

I am,

Yours – b

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