Summer Reading: Tattoos on the Heart

Tattoos on the Heart  is now my favorite book of all time. It’s not the best book I’ve read, it’s not the best written book I’ve read.

But, it is my favorite.

I dare you to read this book and not be moved: you will laugh, cry, and be disturbed in all the right ways.

Greg Boyle has been working with gang members for over 20 years in east Los Angeles. It is gnarly work. His stories are incredible because he’s been working in incredible conditions. I find, though, that there is a lot of crossover between his work and my work: broken families, father wounds, dependence issues, the search for community and hope.

There are also some critical differences. My students don’t have “F#@! the world” tattooed on their foreheads. They probably aren’t going to be shot by a rival any time soon. Everything they are engaged in is focused on their future, the polar opposite of the gang member.

I’ve been reading some of these stories to our staff and it raised the question: what is harder, ministering to people who are desperate and broken or ministering to people who are privileged and broken?

I’m not going to answer that question here, but I do want to leave you with some of Greg’s words:

“[We are] inching our way closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those who dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when stop throwing people away. The prophet Habakkuk writes, ‘The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and it will not disappoint…and if it delays, wait for it.’ Kinship is what God presses us on to, always hopeful that its time has come.”

“Most American …

“Most American teens do not, by and large, abandon their identification with religious faith during the first year out [first year in college]. Religious involvement drops, to be sure, but not teens’ self-identification as a religious person…

“Teens who deposit their religious identities in a lockbox during the first year out do so because they see everyday life and religious identification as separate and distinct entities. Teens view religious faith and practice as largely irrelevant tot his stage in their life cycle.

“The religious story of most teens is the story of a thousand missed opportunities…it is striking how haphazardly most congregations go about it…they gain only sketchy and frequently mistaken understandings of what their religion believes and practices…

“When all is said and done, what most teens gain from this haphazard religious socialization is reinforcement of the theistic and moral dimensions of popular American culture: ‘There is a God; God wants me to be a nice person; and he’ll help me out if I am.’ It is a simple faith, but a surprisingly enduring one, as it can withstand long stays in an identity lockbox.”

From “The First Year Out” by Tim Clysdale

Birthday, Community, Etc

Yesterday was my birthday. Thanks for all the love everyone! It was a fairly normal day overall…carrot cake for breakfast (thanks babe!), went to the eye doctor, ran some errands, did some work, tried to stay cool (the first day of summer came in with a vengeance: 97 degrees!), and then hung out with our student summer community (see pic). They sang me happy birthday and gave me some great cards. Love it!