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Posted November 12, 2008

Book: This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers
Author: Marilyn Lacey, R.S.M.
Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN. 2008. Pp. 207

An Excerpt from the Preface:

According to an African proverb, a person who sees something good must tell the story. I have seen something good, and friends who know of my experiences with refugees have prodded me to write a book. For years I dismissed the idea, but the truth is that I am a happy person living what I feel is a fascinating life. Perhaps that’s rare enough in our troubled world to justify this account of the source of my joy, found in the ordinariness of welcoming the strangers in our midst.

Looking over forty years of my life as a Catholic nun, the past twenty-five spent with refugees from some of this planet’s most ravaged places, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Authors more talented than I am have already written books about refugees, and I do not presume to add my name to those who expound on spirituality. My intent, rather, is to convey how those two seemingly separate worlds ---- on the one hand, the gritty, desperate, resilient lives of refugees who seem so different from us, and on the other hand, the startling, life-altering, graced immediacy of the God whose nearness we all secretly long for — have merged in my life. I invite the reader to step into my personal story, to glimpse in these pages what I have stumbled upon in the convergence of my spiritual life and my relationship with the refugees: namely, the challenging, consoling, bewildering, healing, and ever-surprising presence of a God who comes to us precisely where we least expect.

I begin with an image borrowed from Mechtild of Magdeburg, a thirteenth-century European woman. Let these words she penned nearly eight hundred years ago introduce the stories that follow and indicate how much more remains untold:

Of all that God has shown me
I can speak but the smallest word,
Not more than a honey bee
Takes on her foot
From an overspilling jar. . . .

An Excerpt from the Book:

God Who Weeps

G.K. Chesterton tells the story of a person — let’s call him Joe — who lived a rather unreflective life and was entirely indifferent to spiritual matters. Early in mid-life, Joe unexpectedly died and slid unceremoniously into hell. Joe’s old buddies really missed him. One evening, over a few beers, they formulated a plan to rescue him. They decided that Joe’s business partner should go down to the gates of hell to negotiate springing him from the place. He knocked and knocked, pleaded and pleaded, but the gates never budged; the heavy iron bars stayed firmly shut.

Next, his parish priest went down and requested an appointment with Satan himself. He carefully went down and requested an appointment with Satan himself. He carefully laid out the case: “Look, Joe wasn’t really such a terrible fellow. Given more time, it’s possible that he might have matured. Let him out, please!” But Satan was unmoved, and th gates remained closed. The men did not know what else to do.

Finally, Joe’s own dear mother went and stood outside the terrible gates. She did not bang or beseech or beg. Amazingly, she did not even ask for her son’s release. Quietly and with determined voice, she simply said to Satan, “Let me in.” Immediately the great doors swung open to admit her. “For love,: Chesterton wrote, “goes down through the gates of hell, and there redeems the dead.”

Chesterton’s parable would not have made much sense to me had I not walked with refugees these past twenty-five years. I out not like Joe’s mother, but rather, much more like Joe’s buddies, thinking I could rescue the refugees from their hellish situations in the camps. I am now convinced that wisdom lies simply being with them wherever they are. I came to this understanding rather slowly, and not without difficulty.

Table of Contents:

1. Awakening

2. A new way of loving

3. God who weeps

4. A knock on the door

5. Food you know not of

6. Come and see

7. The dead do rise

8. God does not kill

9. Creature discomfort

10. This flowing toward me

11. Stranger God

12. Mercy and justice shall kiss