Monday, October 31, 2005

clean up

Moving...

I am now sitting in my new home office filled with 11 brown boxes, 4 bare beige walls, a red clock to let me know I am probably late for something, and a great view of the woods. From my perspective, moving is a good thing and should be embarked upon every few years. It makes you sort through everything you own and re-evaluate whether or not it is still pertinent to your life, plus it forces one to clean all those hidden, underneath, never seen places – ugh!

I hate cleaning. Show me a person who likes cleaning and I will ask them to come to my house and find all the joy they want. Not that I am a filthy person, no no, I do my weekly cleaning and keep things fairly tidy, but it is a chore. Dust is a result of sin, the decaying of our bodies, the reminder that we live with death every day as speck by speck cells that used to carry life fall around us (90% of dust is dead skin). And I just don’t like the fact that hours of my week are spent removing filth and dirt and reminders of death – I would much rather spend my time creating something, building new things, being surrounded by life. Life is change. Death is stasis. And yet, I have never seen anything quite as amazing as the human body when it comes to regenerating itself, healing its wounds, replacing old cells with new, and getting stronger by using it more, even punishing it. So perhaps I am wrong. Dust is not a result of sin, but simply the divine order of change…of the old falling away and the new replacing it. Change is the building block of all healing, and sometimes we resent the change; we have grown accustomed to the old, the routine, the circles of dust that surround objects long unmoved.

When I first unlocked the door to our new home, I was a bit dismayed at its dirty state. I very quickly realized I had a lot of cleaning to do in a short span of time and thanks to good friends, every floor was swept and washed before the movers arrived, and the kitchen and bathrooms were clean as well! It would have been a horrible mistake to move all our stuff in on top of the dirt, and as our little group was in the midst of a whirlwind of mops and rags, I knew somehow that this total cleaning was a good thing – if there had only been a bit of dirt on the floor, or a few spots on the counters, I might have been tempted to overlook it, but now I was forced to deal with everything from top to bottom. I am still not done - I suppose it will take a week or two to make sure every baseboard and closet is wiped clean, but I know this is the better way. And though I dislike the process, Life itself demands it. It will not flourish where death, decay or neglect is allowed to sit in the corner and breed.

Cleaning has now entered my dictionary as a creative activity. Perhaps some day I will even learn to enjoy it.

Friday, October 14, 2005

just for criminals and wrongdoers...

I am reading through Leviticus these days and though the book can get tedious to a modern Western mind (like mine) that can’t comprehend why all these regulations and stipulations for worship and sacrifices are necessary, if you remember that this is a holy God communicating a way of doing things in order that people can approach him and not die (for we humans seem to have a certain propensity towards death and sin instead of life and righteousness, and God has an unfaltering desire to bring humankind near to him)…well, it all makes a lot more sense.

One of the things that struck me about the difference between Levitical law then and our law now is how we have divorced the consequences from any sinful or illegal act. Any crime, no matter what it is, is punishable by jail time (or some restriction of freedom such as house arrest or parole) or a payment of money. The very heart of God screams, “Restore! Repair! Redeem!” in order that relationships and communities might become whole again, yet when our society seeks to make people “pay” for their transgressions, the main punishment we dole out is alienation. It is much easier to punish a person than to teach them how to make it right. Simple impersonal punishment will never change someone’s heart.

One weekend, many many years ago, a few drunken vandals smashed up the mailbox at the end of the laneway leading to our family farm. It didn’t take the police long to catch the young men (drunken criminals are not all that bright) and when they asked my father if he wanted to press charges, he said no, he wanted someone to come and fix his mailbox. The officer made arrangements for the perpetrators to come to my father’s workshop on a Saturday morning and I remember peering out the living room window, waiting for them to arrive, wondering what heinous criminals would look like and feeling a certain fear in my young heart that my father would invite such dangerous persons onto our farm. A young man finally showed up, over an hour late, obviously ill at ease and so nervous about what lay ahead that he had felt the need to down some liquid courage before he came. His friend had refused to come.

I have no idea what exactly transpired between my father and the young man that morning. An hour or two later they emerged from the workshop and much to my relief, my father was unharmed and in fact, seemed taller than he had been that morning when he left the breakfast table; the criminal seemed calm, rather small, and not as menacing as I had imagined. The scarred and dented mailbox went back up on the wooden post later that day and every time I fetched the mail in the next few weeks, I wondered about our vandal. I hoped that he had learned a lesson and didn’t do mean things anymore. I hoped he had stopped drinking too much. I hoped he had listened to whatever it was that my father had said to him. And most of all, I hoped that he had appreciated what a fine man my father was and learned something about compassion and justice and restoration.

What if every time we committed a crime or a sin against someone, we had to make it right? What if you had to come face to face with the person you offended and work together to find a solution? What if you could not simply hide behind prison bars but had to support the family you stole from or rebuild that house you burnt down? I understand that in the case of violent crimes, protecting the innocent is a primary concern, but there must be a better way to deal with violent people than to put them all together in isolation? How will they learn any other way of life? How can they become people of righteousness if they are never around it?

We have mistakenly assumed that withdrawal and isolation are the best way to deal with problems, be they personal or societal – it is easier, but hardly effective. God always says, “Come.” If you are a criminal or a wrongdoer, God says come. If you have been wronged, God says come. And when we as wrongdoers and those who have been wronged can say "Come" to each other, then we will begin to see restoration.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Cans

Things I cannot do:
I cannot make someone love me.
I cannot foresee what one simple action will set into motion.
I cannot get rid of my loneliness - totally.
I cannot hide the way I really feel about someone or something.
I cannot tell a lie well.
I cannot make pain go away when I see it in someone’s eyes.
I cannot trade my life for someone else’s, be it out of envy or sympathy.
I cannot do everything I want to in a day.
I cannot grow any taller.
I cannot get younger.

Things I can do:
I can love someone, more than one someone, even it if makes me look silly – people in love don’t mind looking silly.
I can do a simple thing like listen, or talk to someone, or buy someone a drink, or touch someone who is feeling untouchable…instead of criticizing, ignoring, or judging.
I can be a friend – everyone could use a friend.
I can lead with my heart, making transparency and integrity my constant companions – not ashamed to be seen for who I really am.
I can tell the truth and do it with love – but it takes lots of practice.
I can sit beside someone in pain and cry for them – all it takes is a soft heart.
I can embrace the one life I have and not spend one minute doubting its unique worth or necessity – remember what Stuart said, "Compare and die!"
I can talk to God today, I can participate in what He is doing, and that will be plenty for one day.
I can enlarge my spirit and pursue freedom – yes, it does get WAY better than this.
I can mature and gain wisdom without loosing my childlikeness – you are never too old to jump.

Yes, I can. You can too.