Saturday, December 29, 2007

the middles

This is how it goes - "it" being any venture that is worthwhile and grand enough to challenge us out of our comfortable lives meandering towards predictable and non-remarkable mediocrity. At the beginning, you get a great vision, you have faith, you exude hope, you are inspired and inspiring, you believe anything is possible, your soul is big and fat and floats above all circumstances, you speak in absolutes, and the goal seems just inches and minutes away.

At the end, when you have finally seen the grand project or journey through to its completion, you are tired, happy, wiser, more humble, thankful, able to see the divine plan and purpose in all the twists and turns you experienced. You are more convinced than ever of the absolutes, your faith is richer and deeper and stronger, and your soul has a solidity that only the practical living out of what you hope in can bring.

Both of these are most satisfying places to dwell, and we love them. As people of faith, these are the times we relish and talk about and gravitate towards the most. Just ask anyone for their favourite passages in the Bible and they will most likely jump right to one that exhibits either great vision or a grand lesson learned through difficult times.

But what about "the middles?" Those long weeks and months and years in-between the beginning and completion of an era when things are unsettled, when you are lost and floundering and angry at God and clueless and everything you see around you is in direct opposition to the vision you thought you had. When you have virtually no energy and the energy you do have is negative energy, when you don't get along with your family and friends and leaders and co-workers, when the bank account is seriously ill, when things are at a standstill and you are tired of pushing and shoving and working with no perceptible movement on any fronts, when you question every absolute you were prepared to tattoo on your arm just a few short days or months before, and when death and sickness and depression and just plain bad luck follow you around. When you curse the day you called yourself a visionary, when you cry and pray and then mostly just cry, when you don't want to get out of bed in the morning and you don't believe anyone understands you anymore, and when hope is a four-letter word.

So much of the narrative that chronicles the story of God and his interaction with those he created and loves (a.k.a. The bible) is a record of "the middles." And God did not cut these stories short, focusing only on the inspiring beginnings, including a few troubles just for interest and literary tension, and then quickly jumping to the satisfying conquest . He did not edit the troublesome parts out of Job, nor the Psalms, nor all those depressing stories of kings and politics gone bad in Chronicles and Kings and Samuel, nor did he chop out the redundant day by day drudgery of the laws and regulations and censuses of Numbers and Leviticus.

The middles are what most of us live in much of the time. And it is what makes faith, faith. We can't see the end, no one can skip to the last page of the chapter and read ahead; the book is still unwritten and we are making it up as we go along.

When I was working at an art gallery, someone asked me what I thought about portraying anger and bitterness and doubt and misery and angst in art. I said it would be a very powerful study to have someone paint the different stages of their particular struggle while they were going through it, and not just record it from a perspective of time, having already come through it. I don't believe I knew what I was saying. First of all, who really wants to see someones pain that close up? And more importantly, who of us are able or willing to be that vulnerable? I know I am not, at least for the most part.

I hesitate to write anything here that does not end neatly, that does not have at least some of the loose ends tied up, that I have not already wrestled and come to terms with. I must have some peace and closure and wisdom before I can show that part of my life, or so I think. And that is not the pattern I see when I read the Bible. It is often raw; things don't go the way they should, emotions and misperceptions run rampant and circumstances go awry without explanation or tidy conclusions.

So let me be honest for just a moment here. Today, I do not see where I am going. I thought I had a good and godly idea but so far, every avenue I have explored leads to nothing. I prayed and changed my attitude and embraced truth with humility, but outwardly, things remain the same. There is no improvement in our finances and job situations and the move we are contemplating seems pretty stupid right now. I would back out but that scares me more than going forward. It is hard to be positive and hopeful right now. I am tired of putting my energy into things that never seem to get anywhere, like cleaning a house that never stays clean (yes, my house is in post-holiday untidiness right now - ugh I hate it!), so I am struggling with half-heartedness and that makes me sick for I hate half-heartedness and condemn it in others. So I am a hypocrite on top of it all as well. Tomorrow might be better, but most likely it will be more of the same. I am tired of the same. Can we please move on?

Welcome to "the middles." God does not hide them and neither shall I.

Thanks to Shane for encouraging me along this line of thought. (www.fakerepublic.com)

This is a tri-tree in the bush right next door.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

how do you feel?

I'm back! We took a full 4 days off and did important things like eat, sleep, read, play, talk, and give and receive. It is good and necessary to set aside the burden of work and responsibility for a time and simply be. Selah.

Last week I came across a quote on another's blog, and it rang true with me. Here it is:

I have come to believe that it is important to personally learn and to teach people how to feel skillfully. I believe that there is far more information and awareness in feeling than there is in thinking. Certain forms of rational debate can point out the absurdity of different beliefs, but this fails if the person lacks the intelligence to understand the argument. And yet even the most simple can recognize when they have been insulted. And it seems the most simple often understand when they are being loved and how to return love more skillfully than their "intelligent" counterparts. - Richard Harty, www.whatisspiritual.blogspot.com

I am a feeler. I have spent much of my life trying to figure out what to do with my strong emotions. How to mature in them. I have also been blessed to befriend rational people who are gifted thinkers and they have challenged and guided me in developing my ability to discern inconsistencies and wrong patterns of thought and of equal importance, to be able to provide good reasons for what I believe and see my life within the bigger picture of truth.

However, some of my wonderful rational friends seem somewhat underdeveloped in the area of feeling and are often uncomfortable or at a loss when they encounter strong emotions in others. And I do not believe it should be so. There are plenty of courses on apologetics and debate that encourage us to develop rational and consistent thought, but I have never heard of someone teaching us how to feel well, to experience life deeply and richly, and to discover truth in the midst of our emotions. It is true: the simplest among us are often those who love the most skillfully, and we can and should learn from them.

Do you feel well? Do you emote skillfully? This might be a seminar I should develop. Any suggestions or insights welcome.

This is a photo of our intimate Christmas dinner on Sunday night: African Peanut soup, Angus steak, and onion roasted potatoes.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

this could happen to you

About a week ago, one of my friends, at least I always thought he was my friend, suggested that I should put cameras around my house, videotape my life and sell it as a reality show called, "This Could Happen to You!" After yesterday's incident, I definitely see the brilliance of his idea.

I was doing my kickboxing workout downstairs when the phone rang. It was Dean (husband of the year award-winner) asking me to look up some information for him that he could not access at work due to internet restrictions. I complied, like the good wife I am, and interrupted my exercises to run upstairs to my office. He had me on speaker phone with 3 of his colleagues, so as I was sitting at my computer, searching for a particular Skype identity, I could hear the office banter. I was not having any luck finding the person he needed and we were about to give up when I heard a strange noise coming from the kitchen. It was an odd meowing that was getting more and more intense and turning into a wail. I hurried to the kitchen, phone still to my ear, and saw Tea lying on the floor beside the fridge, her one paw stuck beneath it and her in obvious distress trying to free it from some sharp edge. I just said, "Cat emergency," into the phone and set it down on the kitchen counter without hanging up. I tried to calm Tea down and reached out to free her paw from the underside of the fridge, giving it a good squeeze in order to release it and thereby causing her to cry out in pain again.

What I did not see was Jazz coming up behind me, responding to the universal cat distress call, and upon seeing me tugging at Tea, assuming that I was killing her. Suddenly, I was being attacked by a territorial overprotective maniac cat (good thing I was wearing shorts for my workout!) who lashed out at my legs and growled and hissed at me. I turned around to fight her off and told her to get lost and received a few more strikes on my arm and my other leg. At this point Tea somehow freed herself and ran off, so I managed to get Jazz to walk away stiffly, still quite worked up, but not clawing me anymore.

I picked up the phone and Dean said, "What is going on?" I told him what had happened and mentioned that there was now blood oozing out of scratches on my legs and arm and while he laughed so hard that I could hear him struggling to catch his breath, the other three in the office were not sure whether to be concerned for me or horrified by our savage animals or just relieved they were not part of the wacky household. Dean assured them that I was fine, though slightly melodramatic, and everyone would recover just nicely. And thus ended one of the most interesting phone conversations those four would have all day.

For some reason, as I reflected on the strange events of that morning, I thought of Job, his wife, and his friends. How often, when we find ourselves (or see a friend) in a tough situation, feeling trapped, and things seem to get worse, do we blame or attack the very one who is our only hope of rescue (that would be God!). We so often hold our understanding up as the ultimate means for approaching truth, when in fact, faith is the thing that pleases God and enables us to know Jesus, the Truth.

Now, if my cats could only trust me instead of trying to understand a being so far beyond their mental capacity, we could avoid most of the stress, the unhappy noises, and the scratching.

This is Tea and the offending paw sleeping off the traumatic event.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

moved by movies

I watched two movies this past week that brought out some strong emotions in me. When I asked my friends about their opinions, I was surprised to hear that they had not experienced or even seen the same things I had seen. Well, that merited some thought on my part as to what exactly I was responding to, so here are my conclusions. Please be warned that if you have not seen these movies, there might be some spoilers included below.

1. No Country For Old Men. This movie is garnering a lot of attention and nominations for its quirky characters and clever script. I went into it expecting to be intrigued. Halfway though the film, I wondered if I should walk out. I found it altogether too dark and somewhat predictable in that "I've got an awful feeling about this" way. I stayed to the end, which contained a huge dark stain followed by a glimpse of light. I left the theatre bothered, feeling ill at ease. Like I should take some action to make things right, but there was nothing to do. Indeed, the script and directing and acting display quite a bit of talent, but the story is heinous. It is a horrific chase. One man kills everything that stands between him and some money (and some random people he happens to encounter, just because it is what he does) in the most cold-blooded and calculating manner, yet he comes off as strangely interesting and fascinating. Or at least he is supposed to. And I think that is what bothered me the most: that something this evil can be made to fascinate us. Yes, the film is new and innovative, but I find that what we hail as original is often something that dares to cross a line of good taste or perhaps moral codes and titillates us for a moment, but in the end, adds nothing to us and has no lasting value. Every character in the movie, save a few, sacrifices themselves to the money. Innocence is mowed down and stomped on and obliterated at every turn. What is intriguing about that?

2. I am Legend. This story is also about a chase. One man is trying to survive in a world devastated by a horrible virus that turned most humans into savages. Yes, the dark souls chase him, but that is not the real chase. The real hunt is this sole survivor's fight against isolation, time, danger, and difficulty in order to find a cure for the very ones who are out to kill him. It is his sole purpose for surviving. Sure, the story is not that clever (some say it is too similar to 28 Days Later) or the dialogue that unique or original and there are some continuity and consistency issues, but the character has a big heart - he believes in something important. I find that talent is no substitute for belief. It is not money that he chases. It is salvation. The main character quotes one of his heroes, Bob Marley, reminding himself that evil does not take a day off, so neither can he.

I have been told that I cannot properly separate fiction from fact and that is why I sometimes overreact. While I will admit a certain truth in that observation, in another way I believe I am onto something. We are one - whole beings. We were never meant to separate our lives and selves into all these different compartments. What happens in our body, in our mind, in our emotions, in our work, in our play, in our imaginations - all these things affect us as people and it is naive to deny that this is so. How ridiculous to assume that what touches one part of me will have no affect on who I am or my wholeness as a human being. This is by no means an advocation of avoidance, but an encouragement to enter the correct chase. What are you chasing? What are you serving? What are you sacrificing for?

This is some snowy foliage behind my house.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

wild Bible stories

Today the snow is falling again and I was without any running water when I got up this morning. Interesting stuff. Messes with ones plans for the day. So I am doing a quick blog while I await the return of water for my shower for one cannot venture out into the stores and banks and post offices smelling like yesterday.

Yesterday I was trotting around on my friend, Dave's, blog (http://www.nakedpastor.com/) and saw his latest video conversation with Shane from http://www.fakerepublic.com/. Excellent stuff. Go there right now and watch the fakenaked show part 2. It is about money and marketing and integrity and they toss in a few innapropriate remarks just for good fun. Anyway, that got me onto Shane's website where I came across this fine quote in one of his posts. I asked if I could include it here and he graciously agreed.

i shudder every time i hear the life-giving message of jesus preached as constricting, fear-inducing, death - the dysangel! i despair when the wild word of god is tamed and tethered to a proof-text in support of prejudice. every time i hear the too-familiar sermons reiterate the same-old slant on complex, tangled, intricate, infinitely new passages, i cringe. i know this is the reason so few spend any time exploring the scriptures for themselves any more - they believe all the gold has been mined from these depths and all that remains is a hollow, black, cavernous carcass. the two-edged sword has been dulled by timid, safe, entirely predictable and unshocking interpretation. tragically, aslan has had his claws pared (to paraphrase the inimitable dorothy l. sayers). - from http://www.fakerepublic.com/

I had just been reading Isaiah 10 where strong and untamed words of destruction are rife, the kind that peace-loving modern tolerants hate, and was struck by the perspective one small phrase brought to the whole wrathful chapter. Here's the gist of the scenario: Israel has gone in a really bad direction and done some very bad things. God sends Assyria to attack them to show them that evil is not alright and you can't get away with injustice. They suffer. It is bad. People die. Then God says he will turn his wrath on Assyria who is now arrogant in its victory over Israel. Sounds like violence upon violence, but listen to the love and careful thought for a people's well-being behind all this slaughter:

And on that Day also, what's left of Israel, the ragtag survivors of Jacob, will no longer be fascinated by abusive, battering Assyria. They'll lean on God, The Holy - yes, truly. The ragtag renmant - what's left of Jacob - will come back to the Strong God. Your people Israel were once like the sand on the seashore, but only a scatterd few will return. Destruction is ordered, brimming over with righteousness. For the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, will finish here what he started all over the globe. Therefore the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says: "My dear, dear people who live in Zion, don't be terrorized by the Assyrians when they beat you with clubs and threaten you with rods like the Egyptians once did. In just a short time my anger against you will be spent and I'll turn my destroying anger on them. - From Isaiah 10, The Message.

Our fascination with violence and destruction and unrighteousness is only too evident to God (and to anyone who watches any television or movies). He takes that unholy idolatry and smacks us over the head with it to wake us up out of our deception, and then he obliterates the instrument of violence itself so that we will no longer give it power. How brilliant is that! I love this God! And this complex, tangled, intricate, infinitely new, never timid, nor safe, nor entirely predictable and sometimes shockingly wonderful way he has about him.

These are the woods beside my house in the blizzard on Sunday.

The water has come back on, thank you technicians of the town of St-Lazare. Blessed shower!

Monday, December 17, 2007

the power of Mr. Gravel

We were visited by a blizzard yesterday. The snow started to come down in the morning and it did not stop till late at night. About 35 centimetres of it. Mid-afternoon, I decided to take a walk around and snap some photos. It was beautiful and wild and difficult to walk around in (at one point I sunk in up to mid-thigh level) and hard to see through, and I was soon wet and cold and out of battery power.

We had a Christmas function downtown that we had to be at around 5 pm which meant we should probably leave by 4 pm to allow for the bad roads. Dean brought out the shovel just after 3:30 and managed to make a minor dent in the heap the city snow plow had deposited at the end our driveway. He came inside after a short while and said there was no way he could clear the massive volume of white. He started my car which was parked outside, and in an attempt to free it from a snowbank, managed to get it good and stuck in the drifts behind it. We really were not going anywhere unless our snow removal guy showed up and rescued us. So for the next 20 minutes or so, Dean shovelled the front steps, cleaned off my car, and mostly just stood outside and gazed down the road, hoping to see the green tractor coming. I called Mr. Gravel's number but all I got was a message saying he was out clearing roads. I stood inside by the window, asking God to please send the deneigement guy in time for us to get to our function. We were helpless, utterly helpless to do anything.

At 4:11 the John Deer tractor sped down the road towards our house and even the cats were smiling at the arrival of the noisy snow blowing machine. He quickly cleared a path to the garage and removed most of the drift behind my car. He then leaped from his heated cab and motioned towards my car. I hurriedly pulled on a jacket and some boots and ran outside. While I steered and pushed pedals, the French man and Dean pushed and pushed some more and my car was free! I pulled out of the way and Mr. Gravel and his magic red snow machine finished clearing enough space for both cars to exit and enter and then hurried on to his next customer. What we could not have done in two hours, he did in two minutes.

We arrived at our function 5 minutes later than we normally would have.

I know that though I profess to trust God, I still prefer the kind of trust that does not leave me powerless or totally dependent and in fact downright sunk without some divine intervention. I like to have options or plan B. But really, what kind of weak faith is that? I might as well start realising that all my efforts and cleverness do not amount to anything without the power and grace of God. Teach me to trust more and worry less.

This is a picture of some reeds in the ditch behind my house during the blizzard.

Friday, December 14, 2007

inconsistent or what

I have been having a discussion with some friends about the seeming contradictions of God as portrayed in the Bible. The particular story which was the focus of our talk was the one where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This could be construed as murder, which is strictly forbidden in the commandments which were cited earlier. I must confess, this story has always annoyed me a bit, as Abraham seems to be at the mercy of a God who demands something outrageous one moment, then changes his mind, all because he proved a point or Abraham passed the test or whatever the goal was. I guess we all hate the feeling of being a pawn in some larger game in which we have no control. I know I do. But I must also remember that from the start (that would be Genesis), God insisted that man have the freedom to choose. And choice is what takes us to where we are going.

Anyway, in my friend's living room, while we were talking and venting and in general just being honest about how this story made us feel, I suddenly had the overwhelming sense that God's presence was very near me. Then I heard him say (in the kindest voice, audible only to myself), "Mattie, Mattie, Mattie. You have let these things come between us. These things that you don't understand. You don't trust me in these places. Just let them go. You can trust me."

I was undone. I saw my unbelief and how I was withholding myself from God because I didn't care for his methods (polar opposite of Abraham's response, you might observe). And then I let the distrust go. I let go the misunderstanding I was carrying. I let my wary and cynical guard down and I chose to trust.

It is easy to confuse the two: a) a perception of inconsistency and b) unfaithfulness, but they are not equal. God's behaviour may seem erratic to us but that is because he dwells beyond the four dimensions that I am comfortable with. The stories and words in the Bible cannot encompass his character or adequately describe him, but they give us a glimpse of faithfulness that defies anything we have ever experienced on this earth. He will never leave me. He might do things I do not understand (in fact, I am certain he will because my understanding is less than God's by definition, especially in light of my limited view of time), but he will never be found unfaithful. He will stick by me when I am trusting and when I doubt. He will always respond to my call and my desire to come close. He will never put me in a position that cannot be turned into good. He will always do what he says. He will always be making things right. And in the end, he will always be trustworthy.

This is the snow on my deck today as seen through the vertical blinds.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

do you believe?

We were talking about music Sunday night and I asked someone what "did it" for them when they listen to music. Interesting melodies, skillful musicians, fun and danceable - there were many answers. I added that I respond most to music when people believe what they are singing or playing. One can be a mediocre musician but if you believe what you are singing, there is an added element of beauty or power that will blow the most amazing technical but detached performance out of the water.

What is believing? I think it is giving yourself over to something, letting that protective wall down that we all use to shield ourselves from really showing who we are, and stepping into something that one cannot totally quantify. And it is a darn hard thing to do! Some days I do not know if I believe anything. There are days, like today, when I feel mediocre about my life and the tasks in front on me and everything I read and write seems flat and lifeless and the only thing my eyes see is the unchanging dullness all around. Then there are days that I awake with hope in my belly and I leap about, believing that anything is possible, that I have boundless love to give and grace to bestow, and I will burst if I do not sing or write or express that to someone. There are days I say, "I love you," and wonder how I could ever measure up to all that phrase entails and know that the hollowness in my words must be evident to my loved ones. There are times when loving words and deeds bubble forth almost frenetically from my own deep sense of being loved and being lovely.

I do not know why some days I am a doubter and some days a believer, but I do know that I always have a choice. Doubt cannot keep me from walking toward belief, from choosing to stand beside the standard of truth, from struggling with the chains of negative self-absorption refusing to let them strap me in. If I have one prayer, it is that I would live 100% in this day, totally believing every moment that I am alive, not wanting to be anywhere or anyone else. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

This is a barn at a country florist shop down the road.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I like...

I was just making myself a cup of Chai and thinking about how I like the flavour and smell of vanilla, but others prefer chocolate. We all have different likes and tastes and no one could tell you specifically where they come from. Why do I (the lover of all vegetables) dislike the taste of brussel sprouts and Dean (the detester of most things green) love them? My friends have spent years trying to get me to like sushi, but I just can't do it (deal with it!) There is something creative and unique about our individual tastes. And that's a good thing. If everyone liked the same foods, that would not only be boring, it would mess with our ecosystem, I am sure. I grew up on a farm and know it is important to rotate the crops one grows in order to maintain the stability of the nutrients in the soil, so just producing all corn or all potatoes would eventually impoverish the land. If every man liked the same kind of woman, it would be disastrous for companionship and procreation because a whole viable and valuable segment of the human race would be discounted (and lonely).

When one looks at some of the marketing and media out there, it is easy to see how this diversity is being undermined in some ways. There are certain products and ideals presented as something every one should strive for, and while I understand the desire for greater market share, this premise goes against nature in a subtle way. Not every woman is tall and slim and should not be. Not every one loves coffee and chocolate and should not. Not every one wants to own a Porsche and I am thankful they don't. And yet, if we do not participate in the idealisation of certain things, we are made to feel odd in some way: like loving a chubby woman with a prominent nose makes one less of a man. Or not having an appreciation for fine wine and cigars makes you less sophisticated in some way. Not every one loves the same things and that is one of the ways this world is kept in such a wonderful balance.

One of the greatest gifts of living in a multicultural environment such as Montreal is that I get to experience those who are different than I am, and that is one of the greatest inspirations to be myself. I will not let myself be reduced to a common denominator, but let the whole expanse of humanity be exhibited in the way I live my life and in turn, encourage that in those around me. Because if I don't, someone will get left out and that is never the way God intended things to be.

I like the green grass on my yard, even though it is covered by snow right now.

Friday, December 07, 2007

time between times

I like moving. I like helping people move. I like looking at apartments and houses. Change excites me. One of my least favourite phrases in the whole world is, "This is as good as it gets." There is such a short-sightedness, false finality, and mediocrity behind those words that I have been known to shout out, "No, it's not! It gets way better than this!" when I hear it. There is a temptation as we acquire bigger and better and more comfortable situations in this life to consider that we have arrived in some way; that the struggle is over, at least in part, and we can relax. Well, rest is a good thing and a very vital part of life, but growth and maturation and development are never over. Not even in heaven! The presence of God is the place where the most exciting developments should be expected, where every day will be filled with wonder as layer after layer of his unfathomable character and glory are revealed to us.

Sunset and sunrise are some of my most favourite times. They are stunning and short-lived moments that speak of the hope of change. Celtic lore has a phrase that I love: the time between times. It refers to the dusk and dawn, when it is neither night nor day, when one is caught between light and dark, beginning and ending, death and life, waking and sleeping, and this span of time was seen as a portal to the supernatural.

It is that moment when we have stepped from the shore of a stream and are caught in mid-air, straining to set our foot on the other side. It is that snapshot in time when the trapeze artist has flung himself from the swinging bar and reaches out his hands to be grasped by his partner. It is that instant when we jump off the diving board and hope the water is still there when we hit it. It is not a safe place. It is the place of no turning back, of only forward motion, of trust and faith and perhaps if we are honest, a little bit of fear. And most assuredly, it is a window through which we often see God at work in our lives.

God created the world in such a way that this "time between times" happens twice every day. Perhaps as a reminder to us never to assume our present situation is permanent, a gentle nudge not to become so totally attached to our station in life that we are not willing to leap, to venture forth, and to stretch out our arms, waiting to be caught. Pretty exciting stuff, this waking and sleeping.

This is a sunset last January on Mont Royal.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

the cheat


I took a placement test today in preparation for another French language course I am planning to take in January. There were four other people in the room taking the same listening test which was meant to assess our competence in French in order to place us in the appropriate level. The instructor had other administrative duties to attend to so she left the room for part of the test. At one point, I heard some talking across from me and looked up to see one woman whispering the answer to another woman. I was rather stunned and hoped my stern glare would squelch the behaviour, but the dishonest woman seemed oblivious to anyone else and all my looks were wasted. I hoped it was just a one-time lapse in judgement, but every time the one woman hesitated, the second one said the answer out loud, loud enough for me and perhaps others to hear. I could hardly believe it! I wondered what part of her mind believed that helping her friend cheat on a placement test would ensure this friend a better and more thorough learning experience!

I felt bad for both of these women. The one lady was struggling with a few questions and instead of looking forward to having a teacher help her with those particular language issues, she accepted someone else's answers as an easy way out, perhaps never thinking that being placed in a more advanced level than she merited could be frustrating, embarrassing, and hinder her progress. The other lady was no friend to the first one. The smug look on her face revealed her motivation was not compassion for a fellow student, but pride in knowing the answers. She showed a complete disregard for any implications her actions might have on others.

It is hard to watch someone foisting injustice on another. Here are a few quotes from Eugene Peterson on the role of the prophet that stirred me and put things in perspective this afternoon:

"Everyone more or less believes in God. But most of us do our best to keep God on the margins of our lives or, failing that, refashion God to suit our convenience. Prophets insist that God is the sovereign center, not off in the wings awaiting our beck and call. And prophets insist that we deal with God as God reveals himself, not as we imagine him to be. These men and women woke people up to the sovereign presence of God in their lives. They yelled, they wept, they rebuked, they soothed, they challenged, they comforted. They used words with power and imagination, whether blunt or subtle."

"They [prophets] contend that everything, absolutely everything, takes place on sacred ground. God has something to say about every aspect of our lives...Nothing is hidden from the scrutiny of God, nothing is exempt from the rule of God, nothing escapes the purposes of God. Holy, holy, holy. Prophets make it impossible to evade God or make detours around God. Prophets insist on receiving God in every nook and cranny of life. For a prophet, God is more real than the next-door neighbor."
These are the books on my desk right now.

Monday, December 03, 2007

whole


For the past few weeks, I have been thinking about and exploring the concept of wholeness. Recently I have become aware just how splintered our lives are: job and family and sacred and secular and rational and emotional and conscious and subconscious and love and passion and obligation and responsibility and pain and pleasure and rest and relaxation. We categorise and compartmentalise and label and organise our entire lives, it seems, in order to fit it all in and make it work, but how many of us feel whole?
When I look back at the basic concepts presented at the beginning of time as we know it, the goal was to be whole, to be one, to be in unity- with God first and then with each other. The first splintering took place when the we as humans decided that wholeness was inferior to personal advancement, and we started descending the slippery slope of comparison and competition instead of ascending towards the lofty goals of unison and harmony. Understandable, because unity requires sacrifice and laying down of your life for others.
Pursing wholeness is not for the faint of heart. It will sometimes feel like death. It will require everything you have inside of you. You must be 100% present in whatever you are doing at this moment in your life, in whatever situation you are in, with whatever people you have chosen to surround yourself with. It will cause you the greatest agony as you choose where to commit yourself and the greatest joy when you give yourself wholly.
I don't quite know how to do this life of wholeness, but today, right now, I am here writing about something important that is worth my time and effort. 100% of it.
This is an orange on my kitchen table.