Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Of Dogs and Long Distance

I recently went on a camp-out/retreat, and spent a relaxing weekend with a friend. Giving me ample time to reflect. These are some thoughts, they may or may not be connected.

The family I'm staying with has a dog. I used to want a pet, but as Biruk has helped me to think more realistically about things, I see the downfalls and responsibilities, not just the positive things that go along with having a pet.
They saved this dog off of a street in Khatmandu where the poor thing was probably near death. They could have just nursed it back to health and set it free in Nepal and that would have been good.
But they didn't. They brought it into their home. They fed it, they let it sleep at the food of their beds. They brought it back to Canada with them. They named it Maya, which is the Nepali word for 'love'.
Instead of just having compassion on the dog, they went beyond; they are committed to the dog.
Usually I'm put off when people give their pets too much attention, or treat them too well; almost like a human.
But I've been learning from their committed love to this dog.

She is a handful. She attacks people if food is invovled, so she has to be put outside before people can begin to eat or cook dinner. She howls and barks at all hours (and is at this current moment).
She has to be walked each day, and yanks and pulls the whole time.
But no matter how bothersome she is, the family still loves her and is still committed to her.
The relationship is not based on their own benefit, not what they get out of it. In most cases, the dog receives and the family is simply tired, or holding a slobbery-wet shoe.
But they took the dog into their home, and they are committed to being a loving family to the dog, even when she doesn't deserve it.

A few years ago, okay, probably 10 years ago, I read Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew. I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, and maybe I don't now, either, but I do understand it better than I did then.
In his book he says "Legalism like the Pharisees' will always fail, not because it is too strict, but because it is not strict enough." It lets us believe that at some level, righteousness is attainable by our own means. If we just follow this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this, then we will be righteous.
We could imagine we were better than someone else. We could do it on our own. Through our actions we might be able to save ourselves.
"Thunderously, inarguable, the Sermon on the Mount proves that before God we all stand on level ground...We are all desperate, and that is infact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God."

I hung out with my new/old friend from my last post again this past weekend. He's always wanting to 'pick up the tab' and it was bothering me, until on my way home I realized something: for most of our friendship, he had no way to be much of a friend.
I had to visit him. I was always moving, I had to write him so that he knew my address or phone number. This has been his first change to be a friend back to me.
He stepped out to grab a late-night snack, I declined because I wasn't hungry. Which left me throwing darts in the garage with his friend Nate*. Nate wanted to know how B and I were friends. I explained, and then wondered aloud how I managed to keep contact with such a compact group of people.
I'm not good at keeping up friendships over long distance. My best friend from Indiana has done a champion job at emailing me and keeping up with me and my life, but still, our friendship changed since I moved away.
I was at Spring Arbor University for 2 semesters and had plenty of friends. Two who I still talk to, and they are always the first ones to send an instant message on Facebook chat.
One of my old roomates emailed me the other day, adn I have yet to respond. I just don't know what to say to her.
Already my friends from Taylor nd I talk less and less. I haven't emailed or called any of the girls I lived with only just last month.
And then there are those friendships that lasted through years of long distance.
Other than the obvious relationship with Biruk.
The two brothers, who always know how to reach me whether I am in Calgary visiting, or living in Fort Wayne. I can't even remember when I saw them last. But when they call, there is always something to say; the words just come so easily.
I think that's what it is though. I'm horrible at keeping long-distance friendships going, they are the ones who are good at it. And the group that the originated from, despite where they are in their lives now, how we became friends, makes them seem the most unlikely group, one might suppose.
I wonder if B knows it, as much as he tries to 'repay me' for being a good friend to him, I have benefitted much from our friendship. I've learned alot, I've been blessed in alot of ways. From many of these long-distance, and strange relationships I have learned alot. Friends who I could talk to on the phone with for hours, yet we have only met in person 2 times (not B, I guess I have several friends who I have only met in person 2 times). Others who call me at the most random moments, but it just brightens up my whole day. Or paintings or drawings that people send me in the mail, although I may not have seen the person in three years.

Because of their background, or a part of their history that they went through, or where they are currently in their lives, we wouldn't be expected to be friends. It doesn't fit. Anything- age or ethincity, career or crime, economic status or any other factor makes us pretty opposite. When I think back to the passage from The Jesus I Never Knew, it makes me think about everyone being on the same level. We don't have to all be the same be meet in the same place, to be on the same level. We are all desperate in different ways. They help me to see the ways that I am desperate, God often uses people so different from me to show me how I, too, need His forgiveness, His grace. In a way, I feel more human when I spend time with people who are so real about what they have been through, or where they are right now.
I might leave smelling a little like weed, cigarette smoke, or baby throw-up; holding stolen garden flowers; but there is that sense that I can't rightly name; that I know I'm a sinner and I still don't fully comprehend grace, but...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meeting with Friends

I had such a wonderful weekend. I spent the night at a stranger's house (my friend is house-sitting) and ate their food and introduced my friend to chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies. She said they sounded healthy! How could she live to the age of 22 without ever eating a no-bake cookie?

And the next day a friend, whom I have never officially met before came and picked me up.

I had such a great visit with him. He convinced me to go stay with him and his family, two hours outside the city for the rest of the weekend. And then I made him wake up much too early to take me to the bus stop.
I thought it was going to be awkward, us having never 'met' in person before, but it wasn't. We had plenty to talk and laugh about. We spent the evening playing darts in his garage, and the next day making breakfast with much too much bacon and sausage.

I hope to get to spend time with him again before I leave. And we already started making plans to go on a camping trip- me and Biruk, him and his girlfriend, meet half way in Saskatchewan. Only his girlfriend doesn't like camping, so I'm not sure how that is going to work out.

It's hard to explain, being able to finally meet a friend who has been your friend for a while. All throughout the day he would just give me a hug, for no reason at all. I felt the same way- like there was time we had missed out on, and starting now we can really be friends.
Not to mention how glad I am at how his life is turning out. Perhaps 'turning out' isn't the right term, it's not just a passive thing, he is making deliberate choices that are impacting his life. It's God's movement in his life.

For the last week, I've just felt so blessed by everyone who I am in contact with here in Winnipeg. I am excited to leave, because I miss Biruk so, so much. And I don't have any plans to live or work here again, but it is nice to be back. I think Winnipeg will always feel a little like home for me because of the great relationships I've built here and the many lessons I learned, how I grew and changed during my time here (the first and second times here, when I was really a resident).

The place I volunteer at/with is going well. It's not the same place it was a few years ago. There are differences in the leadership styles and new teens come out, which is to be expected. I was leading the devotions time for the worship night and one of the leaders suggested I speak about the end times and the second coming of Christ.
This makes me smile to think about, because anyone knowing me knows I would never lead a devotion on that, let alone with rowdy teens, some of which don't even know if they believe in a God, or if they want to serve that God. And I am not going to 'fire and brimstone' them to help make up their minds! That's definitely not my style.
Instead, I took a 'criminal justice' approach, discussing typical punishments for breaking the law and how God's grace and mercy is so contrary to anything we deserve or would even dare to expect.
That's probably the biggest difference I notice. It's great that they are focused on the spiritual lives of these kids. That is incredibly important, but it should not be the sole focus to neglect the other areas of their lives.
One deals with gang issues and safety. Another struggles with being a teenage mother. A third lives with the scars of their mother having used drugs and alcohol while pregnant with them.
We can't preach the forgiveness of sins, the love of God and his saving power without addressing the issues they deal with now. Hope for all eternity includes today, Christ gives us hope for today. Hope these kids desperately need.
Hope my friends need.
That their relationships will not break apart and they can have that family they dream of.
That they can finish school, that they can find a job and support their family.
That they can overcome their addictions.
We all need some hope now, today, not just for all the rest of eternity.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Busy Busy

In a moment, I will board a bus, or van of sorts and travel to pick up teenagers.

The 'berry picking' I was supposed to help with this morning was canceled because the berries were not ripe yet (actually, a very cool program; raising money for an orphanage in Mexico, and will go on a mission trip there after a year or so, and other money made from selling the berries will go to a college fund for kids involved).
Our hiking plans were dashed with the constant drizzle last night and the pounding, flood rains this morning. It has now stopped raining, but the ground it too saturated.
Thank goodness the berry picking was already canceled! I would not want to be stuck in that awful rain!

So now, we are having a 'games day', which is promising to be fun- dutch blitz with giant cards, which must be held with two hands, the card game 'spoons', as well as a few other games that are easily 'contact sports'.

I've been meeting up with plenty of old friends. Amazed at how friendships last. I was talking to L**** on the phone the other day, and we reminisced how we managed to stay friends. We ended up talking for an hour, the time just flew by. And there wasn't that awkward silence with not having seen someone in a while, so there is nothing to talk about, or you feel that you have to re-gain trust.
L---- (not L****) and I hung out the other day, and talked last night. He's always asking me for important things! Like to be my best man, or if I will be the godmother of his child (no child on the way, just 'if').

My friend Mo-Mo lent me his cell phone for the rest of the month, which has been a great blessing. Only he forgot to tell me his other number to reach him at, and people keep calling him, because it is his cell number and I don't know where to direct them. And he has countless text messages, that I am so tempted to read (but I've been good!), I just need to meet him somewhere and show him all those text messages.

And I still miss Biruk like crazy, but since I now have a cell phone we get to talk almost everyday. I'll see him soon, I keep telling myself.

I've been really busy, so maybe I'll post pictures, but I won't be posting for a while probably.

Friday, July 03, 2009

politcally correct terms

It's been interesting, in a good way, being back in Winnipeg.
In some ways, it feels the same.
The family I am living with is still wonderful, the place I am volunteering is still full of kids and very busy and I still know so many people in the West End.
People still proposition me- ugh, and there is still plenty of crime in the area.

Its fun to walk down the street and see someone's eyes light up as they recognize who I am and come running at me for a hug. Yesterday a car skidded to a stop, yanked in reverse and halted to a stop at my feet. Contents: three males. Two whom I recognized to be older versions of the ones I remembered from before and the third who I didn't recognize right away- much too skinny and his afro was gone.
We talked about life, what we have been up to. I told them about my travels and school and such and then asked what they had done since I had seen them last.
Sadly, they answered the same. It makes me sad, when I consider how much my life has changed and all I have done and then I think that they are still doing the same, not come any further at all.
One of them informs me that the appropriate term for his line of work is a 'street pharmacist'.
That just makes me giggle every time!

And the big tough guys, who want me to know how they aren't scared of this or that pull out their cell phones to proudly show off pictures of their children and tell me how they plan on being good fathers who are invovled in their kid's lives, not just pay child support.
Tough guys?
And then they got on my case for not hugging one of them before I left.
Yeah, not tough- everybody is human, everybody needs love.

I'm doing great, but busy.