Thursday, October 29, 2009

Apartments

Things to Know or Do When Moving to a New Apartment:

-make sure to have extra copies of your contract, besides just the one copy

-if possible, avoid the 'ingoing inspection'-because then you are guaranteed 100% to get your security deposit back, by law, because there is no proof that you damaged anything

-get a receipt for your security deposit and make a copy

-find out where the security deposit was put (since it is your money, the landlord cannot put it in his/her own account, they must put in in a separate account. In Alberta, not putting it in a separate account is finable up to $5,000)

-know the minimum housing standards

-take photos of anything in the apartment that does not meet the minimum housing standards

-know tenant rights (such as the minimum temperature required by law, in Alberta it is 22 C or 70 F)

-know what to do if those rights are not kept (how to complain to the landlord, how to make a complaint to the authorities and how to get part of your rent refunded if services are not being provided, such as heat and Internet when included with your rent)

-put a pin in the very top or very bottom of the door when leaving, to insure that no one has entered when you were out, if some one has, the pin would have fallen out (if the landlord enters for any other reason than an emergency without notifying you or getting your consent that is also finable up to $5,000 and you can report a break-in)

My mom asked me since the landlord has been so mean to me, if I think I will get my security deposit back.
So I added up all the minimum fines he would have to pay, upon my reporting of all the offenses he has done. $950 + $650 security deposit he would still have to pay me back = 1,600
I also did a quick estimate for the maximum fines he could face, which equalled around $30,000 + $650.
So yes, I do think that I will get my security deposit back.

I was thinking about it today, and I feel sorry for him. I think really he is just lonely or upset about something and it taking it out on me. Most people would take their stress out on someone close to them, who they trust and who would probably not leave because they were 'blown up' on. However, it actually makes more sense to take your anger out on someone who you don't know very well and maybe will never speak to again; your relationship won't be at risk, you won't hurt the person you care about and you will not feel guilty for it, either.

And some of the things he said to me made me realize that he is quite bitter. He thinks up ways to get back at me, to hurt me, to screw with me. Instead of thinking about what is best for him, I have become his focus (that's sort of scary, actually!).
Bitter people, or really anyone who is harboring unforgiveness becomes reactive to the person who they won't forgive, so the other person gets the upper hand, even unknowingly.
I would much rather think about other things, and have more enjoyable things to fill my thoughts than ways to hurt him or get back at him (although I do know my rights and how to respond legally if he attempts to take them away or infringe upon them). Loving him doesn't mean that I have to stop loving myself.
And that's sort of bitterness, too- you stop loving yourself because you focus so much on hating the other person, you don't even take the time to love yourself, to think about what is best for you. Instead, you do the opposite; what is the worst for them?
Loving yourself is not selfish, it's healthy. And bitterness is the opposite, and unhealthy.

The moral of this story?

Depend on God (I now have a great caretaker, nice neighbors and a sweet rent deal).
Love others.
Love yourself.
Know your rights.
Love others.
Take your anger out on strangers, not loved ones.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Restorative Justice

I'm taking a class in restorative justice, which I was interested in, but wished I could have taken it in-class with a certain professor at TUFW. I was thinking the online class wouldn't be as good.

I have learned so much in 6 lessons; it has made me read the Bible differently, understand some of the words and teachings of Jesus differently and it makes characteristics that I knew about God jump out of the pages of familiar stories. I feel like I am reading these for the first time!

The story of Cain and Abel. It's pretty short; Chapter 4 of Genesis. Cain kills his younger brother Abel, Cain is marked and has to roam the earth forever.
Rewind. Adam was told that he would have to work the earth; as a punishment. Cain is famous for being a gardner of type, in contrast to his brother, who worked with the animals. So, the punishment given to Adam, in the next generation is a blessing and a purpose; Cain learns from it and is blessed because of it. (How many modern-day punishments have that influence, other than to be deterrents?).
Cain became angry when God 'did not have regard' for his offering. The Bible doesn't say who Cain was angry with, except that he was angry. His countenance fell.
God doesn't even mention the offerings when he addresses Cain, he just asks him why he is angry- telling him that if he does well his face will be lifted, if he does not do well- sin is waiting for him. God warns Cain and gives him advice on how to deal with his anger.
What astounded me was God's interjection.
God created a perfect world, with people who hadn't sinned and their community was perfect, between humans and between God and humans. Until humans sinned.
Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, but they remained together, having their relationship and started a family. Eve says that it was through God's help that Cain was born; community was being restored.
And then Cain is angry, and him not being at peace, even with himself (we don't know who he was angry with) put the peace and wholeness of the community at risk.
So God addresses this before there is a problem; God is proactive and preventative (our criminal justice approach tends to be reactive).
And then Cain goes and talks to Abel. And then, somehow during that Cain kills Abel.
Genesis 3:9. Adam and Eve just sinned and sewed fig leaves to cover their newly realized nakedness. God speaks, "Where are you?"
Genesis 4:9 Cain has just killed Abel. God speaks, "Where is Abel your brother?"

God's first priority when a wrong has been committed, when a sin has been committed is the welfare of his children- even the offenders (in the case of Adam and Eve). And him asking where we are might say something about how sin pulls us away from God and how deeply it affects our relationship with him.

The other important thing I noticed was God's concern for the victim. In the current criminal justice process (as my course keeps highlighting) is the lack of attention and invovlement given to victims. They are used more as evidence than treated as an important part of the justice process. They are rarely give a voice, asked for their opinion in sentencing, compensated or notified of the case (if it was thrown out and their assualter is still roaming free). This increases the injury to victims and makes it more difficult for them to heal from the offense. God asked about the victim first- it was God's priority.
We learn that Cain's sin has affected him socially; his relationship with his brother and others, it has affected his community, including the very earth- which will no longer yield to him. It has affected him spiritually, as he leaves the presence of the Lord (verse 16). It influences his future, as he is afraid that people will try to kill him (what people? Mom and Dad? Or, has God created other humans....?), as well as his career, as his former profession doesn't look too promising if the ground won't cooperate. It affects him physically- God puts a mark on him in grace, to spare him from being killed. And, it affects him mentally and emotionally, as Cain says his punishment is too great to bear (verse 13).
God made Cain address his crime, whereas our criminal justice system allows offenders to be passive instead of active, meaning that they don't have to accept responsibility (which is more than 'guilty' or 'not guility').
God addresses the areas affected by Cain's sin, in a way of restoring him and restoring their relationship. God puts a mark on Cain to protect him- taking steps to restore Cain and God's relationship, as well as Cain's relationship with others. Cain is told he will be a vagrant and a wanderer- given another role within the community (and he also built a city), as a way of restoring Cain to the community.
However, further reading into Exodus reveals that the punishment for diliberate (not accidental) murders was death of the murderer. God could have easily struck down Cain and let Adam and Eve start over with Seth. Further reading shows that 8 generations later, Lamech- the first mentioned man to have two wives- is also a murderer, of a man and a boy. (Also, when you look at the names of the children of Seth and Cain, they are very similar and both have a descendant named Lamech and one named Enoch- really, there can't be THAT many people in the world, couldn't they have been more creative with the names?). Couldn't God have limited this murders of this family by wiping out Cain?
But then the same question would apply to Cain's parents- Adam and Eve, who committed the first sin.
So, why didn't God kill Cain when it is an obvious law which God created? And since his character doesn't change, the law being stated later doesn't really change that God should uphold his own laws.

When I look at this story, instead of just reading about a murder, I see elements of God's justice which restores, which focuses on the one hurt and treatment of the offender- not so much on the crime. I see elements of the community that God intends and how offenders can re-enter the community. I see grace, I see examples of how to punish so that those in the future may be blessed because of it, I see God addressing the many systems affected by crime. I see God's restorative justice.

And as I read other passages- Jesus reinstating Peter after Peter's denial, Jesus healing the ear which was cut off with a sword, Jesus flipping tables in the Temple, the laws God gave to Moses, in God punishing whole communities for the sin of a few- the restorative justice of God keeps standing out to me.
Now, I'm sure I don't totally grasp it (who fully understands the Bible?). But I was blown away by reading the story of Cain and Abel and could harldy sleep, just thinking about the grace of God and how much love is in his justice.

Mentoring

Living in Edmonton has been wonderful! I get to see Biruk all the time. And when I don't get to see him all day, like on most Thursdays, I really miss him. I feel so happy spending time with him, our relationship has been blessed and is growing stronger. God has been working so many things out and paving the way for our future, it continually amazes me.

But, living here has also been really hard. I still don't have any friends. I miss playing soccer, the only real options here are to join a league, which would be an indoor league by this time. We keep looking for a church, but haven't found one yet. There have been nice ones, but they usually felt too big or I wondered if I could really call it my 'home' church. I want a group of people who love God to be in my life, to challenge me, support me, and for me to minister to, as well. Not being able to volunteer here has also been really hard. As long as I can remember I was volunteering somewhere, somehow.
We emailed this church that had a 'marriage mentorship' because Biruk and I want that. Instead of pre-maritial counseling given by a single pastor, we want a couple who has been married for a while to together give us guidance. Maybe two or three couples to give us different angles. And we wanted it to be ongoing, not just 2 sessions and then over; we wanted weeks and for them to be a support system and encouragement after we got married, too.
So, we emailed this church to ask if we could benefit from this marriage mentorship, even if we weren't members of the church. We explained that we are both Christians, just moved to Edmonton and haven't found a church to call home yet, but we also don't want to put a mentorship for our marriage on hold, either.
Someone from this church replied to say that it wasn't really mentoring, they were sessions as part of marriage counseling for someone wanting to get married in that particular church and was only available for members.
For some reason, it made me really sad. I'm not sure if I'm sad about the state of our church, that we are so closed in our congregations and being a fellow Christian means so little unless 10% of your income goes to that particular congregation. That people get married 'at this church'- I'm married if I get married before and join that church- what do they mean 'married in this church'? I'm sad that church membership means so much- where is church membership (to one particular locale) even Biblical? And ministering to fellow Christians of other churches has to even be discussed instead of a given.
And I'm sad because this is something Biruk and I both want to do, but we don't know anybody! I liked that this congregation already had people acting as 'mentors' (or so it seemed on the website) because the fellowship at that locale must have seen that they had a Godly marriage, to ask them to be mentors. We don't want to ask people who we don't know anything about, or anything about their marriage to mentor us.
And I'm sad because we haven't found a church yet, which I would really like to do. I think I'm connecting friends to church too strongly, because I am able (and willing) to make friends outside of church. And I'm definitely sad because I still have no friends (in Edmonton, I have friends all over the world, though).

However, even if they don't live near us, we know people who are married, who have Godly marriages and keep God at the center of their relationship.
Would you please give us some of your wisdom? Even if we do get mentors here, additional wisdom and experience wouldn't hurt!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Giant Fish

Fall used to be my favorite season- the changing leaves, I think was my reason. Not so much anymore, I'm not a fan of the weather getting colder. But, I remind myself that if I can live through two Winnipeg winters, I can live through just about any other cold area.
It was so nice last week- one day Edmonton was actually one of the warmest places in the world. It was warmer in Edmonton than in places in India and warmer than Miami, Florida. Not this week- I broke out the winter coat and mittens.
I got a few comments on wearing mittens, apparently it's too early. My hands don't seem to think so.

I was writing a letter to a friend of mine who has started reading the Bible. I was sharing my favorite book of the Bible with him- Jonah. It's an interesting book; a prophet not sent to Israel or Judah, but to the pagan people in Nineveh- of a country who was attacking the Hebrews. As I wrote the letter, I began to see this story in a new light; why would God send a prophet to a people other than the Israelites, telling them to repent and be saved? Because he is a gracious God.
Why would God send a fish to swallow Jonah? Because he is a gracious God. Before, I had always thought of Jonah's three days in the belly of an enormous fish as a punishment. It makes sense, after all- it's a prison he couldn't escape from. I doubt he ate or drank anything. That's pretty much the 'depths of despair'.
But, what would have happened to Jonah had the fish not swallowed him? He was tossed overboard during the middle of a fierce storm that threatened to tear apart the ship. Doesn't sound too promising for a lone person. Could he swim? Even if he could, he would probably have drowned. No one threw a life perserver after him, there was no coast guard to rescue him.
He probably expected to die.
And then, from within the waters- he is saved. He is swallowed by a giant fish and lives there, inside of it for three days.
God saved Jonah from what seems like a pretty certain death. He gave him time to repent and return to a right relationship with God and to obey God. Jonah is given another chance to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent.
Think of that- Jonah is saved from death, given time to repent and obey God. And then he is sent to Nineveh to tell the people there to repent and obey God so that they might be saved from death.
God sends a fish to swallow Jonah because He is a gracious and merciful God. And the way in which God did it maybe even made Jonah a more fitting prophet, having had such recent hands-on experience.

Tomorrow is Biruk and my 3rd year anniversary. We invented the date because we don't remember when we really started dating. We actually know the date is wrong, because we began dating just before I went to Uganda and I was already in Uganda by this time 3 years ago. But the actual day is not that important; celebrating and recognizing the time we have spent together is.
It doesn't feel like 3 years. Maybe because so much of our relationship was long-distance, but that should make it feel longer, not as if it just zoomed by. Do the years of marriage whiz by like that, too?

Saturday my brother is getting married. I will have a new sister! She's really sweet, Chris is very, very lucky. And I will be an aunt, which is a strange feeling. My best friend is also having a baby, but it hasn't been born yet, it's not the same feeling as actually being an aunt. That's three engagements and two marriages for my immediate family this year! But we are pretty happy at how our family is expanding.

And Monday is the Canadian Thanksgiving. I don't know how to cook a turkey and my oven sucks. I suggested that Biruk make the turkey and he just talked about how good the turkey his sister makes tastes. I joked to him about buying turkey lunch meat and eating sandwhiches, he didn't think it was that funny. But really, we couldn't eat a whole turkey.
Neither of us have ever celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving, and we aren't really sure how to make this tradition.