Saturday, March 28

The Desert

So what is the desert?

The desert is a state of being -- a place where you find yourself alone, even in the midst of many. In this place, a place that has now begun to occupy your regular world, you encounter a disease (a dis-ease): a dryness, a barrenness, and an aloneness -- alone because no one can bloom the desert for you...

No one can help you with the question the desert poses -- and no one can help you realize the answer...

In the desert, God can sneak up on you. In the cities and towns, people are so armored, so fearful of one another -- even those they love -- that God doesn't have a chance...Or we stand waiting for God to do something different, something new.

God doesn't have anything new to show us. He's shown us everything. It's staring us in the face. That's what "We were made in God's image" means. We were in the very way we're made! (And) I've got news for you. It isn't about what you see -- it's about who is doing the seeing...The world doesn't need to be changed by God or born again; it's our way of seeing that needs to be born again, and, more specifically, the seer needs to be born again.

~ William Elliot, Falling Into The Face of God, Forty Days and Nights in the Judean Desert ~

Wednesday, March 25

Endless Winter

...summer passed, winter returned... In winter there is no heat, no light, no noon, evening touches morning, there is fog and mist, the window is frosted, and you can't see clearly. The sky is a dungeon window. The whole day is a cellar. The sun has the look of a beggar. Horrible season! Winter changes into stone the water of heaven and the heart of man.

~ Victor Hugo, Les Miserables ~

Sunday, March 22

Table Manners

Tonight, over a "dinner" of KD and hot dogs the conversation was inconsequential, silly, cabinfever-induced nothingness.

Suddenly, without any clear provocation, our thirteen year old, with a grin on his face, leaped from his seat, lunged across the table, and pounded his big brother in the arm. *WHAM* None of the males in the house seemed to think there was anything amiss as they righted wobbling condiments and steadied drinking glasses.

Absentmindedly re-centering the table, I gave my son a look of shock and questioning rebuke.

"Oh," he said offhandedly

'Oh'?! I silently reprimanded, You just pounded your bro at the dinner table! For no apparent reason?!" My look was meant to convey some form of motherly direction.

"Oh. Uhh. Excuse my reach."

Wednesday, March 18


Sarah and Doug live in B.C. where the winter has been long and personal circumstances have been harsh. The death of a family matriarch, significant health problems for both of them, and recent lay offs have shaken their young relationship, their world.

Sarah is an intelligent, resourceful, nurturing woman. She works hard. She loves well. Despite the complexity of her day-to-day experience, she is an outward-looking, forward thinking gal.

It's natural, when times get tough, to become inwardly focused. We want to shore up our own resources and we can become greedy in our fear that we will not have enough. Sarah does not have enough. She doesn't have enough to pay bills and loans. She doesn't have enough to help support her extended family as they wrestle with their own dependants and employment cares.

And here's where Sarah looks like God: despite her own heartache, Sarah continues to give. Offhandedly, in the middle of talking about a particularly painful aspect of her own situation, she mentioned that a friend had been laid off and injured (in that order, thereby making job hunting an impossibility)a few days before. "So," she said, "we've been making up an extra plate's worth of supper and bringing it to him every night."

She said this simply, carelessly even. Our friend is hungry, so we're feeding him.

Her story. Her expression of goodness. I pray that she will soon have enough and that there will be people around her who can extend whatever version of a plate of food it is that she needs as she habitually, compassionately, selflessly continues to help her friend (and so many others).

Monday, March 9

Broken Spokes

I think Mike is one of the only encounters we've had that has left me feeling off ~ misused, maybe? Unsafe? Our oldest kiddo, Ben, was impacted differently by him, too, because, he said, "I could feel that he was afraid. Not afraid of us, maybe, but afraid."

Mike was afraid. And brain injured. And filthy and desperate and aggressive. He cheerfully and loudly shouted for our attention as the five of us made our way through a department store parking lot. We'd made some snack purchases for the evening and picked up some new dvd's for the very long road back to Canada. Mike, laying beside his well-worn peddle bike, leaned back toward us and loudly explained that he had a "brand new" mp3 player he'd like to sell. Would we be interested?

We weren't interested in the player. But we were interested in Mike, and his story did not disappoint (a career as a novelist would be a good option for our new friend, I think). He shamefacedly -- and proudly -- showed the scars of violent beatings and mishaps and poor judgment. He talked about his family (all rich, he crowed, with boats and mansions and the like) and pulled their photos, carefully sheathed in hard plastic, out of his souring backpack.

Mike talked about his mom a lot. He wondered if we could maybe give her a call sometime, just to let her know that he was okay? He'd turn to the boys, and talk about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, "One beer, boys. That's all it takes. One drink and it could all be over." The boys were polite, detached. They've grown accustomed to the peculiarities of our parking lot connections. They nodded their silent agreement as he admonished them not to disappoint their mom.

What did he need, we asked. Just $350.00 to fix the spokes on his bike. He needed his bike bad. It was his only way to get around. We said that we wanted to help and that maybe we could start with just enough to get some supper in him? Sure, sure. Yeah. 'Cause he didn't really need money, he said, he just needed to talk to his mom.

We slipped him a dirty American bill. Two beer, he said. I'm going to get two beer with this and then the rest I'll use for...he trailed off into another reminder to the boys to stay sober, like he'd been sober for the past couple of years, he said (I'm not sure why sobriety is always measured in 2 weeks, 2 years, 2 months, but it is. There must be some magic to the telling of such a tale that requires the use of that particular number?).

Mike could have talked for hours, but we urged him on to find some dinner and made our own way back to our car -- with all it's spokes intact. But we didn't shake Mike off so easily. We felt him with us in the days ahead, almost expecting him to turn up in another lot offering another bit of electronic wizardry to tempt our pocket books.

Vacation over, we finally pointed the nose of our car toward home several days later, but we continued to be mindful of him (and the many others that we had the honor to meet in the U.S.). When we handed Mike the cash he said something interesting: This is enough. If this is what you're giving then it's enough. See? he said, patting the giant metal crosses dangling from his neck, I know about this God thing.

We crossed State lines considering that thought, alternately agreeing and disagreeing with it. A few dollars is enough: it meets an immediate, felt need. But it is most certainly not enough: the need in the lives of our neighbors, acquaintances, encounters goes so far beyond anything that can be touched by a twonie or a twenty.

So, we're determined to learn what, exactly, it is that Jesus has to offer in these fleeting conversations. If their needs are pinpointed, will the God of Creation hear their prayer to have those needs met? Freedom? Healing? Restored minds, hope, purpose?

Mike's parting handshake was soiled and rough and firm. He'll forget us. He probably forgot us within hours of our meeting. But he will not be forgotten. We'll absorb his story into our own and let him teach us more about how Jesus uses one to reach toward another with hope that extends far beyond two beer and a phone call home to Mom.