Wednesday, June 28, 2006

ABI and art

Let me introduce you to some of the kids I had the privilege of getting to know this week at ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) camp…

George is a sweet kid who was homesick on the first day. He quickly warmed up to us, especially Rachel, and was the most smile-y of all the kids. Here he is with a pudding mustache.
Nikki has been coming to ABI camp for years. This year she took a huge step and shared her story with everyone at camp. When she was three, she was hit by a drunk driver while she was walking outside. Despite her challenges, she’s very positive and has a strong faith in God. Here, she’s dressed up for our Fairy Tale Banquet.
Jesse was quite a challenge at times – he has a rebellious exterior, but he’s a softie inside. He liked to push the limits, but he was loveable, as this picture shows.
Bradly is probably every staff member’s favorite kid. His brain injury causes him to speak very slowly, one word at a time. But he’s got a killer sense of humour and a wit that’s quicker than his mind can process – and the jokes seem even funnier because they come out slowly. "You're...going...down...Rachel!"
Here’s Dorion. He was a soft-spoken kid who was homesick one night. We read him Robert Munsch books to take his mind off of it. Then he went to bed, and we kept reading Robert Munsch books…
Finally, Kim. She probably faced the most physical challenges out of all the kids. She’s in a motorized wheelchair (she’s a much better driver than me), she can’t speak, and she has a worker who takes care of her 24-7. But like Bradly, she had a great sense of humour expressed without words, and a love and talent for art, and it was a joy to be around her. Here she is messing up Claire’s hair and loving it!
So ABI was awesome. In other news, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about art – music, movies, and books especially – and how Christians should interact with it. We’ve recently removed our rule at camp about only listening to “Christian” music and replaced it with a rule restricting any media with profanity, sexual content, or drug / alcohol glorification. I think this is a positive step, since the “Christian label” thing is so artificial, and (as is often mentioned at Regent) “Christian” shouldn’t really be used as an adjective anyway. All beauty is God’s beauty, and all truth is God’s truth.

I think the new content-based rule is good for camp, where we’re responsible for making choices on behalf of the children in our care, and must not go against their parent’s wishes for what they should see or hear. However, some people I’ve been talking to about this have made it clear that they think this “profanity, sex, drugs” criteria should be used as an automatic filter for everything Christians take in, no matter their age. In other words, we shouldn’t be listening to any music or watching or reading anything containing these things, in the interest of purity, so as not to defile our bodies, the Temples of the Holy Spirit.

But can taking in these things actually defile us? This is a question I haven’t really asked. I came across an interesting article online by someone named Matt Oquist. I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but it was definitely thought-provoking, especially where he discusses whether pondering or observing impurity can make us impure. He points out that we misinterpret Phil. 4:8 (whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, etc.) by using it to filter out the set of topics we shouldn’t think about. If something fails on one point, it is unfit for thought. Yet this really doesn’t make sense, because if we applied this to everything, we wouldn’t be able to think about many passages of Scripture, which describe people doing impure, unjust, dishonest things, and we wouldn’t be able to think about hell or sin as doctrines.

He also talks about what Jesus says in Mark 7, where he talks about being defiled not by what a person takes in from outside, but what comes from within a person. He says that this means we can’t be defiled by what we observe, but this doesn’t mean it won’t cause us to respond in a sinful way. Is this splitting hairs? Here’s In his words, "although the act of observing an evil thing never in itself makes a Christian impure, many things we can observe may cause subsequent evil things to come from within us. So it is never biblical to say "Christians shouldn’t think about topic X or observe topic Y", but it is biblical to realize that "I have a weakness, and to avoid sin I shouldn’t dwell on topic X at this point in my life".

While Oquist is careful to say that he’s not implying that observing sin is valuable, he thinks it can be permissible if there is another purpose. For example, Jesus hung out with the scum of society, and probably observed many sinful acts. This was permissible because of the more important issue at stake: establishing relationships with them.

I’d love to hear some feedback about this. I haven’t asked you for feedback for a while, so it’s high time. If you’d like to read the whole article, go to: .

Well, I have to wake up at 4:20 AM to drive my parents to the airport, so I should probably get a little sleep. Pray for staff training and MDT this week!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

YOU try spelling "crokinole".

I have just spent six wonderful days with twenty senior citizens. Let me tell you about it.

I fit right in with those old people. I’m like a 70-year-old in the body of an almost-23-year-old. You see, I like puzzles. I did all of the blue sky in the puzzle the seniors were working on, which is heroic, because no one wants to do that part. But I love the challenge. You have to look at the shape of the piece, and differentiate between subtle shades of blue. I also love birds (as you may have noticed), and I was lucky enough to have several conversations with women who were old and wise enough to know, as I do, that no, those little ducks are not baby loons – they’re grebes. No, that’s not a wild canary, it’s a goldfinch. Furthermore, I have recently discovered a special place in my heart for crokinole, as documented in these pictures. Unfortunately, the seniors beat Claire and I every time, doubling and tripling our score. They had mad skills. Especially 86-year-old Florence, my favorite, who laughed all the time, had crazy facial expressions (see picture) and made sarcastic remarks every time Claire or I messed up a shot.

The week was great. Not only are these adults our most well-behaved campers of the summer, they’re also the most appreciative. They were such a pleasure to serve, because you knew how grateful they’d be. They went out of their way to encourage us as staff, and to let us know they’d be praying for us over the summer, and to remind us that although we’ll be weary sometimes, with God’s strength, we’ll rise up like eagles. They laughed together, hard and long, they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, and they deeply savored every sunrise, every chance to go out on the lake, every meal. What’s more, they enjoyed talking to us “young folk”! They teased us and hugged us and took genuine interest in us. They said we invigorated them. It made me wish I had more chances to interact with seniors at church – more multigenerational gatherings. We would all benefit.

I’ve been reading slowly through the psalms, and this week I came upon Psalm 71. “Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.” It’s a psalm written by an old person! How serendipitous. Maybe God was trying to tell me something. I decided to start asking the seniors about their lives, and listening closely, to give them a chance to “proclaim God’s power to the new generation”. Mostly, they told me about things God had brought them through – one woman’s mother died when she was twelve, and it was years before God broke through the shell of anger this had produced in her. Another one’s granddaughter had recently been killed in a car accident. Still another had lived with her best friend and soulmate for 33 years; these two unmarried women had worked together as church planters, planning to retire together in Saskatoon. Then just a couple years ago, her friend fell in love, married, and moved out, leaving her feeling abandoned and lost. All of them spoke easily and eagerly about God’s power at work, comforting and strengthening them in these losses. I read in psalm 71: “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.” Such confidence, from seeing God at work through their pain for so many years, seeing His faithfulness proved over and over… that’s definitely something I can aspire to. I want to be like them, “bearing fruit to a ripe old age,” like another of my favorite psalms says.

Sometimes God seems to feel the need to hammer things into my head repeatedly, and this “bearing fruit to a ripe old age” thing was no exception. I drove the seniors back to Saskatoon yesterday, and today, I attended the funeral of my friend Arwen’s grandfather. It’s always interesting, attending funerals of people you’ve never met… you meet them through the words of others. I would love to have known Blaine Holmlund. This was a man who trusted and served God until his last breath. Arwen’s dad ended his eulogy with the epitaph Ben Franklin wrote for himself. I liked it a lot. Here it is:

“The body of Benjamin Franklin, printer (like the cover of an old book, its contents worn out, and stripped of its lettering and gilding) lies here, food for worms. Yet the work itself shall not be lost, for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by its Author.”

This week is ABI camp – Acquired Brain Injury camp. Thirteen kids with brain injuries will be our campers. We’ve been doing this camp for several years, and it’s always a memorable time. I'm sure I'll have many stories to share with you. I’m excited. As usual, I end with a picture of myself. Looking excited.

P.S. Chris, I miss you. Home isn't home without you. Don't fall in love with Halifax, ok?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Village people

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a shopper. At least not a willing one. Yet today, I had possibly the best shopping streak of my life. I shopped non-stop for three hours, and managed to spend a record $160 on mostly pants! Moreover, pants that FIT me. Which are an endangered species. I owe much to my very patient mother. With honorable mention to Value Village and Old Navy.

Value Village is my favorite shopping experience. It’s more like treasure-hunting than shopping. You have to wade through all the junk to discover the diamond in the rough. There’s so much more victory to it…sort of like eating curry (see last post). There’s no going back to regular shopping, with the plethora of sizes that comes with it, and every piece of clothing in prime condition. Where’s the fun in that? It’s nothing like finding a quality item at the Village in YOUR size that’s not stained or frayed, that’s free of frills and shoulder pads, that has already been loved, that you can put in the dryer without worrying about it shrinking, and all at the low low price of $7.99! Indeed, only at the Village will you exclaim, “Fourteen dollars? That’s rather pricy.” Only at the Village will you get weird looks when you ask the change room lady for another size in something. Only at the Village can you overhear a college guy ask the change room lady, “If I were a girl, what dress size would I be?” (I later found out he was shopping for an embarrassing costume to dress up his soon-to-be-married friend at his stag. Poor guy.)

It’s also the one shopping activity that improves with experience. Soon you learn the little tricks, like checking for T-shirts in the little boys section, or pushing all the clothes to the end of the rack so that they’re easier to quickly flip through. You train your eyes to immediately scan past hot pink pants and shirts covered in huge flowers. (Unless, of course, you’re into that sort of thing.) You learn ways to sneak more than 5 items into the change rooms, to cut down on trying-on time. But whatever you do, don’t get a shopping cart. My mom and I were tempted today, but we resisted. Shopping carts at Value Village = going overboard. You must be more selective. Do not buy what you will not wear. Do not try it on if you have your doubts. Economize your time.

Bottom line is – I now have lots of pants. Including a couple pair I found in the men’s section that make me look like a skateboarding poser but I couldn’t resist buying them because they’re lined with this great fabric that makes them SO comfortable - the meshy stuff on the inside of men's bathing suits. Why don’t they line women’s pants with this stuff? Wow. Guys get all the perks. Anyway, I returned home after the successful shopping, and I began packing for camp. The packing experience included raiding my mom’s closet for possible “retro” costumes, which turned into trying on my mom’s old bridesmaid dress from her sister's wedding (pink with poofy sleeves - I hope the one I'm wearing for Sarah's wedding will be lower on the poofy scale), which turned into trying on my mom’s wedding dress. I got a little sidetracked. And that's not all. Perhaps because of my sudden increase in clothing, I was also distracted by the urge to simplify my life by giving away all the clothes I never wear. So, I tried on everything in my room. I filled two garbage bags with things to give away. Mostly things from Value Village.

My life is simplified, and not a moment too soon, because I leave for camp tomorrow. I’m excited, although I’ve had so much fun with Chris and Dan the last couple of nights (I’m a fickle hockey fan, but it sure was great to watch the Oilers win tonight!), and fun with my mom this morning – I’m sad to be away from them yet again. At least I’ll be home on weekends. And they’re going on trips of their own. As for my trip - I will drive up to camp tomorrow in the company of seven senior citizens. It’s Adult Camp, and I’m driving them up in the ten-passenger van. I’ll let you know how the drive, and the week, go… let’s just say I hope they’ll all be up for watching the Stanley Cup final on Monday… Go Oilers!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Zero in Hindi?

Tonight I gave my family the curry experience. A little taste of Vancouver. Or… India. I guess. Same thing. I guess I kind of cheated, because I used a curry paste; I didn’t make it from scratch. Still, I think Danice would have been proud. I even made papadan. Or is it papadas? Something that starts with “papa” and tastes like a big chip. The curry was really spicy. As we ate it, our faces started turning red, and soon someone brought a Kleenex box to the table. I took off my sweater, just like old times with Danice, who never flinches even under the influence of the spiciest of curries. But it was good. When you finish something spicy, you feel like you’ve conquered it. Beth - 1, Curry - nada. (That would be more effective if I knew that word for "zero" in Hindi instead of Spanish... Sarah? Help?) The fun didn't stop there: the ice cream tasted SO good afterward…and, in my books, ice cream is already pretty good to begin with.

Let’s see… since I last wrote… I held a snake. A rat snake. At my church. We had a church-wideparty after our celebration service, and someone invited the snake. It was exhilarating – you could feel his muscles tightening and releasing in sequence down the length of his body. The rest of the party was good – there was face painting, food, those huge inflated jumpy things for kids, a dunk tank to dunk the pastors, and the firemen brought a truck over from their station next door (which my prof would love – bridging the community and the church…). But the snake… that was something else.
Snakes don’t have a lot to do with graduations, so I don’t know how to make this transition, but… my sister Rachel’s graduation was last weekend. Her dress was gorgeous, and her hair was crazy but very Rachel. A faux-hawk such as I’ve never seen. She got an activities award. Which is cool, because I got an academic award, and Sarah got an athletic award, and the way Daniel’s headed with band and choir, he should be able to score a fine arts award in two years. Which means we cleaned out Walter Murray Collegiate Institute in all four awards categories. Malena power. Check out our groovyness in the picture.
Rachel also had a birthday, and I bought her the cake pictured below. She decided to take full advantage of her age of majority and get her lip pierced, which I think looks very becoming on her (pictures to come). There’s some things that are just “Rachel”, and to Rachel’s credit, she has discovered what they are. Sometimes I feel like I have yet to discover many things that are just “Beth”, even though I’ve been Beth for twenty-three years. For example, I’ve been constantly stealing stuff from Rachel’s closet since I’ve been home. Stealing her steez. Although I guess some things can be both Rachel and Beth…
Finally, I would like to share that I tackled next year’s budget the other day, with surprising results. I had been putting it off, because I knew I couldn’t apply for student loans until June anyway, so why bother worrying about how much I’d need to apply for? I added up the expenses side. Then I added up my present savings, summer income, the $2000 I invested in a gold mine and got back out again, and various donations to the Beth fund, and incredibly: it added up to $500 more than my expenses! Hallelujah! God does provide. I don’t know how that happened. The only thing I forgot to include was expenses over the summer (which includes gas to drive to and from camp…) and tithing. But still, the margin is pretty small. It’s looking do-able. Of course, I’ll be completely broke heading into my last year of study… but God and I will cross that bridge when we come to it.