Friday, March 23, 2007

Blue screen (and blue rain) of death

Someday I will tell you the story I promised, about the Best/Worst Youth Retreat Ever. Suffice to say it involved walking back and forth through the snow, in the rain, for hours, snowboarding for the first time in my life and doing wicked awesome but finding upon reaching the base of the mountain that the power went out, so the chairlifts weren’t working, having to walk up the mountain with the snowboard, one of the youth kids having an asthma attack on the walk up the mountain, and one of the coolest nights of worship and prayer.

The rain has been pretty constant this month. I watched the weather tonight, and it is somehow three degrees warmer in Saskatoon right now than it is in Vancouver. There is something seriously wrong here. I wouldn’t mind so much if rain didn’t make me so COLD. You get wet, and then you’re in buildings that aren’t built for keeping people warm, so you end up colder than in Saskatoon, where you’re only cold for the five seconds it takes to get from the car to the house. Most people are depressed here. Some are very skilled at handling the situation. I saw a lady hold her umbrella between her chin and her shoulder, still keeping her dry as she used both hands to find her bus pass in her purse. Incredible.

I have a worry greater than weather right now, and it is called the blue screen of death. This is the actual term for my problem. Even as I’m typing this, I’m aware that at any moment, without notice, the blue screen of death may appear and my computer will restart. This has been happening at least once a day for the past few days. The blue screen of death says “Commencing physical memory dump.” This does not sound like a good thing. I’ve got everything copied over onto another hard drive, and I’m basically waiting for my computer to finally crash and burn, and saving my documents every few minutes. My dad hopes it will hold until I come home. My back-up plan is Danice’s “extra” computer, which she borrows from her church for youth ministry stuff. It is a Mac Ibook. I’ve never used a Mac. I guess it would be sweet irony to be forced across the vast Mac-PC divide because of memory problems in my PC. We’ll see what happens… but if you think of it, you could pray for my ailing computer.

I spent much of today drinking tea. Because of a weird shortage of volunteers today at Jacob’s Well, and their commitment to send people out in pairs, and a necessary visit to a downtown friend who insists on making inappropriate comments to women (and therefore cannot be visited by them), I had to wait for my fellow volunteers at Mr. Donair. I had loose tea, which is served with a full mint sprig in the mug, and a cup of dates on the side. It was excellent. I read some of Shane Claiborne’s “The Irresistible Revolution,” which is awesome, and makes me excited about being involved at Jacob’s Well. I later had more tea with Pauline, the 92-year old woman who started Jacob’s Well, and for the past 30 years has been walking the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, talking to all of her friends on the street, a practice she continues to this day. Pauline believes in the power of Scripture to change people, and she often gives little slips of paper with Bible verses to her friends. She rarely finds these slips discarded on the street. Talking to her is quite the experience… one minute she’s talking about how someone wanted to murder her, and then became her friend, the next minute she’s speaking forcefully about the need to command demons out of people, and then she looks at her watch and says it’s time she went home to feed her cat, Marmalade.

Well, I should get to my work… one major assignment to accomplish weekly until the semester ends three weeks from now. I’ll leave you with a challenging quote from Claiborne’s book…

“When the church becomes a place of brokerage rather than an organic community, she ceases to be alive. She ceases to be something we are, the living bride of Christ. The church becomes a distribution center, a place where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves transformed. No radical new community is formed. And Jesus did not set up a program but modeled a way of living that incarnated the reign of God, a community in which people are reconciled and our debts are forgiven just as we forgive our debtors (all economic words). That reign did not spread through organizational establishments or structural systems. It spread like disease – through touch, through breath, through life. It spread through people infected by love.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rivers and snakes

Hey everyone!

Sorry for my blogging absence. It turns out that figuring out what to do with your life is time-consuming, and I’ve spent a couple weeks catching up at school and trying to figure out how to finish all my assignments before the semester is through, which is sooner than you’d think. I’ve got the plane ticket home – my mom is visiting me for a few days, and we’re flying back together on Apr. 18th. What I’ll do when I get there is still TBA.

Since deciding on the MDiv, I’ve felt quite peaceful with myself, and much more purposeful in my classes. Actually, more purposeful in everything. I’ve been trying to see lessons in everyday occurrences, things I can learn about myself and my gifts, and about how to be a Christian leader, how to love people more deeply. It’s refreshing to feel the momentum of this decision, even though I’m not sure exactly where I’m going. Realities are starting to sink in… how many more classes I need to take, how much it will cost, how challenging church-related jobs are, the huge responsibility that comes with teaching people about God. Generally, though, I feel like I’m growing into myself, and I love it.

I’ve been thinking about all the different streams of personality that make us who we are. Passions, interests, gifts, experiences, all running alongside each other, coming out in different ways. I like to picture myself on a rubber dingy in one of those lazy rivers at a waterpark, where there is a slow current carrying me along. (I remember my dad losing his keys in one of these lazy rivers when I was young…) There’s also several other little rivers parallel to mine, some with faster currents, some moving at a much slower rate. They intersect in some places, they twist and turn ahead, some slowing down and some picking up speed. I see my decision to do the MDiv as me grabbing my dingy, climbing out of my lazy river, and jumping into a faster stream, getting carried away along it. The slower “biology” stream is still there, still flowing, still part of me - I will always find outlets for that passion. It will still feed into whatever I teach people in ministry, and the time and money I’ve spent studying biology will never go to waste. Who knows? Maybe it will build speed further along the way - maybe in another season of life, that will be my calling. Or maybe God will delight me by joining the two streams together and forming a larger and even faster river. But basically the last month has been about God taking off my river blinders, showing me that there are fast-flowing, rushing parts of who I am that I’ve been ignoring, because my lazy river was a lot safer and less controversial and still a lot of fun. It’s been fascinating to zoom out and see all the flowing streams of who I am, and to discover that I’m much more complicated than I thought, and to remember that no matter what I do, these beautiful (and not-so-beautiful) elements will keep flowing through me, showing up as hobbies and passions and careers and interweaving their way through my life. But right now, I’m feeling this burst of exhilaration at the whitewater rapids that are carrying me along into the MDiv.

I’ve been reading some great books lately… for my Systematic Theology class, we all had to read John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ”. There is a lot about the cross that I’ve never considered in depth, even with 23 years of church, 23 seasons of Lent. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to think more about the cross- it covers a lot of ground, but it’s very readable. It’s got me thinking a lot about sin, which isn’t such a bad thing to think about during Lent. Stott says that until we realize what a big deal sin is, until we stop sauntering presumptuously up to God, we won’t experience the true joy of forgiveness or the depth of love he showed at the cross. Stott also quotes from a book by Harvey Cox called “On Not Leaving It To The Snake”. Cox’s idea is that sin is not so much rooted in pride, in wanting to be God - but instead in apathy. For Eve, this meant letting a snake tell her what to do, an animal over which God had given her dominion. She refused to be truly human; she “went with the flow” and surrendered responsibility for her actions. This is apathy and sloth. I see a lot of it in myself.

I’ve also thought about something I read last year about how we “unpersecuted” Christians in North America experience suffering, how we can still identify with passages about suffering in the Bible, like 1 Peter. We still suffer in the process of sanctification, like every Christian. Becoming holy is a painful process. Actually, sin in our lives is often more the avoidance of pain than the temptation of pleasure. We want to lie to avoid the pain honesty brings. We want to cheat to avoid a bruised reputation. We want to sin sexually to avoid the pain of deep unmet emotional and physical needs. Sometimes what I need to remember is that denying myself and taking up my cross is a defiant (and often painful) action against the apathetic, pain-avoiding ease of sin. It’s better to choose to suffer and let God sanctify me than to take the easy way out and let the snake tell me what to do. I don’t know why, but thinking about sin this way gives me more of a passion to see God destroy it in my life, it gives me an eagerness to suffer in self-denial, to refuse to give in, to experience his sanctifying work.

That's all for now - maybe later I'll tell you the story of my weekend, which I will title "The Worst and the Best Youth Retreat Ever".