Tuesday, January 30, 2007
He showed me where they hang out (and sleep) and I met a few of the guys there, including Santana (the man on the right - he claims Santana is his cousin) who sang a wonderful and heartfelt rendition of "Smooth" to me while I ate. Robert showed me the notes for the book he is hoping to write - a few scraps of paper with scribbles in red pen - and I wondered how an intelligent and personable guy like him ended up on the street. I am sure there were alcohol and drug issues (he asked me for beer and cigarettes and whether I did weed while we sat there) and perhaps some mental ones as well (the guy on the left seemed to be living in a world all his own engaging in animated conversations and actions by himself), and I never did get to hear Robert's story as he was soon distracted by his buddies and other goings on around him and taking more pictures for tourists who would hand him a dollar, but as I left him, I silently prayed that somehow, he would encounter the grace of God in a big way and be able to move forward in his life. If you have a moment today, say a prayer for Robert and his friends who, as he says, live with the best view in the city.
"Give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it." (from Smooth by Santana)
Monday, January 29, 2007
This was taken on January 27 along the coastline on the way to Monterey, California. You will notice that I have a bit of a horizontal tilt going on which surprised me because I usually take quite level pictures. Part of the problem was that due to the bright sun, I had to squint through the viewfinder instead of looking at the screen and anytime you get really close to a subject (in this case the camera), you tend to get subjective instead of objective and things can get off kilter.
It is interesting to see the California culture again after so many years: yesterday I went to a movie while my friends had another event they were attending, and the conversations I heard in the theater before the show were very telling. The theatre was in Palo Alto, which is the home of Stanford University and one of the more upscale neighbourhoods in the area, and it was evident in the language. Life is good in California but for all that ease and wealth, they do not seem to have anything profound to talk about. Shopping, filling your schedule, and what your friends are doing seemed to be the most popular topics around. I walked past the Church of Self-Realization yesterday and realized that ease has its own problems: it very seldom points us to the deeper and more valuable things in life. I often say that getting out of my own culture and country helps me see the blind spots in my life and broadens my worldview. Where there is no challenge, no pain, no lack, no suffering, no apparent need, there is usually very little motivation to look beyond ourselves. Let me never desire the life of ease for the cost is too great.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Taken in December 16, 2006, this is the main street of the little town of Saint Lazare where I live. Pretty quiet for a Saturday night. I am leaving for San Fancisco tomorrow morning to visit a friend for 5 days and I am looking forward to the change not only from cold weather, but from quietness. Dean just returned from 8 days in Los Angeles on a business trip so it has been extra quiet here this past week, though very productive and enlightening and important on my part. I am a contemplative person and do much of my learning and growing by thinking things through and listening to God and reading and writing and creating, but there is also this side of me that needs crowds of people and lots of hustle and activity and a certain wild spontaneity in order to learn and see and experience those things that just cannot be learned in solitude. I also highly regard one-on-one relationships, and would sacrifice just about anything else in order to spend some quality time with someone whom I consider dear to me. That is one of the reasons I am going to visit my friend, Lucy: because she is important and interesting and it is worth some time and money and effort on my part to let her know that. To paraphrase Solomon: there is a time for everything, a time to listen in quietness, a time to party and celebrate and not hold back, and a time to focus on those people that are important in your life. May I learn to be in tune with God's timing.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I read a cool quote the other day that I can't find now, but it had to do with the fact that when we go through painful things and hard times and nothing seems to console us, a glimpse of beauty will ease our pain and bring peace where nothing else could touch our wounded soul. I have experienced this often: a note sung with passion, a sunset splashed across the sky, a tree in full autumn explosion, an expanse of clear blue water, a child's smile, a dog's eager embrace, and a friend's touch have provided light and peace where no words or explanations could. Beauty is a characteristic of God that I seldom here preached in any church, but it is such a call to worship and healing that we cannot ignore it. Perhaps that is why I take pictures and write words and sing songs and explore all things creative: I am drawn to the one who created this thing called beauty and at the same time, calling for an encounter with healing for myself and this whole broken world.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Sometimes, as an "in the moment" type of person, I lose sight of the fact that things are in process and not everything that I am seeing and experiencing right now is the final product - tough times will pass, healing will come, and there is always hope that the end result will be much better than I can picture now. I have been having a discussion with God about certain things that I have been faithfully praying for that don't seem to get any better. I admit, recently there has been a tinge of disappointment in my attitude towards the Creator of all things which is the last thing I want. So this morning on my way to school, I was listening to a song as I drove over the bridge, trying to see my way throught the salt and snow spray of the semi-truck in front of me. Here it is:
I have to believe that He sees my darkness, I have to believe that He knows my pain.
I have to lift up my hands in worship, worship His name.
I have to declare that He is my refuge. I have to deny that I am alone.
I have to lift up my eyes to the mountains. It's where my help comes from.
He said that He's forever faithful. He said that He's forever true.
He said that He can move mountains and if He can move mountains, he can move my mountain, he can move your mountain too.
I have to stand tall when the wind blows me over.
I have to stand strong when I'm weak and afraid.
I have to grab hold, hold of the garments, garments of praise.
I have to sing praise when the hour is midnight.
He unlocks the chains that bind up my soul
My sin and my shame, He has forgiven and made me whole.
I have to believe. - words by Rita Springer
This morning I said...that's it, I believe, it is a choice, and I believe. I will not have a faith so fickle that it cannot withstand some pressure or a little bit of waiting or some unfavourable circumstances. And this afternoon I got some good news regarding one situation that I had been praying about. Yep. I believe.
Monday, January 15, 2007
It snowed about a foot today and the snow plow that cleans my street likes to dump most of what he collects on his route in front of my driveway because I am at the end of the street and okay, yes, I have a paranoia about him not being very nice to me because I complained about him not clearing in front of my house last year.
So, it is 10:30 pm and I need to shovel my driveway in order to be able to get to French class tomorrow morning and Dean just left this morning for his annual business trip to LA (what timing!). I would much rather just make some popcorn and watch tv or read a book and I really cannot bear to put up a picture of anything with snow in it, so join me in sighing and staring at this lovely picture that I took just over a year ago in Punta Cana (that's the Dominican Republic). Sometimes it is hard to believe that the best moment of your life is NOW.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
I took her to the vet yesterday for her annual check-up and vaccinations and all went well - no one was hurt. I mention this because last year she attacked the vet and drew blood, so now there is a note in her file that she is to be handled with extra caution (an assistant with a towel and leather gloves) and it keeps everyone safe. Sigh. It is not that Jazz is really dangerous, it is just that she hates someone making her do stuff she does not want to do, and she likes her personal space...A LOT! There is a fierce independent streak in her and she will protest and even attack if that is threatened in a significant way.
Let me confess that I identify with Jazz in some way - not that I like to lick myself to get clean or sleep 20 hours a day (well, some would argue the latter point), but I do not like to have my basic independence and apparent well-being challenged. Admit it, when you are being poked uncomfortably hard in all your sensitive areas and your limbs are being constricted and various orifices are being prodded and sharp objects are being introduced into your back side while your face and chest are being mashed firmly against the table and you can't even see the person who is doing all this to do...well, one hardly wonders why she thinks that getting all her claws out is the appropriate response.
Some people insist that God is not trustworthy because they experience pain and suffering, have unwanted restrictions in their lives, some sensitive areas have been exposed and prodded, and all without any explanation or apparent reason, much less face to face contact to reassure them that this is all being done for a greater good.
I admit it, I do not always understand the ways of God, but understanding is not absolutely necessary for love and trust to be present - just look at the parent/child relationship. I was talking to someone this week who questioned the validity of faith in God and I told them, "I do not expect you to trust someone you do not know."
After Jazz had growled and bared her teeth and spat and hissed and tried to strike and claw and fight her way out from the grip of the vet and her assistant and their tools of restraint, they let her go and asked if I was okay to take her from there. I said, "No problem." I reached down, spoke Jazz's name in a reassuring manner as I pulled her from beneath the chair she was seeking refuge under, and lifted her into my arms without so much as a struggle or a sound on her part. Even the most fierce souls can find their way to a place of trust.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I don't like whiners. I don't like people who compare everything to how it has been done before. I don't like people who think everyone else should accommodate their needs. I don't like people who complain but can offer no positive suggestions. I don't like people who have no grace for other people's weaknesses. I don't like people who see only lack instead of seeing everything as an opportunity to learn. I don't like people who think they know it all. And I don't like the fact that I just wrote seven sentences doing the very thing I hate!! God does not like complaining and grumbling (read the story of the Israelites if you doubt me). There were some pretty stiff consequences for letting others know that your situation and others' actions have fallen far short of your expectations and demands. Things to remember to avoid being a complainer:
1. God is the centre of the universe, not me.
2. He does things according to his plan, not mine.
3. He will take very good care of me, no matter what it feels like at the moment.
4. Instead of looking to see what I can do to improve my circumstances, let me see how I can help someone else improve theirs.
5. Thanking God and others is always appropriate and necessary for my soul to keep from shriveling.
6. Never compare - it leads only to places I don't want to go.
7. This moment is a gift from God; treat it with the care and gratitude good gifts deserve.
8. No one wants to be friends with a whiner, so don't be one.
God is good. Life is beautiful. And it gets way better than this...
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
One of the major ways that Africa changed me was regarding security and safety. Neither of those is taken for granted there. While I was in South Africa, close friends of the family I stayed with had an encouter with armed men. In the year since I returned to Canada, nearly everyone I know there has been a victim to some attempt at violence or burglary. Part of my ongoing commitment has been to pray for the safety of these dear ones in a dangerous part of the world. The other part was re-echoed last night in a book I am reading: "The greatest moment of your life is now...This moment is God's irreplaceable gift to you. Most of all, this is the moment that matters because this moment is where God is. If you are going to be with God at all, you must be with him now - in this moment." from John Ortberg's God Is Closer Than You Think.
If you are interested in some of my Africa blogs, just click Africa under labels.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
We were in Niagara Falls (Canadian side, of course) on November 24, 2006 and as is common around the falls, there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky that day. I simply looked up, pointed and clicked, and when I later viewed the photo, was surprised to see a seagull in the corner. All I can say is, I got more than I asked for and it had very little to do with my skill and way more to do with God's timing! Sometimes I think the best spiritual gift one could have is being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
Monday, January 08, 2007
I love this photo because it is a departure from my usual penchant for simple composition and one, or if I am feeling brave, two strong elements, yet it is by no means confusing. Yes to bravery, yes to colour, yes to beautiful, lush almost chaotic extravagance, yes to more than I am used to, yes to trying seafood, yes to overcoming my fear of water and yes to seeing with wider and wiser eyes.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
So last night while driving, singing, and car dancing to a new CD I received for Christmas, I started to think about the tension between going full out (hitting those high notes at full volume) and just singing mezzo-piano in a comfortable range. I often assume that I must live life at full tilt, or at least hit those power notes frequently in order for me to be reaching my full potential. All this straining is not necessarily a healthy picture of whole-heartedness. A song consisting only of all-out vocals gets tiresome to the ears very quickly. A painting of only the loudest and most vigorous colours and brush stokes leaves your eye confused and fatigued by all the flurry of activity.
Balance. A well balanced meal includes fat and fibre, light and heavy, solid and liquid, protein and vitamins and sugar. A well written song has a story to tell, a melody to weave, an ebb and flow that takes me with it. All out does not equal all in. I can sing the simplest, quiet, low note and put my whole being into it without screaming. In my boxing workout DVD, the point is not to flail my arms and legs with all my might, but to train my body for accuracy, focussed power, and timing.
So often when I feel a surge of the grace and life of God swirling around me, I want to respond in some grand and fitting manner and find my body and mind sadly lacking when it comes to a catalogue of expressions that convey the depth of my feelings or thoughts. I suppose I could choose to trust that the creator has given me all the equipment I need to house and express his touch and glimpses of glory, and simply let myself be me: riding on the spirit of holy creation, singing those medium-range G‘s with confidence and passion, painting those beiges with tenderness, lifting my fingers in a simple fluttering dance of invitation, saying one word with conviction, and letting God be in charge of the volume control.