Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
It is tough stuff, letting someone you love suffer dire consequences for their bad choices. But bailing them out of trouble time after time does nothing to set them free. It simply reinforces the mistaken belief that they can continue abusing their spirit, soul, body, and mind, and take advantage of the goodwill of people who love them without repercussion.
But isn't that what love does? Give unconditionally? No. Love IS unconditional, but it does not give all to everyone in every circumstance. That would be indulgence. Love gives perfectly. Love calls one to more. Love invites the beloved to change. It is given freely, but it is not given cheaply. Love gushes out at the behest of the lover, not at the demand of the recipient.
Reading through Hosea, I see that God is in the business of intervention. He will not enable our bad choices nor keep funding our destructive lifestyles. He will cut off our escape routes and wipe out the places we go for our habitual fixes of self-delusion until the easiest choice is to surrender to his way. It is the only way to extricate us from the powerful web of death we have entangled ourselves in.
Come on, lets go back to God. He hurt us, but he'll heal us. He hit us hard, but he'll put us right again. In a couple of days we'll feel better. By the third day he'll have made us brand new. Alive and on our feet, fit to face him. - from Hosea 6, The Message
The best part of the show is always seeing the person months later, clear-eyed, content, and actually themselves for the first time in years after detox and some hard work at a rehab centre. And that would never have happened if someone had not stepped in and said, "No more."
When they finally hit rock bottom, maybe they'll come looking for me. - from Hosea 5, The Message
There is still so much I do not really understand about love.
This is a picture of Christ Church in downtown Montreal.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
For the most part, I am a nice person, a quiet person, a patient person. I am not an extrovert and seldom naturally command the attention in a room. In fact, I sometimes feel quite inadequate and invisible when trying to be a leader or when I interact in a group. And yet, I know that who I am and what I have to say or contribute is often very valuable. But I usually will not force my voice to be heard, nor do something to make my presence acknowledged. I prefer it when people willingly listen and engage with me and offer their attention because they want to, not because I demand it. I detest manipulation and coercion and try not to participate in it.
So it is difficult for me to sit back and be ignored in a group when I see others vying for attention - making loud noises and smart comments and being silly and talking about themselves. And it is even more difficult to see the group follow the loud ones, the demanding ones, the forceful and vocal ones, just because they assert themselves and elbow to the front of the attention span queue. I am at a loss in these situations. At first I got annoyed and bitter. Then I thought I should do something instead of just sitting in a corner seething or being hurt, so I threw my voice and antics in with the rest of them. I hated it. I was participating in that which I had no respect for and the reward was empty. So I retreated back to the corner and waited. Sometimes it seems that nice polite girls finish last.
I tried a third tactic and that was telling someone how I felt. I really just wanted to point out unhealthy patterns I saw, but I don't think it was all that helpful because as the words left my mouth, I realised how incredibly judgemental and negative they sounded. So I am now on plan number four. I am simply asking God to help me let it go. I am determined to be myself and to interact with people honestly and lovingly, and to let the rest go. I sat in a group this week and observed someone interrupt my conversation with a friend and then proceed to exclude me from the interaction. I heard people turn the topic of conversation to themselves over and over again and wondered if I ever did that. Probably. And I let it go.
I have decided that I value interaction and attention and relationship and affection and responses of all sorts that are freely given, much more than any I can coerce or manipulate or finagle out of people. I may be ignored more than the loud ones. I may end up last in the attention queue. But I don't necessarily want to be first. There are a lot of things more important than first. I want to be someone who is content with who they are and not have my value fluctuate with how others treat me. I want to have integrity. I want others to know that I can be counted on to be faithful even when it costs me something. I want to become more unselfish. I want the things that last, and most of the time, that means I won't come in first. Because for the most part, good things don't come fast or easy or get flashy attention. And I'm okay with that.
This is a small group of raspberries on my patio table, exhibiting perfect group dynamics.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
It is a very restrained book and I took my time reading it, not wanting to race through the pages lest I miss some nuance, some fresh way of seeing things, in the telling of this familiar story. She has done and continues to do more research on this time period than I will ever do, and I admire that and want to learn from it.
Near the end of the book, I read a paragraph that made my head and heart and spirit and whole inner being soften with a gentle conviction. It provoked an immediate repentance. Let me quote it (don't worry, it won't spoil anything in the book for you). These are the words of Mary, his mother, after they find the 8-year-old Jesus at the Temple where he had disappeared for a few days, giving his parents a fright.
And now you come home with us to Nazareth. Not back to the Temple. Oh, I know how much you want to stay at the Temple. I know. But no. The Lord in Heaven did not send you to the house of a Teacher in the Temple or a priest in the Temple or a scribe or a rich Pharisee. He sent you to Joseph bar Jacob, the carpenter, and his betrothed, Mary of the House of David in Nazareth. And you come home to Nazareth with us. - Anne Rice, Christ the Lord - Out of Egypt
I have always felt a bit at odds with where I come from. I feel slightly out of place when I go back to the Mennonite community where I grew up. I do believe I had the best childhood in the whole world and a magnificent family, but they struggled to understand me sometimes. There were just not that many artistic, spontaneous, emotive, mystic, adventurous free-thinkers in that small farming community. While some of my creative exploits were admired and tolerated, it was hardly seen as a viable lifestyle. More of something that one should grow out of. Unfortunately, I also developed some bad habits during my formative years, such as conservatism and judging people that were not like me. And some deep fears were planted in my young soul. These attitudes were all around me, and I did not have the wisdom to say no to them. All of us come from a mixed background like this, where good traits are mixed in with some shortcomings, so I am not picking on any one people group here. What others did during my childhood is not the point. The issue is how I responded to my environment, the attitudes I adopted, and my lack of submission to what God brought into my life.
He had me born into a conservative family, placed in the middle of a rather strict religious community, and isolated from much of what I would have loved to pursue, especially in the arts. And He was not ignorant or mean in doing this. God carefully and lovingly gave me this childhood and heritage. There were things for me to learn there that I could not learn anywhere else. I know I am still discovering them. The only time I do not learn is when I get stubborn, ungrateful, impatient, and proud.
Last night I lay in bed and breathed my repentance for looking down on my humble background and thanked God for every bit of my childhood circumstances, even those things I would have preferred to be different. Somehow, a carpenter's home was the place for Jesus to become a mature man of God and the greatest teacher in history. It was not in the household of a wise rabbi as might have seemed logical. And in the same way, a small, simple and somewhat isolated and restrictive community was the place for me to start to become the best creative thinker and artist that I could be. My heart is full of gratitude for this grace and my eyes get watery when I begin to sense what a great mercy this was and still is. What a mistake I have made in not wholly submitting to such a loving hand.
This is the prairie landscape near Winnipeg, Manitoba, on a visit home in December 2006.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
And yet, God invited him to marry a whore. And Hosea did it. Why? I believe that he recognised the opportunity that God was presenting to him. It was an invitation to so much more. God was saying, "I am asking you to act like me, to love like me, to be a picture of my uncontainable and extravagant attitude towards you. Where everyone else would walk away, I pursue. I make you lovely and lovable by my love. You are desirable because I desire you, not because of anything you are or do. No one knows this kind of love, it is foreign to people. Will you show them? Will you live it out? Come, work with me on this masterpiece of love."
I believe that at any given moment, we are either whores or lovers. We are takers or givers. We either seek to please ourselves or we please another. I am on a journey to pursue less of my own desires and chase more wholeheartedly after those things that God loves. And most of those things are actually people just like me whose lovability exists mainly in the truth that God loves them.
We live in a world awash in love stories. Most of them are lies. They are not love stories at all - they are lust stories, sex-fantasy stories, domination stories. From the cradle we are fed on lies about love.... Hosea is the prophet of love, but not love as we imagine or fantasize it.... It is an astonishing story: a prophet commanded to marry a common whore and have children with her. It is an even more astonishing message: God loves us in just this way - goes after us at our worst, keeps after us until he gets us, and makes lovers of men and women who know nothing of real love. - Eugene Peterson in the introduction to Hosea, The Message
This is a fire hydrant on the street in front of my place.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Dean has been sick for 10 days. It is not a good thing. He was flat on the couch for 2 days and then got a bit better and now has the energy to go to work but not much else. He can't eat much of anything because his digestive system just rejects most food (yes, it comes out either one end or the other in case you must know). It is just some silly stomach virus but it is going on way too long and I don't know why. I don't understand.
Yesterday I prayed, "God, if there is some particular purpose that you have in Dean being sick, then we embrace it and co-operate with what you are doing. But if there is no purpose in this, then you stupid sickness, get lost and leave Dean alone." A friend of mine said she felt something powerful when I prayed that. I don't know. I felt nothing. But when I called Dean that afternoon he said he felt much better. So much better that we went out to watch a movie last night. Alright!
This morning he was back on the toilet emptying out his body. I don't understand.
I just finished my first exhibition of photos. It was a very good experience and I met some wonderful people. The comments I heard were all incredibly positive and I sold a few pieces, but I am not even close to breaking even. I might get a few orders out of the whole thing after the fact, and I do understand all about humble beginnings. In reality, I am not all that disappointed because I really had no expectations, but some of it I don't understand. When the amount of effort put in seems to greatly outweighs the results, I must admit that I don't get it.
Part of it, I am sure, is that we take into account such a short timeline and such a limited scope. I really want to see what God's purposes are in everything. So my question these days is, "What's the point?" I want to be aware, as much as possible, of what God's point is in all my circumstances. I want to walk in his purposes and if I am unaware of them, I will tend to fight against them, being the niggardly self-centred person that I am.
One day last week when all my appointments careened hopelessly out of control and I was late for everything which I absolutely detest because it is so rude, and I had no idea what the purpose could be in inconveniencing others, I found myself murmuring over and over, "Even in this, God will be bring glory to himself." And he always does. Even when I don't understand.
This is the spire of a huge church on St. Urbain.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
One had a view of trees out the living room window, but you had to get past the busy street and hydro lines between you and them. Oh, and the kitchen was just sad. One had a view of a parking lot and since it was a half-basement, the grills of various cars were staring into the bedroom. One had the view of another brick building across the alley. Another had a view of the freeway when you stood at the front door, but on a good note, the stark concrete landscape was offset by the various articles of furniture on the sidewalk that people had abandoned. One had a gorgeous park just to the left. That was a definite possibility until we learned that two other people had already applied to make it their home. One lovely apartment had a quiet view of well-manicured lawns and quiet backyards framed by mature trees. Truly wonderful, but the owner was unwilling to rent it to someone he had not met. Yesterday I saw two more. The first was above a Chinese restaurant with a view of fire escapes, brick walls and to top it all off, one of the bedroom had no windows. The second one was in the funky, trendy part of Montreal called the plateau with a ginormous old church just across the street. The rear balcony offered a view of the neighbour lady hanging her laundry not twenty feet away, wondering why I was taking a photo of her wet clothes.
I understand the importance of a view. What we set our eyes on, we become like. And if the things we are always looking at are unlovely and contrary to our value system, they in some way become our focus and we find them seeping into our souls. And so the search for the view continues.THREE: We had our first house guests in the new place. Shane and Alli graced our home for three action packed days of shopping, sleeping and serious eating. We consumed bagels and French toast and apple pie and talked for hours and climbed Mont Royal and had a beer overlooking the Old Port and Shane even tried to overthrow our home group with his radical ideas, but we just agreed with him which takes the wind out of any radical's sails (you know I'm just messin' with ya, Shane). Brave Alli fed the cats one night in my absence despite much hissing (on the cats' part). They were the first friends to see my exhibit and offer their, "Well done, Matte." The house seems a little quiet right now without their Irish accents.
photo one: me looking like a deer caught in the headlights on opening night at the exhibit. Photo credit to Shane.
photo two: some lady's laundry, view from the back balcony of an apartment on St. Urbain.
photo three: Shane and Alli and me from the lookout on Mont Royal. photo credit to some random kind stranger.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
I squished my finger under a box of cat litter today. It was pretty traumatic. For a brief moment, I wasn't sure if I would retain full use of it in a meaningful way. Thankfully, the throbbing stopped a minute later, and the incident is now a distant and slightly embarrassing memory. I probably panicked more over that finger incident that Daniel did over being tossed among the hungry lions. Like I said...depressing.
How does one make the right choice every time? How do I know which things are worth getting upset about? How do I see truth instead of just my perception of things?
At home group this week, we talked about how one learns life-changing lessons. My theory is that many lessons learned through crisis are probably lessons that we could not or would not hear in the calm. We all have different ways in which we learn. I believe that recognising truth, loving it, pursuing it and then living it is something we can cultivate. But too often it seems illusive, foggy, unclear, confusing or just a big silent blank. Why? Fear muddies the voice of reason. The desire to be liked and accepted or powerful and successful amplifies the wrong voices. Independence, that notion that I can get along just fine without God's intervention or others' help, erects a giant barrier that keeps out the catalyst of all truth, the Holy Spirit.
But if Daniel can do it, then so can I. Depressing, no. Inspiring, yes.
Let every waking and sleeping moment be an opportunity for epiphany in my life, this I pray.
This is a tree, named Daniel, standing alone on the shore of some part of New Brunswick.
Friday, July 04, 2008
I open my mouth, my mind, my heart, but aside from a few words dropping out, not much is happening. But I will continue to open my mouth and make sounds and one day soon, I will find the right words for the right time. And one day soon the truth will sidle up to me like an old friend and a mystery will be solved which will give me hope that the other mysteries are not hopeless puzzles. And until that epiphanic moment, I will show up every day and practice. There is no substitute for walking through the middle to get to the end.