Check out my other blog: Arugula Addict! I'll be writing about my journey to becoming a healthier person.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Take It Outside

It's 9:54 am and I've already been up for almost 3 hours on a Saturday morning! I'm sitting at my laptop, covered in a quilt and perched on the edge of my bed (which doubles as a couch), typing away, as the smells of scrambled eggs, tatertots, and fried beef permeate the air. I smell like breakfast! (but not the breakfast I ate!) At 7:30 am I was at church, eyes barely open, ready to prepare a hearty meal for over 50 homeless people.

This morning we had a bit of an excitement. A couple of guys got into a fight part-way through breakfast but it all happened so fast, I didn't realize what was going on until it was practically over. Someone must have insulted someone else, there was some pushing and shoving and shouting and men rushing over to break it up. Meanwhile, I calmly stood at the coffee and cereal table, filling up the hot cocoa mix bowl, completely unperturbed by the testosterone filling the tense air. Someone shouted for them to take it outside and soon it had all quieted down.

As I returned to the kitchen to resume my post at the serving line, I began to process what had just happened. I realized that it could have quickly become a dangerous place to be in, if the situation had gotten out of control. I also realized that while I am afraid of unseen dangers, like the dark, I was completely fearless when faced with a volatile situation. Maybe it was my adrenaline kicking in, or maybe it's just the quirkiness of who I am. I am the type of person who gets annoyed and irritated and angry at the smallest things but big dramas don't phase me (at first!).

After breakfast, I headed over to the sanctuary to grab a bulletin before going home to change. I was on my way out to the car, when I decided to run back in and listen to the praise group practice before Sabbath School started. Still in my blue jeans, I slipped in and sat in the back pew. I noticed some of the people from breakfast were also sitting there and enjoying the music. I also noticed how comfortable I felt in God's house, sitting there in my blue jeans.

It bothers me, that when I finish serving breakfast to people who may know God but experience life in a completely different way than I do, that I go to the restroom, change into my "church clothes" and then walk into church and blend into the background. My horizon changes from individual hurting people to a sea of plastic smiles starched into perfect wrinkle-free suits and there seems to be a disconnect somewhere.

I saw a glimpse of God's love today. When I looked up to see those guys fighting, I glimpsed a young man standing between the two burly street-hardened troublemakers. He was a slim man, tow-haired, of average height, with an innocence that you did not see on the faces of most everyone in the room. Yet he stood there, firm and determined, disregarding his own safety to ensure the safety of everyone else.

Lately, I've been learning about God's love. It hasn't been by a specific book or a particular evangelist or someone laying their convictions on me. I haven't had a dream or heard voices. I don't even think there is a magical formula, but I do know that this is something I have been searching for, for many months, and it is something I feel I am finally beginning to experience.

God's love is compassion. It is genuine, truth, right, tender and kind. God's love is justice blended with deep caring and mercy. God's love is Who He is and I cannot even begin to understand the depth or explain its completeness. All I can do is experience it and be amazed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Would You Like Meat With That?

Oh dear, I really need to be more faithful in blogging!

Today was a pretty good day. It was super quiet at work, which is always nice, and so I was able to work on a project I'd been putting off for some time because it was a rather tedious one. A friend stopped by to talk, I went out to lunch, Indian buffet, with a couple of girlfriends, and I finally got to Walmart to stock up on toiletpaper! I was down to 1/2 a roll which was rather disturbing! Then I finished my rather full day by cleaning my bathroom, tidying my apartment (and throwing my clothes into my closet in a huge heap and shutting the door!), and going to church choir practice. I've been going for 3 weeks now, and each time it's a different set of people who show up, which is kind of hysterical but also frustrating because that means we have to learn the song. . .all over again. . .every single week! Hopefully all the various scattered parties will all show up at the final performance! Then tomorrow I'm heading back to church to help with a breakfast for the homeless that they have every Sabbath morning.

I've been wanting to help with some type of ministry for some time, and I finally got myself and my courage together, called up the coordinator, and showed up at 7:30 am (I know, that's super early, and I used to sleep in till 10 am before!). I really enjoyed myself, because I love working with food, serving others, and being around people. I used to help out with a similar set-up when I was in college, so I already knew I would have a good experience.

Last week, as we were taking up our different stations, someone to cut up the fruit for the fruit salad, someone to fry the eggs, someone to make the pancakes, someone discovered that there was a large plastic bag of tri-tip sitting on the counter. None of us knew how to cook this huge lump of beef, but one man finally volunteered if we could just call and find out how to prepare it! It turned out to be quite simple; cut it into small strips and pan-fry it.

While I mentioned I'd helped with a similar ministry before, we didn't serve meat then, so this has been an interesting experience for me. The first time I found myself stationed right in front of it in the serving line, and hastily switched places with one of the guys. But by the end of the breakfast hour, when people were coming back for seconds and I was the only person serving, I found myself scooping up the chunks of beef and placing them over the eggs and hash browns in a breakfast tortilla, then handing the paper plate over with a smile.

I don't think I'll ever have the desire to learn how to cook beef or to eat it, but I am learning that we need to meet (pun intended) people where they are at. For the ones who stream in the doors on a Sabbath morning, they are not looking for strange foods like scrambled tofu in an organic wholewheat tortilla. One of the volunteers said that the food we hand them is probably one of the best meals they will have all week. It isn't easy, when I know they could be eating healthier. But I have struggles too and I battle daily (okay, hourly) with becoming a healthier person. They don't need me trying to convict them to become vegan; they need God's love. I just pray that I can show them that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

God Stands in the Doorway

She stood in the doorway, watching as I headed to my car parked in the driveway. It was only about 20 steps away from the house, but being terrified of the dark, even a full moon and a bright flashlight did little to calm my fears. As I turned and saw her watching, I felt safe and secure. I unlocked the door, slipped in and turned on my headlights, and looked again at the doorway. She had disappeared inside and closed the door.

Funny, isn't it, that even though I am 30 years old, I still feel safe when my mother is there? I guess we never really grow up in our parents' eyes, and at times we rely on that feeling of security we used to have when we were small, the world was a frightening place and we knew our parents would protect us. We knew back then that our parents could conquer it all. Now we're grown up and we realize they were probably as terrified as we were, only they couldn't show it. They had to pull through because the people they cared about were relying on them. And they couldn't let them down.

The world is still a frightening place. Growing up doesn't make it easier; it just makes you more aware of what you have to face. But like my mother standing in the doorway, waiting till I reached my destination safely, God stands in the doorway and watches over us. . .waiting. . .till we reach our destination safely.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Um, which way is home?

The movie night had just finished and I was sitting in my car with the little overhead light turned on, squinting at a small piece of paper with directions. I had made it easily enough to a church member's home, following her directions carefully, and had enjoyed homemade cinnamon rolls, popcorn and apple cider with at least 75 to 100 people as we laughed and cried through "The Ultimate Gift." Now it was time to go home but it was dark and I was having a hard time reading my directions in reverse. I decided to follow one of the cars out to the freeway.

Well, the best laid plans don't always work out that great. I found myself at a stop light, the car I'd been following had sped off into the night much too fast for my little car to follow and the car behind me was turning right at the four-way stop. From what I could read of my directions, I had turned right when coming here, so it stood to reason that I should turn left. Hence I did so. About 3 minutes later, as I turned the corner and came upon a sign that said "Narrow Bridge Ahead," I immediately knew I was going the wrong direction. There had been no bridge on the way down.

I turned back around, came to the four-way stop, and carried on straight ahead. I found my next turn and made that smoothly. Now all that remained was taking this road until it hit the freeway. Except it didn't hit the freeway. Already nervous because it was dark and I was on a country road with lots of farmland and empty stretches of road, I began to worry. I wasn't sure I could even find my way back to the house I'd left, let alone make it to the freeway now. I began to pray rather fervently that God would help me make it home safely.

The road stretched on for miles, it seemed, but in reality it wasn't very long before I saw town lights in the distance. I knew I was getting close and decided to stay on the road I was on as it was headed in that general direction. Soon I hit a larger road going in to town, and turned on to that road behind a rather large tow truck. Remembering all the stories I had read as a child growing up about how God used various people, cars, trucks, and animals to show the way to those who were lost, I decided that God had sent this tow truck and I was going to follow it till I found the freeway.

We both entered town in a completely different area than I'd ever been before. The handful of times I'd been here before, I'd driven down the freeway to the heart of town where the church was located. I was still completely lost and nothing looked familiar. But I wasn't as worried this time because I was following the tow truck.

The truck made a left turn and I obediently turned on my blinker and made the same left turn. It made a right turn, a little ways after that, and I followed suit. After passing through several stop signs, I saw freeway lights ahead. The tow truck turned off to the right but I carried on until I hit the freeway. After making a U-turn, I headed home as fast as my little car would take me. A trip that would normally take about 40 to 45 minutes took me 30 minutes this time and I arrived home safe but slightly traumatized by the evening's experience. I resolved to either buy a GPS or print off return directions the next time I went anywhere unfamiliar.

When I think about how God led me back to exactly where I needed to be so I could make it home safely, I marvel. I know that part of it was because I used my brain and headed towards the town lights so I could get pointed in the right direction. I also know that part of it was because instinctively I knew that a tow truck would probably be heading towards a freeway or at least the more travelled areas of town. Yet God still guided me to get onto that first large road right behind that particular tow truck and He gave me the impression to follow that truck until I was on familiar ground again. Now that was pretty neat. Once again, He was looking out for me.

Ahem, I think I forgot something

When I first started blogging, I was quite excited and faithfully posted some deep thought every day. Now I'm lucky if I can post once a week! The past week has been filled with adventures, so I shall simply write about my most recent one and save the rest for another time when I have hours of time to spare.

Yesterday I had my long-awaited for biometrics appointment. The official looking sheet of paper I had received from USCIS told me very clearly and in bold font to be sure to show up for my appointment on time, otherwise grave consequences would await me (they would reject my entire application). Being a first-born and someone who tries to everywhere at least 5 minutes early, I decided to play it extra safe and arrive an hour early.

Friday morning arrived, my work replacement flaked out on me so I had to rush about finding someone else to cover phones, and then someone who was supposed to call in for a meeting wasn't picking up their phone when I rang to put them on speakerphone and by the time everything was sorted out, I was about 7 minutes late getting out the door. I dashed over to my apartment, changed, checked to see that my hair looked just right, grabbed my purse and vital papers and the appointment letter, and ran down to my car. Seconds later, I was heading down the freeway towards my destination, about 15 minutes behind schedule but still with plenty of time to spare.

About 15 minutes later, I realized I needed to get gas, so I stopped at one of my favourite gas stations just off the freeway. After parking, I reached for my wallet. . .and realized it wasn't in my purse. I had taken everything else I needed, and some stuff I didn't need but just in case, and had left behind my wallet. With my money and driver's license in it.

In horror, I looked at the clock and then went into adrenaline mode. I had exactly 1 hour and 35 minutes before I had to be at my biometrics appointment. I was about 40 minutes away. I was faced with a dilemna. Should I go back home and get my wallet? I would still need to fill up on gas, so I was looking at about 1 hour and 20 minutes of time. That didn't give me much leeway in case there was traffic on the freeway or I made a wrong turn. I could carry on from where I was, but what if they asked for my license as ID? And anyhow, it wasn't right to knowingly drive without a driver's license on you, plus I would end up stranded alongside the freeway with no gas to make it back.

I decided to head back home. Ordinarily, the drive would take about 12 to 15 minutes. I kept my foot on the gas pedal and flew back, making it in 9 minutes. After grabbing my wallet, I decided to get gas at a more expensive station just 2 exits up the road, since it was closer and I figured there wouldn't be as many cars in line. My gamble paid off, I put $5 of gas in (just enough to get me to my appointment and to a cheaper gas station afterwards) and hit the freeway again.

I think I probably held my breath all the way there, but I made it. On time. Actually, I was 30 minutes early. I guess I didn't need to worry after all! I was in and out of my appointment in 12 minutes and headed back home.

I am so thankful that God impressed me to leave extra early that morning and not to leave an hour before my appointment. I am also thankful that He impressed me to stop and get gas only 15 minutes into my journey instead of 30 minutes, which I was considering. I am thankful there were no accidents on the freeway and that my little car got me safely there and back. And most of all, I'm thankful for the experience as it showed me very clearly that God was looking out for me. That is the neatest thing of all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's a Messy, Messy Journey. . .

. . .but that's what life is. Life and one's spiritual journey. Here are a few random thoughts about it all.

I struggle with finding a church where I fit in and feel at home. So when Sabbath rolls around, I usually spend 30 minutes looking at all the area church bulletins to see which sermon looks the most interesting and then end up skipping Sabbath School and just going in for the sermon. I leave right after church is over because I'm tired of the trite talk from people who are "doing their duty" to make you feel welcome. When I thought about where I could go this week, I decided to go to the one church my peer group would not choose to attend. The reason I'm going there, though, is because despite the controversial environment, the pastor shares what I need to hear: practical Christianity.

If you're still learning Who Jesus is and how you fit into His plan and what your role is in this world, how can others expect you to rush out and evangelize everyone else?

I struggle with feeling like I don't measure up to everyone else's expectations of how a "true" Christian should be. I live in a place where revival and reformation are the buzz words of the day, everyone is required to have a ministry of some sorts and share their personal testimony, and prayer bands are meeting every day of the week and heavily publicized. Now I'm not saying these things are wrong, what I'm saying is that the way in which things are presented can make all the difference.

The problem is that everyone is trying to be the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the One Who convicts, not man.

Life is a messy journey. There's highs and lows, stresses and joys, fears and laughter, anger and peace. Most of us struggle to make sense of our lives while we try to understand how we can serve God in the best way we know how. Horrible things happen and we feel lost, or shout at God and blame Him. Amazing miracles happen and we are in awe that God would remember us. And yet, in the midst of all this whirlwind of a journey, we recognize that there is a purpose and there is a reason. We may not know exactly what yet, but we'll keep on battling to find it until one day, we'll wake up and know that this is exactly where we should be.

Each of us has a unique role to play in God's family. Not all are called to be revivalists, not all are called to be overseas missionaries, and not all are called to be doctors. Some of us are called to be kind, to be empathetic, to be understanding and to care about others as we do our every day tasks.

I struggle with understanding Who God is as a Father. The moments when I don't struggle, though, are the moments when someone shows me Who He is. Those moments are when someone takes the time to care, to genuinely care, with no hidden agenda, no sneering look, no ulterior motives, no impatient glances at their cell phone or laptop. In those moments, when feeble humanity is covered with loving Divinity, I glimpse a flash of what heaven must be like and catch my breath. I long to be used like that to bless others.

The woman who touched Jesus' garment wasn't trying to make it appear that she was more spiritual than everyone else was, as she shrank into the crowd. All she wanted was healing. Jesus gives the same blessing He gave her to everyone today who reaches out in faith to touch Him and find healing for their soul. "your faith has made you well; go in peace. . ."