Time Down Here

Standard

It’s never that easy. Other people make it look easy, and I watch them with envy and chagrin and, when my heart can manage it, admiration. Some days I even feel joy, this ball of gratitude and pleasure that inflates my chest, one bike tube pump at a time, when I watch their eyes and their hands and their cheeks and I can almost, almost feel what they feel. They seldom glance at me. I’m not really there. Not in the same sense they are. I am incidental. When people look at me, they don’t see me, and they certainly don’t see me seeing them. If we make eye contact, they avert. They sometimes react as they would to a homeless person. I’ve seen buskers have conversation with people. I once saw a young man sit down on the concrete and chat with the old woman who plays her five-string guitar here. I saw him reach out his hand to her and grip her palm, squeeze her fingers as if he were greeting his own mother. Maybe he was. But no one talks to me.

I’ve often thought I could pick their pockets. They don’t see me, they barely register me, why would they notice if I took their wallets? Would my hand even take physical form if I reached into their purses, their overcoats, their jackets? Would they suddenly feel me and the sensation would race to their eyes? Or would their blindness travel down to their nervous system and numb any awareness of that tug?

I sweep. I mop. I don’t have disinfectant but I have a bucket. I pick up dropped cell phones. I’ve lost count how many. Sometimes, if I can get to a listing and find “home #,” I will call and try to tell them where they can retrieve their property. But now almost every phone is locked and I don’t spend hours trying to guess security codes. I just leave them at the newsstand where the gal who works the pre-dawn shift gets to decide what to do with them.

I empty the trash cans into the dumpster. I go through trash. I eat. I find things to help me. Continue reading

Questions I Need to Ask

Standard

Okay, a quick break from the To Live a Faith That Is Authentic  series.

I have some questions I’ve been needing to ask.  It’s time:

 

What does it take for you to admit you’re wrong?  How much evidence do you require?  

This is a great post on the issue from Jayson Bradley, whose blog both inspires and discourages me at the same time.*  What a gift!

 

When your text (how you’re communicating, not on your phone) is kindness and acceptance but your sub-text is “you’re not good enough,” do you really believe yourself that you’re being kind?  

When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy – if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.”  C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Continue reading

Redemption from Ashes

Standard

Something beautiful happened today.

We stood on the freshly dried concrete floor of our friend Elizabeth’s newly-built home and we worshiped God and prayed for his blessing.

Two weeks ago, Elizabeth’s  home burnt to the grounds home burnt to the ground.  She had to guard the pile of rubble so that no one would steal her last possessions.

Two weeks ago, we barely new Elizabeth.  Kim had chatted with her about kids and dogs and recargas.

Eliza and Bella

Elizabeth and Bella sharing Scripture verses and laughing.

 

Today, we sang songs of gratitude together and prayed blessings for this home; then we shared mini-doughnuts and Coke.  And it struck me–and I hope this doesn’t offend you–that we were sharing communion together.

Now, we know Elizabeth.  She is joining our Mujeres de Shalom (“women of peace”) group led by our ministry partner Bella Ndoro.  She even, somehow, has the tiny beginnings of an inventory of 2 cordoba (6 cent) bags of chips.  Corin is more than happy to be her best customer.

The kids chased a ball around outside while we talked and laughed.  kids in front yardAnd I pictured what I had seen two weeks ago when I walked back to see the site of the fire.

 

I have described in detail the broken infrastructure of Nicaraguan government and social services.  But I watched bags of cement delivered, construction workers show up (whom Elizabeth was responsible to feed; we and some other neighbors got to help with that), and in less than two weeks, Elizabeth has a home again.  I don’t know what you think of socialism, but we’re certainly grateful she is not homeless.

I love the word “redemption.” When I speak of redemption, I mean God’s refusal to let bad things just rot, his absolute determination and willingness to bring good out of bad.

I love the word “redemption.” When I speak of redemption, I mean God’s refusal to let bad things just rot, his absolute determination and willingness to bring good out of bad.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  This does not mean that all things are good; some things are horrible and some are evil.  But in all things, God continues to bring good for people’s lives.

Eliza and Mike

I was standing there, looking at these solid, blank walls and this bare floor, a house that none of us–you reading this and I–would consider luxurious.   It’s one room.  But I doubt I’ve ever seen someone more grateful for a home.

And where we were strangers before, now we have started friendships.  Where she was abandoned by her husband, then left with nothing, in that same place we got to surround her and pray and sing and laugh and eat.  Our close neighbor friends, Mileydi and Juan Carlos, and our Servant Partners teammates have become Elizabeth’s new friends.  

When we first began to sing, there were only a few of us in the Eliza with everyonecircle, but as our voices drifted outside, some neighborhood children and two other moms came in, drawn into the celebration. In this barrio, tensions over the sharing of scarce resources and distrust among neighbors can run high. We lean on God to make part of our witness here modeling a better way of living together, of singing and sharing and holding hands as we pray.  Of learning from Jesus how to be true neighbors.

 

[Kim and I wrote this one together.]

 

Fighting for Hope: Recovering from Addiction

Standard

the-labours-of-alexander-1950 Rene Magritte

First, thanks for reading and for all the encouragement in response to my last few posts.  I often experience some inner backlash when I try to be that honest; hearing that it’s helping people makes the difference between keeping it up and gnawing on my spleen.

Part One addressed cynicism, Part Two depression, and Part Three overcoming our fears and naive faith to find hope in life’s depths.  Now we’re addressing addiction.

I’ve asked my friend, Dan Koenigs, to write this post.  Dan was two years ahead of me in high school.  We were casual friends then, each pretty messed up in our own ways.  Now we’re true friends, because we have the same hope in common.

Dan is changing the world.  This is how it happens, one day and one decision at a time.  Dan’s been sober for 24 years and works as a counselor for people with substance abuse issues.

If you think you are beyond hope, or doubt you can change the world, or have given up on ever recovering from your addiction, read Dan’s story.  Dan is a very good reason for hope.

onedayatatime


 

 Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker; beer a carouser…Those it leads astray won’t become wise.”

I have yet to meet an alcoholic who chose to be one.  This blog is not meant to be a discussion on the validity of the Disease Concept or a discussion on willpower.  Here is what I know: alcohol affected me at an early age in ways that I still have a hard time understanding.  Maybe it was my dysfunctional childhood, maybe it was the acceptance of underage drinking by my family, maybe it was a result of being sexually abused by a Catholic Priest at the age of 12, or perhaps it was indeed a genetic thing.

Here is what is important: I had my first real drink at the age of 12 or 13 and I learned early that I could drink and I forgot, forgot everything.  I would drink to forget the pain of being alone, the pain of being sexually abused, the pain of feeling like I was not accepted by others or the pain of not knowing who I was.

Relief drinking is what I was doing and like all addictions, the relief does not last long and then I would drink more.  I became good at hiding it or at least I think I hid it because no one seemed to notice that I was drinking on a regular basis.  At the age of 16 I was drinking more days than not. Continue reading