Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006


Another excerpt from Girl Meets God.

Again, it is very hard to reduce a linkage of thoughts of another into a short succinct paragraph. But I will try. Here Lauren speaks of her friend’s marriage, and what it means to her.

“I look at Hannah and I am . . . jealous because I believe that marriage is a school of sanctification . . . I have seen clearly the holy work done in Hannah and Jim’s home this year. Being stuck with each other, being forced to stumble through her (affair) and his heartbreak, has made them better spouses and better Christians . . . God has been who he said he would be “He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” . . . He has used their marriage as soap.
I praise God for his soapiness, and then I get so jealous that I think I might literally start to see green. It is the old question, the pathetic question: Why them, Lord? Why them and not me? . . .
I try to picture watching her being pregnant . . . I try to picture the baby shower . . . I try, while I picture these things, to picture myself being happy for Hannah, and I can’t. I can’t imagine feeling happy. I just feel jealous and pathetic and lame. I feel miserable . . . like a bad, selfish person, so uncharitable that I can’t summon even a shade of joy when my friends do great joyful things like have babies. . . .
Later, in the shower, I get it. I get that Hannah’s pregnancy is my own school of sanctification. God is sanctifying Jim and Hannah through marriage and parenthood, but He is not just blessing them and leaving me out in the unblessed cold . He is using my ridiculous jealousy and my endless self-pity to sanctify me . . . He is using that baby shower to somehow grow me into the person He wants me to be.”
- Lauren F. Winner, “Girl Meets God,” Colorado Springs, CO, Shaw Books: 2002.

Sanctification. Soapiness. It is a struggle to see my struggles as soapiness. Once I was able to, but now this seems sufficiently more difficult considering the numerous deaths I have witnessed this past little while. I am unsure as to the value of being cleaned and sanctified when death is an imminent reality. It seems so futile.

But I digress. Back to the issue at hand.

I wonder about the events in my life and whether they were intended as a sanctification school for me. And I think about how I have approached these – some I have embraced as opportunities to grow. Some I have cursed and resented. There are so many possibilities which overwhelm me. What is God trying to use to clean me? My job? My living situation? My stupid new car? My relationships with people who have hurt me? My jealousy of my friend’s attentions which are no longer focused on me? My unhealthy view of my place in other’s lives? My bus rides? The dog who lives upstairs? My pen which exploded yesterday? How far does this reach?

I don’t know. But I will try to know. And that is always a fun journey.

But now this is my biggest challenge. This has added another dimension to my perpetual cycle of struggle – now I struggle with my struggling with struggles, if you can follow that. Is this struggle in itself a method of sanctification as well? I believe so, which is encouraging. Now I have decided to take steps to deal with my hurts and my pains, with the real possibility of more hurts and pain looming over me almost daily in terms of my medical health.

I am fearful that with these new health developments that I will again forget and spiral downwards into a heartless oblivion. It is my intent to become healthy again. To get myself again in that position where I approach God in a humble and gracious manner whether I am seriously ill or whether I am seriously healthy. And that is my struggle. And that is my goal. And this is my attempt at embracing my sanctification schooling. I have even become so cheesy as to hide little “remember what you goals are” post-it notes around my office and around my room. It is my commitment to try hard to re-orient myself to my God. And through that to allow myself to be soaped. Cleansed. And sanctified.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

ponder ponder ponder

One of the best gifts I received this last Christmas was a poster entitled “How to Build Global Community.” My wonderful friends Dave, Janie, and their then-unborn superchild Corrina gave it to me. They got it from Ten Thousand Villages (yay!)

It has been a great thing to hang on my wall in my office and ponder over. Ponder ponder ponder. Lately I have been pondering over the second point on this how-to list, which says “Don’t confuse your comfort with your safety.”

At first I really didn’t get this, although it sure sounded good and poetic and powerful and I felt freaking smart and activist-like having it hang on my wall. But over time I have begun to understand what is going on in this little line and it is outstanding. So much so that I have tried to intentionally make this statement impact my life and influence the way that I live.

Don’t confuse your comfort with your safety. How many times have I used that excuse – I don’t feel safe – to cross the street from a particularly offensive looking panhandler? From somebody rifling through a trash bin? How often have I walked the long way around downtown just so that I don’t have to walk down Spence or Balmoral? Or stood at certain bus shelters instead of others? I think that I have very often confused my comfort with my safety, and have used the “I don’t feel safe here” excuse in order to cover up my simple discomfort with a certain situation or certain people.

So why do I feel unsafe? Is it because the environment is unsafe and that person on the corner is going to hassle me? Or is it simply because I am uncomfortable? Is it because I do not have control – that I did not choose this person to be there asking me for money. That I did not choose to consort with these people who obviously had too much alcohol. It is more likely that I am merely uncomfortable. When I think back to all of the situations where I felt unsafe there is only a slight few which any real action was taken against my safety, and these actions have always been relatively minor. My feelings stemmed only from the presence of another who seemed different than those whom I normally choose to consort with. And that is my problem, I believe.

Being a woman, I have been taught to always be careful around strange men who are “different” in any way – in dress, smell, ethnicity. I do not believe that this has been taught as an intentially racist statement, but it does reflect general Winnipeg values of who the “good” and who the “dangerous” people are on the street. A drunk white woman is far less dangerous than the same-sized drunk woman of another ethnicity. No matter how much I am convinced I am not a racist, these truths of my beliefs come into play when walking around downtown. And I am ashamed of them.

But this is a slippery slope. At what point should I respond to a feeling of un-safety? Certainly some situations are dangerous. And not listening to my inner voice of caution could be quite dangerous and have severe consequences. I think I just need to practice a bit more on telling the difference between a truly dangerous situation and a merely uncomfortable one.

Just some random thoughts.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

i know. its childish...

but funny. janie and i had a great time the other day letting spiderman free into the world. some of our misadventures are below.

by the way, those of you who are fearful of the comment box. this may be a good chance to stretch your wings. use a fake name even, i don't care. comments are fun!

Friday, August 04, 2006

a confession

I have just completed reading a stellar book. One which has crept into my top 2 favorite books of all time. (Well, top 3 because I guess I have to stick the Bible in there somewhere. Just kidding.) I have finished it and now have to return it to its rightful owner and therefore the next few posts will revolve around some responses to this book before it leaves my pretty little hands.

This is my first post. Some background which is essential - This book, Girl Meets God, written by Lauren F. Winner (Shaw Books, Colorado Springs, CO: 2002), tells of the story and struggles which Lauren deals with as she becomes Christian after converting to Orthodox Judaism.

I recommend it highly. Especially for females. Anyway . . . this struck me when I first read it:

Sometimes divorce is the only thing to do. Sometimes it is the more loving thing to do. Sometimes, you have to do it. But before you divorce, you try every imaginable avenue to stay married. You quit your affair. You find a good marriage counselor. You tell your husband everything you should have told him three years ago .. . and then you get down on your knees and you ask the Lord to help you forgive your husband, and you remind all of your friends who witnessed your wedding that they witnessed it and are supposed to hold you to the promises you made, and you do anything else you can think of to save your marriage.
To further the analogy: I had married Judaism and then I had an affair with a foreign God, another religion, I took another lover. And I realized I was in love with that other lover, and I wrung my hands for a while. I struggled through my own inner turmoil and angst and then I handed my shocked husband divorce papers, threw my stuff into some empty cardboard boxes, and moved out, setting up house with my new love before an even passably decent interval elapsed.
I did not do what I should have done. I never once sat my husband down and told him the cold, hard truth, that I had fallen in love with someone else but I wanted to try to make this marriage work and what, exactly, were we going to do about it? Not one conversation. I never said a word to Rabbi M. about Jesus. Nothing to Beth, no discussions at all. I never said, I made that mikvah pledge and I am failing and I need you to help me.
The marriage analogy cuts both ways. My husband was not really a hapless dope. Those divorce papers were not the first hint of my affair. There were the unexplained absences at dinnertime, the strange men calling on the phone, the lipstick stains on collars and the otherwise inexplicable cycles of ecstasy and depression: glowingly happy when I'd seen my paramour, morose to end the world when I hadn't.
I doubt Beth or Tova or my rabbi suspected I was out on the town with Jesus, but they knew, all of them, that I was around less and less. That I was going to shul less frequently, that I was spending Friday nights lingering over Shabbat dinner less often . . . I doubt any of them thought I was filling my shul time with church, but they knew I was filling it with something, and none of them ever said anything. None of them ever said, Hey, just checking up on you. Is something up? Is something the matter? Or, harsher, Lauren, you know shul. You really
need to be there.
I was part of their religious body; saying those things was their job.
So now I tell all of these words to Beth . . . The words spill out fast with anger . . . I want her to have tried to hold me to those promises . . . to have said something, to have asked me why I wasn't doing what I said I would do. It want her to have done the rude, invasive thing, the hard thing. I want her to have read my own words back to me and to have stood there in the silence till I somehow had to respond.
- Lauren Winner

I read this section about a month and a half ago, and I had marked it to respond to later. I had all of these thoughts in my head about blogging this, interacting with it, and pleading with my friends to hold me accountable to my faith in Christ which seemed to be slipping away so uncontrollably.

I had delayed writing this blog, due mostly to my fear of transporting this book to my workplace and somehow wrecking it in the process. (I have a huge fear of destroying other people’s paperback books. One which is valid because in the transport a teeny corner of this book got damaged. SICK! Sorry, Kara!) So there is much of a delay, and my situation and place in life and faith has changed a bit. However, I would still like to send a plea to my friends, albeit a little differen than what was first conceived.

Life changes quickly. And faith seems to change quickly, which confuses me, but I think that the core stays the same. My journey is not completely the same as Lauren’s. No affair or luring from anybody or anything - I had have many conversations with Jesus about friends and he was not kept in the dark. Many friends have conversed with me about important matters of faith, and I appreciate their boldness and courage in this. Thank you, friends. I know that I have a great family of support and care for my spiritual well-being.

I do ask that you would keep it up. That you would feel free and encouraged to ask the hard questions, to “read my own words back to me and . . . (stand) in the silence till I somehow (I have) to respond.” I need people to remind me of the promises I have made to my God. I need people to read back my words of commitment, of love, back when things seemed so clear. I need to, when I stray, have a gentle (or maybe not-so-gentle) reminder of my baptism.

Times have changed. I have straightened some things out, and the threat of divorce is not quite as imminent as it was a few weeks ago. I am trying. I am committed to Christ, but the pains attached to that life and life in general are oftentimes so overwhelming, so intangible yet so cutting. I feel like I have lost who I am. But I am trying to get back on track, and I feel empowered and supported by so many. Thanks.

So this is really a post of hope, and of thanks, and of a request for help. Things are better. I am determined to make them better. But I need your help to keep me accountable to who I was, who I am, and to my words of commitment to my faith which I expressed in more clearer times than these.

Thank you for your friendship, support, and challenge. You are all very important to me.