26 February 2008

first day of teaching

it began with me running for the bus this morning. i was awake more than early enough but getting organized and ready to leave took longer than i expected. thankfully, the bus driver responded to my mad dash and waving him down, and i made it to school in time to have more than enough time to do final preparations for class.

however, the run for the bus wasn't particularly great for my lunch. the bouncing didn't help the soya sauce get absorbed into my rice but instead caused it to spread itself over the contents of my backpack. so i have some distinctly brown marks over my books now. and a slight smell of chinese food over everything.

after getting to school, somebody asked me if i was nervous. i told them no, i was too busy being absent-minded and haphazard. so at least the haphazard morning helped with one thing :)

classes went fairly well. in the first class (OT narrative books), we simply went over the syllabus and expectations for the class. in the second class (Jeremiah), we went through the syllabus and then i introduced some of the issues in Jeremiah studies in recent years. i enjoyed being able to share what i have been studying - and it was a good feeling to know a lot about what i was talking about.

there was one moment today that especially sticks out. with all the classes, i shared about my life in Amsterdam and the community (and ministry) of which i am part. and after one class, one student asked if i had any advice of how to help people who have been drug addicts, since addicts are some of the people who come into our lives in Amsterdam. and i didn't have any great advice for him. i know that addicts, like most people with any kind of unhealthy habit, have learned how to justify their addiction in some way. and that often the addiction is a symptom of a bigger problem. and that in for the addict i had the most contact with, the person could be quite manipulative and two-faced. so what do we do? love them, try to see them honestly, help them to see more honestly, try to find the cause of the addiction, and love them. seeing as i didn't have any phenomenal advice for the student - just an ability to share an experience that i've had - i asked him how/what he was doing in the situation. and it was obvious that he was doing his best to help out this addict in his life - and that he cared for him very much. and i could see how much he appreciated the sense that i understood how difficult the situation could be. and his situation/experience is even more difficult than mine in the community - because we share the burden/care of people hurting amongst 50 people, who are all connected in some ways. the student who came to me has taken responsibility for caring for his addict friend. pray that he might have strength and wisdom and would come in contact with others to share his burden, even if it's only people like me who understand how hard it can be to love others who are hurting.

25 February 2008

like a bird

in saying good-bye, daniƫl wrote me a card. in it, he wrote that i remind him of the birds that leave their homes and the place where they've been born in order to travel south. they travel half the world and back again. they follow the promise of warmth and light.

and in the midst of the challenges and anxiousness and strange pull involved in having two different homes on two different continents, being compared to a bird was a comfort. it makes my life and experiences feel a bit less crazy - and a bit less overwhelming and strange. for it is not so bad to be like a bird trying to follow the light. after all, doesn't Matthew 6 talk about how the heavenly Father takes care of the birds?

12 February 2008

some things are worth crying about

i cry a lot (although i usually do it away from people, so it's not something most people know about me). and i cry a lot more in Amsterdam than elsewhere. sometimes, it gets a bit excessive: for about 6 weeks this fall, i was crying almost every day. i'm sure some of it was related to having a somewhat imbalanced life, the sense of frustration and inadequacy i felt concerning the delay in completing my thesis, and the fact that i was recognizing and processing some changes in my life, but these things were not the only cause of my tears. i'm thankful that things have changed - and that i'm now only crying about once a week [crying so much is quite emotionally exhausting!]. and yet, even through the times when i cry more than i'd like, i've learned that there are some things that are worth crying about.

we live in a broken world - and a lot of things are not how they should be. and since i live in community, it's a bit harder to ignore the brokenness in others and myself since we are all affected by it - whether it be the brokenness of laziness, lack of grace, inability to listen, confusion, entitlement, despair, pride, or something else. and people come to the community because they recognize that they are broken and need help - but the process of growth is never easy for anyone involved in the process, especially when so many unhealthy patterns need to be overcome (and these patterns bump into others' lives). and since i live in the Red Light District, the broken picture of sex and the prevalence of drugs encroaches on our minds and hearts and space, even if we don't want it to. in my life, the brokenness of the world and the pain it causes is blatantly obvious - and for the pain it causes me and the pain i see in others, crying is a good response.

and in this crazy, broken world, a lot of times there is no great answer. or good solution. or even necessarily good choices. a lot of times, the choice/situation involves trying to assess what is best out of a lot of difficult questions. how do you create an atmosphere of grace but also teach responsibility? and even if every person and situation is unique, how do you create a structure that fits each person while also not being unfair to others who have been given less freedom or grace or attention? and how do you deal positively with the fact that sometimes it is unfair - and even when it is relatively fair, people will still perceive it as unfair? how do you push somebody to grow and accept new challenges while not pushing too hard that they resist and run away? how do you love someone else's child(ren) while not competing for the love they give to their parent(s) - a love that might be precarious enough as it is? how do you know how much to encourage, how much to challenge, how much to let people find their own way, and how much to provide answers and/or solutions?

and so i cry. because the moments of un-brokenness and grace are sometimes so hard to see, even if in reality there a lot of them. because it is easier to see the resentment and failure of people instead of the moments when they reach out to someone else. because it is easier to complain than to ask how to be part of making things healthier. because it is easier to accuse and wonder about unreliability than to ask what's wrong that this is so. because sometimes it's easier to stop trying to be there with others instead of struggling to find the right words to show love. because sometimes i can't help or do anything no matter how much i want to. and because sometimes i don't even have the energy to care or desire to participate and/or help.

and so even as much as crying sometimes makes me uncomfortable, there are some things that i ought to cry about. and i hope that never goes away. and as i cry i pray, and i bring my frustration and sadness and all of the impossible problems and situations to God. and slowly i can remember that God is working amidst the impossible. God is not stuck by my helplessness and limitations to do something, for which i am deeply thankful.

and yet, even as i remember that, i can not help but cry for those who do not have God to turn to in the midst of the brokenness of the world. and i cry, too, for us Christians who so often struggle in sharing our hope - even when we see the brokenness and pain in the world and people all around us.

11 February 2008

entering lent

changing continents and holding temporary jobs have messed up a bit my sense of time (the school calendar, which i've always used to keep time, has had a little less impact on my life this year since i'm not teaching full-time nor taking classes). the church calendar has helped provide a more solid sense of time, but since lent is early this year, i feel a bit behind - and still not quite in the right time.

but i am slowly adjusting to it being lent. i haven't (yet) intentionally given anything up this year - instead, i am participating in the actions of the community. once again, we've become vegetarian as a community (although fish and eggs are considered acceptable). we've given up dessert - and have substituted it with a candy. and the evening meal is held in silence with music playing in the background. Sundays are "feast days" and so we eat meat, dessert, and talk the whole way through. But for the rest of the time, things are different - and we all participate (even the 2-year-old children know how to be silent).

i appreciate the quiet and the change. it makes conversation during other times a bit more special and more intentional. and it makes me appreciate certain food more. and i like that we all do it for it is easier then - and even a blessing in the solidarity. i'm not sure how i remember lent when i am away from the community - we will see how much i can remain a vegetarian (and whether i really am willing to give up ice cream if i have to choose for myself :)). but besides the desire to be somewhat in solidarity with the community here, i also want to use the time to remember the gifts i have - and that by giving them up for awhile, i realize again how much of a gift they really are. and also that i might see again a bit more clearly what really matters.