Monthly Archives: September 2004

Justice

To start my day my office manager and I had an appointment with the alternative measures folks over at Sask. justice.  This summer, while I was away in the Congo, our regular office cleaners hired a replacement cleaner while they too were on vacation.  He turned out to have a problem which drove him to do a very stupid thing – steal and forge some cheques.  So today was reckoning day. 

Last fall, I began meeting with some women to study Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew.  We got together over coffee at a local restaurant.  One night, we got talking to our waiter about what we were reading (we were the last people in the restaurant) and then got an earful about why he had decided to abandon his Christian faith; was exploring Buddhism..   He admitted that he was impressed that we let him say what he wanted to say without seeming shocked or telling him what he ought to believe.  But he was changing places of work and that was the last we saw of him – as a group.  Since then, I have seen and talked to him a couple of times.  He’s a good waiter – pleasant, gets the orders right, efficient.  So we’ve talked when I’ve been to his new work place and gotten to know a tiny bit about each other.  But I knew only his first name.  He knew my kids were from the Congo. I’m pretty sure he did not know my name or where my practice was.

When he walked into the mediation room this morning he looked at me and said “So that is who you are.  You came in and I waited on you but you didn’t treat me as if I had done anything to you.” 

And so we sat on opposite sides of the table with the mediator in between and began the process.  We confronted. He apologised. He paid us restitution for the money he had taken. Then we began to talk.  We talked about what had gone wrong for him, about addictions, about getting help.  We talked about his gifts and talents and dreams for the future.  He brought up how he had been really involved in his church and then had kind of taken a wrong turn.  We talked about our own experiences, about needing to have people around us for support and accountability and of how he doesnt have to be “well” before he makes his way back to God.  He doesnt think hes quite ready for that yet.

I reminded him of the group of women who were meeting when I first met him.  And I warned him that we had been praying for him since then.  I laughed and told him his chances of escaping God were slim with a bunch of women praying for him.  I think there are just too many coincidences in the way things have played out for it to be anything but God working.

He seems to have a lot of people in his life now too that are keeping an eye on him.  But I think he had a hurtful experience with some people in the church in his past.  I promised to get a couple of books that might help him get a different view of the Christian faith.  And giving him the books will let us keep in touch a bit too. 

Not sure what the mediation officer thought of all this she did try to keep bringing us back to the nitty gritty details the police have to know about the terms of the alternative sentencing.  And we got those details down on paper too. 

The fellows mother thanked the mediation officer.  She told how she had been asked to be in on the mediation process to deal with shoplifters when she owned a business but had always turned down the opportunity for a face to face meeting with the offender.  Now, on the other end, she realised the value of this type of reconciliation and what a huge difference meeting could make.

So our session ended with his promise of letters, my promise of books, a mediations officer hunting down some options for counseling and a new appreciation for this method of dealing with a criminal offence. 

Oh, yeah, I dont know if we actually talked about forgiveness in so many words.  We just did it and he soaked it up.  The hugs we gave at the end of the hour were real.

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Filed under Dealing with stuff

Changes

Our church is making some changes – worship times, changing the order in which we do things, maybe changing a bit the way we use our space.  Nothing too earth shattering but change nonetheless.  We spent a lot of time at our executive board meeting tonight talking about these changes, making sure we were all on the same track – that we know fairly clearly what we are up to. 

You know, I never thought I would be sort of intimidated by these changes we’re doing.  I shouldn’t be – I’m helping to instigate them – but I find myself a bit nervous.  It’s hard to articulate why but I think we become unsure of each other.  I think I am so non-confrontational that the thought that someone close to me won’t adjust to the changes well is sort of scary.  And who knows if they will, or if I myself will, handle all of this well.  That is what I think I am most scared of.  The not being able to predict how people are going to react or even how I am going to react. 

The actual changes – well they are really nothing.  At least nothing of any lasting importance.  Moving some furniture, switching the order of worship from after class and coffee times to before, etc.  But the way we react to them may be of great importance.  It’s our reactions to them that are liable to hurt someone – maybe irrevocably.

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Dispensing the blue pill

OK, I admit that most of my posts lately have been a little heavy on the contemplative side.  Sometimes I get that way.  But my days are not usually spent in solemn contemplation and if I was really that “spiritual” I don’t suppose I’d be so …  Anyway, ask my kids just after I’ve blown up at them how “spiritual” they think I am.  But the routines of work and home don’t always give me a lot of exciting or stimulating stuff to talk about.  It’s just life.

Interesting day at work – soooo slow this afternoon.  How to endear yourself to your dentist (not!) – cancel out on a 90 minute appointment 30 minutes before!  And no, we did not have snow or any other natural disasters that would justify such a sudden cancellation. 

This am had a guy in that had really neglected his teeth – very nervous.  He was honest enough with us about that that we were able to plan some sedation.  I figure it is no shame to be afraid.  But it is sad to be unable to admit it and accept a little sedation to make it bearable and to therefore neglect needed work till it is hopeless.  So a little blue pill makes life a lot easier for this guy and his wisdom tooth fairly popped out anyway.  He left impressed.  Sometimes I love doing extractions – and then again – sometimes I hate them.

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Talking about worship

Tonight instead of practicing we just sat around at a friends home and talked.  We were asked to tell about a significant worship event.

It is hard to think of any very significant events way back in my childhood or young adulthood that were in any way significant in terms of worship as I know it to be today.  I can think of significant events but in terms of worship – I’m a bit foggy.  I can think of “worship” services and remember a few vividly – including the one where my sisters and I began to giggle during our special number.  Not what I would want to happen to bring me into the presence of God himself.  But maybe he had a good chuckle at us. 

Most of the times when I felt as if I was worshipping god were quiet times – often alone in nature – when I was awed at the wonder of God’s creation and its vastness and complexity and was compelled to worship; as if there is no other response possible. 

And now I worship with a lot more involvement.  Maybe as being part of the worship team this is a special privilege.  We are to lead others into worship but maybe we can’t do that if we ourselves are not worshipping with as much of our hearts as we can.  So part of my worship has become spending time in prayer.  If I don’t, I find that I am unprepared to make music.  So I sneak in even a few minutes of sitting in his presence feeding, as it were, like a butterfly sucking up nectar.   Sometimes even the practice itself is like a prayer offered to him.  A lot of my praying is “don’t let my fingers stumble too much”  since I feel rather unaccomplished as a musician.

This summer there were more than one significant worship experience in the Congo.  The first one is the one that really was most significant to me though.  I went with Jacques to early morning mass over to the Catholic mission at Bodenge.  He goes there because I think he trusts those priests to be honest in their faith. And they are his friends.  The mass was in Ngbaka and Lingala so there were parts I didn’t understand.  There was a lot of ritual and much incense and sprinkling of water – customs not unfamiliar to me but not my normal routine.   But that didn’t matter.  The Spirit of God was there in a very real way for me that morning as I worshipped again for the first time in thirteen years on Congolese soil, sitting beside a man that I know to be a fellow believer and friend.


Got to thinking – I don’t know that the form of worship has as much to do with worshipping as my desire to be in God’s presence.  Granted that some surroundings and circumstances seem to provoke worship as a response.  I realize my dependance on God’s grace and the reality of his love more than I used to.  Worship seems the only thing to do at times.

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A solitary day

                            

I am thinking back over my day in the solitude of the cabin at the farm.  Looking for some profound things that I can tell you.  But it was just good quiet time.  

What I enjoy most is the time to pray – no interruptions, any posture I wish before my God, knowing that for awhile it will just be him and me. He was very present but nothing enormous happened.  No visions, no spectacular revelations.  Sometimes I wish I would experience God in those ways but he seems to just be there with me.  And as to the clarity I needed on a couple of issues – well, the time was good to work through those.  Some things became more clear, others more complicated by an e-mail message when I got back home. 

So I prayed and read – mostly am reading in Matthew and Joshua right now.  And I am reading a little book I borrowed I Believe in the Holy Spirit by Michael Green. 

And I always take some music along. This time I had CD’s along but was short a few batteries to use the CD player, so spent time making my own music on the recorder.

Took the camera too.  The weather wasnt great but I got out to take a few shots.  There are lots of mushrooms around this year, thanks to all the moisture.  The camera stimulates me to study things around me more closely – to really look.   I think it makes me see things from a different perspective, to tune my eyes more to details, colour and to the beauty of shape and form.

               

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Back to a quiet space

The need to spend some time alone with God is calling me back out to the cabin at what used to be my dad’s farm.  So that is where I will be for a day.  The fall schedule is going to be full.  There are lots of concerns for me and I need some space to sort things out with God.  I expect it will be good.

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More photos

I have posted a lot of pictures from my trip to Africa in my galleries.  The latest ones are found under Faces of the Congo.  People – the reason to go anywhere is for the sake of the people whether to visit or to work.  In some of these pictures you will see some of my best friends.

Find the picture of Isabelle.  She could not get used to my name.  Much to the chagrin of her parents she would simply call me “le blanc”. (Didn’t get the gender right either – but she’s only 3)  By the end of the visit she did remember this strange mname of mine.  Isabelle – la belle Isasbelle!

Her sisters are Claire and Karen.  Claire was content to sit in front of the TV or with a book.  Karen was always on the go “turbulente”  as her parents called her.  She was all over me, climbing, jumping, sitting on my lap.  We got to be good friends.

Another of my favorite pictures is of a young woman about 15.  She wanted to have her picture taken with the other kids who were hanging around the airport hanger when we walked by.  No one smiles for pictures without a lot of coaxing or being caught unawares.  It just isn’t “right”.  She makes me wonder what the future holds for her.  School?  Marriage? First or second wife?  Children and hard work in her garden? For us it seems a poor excuse for existance.  For most girls in Africa that would be pretty good.

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Filed under Africa