We never seem to be free of struggles – for jobs, for safety, for our economic situations – for life itself. It just is hard at times and way beyond our control.
I tend to want to fix things but there are times when nothing will really repair the broken situations.
So, I guess we learn to make the best of bad situations and go on with life.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
– Matthew 5:4
At least I don’t have to go it all alone – and that is something I am trying very hard to hang on to right now.
As a congregation we go to make and serve soup about every 6 weeks or so at the Salvation Army Outpost down on Central Avenue. Yesterday this was our responsibility again. MJ was there early making the soup. I got there at about 10 am. There are things to do ahead of time – buns to cut, butter and prepare. Tables to set up, coffee and juice to make. There were about nine of us – all ages pretty much – getting ready.
We served 150 or so bowls of soup. It was great soup too. I had a bowl myself sometime in the course of the day.
At some point in the process of serving bowls of soup, I sat down to chat with an older woman who had brought her own package of what looked like chicken strips and fries. Maybe she was just there for the coffee, who knows. But she was there and not a real part of the usual street people crowd. I made some small comments about the weather asking how she was doing, etc. Just small talk to say how are you.
She began to chat, telling me about her husband who was now up in a nursing home. Perhaps her own memory not so sharp any more since she couldn’t remember the name of it, just that it was by the hospital. She had children who “followed the Lord” going on some mission trip to someplace that she couldn’t remember either. She sort of rambled on for awhile and I found myself having to make a deliberate effort to give her my attention.
I wondered a bit if I should take my leave from her and get back to my business of serving soup but she seemed lonely and needing to talk. So I figured that talking to some lonely woman was at least as important at that moment as serving someone food. So we talked and as I finally got up to go back to work, she thanked me for the visit saying, “I don’t get to talk to someone very often. I’m just an old woman and most people don’t bother to be nice.”
That was my blessing for the day.
Thank God that my children are not total idiots like the young guy I saw today. He was squeezed into my full schedule as an emergency. Got in a fight Saturday in Edmonton. Says proudly that, yeah, he threw the first punch and the taxi driver is charging him. But he won – so he says.
Except he has a front tooth pushed back a few millimetres so that now he can’t really close his teeth together. And that tooth is (surprise, surprise) dead and needs a root canal and braces to realign it – or it will need to come out. Oh, yeah and a black eye.
His idea of winning is totally lost on me.
Sounds to me as if he is one big loser – or at least horribly lost.
Can’t help reflecting that this guy is so far from the kind of human being that I believe God intended any person to be. Evil comes in different forms but causing such human waste is part of how I see evil at work.
I have a book that is presently my before bedtime reading; Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris. Great book, especially as I see that it is an affliction (or sin) that besets me too. Last night what I read was profound. I usually don’t read stuff out loud to Leo but this was good. Acedia is often called laziness or sloth but as the author understands it, it is much more than what those words mean to me. She describes the concept of sin as something given to us to encourage us to believe that we are made in the image of God and to act accordingly. (p.114) Then she quotes the words of preacher Fred Craddock which “define the sin of sloth so clearly that it stings like a slap in the face.”
What we casually dismiss as mere laziness, he says, is “the ability to look at a starving child…with a swollen stomach and say, “Well, it’s not my kid”…Or to see an old man sitting alone among the pigeons in the park and say, “Well…that’s not my dad.” It is that capacity of the human spirit to look out upon the world and everything God made and say, I don’t care.
She goes on to describe some of the injustices that do happen in North America by people hardened to other’s suffering. And then continues with this profound insight:
But even as such outrages are exposed, we are beset by a curious silence: the more that societies ills surface in such evil ways, the less able we are, it seems, to detect any evil within ourselves, let alone work effectively together to fix what is wrong. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre finds that while our “present age is perhaps no more evil than a number of preceding periods…it is evil in one special way at least, namely the extent to which we have obliterated …[our] consciousness of evil.” … Acedia, which is known to foster excessive self-justification, as well as a casual yet implacable judgmentalism toward others, readily lends itself to this process. (114-115)
I had never thought of Acedia in these terms before; never thought of it as that kind of profound indifference and callousness that sets in and keeps us from keeps us from acting as people changed by Jesus.
Yesterday I walked in the snow along the river. Most of the trees still have green leaves. Frozen green leaves. It’s been a precipitous entry into winter. Across the river the leaves have begun their change to orange but in the midst of snow there is a lot of green that does not belong to the evergreens.
Last week when the temperatures plummeted, some of the still green trees dropped their leaves in piles around suddenly bared trunks and branches. Left naked like a child dropping his clothes in heaps on the floor. No wind came to disturb the piles and now all those leaves lie covered by snow, the still green leaves of neighbouring trees hanging on to their greenery for now.
I need to walk more. The exercise is good but mostly I need to be out in this place so filled with northern prairie beauty. There are no stunning mountain views that remind me of the vast grandeur of God’s creation. There is just the cold and the newly fallen snow, the dark green of the spruce and pine, the yellow of the changing leaves and the river running through it all.
I was thankful for this place of great beauty that I am so privileged to live in, this river path where I can walk and think and talk to God in this place where, in the midst of the city, I can find quiet and beauty.