Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Aldous Huxley and Pikachu

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin." - Aldous Huxley

I know, that's not a "normal" christian thing to say. But that quote is how I feel all the time. I find this attitude in people a lot. This kind of push-it-under-the-rug-make-it-all-better attitude. Through this trip, I've seen real pain. I've seen poverty. I've seen disease. And I've noticed that people don't want me to talk about it. People don't want me to tell them that things aren't okay. People don't want to hear about the reality. I understand why, because pain hurts.

I have found such an intense beauty in the pain and poverty and hurting. I see beauty in the tin houses and broken people. Maybe I'm just crazy. Maybe I'm just overly optimistic. Maybe I'm naive, but to me, it seems beautiful. There's something so raw and so real about it. Something beautiful about the fact that it's not hidden under some glossy coating. But maybe I'm just crazy.

Guess what. Pain is inevitable. But we go through EVERYTHING acting like we're all ok and everything is fine and dandy. We act like there is nothing wrong and we don't hurt and we don't sin and we all live perfect little lives.

Then everything falls apart.

And everyone acts like they are SO shocked and talk about how something like that would never happen to them. When secretly, I think everyone breathes a big sigh of relief that they're not alone and that things suck sometimes.

I run into this mode of thinking that seems to say "If I just pretend it's not there, it won't be." So we do. We pretend it's not there and we never get out and conquer it. This thinking is then contagious, and we end up with a church full of people playing this big game and no one getting anywhere because of it.

Somehow.. I think there might be something wrong with this idea.

There's one other sort of "head in the sand" thinking that really gets me. It's this phenomenon where people so surround themselves with "church people", people who have it all together, that they get this idea that there is no sin left in the world. That there aren't lost and dying people out there. Of course, if you were to ask them, "Are there any lost people in the world?", they would obviously say yes. But it's like the responsibility we have to share Christ is somehow lifted when they stop interacting with anyone that isn't a member of a particular church group.

But really, they miss out. They're the ones who lose the huge blessing in just loving people. There are lessons to be learned that you just can't get without being out in the "real world." It reminds me of an episode of PokeMon (which I was a huge fan of!) where Ash (main character) battled Lt. Surge, a gym leader who seemed to be just so much better than him. They both had electric type PokeMon. Ash had a PikaChu, and Lt. Surge had a Raichu. For those of you who don't follow pokemon, Raichu is the evolved form of Pikachu. Raichu is considered to be much, much better than Pikachu.

In the first battle, Pikachu was beaten badly. Very, very badly. Raichu had better electric attacks and was far stronger than pikachu. When Ash was in the hospital with pikachu, he remembered something that Lt. Surge had said. Lt. Surge said that he had evolved his pikachu as soon as he got it, turning it into a raichu. Ash realized that there were some attacks that the pokemon could only learn as a pikachu, attacks that allowed pikachu/raichu to be quick on its feet. Ash went back to Lt. Surge, and was right. Raichu had missed out on learning the speed attacks.

We can't afford to miss out!

I've been both of these people. I try to be neither. I'm not as successful as I'd like to be.

I no longer want comfort. I want real. I want truth. I want honesty. I want freedom. I want grace. I want failure. I want messes. I want dirt. I want acceptance. I want beauty. I want people to be real people again.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

To the Family with the Hubcaps on top of the Tin Roof

To the family inside the house with hubcaps on top of the tin roof:

You don't know me. You've never seen my face. You've never met me. I've never seen you up close, and I can't be certain of who you really are. I will probably never speak to you. I will probably never get within 100 feet of you. But I still pray for you. Every time we drive by the riverbank where I see your house, I think of you, and try to pray. I pray that God gives you enough. I pray that you stay healthy. I pray that someone - anyone - shows you the love of Christ.

I wonder about you, too. Mostly I wonder how you live. I wonder if the river is your only source of water, I figure it is, but I wonder still. I see the electric lines that go over your house and wonder if you have any electricity. I wonder if you have jobs or where you work. I wonder if your children go to school. I wonder if you've ever lost one of your children to all those diseases that they talk about on TV. I see the chickens that wander around your house and wonder if that's your only source of food. I pray that it's not. I see the horse outside your house and I wonder if it is your only transportation. I wonder your house is made of. I wonder if it's bigger on the inside. I wonder if you have a real BED to sleep on. I wonder how many of you live there. I wonder if your family lives nearby. I wonder if your house gets destroyed when it floods. It's so close to the riverbank, it looks like it would. I hope it doesn't. I wonder where you got all the things you made your house with. I wonder how long it took. I see what you do in the river, how you take the garbage bags and clean them. I wonder what you do with them. Is it money for you? What are they for?

But mostly, I just wish I could love you. Truly love you, not love you from a distance, but know you well enough to love you. Love you in a way that separates the differences between us, the differences between poor and rich, the differences between Latino and American, the differences between English and Spanish. I want to love you like that. A love that does nothing but unite.

Sincerely, with the best wishes in mind,
Emily, one of the many people who drive over the bridge where you live.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pedro: A Lesson in Patience.

Three nights a week, Pedro has therapy. Pedro either has a mild form of Cerebral Palsy (CP) or he has some brain-muscular disconnect from a beating when he was younger. Either way, the right side of his body doesn't quite work. He speaks in only 2-3 word sentences, and his right arm and leg don't work correctly.

So three nights a week, Wilson, Pedro's speech and physical therapist, works with him to improve his speech and movement. First, he loosens his muscles with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. While they're waiting for that, they practice speech with flashcards. He starts with just the verb, making sure he can say that right, and then makes him say a whole sentence with it. Pedro is getting better at this.

After he finishes his speech, which takes an hour or so, Wilson works Pedro's muscles, stretching them and loosening them and stuff. Then Pedro sits in a chair across the room and tries to catch this little plush soccer ball.

I have never seen him catch this ball. 

Really. I haven't. I watch him do it almost every time, and I've never seen him catch it. But Wilson keeps throwing, and Pedro keeps trying. Pedro gets frustrated sometimes, but for the most part, he just keeps trying.

I've only been here for 2 1/2 weeks, so I know he will catch it someday. I know that he's made miles of progress since he started working with Wilson (as in, he can run like a mostly normal kid now), but in that moment, when I'm watching it, it almost seems futile. In my head, I know that it's for his benefit, and even if he's not catching it, just trying helps somehow. But in that moment... it doesn't look like he'll ever "get it."

Moving into the metaphor part of the blog now, I wonder how many times I've tried to catch the same ball. There are things it doesn't look like I'll ever get. But I know trying has to help. Even if it doesn't make sense now. I wonder how many times I've grabbed, just to see the ball laying in front of me on the floor.

But I have to keep trying. I have to keep grabbing. I have to keep working with it, or I know I'll never get it. If I never try, I never will. Maybe someday, I'll get that. Because, remember, there's a difference between knowing something and knowing something.

So for now, I'll keep reaching and trying to catch that ball.

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" -Hebrews 12:1-2

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

And I thought *I* was supposed to be the teacher.. *sigh*

Angel and Jesus are busy doing their homework (which we just had a big fight over. Angel did NOT want to write.) They have 1st grade lined notebooks, the kind with the top and bottom lines, plus the middle dotted line. Anyway, for their "homework", I write down some words and then they have to copy them on the other lines. (there's only 6 lines..) Every time I do this, I have to be extra careful with how I write. I print much, much better than I would if they weren't going to be copying it.

I know that the quality of my work has a direct effect on the quality of theirs. I know that my work is a model for theirs. They're still learning how to write, and so what they learn now will have an effect on how they write for the rest of their lives.

As I was writing out one of their homeworks, and I was meticulously writing out the letters, I was thinking about how I never pay this much attention to my writing any other time.

How many other people am I really modeling for, without even being aware of it? 

Mike and I were talking about this, about how people were watching me (all the while he was giving me that "I know something you don't and I'm not going to tell you about it.) and always watching us. To be honest, the idea of someone using ME as their  example of how to do ANYTHING scares me. I don't feel qualified to be the "model" for anyone. But we are examples. We are all examples to one another.

Makes me wonder: How much better of a person would I be if really lived like everyone I knew was watching? 

There are all of these people that I'm influencing, whether I want to or not, and sometimes, I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.

The next thing I learned from giving homework: It's not always about the answers. Angel finished his writing assignment, and I asked Angel to read the words to me. He looked at it, and said "Egg!"

Egg was the word printed on the page. But I knew that he didn't know it because he read the word. They have this habit of looking at the first sound and guessing from there, just hoping they'll land on the right answer. I made him sound out the word, and tell me what the letters were.

I realized then that sometimes learning how to figure it out is much more important than the answer itself. It's interesting, I was reading a book by Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian, and he said something similar.

The quote said something like this: "What good is a math book if you just look at the answers in the back? You never really learn how to do math. You don't learn from the answers.. you learn from figuring out the problems. Maybe that's the way the Bible is too. Maybe it's not to give you the answers, but to help you figure out the problems."

(Friends of mine who have this book, Greg Crider, John and Nancy Hill, and NJ, feel free to post the exact quote.)

Jesus especially does this. When he doesn't know something, he'll just keep guessing. Saying number after number or letter after letter or word after word hoping that he lands on the right answer, while I'm trying to show him how to get the right answer. He will guess numbers without even looking at the problem. I have to tell him, "Look at the problem, Jesus. Look at it. Now tell me."

I have to stop him and make him look.

I think I've been guilty of just throwing out guesses to God, instead of looking at what He's asking and letting Him show me, I just throw at guesses trying to get the right answer. The guesses get us nowhere.

Friday, June 11, 2010

We're All Just Kind of Winging It.

.So, in case you aren't aware, um, I've been put in charge of teaching two five year olds. And to be completely honest, most of the time I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. We're learning math and reading. As we've been going about this whole process, we've gotten frustrated with each other. We've had tantrums. We've had sulking. We've had fighting. We've had stalling.

We've also had breakthroughs and cheerios and spiderman workbooks. We've learned how to count and how to add. We've learned how to do fist bumps and how to celebrate a job well done. We've learned that most of the time it's a good idea to take a break and go to the park and climb trees and swing from the football goal and play, except sometimes, when we actually need to finish our work.

And we're all just sort of winging it. 

Angel and Jesus don't really have any idea how to learn math, and I don't really have any idea how to teach math. But we're making it. We're figuring things out.

I was going to post a blog earlier about the game Snake. I have it on my phone, and I've been playing it in my spare time. I was going to post about how it feels like life. We start of small and have to avoid the obstacles and not run into ourselves while trying to find little nuggets to help us grow.

And then I had another important realization. We only play once, and we don't get "game over" when we run into a wall or tangle ourselves into a big knot.

Sometimes life and faith are a lot like Snake and teaching two five yr olds. We have no idea what we're doing, just figuring things out as we go along. Luckily, we have people who've already been there to tell us how they made it through and how they once got really long and got really tangled up and how it took forever to get undone or how math is best done with edible rewards.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sometimes I Draw God Wrong.

I know I'm not supposed to blog more than once a day... but...

This is my blog, and I will do as I please.

Here's the thing.

I'm wrong a whole stinkin' lot of the time.

I really, really, really don't like being wrong.

I like being right. I like having the correct answers. And sometimes, in the selfish more-present-than-it-should-be part of me, I like being right to make other people wrong.

My fear of being wrong has kept me from blogging lately. And every time I DO blog, I find myself terrified to check for comments, fearing that I was wrong and that someone pointed it out and that I may have (in the not-so-selfish part of my brain) taught something wrong and messed someone else up and deserve a rock tied to my neck so I can be dropped out of a plane over the Gulf of Mexico and then choke on oil there with a pelican.(And that's BIBLICAL. Aside from the oil-in-the-gulf-and-choking-on-next-to-a-pelican thing.)

This is what I was worrying about when I posted the last blog. I was worried that something I said there wasn't "right". And that I would mess someone up (ok, honestly, I was more worried that I'd be wrong and someone would call me on it than I was that it would mess me up.)

It just so happens that I follow Shaun Groves on Twitter. And he tweeted a link to his blog. The title, "God with Brown Shoes" intrigued me and I wanted a wonderful distraction from the chaos that has become today (which you can read about here..).

The blog  was about how sometimes Shaun Groves is afraid to write because he'll say something wrong about God. I had to smile, because I'm pretty sure God had just winked at me. He said that he was pondering this thought, about how we are ALL heretics because no words or pictures or music could encompass who God is. As he was thinking about that, he looked and saw a drawing that his daughter had drawn. This is what he wrote about his daughter's drawing: "To an art critic it’s atrocious. As a form of photo ID it’s useless. But to me, her Daddy, the model for this piece, the recipient of this gift, the object of her affection, it’s beautiful."

I almost cried when I read that.

Another of my favorite quotes is: "the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. " (props to Thomas Merton for writing that)

That's all I'm really after. Pleasing my Abba.

I can't promise that I will offer the right view of God. I don't always see Him correctly, but I'm learning how to draw better from the arms of my Papa.

P.S. As I wrote this (I'm using notepad because I don't have internet at this particular moment and my Microsoft Word trial ended and I was too lazy to put the code in), I kept putting in note (Emily, *insert something that can only be done with the interwebz*). Just thought that'd amuse you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Need You.

God, I can't do this alone. I can't do anything but make things worse by myself. Anything good I've ever done has only been through your help. If You are love, then I am hate. It is only with You that I can rid me of myself. I can no longer rely on my own strength to do anything. I need You. I need You more than I need breath. I need You more than I need water. I need You more than I need food. I need You more than I need anything. Without You, I am simply dust.

I've spent too long being myself, and just want to be You now. I just want to be like You. I just want there to be so much of You in me, that there is no longer me, just You. I want there to be so much of You that anything that I touch that is not of You is completely consumed by You. I just want to please You.

I need You. I need You to chastise me. I need You to form me. I need You to make me. I need You to change me. I need Your glory to be what fills my temple. I need You to carry me. I need You to heal me. I need You to light my path. I need You to be the very breath in my lungs and the very beat in my heart. Above all else, I need You to love me.

Hold me now.

I love You. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chaos and Peace, Intertwined.

Yesterday, I was watching some discovery channel thing on sharks, and this guy (whom they called SharkMan) talked about how misunderstood the great white shark was. Later, they had the host of the show go in with the shark, without any sort of cage or anything, something sharkman did frequently. After the host got out of the water, he made the comment, "Seeing the shark like that made me understand it in a new way. It brought a new complexity to it that I'd never seen before." (or something.)

It made me think about our bible study this morning. We read Isaiah 45 and it was just this picture of who God is, and it was incredible. It was new, it brought a new complexity to it. Thinking about what the host of the tv show did and that, it made me wonder, "How much easier is it to just write this shark off as a mindless killer, and not pay any attention to any evidence to the contrary?"

How easy is it to write God off as an impersonal dominator of the universe, and not pay any attention to any evidence to the contrary? I want to know God as well as I possibly can. I want to as much about God as my mind can handle.

Okay, next thing.

I've been assigned the task of teaching Jesus and Angel how to read. Eight of the kids are currently in school (Gershon, Fabiola, Mauricio, Rosa, Antonio, Karen, Cesar, and Pedro), because they are on a Honduran schedule (February to November). But Jesus and Angel are on an American schedule (August to May) so they aren't in school right now.

Which means that I'm their teacher right now. It's pretty amazing, I get to watch (I don't feel like I'm really doing anything, but I guess I must be considering how exhausted I am at the end of every day) them discover things and learn things that will actually make a difference (no matter how small) in their lives. Today Jesus was having problems with his 8s and we made a little trick up to help him write them correctly. It's little.. but how often are the little things the ones that matter?

I just love it. God has been so good to me through all of this. He's given me so much more than I could've imagined, and I'm learning what it means for me to lean on Him. I don't know what He's doing anymore, I don't know really how He's changing me, but I'm learning to accept it, knowing that as long as He's doing it, I will be better off. "It feels like there's chaos, but somehow, there's peace."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A few quick things:

1. Bob and Joyce should give parenting lessons. Seriously. We took all ten of the kids to church and to a restaurant, and their behavior is astonishing. All ten of them sat there quietly (they weren't silent, but they weren't loud by any means) and ate their food without fighting or bickering or anything. Then after they finished, the ran off to the playground. All of them are like that. These kids just listen really well. Mike asked Bob about it, and Bob simply said "I can only attribute it to the Word. These kids are in the Word every day, and that is what makes all the difference."

2. Not being able to speak Spanish might be the death of me. I am prone to have casual conversations with strangers, and not being able to do so really is starting to bother me. I was waiting on Pedro to come out of the bathroom, and one of the ladies (I hate that I didn't get her name) who worked there asked me something. It really bothered me that I didn't know what she said. I think she asked me about Pedro, but I have NO IDEA. I'm getting to the point where I can understand some of what the kids say, but that's it. Anyone else is basically hopeless.

3. Denominations are becoming less and less important to me as time goes on. The church I went to today was just a church for missionaries. Lots of different ones from around San Pedro Sula. It doesn't matter if you consider yourself to be Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Protestant, Catholic, Pentecostal... whatever.. when you are truly coming together to worship God. Worship has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with who created us. So the more fantastic people I meet who ascribe themselves to different denominations, the more I find that God's people are simply God's people.

4. When I get back, I will sleep forever. I am so ridiculously tired.

Again, nothing particularly awe-inspiring, just some thoughts about some girl in some country helping some kids in order to serve one really awesome God.

Pedro had so much fun doing this. He's always intensely focused.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sometimes You Have to Take the Dinoboar Off Your Back.

I would really like to post something ridiculously inspiring and profound today. I'd like to wow you all with the things that I've learned here, or some mystery of life that I have figured out.

But... I can't.

As usual, I have more questions than answers. So I'm just going to pray that whatever God wants in this blog will be in this blog. Sound good?

I don't even know where to start.

I went with Bob and Mike to help drill a well today. The entire way up the mountain there was some beautiful scenery. However, the most beautiful piece of scenery I saw, I didn't get a picture of. I'm sorry for that, but to be honest, I don't think I could've moved at that particular moment. We came to a clearing in the trees, and on the side of the mountain were a bunch of tin houses that were pieced together. As soon as I saw that, my thought was "This is home." This is where I am supposed to be. This is home. There's a quote a like from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary's blog (she lives in Costa Rica) that says "Home is where the will of God supercedes my own."

I always loved that, but it takes on a WHOLE new meaning when TN home and what feels like home are two entirely separate things. This feels like home. Here in San Pedro Sula. It might not always be home. But right now. On Day 3. It's home.

As the switchfoot song says, "Created for a place I've never known, this is home. Now I'm finally where I belong."

For now, this is where I belong.

The kids are great. I'm mostly working with two of the youngest, Angel and Jesus. They're out of school right now (They go to an American English school... the others go to Honduran private schools. Different schedules) and I'm working on teaching them better english and numbers and reading and stuff like that. Angel and Jesus are great. Little fireballs. They call me "Em-ee-lee! Em-ee-lee!" They're very inquisitive, asking "why? why?" all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. I am forever answering questions.

Okay, this is where I'm stopping for tonight. I can hardly keep my eyes open anymore. Check out the pictures on the facebook page. If you don't have facebook, well, you're a freak. But here's the public link instead: Honduras!


Here's one of my favorites, so I'll have a good thumbnail.

That's Karen, Pedro, and Angel.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I Know New Things

So I'm sitting here in the Miami airport. I've got about an hour and a half until I board my next plane. There is a man with a funny accent talking about plane boarding and stuff. Mike Sawyer is next to me making business calls, if I'm not mistaken he is talking to David Garza, and I'm just chilling in the airport.

I've gotten my first bit of Cuban food, something that resembled a hotpocket, but tasted 10x better. I'm sitting at the D20 gate, and I leave from gate D22.

It's amazing the way experiences can change you. I feel like I've changed so much since I woke up this morning. The airport is a scary place. I checked my own baggage. I found my own gate and checked my own flight. I leave on flight 941, and am supposed to arrive around 1 o'clock today.

I know what can and can't go through security. I know that if you accidentally touch the side of the metal detector it'll beep at you and you have to go back in and out of the thing twice. I know that my laptop has to go through the scanning thing outside of my backpack. I know that mosquitos can transmit HIV/AIDS. I know lots of things that I didn't know this morning.

I know that all of my electronics have to be turned off before the plane starts moving. I know that the "Exit" aisles have the most leg room. I know that flight attendants are really nice people. I know that I can't use my laptop until we're 10,000 feet in the air. I know what 10,000 feet in the air looks like. I know that clouds look a lot more Three Dimensional when you're inside them. I know how different clouds can look! I know what the Everglades look like from the sky.

I know a lot of things I didn't know this morning.

I wonder what I'm going to know when I am going to come back.

p.s. Sorry I don't have some really cool cloud pictures for you. My camera is my cell phone and that's not allowed to be on during the flight. Apparently the temptation is too much of a risk. Hahaha. I might get some on the next flight. Maaaaaaaaaaaaybe. If I steal Mike's camera.