Saturday, September 20, 2008

Growing Things

I love to grow things. I love teaching. I love pastoring. It's interesting how much all three have in common. Primarily I realize I have very little control over the outcome. I can nurture, I can provide the right environment (soil/classroom instruction, worship), but the result depends on the roots.

The first two weeks of school one of the boys (age 14) came in "gang wear" every day. His shoes were untied, he had a cap turned backwards, his shirt hung out and his pants, at least 5 sizes to large, were hanging down halfway over his butt. His clothing was an expression of his attitude. During the day he threatened to punch me several times. He refused to work...and then laughed while glancing at the other older boys hoping to get their approval of his rebellion.

God's timing is perfect. In the midst of this struggle at school, I was studying the concept of abiding in Jesus (John 15: 1-8).

"Abide" is an old fashioned word. In fact, my Bible uses "remain joined to me". Jesus invites us to be joined to him. What an amazing statement of grace that we, as imperfect as we are, can be joined to God. My sister explained that this joining is like being grafted, the weaker plant to the one with the roots, so that the weaker plant can draw nourishment and strength from the root. Jesus invites us to abide in him. When we abide in him we bear fruit, give glory to the father, and show that we are his disciples. (John 15:8)

What is the root that is sustaining my pseudo-gang member student? Approval? Popularity? Rebellion?

He and I talked a lot this week. I asked him if this behavior was making him happy? Was he becoming more popular? Was it working? What was the outcome he wanted? And I prayed for him. Angelica and I prayed for him. I talked to his mother. I hate to talk to the parents with "concerns" about their children. She shook her finger at the boy and walked away. He's deaf, she's hearing. It's hard to communicate. He does what he wants. She can't control him. what?

Angelica and I prayed some more. School is over at 2:45, but he stuck around. He sat at his desk, looking sad and reflective while Angelica and I cleaned up and prepared for the next day. At 4:00 we were ready to close the windows and go home. He stood up, and came to me with a hug and said, "I'm sorry." We hugged, I told him I forgive him, and told him to choose Jesus because all the other stuff is just temporary.

The next day, Thursday, he came to school in his school uniform, shirt tucked in, with a belt, hair combed (not spiked) and shoes tied. He was even smiling. It's was a huge change. I thought we would be fighting the attitude battle all year.
The following day, Friday, he was smiling again and cooperative. He even joined me after school to shop for groceries and carry my bags. (!!!). Someone asked him why he was grocery shopping with me and he just shrugged. I think it is about abiding. When we abide with Jesus we draw nourishment from the True Vine. There's no substitute. Jesus says, "Come, be joined to me." It's not just "something to do" but our source of life. This young man, through the Spirit who touched his heart, got a taste of abiding with Jesus and wanted to hang on to it. I hope he does.

May God give you grace and peace,

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Losing a Friend

My dog died yesterday. I don't know what caused her sudden death. On Wednesday I took her to the vet to be spayed. She was groggy on Wednesday evening and didn't want to eat anything. That seemed normal after having major surgery. She doesn't usually like the dried food too much even when she is feeling perky. So after school on Thursday I stopped at the store and bought her "comfort food"... a can of wet dog food: beef chunks in sauce. She gobbled it up. That evening she seemed to have more pep and was up on her feet and moving around almost like normal. The incision looked good. In the morning I gave her some more of the wet food and went to school. When I came home, she was dead. (!)

Her name is Flaquita. It means skinny little girl. We kind of "acquired her accidentally". Last February I would come home everyday to find this skinny, mangy, pinkish dog laying at my gate. She could hardly move because she was malnourished and sick with worms and mange and fleas and ticks. I thought that I would surely come home and find a dead dog at my gate each evening, but she hung in there. I wondered at what point is a dog "beyond hope". Would feeding her just prolong her inevitable death? After four or five days I decided to start feeding her. She was hesitant at first, not sure she could trust me, but she ate the food. And remarkably she grew stronger within a week. Sulmi started calling her "Skinny".

I took her to the vet where she got the rabbies, worms and mange shots. That helped a lot! It was only a few weeks before she started growing hair: white hair with black spots, like a dalmation.

Flaquita quickly learned to come to her name and our voices. She eagerly greeted us and smothered us with kisses. She never bit and faithfully barked whenever a stranger passed the gate or came into the yard.

She had some faults, though. She loved to dig. It's hot here in Belize. Today it's high of 95 degrees in the shade. Flaquita learned that digging the top layer of the dirt revealed a cooler underlayer and made a nice cool place to rest. The best place to dig was where the soil was already tilled: my garden! To her credit she actually did not dig up the plants... but tossed a lot of dirt all around on top of the plants. We bought some sand and made a sandbox for her. She found the sand was easier to dig and in a shady place. It was a great substitute for garden digging...most of the time.

I miss her soft black nose. She liked to press it against my face or arm or hand. It wiggled a little when she touched me. She liked to take walks down our street. She always stayed close and sort of pranced as she walked. Luis liked to hug her. She would come right up to him and he would grab her by the neck and hug her close and kiss her face. She just wagged her tail and licked him.

We'll miss her. I felt so sad last night. I was trying to decide to go ahead or cancel Girl's Night Bible study. I decided to go ahead with it because I didn't want to just sit at home and cry all night. But I couldn't study scripture. (?) I couldn't find comfort in scripture. I wanted to, but it didn't help. I wanted to see and hold and pet "my baby girl", and the words were too distant, too contextually different. Sigh.

This isn't particularly "hope-filled" or even the words I "should be" typing. But maybe it will make me more sensitive to the next time someone loses a loved one... that reading scripture to them just may not cut it.

I pray for the peace of God which passes all understanding,