One of those days

Last week, my room flooded. The sad thing is, it’s flooding from within, as the water from the adjacent factory flows in thru a small hole in the wall. This year, it’s an unusual flooding pattern with water gushing in from both the factory and the suspect is blocked drainage from all the sand that’s being pumped into the back of the area. Makes me not even want to imagine how bad things will be in August when there’s more water… So after being out of the house for a few days at the beach with a friend, I come back to an empty house. Power’s out, there’s still sand in my room. I am so thankful that my family’s been taking care of it, getting the water out. With a candle in hand, I check how badly wet things are, and chuck out a whole pile of wet notebooks. No matter how much I clean up, I know it will flood again. It starts to rain again outside. As I sit on the stairway, I look at naked kids shrieking with delight and running after each other. I don’t know whether to cry or laugh.

Afterwards, I visit my sister in law who just had a baby this morning. A beautiful, healthy baby, born in a good hospital. Well looked after. I am thankful that there are kids like that too. On the way home, I stop by at a big stoplight. 30 seconds till greenlight, a little boy comes running and asks for money. I say no, shaking my head and smiling sadly. I never know what to do. Feeding into the system? Helping them? And then right before I drive off, I look at him now sitting on the median, in the middle of the road, and he smiles. A beautiful, beautiful smile. I don’t know whether to cry or laugh. The rain’s lit up and the sun is shining. I know life is both about beauty and pain. Some days, you simply see it more.

 

 

Two Worlds

4 hour dusty moto ride, through the Phnom Penh traffic leaving the city, across the river on a ferry, then onto dirt roads while honking at occasional cows and water buffalos trying to cross. And then… home. For my two beautiful Khmer friends that I truly love. The last time I went to Svay Rient (their home province) with them, I was on a back of a moto with two other people, and ended throwing up at the end, just having recovered from being sick. And though I did speak come Khmer, it was only 3 months after I’d been in Cambodia. This time,  it felt so good to just hop on my own moto and go, visit somewhere I’ve been, chat with their parents, take a nap on their floor, and enjoy the beauty. It is such a different life though, compared to the city: well water instead of tap water, car battery for the single light bulb instead of electricity, outhouse, then the wonderful pigs, cows, water buffalos, chicks, cats, and dogs. A true Cambodian farm. I looked at my friends, who live in a small room near my house, and yet with access to tap water, to a flick of a switch for light, accessibility to markets, sense of fashion and style. And yet for them, as son as they’re home, they’re busy pumping water out, cooking rice, letting the water buffalos in to their shed. Moving so gracefully in between worlds. I marvel at this generation of Cambodia. What is breaking within them as they make this transition? What is forming in them? I pray that what is beautiful remains… because even after a dusty ride, inadequate sleep on the concrete floor, being force-fed chicken that my friend’s aunty just butchered and cooked for us… this is their home.

To remember

It’s been a year. That day, the day I will never forget, March 11, when I realized Japan was my home, when I realized I cherished Japan, when I realized that a terrible catastrophe had struck Japan. I was in the province of Kampot, at a retreat place by the river lined with beautiful hills. So I am back here, a year later, to remember…

Why do we need to remember? Is it something we do to just to think of what happened? (same question can be asked of the eucharist) I think it means to continue to tell the story, to enter into it. I myself was not there when the tsunami struck. And yet I remember the countless stories that people I met in Japan shared with me during my stay there. To remember isn’t news or statistics, it’s stories of real people, real lives, real experiences in light of the tragedy. So I remember. In doing that, I honour them. Both the suffering they have had to endure but also the life they have now.

But remembering isn’t just about the past. It’s about today and tomorrow. In light of what has happened, what is this life that has carried on? Is there hope? Reconstruction and rebuilding will continue. I pray the little shoots of hope and love and goodness will continue to grow; though I am far in Cambodia, the river that I let myself float down is surely connected back to home somewhere…

Finding Beauty

I really love the new Servants liturgy booklet, put together around our five principles and five values. One of the values is Beauty, and here is an excerpt from the ending prayer:

Open our eyes today, Holy Spirit to beauty all around us, 

in ourselves and in each other, in every life, however bruised or disfigured.

Help us to nurture beauty wherever it will grow.

Let light spill into dark places, let colours glow, Reawaken lost wonder and rekindle hope.

Something beautiful I’ve found recently: the words to the hymn O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus. I thought I’d try a new way of looking at it. So here’s the song.

O The Deep Deep Love

Holy Spirit in Gumboots

I was just listening to a sermon, where the pastor said that the theme for their church was the Holy Spirit in Gumboots.

For those of you who don’t know what gumboots are, here you go:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellington_boot

You get the image, being in tune with the Holy Spirit, who is amongst us, who is wearing his gumboots, out and about in the community, in the rain and the muck of things. And the pastor, who was preaching on 1 Corinthians 13, said: “We can’t have Holy Spirit and Gumboots. It’s not one or the other. It’s the Holy Spirit IN Gumboots.” That was trying to articulate that it wasn’t the “spiritual” camp and the “social” camp, that it was the Holy Spirit present who was at work amongst the people. That really made it clear for me. I think I often try to balance things out, but it’s not really about balancing, is it. If it’s just the gumboots, well, it ain’t going anywhere. And if it’s the Holy Spirit, well she needs some gumboots to get into the muck of things, really! So my prayer for today: Holy Spirit, may we wear gumboots (or in the dry season of Cambodia, sandals) and go out into the dusty streets.

Prayer for the Night

This is a prayer I’ve been praying for myself and all that are mourning the loss of people they love. For some reason, I am going through a season where death is very real and familiar…

Be present, merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, 

that we, who are wearied by the changes and changes of this fleeting world,

may rest upon your eternal changelessness. Amen (A New Zealand Prayer Book)

 

Holiness

Here’s my Monday morning pondering. (Only happens when you’ve been woken up earlier than intended by rats running across the tin roof and a stomach ache :P)

What is Holiness?

As I journey further into my identity as the beloved of God, what I had perceived about holiness growing up didn’t make sense: severe, austere, fearful. And here were some of the imageries, as I read the Psalms and simply asked God: God, what does holiness mean?

 It is something beautiful as diamond.

It is something as vast as the universe.

It is something that I invite you into.

Beautiful. Breath-taking. Intricate. Majestic. Out of the ordinary. And my beloved, just as I am holy, so are you. Holiness is fear invoking for those who do now know me as their lover, but for those who have received my love as their own, it is an exhilarating movement into the thing that is intensely of the Other (outside of yourself, vast and breathtakingly beautiful) becoming intensely intimate. Come into my holiness.

What does this mean practically? Sometimes, I want a formula. I thought holiness was about a set of conducts for some reason…but as everything as redeemed, including my misconceptions about God, and re-created, I am brought back to the essence. We must start there. And so I hold these images with open hands as a starting point. For I am called to be holy.

Coming Home

I came home to Phnom Penh yesterday. After 3 months of working in Japan, a brief 1 week in PP where I was so tired and emotional I couldn’t move back into my community, and 2.5 weeks of Bali and Jakarta with good friends, it is TRULY good to be home. I felt the anticipation welling up as I strolled on the streets of Ho Chi Minh (complicated travel itinerary) and thought about walking on familiar streets and chatting with familiar people. The bus ride back from Ho Chi Minh was smooth, but with unexpected moments. Like the magnificent sunset which I was sure was a gift from God, allowing me to see His love for this nation. The sky lit up with beautiful shades of pink, then gradually faded into the gentleness of night. Like the moment when a handicapped man came on board the bus and started begging. What is the way to give him his dignity? What was different about him than the kids for whom I bought fruits for earlier at a different bus stop? I couldn’t ignore him, and yet couldn’t give him money, while the mantra in my head ringing, “What would Jesus do?”

The heart of God for this nation. The painful reality of this nation. Me. I am home, back in Cambodia. I don’t know how this year will unfold. But I have enough hope and thankfulness for today, that I am here.

One Last Thing

Last night’s dinner was super fun with my parents and brother (missed you Yuzuri!). As we were talking non-stop, one question that came up was: What would you say if you met someone who didn’t know God was dying and there were 30 seconds left? We thought about it for a bit and all shared, and it summed up to this: God loves you & I love you. That’s pretty bang on isn’t it? There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out all fear. Love has overcome…. and I love my family :)

 

Advent Prayer

Here’s a prayer that’s part of the advent liturgy my church in Vancouver sent me.

Help us to live with the expectation that you are here amongst us and that you will come again.

We open our hearts and invite you to once again, have your reign increase in our lives, have your reign in our city, have your reign in our nation and have your reign in our world.

Help us to be part of the process of proclaiming your good news to all nations.

Living Lord Jesus come reign in our hearts today. Amen