Haitian Dance

Someone asked me yesterday, “How was Haiti?”  And I realized I never really talked about it much.  It is something that was both wonderful and that hurt deeper than I thought anything could.  The country and the living conditions were not in themselves shocking to me- I’ve studied enough things about humanity to know what to expect.  It was actually a bit better than I expected.  Which was probably helped by the fact that we stayed in what, even in America, would be a decent, lower middle class home, if small, but in a neighborhood where there really is no American equivelent.

I enjoyed it, alot.  I didn’t want to leave.  The people are so beautiful, the land is beautiful, but so far from what it has been, the art and colors everywhere are amazing.  I am in love with it, and its a lasting love….

I was disapointed how little good my Creole lessons were…. but I am continuing to work on it….  If you know anyone who speaks Haitian Creole and wants to tutor someone, let me know…..

But, back to the subject.  Haiti is a country of contrasts.  It is beautiful and harsh, joyfilled and sorrow, full of dark and light, pain and happiness, poverty of possesions and richness of community, a place where life and death meet and mingle in an unabashed whirlwind dance that consumes all who set foot on the island.  Beautiful dark skin and eyes against white teeth and clay, mud and dry, silence and noise, stillness and movement.  It is indescribable.

Not so unlike my own country.  All that is in America, too, its just more hidden….

My heart aches for the people there.  My mind is haunted by their faces.  And I dream of the day I go back again, to embrace the dance, and to hold close the exquisite mix of sorrow and joy all over again.

None of which says much about my trip, but, like I said, words don’t really fit it….

Can You Smell What I’m Baking?

I love to bake and decorate cakes and other pastries.  I love the processes of designing, watching all the ingredients come together in the mixer bowl, baking it and watching it rise in the oven, molding and forming the cake and frosting into whatever my design is- or as close to it as I can get!  But, one of my favorite parts has to be the smell.  The chocolate-butter-flour-vanilla-fruit-warm sugar smell of cakes and pastries. The whole process would just be much flatter and uninteresting without the smell. In fact, I can spend all day baking, get it all cleaned up and put away, and my husband can still tell, just by the smell in the kitchen that I have been baking.

Similarly, as Christians, we are called to have a ‘smell’.  And we all do- either a good one or a bad one.  A smell is either enticing or off-putting.  And what is our smell?  It is our heart- what we are doing to others- the light that we are showing to others.  The sweetest smell of a dish happens when it is put in the oven.  That is where the chemical transformations take place; where the individual ingredients are changed and made into something new and wonderful.

And we must go through the oven to really have a good smell.  We must be willing to step out of our comfort zone to help someone else; to give sacrificially of our time and lives, in order to complete the change within us; in order to help us to become what God is willing us to be- a sweet aroma to Him, of Him.

It’s not enough to merely know all the ingredients or have them.  A cake batter does me no good before its baked.  It’s just shapeless goo.

A life where this is wonderfully illustrated is in A Radiance on the Gulag, a book about Nijole Sadunaite- a Lithuanian Catholic exiled to Siberia in the 1970’s for her faith.

“Since Nijole’s suffering became known by various Christian organizations in the West, a large   number of believers knew of her plight.  Consequently, Nijole received many care packages while she was in exile.  Although it was against the law, the Communist guards made her pay to receive these packages.  Prisoners in exile had to work and they received a starvation wage of 75 rubles a month.  Their housing cost 20 rubles, and the prisoners were made to pay sometimes over 45 rubles to accept any packages sent to them.  But time after time, Nijole accepted these packages, paid for them, and then re-packaged them and mailed them to Christians in other parts of the Soviet bloc when she believed where suffering worse than she was.  The Communist guards and postal officials could not make any sense out of this.  It was a kindness and a sacrifice that utterly dumbfounded them.  One time, some girls who were members of the Communist youth organization questioned Nijole about her strange behavior.  Nijole replied that she wanted to help her impoverished brothers and sisters in Christ who were suffering.  And the girls asked her, if we were ever put in jail, and you learned of it, would you send us you care packages?  And Nijole replied, “Of course, if I knew your address.”

That is a beautiful, sacrificial love, an aroma that you know even when you walk into an empty kitchen.  It’s a wonderful, freeing thought.  I don’t have to worry whether or not I have the words to tell someone something- all I have to do it show them love.  They’ll know.  If they want to know more, they’ll ask.

Thank You Jesus for the wonderful example of love You are for us, and for the wonderful aroma You are through us!!!  It is an honor to show Your compassion to others.

Thoughts about Fish

Compassion

True compassion

Is it just giving, or is it something more?

There’s the old saying- ‘give a man a fish and feed him for a day;

teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime’.

 That is true, but is there more to it than that?

What if he hates fish or runs out of fish in his pond?  What then?

 Have you really taught him anything?

Or have you wasted your time, and has he wasted his time, just prolonging

 the inevitable fishlessness and the fight for his existence?

What if there is much more than just teaching someone to do something,

or enabling them to do it once you’re gone?

What if the whole point is to build a relationship?

 

A relationship that is mutually beneficial to you both- you teach him to fish, he teaches you to carve something.  Or maybe he just teaches you to really love and how to open up to others in a new way and maybe he is an amazing person with the coolest background and he is so strong and neat, and, through the process of getting to know him, you learn more about the amazingness of him, and humanity in general.  A relationship where he is your friend, where you can continue to help him build his fishing skills, live on more than just fishing, where he learns how to open up to you and the amazingness of your own story and humanity in general.  A self-sustaining, lifelong investment that builds more than a fish-eating empire.

It builds a friendship.

It builds worth and value and esteem and respect and love.

It builds eternity.