Saturday, December 22, 2012

Breathing to Believe

December 14, 2012

Eyes closed by arms traveling the path of a pendulum. Tiny brown hands lay on mine as I sway back and forth. Cradled close I feel the breath of life entering and out of her mouth. Somehow watching a baby fall asleep in arms bent makes us feel secure. All is right in the world in that moment: breath exists! Life. Hope.

Humanity everywhere is breathing to believe; to hope.

"...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."

When Breath filled the dust of the ground there was our Hope! Hope revealed as breath, life, alive. And we were filled. Then we tripped and fell on our own hunger to be filled by something we thought was missing, but it wasn't! We were full. Full of life, purpose, and the snake couldn't stand it. He was the one who was hungry. We are full, but we are also blind. We think we are hungry or we can survive without the food. "Am I always the atheist in [His] Arms...?"*

But we are always filled!

And we are not blind with the lens of thankfulness. A lens that can only see Jesus in the end. A lens seeing in others the face of Jesus. "...Jesus...has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."(Acts 9:17)

Tonight I am thankful for breath; beauty from dust as I examine the intricate designs of tiny brown fingers, little boys who fall asleep on my lap in church, and the peacefulness of a baby's closed eyes amidst a world broken by the same hands I examine.

My belief rests on the peacefulness of this little one in my arms: as long as a baby can sleep breathing peacefully in the midst of a hurting world then there is hope. Hope in the One who breathes life into the lowest of places and creates beauty.

"God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us." -Martin Luther

*Quoted from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Smudged Humanity

Sometimes I forget where I am. It happened again today. Sitting on the back of a rickshaw van with two of my fellow teachers and friends here, Shuma and Tuli, being pedaled by a man back to Bangla Hope through the late afternoon fog I saw the scene before me with new eyes.

Dozens of rickshaws weaving their way along the street between trucks, goats, and people. Children laughing and turning from their tasks; yelling their greeting to me while waving wildly (Oh yeah, I guess I am the only white girl for miles around.) Hundreds of cows and people dot the horizon as they finish up the last of the rice harvest.

Maybe it was the weather today. Waking up to fog so thick you could only see 10 feet in front of you and a temperature more like the climate I experience at home in the Pacific Northwest. Although 70 degrees with 88% humidity is quite different and a lot colder here than at home. Or, maybe it was the sight of the man wearing a lungi I sat knee to knee with on the rickshaw. Friendly with black hair, whiskered face, speaking nothing but Bangla. Today, I saw again: where I am now will change me. Where I've been is still with me. My physical location on this earth or chosen profession doesn't change the fact that I am human. No matter where you go or what you see we are all the same. Humanity everywhere is breathing to believe; to hope. It may not be the same hope, but we are all desperate for something better. We were created this way.

"There is a desire within each of us, in the deep center of ourselves that we call our heart. We were born with it, it is never completely satisfied, and it never dies. We are often unaware of it, but it is always awake...Our true identity, our reason for being, is to be found in this desire." -Gerald May The Awakened Heart

Bangladesh is my home. And even though I came here to serve others my priorities still get mixed up. Sometimes I forget where I am, because on the inside I am still Mackenzie no matter if I am at home being called "Macca" or here being called "Kenzie Teacher" by 130 children; I am still a being whose humanity smudges the beauty around me despite my best intentions. What I'm finding in spite of my shortcomings is before I leave my apartment to serve others I need to spend time with Jesus in solitude. Otherwise, my service is nothing. "Without Love..." (aka Jesus: 1 Corinthians 13).  Easy to say, huh? So hard to do!

The SM office sent me a devotional book a couple of weeks ago. In the past I haven't been a huge fan of devotional books in my own life, but I decided to give it a shot to keep myself accountable. How's it coming you may ask? Well, I got to day 10. It's day 12 and the book is sitting unopened beside my bed with the marker still on day 10. So, I'm still working on it. But, what I'm finding through various failures is I still succeed at the end of the day when I can count Jesus' appearances in various gifts throughout my day. Jesus then becomes the victor of my day; not my fallen, broken humanity.

Change takes time, but remembering where we are in the here and now and where we have been is important to the process. Being present is being in communion with the One who is from beginning to end.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teacher Who?

Quickly I turn my eyes to the whiteboard; allowing only the inanimate object the dignity of seeing my frustration run its course. I am not a teacher and yet here I stand in a classroom with 17 sets of big brown eyes awaiting my poised marker to make a move to give them their next math problem to solve. I refuse to blame their previous and current teacher for their classroom manners (or the lack thereof), because in this moment they are my students. I hold the responsibility of nurturing their learning capabilities. And in this moment I struggle to find control and composure for a group of students who refuse to simply listen for 2 minutes. Choice. I have a choice to make. They have a choice to make. Do I take away part of their recess or will they choose to be quiet and finish their math problems? And a thought enters my thick, stubborn head, "Am I going about this the right way?" Learning to first respect the student is sometimes a challenge. Respect is a give and take concept. It requires of me to have perspective. Or, in my case, the strife for perspective, because I am not sure I have reached that pinnacle of concept just yet.

Walking out of the classroom once I was finished teaching I was called to the office to retrieve a package sent from the SM office at WWU. Cutting the strings which bound the objects inside I found my answer to classroom management. Inside the package was candy and some homemade pencil holders. On top was a note explaining if you can't use the items in the package then give them to your students as prizes. Aha!

Entering the classroom this morning I was greeted by a chorus of voices almost shouting, "Good morning Teacher!" Responding politely as I quietly raised my hand and waited. Slowly hands went up and mouths were closed. Explaining to them their new challenge (they are competitive children): "At the end of each week until Christmas break I will give a prize to the best listener and quietest worker in the class." And with that proclamation the rest of the class period went by with only a few reminders to listen as we went through the math lesson together. I'm hopeful and confident in their ability to succeed at this learning opportunity. Even if it takes a couple of trials and errors on mine and the students' part. I may never be an elementary school teacher, but each morning asking Jesus to be the strength in me to deal with these challenges in a fair and pure way is a good reminder and lesson I am learning slowly. If this challenge presents me the need to talk with Jesus more then I am thankful, because as a broken human I am in desperate need of a Teacher.

Jesus, may I have eyes to see the sanctuary of your love and teaching amidst the challenge before me.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father...I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:14-19