divine chaos

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Cars jut in and out of flow, their rhythm in total synchronicity yet without rhyme.  Total chaos, I think, as I sit in the taxi-matatu, how can this be?

People dart in and out of traffic, selling mangoes, fried chicken, baskets, chicklets…boda bodas with entire families sitting side saddle fly through the empty corridors of space between oncoming trucks.  I saw a car yesterday that was offering driving lessons; as we sat with the taxi’s engine turned off, bumper to bumper traffic, the jam, 1.5 hours into our commute to work.  Driving lessons? This is ironic.  I remember thinking in that moment that all of my own driving experience would be more of a hindrance than an asset were I to learn to drive here, because rather than prepare me for this system, I would have to unlearn everything in order to re-learn this vehicular language.  The same rules don’t apply.  Yesterday, as we were taking the taxi home, to save time, the driver took a side street composed primarily of enormous potholes, small shops, and homes.  Then, as we were stuck in a long line of traffic, he simply turned to the left, and started driving on the sidewalk! I distinctly remember thinking that I, having lived all of my life (almost) in a certain context, could easily think that he is a terrible and irresponsible driver, because in Canada, it would be true.  But somehow, here, he is amazing! Rather than being a bad driver, he is incredible well versed in the invisible rules of the road, skillfully weaving in and out of madness without ever missing a beat.

Layers of complexity can easily offend the mind which has grown accustomed to another way of processing.  On the surface, everything is foreign and strange, and seemingly disorganized.  I am learning, however, that it is not at all disorganized; it is like a intricate symphony, with the smallest to largest of instruments orchestrated according to an unseen music, everything moving in a delicate flow caught in the tension between harmony and chaos.

On the edge of chaos lives a miracle.

Turn Around

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LIFE.

Life is a treasure. Life is a mystery. Life is long. life is short.

I am realizing that to live, really, truly, LIVE is the essence of life. So simple, yet somehow the logic of this world, the wisdom of prudence, false responsibility, and commitment to our own personal advancement and place in the world can stop the flow of life, leaving it as a drizzling, stagnant mud puddle rather than the rushing, roaring rivers of the Nile.

Oh, to lose the sweet love of life and gain the world…a tragedy of tragedies. To lose my soul- worse off, to exchange richness of spirit for worldly success, is something that I cannot bear.

I sit in a mosquito net hovel, writing with my headlamp, somewhere in Uganda. What I am learning is that life is not really about geography; it is a strange blend of becoming, where past melts into present which invokes future. Where I am is merely the pages of the story, but the essence of it, the ink, comes from the inside and dances upon the empty pages, filling it with meaning.

Life is both the longest thing we will ever do, and simultaneously, a fleeting shimmer in a timeless galaxy, a vestibule for eternity, a moment which passes in the blink of an eye.  How do I want to live? How do I live? Give it all away.  I want to lose my life; to lose any self-conscious, restrained caution and jump fully and completely into the freedom of finding it.

We all pay a price to live according to a certain reality; to accept certain rules of being, laws of gravity, and codes of conduct… I’ve been told that I think too big- imagine too much- that I am too heavenly minded, and no earthly good. And, for a time, I think that I began to stifle this, allowing the end of my journey to justify the means, even if this meant that I was not being the truest version of me.  The sad thing was, I thought that I was-and it was not until I realized that the truest part of me is quietly handcuffed in the corner while the false self, the practical, reasonable, and boring me, is miserably getting things done. 

What if the whole reason that we are born is not to do something,but to become someone? And, what if, that person that we are to become is not someone random, someone that we create and design, but is a dream that has existed in the mind and heart of the Master Artist since a timeless era?  And, what if the key to that becoming was to let go totally and completely of who you think you are, an old, un-renewed version, and step into that dream? Something, Someone, has forever altered reality by ripping through the cosmos and destroying death.  What He did forever changed the deck.  It is always available. Just say Yes.

Today

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I woke up this morning to loud raindrops pounding on the ceramic roof, and had no idea what the day would hold.  Getting ready, leaving, driving through the red roofed red road-ed streets of Kampala on my way to Mulago Hospital, I was mainly thinking about myself- thinking about life from my own perspective, my own cares, my own dilemnas.  

Arriving at the hospital, I saw people lined up out the doors waiting to be cared for.  Mothers and their babies, friends, everyone there for a different reason.  We walked and walked through hallways, annexes, buildings, for what seemed to be forever, until, after asking many times for directions, we found ourselves, muddied and somewhat soggy, at the right place. We were in for a very special day!

Mulago is the central hospital in Kampala, as well as being the headquarters for TASO, the organization with whom we are working.  Today, we were to go to visit families in the surrounding villages who have created many forms of sustainable livelihoods.  We drove for some time, slowly leaving behind the business of the city, the boda bodas, street vendors, traffic, and bustle of people.  The green started to get greener, the mist from the day’s rain coating the air with wonder. 

Many things to say, many things to see, but the one very special experience was arriving at a family’s home and farm and seeing fields of mangoes, papayas, avocados, and coffee plants.  Eating fresh mangoes that have just fallen off of the tree by cutting them open with a machete.  Meeting my neighbor who is from an entirely different experience and generation, speaks another language, wears different clothes, and yet; loves mangoes just like me.

I am re-discovering and re-thinking what it means to live in a world that has been divided by borders and national lines; moments like that, with a community under a mango tree-next to a coffee plant-down the lane from the papaya tree-next to the avocado tree-in the hills of rural Uganda, brings together people from generations, nations, and obligations so diverse yet so common to us all.

I guess the moral of the story could be that mangoes unite us all, or…

Oneness.

 

 

 

 

A Chromatic Story.

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+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++     Greetings from Kanyanya.  It has now been over a week since I arrived here in Uganda, and it feels as if I have gone from being in a black and white, still-frame movie to a color motion picture. Everything is alive.  The green is greener, as one friend told me it would be.  The roads are red, bustling with people moving around the landscapes of their lives.  The birds are chromatic and diverse; bright blue hummingbirds, shining yellow birds, and enormous terradactyl like creatures dot the clear aired sky.  Languages and cultures are also chromatic, which is the theme of this post.  Yesterday, I was sardined in the back of a landrover with about 8 other people from the surrounding nations- Kenya, Tanzania, and of course, Uganda. Among us, there were more than eight languages spoken and likely as many cultural heritages, though me and my colleague were the only ones coming from a faraway land.  The stories  are rich and complex, layered and dynamic, yet parallel to the stories of anyone. Anywhere.

Being here is an incredible privilige- I am one of four students from UBC who are participating in a short term internship (4mths) with an local organization here in Uganda called TASO. In the big picture, four months is such a short time, thus, I am happy that this internship is co-designed by TASO and UBC to be the first four month stage in a period of three years, where following students will build on the work that we do this summer in a continuous flow.  It is a unique opportunity to lend our time, skills, and enthusiasm to come alongside of people who are doing amazing work in their country, who serve with excellence, and who have been leaders in change in Uganda and beyond. This indigenous and grassroots organization was founded over 25 years ago by 16 Ugandans  who saw a need, and gave their lives to create change.  To be able to learn from and serve them is a great joy.

Initially, I was unsure about coming to a nation not my own simply to learn; worried about being an inconvenience, about imposing my own perspective, making cultural blunders… For the first few days, I did feel very awkward, and was not sure how to fit in.  I  felt awkward about coming- struggled to find words to describe, justify my presence here. What I am learning, is that to be caught in a tension which may feel uncomfortable, is not a bad thing. I am here to learn.  I am here to serve. I am not here to change the world, change a nation, or “help”, as so many people may think.  As I continue to learn about the work that TASO does in Uganda, I am so humbled to have the opportunity to meet the pioneers of change, and to come alongside of them as they bring change to their nation.  I think that that is the best position to take, and to take slowly.  This organization has stood the test of time, and I am convinced that it is because of the reason for which it began; love. This love transcends borders, languages, cultures, and histories, and creates a common story of which we can all be a part; a new story that is being written every moment of every day, in every language, tone, and color. It overcomes and re-writes old stories. This story is not of one color or geography alone; it is simultaneously unified and chromatic as the flock of beautifully colored birds that flies overhead, peeks through the windows and inhabits the trees.

Into the Mystic

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.  

1 Corinthians 13:12-13

In the space between seeing and not seeing, what is that which remains? In the half-lit days that stretch for weeks on end, the space between dreams and desires and their fulfillment, the space between Word of God spoken and Word of God fulfilled, there is a stretching on the inside that invites me to deepen that which sustains.  To cultivate that which will always remain.  Discover anew the very thing that is essential to life.  Faith. The substance of that which I desperately hope for but cannot yet see.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

What does this mean?  How do I practically lay hold of this faith, this substance?  Does it comfort me in the waiting? Does it give me an assurance when nothing is happening? What do I do with the concept of faith?

Three things to do to lead us toward that consummation; trust, hope, love.

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Stop. Look. Go.

Brother David Steindl-Rast refreshes the bored soul in this TED talk with a reminder that wonder exists all around us, awaiting our gaze. He speaks of the power of meeting the majesty of life, the gift of life, enveloped in each and every moment, and rendering it powerful and available through gratitude.

This speaks to me in my time of yielding, reminding me that the most important thing is not deciding what I will be doing next week, next month, or next year. It is slowing down enough to be fully present in this second-moment-hour-day, and allowing it to teach me the lessons of life for tomorrow.

The dance of falling down

Day 03 of yielding. 

On Identity and Belonging 

Why is it that as human beings, we crave to belong.  We crave the knowledge of being known, loved, and accepted. 

Today in class, my classmate retrieved my name-card for me; though we’ve only had three classes, she knows my name!  The feeling that washed over me was inexorable; I felt as though I belonged.  I’ve been reflecting of late on identity and belonging, and how for me, feeling like I belong somewhere is a core need that influences how I see myself and determines the courage and strength that I have to live.  When I am in a situation where I am not confident that I fully belong, I exhibit traits that are unrecognizable to my belonging-self; I become uptight and determined to succeed, to perfect, to impress. I wear myself thin for no other reason than that I am seeking my identity in the wrong place.  When I am home in love, I am happy to make a fool of myself, am free, and don’t stress over the details that drive me crazy when I’m standing on insecure foundations.  Seeing this stark contrast is a window into my own, our own, DNA.  We were created to be at home in love in such an unshakeable way that we could love without expecting anything in return.  How powerful it is to say to someone; you are loved, you are accepted, you belong here, and to demonstrate it with consistent actions- it disarms fear and causes the best and truest self of anyone to be seen. 

Day 03 of yielding is yielding to love- to belonging- and to the knowledge that such a place exists for me, and you, that is unshakeable. It is a place not built by human hands, by culture, by race, by skin-color.  Let me discover afresh the deep, deep well of this love and find my home there.  

 

Inner Silence

This journey of slowing down to watch, wait, and listen is like a breath of fresh air!  I can feel myself settling into it with great anticipation.  It is like coming home, and refusing to build my identity on my accomplishments or external affairs.  There is great rest in that.  I know that as I continue in this posture, I will again come to the bedrock of my life, the only place upon which to build anything. 

 

Thankful. 

40 days of yielding…

Lately, I have been driving through the narrow Vancouver streets- whistling through the highways, ebbing and flowing through the downtown core. I have been learning that to drive well, I need to be focused and alert to the signs and interactions that punctuate the movements of the road.

Life is a road.  To live well I must be equally attentive to the signs, the interactions of day to day living. To ignore a stop sign or a yield sign while driving is a disaster waiting to happen; so too is to disregard the signs and signals of the inner life.

And so, I am going to pay attention to the rhythms of my heart and the movements of my life at this moment in time. As I face a transition I am going to slow down and yield… lean into the uncertainty… listen deeply in the quietness of waiting. Shoulder check, looking back in the treasury of my memories, and weave in and out of the traffic with delicate care, positioning myself to await the next set of directions.

Constant movement mediated by traffic laws. Stop. Go. Stop.

Day 1. Recognizing the importance of slowing down before turning a corner.

I am from……

Moments of decision. When pen meets paper meets heart meets mouth meets past collides with present becomes future. In a word, choice.  The most powerful thing that we have is the ability to continually choose; choose life, choose love, choose hope, choose wonder. When we don’t see. When I don’t see.  

I’m nearing the end of this road, it seems, and as I approach a dusty yield sign reminding me of the coming transition, I am realizing how continual the journey of discovery really is.  Chapters fit into one another, or maybe they are really just sentences. Words. Letters. Scrawl marks.  Or, maybe they are entire volumes of life that have been richly lived. Loved. Inhabited. 

One of my greatest challenges and greatest strengths is that I am undeniably whole-hearted.  It is nearly impossible for me to do anything halfway; I am a risk taker, all-in kind of person, and when I decide to do something, anything, it will be with all of me.  I love this characteristic of me, it is authentic, real, and fully present.  It makes everything in life very interesting; I am passionate and full of wonder.  I am alive and engaged in the business of living.  I am also terribly adept at putting down roots and finding my home in them.  

The last four years have been truly splendid; let me remember that.  Because when I was preparing to leave my home in Quebec and move across the country to start a new life, I could not imagine how incredible the journey would be. Likewise, I could not have imagined that Quebec, once a foreign land, could have become home!  In leaving it, I could not have imagined the people I would meet, the outstanding opportunities that I would stumble into, the favor, love, and family I would meet.  I could never have imagined that moving to study Nutrition and Maternal Health at UBC would open the door to travel to every corner in Uganda, to twice visit Rwanda, or to spend six weeks living with the Safaris in Nairobi.  I could not have known that that step of faith, terribly painful as it was to leave what had become home, would lead to the discoveries about who I am, about how big, kind, and generous God is, and about how complex, interconnected, and intrinsically connected humanity is.  Never, when crying out to God from between the hay bales in the country side of Sutton about how I would possibly find a place to live in one of the world’s most expensive cities, would I envision living in Journey, a beautiful condo at UBC surrounded by old trees, big windows, and a live stream in the lobby.  I could not see through the tears that day at the airport as I left behind people I loved so much to come to a new and empty land into the moments that I now inhabit- and the realization that four years later, I am deeply rooted and grounded in a similar way.  

It is a paradox of perspective.  At times, I feel tempted to resist the inevitable changes that are coming my way, and stay stuck in the moment I’m in, just because it is so beautiful.  I feel reticent to embrace new things.  But when I stop and remember, I know that I would not exchange this journey for anything!  It is counter-intuitive to embrace pain sometimes; and I know that the fact that I dread the transition from this place is a great thing; it means that I’ve loved here, and have been loved.  Let this beautiful reality give me the wings to arise in faith that just as this chapter has been beyond imagination, so too will the next.  The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  If He is with me, all things will be beautiful. 

The beauty of age is memory and experience; a continually developing lens through which to interpret life.  As I grow older, I have more experiences and more memories on which to stand.  In the busy ness of being wholehearted and engaged in life, I need to remember to yield…. that sign that says, slow down, watch, wait, listen.  Don’t rush ahead.  Slow down…. watch. Wait. Listen.  And when the right time comes, go.  Go.  

I am taking the next season to yield… to intentionally sloooowwww down. to remember where I have come from and to look forward to where I am going.  And to see the people around me, their interactions, their trajectories, their lives.  I am delighting in the rhythm of rest that follows a good run, and I’m choosing.  I am choosing to be full of faith, wonder, and expectancy for the road ahead. 

 

 Image I 

immersed into unfamiliarity.   immersed into the unknown.

Aside

immersed into unfamiliarity.   immersed into the unknown.   

thankful to be given new lenses through which to see.  

I am discovering anew the relationship between place and person, and how entering into a new place physically can cause one to discover much about the person that they are.  I am in a district of Nairobi where everything is new to me, and even that which I anticipated being a familiar friend is a stranger. Being a person who loves to take risks and challenge myself, I am vacillating between being completely enthralled with the opportunity to learn and grow in an accelerated way, and wanting to retreat to what I know. Image

 

Those moments of retreat threaten to overshadow the incredible reality that I have been immersed into.  One of social innovation and design, of bringing beauty and community into an area threatened by fear.  I am working with an outstanding team of people from all corners of the world, each of whom are committed to building into the next generation, and the next, and the next.  Being surrounded with visionaries and activists and ordinary people (such as myself) is a great privilege.  Living with extra-ordinary people in a marginalized community is teaching me what it means to depend on others in order to live. My independence is being challenged, inviting me to learn to share in a whole new way.