The tale of 2 funerals

April 28, 2008

I heard a story last weekend. It was the tale of 2 funerals. The first funeral was of a man who was a nominal Christian. His family barely attended church and when the man died, his funeral was attended by a mere sprinkling of family and friends. The second was of a man who was an actively serving church member and when he died, the church community rallied around the grieving family.

I might be missing the forest for the sake of the trees a little bit but this story really bugs me. I’m guessing the point was to communicate the joys of Christian community and the importance of getting plugged into a church yadayada. It’s not that I disagree with the intention of the message. There is a lot to be said about the joy of Christian community. But the story seems to be chasing after the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to me – the white picket fence and 2.1 kids, playing happy families version of the Christian world. Very nice in theory but it is terribly unrealistic in practice because it assume that this is a good enough model and denies an entire plethora of ways to experience God and enjoy Christian community. Surely funeral attendance is poor proxy and it bothers me that Christians are willing to settle for outward signs of community that say nothing about the robustness of the Christian relationships therein.

Frankly, I’m more interested in what is REAL. Show me relationships that do not breakdown outside this one-size-fit-all mould and then you have my attention. Show me the Christian to who attends funerals to support a grieving family, regardless of church/religious etc affiliation. (Surely if church attendance/service is the key to people attending your funeral, we Christians must be an awfully superficial lot.) Show me Christian love and unity that remain after you control for circumstances and personality. Show me, beyond the smiles in church on Sunday, people who actually give a shit.

Someone said to me once that Christians were nice but they weren’t real. Stories like this just increase my Pinocchio complex. I have little interest in being thought of as nice. (A great line from an email from my boss this week said: We aim to be respected, if not necessarily well-liked. Totally out of context but that really resonated with me.) So my prayer for myself this week is that I am found to be REAL. I want a faith that is robust under all circumstances and a relationship with God that is evident in all situations. I have no illusions of grandeur. I am still a hopelessly flawed work-in-progress but man, I’m so over playing church like it is some kind of game.

Am I crazy to be *this* dissatisfied with what goes on in the church? God intended for so much more than this.

ARGH.

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I never thought I’d say this but I need to chart out a new night running route because my usual 4km route round the block is TOO SHORT. So I am now in search of the perfect 5km route. I should have done this a couple of weeks ago but I’ve been procrastinating. (Like why would I want to run more, right?!)

Anyway, my first attempt was on Tuesday night but unfortunately what I thought was a 5km route is really only 4.3km and involved running by the road (i.e. choking to death on exhaust) and crossing a lot of traffic lights (i.e. losing momentum).

My second attempt was on Thursday night. I made some adjustments to the route but it was still only 4.5km! And add the uneven pavement and a forgotten knee guard to the equation and I was not a happy camper.

I attempted a 5km route for the third time today. And for some inexplicable reason, I just felt like running so I didn’t turn around at the halfway mark like I was supposed to. Instead, I ran past the Botanic Gardens and past some very swish hotels and very dodgy night clubs. I ran past the place where I had lunch earlier today and past my old school. I ran past a friend’s house and a new residential development designed by a friend.

Total mileage – 8km.  Madness!

So at the end of my week, I still have no acceptable 5km route. Argh! I do have a very pleasant 8km route though but it wasn’t really my intention to double the distance of my night runs!

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

I just got home from a prayer meeting. I used to HATE prayer meetings, mostly because I just couldn’t sit still for that long. And what do you DO in a prayer meeting? Seemed like it is a lot of just sitting around talking to yourself (or worse, listening to other people talking to themselves).

I can’t think of a more sophisticated analogy but I’m starting to see prayer meetings like hanging out with your (albeit invisible) friend God and some of your mutual friends. Your God-friend is a quiet sort of guy but sometimes He whispers in the ear of your friends and they relay the message. Sometimes, He just sits around and smiles. Sometimes, He thinks that you are a little self-indulgent and gives you this *look*, which is pretty much your cue to shut up. But the more you hang out, the more He speaks up – or maybe the more you learn to listen.

So I’ve decided that I do quite like prayer meetings. 🙂

Plastic bag helmets

April 23, 2008

One day I would love to do a photography exhibition of some of my Cambodia photos. An amazing theme would be “Little Girls” – I have some great single portrait shots of little girls in Prek Tual (this one being one of them).

There is a certain bittersweetness about this picture. I still don’t know whether to feel happy or sad that she derives joy from a plastic bag helmet. There was something about the purity of her joy and the tragedy that the source of that joy being a plastic bag. But she was happy and who am I to judge that?

I spent a fair bit of time playing with her and friends. They didn’t join the rest of the kids because they lived just next to the dumpsite and were clearly dirtier and poorer than the others. Mind you, the other kids were pretty damn poor too. It was interesting to me that even at that low level of income, there is still discrimination. I remember reading somewhere that the 2 things that street kids want most of all is to be clean and to have nice clothes so they look like other kids. Wow. How sobering. But they seemed oblivious to the obvious income inequality and they giggled, danced and played happily with plastic bags.

Fairweather runners
Emerge like they own the place.
I ran all winter.

(Poem by Emily Edwards , winner of the Runner’s World spring haiku competition.)

I did another long run on Sunday. I walked 2km to get to the park, ran (85%) and walked (15%) 10km and then walked another 2km to get back home. I was going super duper slowly but covering the distance was very satisfying.

I almost didn’t go. I’d geared up and just as I was about to put on my shoes, I heard the rumbling of thunder. Argh! I took out my mobile phone and began writing an annoyed message to a couple of friends about how the weather was ruining my running plans. Then thought to myself: Real runners would have gone out anyway. Just run till it rains. My inner coach can be quite the nazi.

And it turned out to be a pretty good run. I maintained a nice pace throughout and ran a good proportion of the way – stopping mainly to stretch and walk up slopes. And at the end, Lance Armstrong’s voice came on and congratulated me on doing my fastest 10km yet. Don’t get too excited, a faster 10km is still very slow. But hey, I’m patting myself on the back anyway. It was a great way to end off a fantastic weekend and a nice pre-cursor to a fish and chips and chocolate cake dinner with some of my favourite people.

By the way, it didn’t rain.

Today, thankful

April 22, 2008

Today, thankful for old friends.

A weekend filled with some of my favourite people (all of whom I’ve known for about 10 years or so) brought a smile to my face and joy to my soul. Heaven must have a special place for the people who can stand my nonsense for that long. Haha. Anyway, it is only an old friend who knows that pitching grueling physical activity as just another mental mountain to climb is the only way to get me to even consider running a marathon. (Yes, I’m still thinking about it.)

So today, I’m thankful for weird plays about incest and animal sex, Filipino food, dim sum, shoe shopping, Little Creatures pale ale, mini chicken burgers, live music, bibimbap, chocolate cake and walks in the dark dodging horse poo, with the moonlight casting a shadow behind you. They are just excuses to spend time with the people you love. 🙂