Tag Archives: Love

got married and stuff

something pretty big happened since the last time i blogged. i put a ring on this really pretty girl’s finger and she said ‘i do’. we kissed to make it legit and then got in the back of a horse and carriage and rode away. it was pretty awesome.

i’m a husband now.

whoa.

i wonder if my writing will change now that i’m a married man? it’s possible, i suppose. i read somewhere by some author i can’t remember that marriage matures men more than school, sports, education and war. or at least it should.

more maturity should mean better writing, no?

here’s hoping.

for our honeymoon we flew down to honduras where kat had worked in an orphanage five years ago. she already knew many of the amazing sites so i had a semi built-in tour guide (espanol and all). ziplinig, white water rafting, open water diving, mopeding down dirt coastline roads – we had a lot of fun.

we met some amazing people, too.

one guy we met had his whole life turned upside down 4 years earlier. elmer grew up on the island of roatan hoping for something better than the west end of the island had to offer. what he got was a bad addiction to crack cocaine and many failures that led him to tie a rope around his neck and stand on top of a pile of unsteady cinder blocks. but the rope wouldn’t hold on the tree. he had failed again.

thankfully.

he gave his life to God shortly after, crediting him with his lease on life. in return he committed to making his community a better place for everyone. he’s now involved in public schools teaching children the harmful effects of drug use, gang life and violence. he helps to support local orphanages and sports programs that help the children on the island.

truly inspiring man. the world needs more like him.

thanks, honduras. you made our honeymoon perfect.

we’re back home now and settled into our apartment. amalgamating our lives together has been trickier than i had anticipated. moving things in, rearranging where things go, selling stuff on kijiji, more rearranging, etc, etc. through it all we still haven’t killed each other.

that’s love.

a big thanks to all my friends and family for all their love and support. you all made our wedding the best day possible.

 

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new chapter

everything in my life changed last night.

she said yes!!

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giving up to gain

there wasnt much to do when i arrived at hope cottage on friday morning.  soup was on the burner warming up, coffee and tea were brewing in their respective pots, and sandwiches had all been made up for the day.  brian make quick work of the morning routine.  i found him at the back of the dining room hall nose-deep in his new book, the hunger games when i came in.  we exchanged a nod and a friendly morning grunt.  yes, we grunt when we see one another.

primitives, we are.

morning meal didnt draw much of a crowd.  gst cheques came in on thursday.  tim came into help serve and we got talking about life.  tim is only a couple of years older than i but with his grey beard seems about 20 years my senior.  i dont tell him that though.  its too soon in our knowing one another to tease about silly things like that.  tim limps a bit when he walks because of an old injury and serves coffee and tea with a giant smile on his face.

thanks for all you do, tim.

after breakfast, andrew asked me if i was interested in making soup.  having never made soup before i decided to take him up on the offer.  but first, lunch.  eggs, chorizo sausages and toast with a glass of orange juice.

mmm.

what looked and seemed like a great combination turned into anything but.  a collective belly ache came over the three of us (terry, our director joined us).  it made for an uncomfortable early afternoon.

never.  having.  that.  combo.  again!

on to soup making.

andrew got me to do most of the work.  something about learning better from doing.  sure, sure, lazy boy (kidding).  he lead me through the process.  boiling the chickens, tearing off all the meat, dicing up the meat, adding spices, veggies and rice, and voila!  chicken rice soup.
ill have to see how the crowd likes it on monday morning.  if any get sick im blaming it on andrew though.  thats legit, right?

in the midst of making soup, andrew and i got to talking about homelessness and poverty in our city.  what i learned was valuable.

a few years back, andrew went on a missions trip to the ukraine.  while there he witnessed what he described to me as the worst imaginable poverty.  it rocked his world and changed his perspectives.  upon returning back home, he felt some personal changes were in order.  he told me he felt a calling from God to give more of himself to the local poor and homeless community in halifax. unfortunately, working two jobs didnt afford him much time to do much of anything. so he did what any reasonable person would do – he quit his jobs.

with ample free time on his hands he devoted himself to volunteering at hope cottage, serving food and helping with whatever he could.  he loved it.  it filled a need in the community while also filling a hole in his heart.  that hole in all our hearts that can only be filled when we love our neighbor as ourself.

shortly after volunteering at hope andrew was asked if he wanted to be hired on as a member of the fulltime staff.  his desire to gives himself more to the local poor and homeless community lead to a completely different career. what a great example of what it looks like to really trust God with ones life; to step out in faith and sacrifice your comfort for some thing much larger than yourself.

inspiring to say the very least.

andrew is just another guy trying to follow Jesus the best he can.  im darn glad we are friends.

“human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” -mlk

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christmas day

i think christmas flew by faster this year than any year previous.  im finally starting to see and believe what all those grown ups told me as i was growing up – ‘better enjoy your younger years because they will fly by when you are older’.  i always scoffed at those would-be fortune tellers, only to now see the value in their words.

time does fly by much faster now.

regardless of how fast it went, the memories wont so quickly to vanish with the season.  this christmas was one of the most memorable ones for me.

heres why:

a few weeks before christmas i began asking some of the guys i know on the street what they would be doing for the holidays.  some were heading out-of-town to see family, while others had no plans of even celebrating.  christmas is a rough time for a lot of people.  for the guys i know on the streets its usually very rough.  depression, extra anxieties, suicidal feelings are par for the course. the past has a way of doing some extra haunting around the christmas season.

the wonderful part about living by myself in my humble basement apartment is that i no longer have to ask any roommates if they mind when i invite guys in.  i had roommates in the past who were ‘ok’ with having them in, though they usually disappeared behind their locked bedroom doors, but most were not as inviting.

ignorance is a heck of a thing.

so with no roommates to ask about having a christmas party, invites were liberally thrown out to many of the guys i share every day life with on the street.

craig told me he would come.  craig is as old as my dad but about half the size (my dad is a big man).  he was born with very bad hearing and eyesight.  when you talk to craig you have to speak fairly loud so he can understand you.  you have to struggle equally as hard to understand what he is saying.  while communicating with craig is challenging, when you do have a chance to talk with him you begin to see a kind, intelligent, and thoughtful man who lives a very lonely life.

i picked craig up at the bus stop around the corner and we walked back to my place.  he moved pretty slow as his cane jumped along the pavement in front of us.  i walked on an angle, leaning his way so i can hear what hes saying and speak back into his ‘good’ ear.  he tells me in the 44 years he has spent in halifax no one has ever invited him over for christmas.

44 years without friend or family to celebrate christmas with is a downright sin.

ryan, glen and dave – three of our street soccer players – come over as well.  ryan brings with him some finger foods to pop in the oven.  they’re gone as soon as they hit the coffee table.  he is happy with his contribution, as he should be.  he tells me about the donations he was able to get for some great organizations in the city.  his smile beams as he tells of his selfless accomplishment.  im proud of him like a big brother is of his younger sibling.

we hug it out.

dave grabs the guitar and begins to serenade the group.  he mixes his stories in with the lyrics as he usually does.  dave always has more stories to tell.
glen brings in some chips he was able to buy with some money he received from pan handling.  he gives me a bag full of things he bought kat and i for christmas.  shampoo for kat, socks and gloves for me.

presents are always nice to get on christmas, but these gifts mean more than all of the others.  thinking about glen sitting there on the side of the road pan handling for our christmas gifts chokes me up.  im starting to really understand why Jesus hung out with the homeless so much during His days on earth.

a couple more people join us.  finger foods, christmas cookies and glasses of punch litter the coffee table in my living room.  conversation is lively and uplifting.  everyone seems to have left their cares somewhere else, if only for the afternoon.  moses, my cat, makes his rounds around the room to get his attention and try nibbling off peoples plates.

i sit back in my chair and take it all in.  a big smile comes to my face.  im surrounded by friends and people i love and who love me.

im blessed beyond measure this christmas.

happy birthday, Jesus and thanks for the blessing of friendship, both with You and with my friends on the street.

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slow down

things have been  pretty slow at hope lately.  we havent been seeing as many guests come in for meals as we normally do.  part of it is to be expected considering social assistance cheques came out last wednesday.  from my years of experience working on the front lines, a large portion of the street community disappears for a few days or a week after welfare cheques are issued.

it speaks to a few things:

one, drug addiction has many people in slavery.  we may not see the shackles and chains but they are there all the same.  its not all the typical street drugs you are probably thinking about, ie. crack, heroine, speed, meth, marijuana.  the number one addiction among the people i work with is that to prescription drugs/pharmaceuticals.

wasnt what you were expecting was it?

heres what gets my goat..

people get hurt and go to the doctor.  the hurt is causing the person to be in a significant amount of pain.  the doctor prescribes them a narcotic painkiller to help with the symptom – pain.  the person gets addicted to the ‘medicine’ and when they attempt to come off of it, the terrible pain convinces them to go back on it.

they are trapped.

i experienced a bit of that after my second knee surgery.  the ‘medicine’ i was taking caused my body to become dependant on it and, when i attempted to come off of it, gave me a pain worse than that of my swollen knee.  fortunately for me i had safeguards around me.  i had a mother who knew enough to ask consistently about my usage.  i had a doctor who wasnt in the pocket of drug companies, ie. he didnt push drugs as a remedy but as temporary help.  i also had a coach that would check up on me.

i was fortunate because theres no telling what kind of addiction i could have developed and still be mired in.

theres a lot of people who arent as fortunate.

when the doctors stop administering the drugs, people will find others way to get them.  theres really two choices – theft or street purchases.  digging ones self out of the rabbit hole is a pretty difficult at this point.  paychecks start getting gobbled up by your addiction.  the addiction starts affecting your job and eventually you lose it.  now on social assistance, you have little money to spend on your addiction so you turn to whatever means to make the pain go away.  crime often follows along with police officers, lawyers, judges, jail cells and probation officers.

welcome to the streets.

this is what life looks like for too many people.

addiction doesnt care if youre lazy or motivated, good or bad, educated or uneducated, rich or poor.  it will take you whether your skin color is black, white, purple or green.  addiction doesnt care about your variables.  it cares about being fed.

so for the first couples days after the cheques come out, peoples bellies go empty while their addiction gets to feast.  and feast it does..

now, if we had doctors who werent paid by drug companies to push their drugs more liberally than they would normally be inclined to, would we have as large a problem?  certainly not.  are greedy doctors and drug companies our only problem?  indeed a large one but not the whole picture.

see, i think the larger problem lies with the way the war on drugs is handled.   i believe that retributive justice is counterproductive and harmful to our society, while restorative justice repairs whats been broken. im frustrated with punitive steps to bring about justice.  its mechanical, lifeless and dehumanizing.  does it have a place in society?  yes, it does because some crimes require people spending significant amount of time away from society, ie. murder and sexual assault.  but for the most part, punitive justice does more to harm individuals and communities than help.

what if instead of punishing people harshly through the criminal justice system, we allowed crime control to rest primarily with the community?    what if instead of a person taking punishment for a crime they committed, they took responsibility and action to repair the harm inflicted?    what if instead of punishing community members and thus communities (by extension), we allowed communities to be the facilitators of a restorative justice?

a justice that sought the restoration of all parties involved.  thats the kind of justice that make us whole again.

all of us.

/end of idealistic rant

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plain language

monday couldnt seem to make up its mind on whether or not it wanted to rain. its been pretty wet here as of late, drowning out memories of this past summer’s heat. makes moving a bit easier.  thats right,  im moving again. trading one coast in for another. picking up stakes and heading east to the beautiful shores of nova scotia, where the provincial tree is the mighty spruce and where they came up with the expression ” hey bud”. those facts can be verified on one of the many ‘nova scotia facts’ pages on google. google magic, my friend.

so, halifax is my destination and the place where i will call home for the next while. ive been to halifax all of three times, two times in beautiful summer weather and once during a cold, white winter. unfortunately im heading there as fall is beginning and winter is looming in the distant horizon above the atlantic. time to buy a pair of long johns.

so in moving ive had to resign at the shelter. bittersweet but thats life.   i did get to write my first ever resignation letter though. ive quit many a job before but never with a formal letter. none of my previous jobs ever meant enough to me to sit down and compose a letter stating why im leaving and appreciation for my employment. all those other jobs were just places to work where i provided a service and got compensated appropriately. punch in, punch out. the shelter was different. much different.  maybe some of you can relate.

i wrote two resignation letters, actually. the first one was the lengthy one where i said a bit more than ‘thanks’ and ‘au revoir’. the second one was the shorter of the two and the one i ultimately sent. im still second guessing and kicking myself a bit for not sending the first and more honest resignation letter. while the letter i sent sounded appropriate and polite it certainly lacked the punch the first one had. see, ive been known to write some hasty things. writing from emotion is a double-edged sword that ive cut myself on more than i choose to admit. it was with this bit of self-knowledge that i kept back the letter i really wanted to resign with. playing it safe, i guess.

in the spirit of not playing it safe, im going to resign all over again right here.

ahem..

___

it is with great reluctance that i am writing this letter. my time at first united has been an invaluable experience and one which i will not soon forget, but i have decided to resign and pursue an incredible opportunity with a new church in halifax, nova scotia.

while its not my intention to cut down or malign the stated purposes and vision of first united, i believe it is my place to humbly offer my views of how these are being accomplished within the downtown eastside community, as i have been part of this community for awhile now.

what is love? is it feeding someone a meal when they are hungry? is it giving them proper clothes when they dont have any? is it giving them shelter when they have no where else to go? these things are all loving actions but they are not love itself.  love wants the best for someone else, regardless of what that looks like for yourself. often times real love is tough and difficult.  you have to make hard decisions that you might not want to make but you do because you love.   its tough stuff.   i found all too often that the policies governing first united were more of the soft love variety, not the tough stuff.  the policies put in place to keep the community as inclusive as possible usually ended up marginalizing other members of the community.  soft stances on drugs, violence and crime has made the shelter a joke to those that abuse its power.  allowing individuals to get away with whatever they do doesnt create a safe environment nor a healthy community.  like most practical philosophies, inclusivity has its limitations.  i stand by my belief that there is such a thing as too inclusive.  whether the leaders of the shelter recognize this fact or not is not for me to guess, but as the famous saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. tough love sets solid policies so that a healthy community can grow and hopefully flourish. soft love (no real love at all, in my opinion) tries to accommodate everything and anything, allowing people to live lives without accountability and thus no responsibility. instead of helping people get better soft love helps push them further down and tightens the chains of slavery to addiction and violence.  soft love is without any power to help heal and empower people.  soft love isnt working, nor should we ever expect it to. 

the first united’s mission statement reads as follows:

” As an inner-city ministry of the United Church of Canada that has been called to be a part of the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, we seek to be and become a faithful and authentic “Gospel Community”.

my issue here is with the words faithful and authentic in relation to ‘gospel community’. having worked and volunteered at the shelter for the past eight months i saw very little of this. instead i saw a system set up to enable those stuck in the grips of addiction, pain and violence. i witnessed a lot of talk about ‘that which is sacred’ but nothing ever about the gospel. not once. those that might be able to share this idea of a faithful and authentic gospel community locked themselves away in their offices, spending very little time with the actual community and its members. how can this be? how can genuine and authentic community be created when its leaders arent in the trenches creating it? ill answer the rhetorical question for you: it cant and it wont.

i feel that you have lost sight of the bigger picture. you allude to the bigger picture in your mission statement but always disguise it in your verbal speech when talking to the community. why does it seem like youre afraid or ashamed to speak about the gospel? the gospel and only the gospel is the bigger picture, and one which i believe you have lost sight of. the gospel also happens to be the main answer to my question earlier what is love? the good news (the gospel) is love from above and one which as a gospel community we should be sharing not just in action but through our words. why isnt that the case at first united?

while it does seem as though im overly critical of first united i assure you im not critical for critical-sake but have genuine concern for my friends that make up the community there. i believe that they deserve more than whats being given them and its out of my love for them that i write this now. 

thank you again for my time at first united.  i wish you all the best and hope that the new transition period with the new building goes off without a hitch.

sincerely,

lucas

______

should i send it..?

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bertrand and i

have you ever read someone elses writing and felt oddly (or rightly) at home? as if someone had read your very thoughts, organized them better than you could have and written them out for all to read? this happened to me just the other night. having decided to be a bit of a nerd and refresh myself on some of plato’s philosophy (1. dont ak me why and 2. yes, im THAT big of a nerd) i linked across to a certain bertrand russell. philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, socialist, pacifist, and social critic – a thinker/writer with most of the bases covered.

at the age of 84, russell published What I have lived for, a short prologue to his growing autobiography. summarizing his work and life.

it reads as follows:

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what – at last – I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

-br

while ol’ bertrand and i may disagree on other areas of philosophy (he was a self-proclaimed agnostic who was rather critical of christianity) the words he wrote here i believe we share quite closely. hopefully, after ive become a tired, old man i can look back on my life and utter the same words bertrand did: “This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.”

hopefully.

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dont almost give

have you ever..?

have you ever walked past someone panhandling for money and thought about giving? you had some change in your pocket at the time, probably left over from lunch at some restaurant. but hey, you might need that three bucks in change for a starbucks coffee later in your day…

have you ever gone grocery shopping and, as you were leaving the store, notice the food bank bin sitting pretty empty? with a cart full of groceries you pushed past thinking that others would fill the bin. its not like you should make yourself go without those few cans of beans or soup…

have you ever had the chance to give to someone less fortunate than you but just didnt?

dont almost give.

http://www.dontalmostgive.org

ad council dont almost give campaign
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uihDAE7BETs

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whats it gonna take?

we humans can be incredibly compassionate beings, capable of incredible love. we’ve all heard stories. we’ve all heard something that made us a bit fuzzy on the inside (is that just me?). music and movies need only to use one theme to create huge industries – love. cant really seem to escape its influence on us. tina turners big question was “whats love gotta do with it? its safe to say ‘everything’. love is the engine that drives most of our engines. its the leading motivator, the greatest emotion and an even greater gift.

yet being capable of such an amazing feat doesnt necessarily mean it will always be used. or used appropriatley. sometimes we can chose to be the complete opposite. we can choose to be selfish people who think mostly about themselves. we can ignore the problems of others in order to live our comfortable lives. but how comfortable can someone get who knows how bad their neighbour is suffering.. and do nothing about it? do we bury our guilt or just feel none?

theres a big problem in the eastside of vancouvers downtown district. its a giant social problem with no easy fixes. drugs and crime litter the hastings corners and alleys. drunks and addicts stumble the streets. people in need of medical help, both mental and physical, walk alone. historically the area has been in trouble since the beginning. not two months incorporated, the great vancouver fire happened in the summer of 1886. it wiped out everything except a few buildings. lots of lives lost. lots of homes lost. poverty was the gift awarded to vancouver in its first year. if you drive down east hastings on your way to stanley park, youre bound to see that its “a gift that keeps on giving”. poverty is still very much there. girls not old enough to graduate highschool turning ‘tricks’ to feed their drug addictions. young men robbing the elderly to to feed their crack habits.

unless we start addressing the root causes, we’re grasping at straws. unless we begin to act, its just going to get worse.. and worse.

unless we rediscover that old adage “love your neighbour”, many more people are going to be lost.  lost to addiction lost to prostitution. lost to mental illness. lost in their society by their society.

daughters. sons. fathers. sisters. grandmothers. our neighbours.  do we ignore their plight and continue on our way? or do we help?

it was mae west that said, “love conquers all things except toothaches and poverty”.

itd be great to prove her wrong.

so whats it gonna take?

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