I like to think that I’ve been to a few places in this big world. I’ve been to beautiful landscapes, to huge cities with buildings trying to reach into heaven, to cities built on poverty, to places so plain and flat you could walk for days and barely get tired, but never have I been to a place that smells like, literally, poop. Well, this is the case here in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Randomly, for an unknown reason, the air gets a heavy smell of poop that ahs been sitting around for ages. It nearly makes me vomit sometimes, and at least makes me mad. Oh well, we are in a new port now, and it is a big ol’ city again. We are expecting tons of people to visit, and I have some really cool opportunities with sports ministry, and hopefully with swing. Last night we presented our ministries to all the new recruits, and I had another chance to swing, and quite a few people showed interest. I even got all three of us to dress up in Football jerseys and baseball hats!
That reminds me that I haven’t mentioned a new PST joining. Well, in the last port, Tobago, 94 new people came on the ship after a month long training process to spend 2 years of their life here. It’s a rather humbling experience seeing 94 new people, and realizing how insignificant one is. The night they joined there was a small party, and one of my good friends is back on board now after being home, and I am his brother. A few days after they came, I held a basketball game, then swing dance the next day, taking advantage of their eagerness to get involved.
I also had a chance to get to know a woman named Julie. Julie was one of our security guards in Tobago, and was a great person. She was in her 40’s (I think) and was very quizzical about what a Christian life entails. We talked on grace and responsibility, and of the bible. She had so many questions as what one could do. I saw a process where people had been talking to her since the ship had come, and I filled only a small role. I just sat and listened to her concerns and ideas, then told her she should get her own bible. This brought even more questions about what kind, which translation I read, etc. In the end she bought a bible (NIV) and was excited to know God personally, something which I think the world needs to be more excited about.
Another cool opportunity I had was to play an actual basketball game versus a local team. They were young, and pretty good. We lost 27-34, but put up a good fight. After the game, the girls played and got hammered, but that’s okay. We then brought a few of the guys back to the ship for dinner, not much good conversation, but I feel glad they could see the ship. I expect many more basketball opportunities including one at a local juvenile prison! Exciting, isn’t it?
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The last days have been a time I’ve enjoyed a lot, a valuable time with God. Since I’ve come back, I felt as though something was missing, like I wasn’t there yet with God, like I still had so very far to go. The truth is that I do have miles to run still before I can come close to being who I need to be, and this had been bugging me for the couple of weeks I was here. A busy schedule right off the bat hindered my mind from being too wrapped up in it though, and when I finally got time this past week to breath, it all haunted me.
I was on Firerounds again, which means I was up all night basically alone. This always proves for time for me to think, reflect, and read. I found myself in tears in two or three different occasions, and found myself rather crappy feeling. At one point, before my watch I wrote this:
My toes gripped the soft, water logged pine beneath me as my heart was gripped with fear. “Here I am again” I whispered to myself as the water gently glided into the dock and the gulls laughed at my cowardice. I hate seagulls.
“If they could feel the fear of the unknown, then they wouldn’t be laughing at me,” I told myself rather convincingly. “I’d be the one laughing if they were diving in to this lake. Freaking seagulls, I hate ‘em”
“They’d dive in,” another voice within chimed, “without even thinking. You know that water is plenty deep, yet you are afraid of breaking that fat neck of yours.”
This may seem odd to some, that I talk to myself, but the truth is that we don’t get along very well, and this is a regular thing when I am on the edge of a choice. He always seems to seek the exact opposite of what I want. It’s quite a dichotomy within my mind. He’s a jerk.
“Screw you,” was my defensive retort.”You think you know everything, don’t you! Well… You… You never know what could happen. Maybe a shark will be down there, or even a… a Manta ray, since they can kill people too! Yea, you never know what I could dive into! Think about all those possibilities, idiot!”
The breeze beat against my naked torso as the sun prepared for its rest, and the warmth of the twilight wind mixed with a long day seemed to draw my body closer to the edge, even if it was to just cool off. The wind beating the nearby trees that marked my path was the concert that surrounded, and it seemed as if my other voice had been silenced by my ridiculous protests. I had seemingly prevailed in denying my whims.
“Fool,” harshly exclaimed my mind.” You are nothing but a coward, and an ass. I mean really, sharks? Manta rays? Seriously? You couldn’t be any dumber. You know this is fresh water; you’ve even waded in it before. What the hell are you afraid of?”
He was right, no doubt about it, and I hate when he’s right. I had no response, kind of like a kid caught stealing a candy bar. My mind blanked, and my face flushed as the anger and embarrassment mixed into a mess of self-loathing. The clouds drew in on the dim light, and my instinct rose in my defense.
“I told you once that I could break my neck, and there’s no need to cuss,” I said in a rather childish tone. ”That’d be a lot of fun for everyone then, wouldn’t it. My whole life would be ruined! Everything I love; sports, outdoors, walking; would come to a halt. Everything I hate would begin! Why, I don’t even thi…”
“What are you afraid of little boy?” he rudely interrupted, his tone getting much more serious and angry. To be honest, he was absolutely right. I knew how deep it was, and I knew that nothing lethal waited beneath the waters. The bottom had to be at least 100 feet down, so I knew that it’s take some skills to reach it even without the proper equipment. So I quickly had to think of another excuse.
“Well,” it came,”what if my friends hated me after? You know they can’t swim, and they’d know I did because I’d be all wet. I don’t have a towel anyways, and it’s damn near dark out. One can’t wander about in the dark all wet and cold. I might get sick mate! I would need to dry off, and then I could find my way back. Plus, I really like the underwear I hav…”
“WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?” This time it nearly shook my mind off of its hinges, and again I lost my train of thought. By now the moon was showing off the lake, and the air had become rather perfect, but not for swimming. I was weary, and my legs sore, so I told myself I’d come back tomorrow.
These were some of the thoughts rolling around my head, like I couldn’t dive fully into God’s grace; I couldn’t give up myself in honor of my King. This was devastating as I know that this is what we are called for, to dive into all God has made for us, and to worship him constantly. I know that we are called to love those around us with no prejudice or hate, yet I felt like I was so far from being who I should be. So for a while I was stuck in between these feelings and not knowing where to go next. I was also reading a book called “Blue Like Jazz” that opened my eyes to the prejudice I hold against a few groups of people, and that the main call to us is to love people, from our best friends, to the arrogant, self-righteous Christian (my hardest task), all the way to the flaming liberal and the homosexuals. But this was all still so hard on me, so I was still very down on myself.
One great thing about Firerounds is that I get a chance to see the sunrise. Let me tell you, God is the greatest of artists. I would stand on the Quayside just watching the dawn unfold, in absolute awe of my maker. I would actually take the time to let God whisper, and attempt to shut up my noisy mind. That’s when it came to me to just let go. It doesn’t matter how far I think I have to go, what matters is that God is very much alive in my life. What matters is that I am out here on an adventure trying to find a measure of spirituality in which I’ve never known, and I am starting to. God truly is a romantic; He gave me the sunrise when I needed it most. He gave me peace when I was at war within myself. He gave me the capacity to let go of my own self-criticism, and to just let Him work. I wrote this quick poem in reflection:
Another picture painted on an empty sky
Another breath you take from me
Another minute my mind is at ease
Another day I wish I could fly
Of all the wonders here on Earth
And all the beauty hung in the night
All the mystery of a virgin birth
Again I wish to take flight
I see your stroke surrounding my gaze
The penmanship upon this empty page
But it falls apart when I look at your face
For the only true is Your grace
I am now reading a book called “The Cross Centered Life” and it has some good truth to it. TO live always knowing we are redeemed for no reason. There is no logic to the grace we receive, but none-the-less, we receive it. So, it tells me, to not just follow God when the emotions are right, but always. Cast aside the shallow emotional faith, and equip faith that really believes and lives redeemed. Christ is alive and kicking in my life.
On the relaxing part of things, yesterday my PST celebrated our one year anniversary with ourselves. What a blessing! We went to a beach resort that let us go down into this awesome beach that was in a sort of cove, all by itself. We also were allowed use of the pool and to lounge around on the chairs. After a few hours there we came back to have a time of partying and prayer and fellowship. It reminded me how crazy time is, and one year seems like forever and yesterday at the same time. God bless my next year, and yours also.