the practice of resurrection

humbly learning to do the impossible

benedicere

“In Latin, to bless is benedicere,” writes Henri Nouwen. “The word ‘benediction’ that is used in many churches means literally: speaking (dictio) well (bene) or saying good things of someone. To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer… It is more than a word of praise or appreciation; it is more than pointing out someone’s talents or good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light. To give a blessing is to affirm, to say ‘yes’ to a person’s Belovedness.”

In Sri Lanka, all I have been is blessed.

This has come without speaking, without shared letters and syllables and participles.

This has come without doing, anything really, on my part. I have never been asked to perform. I have just come.

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(typical)

Blessing has come from Hiruni, who smoothed my forearms with her new lotion, and then gently, deliberately, dusted powder onto my face. Blessing has come from Heshan, as he ran from under the mango tree to give me three pieces of his precious birthday cake. Blessing has come from Nadeesha, Prasadi, and Madushani as they’ve combed and braided and woven flowers into my hair, and from Slewkamari, as she’s filled my plate at every meal, and poured water over my fingers afterward. Blessing has come as pastel sketches, as communal naps on the tile floor, as pipe cleaner bracelets and sweets and one cracked plastic duck that was thrust into my pocket as I was leaving. Blessing has come as Deepa Auntie, who squeezed limes and made rice, and did everything for me when I was sick. Blessing flows from all directions, every day, and pools around me until I’m completely saturated and undone by it.

“To give a blessing is to say ‘yes’ to a person’s Belovedness.”

This is the thing I came to Sri Lanka to do; to remind the children that they are God’s Beloved. I’ve had some long days of feeling hopelessly inadequate: But I don’t speak their language. But I’m not qualified. And the tangible reminder that I am more than enough has come through the children themselves, and their extravagant love.

charu

The other day a glitter fest happened in the art therapy room. We all left coated, with armoured fairytale scales that clung to our sweat-damp skin. When our friends saw us they came shrieking, rubbing cheek against cheek, elbow to elbow, claiming some of the sticky shiny stuff for themselves. Soon everyone was sparkling with all the shimmery colours of the rainbow, and everyone was happier. Four days later, the residuals are still clinging to eyelashes and winking up from under the collars of school uniforms.

“To give a blessing is to affirm, to say ‘yes’ to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: To give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.”

I can’t get that glitter fest off my mind. I think knowing our identity as God’s Beloved is like dancing in glitter, rolling in it. It’s shamelessly beautiful. It rubs off on other people. And there’s more than enough for everybody.

This week, God has been reminding me of how simple blessing others can be. How joy, creativity, and flourishing can come in part from a 5-ounce container of glitter purchased from Michael’s and stashed in my suitcase. How when I rest in the King’s presence, and let him bless me, blessing others becomes easy. Ministry is restful. It’s delightful. It’s like dancing in a glitter storm.

akashi

Art therapy sessions are going so well– joy and creativity are running wild! Praise Jesus. Please pray that these precious ones would be affirmed in their identity as His.

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“Ape Kadella– Our Nest.”

Yesterday marked the end of my first full week in Sri Lanka! The past eight days have been a colourful patchwork of meeting new friends,  drinking copious amounts of water, learning dozens of finger games and songs and words in Sinhala, and chilling (well, sweating) with the 25 beautiful, lively girls in their home. Today I’m back in the city of Colombo for internet time and Skype, and tomorrow I’ll travel back to my new home in Madampe. 

The farm in Madampe is called “Ape Kadella,” which means “Our Nest.” It’s a perfect name for a place designed to nurture, and provide safety, rest, and healing. The place is beautiful. On property are a home for boys, a home for girls, the Esther Centre, which is a safe house for widows, and the “campsite,” which is like a conference centre that various church groups can rent out for events. I am staying in a beautiful guest room at the campsite, and having all my meals with the girls in their home.

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Typical fare– I was so excited to eat this, I almost burnt my fingers. Some dishes are pretty spicy, but Sriracha sauce has been an excellent bootcamp for Sri Lanka. (I sort of pride myself on being the foreigner who doesn’t bat an eye at the chili sauces.) I’ve also been told I have a pretty good “spoon hand,” which I consider high praise…

 

Speaking of nests, there’s a squirrel’s nest perched on one of the rafters in the girls’ home. I guess the babies keep falling out, because the girls now have four baby laynas that sleep in a shoebox, lap milk from a spoon, and ride around nestled in the girls’ collarbones, or triumphantly perched on their heads.

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Meet choodi, the littlest layna. I think choodi breathes a secret sigh of relief when the girls go to bed at night. 

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Choodi photobombing on the left, while Slewkamari casually eats leaves.

The art therapy space here is marvellous. It’s light, spacious, and brightly painted; and its cupboards and shelves are crammed with better supplies than I could have dreamed of. My friend Sachini and I came in the other day with some of the kids, and wiped a year’s worth of dust off modelling clay, pastels, and water-colour paper.

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 All ready to go! 

On Monday, I began art therapy sessions with the children after school. Sachini came and helped me for the first two days, which was wonderful. She is about my age, and comes to Madampe once a week to provide counselling for the girls. I am so thankful for her kind spirit, her insight into the girls’ situations, and her ability to speak Sinhala! So far, we have done three group sessions with about ten children in each. Wednesday was my first day “flying solo,” and leading the group without someone to translate for me. In the coming days, I will continue the group sessions, and begin working with some of the children one-on-one.

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Pushpakamari and her finished self-portrait! First session with the seven and eight-year-olds. 

I have been so served during this past week in Sri Lanka– by gracious hosts and hostesses, who have gone to great lengths to care for me; by new friends who have made me feel part of a family from the start; and by the children; who have included me in their play and welcomed me into the centre of their lively home. Please pray for me as I find ways to serve in return. Pray for wisdom, creativity, and insight as I get to know the children better, and prepare activities to help meet their needs. 

The more I learn about the girls’ stories, and the traumas that some of them have experienced at such a young age, the more I am convinced that the work here is all the Holy Spirit’s. Only His love is strong enough, and His understanding deep enough, to bring new life and healing. And not only is He able, but He has given his promise. This is what anchors me. This is what gives me hope when I feel completely out of my league, as I prepare to do therapy with a troubled, 15-year-old boy whose language I can’t understand… 

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” II Corinthians 4:6

Thanks for all your lovin’, friends– and thanks for reading!

Peace.

Me on the floor by Emirates Air, oh so super-excited to point out my final destination on the floor-tiles! (Sri Lanka is the big island next to the Indian Peninsula.) My flight boards at 23:10, and then I’m bound straight on through the night to Dubai, for a posh six-hour layover where I’ll watch tomorrow night’s sunset (perhaps gleaming off the tallest building on planet earth? We’ll see…) I’ll arrive in Colombo, Sri Lanka, bright and early on Wednesday morning. (Check that nine- and-one-half-hour time difference.) SO THANKFUL. SO PUMPED. SO READY FOR INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL E.

“Practice resurrection.” -Wendell Berry

The title of this blog comes from the last line of a poem by one of my favorite writers. (The piece is called Manifesto: the Mad Farmer Liberation Front. It’s fantastic, and you can read it here.)

These words thrill me because they take an impossible idea, and turn it into a simple directive: Do the inconceivable. Bring what is dead, back to life. Practice resurrection.  I find this a good summary of the way I want to be on this earth. I’m a Christian, and Jesus’ radical teachings about forgiveness, love, and new life are what give me meaning and hope. Yet, Jesus was a revolutionary not for his ideas, but for how he translated his words into practical, powerful action. His words were always intended to be practice: Go, heal the sick. Set captives free. Be light in dark places. Raise the dead. Often I fail at this. I get lost in all the big ideas, or paralyzed by my own fear. Thank goodness for grace, which gently brushes me off, and band-aids my knees while I continue to practice.  So, this is a blog about humbly learning to do the impossible. It’s about taking heart without having all the answers. It’s about looking for beauty, and finding small green hopeful shoots first in my life, and then in other places.

I also figured keeping a blog would be the easiest way to keep friends updated on my life in Sri Lanka this summer, so you can check back here over the next nine weeks, and I’ll have pictures and stories to share!