Archives for the month of: May, 2012

I have long prayed the Lord’s Prayer.

I have long uttered the words, “give us this day our daily bread”.

I have maybe never meant it as much as now.

I am learning to really, truly, deeply in my gut believe that God is going to provide enough.

My version of “enough” has maybe been skewed in the past. What I was really asking for was an over-abundance, or certainly more than was needed.

Money is scarce at PNC. On Monday I spent $72 at the grocery store. Honestly every time I go to use the debit card my stomach turns a little with the anticipation that there might not be enough. But there was, and we had a beautiful meal that was shared with more than 100 people.

I am not looking for a lot. I truly am looking for enough- enough to have this community continue into the future. Part of “enough” in this sense is finding a building to house our Monday Drop-In. I admittedly have been getting nervous as we near the end of our time at 201 Cowan Avenue. Well…drumroll, please…

We have a place! We are moving into a space at Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church that is bright, fully accessible, bigger than what we’re leaving and only one block away. They have very warmly welcomed us and extended much grace in terms of rent. This indeed feels miraculous.

We have received our daily bread. And it is, in every sense of the word, enough.

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Since I seem to be on a roll with confessions, here’s another one: I find fundraising difficult (says the one endeavouring to raise her own salary and funding for PNC ). The problem is not a lack of faith in what I’m doing. Not only do I love it, I believe in it. I think the problem is that money makes me uncomfortable. I often lament the necessity of money and long for the day it becomes obsolete. The divide between those with much and those with little  is all too obvious. I neither live on the street, nor in a mansion. My reality is that I fall into the middle category. I live in a house with running water, a well-stocked fridge and a warm bed. Certainly relative to much of this world I am indeed rich.

So how do I proceed?

One of my favourite authors, Henri Nouwen, wrote a book called “A Spirituality of Fundraising”.  This little book has proven pivotal for me. In it Nouwen says, “fundraising is first of all, a form of ministry. It is a way of announcing your vision, and inviting other people into your vision with the resources that are available to them.” He further points out that, “fundraising is precisely the opposite of begging”.

I asked my daughter Cate to describe what she understands the vision of PNC to be. She said, “you let people in”. How beautifully straightforward and totally worth announcing.

I’m not here to beg. I’m not here to guilt anyone in to giving. For those of you who know me you’ll know this to be true. I’m simply here to extend the invitation to come in. Come in to share a meal, come in to make some art, come in to talk about your doubts, come in to have a chat, come in to discover how participating looks for you. I am grateful no matter what you decide, whether it be to get involved, support from afar or simply remember that this ministry exists.

The invitation stands: come on in. Let’s co-create something beautiful.

 

Almost twenty years ago I began spending time with people who live outside on the street. I grew up living in the north end of Toronto, where I rarely came face-to-face with the reality of homelessness. I don’t claim it didn’t exist there, just that it wasn’t entirely visible. However, living in the city certainly meant that I had the opportunity to occasionally witness a person lying on a hot air grate, covered with a sleeping bag or panhandling for money or selling their body for sex.

While studying for a music degree I encountered a fellow student named Joe Elkerton. With his big presence, an incredible story of his own, a passion for people and street smarts he introduced me to street ministry. I will forever be grateful. He helped me to get to know the names of the people who I noticed as a child.

With a team of people (including my now husband Dion) I would spend countless hours roaming the downtown to talk with people and provide a bagged lunch. We would go out into the wee hours, often ending the night at Fran’s- the only restaurant open as late as we were up. I loved sitting in the Royal Bank Plaza parking lot with my friends camped out in their cardboard boxes; hanging out on the benches in Allan Gardens hearing people’s stories; sharing a quick cup of hot chocolate with the women working on Jarvis Street. It was in these unexpected places that I discovered how present Jesus is with His broken people.

I also learned how people are just PEOPLE. While these friends wore their brokenness very close to the surface, I was just as broken, having learned all too well how to shove it down. On the street I was taught (and continue to learn) about being vulnerable about my own weakness and accepted as I am. I was given the opportunity to extend that same kind of welcome.

The Jesus I believe in made a point of hanging out with “the least of these”, the people the Pharisees felt He shouldn’t. Jesus welcomed people. It’s no wonder really that His fingerprints are all over every part of the city, particularly the parts that appear dingy and dark on the exterior.

I continue to love being outside with people, though I don’t often hand out bagged lunches anymore. Over time I have discovered that the bagged lunch was actually a tool for me to initiate conversation. I don’t wish to diminish the obvious need for food- I just seek to provide it in a venue like the PNC Drop-In. While I’m outside I am on the turf of my friends, a place where I get fed a different kind of food.

Having recently celebrated a birthday, I had reason to ponder the passage of time. Time, in my opinion, is a very strange thing. I often look at my daughter and can’t recall when she wasn’t with us and yet I cannot believe I am the mother of an almost 10-year-old. I look at my nephew and can remember the moment I first held him and yet he’s almost four, the same amount of years it has been since my Dad died. Oh time, where do you go?

I have a pretty vivid memory of being a young child and having a chat with my great-grandmother. I was small and she seemed so BIG. I remember her white hair and fragile skin. She told me that while she was in her nineties, she still felt seventeen inside. I admit that I couldn’t believe what my young ears were hearing. Now I get it.

I am someone who has never been good at guessing someone’s age. Nor do I love announcing my own. It’s not really that I fear aging, it’s actually that I have come to believe age just doesn’t matter. When I was a teen everyone thought I was older than I was; now people think I’m younger than I am. Some might argue this is a good thing, but for me it has always presented a huge challenge. I oftentimes feel like I don’t quite fit. So, I have decided to not worry about my age- in fact, I honestly have to occasionally figure out what age I am.

I am grateful for life and certainly thankful for the opportunity to experience another birthday. Yesterday at the PNC Drop-In countless people said, followed by a wink: “so Erinn, this is number 22 right?”.

Yes, 22 again. And again.

 

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”

Ah, Dr. Suess.

I thought about this quote when someone walked into the drop-in today and said, “is it true? Are we really leaving the building?”

To which I replied, “yes, it’s true. Please hear though, we are not CLOSING, we are MOVING.”

“To where?”

“We don’t know yet. We’ll move to the park if we have to though”.

“You’re determined aren’t you?”

“You bet. Let’s be determined together”.

“This is so crazy, it might just work”.

Yes, my friend- I think it will.

Bus-y-ness (biz-ee-nis), noun. I looked this word up in the dictionary and was interested to learn that it originated in 1849. That’s only 163 years ago. It seems that “the quality or condition of being busy” is a relatively modern issue.

Life is busy whether we like it or not. That’s just the reality. However, we also must concede that much of it is self-imposed. I admit that I know how to be busy. I can easily make a long list of things to do, including juggling multiple events in a single day. I have sometimes been accused of being the busiest person around. Hmm. I don’t know if that’s such a good thing. As I ponder this, I realize that it’s not that I need to reduce my daily load to nothing, it’s that I need to carefully consider exactly what I choose to include. I need to decide what I value.

When it comes down to it, I most value relationship: relationship with my God, my spouse, my child, my extended family, friends and community. This means that being intentional about communing with God is key, ensuring that I’m home to cook dinner matters, that meeting PNC’s neighbour for coffee is important, and that listening to a friend and being generally present to people is precious.

I feel especially challenged these days to not get caught up in thinking about everything that needs to be done. When I think about the gigantic list, I get handcuffed, not knowing where to start or when to stop. I instead need to focus on what is necessary for me to do, right in the moment. Sometimes this means responding to e-mails, or kissing a scraped knee, or actively fund-raising, or seeing my counsellor, or scouting a new location for PNC. I am learning that I can’t do it all, all at once. Nor am I called to.

Coming to this understanding brings new freedom. I am free to treat each day as a new one, seeking to do the tasks of that day well. I am released to rest and not worry about tomorrow.

Because really, none of us know what tomorrow holds. We do know what’s right in front of us.

When I walked into the ICU today I was greeted with my Mom’s usual smile and a strong, “hello sweetie”. Yes! She’s back!

She will remain in ICU for now, which is really the best place for her to be monitored and cared for closely. Once the tests show that the infection is under control (which is likely soon) she will return to her room, just three floors up.

I had the opportunity to read aloud the blog I wrote entitled “My Mom” to her today. I didn’t get through saying that title before crying. I wept throughout the reading, so grateful that she could hear how loved she is.

My Mom was pleased to be described as one that “lingers”.

That she certainly does.

And I’m thankful for it.