Saturday, March 23, 2013

This One's For YOU!!!

By now you must have figured out that I have had a “love/hate” relationship with Jesus’ church. I have never been hurt more than by good church-going people. Granted, I brought a significant part of that on myself. But, I don’t see “my church” as one particular geographical location, but instead I see it as collection of mentors, friends, family, and colleagues all over the world, of all nationalities who have helped influence, mentor, support and guide me even before I signed on the dotted line with Jesus back at Paul Smith’s College in January of 1979 in frigid cold Saranac Lake, NY. During the first year in Cambodia, you were the organization’s member care person who helped me through an extremely tough time. You were the colleague who let me overly depend on you, while we established a ministry. You were the pastor who knew how to cut through all my rationalization and BS. You were the tall, lanky, Int’l church member who went out of his way to be friendly and kind to me. You were the young wet-behind the ears young boss in a large NGO who couldn’t stand me at first but who showed patience and love to me anyway. You were the friend who invited me to join your organization, and who stuck with me even when they threw me out. You were the pastoral intern serving at my hometown church who kept encouraging me and supporting me when others as dropped as they heard of my impending divorce. You were the three mission pastors from the PNW who supported me through thick and thin. You were the pastor who organized my restoration service. You were the landlord who rented a house to my family on Mercer Island way below going price. And you are the landlord in Bellevue who ensures I have a comfortable place to lay my head. You were the old carpenter who sold me your truck for dirt cheap. You were the parent who was always there. You were the donor (friend and colleague) whose generosity ensured that my family survived the divorce and that I finished my MA. You are the handful of people who give me reason to come to church on Sunday so I can you. You are the Cambodian/Americans in CT and WA who knew no bounds to love and hospitality. You are my email pen pals who I process theology with. You are the counselors who helped point me to the way to healing. You are that mentor who helps me process all my baggage every Tuesday night. You are my group therapy sojourners who make me look forward to Wednesday nights. You are my children who teach and sharpen me. You are those who I met at rock bottom, who helped lift me out of the pit. You are the all the graduates of DP, and the children at the Center of Peace Orphanage. All of YOU have been there for me; whether friends, family, colleagues or supporters, are the Jazzy Piggies of my life, and you are my church. THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Thank you for believing in the God of new beginnings and in a God that is bigger than our doctrine sometimes allows Him to be.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

In the Belly of the Whale

GECKO TAILS February 9, 2013 The Irishman The slope on the side of Rte. 95 in Bridgeport was wet, slippery and entangled in bittersweet vines and small gnarly bushes (not shrubs). The Irishman (a recovering Catholic) and I were conscripted by Bartlett Tree Experts and exiled to two miserable days on a dreary, drizzly March day to clear a vista for a billboard on the side of Rt. 95. He cut, and I dragged the brush-entangled-in-vines to the wood chipper at the bottom of the slope, trying in vain to feed them into the chipper. Wood chippers do not do vines very well. Between the chainsaws, traffic on 95, and the wood chipper, we could barely communicate. The only other job that ranked this low on the misery scale was scrubbing the pigeon droppings off the Bonanza Steakhouse sign when I was 17. After an eternity passed, lunch time rolled around and we drove down the street to the deli. The Irishman, trailing sawdust, muddy footprints, and crushed bittersweet vine berries dropping from his vibrum soles said in his Irish brogue; “I’ll be having a ham and cheese sandwich with onions… on rye. Just one slice of ham and one slice of cheese.” This was way outside of the deli attendant’s box as she was used to making sandwiches with ham an inch think, cheese an inch thick, and a half-pint of mayo/mustard mix. The conversation that ensued was one I will never forget. Conal was raised along with 9 other children in an impoverished family solely on potatoes in Northern Ireland for most of his 30 years and he could make a typical deli sandwich last for three days for a family of 10. The deli attendant did not appreciate being pushed outside of her box, as she was so conditioned to cater to conspicuous consumers and over kill, so she punished the Irishman by charging him a full $6.50 for one slice of ham, one slice of cheese and a few onions between two pieces of bread. I was a fly on the wall during this exchange, just hanging in the background, making my way through an inch of roast beef and an inch of cheese slapped between two pieces of bread-with a half pint of mayo and mustard (but this was not lost on me). There are many other stories about Conal the Irishman but if they were all recorded, they could not be contained in any one book. The point is, and if I may use the sandwich metaphor, ‘I have become like the Irishman’s sandwich!’ Stripped down, bare bones, not fitting acceptable social paradigms and certainly not marketable there, but healthier and simpler. But like with Conal, there is always a price pay for simplicity. But, I am now packing a new type of influence among a particular type of people-those who are in the belly of the whale. See my life purpose statement below- Purpose Statement: “Teaching men and women how to trust their time in the belly of the whale.” I am really grateful for a handful of individuals close by and some afar who have walked alongside me for these last four years. Without some of you paying attention to my recent journey in the belly, it would have been unbearable. Once in a while, it is great to hear kind and comforting words from afar-well, for the most part anyway. But I’ll take what I can get! From Connecticut “I have always found you to be thoughtful ... As in thinking...not necessarily considerate, but you are thoughtful. And it seems that a lot of your thought centers on caring for others. As in those you are ministering to. Also, you are adventurous, which I think is a GREAT characteristic. Others may find that enviable or intimidating. Guess it depends on their risk comfort level. Mine is high. And you are a good communicator. The few times we got to talk face to face I enjoyed it. Also, a good communicator in your writings- not the usual boring updates. Insightful, well written, a tad off beat... Apparently dedicated -who can fault that? Dedicated to your field. Dedicated enough to start and finish advanced degrees and then figure out a way to get back where you believe you belong. Don't know how this translates to interpersonal relationships but from where I sit ... dedicated.” D Also from Connecticut “It’s been awesome to see you rise up out of the ashes (so to speak) and press on in your Journey. God has given you strength and perseverance during your weakest moments and blessed your faithfulness by giving you Bophal and her family (and many other blessings I’m sure). I'm encouraged and pray, that as this chapter of your life unfolds, others will hear your testimony and trust and believe in our mighty God who is able to do what we could never imagine. I can't wait to see what other blessings God has in store for you :).” M Newsy News: • I have been accepted by BREAKTHROUGH PARTNERS of Edmonds, WA- A really great fit for me. This organization is about collaborative partnership and the building up national church leaders to engage in effective partnerships. • I plan to leave for Cambodia this summer to resume ministry there. Jordan will be coming for the summer to test the waters, and if he likes it, he will stay for the school year. • I will also be hitting the support raising trail which means you might be hearing from me. Please be thinking about venues for me, or individuals who might be interested in supporting someone who has come out of the crucible with so much more to offer. • I am engaged to a wonderful Cambodian woman by the name of Bophal (43) who is the founder and director of the Center of Peace Orphanage in Phnom Penh. I have known her family since 1990. From the mid-90’s she volunteered as a workshop leader for many of our youth camps, and mentored our emerging leaders in the Diamond Program. I never had much contact with her accept for a ‘hello’ when our paths occasionally crossed at camp until Seila re-introduced us in 2011. Peace to you,
Brian M. Maher 206-307-5061