Tag Archives: community

The word of the day…and of life

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here, as there’s been rather a lot going on within my life outside The Dale; housing changes, family changes, community and individual relationship changes. Most of these changes have been good, and also tiring… as change often is.

But I have a story that I’ve been meaning to share for weeks, and now I finally will 🙂

One Monday, I was about to head off to our meal drop in, and was telling one of my housemates how overwhelmed I was feeling by the hard things going on in the lives of people around me, and in my own head/heart. After rhyming off the list of things I was mulling over, I said, “But I know there’s hope. There has to be hope.”

When I got to drop in, a conflict that had been simmering for months erupted. Both parties felt misunderstood and wronged, and I had no clue how/if the situation could be mediated. Then, miraculously, one of the people involved suddenly came around to the other person’s point of view, and they agreed to shake hands. I was so genuinely shocked that I burst into tears, and couldn’t get my act together for a good five minutes! Both folks have been part of the Dale for a while, and this turn of events is evidence that they have both come a long way, by God’s grace. Evidence that change is possible. Hope.

A while later, a dear mentor/friend of mine came in with a gift for me. It was her “God loves Parkdale” t-shirt, and a note with this verse:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). Hope!

I’ve had to the chance to describe my understanding of Christianity to a few new friends recently. I’ve realized that, to me, my faith all comes down to this one word: HOPE.

I believe that in the beginning there was God, God’s creation and relationships, and it was good.

I believe that in the end, there will be God, God’s new creation, and relationships, and it will be good.

In the middle, we’ve really screwed things up, for ourselves, each other and the creation with which we were entrusted.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mean that death, sin and despair have been defeated, and that the end of the story will be good.

Hope. It’s all we’ve really got, and it’s enough.

The beauty of spilling out

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When Erinn or I tell the story of The Dale, we often say that roughly three years ago we spilled out into the streets. The Dale (then PNC) could no longer afford to pay rent, and the decision was made to become a church without our own walls, rather then shut our (figurative) doors completely.

This way of being a roaming church has become a huge part of our identity, and sometimes I even forget that it’s not “normal”. Having no space of our own has it’s challenges, for SURE, but on days like today I am reminded anew of the beautiful blessing that it is to be a mobile church.

There is some work being done on the space that we usually inhabit on Wednesdays, and so we moved our art and breakfast drop-in into the park! It was the loveliest morning. We shared a simple meal of muffins, fruit and coffee. Some of us did some art, and some of us created music. We were able to connect with folks in the neighbourhood that we don’t usually see, and enjoyed being outside under the warm sun. The community was not at all thrown off by our change of location, since we have all become used to moving around, and being The Dale wherever two or more of us we end up!

At one point, a man came over and complimented the musicians on their rendition of “Sultans of Swing”, saying that he thought someone had been playing it on the radio. He was delighted to find the two of them playing it live. It turns out that this gentleman is a classical music radio show host! He was intrigued by our gathering, and took Erinn’s business card. While nothing more may come of this encounter, it was super encouraging, and another reminder of the neat things that can happen when we spill out into the neighbourhood and make ourselves open to new friendships.

I am grateful for days like today.

Gratitude

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I realized the other day that I haven’t done any blogging in a while, and I think it’s because things are still pretty difficult around The Dale, and within myself. Many good things have happened… and over all it’s been tough slogging. I don’t want to downplay or diminish the hard things, but I do want to take this blog post to name the things for which I am really grateful. And, in honour and anticipation of our upcoming Photo Exhibit (opening July 23rd at Gallery 1313 on Queen West… come!), I thought I’d use some pictures I’ve snapped over the last few weeks.

So, I am grateful for:

Our community garden plot, tended entirely by the community

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Sidewalk reminders

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Parkdale sunsets

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Backyard bonfires

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Friends who like to swing from vines

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Friends with farms and pies

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Colourful little critters found at farms

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More graffiti reminders

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Good poetry (thanks Wendell Berry!)

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Cherries picked blocks and hours from our drop in

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As Anne Lamott says, “Awful stuff happens and beautiful stuff happens, and it’s all part of the big picture. In the face of everything, we slowly come through… And at some point, we cast our eyes to the beautiful skies… and we whisper, ‘thank you.’ ”  (Help, Thanks, Wow, pg 51)

The gift of giving

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As December gets rolling, everything around us tells us to think about giving gifts. Like I said in my last post, I have a lot of thoughts about this… but for today I want to ponder an alternative way of thinking about gift giving, which applies all year long.

Central to the vision/mission statement of The Dale is the idea that all people are welcomed into full participation; all are encouraged to share the gifts that they have been given with the rest of the community. These gifts might include food prep, music, art, time spent on outreach, insights shared at Bible study, and any number of other things.  This invitation to both give and receive is important to us, because too often folks who are on the margins find themselves passive recipients, and are robbed of the opportunity to give.

Over my time at Sanctuary and the Dale, I have been the recipient of many precious gifts: smiles and hugs, words of deep wisdom and encouragement right when I needed them most, shared meals, wild (or something like that!) flowers, cards and little items. I have a treasure box where I keep a delightful assortment of bracelets, key chains, toys, a baseball, etc. One of my most treasured gifts is a french onion soup bowl that was given to me by a friend who heard me say that I’d like to buy a butter dish 🙂

Last week I received a beautiful piece of writing from a new friend at the Dale. He said that I could share it with you. Here it is, just as he wrote it:

Trust Jesus

Trust him in the dark places of your mind. Trust him in the light. When everything is wrong, you have to trust him. Trust him in the valley; trust for every moment of your life. Thank him for every breath you take. Trust him he gave the the newness of life, from the dead through his blood. Trust him for he never fail. Jesus is not a failure. If you put your trust in a man you are heading for trouble because man always fails. Put not your trust in man, man will fail and sometimes laugh at you, so put your trust in Jesus not in any many. Jesus he deliver from the dead not me so you trust Jesus. Jesus he is the only one. He made you. Jesus is the Lord God the creator of life there is no other way but through Jesus his blood gave you salvation. Trust him with all your heart. It is Jesus it is Jesus.

So friends, may we remember that giving is a gift, and that the most precious gifts usually aren’t tangible. And in this season of gift giving, may we hope for, long for, and ache for the arrival of The Gift. It is Jesus it is Jesus.

Experiences of redemption and gezelligheid

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November has been a very full month so far!

I am part of a team of that worked together over the last few months to plan a conference for young women in ministry, which we called “Junia’s Daughters” (Junia is mentioned in Romans 16:7, as being “outstanding among the apostles”. Her name was mistranslated “Junias”- a male name- for many years, as translators couldn’t fathom the idea of a female apostle). On November 8th, a group of about 80 women came together at Wycliffe College to worship, discuss, pray, eat, and listen to and share stories and experiences. It was a wonderful day, and I feel so blessed that I was able to be a part of it. We honoured the strength and courage of the women who have gone before us, gave thanks for the many ways that women are now allowed to participate in vocational ministry, and acknowledged the struggles and barriers that we still face.

Two days later, when I was opening up The Dale’s Monday drop-in, I looked around and had a wonderful realization. I was surrounded by eight men, of different ages and stages of life, each busily preparing for drop in; setting tables, chopping vegetables, starting up the stove. A little later we were joined by a number of women who are also essential to the running of our Monday meal. But in that moment, these men were naturally, happily, carrying out tasks that have traditionally been delegated to women. This was not intentional, and I doubt that anyone else even noticed. And to me this felt very redemptive; a glimpse of the kingdom where everyone uses the gifts they have been given, without regard for prescribed roles and gender norms.

The next week, The Dale held a “Fun Fair Fundraiser”, where we invited one and all to come and play games, have their faces painted, square dance, bid on pies, eat chili, fudge and caramel apples, enjoy a concert by The Lovelocks (a Toronto-based country/folk band), and learn more about The Dale. Our incredible Board of Directors did much of organizing for this event, and a beautiful team of volunteers from Parkdale and beyond helped it all come together. We were blown away by the number of people who showed up, celebrated with us, connected with life at The Dale, and donated. I think the best word to describe the event is “gezelligheid”, an untranslatable Dutch word that encompasses the words “cozy, fun, quiant, nice atmosphere” and also “belonging, time spent with loved ones, the fact of seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness that gives a warm feeling”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gezelligheid). Basically, it was pretty awesome 🙂

I can’t describe how grateful I am for these experiences. Thank you to everyone who helped make these events happen, to everyone who makes up these remarkable communities, and to the good Lord for bringing us all together. Here’s to many more moments of redemption and gezelligheid!

Home is where the heart is

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Erinn and I have noticed a distinct increase in concerns surrounding housing recently. A couple of people are fearing eviction because of bed bugs. Others are hoping for a more stable living situation, or just any living situation for a few months over the winter. The changing of the seasons is definitely contributing to the sense of urgency to find a place to call home.

But, as we all know, there’s a big difference between a house and a home. Erinn wrote a great article about this in our fall newsletter, which you can read here:

https://thedaleministries.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/the-dale-october-newsletter.pdf

While The Dale doesn’t have walls of it’s own, we are becoming, by the grace of God, a community that acts as home.

We find ourselves at home when we cook together.

We find ourselves at home when we pick tomatoes from our garden and swap stories about our favourite recipes.

We find ourselves at home when we work on a crossword together.

We find ourselves at home when we study the Bible together and grapple with tough of questions.

We find ourselves at home when we remind each other to take out the garbage.

We find ourselves at home when we share our dearest dreams with one another, and accept comfort when our plans fall through.

We find ourselves at home when we know each other’s quirks, and pick up each other’s mannerisms.

We find ourselves at home when we come together to praise and pray to the One who knows us, loves us, and draws us into the eternal home of divine love.

Please join us in praying as we seek affordable, clean spaces in which our friends can live (which is becoming increasingly difficult as Parkdale gentrifies), and as we continue to make home in our relationships with God  and each other.

home is where the heart is

The beauty of shooting the breeze

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I just got home from outreach in Parkdale. It was a cold, rainy night, so not many people were out and about. We ended up spending the majority of our time in Tim Horton’s, chatting with friends from the community who had joined us on our walk, and friends that we happened upon at Tim’s. This felt like the loveliest and most natural thing to do. We drank coffee, shot the breeze, tried to crack a “super fiendish” sudoku (with no success), and had a nice time.

Partway through, a middle-aged Tibetan man sitting at the next table leaned over and said to me, “Excuse me… Who are you? Are you a social worker?” I explained that I work at The Dale, and described our community. We chatted for a while, and I learned a bit about his life. He asked me more questions about The Dale, and my role there. He still seemed a little confused, and I could tell that he was trying to make sense of what he was seeing–  Erinn and I sitting around, chatting with (what happened to be, in this moment) a group of six somewhat tough-looking older guys… Our friends.

I love that this what I get to do with my time. I love that shooting the breeze with my friends is an important part of my role, because it represents a mutual investment in our relationship. And it’s in the context of relationship that beautiful things can happen.

Like conversations at Bible study last night about the meaning of “fear”, what we fear most, and what it means for Jesus to tell us to fear God in one verse (Matt 10:28), and then not to fear at all, because He knows and loves us deeply, three verses later (Matt 10:31).

Like making phone calls to landlords, and working together to secure housing for a friend earlier today.

Like being told by a friend that she’s starting to knit a head band for me, to keep me warm while I bike in the winter.

It’s only in relationship that these things get to happen. And Jesus showed us by example that it’s by investing time in one another that relationships form. I’m glad that my new Tibetan friend from Tim Horton’s got to see that this is what we’re about, and I hope that I get to shoot the breeze with him in the future too.

We’re on each other’s team

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A good friend and I often remind each other that “we’re on each other’s team”. By this we mean that we’ve got each other’s backs, we’re cheering for each other, and we believe in each other.

I’ve been noticing lots of examples of this around the Dale recently too:

A woman in distress came up to me and asked when the food bank would be open next. I didn’t know, off hand, but asked another community member who did. We’re on each other’s team.

A community member has a big dream to get his art out into the wider world. Erinn and I were taking him downtown to follow a potential lead, and another member from the community offered to come along for moral support. He also kept us laughing the entire time. We’re on each other’s team.

This same friend, who came along for the ride, has the daunting task of looking for a new housing situation. Another community member recently went with him to check out some possible apartments. We’re on each other’s team.

While we were on night time outreach last week, a dear friend who lacks any sort of stable housing told us “If you have any trouble, you come right back here and find me.” We’re on each other’s team.

A person who struggles with anger management, and has torn a strip off me way more than once, saw me parking my bike in Parkdale one evening. He asked me “Don’t you ever stop? You’re always on the go! You need to take a break! Go home and put your feet up!” Despite the fact that he sometimes seems determined not to be, in that moment he was on my team, and I think he knows that I’m on his too.

A friend recently came up with an entrepreneurial scheme to get himself out of poverty. He told us about it excitedly, and then yelled “Red rover, red rover, calling Jesus over!” I love that. As joking as he was being, I think he knows that there’s One who he really needs on his team.

I’m so grateful to be part of this wildly diverse, eclectic, beautiful and blessed team.

Welcoming the stranger

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Today a group of junior youth from Stouffville visited Parkdale. Together, we did some cleaning in one of the spaces that we use throughout the week, bought some more plants for our garden plot, and talked about what The Dale is/does/stands for. And then we split into groups and walked around the neighbourhood.

As we walked, the group I was with was greeted by folks from the community, who welcomed these young people to Parkdale. A number of times, community members invited these new friends to come to our lunch on Monday. When the youth explained that they live in Stouffville, folks responded with something like “well, you’re always welcome!”

I love that this group was able to come and lend a hand at The Dale today. The cleaning needed to be done, the plants needed to be planted, and the water that was handed out needed to be consumed. And I REALLY love that this group experienced the warm hospitality of this community. The folks of The Dale reminded me and this group what it’s all about: welcoming the stranger.

 

welcome to pdale

Stumbling along The Way

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Erinn wrote a great post this morning about a question that we sometimes hear… “What difference does The Dale make?” I really couldn’t have answered that question any better, so here is her response:

http://erinnoxford.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/whats-the-diff/

One of the lines reads: “The journey is not a straight-line: it is marked with fumbles and missteps and requires patience and grace.” As Erinn would agree, this applies to all of us.

I have felt the weight of my own fumbles and missteps quite keenly this week. I have lost patience, offended people without meaning to, missed important verbal and non-verbal ques from those around me… I have come face to face with my brokenness; my humanness.

And I have received beautiful gifts from God, through this community. In a moment when I was feeling particularly out of sorts, someone I had just met shared some words of encouragement that nearly knocked me over with their grace-infused potency. A good friend gave us a thoughtful gift- a plaque with a poem called “Don’t Quit”, encouraging us to keep on keeping on.

I’ve also seen a number of those “almost imperceptible” changes that Erinn mentions. A friend who often comes across as very angry with the world started a conversation by thanking me for a bit of help we were able to offer last week… and then didn’t say a single angry thing in the whole conversation. Another friend who is marginalized in a number of ways explained to us that he hopes his music will contribute to peace, and that he intends to keep working on getting it out, into the world.

So, as we stumble along the road leading to ultimate restoration in the Kingdom, we remind each other to keep on keeping on by the grace, and through the strength, of God.

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