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they say its your birthday...

Sunday, November 27, 2005
Well while I'm waiting for my laundry to be done so that I can pack to go back to ABQ, I figure I could do a little update on what has been going on.

I came home for Thanksgiving, which has been quite the adventure filled with spending a lot of time with my girls (plus Nick, Dan and Todd) from high school which was quite refreshing surprisingly enough. I also made it down to Champaign to hang out with some people today and though it had some not so great moments, overall it was a good time. I think the highlight of it was the fact that Drew managed to use perousia and realized eschatology in his sermon. AMAZING. Especially because most people probably didn't get those 2 words. Haha. Later all I could think about was how skilled the use of realized eschatology was. My friends rock.

So let's backtrack slightly. I love my job. On Monday before I left, things were pretty fishy around the office. Our adults in the program aren't so great at being sly, so I knew something was up. Seeing as how my birthday was yesterday, and I was leaving, I sort of assumed that there would be some sort of impromtu party. What I didn't know was that they would get me a cake and ice cream and even make a homemade card... the card said "Laura, you are the rose of Saranam. No matter how much crap we pile on you, you always come out smelling sweet." How sweet of them. ;-) But seriously, it was great to start my birthday week of like that.

I left on Tuesday to come home and had a chance to relax a bit and start to process everything I've done so far. I'm finding that I feel that though my job is demanding, it has been really rewarding so far. There seems to never be a dull moment, and I'm getting to know OB triage really well. One of our ladies is very pregnant and on Monday before I left, I even got to see her ultrasound.

I keep getting the question... what do I do actually? My answer is always something along the lines of "My title is support services coordinator so any way that I can provide support, I do. That also equates to me doing a little bit of everything." It is tough to even say what a typical day may be, because nothing about what I do is typical. I know that I've learned a ton since I've been at my job and anticipate learning even more. I'm really thankful for those who are supporting me through their prayers, as sometimes it is tough to deal with the realities of what I do.

Time to pack up and head back. I love being home here, but I'm ready to be home there.

what a weekend

Tuesday, November 15, 2005
This past weekend I attended a conference for those interested in ordained ministry in the South Central Jurisdiction. It is SO strange to not know anyone at events like that because I know so many people in NCJ (North Central Jurisdiction for those who aren't up on their Metho-speak). Oddly enough though, my small group leader who attends Perkins in Dallas is best friends with a girl that was on staff at Mountain TOP the same year that I was. It is a strange small world.

The picture is of me, being strangled by Jack (the coordinator of the event) and Casey, the other girl who came from New Mexico. Jack is a pastor in Oklahoma City and did a superb job of putting it all together. The event was pretty much all high school and college students, but I got a chance to tell a few people about the US-2 program. Sometimes when people are in that discernment phase they need to hear a little about options outside of the ordination track. I'm all about spreading the US-2 word around the country and getting more people fired up about social justice.

I think the hardest part for me during the weekend was our trip to the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. I never really know how I should react in those instances, and in a lot of ways I felt emotionally manipulated by the experience. The museum is really set up to make you go through the destruction, and even experience the occurance though an audio tape that was actually made during the bombing. That to me was slightly overboard. The rest of the museum really focused on the pain, destruction and hurt. I'm thankful there wasn't a part that glorified the execution of Timothy McVeigh, I was certainly expecting there to be one just by how the museum was structured. At the end there was a display on the hope and change that came out of the situation, but it was my understanding that the display wasn't there all the time. If it had not been there, I would have left feeling completely and utterly dejected and sad. I'm aware that it may sound like I lack compassion for what happened, but that is not the case at all. Instead I just feel like through those situations where hope prevailed and the nation learned from tragedy, that the focus shouldn't be on the complete destruction but rather the reconstruction of the compassion of humanity through times of grief.

"We search for the truth, we seek justice. The courts require it. The victims cry for it. God demands it!" -4/19/95

I have completely mixed emotions on this... I just don't know what to think, and similarly, that makes me uncertain about what to think about the whole experience. On one of the monuments it says something about how the experience would unite us against violence... and yet it seems that this statement on this wall, written out of anger and despair, cries for a reaction to the event that has violent undertones. It is a terribly difficult event to remember, but one that I know we should not forget.

So for anyone thinking about going to the memorial, I won't discourage it, but be forewarned. Also, if you're quick to cry, you'll be crying fairly soon into it. I'm not much of a crier, but I have to admit I was choked up through most of it.

The exploration event itself was ok, the worship experiences were great, but I definitely felt I was missing something in missing counterculture. I did not however miss the dry weather. Not having to apply chapstick every 2 minutes was amazing. Oh the little things. I love the high desert, but this dry stuff isn't so much fun.

In work news, we're gearing up for the holidays, and as people are starting to get settled, the attitudes have the tendency to change from thankfulness of being in the program to the desire to leave because they feel like they've gone as far as they can go. Please pray for Saranam, the families, and for all of the events that we're getting ready for.

In my personal life news, I'll be home Nov 22-27 and Dec 22-Jan 2. If you're around I want to see you! (That includes any of you Champaign folk as well!)

Peace out homeslice!

Friday, November 04, 2005
And where did the past two weeks go exactly?

I do know that in there was a trip to San Jose to see family and attend my Aunt's 100th anniversary.These are all of her niece's and nephews and their kids for the most part. She's in the middle in the purple. It was a good time for all of us and it was great to be able to see my mom and other family that I either hadn't met or haven't seen in quite some time.

I also know that I have been exceedingly busy with work. I've definitely gotten into the swing of things, and continue to overcommit to things. It is keeping my busy though which takes away the problem of being too terribly lonely here.

I guess the most notable experience in the last couple of weeks for me has definitely been Halloween. The best part was Sunday night, when the youth group at the church put on this carnival type event called "Trick or treat, not on the street". This is supposed to be a safe alternative to Halloween trick or treating because many neighborhoods here just aren't exactly safe for kids to go around in. So we brought our families, something like 25 people to this thing. Aside from having to jump start the van because someone left a dome light on, we had an amazingly great time. It was so fun to watch the kids all run around and be crazy, and the funniest part was watching them figure out how to get ridiculous amounts of candy. Sometimes the buckets of candy that you win for playing games were unattended... that meant the kids just took handful upon handful. Most of our families at least know to keep their kids from eating candy continuously. It was so much fun to see what the parents came up with for the kids to be for halloween. Some hit the dollar store, some costumes were completely homemade. One family was the cast of the Wizard of Oz, but by far, my favorite was one of our youngest wearing a box wrapped up like a present. Though he didn't keep it on long because it was restrictive, it was absolutely adorable. Overall, the weekend was a success. On the actual day of Halloween we had the school kids with us and took them to go pick out pumpkins and go to the library. Listening to the parents tell us that it was the best Halloween they ever had was great, and I would venture to say that it was one of my favorites as well. (And for those who were wondering, I was a Mountain TOP staffer for Halloween. It was cheap (free) and easy (I still have a staff shirt that i actually wear in real life plus the hat.)

I don't know if I've mentioned, but I'm currently leading an optional Bible Study for our folks. I've been having a great time with that and this week really confirmed to me how awesome our program is. The topic this week dealt with the idols that we place in our life and false gods. Through the time we met, we talked about one of the places that some of them had spent some time, the only family shelter in the area. Our program is unique as we are not a shelter and are somewhat beyond transitional housing, but hearing stories of the places they've been before has truly opened my eyes to some things. For one thing, I am starting to learn that lots of privately based social services can come from the wrong motivation. As we talked, the group was sure to say that we were down to earth people who really cared about each person as an individual. In huge shelters there can be a tendency to be lost among the crowd, but with only 6 families, we really have the time to devote to them. The down to earth part really struck me as an odd thing to say, so I inquired about what they meant. It seems that for most of them, the "system" of social services in this city as well as others is often motivated by personal gain. Of course this is certainly not the case with every agency, but some of our people have been burned time and time again by agencies that have a hidden agenda. This is why I love our program, yes we're supported by the church, no, we don't force Christianity on our folks, and wouldn't even think of it. My Bible study was asked for and is not mandatory. We are not out for monetary gain, we hold true to our non-profit status. I'm quickly learning that sometimes people in charge of non-profits aren't questioned about their salaries. Sometimes they help to perpetuate homelessness and dependency because it guarantees them a job. It breaks my heart to see human suffering, and there are people who are supposedly committed to changing the lives of the poor that are actually just using others for their own personal gain. That right there makes me sick, but it also makes me thankful that I'm working for such an amazing and somewhat unique program. Though it is a program that requires a fair amount of financial resources, the end result of giving people a chance to move beyond minimum wage jobs is awesome.

I suppose I should step down off of my soapbox, but I am seriously scared by the continuous oppression of the poor that I see daily. There tends to be little to no chance that people can move upward, and for the most part, that is perpetuated by the system that has been created to help the poor. Grassroots movements to change the system anyone?

I've been reading a lot about the judicial council decisions made Monday and have really struggled over them. The one involving Beth Stroud was certainly expected, based on what the Discipline states. The other decision, involving the reinstatement of a pastor after he was placed on involuntary leave for denying a gay man membership to his church, makes me not so happy as I don't think people should really be denied membership so arbitrarily. Plus... *cough* Openheartsopendoorsopenminds* (yes I am aware that this is merely a slogan and not an official position of the UMC...but COME ON) I won't give more than that with my 2 cents, but I will however link you to some interesting discussions of how it all went down and what people are thinking. After all, I read a heck of a lot of blogs. :-)

Gavin's thoughts here here and here. I especially like the 2nd one. :-D
Read some more conservative minded thoughts here. And be forewarned that the comments get somewhat ridiculously long on some of those and it takes heart to read them all.
There are some thoughts here as well.

Keep in mind that I don't endorse any of these links, they're just ones I've read and could find currently to link. There are plenty of other links from these links. I do have to say that I commend the Council of Bishops for coming back so quickly and with a stance that I can be behind, I wasn't so sure that is what their reaction would be, but then, they're just sticking up for their authority as well. Gotta love that UMC bureaucracy. ;-)
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