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what a day...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
I know I promised a post on Lent last week but I've not had time to hash it out yet. Instead I offer you this unoriginal yet good reflection shared at my staff meeting this morning from our Christian Ed. Director. It reflects upon the spiritual discipline of fasting and it really hit home to me as I never give things up but rather try to add ways to relate to God during the time of Lent. To me, the experience of coming closer to God is what I'm after, and if I become resentful because I've given up any number of my addictions (caffeine, chocolate, caffeine, internet, oh and did i mention caffeine?) I never end up any closer to God and feel horrible about not being able to follow through with what I've tried to give up. Overall, though I think the practice of giving up something is completely admirable, I've never pulled it off without feeling further from God. So instead I add something to my life that I'm sure will enrich my experience with God. For me this year, I've decided to dedicate a half an hour every night to being without distraction and reading/journaling for myself. Though this blog action is great, and a great way to keep people informed, I really miss writing for myself and letting my words flow without thinking about whether or not what I'm saying will offend or whether it is just mindless writing that no one cares about. Pen and paper will accompany me, but I may end up blogging some of what I write as well.

With that I turn to what I heard in staff devo:

Lent has traditionally been a time for fasting. This is not a flashy “look at what I’m doing” kind of fast, but a humble, inward commitment. Lent is also a time of prayer and giving. An article I read by Jude Siciliano has helped me to discover how, in a season of fasting, prayer and giving, we can find ways to offer God an acceptable sacrifice. Jude Siciliano suggests that Lent is both a time for fasting and for feasting, that Lent is not so much a season of denial, as it is an opportunity for renewal and for growth.

With that in mind, I suggest that we can offer God an acceptable sacrifice by:
fasting from judgment of others and feasting on God’s love for everyone.
fasting from negativity and feasting on praise
fasting from injustice and feasting on justice
fasting from stagnation and feasting on transformation
fasting from complexities and feasting on simplicities
fasting from chaotic thoughts and feasting on purposeful silence
fasting from fear of change and feasting on renewal
fasting from guilt and feasting on God’s mercy
fasting from bitterness and feasting on forgiveness
fasting from anger and feasting on patience
fasting from anxiety and feasting on the peace of God
fasting from complaining and feasting on thanksgiving
fasting from discouragement and feasting on hope
fasting from unacceptable sacrifices and feasting on those things that create a new and right spirit within us.

Oh, and I'm curious... what are your impressions of who I am? There's a site that you can go to and pick out the 6 words that you think fit me. You can find it here.

So go ahead and give it a shot and let you know what you think about me. As my friend Bre said when she posted hers, "I like learning about myself so I can reflect and grow." That's my pursuit in life right now, reflect and grow and figure out what to do next.

I like beauty...

Sunday, February 26, 2006
Sometimes we all need to experience beautiful things to feel alive. That's how I feel when I watch American Beauty and see the bag that Ricky Fitz videotapes, that's how I feel when I step on fallen leaves in October, that's how I feel when I see a lone flower blooming in an unlikely place. I've come across a couple of internet things that make me feel just that way... the first is an advertisement yes, but there is something amazing about releasing 300,000 bouncy balls in the streets of San Francisco that is just beautiful. That and I really like the song. So here ya go... Bouncy Balls! I suggest if you have high speed internet to watch the full 180 second one cause its just cool.

I was also introduced to LED throwies which you can make yourself. My friend Drew thinks that attaching them to a building on campus would be absolutely amazing to which I said "Why am I not in Champaign?" The video for people putting these up is slightly less cool, but happens to use the same song that the ad does. And just the concept of attaching LED lights to random buildings is fascinating to me and really makes me think beauty is something that can be found in anything. The concept of lighting a building with LED lights is just fantastic. The brilliant ideas of my friends with this are to use that in worship among other things. How cool would that be? Endless possibilities.

The thirst for knowledge

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I’ve been talking with people about reading and book studies and bible studies some of the week. In discussion, it was determined that I’ve got a thirst for knowledge that needs quenching. Why was this determined? I think it has something to do with the fact that I have 52 subscriptions in my bloglines… ok so that could be a bit overboard but I promise that not all of them write every day, and I don’t just sit around waiting for new posts to show up. I read everything from open source emergent theology discussions to exceedingly conservative theological posts to the mundane musings of many of my friends. The point is, I love reading anything and everything.

So once again, where am I going with this… I was thinking today how much I really like books that use Scripture as a basis for understanding rather than to prove a point. For example... take Purpose Driven Life… you’ve got these chapters that have ideas and then conveniently Warren finds scripture that fits his point. For this reason, I don’t resonate with the book. It seems like Warren just sort of decided on some things and then found scripture to support his point. I don’t doubt his ability to touch lives, I just know he didn’t touch mine and I feel no more purpose driven than I did before I read the book a few years back. I definitely think that books should work the other way around, working to lift of Scripture in new ways and using Scripture as a basis for understanding. For that I would definitely recommend anything by Erwin McManus. I was loaned The Barbarian Way from Billy and Tara and I must say that book was a fresh breath into my theological quests for understanding where I am right now and how I relate to God, Jesus, and ultimately scripture. In any case, I’ve got this desire, this innate need to know more and more. To discuss more and more. To find out what it is this is all about. I guess as I’m searching for more and more of who I am, I am drawn to look at life as a whole. To see it in different lights and to be enriched by every experience I have. I guess that is why I’m enjoying being part of things that normally would terrify me. My desire to know God more fully fuels my quest, and I am energized and revitalized by works that get to the heart of the matter….ultimately I want to be fully connected to what it is that God calls us to do. What God wants us to respond to and what we need to act on.

I found this quote on a friend’s webpage today, and though I haven’t read this Donald Miller book I bet I’d like it just like Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What:

“I think we are supposed to stand in deserts and marvel at how the sun rises. I think we are supposed to sleep in meadows and watch stars dart across space and time. I think we are supposed to love our friends and introduce people to the story, to the peaceful, calming why of life. I think life is spirituality.”- Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller

In the words of The Perks of Being a Wallflower “I feel infinite.”

(Just to bring up the number of books referenced in this post… I bought The Last Word and the Word after That by Brian Mclaren and The Carpenter and the Unbuilder: Stories for the Spiritual Quest by David M. Griebner today. I’m getting close to having used up all of my gift cards from Christmas but still have some to go…)

go ahead you can laugh all you want to... but i've got my philosophy

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I’m caught in the trap of… do I have anything to say? I get this desire to write, but don’t always know if what I have to say is pertinent or meaningful. If it isn’t pertinent or meaningful, should I really blog about it? This is always the dilemma in my head, but as I check my statcounter stats and know that I have regular readers, I fear that I disappoint when my posts lag a bit. This past week I received an email from a friend who told me he enjoys my posts. I’ve been mulling over his thoughts all week in that he said “Especially when you deal with the mundane you approach the sublime.” I loved hearing that and really enjoy hearing what people think about what I’ve been thinking and saying. So maybe it is that I just need to share, open myself up a little and see what it is that I have to say. Scary thing to do for an introvert, but I’ll give it a shot.


I had a lot of time to reflect this past weekend in house-sitting without internet or tv. (Though I must admit that I brought over my own tv antenna so that I could watch the Sunday lineup and subsequently ended up watching way too much of the Olympics.) I had a discussion at some point this weekend that made me think back to my ethics class specifically relating to morality, and right now am in sort of a place where I plan to do some reading relating to morals and ethics just because it intrigued me. I resented most of my ethics class because my TA just didn’t seem to care much, so when it came to studying Kant, Hume, and Locke specifically relating to morality I just sort of got by. I’d really love to study that for the sake of studying that, so I think I will. Currently the theories of morality I think about outside of the realm of Judeo-Christian ethical imperatives usually revolve around Nietzsche just because his philosophy is still fairly fresh in my mind and it truly is fascinating to me. A friend once asked me where we can find morality without there being the assumption of Morality dictated from a higher power. At the time I couldn’t answer that question, and still think that I would struggle to do it justice, but I think some postmodern theories of morals and morality can lead us to some interesting conclusions. *end philosophical rant*


I guess I state all that to say that maybe I’ll find some interesting things to talk about while I dive into some philosophy or maybe I won’t.


I’m also working through Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger and absolutely loving it. I’m still in the history stuff, but this book will likely be the book I will recommend people read when they ask me about EC. So again, there may be stuff up here eventually about that.


Things are going well overall I guess. I suppose I don’t have much to say since my mind has been fixated on all of this philosophy stuff the past few days. I have been known to get in a rut of thinking and can’t think of much else, so I’m pretty sure that’s where I am currently. Oh well, such is life.


Coming soon, a reflection on Lent. But for now, I should go do what I need to be doing, whatever that is.

huzzah!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Today is over! I think this was one of the more draining days of my time here. We asked for $95,000 from the United Way today and I had to make sure the powerpoint went how it was supposed to go and make sure that my boss didn't freak out too much. Overall I think the whole thing went well and I was really really really proud of our adults in the program for being brave enough to all talk to the group. They were very nervous and it showed, but they did it without a major breakdown. Now that that is over, things will be back to normal, and by normal I mean crazy. Haha.

I mentioned in my last blog something about getting my hair cut.... now if you know me at all this is a task in and of itself. I freak out about it, stress over it, don't know what to tell the stylist, and usually try to back out a few times. Ok so that happened the first and only time I had my hair cut. This time was a little less over the top as I just stressed a bit but didn't try backing out. I guess I was just ready for a change. Tracy made Christy promise to take pictures as she was with for moral support and also a haircut. :-) So without further stalling, the anticipation I'm sure is mounting and you would like to see the new and improved Laura. :-)
Unfortunately these pictures turned out pretty dark, but hopefully you can see what's up with them if you make them big. So go ahead give them a click!

Before: The look of apprehension and a little excitement... and boy my hair was a lot longer than I thought.



















During... Valerie at Laru Ni Hati cutting my hair. Christy had the biggest smile on her face the whole time cause I basically just said... drastic. Ha.




















The back. Those curls are insane.




















The finished product. I wish this picture were better, but well, it is short. Trust me.

busy busy week

Monday, February 13, 2006
So while I'm doing lots of behind the scenes work for our United Way grant application site visit (the presentation is oh so close to done), and while I'm also preparing myself mentally for a new haircut on Wednesday, which yes is a really big deal for me, and while lots of other things are going on, I thought I would link you to an article I just read that really sums up a lot of my thinking about American Religious life right now... so here it is.

More later this week post hair cut, post United Way craziness, post ignoring Valentine's day, and hopefully post going grocery shopping as I really am eating a large bowl of corn for dinner and I that doesn't strike me as something that is "dinner worthy."

someones got a case of the mondays...

Thursday, February 09, 2006
Interesting thought to ponder, I have about twice as many hits on Thursdays than I do any other day of the week. Is this because people get bored with work on Thursdays and check out what I have to say? Is this a routine? As I have a ridiculous amount of people who read and never comment, I don't think I'll ever know.

I think I've had a case of the Mondays all week, culminating in the lack of happy face balloon on my door yesterday. When I got into work, there were happy face balloons on everyone's door but mine. :-( Now I know this is something that is slightly ridiculous to even ponder, but it just seemed to be how my week has been. I've been really busy, and I've been fighting other battles on top of work. So to come in and have there not be a happy face balloon on my door and everyone else had one, that was kinda sad. I was assured that one was put there... but it magically disappeared. Whatever.

To top that all off, I have misplaced, as in completely lost, one of my favorite Bibles. Sure, I can go out and buy another Oxford Annotated Study Bible with Apocrypha, but it will not be the same. That one had all of my markings and scribblings in it from my Hebrew Bible and New Testament class. I have NO clue where it went but I can only assume I left it on top of my car at some point and drove off, letting it tumble to the pavement. Now when I go to seminary I'll have to wear in a new one, because that's my favorite edition for academic study. Maybe this time I'll pick up the hardcover just so its a little more tough. I truly can't believe its gone though.

The significance of the happy face thing has really stood out in my mind today and yesterday. When I was at Mtn TOP on staff, one of our staff training worships was to give affirmations and give each other happy face stickers to put on each others nametags. I think I ended up with 4. Most people covered their entire back of their nametag. I gave out plenty of my stickers, but was sort of shy all week so I didn't really get to know people like I should have. We had just been put into our staffs so we all didn't know each other very well, so I just dealt with the fact that I got 4 stickers. After my car accident, I had to clean my nametag pretty hardcore and I lost all of my 4 stickers. My staff came through and gave me some of theirs, and at that point I really felt like I was part of something important, and I really was truly loved. I learned strength that summer that I had never imagined, after all, God had work for me to do on that mountain.

Forward to my YAM (young adult missionary, that was pointed out to me this week and it cracks me up) training. Somehow that story came up. We were always coming up with stories and I have no clue how we got there, but I shared it. I was talking to Steph (currently in Costa Rica) about the whole sticker thing and she assured me I am part of something important and that I am loved in so many ways that its impossible to comprehend. Our last day together before our commissioning, we all decided to pass around sheets to write affirmations for each other. When I got mine, every white space on the page had one of those stickers on it. It reminded me so much of how God's love for us is. Even when we can't feel the love of those around us, or feel that we're ignored, lost or alone, God's always placing those stickers near us to remind us of ways that we are loved. Every time I look at that sheet I am reminded how much the US-2s and Mission interns love me. Those happy face stickers will also be a constant reminder to me of God's love no matter what.

Sometimes we have a bad case of the mondays, sometimes we feel like we aren't part of anything important, sometimes we just aren't sure where we're headed or what we're supposed to be doing. But I assure you this, God loves us unconditionally and that's all we ever really need. So tomorrow is Friday, I'll get what I need to get done and let it be the weekend. No more mondays until monday.

now for a life update...

Thursday, February 02, 2006
Now that I've filled my page with lots of random theological thoughts, I figure I should give a life update. I've added a statcounter to my blog and oh man are there far more people looking at this than I would have ever imagined. To all of my anonymous readers, let me know who you are! :-)

Also a big thanks to Rob for outlining the UM basic order of worship to my last post. I think there are striking similarities to them and as long as all of the bases are covered I think that worship can really be a powerful thing. I love liturgy and really view worship as an art. That whole last post came about because there was some questioning coming from some friends about the ACTED storyboard and thought I could do the explanation of it some justice.

I've been staying pretty busy here in my job as well as in my social life. It seems that January has flown by in somewhat of a whirlwind fashion. I don't think I mentioned the fact that our very pregnant woman finally had her baby. Things have been pretty calm with them since then, but of course we always have excitement. This weekend one of our families is moving out, which I don't think I entirely grasp yet. It may be that I've just moved beyond the shock of that because they checked out in spirit from the program around Christmas. I do wish them the best wherever they end up, but it is certainly going to be difficult making an adjustment to having one less family.

I went to my first UNM Lobo men's basketball game last night, which was fun even though they lost. It sure wasn't seeing the Illini play, but I love college basketball and our seats were nearly on the court. I also went out on Saturday night to hear a friend of a friend's band play with a group of people after church. I've started to schedule free nights for Laura time, so I think I'm starting to get past that lonely unsure stage and am feeling more and more comfortable being in Albuquerque.

I've also joined another bible study which brings me up to 2 bible studies and 2 worship services a week. Ha. And I thought I was overchurched when I worked at Wesley! The study I'm going to on Tuesday nights is focused on Luke and we've done chapters 1-3 so far. We're really paying attention to the cultural and historical background to the scriptures which I think is a great thing. It isn't terribly scholarly, but we sit around and ask questions which is good. My Wednesday morning study with the ladies at the church (WOW which stands for women of the word, hokey yes, but a great group of people) is in the middle of studying the book A Search for Significance by Robert McGee. Like some of the other studies we've done in there, I am not entirely cool with some of the theology in the book but it is really causing me to step back and look at my life in a different perspective.

I'm finding this entire journey of being in New Mexico has caused that perspective change though. I've really had the opportunity to evaluate the changes I've made through the years and am really glad about where I am right now. Sure, sometimes it is difficult to reflect on where we've been, but in my 6 months here, I've realized that I have some strengths in areas I would have never imagined. I can honestly say that I've never felt more secure in who I am than how I feel right now. That's not to say I don't still have my struggles and day to day issues, but being content does not mean that everything goes well and smoothly every day. I think that sometimes we are misguided in our thinking that everything has to be perfect for us to be happy, but I'm finding that it isn't that circumstances have to be perfect, you just have to life life to the fullest and enjoy as much as you can.

That's probably all I have right now in terms of a life update. To quote one of our residents... "It was nice... I had fun... I learned a lot" we always laugh when she says it, but it is true. So far it certainly has been nice, I've had lots of fun and I learn new things every day.

yet another theological post.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
So in a past life (ok so like 6 months ago) I ended my time as a peer minister at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Illinois. For most of my time there I was really involved in leading worship and have a strong passion for leading worship. Through working under some great worship leaders as well as my intensive summer of working for Mountain TOP, I've come to understand the need for corporate worship and really can appreciate worship that is leading us somewhere theologically. Sometimes worship can be something that we don't think about while we're doing it, but I think it is important to really understand the meaning behind liturgy and our quest to be closer to God. Recently I drew up a discourse on corporate worship and wanted to put it up here just for the sake of discussion. Some of this makes some assumptions because I wrote it up for use at Wesley, but I think it raises some interesting things on how we relate to God through worship. This is by no means the only way we should worship, and I know this document is very much a work in progress.

A Basic Explanation of Corporate Worship
(or why ACTED is a good thing)

Corporate worship is a tricky thing. We were designed as beings created to worship and praise God in everything we do. Throughout time, the focus of worshiping God in everything has shifted to worshiping God when it is only convenient for us, such as Sunday morning. It is my belief that this has shifted because we lack meaning behind what we do in corporate worship and therefore cannot apply it to real life situations. This is most unfortunate, as a misunderstanding of how we relate to God hinders our ability to relate to God and subsequently can cause us to feel neglected and forgotten.

This doesn’t have to be the case though… everything in our lives can be an act of worship. To achieve this point, we must have a solid understanding of what corporate worship is and how it is a continuation of God’s love for us poured out from the Scriptures.

The model ACTED is not something that can be done well without understanding the premise and meaning behind each step in corporate worship. Liturgically, churches have used this model for quite some time as it is an effective way to bring meaning to worship.

Each step is dependent on the one before and the one following, they are all linked and though room for change is possible, it is difficult and not suggested as the theology really dictates the continuation of the steps.

Adoration- Each day should begin with a realization that there is much more in life than ourselves. This culminates in the understanding that God is so much more awesome and wonderful than we could ever imagine. The psalmists put it best in declaring God’s works to be worthy of praise. Adoration can consist of any number of things, from prayers to songs, acts of showing how much bigger God is than all of us. As long as the focus remains on the mighty power of God, it is all good.

Confession- Our confessions can only come once we have declared that God is above us and is larger than we can ever imagine. Confession comes from a heart that has realized that the power of God comes before us at all times. God knows whether we are broken enough to truly confess before God and one another. Confession can be intimidating, but it is a necessary step in understanding our relationship with God. Confession can consist of any number of things, but focus on the individual is important. Recognition of the forgiveness of those sins should always be present at the end of a time of confession or people may dwell and not move into the rest of worship.

Thanksgiving- It is only when we are broken, repentant, and on our knees that we can truly be thankful for the things that God provides us with. Thanksgiving is a time to rejoice in the power of the spirit of Christ. There are so many things for us to be thankful for that we do not deserve. We are not worthy of the forgiveness of Christ, but our confession and the belief that Christ redeems us opens the door for us to be truly thankful. If there is one thing to say about the piece of worship, it should never be boring. The distinction between adoration and thanksgiving is subtle, but important. God doesn’t have to show us any love for us to move through a time of adoration, but thanksgiving happens because of the love that God shows for us.

Education- Jesus was a teacher, with thankful hearts we can be open to hearing what Christ has taught and what people have learned from God through the years. It is not just a time for a message or sermon, but a time for us to learn what it means to be a better disciple. It is powerful to have an opportunity to learn from one another as often our hearts and minds outside of corporate worship are not willing to listen as they are not prepared.

Dedication- The education piece should begin a challenge. Jesus challenged his disciples, asked more of them than they had ever been asked before. Dedication is gives us an opportunity at a new week, a new life. It is an opportunity that should not be taken lightly as it is one that we tend to forget in our day to day worship. Each day we should rededicate ourselves to being disciples of Christ. This provides us with a reminder to do so. It is often a struggle to connect our spiritual beliefs with our actions, but dedication opens a door to make the process a little easier.

Though it may seem systematic, the ebb and flow of ACTED provides a framework to work with that puts our priorities in worship in the right place and allows us to ready our hearts for the movement of God in our lives. It avoids emotional manipulation often used as a tactic within services as it has a sound structure to guide our thoughts. Corporate worship is an important piece of being in community with others and gives us the opportunity to rejoice and support each other. Most importantly, it gives us a chance to make a change and start over. Sometimes it takes a push to begin to think about the things that Jesus calls us to do and the dedication is meant to do just that.

The most important aspect of corporate worship is to keep the focus on God. A worship leader should facilitate a smooth movement through worship but not be so concerned about things beyond control. The spotlight should be focused solely on the power of God moving through the speakers and through the music. The heart of worship is not in what songs are played or whether or not the speaker is eloquent, but rather it is in the power of the Holy Spirit moving through the participants. Worship is an attitude that we should seek to exhibit in all aspects of our daily lives and with a model such as ACTED, we can begin to apply it to our lives and have a more profound, deep, meaningful relationship with God.
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