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Sunday, May 28, 2006
I'm on the verge of something. I can't say what it is really, but I've just been in this sort of unsettling mood the last few weeks.

What do we do when something changes in us that we can't put a finger on? What are the things that can ultimately strike a chord with us so much that we end up reevaluating what we think and believe? For me, these changes, these unsettling feelings come through others. They happen when someone says something that just clicks, when I read a book that just points me in the right direction, or when I just know that what God is doing in my life is right even if I fight it.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a couple of things about Rob Bell's Nooma videos. They really opened me up to some things that I had been struggling with personally. In between watching those two videos, I read Rob Bell's book, Velvet Elvis. I was completely blown away. So much so that I find myself picking it up and chewing on the contents repeatedly. So much so that I'm venturing to say that this book is serving a purpose to spark me on towards change.

I am not perfect. I will never claim to be. This book is raw, opens my eyes to things that I haven't been really looking for. In the introduction, Bell makes clear something that I am just beginning to grasp. "Times change. God doesn't, but times do. We learn and grow, and the world around us shifts, and the Christian faith is alive only when it is listening, morphing, innovating, letting go of whatever has gotten in the way of Jesus and embracing whatever will help us be more and more the people God wants us to be."

God reaches out to those who are reaching for something more. I can only ever hope to help others uncover the beauty of a God who cares so much about this world that the ultimate sacrifice was given. I've been reaching, groping in the dark, trying to figure out where I stand on things. For awhile, I felt I had pretty definitive answers. I think this unsettling feeling is finally figuring out that I don't have all of the answers, and never will. God is calling me, beckoning me into this ministry stuff, and no matter what, I need to own the fact that I don't have all of the answers. This is a journey, I could know everything about the history of the Bible, I could study with people who have very deep theology that makes sense, but I find that the more and more I search, the less and less clear everything is, but the more and more beauty I see.

I'm never going to fully grasp everything, it is the nature of humanity to be clouded and not be omnipotent. What kind of world would we live in if there was no mystery? What would we amount to if there were no challenges?

Faith is not logical. Faith cannot be dictated by science. Faith is something that is deeply rooted in emotion, and it is more powerful than anything I have ever experienced. What I'm learning is this; when we take faith out of our lives because we've rationalized God to the point where we don't need faith anymore, that is when we need faith the most.

This journey of self-discovery isn't easy, it isn't always pleasant, and life hurts a lot of the time. But that's part of the journey, and though it is rocky sometimes, it is all part of knowing and understanding that God's will in my life is something beyond reason, beyond my comprehension, and there are great things ahead for me.

anxious, nervous and busy

Friday, May 26, 2006
So I'm in the process of listening to 6 songs on repeat. Why? Because they're the 6 songs that I'm doing tomorrow night at counterculture and I want to make sure I have them down. I'm leading worship there, and I must say that I am more than a little bit freaking out. I don't have a clue why though. It isn't like I haven't done this hundreds of times, every week in high school for 2 years and every week in college for 3 years. Why does this intimidate me so much?

It doesn't help that I have to finish this display board up at work. It is going to get done for sure by Tuesday, but today I've got to get the content finished up, go get colored paper to mount it on, go to Home Depot (time #3) to buy some more screws, finish the board assembly, and test out where stuff will go.

I'm also housesitting, which is surprisingly relaxing. It just makes my routine less routine, which I'm finding is slightly more stressful for me than normal. It is good that the actual housesitting isn't stressful or I'd be in trouble.

So the things that I normally do to destress (play my guitar, read a book in solitude) are things that are part of bigger stress for me. So I need to find something else to calm down or I'm going to not be much good through the weekend into next week and that is a bad thing. It is certainly times like these where the one thing I really need to do is to let go and let God, but that is much easier said than done.

Prayer needs: Strength, courage and confidence to get through tomorrow.

"Lord, All I have in you is more than enough" -Enough by Chris Tomlin

a day well spent

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

So I'm learning that I like to start and finish projects. So many things are in constant limbo at work that when things get done I rejoice. So today I started and finished a project that makes me feel like I accomplished something.

So I made this rocking cool display board. It weighs about 20 lbs. but will be rock out cool when the design is done. I think we're going to cover it with cloth and then put our stuff on it. I'll definitely put up a picture when it is done.

A life update is in order, but I have other priorities right now, so hopefully I'll get to it this week.

Please pray for the Kankakee Asbury UMC church family (my home church) this week as we lost a loved one last night. Patsy had been battling cancer for quite some time, and passed away. Pray for the Lower family as they go through this time of grief and loss. Patsy was a great woman and was really inspiring to all she met. She'll definitely be missed.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

So our residents have taken to calling me sunshine. I have no clue how this started especially since they see me mostly when I am terribly unhappy in the mornings. I am not a morning person at all and can be somewhat mean, but I try to put up a good front.

Well somehow this morphed into funshine bear from the Care Bears, even to the point that they found a figurine of funshine bear for me. I can't help but smile when I hear on the phone... SUNSHINE! Or when I get an email that is addressed to sunshine. It is seriously great. Even if my days may be cloudy, I can see clearly the work that God is doing in my life when I see the excitement of our people proclaming that I am filled with sunshine. It is a breath of fresh air when things haven't been going so well.

dealing with loss

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Yesterday I experienced two very different forms of loss. I never know quite how to deal with it, but it didn't really hit me until today what all happened yesterday.

This past weekend, my supervisor from the General Board of Global Ministries (the agency that hired me initially) came to visit me here in Albuquerque to make sure I was happy and doing all right. I brought her to work with me on Monday morning and all seemed well. That's when she got the phone call. Mark Masters, an Executive Director of the Board had passed away suddenly while visiting missionaries in Nepal. You can read the official GBGM obituary here. I can describe our feelings as nothing more than shock. As she made the calls to the other missionaries, my heart sank every time I heard her in the next room tell them that she had unfortunate news. Mark and his wife Kathleen were co-facilitators of our training in June and I know they really cared about us all. I keep having these flashes of memory from training, mostly of our final worship service together where Mark and Kathleen gave us candles to represent the light that we were taking out into the world. It was so touching to see both of them cry because they were so touched by us in the short time that we were together. Mark will surely be missed but he will live on in the memory of many people for years to come. Please be in prayer for his family during this time.

That afternoon, one of our residents chose to leave our program. She's been transitioning out for the past two weeks, but she finally turned her keys in yesterday. As Eddie and I watched her walk away with her two children following closely, I couldn't help but feel some pain and sadness. This time was very different from the last family we lost. This one has some more complicated situations and it just continues to break my heart. There is nothing that can be done to change the situation though, I just hope that she finds the help that she needs. It was surreal almost, standing in the doorway, watching the 5 year old push the 2 year olds stroller as they simply walked away. I wish I could fully understand the circumstances that made her leave, but it is nearly impossible. I just know that she and her family will be in my prayers, and that's all I can do.

There will be grieving certainly, for days to come over situations that we cannot control. I think Erich Fromm says a good thing about grief, "To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness." Grief is a necessary part of life.

With the bad comes the good, with desperation comes hope, in death, there is life beyond death.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

No, I'm not going to talk about the actual sport of kickball, but rather the Nooma video entitled kickball. I did partake in a great game of kickball a couple of weeks ago though, but that is besides the point.

So imagine this, there is something you want so so very badly. You ask your parents for it continually, but they never cave in. It is one of those toys that is at one of those kiosks in the mall. You know, the every child's dream kind of kiosk. Your parents refuse because they know there is something better for you. This is the story that Rob Bell shares in this video.

How many times do we ask God for things that we KNOW are right for us. Things that will complete us, things that will make our lives better. We just know that there are those things that will make us whole. So we say, "God, I really need this. You just don't understand, I need you to fulfull this in my life and make me a complete person. I know what's best for me, if you'll just oblige that would be spectacular."

Bell states, "Your question is, 'How long, how long do I have to wait for this? When is God going to deliver?' And maybe God's perspective is, 'How long til you see that there is a bigger perspective here?"

I try to be a bigger perspective person, but that doesn't always mean that I succeed. I get bogged down in the little things and sometimes I want God to work on my time, to cater to me and fulfill my every want. Though I know that God is working on my every need, I seem to get it in my head that God is working on my every want. But God is just like a parent who knows that some dumb toy will not fulfill us. Instead, God sees our need for something simple like a kickball. Our desires and our needs can often be completely opposite. But the awesome thing is that God provides.

Again, I want to wrap up by going back to a quote from the video, the kiosk represents our longing for those things we do not need... "So when you find yourself standing at the kiosk, asking why can't I have what I want? May you believe that God is good, and that right across the street he has something better."

Happy Mother's Day!

I love you mom! Moms are great, tell yours you love her today, and if for some reason you can't, tell someone else's mom you appreciate them.

I get to see my mom on Thursday! So excited!

nooma and Rob Bell

Saturday, May 13, 2006
This is the first of a few of posts about Rob Bell I'd say. I'd like to comment on Velvet Elvis, but as it is all the way across the room and my notes on nooma are right next to me, this is going to be dedicated to nooma. As the booklet of nooma says, nooma is a new format for communication. The current generation (mine) wants information to be clear, concise, informed, easy to understand, yet something that we can struggle with. More on that struggle to come when I dive into Velvet Elvis.

As Nooma says... "We want spiritual direction, but it has to be real for us and available when we need it." I watched my first nooma video about a month ago, and I was blown away. This is just the kind of thing I'd been hoping to stumble across I guess you would say. You can watch the first one on the website. I've seen the luggage one and the kickball one (I watched the latter today while doing laundry at a friend's house).

So topically, luggage deals with forgiveness and kickball has to do with getting what we want from God. Each video is about 10-15 minutes long, and I am drawn in by the sheer simplicity of it all. The dvds come with a booklet that highlights the important parts and gives a few extra questions. While watching luggage, I felt like I was being directly spoken to. I always hate experiences like that. It often seems that God just loves to draw attention to my faults when I'm struggling to keep my head above water.

I've never been good with forgiveness. I hold grudges like no other, and the bad part is that I do so without letting the other person even have a chance to know that I'm upset. I guess it goes back to my desire to please others and to put others happiness above my own. I've been going through the guilt and loss of a friendship that ended horribly lately, trying to figure out the root of what makes me feel so terrible about it, and this video turned on the light. Forgiveness is key, I need to be forgiven, and I need to be able to forgive.

Bell goes in depth into forgiveness. There are some things that we should just get over, but there are others that run deep and that stay with us so long that they become a part of who we are. Suddenly revenge emerges as our only hope. But isn't that selfish though? "If we take revenge when we get hurt, do you think it is like saying to God, 'I think I can handle this better than you?'"

Or what if God said, "I can't forgive you, it hurts too much." Woah. Knock down drag out and I'm the one lying on the ground now.

At this point in the video, Bell says that if you're in an abusive relationship that you have to get out. And that forgiveness isn't going back to the person who beats you emotionally or physically, it is about you letting go.

"Sometimes forgiving is remembering and some people are going to keep returning to their vomit, and we don't have to be there when they do." We just have to walk away from people who continue to make us unhealthy and bring us pain. Sometimes we just have to let people return to their vomit, but we really don't need to be there. No one has to take that kind of abuse.

In the end, Bell states that forgiveness is an action, something that we do. It can't be handed to us on a silver platter, God doesn't do it for us, we have to take that step. But its ok to forgive and still have to let go of the relationship or friendship. The friendship I've lost meant the world to me. But it was also pretty damaging. I've been pretty closed up about it, but it is important for me to recognize the need for redemption. For now, it means keeping myself a little more guarded, but trying to realize that needd for forgiveness in the situation.

I'll end with one of Bell's final thoughts, and hit up kickball then Velvet Elvis in the next few days. I'll encourage you to pick up a Nooma video or find someone with one. They're really phenomenal and eye opening. I'll start my collection of them when I'm not living on a shoestring budget.

"Maybe forgiveness is ultimately about me and about you, it's about us. Because when I forgive somebody and I set them free, its really like I'm setting myself free."

Set yourself free as there is no guarantee that you'll have tomorrow to do so.

she jumps in on politics...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A couple of days ago, my friend sent me a link to this article in Time magazine. I couldn’t help but say Amen to darn near all of it. Last year in my American religious diversity class, it was pretty apparent that I was in the minority on social issues and feeling like Christians were getting a bad name based on the actions of our current administration. As I brought Jim Wallis’ book “God’s Politics: Why the right gets it wrong and the left doesn’t get it” to class, I had some murmurs from classmates that really made me stop and think. What is the deal with linking politics and religion anyway? Oh I could tell you based on that class as we read about every court case regarding religion and politics, but that would waste my time I think because it is just like beating a dead horse. We never reached any sort of conclusion about religion being in politics or vice versa, it was just too tough of an issue. I guess I always go back to Jesus when I’m thinking about stuff, so I state it here, Jesus did not come as a head of state, he did not come to rule a kingdom here on earth. It is much greater than that.

I love what is said in the third paragraph of the article as it really describes where I’m at right now. “And there are those who simply believe that, by definition, God is unknowable to our limited, fallible human minds and souls.” It is that mystery that makes me all the more intrigued. I might be a missionary in the South Central Jurisdiction of the UMC, but you will never see my car with one of these and would more than likely see it with one of these.

I don’t want to choose sides. Living in New Mexico, we have closed primaries. Did I choose a party so that I could vote in the primaries? Nope. I rarely think that either side is making a difference. After all, as pointed out in the article… “In fact, we are opposed to any politicization of the Gospels by any party, Democratic or Republican, by partisan black churches or partisan white ones. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus insisted. What part of that do we not understand?”

I think Jesus would weep if he were here with us now. I think that the lack of love for one another, the constant degradation, fighting and pain caused to one another is something that Jesus does not desire for us. We were called to be people who love each other. We are called to bring each other together in a loving community. As the article finishes and I wholeheartedly agree with, “The word Christian belongs to no political party. It's time the quiet majority of believers took it back.”

i crack myself up

Monday, May 08, 2006
I am rarely capable of not making faces when a picture of me by myself is taken. This is from Sunday right before our promotion ceremony started. I made it through the weekend amazingly enough. There were times when I didn't think so, like when my car ACTUALLY didn't start on Saturday night. Thankfully it was just a dead battery due to the incompetance of the owner. I mean really, leaving the tailgate open would surely drain the battery.

I'm working up a couple of content driven posts rather than life driven posts so look for those in the next few days. I've got a busy month ahead but hopefully not so busy I forget to blog.

all right, i'm gonna say it

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I forgot how much I love youth ministry. (I'm quite aware that I might be crazy) I've dabbled in it, interning in Carthage, IL, helping with youth group at home and also at school. So last night I co-led the youth group lock-in with my friend Jeremy. Jen, the youth director was around for some of it, but she had never even been to a lock-in and is also 8 months pregnant so she was there mostly as an extra adult.

So we started out playing some get to know you type games, then we had this massive scavenger hunt which was so much fun for the kids and terribly entertaining for us because it was a pretty tough hunt. We had praise time together, which of course was my favorite part, made a gutter sundae, ate pizza, played karaoke revolution, played lots of sardines and just really had a fantastic time. There were 17 kids which was an awesome turnout.

Hopefully I'll convince myself to help out with youth group some more. I'm going on the mission trip with them in July, which will be really fun. I don't know what it is about teenagers, but I think it is mostly that they know how to have fun. They're trying to figure out who they are, and it is just fascinating to me to see what they become and how they get there. There are some really great kids in the youth group and I'm thankful I had the opportunity to spend 13 hours with them. I'll be catching up on some sleep for the next few days, but I did make it through the night without sleep proving I can still do it. My 5 hours this morning didn't really suffice, but meh, that's what you get when you're having fun.

on complaining

Thursday, May 04, 2006
I try really hard to not complain much. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm someone who needs to think about things for a long time, then talk them through, then I know where I'm going with things. I'm in this going around in circles motion until I get to talking to people, but that's besides the point.

So on complaining, I hate to do it, but seriously, today was one of those days. I got up early so I could be out the door at a reasonable time. Still left late. I get to my car, and realize oh, I only put one contact in. So I go back in and put the other one in. It wouldn't have been a big deal because I don't really use my right eye, it just felt weird. So, I get back out and in my car. I forgot my phone. Well we were running all over today so my phone was important. So I again go back in to grab my phone. I get halfway to work and remember I don't have the camera and I don't have copies of the Focus newsletter, but I'm not turning around then, I'll just have to get them later. I get to work, still can't find this missing voucher that went AWOL, call the people who are supposed to drive the van Sunday and it is a wrong number so I have to figure that out, I find out that our lunch plans have changed, and that isn't a huge deal, but still, another oh what's going on with today sort of thing.

So at this point I'm already saying, well it certainly has been quite a day. We get out to where we're having lunch, I get out of the van and we're walking to the restaurant and I fall in a hole, twisting my ankle. I'm not terribly embarrassed as most of my friends know that I'm awesome at the whole falling thing. But my ankle hurts, I fight back tears, and suck it up. We had an awesome lunch and then open session (probably my not so favorite time of the week but I'm gonna keep saying that its good for me). I'm quite literally exhausted and this is only the beginning of my crazy hectic weekend. I have a TON to get done before Sunday, but after that is all over it might be quiet for a bit.

So then we get back to the church, and seeing how I hurt my left foot, the clutch and I won't be friends for a bit, so Tracy offered to bring my car around to where I park it. She comes back and says, "your car won't start." At this point, I just want to quit for the weekend and it hasn't even started yet. So she went to go try again before I went and tried, and it seems that it is terribly important to have the clutch all the way in to start it. So it started thankfully and is now parked where it lives. I really thought I was about ready to explode.

So in any case, today was one of those days that I just wanted to run away from life and hide. You're allowed those now and again, but here's hoping that this isn't a trend.

so I was thinking...

Monday, May 01, 2006

I've been doing a whole lot of that lately for better or worse. I pulled out my copy of "Oh the places you'll go" because we're using it for our promotion ceremony on Sunday for our residents. It made me smile because I remember when Rebecca gave it to me and I will always think of Rebecca every time I see a kids book. But what she wrote in it made me think a lot. One line said something like "Don't let anyone get in the way of your dreams." If I still had it in my possession I'd look it up, but it is at church. It certainly reminded me that I need to remember that. Ultimately, it is my life, so doing things that make me happy is important. I've spent a lot of my life not thinking that way. That's one of those things where it seems so utterly selfish that I couldn't bring myself to live for me. But what was I doing to myself in the process? Making myself miserable that's what. Yeah, there's a happy medium. I still don't think that walking all over people to make yourself happy is a good idea. Never have, never will. But being miserable is not in God's plan for me.

It seems so terribly obvious, but it is true. We see it with the story of Israel, we see it over and over again in scripture. I feel like this is just surface theology spilling forth, but I guess it is something I've been mulling over for awhile. I've had some crazy stuff happen that has caused me to really evaluate friendships and how I react to friends and how I treat them and how they treat me. Don't get me wrong, I have a whole bunch of really great friends. Though that is true, I've also had some not so stellar friends and I haven't figured that out. But I guess part of me thinks that it was ok to have friends that didn't treat me with respect because their happiness came before mine and I thought that was just the way it was supposed to be. Well, I'm learning that is a bunch of bunk.

I'm so thankful for my opportunity to step back from where my life has been and to look at it from a new perspective. I definitely think that when I leave here I will have grown as a person more than I could have ever imagined. If you've never read "Oh the places you'll go" I suggest picking it up. It sure made me smile today when I needed it.
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