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The Interchurch Center

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Our last full day in NYC (yes, I'm still talking about New York, get over it) we spent at what we call 475. That's because that's the address. Not because we're hip and cool (even though we are). All of us were fairly exhausted by that point, but we listened to devotions given to all GBGM staff in the morning then headed up to do some debriefing of our stories. We actually drew lots of pictures, pictures of us in a safe place as children, pictures of how we viewed ourselves as teenagers, and then we wrote stories of struggle from this last year, and tried to find some happiness in them. It was a great exercise which I think we all really benefitted from. I learned so much more about my fellow classmates that morning than I think I had through all of training. When you have to draw such intimate and personal things, we are bound to share more than we probably would if we were telling the story. It reminded me that I should think in stories, in pictures and in heartfelt words more often.

We all got our lunch from the cafeteria downstairs (oh so ridiculously expensive) and headed upstairs to "brown bag lunch with the US-2s!" where people in the building can come and meet us. Steve (an exec that we know well) was up there when we got there, and then left, and then we were joined by none other than the General Secretary of GBGM which was quite the surprise. He's a busy man and is rarely in NYC, but he came up and spoke with us and asked us all where we were from and where we were. I already knew he was from my conference, but he went on and on about how he was from my conference. It kind of cracked me up.

In any case, we only had one other visitor, another exec that we know and had been with us most of the week, but we had a really good time talking over lunch about what the future might hold for us. It seemed to be a completely different conversation than we had all had on Saturday night, but still one of slight apprehension yet excitement. I have no doubt that my class of US-2s will be doing amazing things in the future. In the afternoon we did LOTS of paperwork, heard from even more people about what we can do next, and then we met a guy who is helping to connect young adults in service.

One of the strangest things that we did that afternoon was go with him to meet some Episcopalian missionaries who are living in a church on the edge of Harlem. It was an awesome experience to meet up with some other young adult missionaries, even though we showed up on their doorstep unannounced. They were gracious enough to let us see where they all live and talk with us for awhile. It might have been a bit strange, but we made a connection that day that I think we all needed to make. There are more of us doing things like this than we could ever bargain for.

After that, we split up, 5 of us headed off to Yankee Stadium, 2 went off to see a play and another one went off on her own. After it all though, we came back together, went out into the city one last time before we all had to leave and bonded even more. It was that night I knew that these people, these 7 people that I hardly know, will be my friends through and through. We are all passionate about the same things, and even though we have spent such little time together, I am already anticipating the next time that I get to be with them. There is something powerful about that connection I have with them that I can't even begin to describe. I know I have said it before, but I am blessed to be part of such an amazing group of people. It is a shame that we are spread throughout the country, but we still keep up with each other as much as possible.

To illustrate how awesome they are, Sarah, who is placed in Ukiah, CA is on the FRONT Page of the GBGM website. Way to be Sarah! You're an instant celebrity! (they change the pictures out sometimes, but the article is about drug and alcohol ministries in the church)

(Pictures are of Mary and I at GBGM, Tiffany's opinion of paperwork, and me, Mary, Josh, Sarah & Bre at the Yankees Game)

Be Opened

Sunday, September 24, 2006
Sometimes I think I can do all of the work. I'm a capable person, you know? I can do just about anything. I can take complete control of my destiny, of my life, of my calling, of everything.

As much as it would be nice to have everything under control all of the time, I don't. I definitely made that realization while I was in NYC freaking out about my future, about my now, about my past, about everything. I'm a planner. I want to know things in advance. I planned early on, years in advance to be a US-2. I planned that seminary would be next, but now I'm not entirely convinced, and suddenly I don't have "control" anymore. Funny thing was, I didn't have it in the first place. God always has control, complete control, and better control of my life than I could ever hope to imagine.

On Sunday in NYC, we worked through Mark 7, specifically the story of Jesus healing a deaf man.

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!" (which means "Be opened!"). 35 At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. "He has done everything well," they said. "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."

We talked about this scripture, did Lectio Divina, listened to it preached on, and then discussed it some more, we beat this scripture to death that day, and I needed it. I needed to know that God does miraculous things in strange ways. I mean, Jesus spat? He touched the man's tongue? He stuck his fingers in the man's ears? They all seem sort of strange.

For me, the first thing that stuck out was community. Perhaps it is because of what I do or how I've felt my call, but community is really important to me. The man came to Jesus because his community brought him. He wasn't seeking healing, his friends were seeking help for him. What great friends they must be for them to bring him. There is community throughout this story, from the friends, to the community telling of Jesus' divine power, but that isn't the point I'm getting to.

The point I'm getting to is about "Ephphatha", the word Jesus says to the man is packed with meaning to me. To me it means that I can't just open myself. It means that I have to be touched by Jesus, I have to be willing to let go enough and get out of my comfort zone enough for God to invade my personal space. Being used by God means getting out of my comfort zone. The words "Be opened." were described by the pastor as the "divine passive" voice. It struck me at that moment. At that moment I understood what it meant to be completely out of control. It was scary and exciting all in one moment, in one phrase, God opened my heart to being ok with whatever is next.

Sure, I'll always still have my moments, but I recognize the power of God opening me. Of me not being able to do the work. I've had these fleeting moments since I've been back where I want to jump into what was, and suddenly I am stopped dead in my tracks. God is calling me, God isn't just asking me to be opened, God is telling me in a strong and firm voice, "Ephphatha."

random post of the day

Thursday, September 21, 2006
Before you read this, go down and read my first post for today and take a little time to pray.

I was checking out cnn.com this morning as I do every morning to see what is going on in the world (I also read the bbc so don't worry I'm not too ethnocentric) and I noticed this story.

Now I've been to fright fest at Great America, and I know the importance of getting in front of the line, but I don't think that I would eat a cockroach to do so. Besides, Fright Fest is all about trying to get the Six Flags employees to be scared. We had one follow us around one time for nearly an hour until I scared the crud out of her along with my friend Ben. Oh the good times of a great youth group in Kenosha, WI.

They also dye all of the water red. It never ceased to gross me out.

UN International Day of Peace

I meant to get this up last night but it just didn't happen...

Today is the UN International Day of Peace. It is a day of global cease fire and non-violence. In recognition of the day and to do your part to make peace a reality, please join in praying the prayer below at the following times today. (Or simply make it your prayer as you read it)

8 am
10 am
12 pm
2 pm
4 pm
6 pm
8 pm

O Divine Peacemaker,

Our spirits hunger for your love, for the taste of your joy and the aroma of your peace. In this time of prayer, fill me with the whisper of your presence and let me feel the touch of your hand upon my heart.

Our world is sin-soaked and broken beyond all human repair. Forgive us and our frailties, O Lord. Only your love and grace can mend our brokenness and the world's violence. Only your grace that is manifest in the lives of your people can bring wholeness to a battered and scarred world.

Make us purveyors of your peace. Calm our anger and our fear of vulnerability and suffering so that we, being centered in your love and peace, may respond in peace to others, even to those who are our enemies. Dispel our fear of cultures foreign to us so that we may engage in dialogue that will bring understanding. Grant a place for all people in your world, so that our brothers and sisters may have dignity and a home to call their own.

Throw wide open the window of my heart, so that the peace of your presence may pour out in all four directions showering its blessing upon all the earth. Robed in the splendor of your Spirit, may my prayer give peace to all the world.


almost fall in abq

Monday, September 18, 2006

This is how you know that it almost fall here. It is getting brisk in the mornings, and my morning commute looks like this...

I saw 4 balloons this am, but that was around 8:30, I'm certain there were more up earlier as that is the end of good ballooning time. The 4th balloon was off to my right, it certainly made my Monday morning a bit brighter. (I hate Mondays)

back from NYC

Sunday, September 17, 2006
Picture is of the 2005-2007 US-2s and the former Missionary in Residence for Young Adult Programs after Karaoke. The current MIRYAP took the picture.

I could post and post and post about the awesome time I had in NYC. I probably will post more about it but this is going to be my definitive post about the whole experience.

My last post really just hit on how much I love my US-2s which is completely and totally true. I spent the week laughing with them, feeling their pain, learning for them and just enjoying being around people that have the same values as I do. We talked about starting our own non-profit just because of how much we love each other. It is funny because for a group of people I have only spent 3 weeks or so of my time with, I feel like they are people that I could completely trust with anything and could depend on if I needed anything.

Among the things we did (besides eat because we did a lot of that), we shared our experiences with each other, we spent a day in devotion and prayer surrounding the verses from Mark 7 that were shared from the lectionary that moment. Hopefully I'll get a post out about that.

Monday we spent a day thinking about vocational discernment. It was probably my favorite and hardest day that we had. It was September 11th, and in our opening devotion, Tiffany led us through a time of grieving. We were able to experience the grief of our fellow classmates, we felt the grief of New York City, we felt the grief of the world around us. Through our time of grief, we really opened up with one another, and we were feeling heavy, but our session that day was about the future, about hope, about living now but having a vision of what is in our future. Discernment is less about knowing what is next (which is always my big hangup), but discernment to me is more about listening.

At some point, I shared a story of my beginning here. Of when I wanted to turn back and run home. It seems trivial, but I had a really rough start to life in the burque... but my main story, the first time I broke down here, happened when I was getting my apartment set up. I plugged a light in, and darkness. My circuit breakers wouldn't do anything. It was miserable. I called my landlord and got no answer and had no emergency number. I freaked out, and logically, I called someone in Illinois. Ha. Like she could help me. In the end, the landlord called back, they must have caller id or something, and it worked out ok. But what stuck out to me in this time of telling the story was Linda's response to it as she went around the circle. To me, she said, sometimes life is like turning on a light and getting darkness. As I'm exploring my vocation and discerning my call, that is exactly what it feels like. Every time I turn on a light and feel closer to what my path is, I feel covered in darkness. God is teaching me through this time and I should be grateful for the occasional feeling of darkness.

Through the day of vocational discernment, I learned a lot about my reservations, my fears, the things holding me back from where God is calling me, but most of all, the thing that resonated with me most is that I really need to be in prayer about all of this. I also made the realization that not only do I need to be, but it is a privilege to even be able to bring things to God in prayer. The line from "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" resonated through me all day. I had never really listened to the lyrics of the song, and they really just spoke to me that day.

"What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and grifs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer"

Well I have more that I want to share, more about vocation, more about the weekend, but this is already really long. So expect some posts, about Mark 7, a poem by Howard Thurman, quotes and insight by Linda, good times & art therapy at gbgm (including meeting the General Secretary), and my crazy trip back.

Check out pictures from the weekend by clicking the link in my sidebar to my pictures. Some have captions, some don't. But overall it was a great time with my US-2s!

NYC Part 1 of many...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I just have to say that I adore my US-2s. They are wonderful people and are people that I will learn from for the rest of my life.

This morning we went to church at SPSA and had lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. The group picture is the US-2s and our MIRYAP on the subway on the way to church. Of course I also had to take a classic me in the subway picture as well. Gotta love the subway.

I had forgotten the joy I have when I'm with these people. When I'm surrounded by people who share my hopes for the world, when I'm with people who understand that difficulties tied to being a missionary. It is liberating to know that there are amazing people doing amazing things in other cities in the country who feel my pain sometimes or may feel my happiness when amazing things happen to them. They are a blessing to me and I really do cherish the time that I get to spend with them.

We're heading out tonight for dinner and fun whatever that means, but I know that it will be fun because I'm with some great friends. But one of my highlights so far??? Cupcakes!

Who is your favorite United Methodist?

Friday, September 08, 2006
Well mine certainly isn't Dubya... but I bring this up for further discussion...

Maybe my youth pastor was on to something with Discipleman... Superhero? or influential Methodist???

I'm working on a couple of posts about United Methodists and Emergent, hopefully I'll get those written up tomorrow.

Yesterday our new families really showed some interest in starting a Bible Study. Last year I had mixed success with that, but maybe I can do something better this year. They were actually really interested in the differences between Catholicism and being Protestant. They also wanted to make sure that we UMs were Christian. I'm wondering if the distinction that I ran into in Costa Rica also plays out here in Albuquerque where you're either "Catholic" or "Christian" which is anything that isn't Catholic. I'll be diving in to that question further as I continue in discussions with them. It was fun to map out a brief history of Christianity and to help them understand some basic ideas of biblical interpretation. I only had 10 minutes to do so, but it was fun and they all seemed really interested which of course gets me fired up as well.

Sometimes I wonder if I should just jump in the teaching world as far as theology and religious history is concerned, other days I feel like maybe I should be looking into public interest law, still other days I know that pursuing a degree from a seminary is where I should be headed next. I feel like I am overwhelmed with opportunities and decisions to make over the next year. Please be in prayer as I work towards discernment.

a great labor day weekend

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

So there is my family at my graduation a year and a half ago. I went last weekend to visit my brother Jon and sister-in-law Wendy who live in Dallas. I had never been to visit Jon without my parents. Jon and I are 10.5 years apart and both refer to ourselves as one of 2 only children because of the age difference.

I had a really great time this weekend and really enjoyed my stay there. They picked me up in their brand new BMW which we rode around in most of the weekend, and I got to see their newly remodeled house. We went to the zoo and to see Little Miss Sunshine which I am still laughing at. I also had the opportunity to meet some of their friends and talk about what I plan to do next in life. We watched lots of Arrested Development, ate lots, and in general just had a good time.

My family always seems a bit odd to me. I mean, I'm not at all close with my brother, but we get along fine especially now that I am an adult. It is definitely interesting to be part of a family with such an age gap among siblings.

In any case, I had a fantastic trip, and now I just have to gear up for the next one which is the one I've been waiting for since June of last year. I get to meet up with my fellow US-2 missionaries on our stomping grounds in NYC. There will be plenty of cupcakes, some fun at a Yankees game and just all around good times in the coming days. I'm ecstatic about it all minus the ridiculously early flight. I should have some good pictures to blog about through the next week, but I didn't really take any in Dallas to share which is why you get the old graduation picture. Such is life.


Friday, September 01, 2006
I watched the sun come up over the mountains this morning. Sometimes I wish that I was more of a morning person than I am. The peaceful tranquility and the beauty of the mountains in the morning stirred something in my soul that I wasn't prepared for. A love of the here, a love of the now.

Sometimes I have bad days. Sometimes I just want to run away from my present and my future and do something entirely different than what I've ever planned. But today I wasn't anxious. I wasn't worried. There is just something about 5 am that brought me some peace. To know that very few people in the city were stirring. Perhaps I should have been thinking more globally, but the quiet stillness and moments of reflection was exactly what I needed to get me through the morning.

As the plane took off, I was struck by the color of the land below me. Living in the desert, it has always been brown when I've left, and always when I returned. But from where I sat in an aisle 14 window seat, all I could see was green. The man in front of me remarked that he drove down to Roswell last week and felt like he was in Iowa. Iowa. Illinois. Home. Maybe that's what all of this comfort in my surroundings is. The green grass, the smell of rain. It feels like home.

Flying seems to be a funny thing to me. As I gaze out over the land, I know that I am only getting a glimpse of the beauty. I read once that our ability to fly and see the world like this gives us a glimpse of what God sees. But that isn't true. There is so much more to God than that. As I look down and see houses and fields and roads, I know that there are people there who are real, leading lives that may be completely joyous or completely miserable. I think about that often in the car as well, wondering why people are in such a hurry, or why they might look upset or why they might be smiling.

It is in times like these that I can't help but feel utterly grateful for my life. I am thankful for the people around me that I have the ability to know and love. I can often get caught in the moment and forget what it is that I am here for and why I do what I do. But a simple sunrise on a beautiful Friday morning is enough to snap me back into reality about life, love, friendships and my relation to God. Praise God for my life, and praise God that I have people who remind me how amazing this world truly is. Some people see God through stars and sunsets. Some see God in the hands of others. Some just avoid seeing God altogether. How did you see God today?
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